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Winter brewing

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by JimSmetana, Jan 24, 2013.

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  1. JimSmetana

    JimSmetana Initiate (0) May 11, 2012 Illinois

    Reading many posts regarding equipment, fermentation temps and the like I wondered if any of you change the methods you normally use when brewing in the winter when its colder? I keep reading about large kettles and propane burners being used. Obviously outside. Obviously not in the snow.:sunglasses:
  2. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,342) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    If you want to brew inside on a typical stove, and if you have two kettles, you can split the wort (and everything else, when the time comes) between them.
    pweis909 likes this.
  3. ericj551

    ericj551 Initiate (0) Apr 29, 2004 Alberta (Canada)

    It rarely snows here, but we got 6-8 inches last year and it was no trouble. I usually heat my strike and sparge water inside anyway, so I didn't have to worry about my mash temp dropping too much.
  4. leedorham

    leedorham Crusader (701) Apr 27, 2006 Washington

    When it's really cold (teens or lower) I do my strike water and mash inside but still boil out in the garage. The burner doubles as a heater in that case.
  5. scurvy311

    scurvy311 Disciple (346) Dec 3, 2005 Louisiana

    Brewing outside in south Louisiana, the only thing that i adjust is the wind shield for my burner and the layers of clothing I wear. Sometimes in the same day. My last batch of German pale ale started at 74 @ 8:30am and dropped to blistering winds of 40 degrees an hour and a half later. I treat weather like the post office does, nothing stops me...except lack of funding....just like the post office.

    I'm curious to know more about what you are asking. Did you have any preconceptions on what they might be?
  6. hopdog09

    hopdog09 Initiate (0) Sep 6, 2012 Michigan

    about the only thing that changes (here in Michigan) is the time it takes to get up to temp or boil..of course I brewed last weekend (17 deg. out) and by the time I had everything transfered and done, my process lines had froze (still are although we are expecting to be in the 40's next week)..I have to work on that..
  7. WickedSluggy

    WickedSluggy Devotee (400) Nov 21, 2008 Texas
    Beer Trader

    A lot of people brew in their garage. That's what I do. My main brewing season is mid-October to mid-May. Living in Texas, I do very little brewing in the summer. Most days are too hot to be outside for more than a few seconds without succumbing to heat stroke, agonizing convolutions, followed by death within a minute or two of exposure. Plus the ground water temperature is too high for use in chilling beer.
  8. JimSmetana

    JimSmetana Initiate (0) May 11, 2012 Illinois

    I guess I am asking because I am a noob and trying to build out my equipment. I was thinking about a burner/Pot combo until I looked out the window ;-) Also in my case fermentation is easier now than it will be in summer. The basement is a nice 63-65 degrees. That will change come summer. How does fermentation change seasonally?
  9. ericj551

    ericj551 Initiate (0) Apr 29, 2004 Alberta (Canada)

    Your basement sounds perfect for ale brewing. If it warms up in the summer, I suggest putting your fermentor in water bath (mine fits perfectly in my brewpot). I dangle a probe thermometer into the beer and add ice packs to the brewpot as necessary.
  10. Duff27

    Duff27 Poo-Bah (1,780) Feb 10, 2010 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    Maybe off topic but it seems whenever I brew in the winter it somehow is the coldest day of the week/month. Wtf.
    Pegli, inchrisin and hopdog09 like this.
  11. MrOH

    MrOH Defender (667) Jul 5, 2010 Maryland

    I am lucky enough to have an extra room in my apartment which is technically the guest bedroom, but in reality is the beer room. I control the temp as much as possible by opening/closing the vents and the door, and use a swamp cooler. During the hot months, I brew mostly saisons, spring/fall see a lot of hoppy beers (to cover up the swings in temp), and the winter is when I brew my high gravity beers and porters. Obviously, there is some overlap, (gotta do some IPAs in the winter to have around for the spring, a saison that's got a heaping helping of munich is good in the fall, strongish belgians are great for winter, etc.), but I tend to go with a general formula: what will I want to drink in the future that I can brew now?
  12. inchrisin

    inchrisin Defender (654) Sep 25, 2008 Indiana

    I use more propane outside when it's colder and I use less ice because the ground water is colder. And yes, in the snow.
  13. mnstorm99

    mnstorm99 Initiate (0) May 11, 2007 Minnesota

    I use my burner on my deck (with a heat resistent grill mat) and mash inside my kitchen. I love brewing this time of the year since my chill happens very quickly with the water temps.
  14. kjyost

    kjyost Meyvn (1,175) May 4, 2008 Manitoba (Canada)

    Agreed. Mash needs to be in the kitchen. Today it was -30C when I woke up, I can't imagine how quickly my tun would cool down. Last year I boiled in the kitchen and chilled in the basement using the laundry hookups. I will be brewing Saturday come hell or high water, but it looks like our high that day is -14C with a windchill of -28C

    This year I have a huge NG burner that is awesome so I brew outside in the snow. Last time, it melted a 4-5foot radius around it and melted the snowbanks that were a couple feet high. I also chilled outside so far. I just make sure to keep everything inside until I am ready to hook it up and then I let water slowly travel through it to ensure nothing freezes. I can use my CFC without a prechiller to get to lager temperatures no problem.

    Fermentation is easy for ales in my basement year-round. Right now the floor is ~60F, except in my cold room (which is incomplete) which is ~50-55F. Regardless I have a chest freezer for fermentations I am concerned about the exact temperature of (like my DIPA this weekend)
  15. reverseapachemaster

    reverseapachemaster Aspirant (244) Sep 21, 2012 Texas
    Beer Trader

    In Texas this is not a concern. Actually, before I purchased a fridge for temperature control I did a lot of winter brewing because I could keep the fermentors in the corners of the house where it's cooler and keep temperatures in the 60s. In the summer it's more onerous to brew because it costs more to run fridges for temperature control because the whole house is warmer and it's quite warm outside to baby sit a propane burner. So that's time to brew a few big Belgian beers and take advantage of warmer weather and drink what I brewed over the spring.
  16. koopa

    koopa Poo-Bah (1,825) Apr 20, 2008 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    Whenever there is a chance of precipitation, I set up a coleman canopy over my brew rig. Other than that and avoiding brewing on windy days, it's game on. I'd rather brew in the winter than the summer. It might be harder to maintain temps, but it's easier to chill the wort and it beats brewing in the summer heat.
  17. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Zealot (524) Mar 10, 2006 Vermont

    Yep, in the snow. My last brew day started at 0F and warmed up to a sweltering 16F by the time I was done cleaning. Just be careful where your cooling water goes; the ice can make a dangerous mess.
    kjyost likes this.
  18. JimSmetana

    JimSmetana Initiate (0) May 11, 2012 Illinois

    I guess I grill in the snow so boiling wort cant be that tough!
  19. ipas-for-life

    ipas-for-life Disciple (347) Feb 28, 2012 Virginia
    Beer Trader

    Winter time I do all of my cleaning inside instead of outside. I would recommend getting a large enough kettle that you don't have to stand next to it the whole time watching for a boil over. With a 10.5 gallon I only have to watch it for the first five minutes if that. Not saying I leave it alone for long stretches of time. But I do make several trips inside to prep or warm up.
  20. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,609) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Supporter Subscriber

    Splitting the wort among 2 kettles so I can brew on the two power burners on my stove is my modus operandi. Before I had a has stove with power burners, I was used a small 3 burner stove top and needed to split the wort three ways.

    Years ago, I made use of the snow as a chiller. Complete the boil, stick covered kettle in snow pile, clean up, take a nap. I always had visions of waking up with a beer slushie, but it never happened. It took a while for it to cool. But immersion chillers are a lot faster.

    Also, I sometimes take advantage of cold winter cellar temps to do lagers, although I have a temp controlled fermentation fridge now that I will typically use for a little more control.
  21. kjyost

    kjyost Meyvn (1,175) May 4, 2008 Manitoba (Canada)

    It would be better to use the snow in an ice bath, or just to leave it in the open air (with a fan for convertion cooling) as snow is actually a great insulator. It holds the air beside the kettle static and lets it warm. This is why the inuit build igloos, they don't melt much but keep a ton of warmth inside.
    pweis909 and ericj551 like this.
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