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Old 11-12-2011, 04:06 PM   #1
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Default Mini Belgian Warm Room

I recently read "Brew Like a Monk" which inspired me to brew a Dubbel in the Trappist fashion. One of the things that is standard among Belgian breweries is the use of "warm rooms" to condition bottled beer. I live in Washington State where the daily highs are about 45 degrees Fahrenheit this time of year and in my brewing room the temperature is only about 62 degrees during the day. Here's my solution:





What you see (besides the beer bottles) is a gallon of water with an aquarium heater in it set to the max temperature of 88 degrees Fahrenheit. Because my chest freezer is so small it works really, really well. It's been more than 24 hours now and you can see the temperature is reading 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Old 11-12-2011, 04:13 PM   #2
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Awesome! Excellent idea. Do you have something to compensate for moisture build-up?

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Old 11-12-2011, 06:47 PM   #3
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Haven't noticed any moisture build-up yet. The gallon jug isn't sweating or anything. If it starts, I'll have to think of something and get back to you!

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Old 11-13-2011, 10:30 PM   #4
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The warm room is to speed up the conditioning process, not really for some kind of Trappist authenticity. If you keep the beer between 60-70F it will take longer but the quality will probably be better. I would keep it warm for a few weeks to carbonate and then move it to a cooler temp for long term conditioning. Keeping it at 80F for too long may be bad for the beer.

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Old 11-13-2011, 11:09 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by orangehero View Post
The warm room is to speed up the conditioning process, not really for some kind of Trappist authenticity. If you keep the beer between 60-70F it will take longer but the quality will probably be better. I would keep it warm for a few weeks to carbonate and then move it to a cooler temp for long term conditioning. Keeping it at 80F for too long may be bad for the beer.
Sorry dude but I'm going to have to completely disagree with you here.

First, bottle conditioning at 60-70 with not give you a better quality beer than if it was stored at 80.

Second, fermenting and bottle conditioning at high temperatures is very common with Belgian styles. Certain yeasts not only work better at higher temperatures, but they produce flavors that are usually wanted in some styles.
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Old 11-13-2011, 11:12 PM   #6
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mthelm85, first cool idea.

Secondly, what brand aquarium heater is it, and what temp range does it cover? 88 is the max, what is the min?

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Old 11-14-2011, 12:48 AM   #7
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Perhaps you are right, I'm not entirely sure about what happens during bottle conditioning, but fermenting warm doesn't necessarily mean you get good effects by conditioning warm. I've only seen mention of bottle conditioning being responsible for smoothing the flavors, but I'm sure it probably creates subtle new ones.

In general a beer stored at 60F vs 80F will taste better. Lower temperatures are better for flavor and stability during maturation.

According to Handbook of Brewing, the two main sources of flavor degradation are storage temperature and oxygen exposure. In fact it says, "a relatively small change in storage temperature has a large adverse effect." I think in this case the author is referring to haze formation.

Trappist breweries actually like to cold condition for several weeks to improve the flavor and clarify before bottling, much like lagers. The way I understand it is the controlled temp warm rooms are to make sure their product is ready and carbonated in a consistent and rapid time frame. I don't think it was mentioned in Brew Like a Monk about higher temperature being responsible for desired qualities, rather just consistency. In fact Stan Hieronymus recommends keeping the bottles warm to carbonate and then continuing conditioning at a cooler temperature after they have carbonated.

I assumed the OP meant conditioning for extended periods, but Trappist breweries condition warm for only a short time, just enough to get the beer carbonated, and usually at temps in the lower 70s.

In BLAM it says that at Duvel bottles are kept at 75F for 2 weeks, then at 41F for six weeks before realease, which would follow the reasoning of colder temperature being desirable for flavor and stability.

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Old 11-14-2011, 03:20 AM   #8
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Hard to get information on this but I found this:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/travlr/4463977980/

Of course the larger question is if this is a production issue or a what's best for the beer issue. I'm not privy to the Deca-Struise arrangement but it's expensive to warehouse anything. Also I'm not sure if much is brewed in the summer, so this reference might be a bit miss-leading.

I was introduced to Urbain but I've spoken with Carlo a few times. If anyone is curious I could email him for clarification. He is very approachable and very eager to talk about beer.

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Old 11-14-2011, 02:59 PM   #9
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mthelm85, first cool idea.

Secondly, what brand aquarium heater is it, and what temp range does it cover? 88 is the max, what is the min?
The temp. range is 68 - 88. In the winter I put it in a big trash can filled with water and then put the carboy down in it when I need temps of 66 degrees and up (in the trash can full of water w/ the carboy I've found that the water temp. is usually about 2 degrees lower than what I have it set to due to the large volume of water).

I couldn't find the box so I don't know what brand it is but I got it at PetSmart for about $20 bucks if my memory serves me.
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Old 11-14-2011, 03:13 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by orangehero View Post
Perhaps you are right, I'm not entirely sure about what happens during bottle conditioning, but fermenting warm doesn't necessarily mean you get good effects by conditioning warm. I've only seen mention of bottle conditioning being responsible for smoothing the flavors, but I'm sure it probably creates subtle new ones.

In general a beer stored at 60F vs 80F will taste better. Lower temperatures are better for flavor and stability during maturation.

According to Handbook of Brewing, the two main sources of flavor degradation are storage temperature and oxygen exposure. In fact it says, "a relatively small change in storage temperature has a large adverse effect." I think in this case the author is referring to haze formation.

Trappist breweries actually like to cold condition for several weeks to improve the flavor and clarify before bottling, much like lagers. The way I understand it is the controlled temp warm rooms are to make sure their product is ready and carbonated in a consistent and rapid time frame. I don't think it was mentioned in Brew Like a Monk about higher temperature being responsible for desired qualities, rather just consistency. In fact Stan Hieronymus recommends keeping the bottles warm to carbonate and then continuing conditioning at a cooler temperature after they have carbonated.

I assumed the OP meant conditioning for extended periods, but Trappist breweries condition warm for only a short time, just enough to get the beer carbonated, and usually at temps in the lower 70s.

In BLAM it says that at Duvel bottles are kept at 75F for 2 weeks, then at 41F for six weeks before realease, which would follow the reasoning of colder temperature being desirable for flavor and stability.
Almost every Trappist brewery cold conditions their beer after primary fermentation before bottling. When they bottle, they add sugar and new yeast and then store the beer in a warm room so that the beer is able to have a healthy refermentation in the bottle. I don't know how long they keep it warm but I would guess not more than a few weeks because, as you said, higher temperatures can have negative effects on flavor stability.

I listened to an interview with Dr. Bamforth (UC Davis) on flavor stability and he said that for every 10 degree Celsius rise in temperature, the chemical reactions that cause beer to spoil are 3 times faster so keeping your already conditioned beer cold will make a significant difference in the flavor stability.

I used Wyeast 3787 for this beer and the last few days of fermentation I had the temps up around 76 degrees Fahrenheit. The warm room is important for a couple of reasons. First, I didn't reyeast so the likelihood that my leftover yeast would referment at 62 degrees (ambient brewing room temp.) is very low because the ideal range of 3787 is 64 - 78. Second, Those signature fruity esters and phenolics wouldn't be as prominent if I were able to get the beer to referment in the bottle at 64 degrees as they will be with the beer at 78 degrees (the effect of this is marginal as I doubt the bottle refermentation will add any significant new flavors). Bottom line, yeast left in suspension at bottling time has been through a war so I want to give it the most favorable conditions possible to eat up that priming sugar and carb my beer. Because I fermented this beer at 70 - 76 degrees, conditioning the beer at the higher end of that range is really important. Regardless of the yeast/fermentation temps/etc., I would still store the beer in my mini warm room because all the Trappists do it and they wouldn't bother if it wasn't important to the process!

After the beer is fully carbed and conditioned, then I will move it to a cooler area for cellaring. I think that's more or less the right way to go about it.
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