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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Techniques > Question about swamp cooling
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Old 06-05-2013, 08:06 AM   #1
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Default Question about swamp cooling

Just some background: I live in Arizona, and I am a student. Summers are pretty harsh temperature wise, and I can't afford a second fridge for brewing at the moment. I get about 75 degrees at best. That being said, I haven't noticed that my summer beers have any of the horrendous off-flavors that supposedly appear above 70 degrees, and I've liked everything I've made.

Then again, maybe my beers would be tons better if the temperature were kept lower. I do have a cooler that would fit my carboy. I understand that the temperature is controlled by adding ice to water in the cooler. How easy and effective is this technique? I could easily see myself adding too much ice, not adding enough, and obsessing about it to no end. I could also see the ice melting during the day when I'm out, and the temperature going right back to room temp. Is there a fool-proof and stress-free way to do this?

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Old 06-05-2013, 09:06 AM   #2
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I don't recall the actual temp drop as I haven't swamp cooled in some time. But generally would freeze 4-6water bottles. Put 2-3 in the cooler in the morning. Then swap them with the others when I got home at night.

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Old 06-05-2013, 01:06 PM   #3
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I second using water bottles or pop bottles.

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Old 06-05-2013, 02:16 PM   #4
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H-bar. With trial and error, you will find how many frozen pop bottles you'll need to reach your desired temp. Keep a thermometer in the water.

BTW, with enough blankets for insulation, I was able to lager an Oktoberfest between 38-40 degrees.

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Old 06-05-2013, 02:25 PM   #5
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The concept of a "swamp cooler" has nothing to do with frozen water bottles or insulation or anything like that, it has to do with evaporative cooling. As water evaporates and changes from liquid to vapor, it absorbs heat. This is why sweating cools your body off.

So a swamp cooler is a device that removes heat by evaporating water. A simple fermentation swamp cooler is a wet t-shirt over your carboy with a fan blowing at it. The fan helps the water evaporate faster, which removes heat from the carboy. Most of us just sit the carboy in a big tub of water so the T-shirt is always wet. To speed things up or get the temperature even lower you can add ice to the water, but that might not be necessary.

If you live in a dry climate like Arizona, the basic swamp cooling method should work pretty well. You can even use a temperature controller with the fan to dial in a specific water temperature.

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Old 06-05-2013, 03:53 PM   #6
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Thanks guys, I'll definitely give this a shot with my next brew.

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Old 06-05-2013, 07:57 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zachattack View Post
If you live in a dry climate like Arizona, the basic swamp cooling method should work pretty well. You can even use a temperature controller with the fan to dial in a specific water temperature.
In KS with high humidity (currently 76% in my house since all my windows are open), it's tough to get much cooling.
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Old 06-05-2013, 08:11 PM   #8
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You will have to monitor the temperature. It will take a bit more to cool during the start of the fermentation when the activity ot the yeast adds to the temperature. After that you may only need to change one or two bottles once a day. Also after fermentation is done it does not hurt to let the beer get to room temperature. I would avoid full Arizona heat though.

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Old 06-05-2013, 11:17 PM   #9
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I’m gratified to see zach attack makes the distinction between evaporative cooling and ice cooling. On this forum ‘swamp cooler’ generally means any system involving a water tub.

There are broadly two kinds:

1. Evaporative cooling; a true swamp cooler; what I call ‘the wet t-shirt method’. Doesn’t do anything in North Texas, might work in Arizona.

2. Ice cooling; what you do when you find out that evaporative cooling doesn’t work. I call it ‘the throw ice at it method’.

The problem with #1 is that it doesn’t do much. I tried it an upstairs Dallas apartment and I couldn’t see any measurable effect. Of course that’s with the temperature and the humidity both in the 80's.

The problem with #2 is that it takes a lot of ice to do much and unless you’re going to babysit this thing, the regulation is going to be rough.

I use about 20 lbs of frozen water bottles per day to cool from 85 F to low 60's. This is with an automated ice bucket/pump system.

I’d say go #1 or #2 or both, whatever works, but look for a nice Saison recipe, even with the ‘swamp cooler’.

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Old 06-05-2013, 11:34 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by h-bar View Post
Just some background: I live in Arizona, and I am a student. Summers are pretty harsh temperature wise, and I can't afford a second fridge for brewing at the moment. I get about 75 degrees at best. That being said, I haven't noticed that my summer beers have any of the horrendous off-flavors that supposedly appear above 70 degrees, and I've liked everything I've made.

Then again, maybe my beers would be tons better if the temperature were kept lower. I do have a cooler that would fit my carboy. I understand that the temperature is controlled by adding ice to water in the cooler. How easy and effective is this technique? I could easily see myself adding too much ice, not adding enough, and obsessing about it to no end. I could also see the ice melting during the day when I'm out, and the temperature going right back to room temp. Is there a fool-proof and stress-free way to do this?
If you can try score a ice chest that works a lot better than a Rubbermaid container. The ice chest holds its temps a lot more steady since its insulated. i started fermenting in one last summer and was able to hold a temp in the cooler of 50 f degrees with a ambient temp of 96f. So if you can i would give that a try.
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