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Old 06-17-2013, 07:27 PM   #1
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Default Yes, Virginia, fermentation temp control really IS important.

Okay, time to stir the hornet's nest...

I see folks on here suggesting that "Oh, US-05 should be fine up into the mid-70's, no problem... It's a very tolerant yeast."

Sorry guys, that's not true. Yes, it'll ferment up there. Yes, a lot of yeasts will ferment up there without turning out terrible beer. But if you want commercial quality beer, you need temp control. There's no other way around it.

It's simple. You ask a brewer who has temp control what his top three brewing processes leading to good beer are, and I guarantee temp control will be in the top three. It'll often be #1 on the list.

As brewers, we're all proud of the input we have into the process. We ogle over brewporn; beautiful single-tier HERMS setups with total automation. We obsess over mash temp, and boiloff rate, and every little bit of brew-day minutiae.

But you know what? You can screw up most of that and still have a pretty damn tasty beer if you keep your yeast cool and happy (I know, I've done it). And you can do everything else perfectly on brew-day, but if screw up your yeast, your beer will be sub-par.

Last year I did an experiment with another brewer. On my system, we brewed 15 gallons of DIPA, while I can only ferment 10. So I drew off 5 gallons into his carboy and put the rest in my fermenter. *Everything* about the batches, i.e. recipe, water, process, mash, aeration, etc were identical up until the point yeast (US-05) was pitched. Both were pitched at 64 degrees. Then I temp-controlled my beer, and he took his home to ferment w/o control. Mine fermented at 64 degrees, with a controlled rise to 72 at the very tail end of ferment to finish it off. His climbed up for about a day or so to the 76-78 degree range in the early active fermentation stages before subsiding and coming back down naturally.

We submitted both to a homebrew club meeting for evaluation, including a couple members who are BJCP judges. The results were clear. The temp controlled beer had comments like "good malt and hop balance", "clean crisp bitterness", "great mouthfeel", "great hop flavor". The un-controlled beer was still decent, but with some comments like "very strong grapefruit flavor", "not well balanced", "slightly solventy, little medicinal in the finish", "finish leaves something to be desired".

The temp-controlled beer got judge scores of 40/39/36. The non-controlled (same judges/same order) got scores of 29/32/25. So the scoring ranged from 7 to 11 points difference between temp-control and no control.

So what's the takeaway?

A beer in the 40/39/36 range will commonly medal in competition. A beer in the 29/32/25 range will not. The temp-controlled beer was a very nice beer. The non-controlled beer wasn't *bad*, but it wasn't good enough to stand alongside a commercial DIPA.

All the brewday factors were identical, but we were left with two very different beers. If you want your beer to score like the first one, you absolutely need fermentation temp control.

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Old 06-17-2013, 07:37 PM   #2
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I agree 100%, Also:

The earlier in the fermentation cycle the wort is, the more crucial the control needed.

Ambient temp in your cellar does not equal the temp in the fermenter.

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Old 06-17-2013, 08:21 PM   #3
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I agree.. Temp control is one of the best things you can do to make good beer. Also pitching the proper amount of healthy yeast is right up there too. Do those things and you brews will be good.

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Old 06-17-2013, 08:37 PM   #4
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Water is wet? Certainly a sentiment worth reiterating. I'll also something that often gets overlooked, especially by novice brewers.

When people speak about fermentation temperatures, they are talking about the wort, not the ambient air temp. The two are not the same and the wort temp will ALWAYS be higher than the ambient air during active fermentation. The higher the intensity of fermentation the greater the differential in temperature between wort and ambient air.


My top 3 factors would be

Ferm/pitching Temps
Dissolved O2 levels
Yeast cells pitched

This all boils down to one thing, providing the best possible work environment for yeast

If you aren't doing this you may as well not pay attention to the other aspects of brewing, because it's all just window dressing compared to this cornerstone.

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Old 06-17-2013, 08:43 PM   #5
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Playing devil's advocate a little here but...

There is a ton of really good beer made without strict temperature control. Three of the best beverages I have ever produced were fermented in a carboy in the corner of a spare closet at ambient temps. All three have brought home numerous medals in multiple competitions. They have scored between 37 and 42 in all three cases. Sometimes I just run out of temp controlled fermentation space so I do what I must.

Now that is not to say things are completely left to chance. I do make sure my beer is at fermentation temperature before I pitch yeast. My yeast is also at fermentation temperature before I pitch it as well. While my temp may not be strictly controlled it is held fairly constant without wild swings in temperature.

I think more harm comes from stressing yeast with wild temp swings than simply allowing a beer to ferment at 70 degrees instead of 66 degrees. I think style also comes into play here as well. If I brew a porter or stout and a pale ale on the same day but only have room for one in the ferm fridge you can bet the pale ale is going in the fridge.

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Old 06-17-2013, 08:44 PM   #6
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+1000 to the thread starter. Truer brewing words of wisdom have never been spoken.

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Old 06-17-2013, 08:47 PM   #7
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Yep!

I tell every new home brewer that temp control is the single best investment I made in home brewing equipment and I stand by that.

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Old 06-17-2013, 08:58 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MidTNJasonF View Post
Playing devil's advocate a little here but...

Now that is not to say things are completely left to chance. I do make sure my beer is at fermentation temperature before I pitch yeast. My yeast is also at fermentation temperature before I pitch it as well. While my temp may not be strictly controlled it is held fairly constant without wild swings in temperature.
Appreciate the devil's advocate position...

I'm not saying you need +/- 1 degree F with a temp controller and refrigerator, but that temps -- particularly early in fermentation -- need to be monitored and steps should be taken with most ale yeasts to keep them at 70 or lower. For most ales I think they'll be better at mid-low 60's than even up at 70 [I basically never ferment above 68, with most in the 62-65 range], but I think every degree you creep above 70 is just inviting problems.

HOW temp control is accomplished is a lot less important than just making sure the temps aren't allowed to go nuts. Depending where you live, how your house ambient temps behave, and what time of year it is, it might not require much active "control". But not everyone has the luxury of a basement or cellar where ambient temps sit at a nice constant 60 degrees
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Old 06-17-2013, 09:02 PM   #9
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TEMP CONTROL IS NOT AMBIENT TEMP

You can put stout in early fermentation at 75F in a chest freezer SET TO ZERO and that effer will not cool down 1 degree until it is WAY too late.

Temp control = Proper Chilling

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Old 06-17-2013, 09:14 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cheezydemon3 View Post
TEMP CONTROL IS NOT AMBIENT TEMP
Agree completely. I was specifically referring to wort temps, not ambient. For the beer I fermented, temps were taken using a Johnson controller inserted into a thermowell into the center of my fermenter. For the other brewer, it was measured with a fermometer on the side of his carboy.

It's my belief that it's dangerous to allow wort temp for most ales to exceed 70 degrees during active fermentation, and even that is higher than I personally allow my beers to go during active stages (though at the very end of the ferment, I often allow it to rise to 72 to finish off).
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