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Old 01-17-2013, 02:26 AM   #1
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Default Lagering with a swamp cooler

Does anyone have any experience with fermenting a lager using a swamp cooler? My new basement here stays a a constant 57-58 degrees here in the winter. I was wondering if it is possible to do a lager with a swamp cooler? I have used a swamp cooler successfully to keep temps down for fermenting ales in the summer, but never a lager. I figure I could lager fine after fermentation, as the garage barely stays above freezing. I was thinking of making a pre-prohibition American style Pilsner or a German or Bohemian Pilsner. Any thoughts?

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Old 01-17-2013, 02:34 AM   #2
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I haven't done it, but a couple thoughts.

First, do you know how stable your temperatures stayed on your ale? Lagers are more sensitive not just to temperatures but to changes, so that'd be a key question.

Also, 57-58 is too high for many lager yeasts. More like 48-50 is typical, with 55 being at the high end. You should test whether you can get temperatures where you want them in the first place.

Finally, if you try it, I would start with something where nailing super clean is not essential. Give yourself some hope of covering up your flaws.

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Old 01-17-2013, 02:35 AM   #3
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You can lager with a swamp cooler if you're willing to give it the attention it deserves. For example, if you're willing for example to change out ice bottles a couple of times a day for a few weeks, to keep it at the correct temperature. Most people aren't.

If you have a baseline cold area, like a garage in winter, yes you can seasonal lager- or as we call it "ghetto lagering" where your aim is simply to keep the beer from freezing while it's cold conditioning. For that you need some sort of way to heat the fermenter, at least above freezing, usually with a temp controller, and with a temp controller, you CAN maintain the consistant temp needed..

I offer up some suggestions in THIS thread.

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Old 01-17-2013, 02:39 AM   #4
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Sure, I do it. Although I guess the jury's still out on my success as my first is still carbing in bottles.

As long as you're able to monitor it often enough to keep the temp within the tight range desired, then it works great. It helps a whole lot if you can use a cooler or other well insulated container, of course. In your basement, with those ambient temps, it would be easy to maintain lager fermenting temp.

I use a couple of Igloo Ice Cube coolers (70 qt). They're nice and big. I also use them for lagering in my garage. It's real easy to maintain lagering temp. Just fill it with ice and water.

Good luck

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Old 01-17-2013, 02:46 PM   #5
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I have kept my ales in a swamp cooler about 6-8 degrees below ambient temperature with a swamp cooler, changing the ice bottles out about four times a day, 2 20 oz. bottles each time. I might give it a shot, but only a 5 gallon batch I think, rather than try to go for ten just in case it is no good. Onlooker, I like your method of keeping the fermentor in ice water in the garage. That should keep the beer very close to freezing, without actually freezing. I have a large cooler that I could use for that purpose. Also I am a stay at home dad, so monitoring temps and changing out ice shouldn't be that big of a problem. I am still a bit apprehensive though because I only brew about every six weeks or so and don't want to waste a brew session on something that isn't going to work well.

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Old 01-17-2013, 03:08 PM   #6
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Ghetto lagering is really easy, as long as your beer doesn't freeze. Temp control is important, BUT if you've brewed then a lager is no more or less difficult than any other.

And right now the weather in Michigan is very conducive to doing this. And it sounds like being a stay at home dad, means you have that little extra time to be attentive.

Like I showed in my ghetto thread, you can easily do it.

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Old 01-17-2013, 03:47 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StonesBally View Post
I am still a bit apprehensive though because I only brew about every six weeks or so and don't want to waste a brew session on something that isn't going to work well.
If you're apprehensive, another option would be to try to do a low temperature ferment with an ale yeast and keep a close eye on it to see how well you do at regulating temperature. It'll likely survive better if things don't work so well, and if it does work, then you can have some confidence in your method before you throw a lager yeast at it.

(Not that there's anything wrong with diving in yeast-first, just an alternative if you're feeling risk averse.)
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Old 01-17-2013, 03:50 PM   #8
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I've got a few posts on my blog about this. The water bath really helps to regulated the temperature, and if you want the temp low then the garage and an aquarium hearted will do better than the basement and ice.

Here is data on an aquarium heater in a water bath:
http://woodlandbrew.blogspot.com/2012/12/fermentation-temperature-control.html

Here is how air temeprature fluctionation effects a water bath:
http://woodlandbrew.blogspot.com/2012/11/lagering-outside.html

And ice in a water bath:
http://woodlandbrew.blogspot.com/2012/09/swamp-cooler.html

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Old 01-17-2013, 04:30 PM   #9
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WoodlandBrew, thanks for the info on swamp coolers and water baths with an aquarium heater. I do see that the aquarium heater may be the way to go, but would need one that could keep 50 degrees, and I can't find one that would do just that. Thanks for the vote of confidence Revvy, I think I might just give it a try. I have made 30+ batches of ale, never a lager, and I am just interested in trying something new. I really don't care about time involved, just don't want to spend a lot of money on equipment, as I don't really want to make any more purchases, except for ingredients of course, before I can build a kegerator.

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Old 01-17-2013, 04:32 PM   #10
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Oops, after about 2 minutes of searching I realize to use a water bath and aquarium heater, then I would also need a temperature control unit, so I guess that option may have to wait for another day.

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