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Old 11-12-2012, 08:46 PM   #1
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Default Swamp Cooler

Just put my American Rye ale in the swamp cooler yesterday. This is my first time using one. My question is, how do you know exact temps inside or know how cold to keep your water. I've been using ice bottles, but I don't want to take the lid off to take a temp and possibly infect.

Note: my glass Carboy is being used and I ruined my sticky temp strip, getting a new one today but just want to see what you guys do.


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Old 11-12-2012, 08:55 PM   #2
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It depends on what temp you are trying to achieve. I typically only use a swamp cooler during the summer months, when I have decided to brew a lager and need the cooler temps.

I usually run all my ales at normal room temp to start, then put them in the basement which is around 60*. After I rack to the secondary, I may let it sit if another week or two, then bring it back upstairs to a slightly warmer room around 70+* for a couple days, to finish. Then rack into bottling bucket with your priming sugar, or rack right into my kegs.

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Old 11-12-2012, 08:59 PM   #3
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I assume that the swamp water is the same temp as the fermenting beer (attempting to get some data to back this up). I'll take a temp reading a couple of times a day on the water, using my thermapen now, but I used to use a floating thermometer and just leave it in the bath.
Put some bleach in the water too, it'll get nasty after a few days (especially if you've splashed some wort in there at some point). I wouldn't recommend one of those sticky temp strips in the swamp bath btw, it'll stop working after a week or so of being submerged.

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Old 11-12-2012, 09:02 PM   #4
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What's your ambient room temp? The temp of the wort should be similar to the temp of the water ideally so you could just take a temp reading on the water. When I used a swamp cooler up here in MN I would keep it in there for the first three or four days and I would add new frozen water bottles two or three times a day depending on how warm it was. I'd say take a temp reading on the water, drop in a two frozen bottles before going to work, come back and take another temp reading before deciding.

It's an imperfect science depending on your ambient temp, water level, size of frozen bottles, yeast activity. You need to play with it a bit before getting the process down.

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Old 11-12-2012, 09:04 PM   #5
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I used to tape my SS dial thermometer to the side of the bucket, above the water-line but below the beer-line, and get a "decent" idea of what was going on inside. If you can insulate the probe somehow that will help. It won't be exact, but it will key you on increases. Aim to keep that temp reading a few degrees lower than you want because it's near the edge. Don't add so much ice that it will take days on end to melt. There is a key point when fermentation really get's going that is when you want to be prepared for. Temps can rise 5-10 degrees inside, easily. After that, let it free rise without ice bottles to a reasonable room temp to finish out. The first few days (reproduction and initial fermentation) are the crucial time.

Ideally you put a thermowell into your fermenter and monitor internal temps that way.

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Old 11-12-2012, 09:06 PM   #6
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Yeah I figure the temp of the fermenting beer gets up to 5-10 degrees higher than the water in the swamp cooler at high krausen, or most vigorous part of fermentation. But when there are no signs of fermentation I assume the temp should be within a degree or two. No science to back this up, but my beers have tasted a lot better since following this model.

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Old 11-12-2012, 09:09 PM   #7
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You can't always check the swamp cooler water temp, cause you've added ice. It's not accurate until it's normalized after all of the ice melts. By then you're playing a huge game of catch-up. Try to get SOME sort of reading on the beer itself via stick-on thermometer or taping something to the side, ideally, a thermowell in a bung. You need to know AS the temp rises, not after.

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Old 11-12-2012, 09:13 PM   #8
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I just used a stick-on thermometer above the waterline of the swamp cooler, but below the beer line. That worked pretty well and was verified by Thermapen readings. Within a couple degrees anyway.

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Old 11-12-2012, 10:10 PM   #9
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The water in the swamp cooler is a great heat sink, and prevents the temperature of the fermenting wort from running away. The wort will stay within a couple of degrees of the water, even at the height of fermentation.

I use a swamp cooler even when I'm fermenting at room temperature as it keeps the wort temp stable.

I've never tried cooling with it. I just use it at RT for most beers, and use a fish tank heater to raise temperature for Belgians.

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Old 11-12-2012, 10:27 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Calder
The water in the swamp cooler is a great heat sink, and prevents the temperature of the fermenting wort from running away. The wort will stay within a couple of degrees of the water, even at the height of fermentation.

I use a swamp cooler even when I'm fermenting at room temperature as it keeps the wort temp stable.

I've never tried cooling with it. I just use it at RT for most beers, and use a fish tank heater to raise temperature for Belgians.
I used it because my room temp is 70 and if the yeast drives the heat up 5-10 degrees I'm over my mark for an ale using wyeast 1056
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