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BuffettPack 08-20-2011 12:49 AM

Conditioning Lager Fermented at Ale Temp
First time poster and soon to be first time homebrewer. I'm starting out with a German Alt and the Deluxe Homebrew kit from Northern Brewer.

A friend fermented the lager at room temperature with an ale yeast and had a good result. I'm going to have to do the same thing as I have no way to ferment at the recommended 55-66F temp. I'll be fermenting at 74F. Using safe-ale yeast.

My question is even though I'm using doing the initial ferment at 74F should I do a secondary ferment and stick it in my fridge for the remainder of the secondary fermation? Or should I secondary ferment at 74F as well (or secondary ferment at all?). Follow-up question is should I bottle/condition them at 74F or keep the bottles in the fridge as well. Since I'm not fermenting under lager conditions, I wasn't sure if it made a difference if I secondary ferment/conditoin at a colder temperature?

Hex23 08-20-2011 02:15 AM

Welcome to the wonderful world of brewing.

The German Alt is a hybrid Ale/Lager and typically uses yeasts that are best fermented on the cool side. It is commonly "lagered" which just means "stored at a cool temperature" - not necessarily that it's using lager style yeast. I've made some examples before that I didn't lager and they still turn out well. I assume you're using US-05. I don't have any experience with that yeast - I usually use Wy1007 for my Alts. I know US-05 is a really popular clean fermenting yeast, but I'm skeptical that it would remain clean up to 74F. You don't have to have a refrigerator to ferment cool. You really only need to ferment cool during the early stages of fermentation - 48-72 hours. So you can easily make a swamp cooler to help keep temps low. Just search this site and you'll find lots about swamp coolers.

By the way I really don't like NB's instruction sheet for that beer where it tells you to start fermenting warm, then move to a cool spot. By that time it's too late.

As for bottle conditioning, the general advice you'll see on here is 3 weeks at 70F for a "normal" gravity beer. The NB Alt is 1.052, and I'd consider that normal. Per the brewing sheet you may have drinkable beer by 1-2 weeks in the bottle, but your best bet is to wait for three.

Also, while the kit recommends a secondary, it's really not necessary and can actually be detrimental. I'd just recommend letting it ferment in primary for a full 4 weeks.

Fermentation temperature is maybe one of the most important factors of brewing. Also make sure your water is good (especially that you have no chlorine or chloramine). Be patient and don't rush things. I know that's hard to do your first time. Good luck.

bottlebomber 08-20-2011 02:26 AM

Greetings! There's lots of things about the process you described that are less than ideal, but that ok :) learn from mistakes, and keep making better and better beer. 74 is really warm, and if that's the temp in the room then the fermenter could be 5-8 degrees warmer, which is downright hot. The Alt might come off a little fruity. You will use secondaries almost never ideally, a true lager is one time when you might. And yes, Northern Brewers instructions are poor, which is dissapointing considering how great their products are. But that's ok, you've discovered HBT! Its only going to get better from here :mug:

BuffettPack 08-20-2011 02:36 AM

Thanks for the responses.

I've got to admit, I'm a little discouraged by the fermenting temps needed on a lot of the beers I'm looking at. I read "The Joy of Homebrewing" and bits and pieces of other books and it made it look like you boil the wort, quickly bring the temp down, add to ferment bucket with yeast, and store in a dark closet corner. Easy enough. I just can't imagine their closets being in the low 60's temperature-wise.

Are there any styles that do well with a room temperature of 75 degrees or so? In NC, we only have a few cold months where my thermostat is in the high 60's. Any recommended yeasts that do OK in the 75 degree range?

Hex23 08-20-2011 03:17 AM

At least nobody's closet in Charlotte NC :) If you've got one, basements tend to be cool too.

Absolutely there are some beer styles that prefer higher temps. Look to Belgian styles.

Otherwise a swamp cooler is fairly easy to make. Or like bottlebomber suggests, go ahead and ferment warm and learn what the result is. You said your friend fermented something at room temp and it turned out good. If it's the same beer you're making, you might be able to ferment warm and still like it. It partly depends on what style of beer you like. If you like your beer more fruity, then go ahead and ferment warmer. If you want a cleaner, more "lager like" beer you really need to put some effort into temp control.

bottlebomber 08-20-2011 03:28 AM

All you need is this: a rubbermaid chest or even better an ice chest that will fit the fermenter inside. Put the fermenter in, and put a half bag of ice in there along with enough water to bring it up level with the brew in the fermenter. I would let it sit like this for 2 hours before even pitching your yeast, to get it down to a good pitch temp in the 60s. At this point, you can use frozen gallons of water (Crystal Gyser works best because the PETF plastic doesn't crack like HDPE the cloudy stuff) and put one a day in there for the first three days, after which your yeast profile has been determined. If you have 2 gallons, just swap them back and forth to the freezer.

Even beers that like the 70s such as Belgian strains still like being pitched at cooler temps. If you want to make great beer, you will HAVE to find a way to ferment in the 60s and the way I just described is cheap and easy. Then, after a while, you will get sick of this and buy a climate controlled chest freezer, and maybe build an addition onto your home just for brewing :)

BuffettPack 08-20-2011 11:11 AM

I'm heading out today to pick up the equipment to make the swamp cooler. Really appreciate the advice!

bottlebomber 08-20-2011 02:24 PM


Originally Posted by BuffettPack
I'm heading out today to pick up the equipment to make the swamp cooler. Really appreciate the advice!

All you really need is the tub... the whole thing with putting towels on it and a fan blowing on it is bogus, it does very little but waste electricity. Just the chest, and some ice. That's all you need.

h22lude 08-20-2011 02:30 PM


Originally Posted by bottlebomber (Post 3187647)
All you really need is the tub... the whole thing with putting towels on it and a fan blowing on it is bogus, it does very little but waste electricity. Just the chest, and some ice. That's all you need.

Chest ice and water does work well. However a wet towel around the bucket does lower the temp some. Albeit only a few degrees but it still works. It's the same principal as putting a wet towel around your neck. The evaporation process is what is cooling it down, not the actual wet towel. It isn't the best method but it does work. If my closet was at 73, a wet towel would bring it down to 70.

BuffettPack 08-20-2011 04:23 PM

I'm going to pick up the Igloo Ice Cube (60 qt) from Lowe's. Want the max cold version but don't want to spend $60 right now. Would be nice to be able to fully close the cooler lid with the fermentation bucket inside (or a 5 gallon better bottle) for times when I need to maintain a really low temp. Not sure I'll be able to do that with the Ice Cube model.

Not planning on the t-shirt/fan method as I feel like I should be able to keep in the 60F range fairly easily without trying it.

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