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Old 04-15-2009, 11:56 AM   #1
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Default Fermentation temperature woes-still a noob I guess

I've had off flavors that I am guessing comes from fermenting upstairs in my home, the temperature is too high and fluctuates due to heating with wood. So I tried the basement this time. My basement isn't insulated and there is nothing down there that throws off heat except the freezer and I am in New England so it is cold, 40s-50s throughout the day. I put my fermentation bucket in a plastic bin of water and put an aquarium heater in the water. I had it at 62F. I have two fermenters in two bins, each with an aquarium heater so I have two questions.

1. The first fermenter mainly stayed within the temps I wanted (62-64). However, I noticed it did dip to 60 over night. And the third day my wife "helped" me and ended up getting the heater right into the water which gave me a nice shock when I stuck a finger in to grab the thermometer. It read 72. So, is what I have described going to be detrimental to my beer? It is Nottingham (57° to 70°F) and a blonde ale.

2. The second fermenter seemed to be going well. The first day the temperatures were fine, I went down at the end of day two to check and the temperature was 58F and the aquarium heater was on the fritz. The bubbling in the airlock stopped. I got the heater going again. What will the low temperature during the crucial first days do to the beer? It is S-05 (59-75°F) and a gruit.

If I can't get this temperature control down this way, I plan on getting a free fridge or freezer off CL and buy a temperature control. Advice? Fridge or freezer? I may give a shot at insulating a small area to see if that helps.

I assume the temp in the fermenter was a bit higher than what the water is, but by how much?

TIA

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Old 04-15-2009, 01:24 PM   #2
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How high was the water level in the plastic bin you had it in? The more water in there, the better the temperature control.

Also, you would likely need a couple of aquarium heaters to maintain the temp of stagnant water or use a powerhead to circulate the water, or both.

I've actually thought about doing this myself for better temperature control since water has such a high specific heat capacity.

Since it's a blonde, I'd say the cooler temp shouldn't be too detrimental as long as the yeast is still churning. You may need to add some yeast energizer if it's stopped completely. Take a gravity reading to doublecheck.

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Old 04-15-2009, 02:11 PM   #3
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I have the water level on the Blonde right around the beer level in the fermenter. On the gruit, I got a little bit too much water and have a hammer on the bucket lid to counteract bouyancy.

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Old 04-15-2009, 02:16 PM   #4
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I know this doesn't really answer your question, but with ambient temps like that in your basement, I'd try lagering something while the getting is good! Save the ales for the summer when the ground temperatures come up a little bit...

In the mean time, I'd follow what the others have said and try to work with the immersion/heaters some more before giving up on that.

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Old 04-15-2009, 03:42 PM   #5
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I'm going to assume that your plastic bins are sitting directly on the concrete? Build yourself a little step out of 2x4's to get it off the concrete. Concrete is a terrible insulator when compared to wood, so you need to get your bins up off the floor - which is acting like a big heat sink.

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Old 04-15-2009, 04:26 PM   #6
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Duh. Spot on RedIrocZ-28. Why didn't I think of that. Lager or Kolsch would be a good thing to brew. I have a mild brown on big brew day and a dunkelweizen on deck already.

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Old 04-15-2009, 04:30 PM   #7
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Thats why I get paid the big bucks!

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Glad I could help! I am all about making good beer, and if I can help others make good beer, then its worth it.

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Old 04-15-2009, 07:33 PM   #8
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I know I sound like a broken record but here goes. If you want to brew consistently good beer then buy a refrigerator and a Ranco controller. It is the only way to know for sure that your brew is at a steady controlled fermentation temperature. Anything else requires constant personal daily attention and is a PITA. Try it and you to will brew fantastic beer. If commercial breweries could brew beer without refrigeration they would do it in a heartbeat as it costs them plenty. In closing "be gentle i'm older".

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Old 05-01-2009, 11:15 PM   #9
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Yep, got my eye out for a CL freezer/fridge.

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Old 05-02-2009, 06:17 AM   #10
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Default Water is better

Using the plastic bins and water has worked very well for me. I put a powerhead (water pump) pointing at the heater to eliminate hot and cold spots. I can keep the temp within one degree without having to check on it. As grahamfw said, water has a high specific heat. It is much more resistant to temperature changes than the air in a fridge. work on your water rig.

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