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Old 12-29-2012, 01:20 PM   #1
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Default Keeping fermenting beer warm

Hi All,
I'm setting up to brew a clone kit of Green Flash West Coast IPA, my 4th extract batch. All have been good, but I want to get the most out of this one so I'm making some small improvements to my process. This includes using a yeast starter, maximizing wort cooling time, and optimizing fermenting temps. My problem is that here in CT it's cold and the temp in my house is about 63-65 during the day but drops down to 56-59 overnight.

I wanted to ferment in the mid-to-high 60s (it's the california ale 001 yeast), but I don't have any heating equipment. I'm thinking of putting the fermenting bucket in a large tupperware filled with water and heating with a fish tank heater. Does this work well and worth the investment in the heater? I also considered the brew belt or fermwrap heater, but this also requires a temperature controller, right?

I'll keep searching the threads because I know this must have been covered, but any ideas are appreciated. Thank a lot!

John

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Old 12-29-2012, 01:23 PM   #2
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Found these articles just after posting, guess I jumped the gun...

http://www.byo.com/stories/technique...ure-techniques

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/entries/...e-control.html

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Old 12-29-2012, 01:26 PM   #3
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My struggle is like yours- I have no problem keeping fermentation cool, but I have trouble keeping it warm enough in the winter! It's normally ok, since my house is about 62 degrees and most ale strains work at that temperature. But occasionally, I need a little something and so I use a small aquarium heater in a water bath around the fermenter.

Even if the heater isn't on, surrounding the fermenting beer with water helps keep the temperature from fluctuating, as it takes a LONG time for that much water and beer to change temperatures!

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Old 12-29-2012, 05:14 PM   #4
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If you have some kind of enclosure you can put your bucket in like an extra fridge or even a small closet, you can build an ebay temp controller and paint can heater for really cheap. I have that set up in a fridge and it works perfectly.

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Old 12-29-2012, 05:43 PM   #5
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Actually, you could really just put the fermenter in an unplugged freezer in the house. If the insulation is very good, the temp inside the freezer will be closer to the average temperature of the day, which is likely in the low 60's. You could also put another full bucket of water in there with it to get the thermal mass up.

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Old 12-29-2012, 06:49 PM   #6
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Thanks for the ideas. I bought a 18 gallon bucket to put the fermenter in, as well as a 50W fishtank heater, which should be enough to maintain up to 70F overnight. It was almost $30 at the pet shop, much cheaper on Amazon, but I since I'm planning on brewing tomorrow I didn't want to wait. I'm doing a test with 5g of water in the bucket of warm water (without the heater) tonight to see what the "wort" temp is in the morning.

I do have an extra fridge, but it's currently being used to keep my beer cold, so I'm paying to heat my beer and paying to cool my beer!

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Old 12-29-2012, 08:34 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnK93 View Post
Thanks for the ideas. I bought a 18 gallon bucket to put the fermenter in, as well as a 50W fishtank heater, which should be enough to maintain up to 70F overnight. It was almost $30 at the pet shop, much cheaper on Amazon, but I since I'm planning on brewing tomorrow I didn't want to wait. I'm doing a test with 5g of water in the bucket of warm water (without the heater) tonight to see what the "wort" temp is in the morning.

I do have an extra fridge, but it's currently being used to keep my beer cold, so I'm paying to heat my beer and paying to cool my beer!
A 50w heater may be way too much! I think mine is like 5w!
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Old 12-30-2012, 01:05 AM   #8
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The heater allows you to set the target temp and turns off once the bath water reaches this temp, so I'm not worried. There was a cheaper model that had a preset temp at 78F and no adjustment.

That is, if I need to use it...temp is remaining pretty constant without the heater, so we'll see.

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Old 01-01-2013, 06:53 PM   #9
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Well I brewed my Green Flash on Sunday making the small improvements to my process that I mentioned above. I made a basic starter yeast (2 cups water, 1/2 cup DME) about 2 days in advance and pitched the entire thing. I thought it would start fermenting quicker than it did, maybe in 4-8 hours, which it did but was a slow bubble for a good 24 hours. I thought maybe I did something wrong with he yeast. Come this morning, 24-30 hours after pitching, my airlock is bubbling like a motorboat! This is the most airlock activity I've seen of my 4 batches, which I guess is a result of the starter, temperature, and high OG.

I have the fermenter in a water bath and the water temp is steady at about 65-68, so the beer temp is probably in the 70-72 range right now.

The other thing I did to improve this batch is really try to get the wort cooling time down. I made use of our recent snowfall to keep the ice bath really cold and I also threw in some ice cubes I made from distilled water into the wort. I got the temp from boiling down to 80F in about 12-15 minutes I'd estimate. I strained into a sanitized bucket (I usually don't strain the wort but want this one to be as clear as possible) and poured back and forth a few times to aerate before topping off with chilled distilled water (the boiled wort water was well water from the tap and is pretty hard so I usually add distilled water to top off). By this time the temp was in the mid-60s for pitching.

1.074 OG was really close to target 1.076...probably added a little too much water but I'll take the extra beer or two over the extra alcohol. I have high hopes for this one. Wish I didn't have to wait so long to taste the results!

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Old 01-01-2013, 07:18 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnK93 View Post
Well I brewed my Green Flash on Sunday making the small improvements to my process that I mentioned above. I made a basic starter yeast (2 cups water, 1/2 cup DME) about 2 days in advance and pitched the entire thing. I thought it would start fermenting quicker than it did, maybe in 4-8 hours, which it did but was a slow bubble for a good 24 hours. I thought maybe I did something wrong with he yeast. Come this morning, 24-30 hours after pitching, my airlock is bubbling like a motorboat! This is the most airlock activity I've seen of my 4 batches, which I guess is a result of the starter, temperature, and high OG.

I have the fermenter in a water bath and the water temp is steady at about 65-68, so the beer temp is probably in the 70-72 range right now.

The other thing I did to improve this batch is really try to get the wort cooling time down. I made use of our recent snowfall to keep the ice bath really cold and I also threw in some ice cubes I made from distilled water into the wort. I got the temp from boiling down to 80F in about 12-15 minutes I'd estimate. I strained into a sanitized bucket (I usually don't strain the wort but want this one to be as clear as possible) and poured back and forth a few times to aerate before topping off with chilled distilled water (the boiled wort water was well water from the tap and is pretty hard so I usually add distilled water to top off). By this time the temp was in the mid-60s for pitching.

1.074 OG was really close to target 1.076...probably added a little too much water but I'll take the extra beer or two over the extra alcohol. I have high hopes for this one. Wish I didn't have to wait so long to taste the results!
Sounds great!

One thing that I"ve found is that the water bath, if filled up to near the top of the level of the beer, is about equal to the temperature inside the fermenter. That would be ideal in your case, as for most ales you want to be 65-68 degrees, but if it's higher and you checked it, I'd bring the temperature down.

I only like about two ale strains over 70 degrees, and that's only in special cases. For your beer, you may want to look at the fermenting temperature for your yeast strain, and ferment at the low end of the optimum range. It makes a much 'cleaner' beer.
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