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Old 01-17-2013, 11:03 PM   #1
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Default Temperature control

Basic question - How do you keep the correct temp for fermentation?

I read Palmer's book a few years ago. I have a water quality/characteristics report for my local supply. I have been to a brew store, talked with a couple buddies who brew their own.

I have decent 'theoretical' knowledge about the process and what I need to do it, and I think I could make good beer. But I can't think of a good way to keep it at the right temp for a month, basically, in the conditions I would be working in.

My residence is small, so undisturbed space is limited.
I live in Los Angeles - real hot in summer, I suppose maybe ok in winter but not consistent enough for brewing, I don't think.

Do I have to buy a fridge and convert it to the temp control thing if I really want good beer? All the other equipment is expensive enough, finding a spare fridge, and again the space to keep it, would be a big challenge.

What other options are there?

Right now I have my LBK in a closet. It has been really cold (for Los Angeles) and I've just left my heat on, for my beer, for the last couple weeks. The gas bill is worth it, but I don't want to heat my whole house every time I want to brew a keg of beer...

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Old 01-17-2013, 11:12 PM   #2
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I'm really new at this, but went the chest freezer with dual digital temp controller (using an STC-1000) route. It's hassle-free and I can set whatever temp I need. I already had the freezer sitting in the garage unused, but you can pick one up on Craigslist cheap. The heat source is the DIY Paint can heater (using a light bulb inside). I ended up spending about $30-35.

Poke around the forums and run some searches. There are plenty of threads which discuss "swamp coolers", frozen bottles in coolers with water, and other methods of cooling. To heat, some buy a heat pad thing that wraps around the fermenter.
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Old 01-17-2013, 11:17 PM   #3
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For Summer I got a $100 fridge from craigslist about medium size, and a got a temp controller wired up to it.

Winters my basement is pretty consistent temp wise, if it wasnt I would look at one of the carboy heaters they sell at northern brewer, you will still want a temp controller.

I got a digital Ranco controller a HVAC supply company.

Ritebrew has a good deal on a basic unit.

http://www.ritebrew.com/category-s/1937.htm

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Old 01-17-2013, 11:41 PM   #4
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With limited space and making Ales you can try the swamp cooler. Get a plastic tote and fill it half way with cold water and place the fermenter in it. Keep a floating thermometer in it and when it gets too hot add ice. Keeping liter bottles of water frozen in the freezer works good for this and you can rotate them. Takes some checking every day but just takes a couple of minutes. Cheap, easy and space saving.

Just noticed right now heating was the issue. Maybe a thermowrap or heat coil like they use on water lines where they freeze up in winter?

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Old 01-18-2013, 03:13 AM   #5
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I'd suggest getting a space heater for the closet, no need to heat your whole house.

Humidity in LA is usually fairly low, right? So a swamp cooler in the summer should work pretty well, assuming you keep the rest of your house in the 70s. If you travel a lot and prefer to turn off the AC while you're gone, then I think you'll need some kind of appliance.

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Old 01-18-2013, 03:15 PM   #6
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Just me, space heaters scare me. Hear of too many fires and definately not in a closet!

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Old 04-24-2013, 04:27 PM   #7
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Thanks for the info. Temps were just right for the past few weeks/months. I have a couple LBKs going and it was pretty warm over the weekend, thought my beer might be ruined. I bottled it last night though and the tastes I took were good.

I wasn't sure I could brew in the summer since it gets so hot, unless I got a extra freezer/fridge. But maybe a swamp cooler concept will be sufficient. I'l figure something out, I don't want to quit brewing, these batches taste really good!

Thanks again.

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Old 04-24-2013, 04:40 PM   #8
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Something else to keep in mind, you don't have to keep the fermentation temperature tightly controlled for a month. You really just want to keep it controlled during the growth and reproduction phase at the beginning when its most active. How long that lasts can change from 24 hours to 2 weeks depending on the beer and the yeast but that is when going too cool or too warm will have the most effect. After most of the activity has slowed, its fine to let the temperature change, usually let it go warmer to encourage the yeast to keep working another week or two. Letting go warmer should be no problem in LA.

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Old 04-24-2013, 04:58 PM   #9
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Oh, cool. Maybe that explains why my beer came out ok - it was only hot on the 3rd week of the brewing process. Weeks one and two were good, 70 - 72.

Thanks for the info!

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Old 04-24-2013, 05:12 PM   #10
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I know your pain.
I think the market on homebrewing lacks on a simple solution on this, a 5gal fermenter with built-in insulation, temp controller, cooling and heating capabilities. Something as simple as pouring you wort in with yeast, turn it on, select "Ale" or "Lagger" and forget about it. Many homebrewers don't have the skills to wire controllers and make changes to regular fridges.
Right now, I think your best bet is a swamp cooler. Another option that works for cooling is having your fermenter covered with a light cloth, like cheese making cloth, a bottle of water dripping on top just enough to keep it wet, and a fan blowing on it. Evaporation will drive a temp drop of as much as 20F, depending on the humidity of the air.

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