21 Temperature Tactics You Need to Know Right Now

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Nobody disputes the importance of temperature control in brewing. Are you acing all aspects of temperature control, from the brew day to the pour? Check out these tips from some of San Diego County's top brewers to see how your best practices measure up, or to get ideas for your next homebrew club experiment.

Alex Van Horne, Owner and Head Brewer, Intergalactic Brewing Company, San Diego
"Ensure you have consistent pitching practices. Pitch the same amount of yeast at the same temperature each time you brew so you will have a good baseline. From there, you can experiment to find what works and doesn't work for you."

Juli Goldenberg, Champion of Stone Brewing Co.'s 2015 AHA-sanctioned Homebrew Competition
"If you don't have access to a fridge for temperature control, putting a wet T-shirt over your carboy generally does a very good job at keeping the temp between 66-70[F]. This trick has saved my beers a number of times! Just wet the T-shirt down each day to make sure it stays cool. Also, ramping up fermentation temperature with a heat belt such as the Brew Belt or FermWrap when fermenting saisons makes a world of difference with regard to ester complexity. Whether heating or cooling, temp control can make or break an otherwise great recipe, so try to either brew with the seasons or control fermentation temperature in some way."

Derek Gallanosa, Head Brewer, Abnormal Beer Co
"Assuming you are not filtering, after fermentation, allow your beer the proper time to cold crash. Although your beer may look finished, there still may be some hop and yeast sediment that can give off unwanted flavors. I recommend at least 6 days."

Ken Schmidt, World-renowned homebrewing champion

"Work with nature, not against it. If you don't use a chest freezer for fermentation, brew beer styles that capitalize on what each season has to offer. For instance, make saisons in the summer and lagers in the deep winter. On the home front, find a cool, dark spot for fermentation and take advantage of what your cellar or garage gives you."

Tyler Tucker, Fermentation Operative, Societe Brewing Company
"You can perfect a favorite beer recipe by experimenting with various fermentation temperatures and evaluating the outcome. To do this, monitor and adjust your temperatures using a thermowell and a high-quality digital temperature control unit for your chest freezer. Two good temperature control unit brands: Ranco and Love."

Chris Baker, Head Brewer, Mother Earth Brew Co.
"To avoid chill haze and sediment in a heavily hopped beer, spend 48-72 hours at 32 degrees [Fahrenheit] in conditioning before bottling or kegging."

James Petti, Brewer, Wavelength Brewing Company
"Be water and budget smart about cooling your wort. Buy trays and store ice in your freezer until you need it. Full freezers are more energy efficient, and you won't have to purchase ice again and again. On brew day, after you have cooled your wort, recycle the water to make more ice."

Jeff Wiederkehr, QUAFF Clone Wars first and third-place winner
"Due to the exothermic, or heat generating properties of the fermentation process, I set my fermentation vessel at about five degrees [Fahrenheit] below the bottom end of my target fermentation temperature range."

Stan Sisson, Partner, Julian CiderWorks
"If you are frustrated with temperature control for beer, try making cider. Temperature control for cider is less critical than beer, especially when you use wine yeast. At Julian CiderWorks, we ferment our ciders in the barn at ambient temperature."

Greg Turk, Brewer, Karl Strauss Brewing Company
"There is a narrow water temperature band for the rehydration of dry yeast prior to pitching. To achieve your target temperature and minimize the risk of contamination, boil water in a one-liter Nalgene bottle in your microwave (leave the cap off). Cap the bottle, then drop it into a bucket of ambient temperature water for about 10 minutes to equalize the temperatures. Take the temperature of the ambient water to verify you have reached your target; if it's still too warm, you may need to refresh the ambient water. Then follow the directions for rehydrating the yeast."

Brian Trout, Brewing Machine America's Finest City most winning Brewer 2 years in a row and QUAFF Homebrewer of the Year 2015 & 2013
"Brewers, I implore you to invest in a precise and accurate thermometer. It will offer you confidence in measuring strike water and mash. Invest in dependable fermentation temperature control. While these items might lack the luster and sex of a kegerator, NOTHING will offer you marked improvement of your brewing quicker. Brewing great beer is always sexy."

Thomas Peters, Head Brewer, Belching Beaver Brewery
"For lagers, pitch your yeast cold (mid 40s to low 50s[F]) for better flavor. After the growth phase, raise the temperature incrementally."

Andy Gamelin, Founder and President, Society of Barley Engineers
"Keep in mind that fermentation is an exothermic reaction, so the temperature within your fermentation chamber will rise above ambient when fermentation activity increases. This can be compensated for by using a thermowell, taping a temperature probe to the fermenter or using known information from previous experience."

Matt Webster, Head Brewer, The Lost Abbey/Port Brewing
"Ensure you are getting an adequate diacetyl rest. Just before you hit terminal final gravity, allow your beer to naturally warm up at least two degrees for 24-48 hours. This speeds up the amount of time it takes for the yeast to reabsorb the diacetyl. The number one flaw I detect in beer: diacetyl ."

Chris Banker, Champion of Stone Brewing Co.'s 2014 AHA-sanctioned Homebrew Competition and winner of the 2013 America's Finest City Best of Show
"A reptile heat pad is a great heat source if you are running a dual-stage controller or need to ferment at higher temperature than ambient. These heat pads are readily available, inexpensive, and work well for providing the small amounts of heat needed in an insulated environment like a chest freezer or fermentation chamber."

Jake Whyte, Brewer, Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits
"For mashing, low and slow is the way to go. Keep the temperature in the mash tun low so you don't burn or shock the grain. Controlling enzymes with a low mash temperature will give you better flavor and will even circumvent off flavors. To make this happen, aim for the lowest end of the recommended temperature range, and slowly work your way up to the desired mash temp."

Chris Barry, Lead Homebrew Advisor, Mother Earth Brew Co.
"For the cost and space-conscious brewer, secure a large bucket and place your fermenting vessel inside. Pour water into the bucket. The water surrounding your fermenter will drop the beer's temperature by three or four degrees [Fahrenheit] from ambient and minimize temperature fluctuations. If you want to lower the beer's temperature by up to eight degrees, freeze water in ziplock bags and drop them into the water in the bucket; switch out the ice bags every eight hours. The first five days of fermentation are the most crucial for flavor, so don't feel you have to spend two weeks switching out ice bags."

Ryan Reschan, Writer of homebrew columns, West Coaster magazine
"For experimentation with lambics, play around with your mash temperatures for a diverse collection of wort for the yeast to chew on. A high mash temperature will create less immediate food for the bacteria and Saccharomyces cerevisiae, leaving more for Brettanomyces to consume. Try varying the mash temperature from 146 to 160[F] to experiment on outcomes. This would be a great project for a homebrew club."

Chris Chalmers, Co-Owner & Brewmaster, Pacific Brewing Co.
"For high alcohol beers (8% or higher), plan on longer fermentations at a slightly lower temperature than the recipe may suggest, say 62-66 degrees [Fahrenheit]. The cooler fermentation will stave off fusel alcohol characteristics and result in a smoother, more easy-drinking beer."

Jason Wyatt, Assistant Brewer, White Labs
"For saisons, aim for higher fermentation temperatures to get more phenolics (peppers, clove, spicy characteristics). Do this by starting fermentation at around 70 degrees [Fahrenheit] and let it self-rise up to about 80 degrees."

Brett Goldstock, Chief Fermentation Officer, Duck Foot Brewing Company
"To pour the perfect pint with minimal foaming, it helps to keep your draft system's shanks and faucets as cold as possible. The wood collar used on many keezer projects actually insulates the faucets/shanks, keeping them warmer than the beer. This can be improved by cutting a "shadowbox" from the collar and mounting the shanks in a metal backing which will keep the temperatures lower."
BONUS - Two additional tasty tidbits: one addressing yeast health and a special for you slackers.

Erik Jensen, Head Brewer, Green Flash
"I judge the health of yeast by how quickly it ferments. To give your yeast every opportunity to thrive, always make a starter to maximize cell counts, increase your yeast's viability and achieve vigorous fermentation. Professionally, I like to see fermentation complete within four to six days for ale. As a homebrewer, you can shorten your fermentation timeline and create better beer with the use of a starter... every time."

Larry Stein, President, Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity (QUAFF)
"Temperature control? Do it!"//www.pinterest.com/pin/create/extension/
Not sure what he means here:
"For mashing, low and slow is the way to go. Keep the temperature in the mash tun low so you don't burn or shock the grain. Controlling enzymes with a low mash temperature will give you better flavor and will even circumvent off flavors. To make this happen, aim for the lowest end of the recommended temperature range, and slowly work your way up to the desired mash temp."
I really like Greg Turk's comment about using a Nalgene bottle to boil water with in the microwave. My mind is spinning right now with all the things I could utilise this approach for..
<boicutt> Many of these quotes can be taken out of context. And this one is a prime example. They are snippets of a much more involved discussion regarding temperature. If you don't know where to start, this little bit of information won't help much. But I will offer a bit (based on my limited knowledge) Let's say you want to mash at 160 degrees. He is recommending preparing your mash tun at say 150 degrees and mashing in at that temperature, getting all the grain stirred in, then slowly raising the temperature to 160.(If your equipment can support that) If you start at the high end, expecting to lose temperature quickly, then you risk scorching the grain that hits the tun first. Make sense?
Thanks to all the brewers who contributed their knowledge for this article! -- Lyne
Excellent article! Entertaining and informative, good job.
@boicutt I'm guessing he might be referring to step mashing (kind of): starting low-ish (135-140F) and creeping up slowly through the effective alpha amylase temperature window during the mash.
These are a brewer's friend,
Comark Instrument PDT300 Digital Pocket Thermometer
Taylor 1470 Digital Cooking Thermometer/Timer
Inkbird All-Purpose Digital Temperature Controller (STC-1000 in F/C)