Belgian Yeast Fermentation Temps and Schedule

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SRJHops

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I've had some success with Belgian beers, but still don't feel like I have the fermentation temps and schedule dialed in. Does anyone have experience to share with fermentation temps and schedules? I am most interested in the regular Trappist/Abbey Belgian yeasts. My go-to is 3522. (I know the Saisons can go really hot.)

Brew Like a Monk seemingly has opposing recommendations. There's a chart that shows good flavors from fermenting from 75 - 85 degrees. But in the book there are also lots of mentions about starting fermentation lower, at 64 or so, to "control" the yeast. They recommend free-rise and/or raising the temperate a few degrees every day, up to 75.

My concern about fermenting too hot is creating fusels and acetaldehyde. But I also wonder if that concern is overblown, and pitching at 75 and letting it free rise to 85 would produce more flavor, which I would like to maximize. I know some folks don't like the fruit and spice, but I want as much as possible -- but I don't want off flavors.
 
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I always pitch towards the bottom end of the fermentation range and let it free rise on it's own. I do apply a bit of heat to get it to finish at the top of the range, once I see it start to level out. I really enjoy the Belgian character and this helps keep it from creating off flavors. The malt/adjunct bill I really do think what flavors the yeast push during fermentation. Play around with fermentation temps, that's what makes this hobby fun! YMMV
 
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I would encourage you to do a few and go extreme both directions. Keep good notes and see what suits your fancy. You may find that 80*F is the perfect spot for your taste. Me I like them fermented in the mid 70's and then towards the end of fermentation I like to start to start cranking the temps till they are done. Then rest for 2 weeks at fermentation temps then drop to package temps over a week or so. This is what I like personally.
The key with Belgian beers (IMHO) and yeast it to play like crazy till you find what YOU like.

Cheers
Jay
 
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SRJHops

SRJHops

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I would encourage you to do a few and go extreme both directions. Keep good notes and see what suits your fancy. You may find that 80*F is the perfect spot for your taste. Me I like them fermented in the mid 70's and then towards the end of fermentation I like to start to start cranking the temps till they are done. Then rest for 2 weeks at fermentation temps then drop to package temps over a week or so. This is what I like personally.
The key with Belgian beers (IMHO) and yeast it to play like crazy till you find what YOU like.

Cheers
Jay

Thanks, totally agree. I have golden strong in the fermenter now... I pitched at 75 and it went up to 85; I held it there until close to FG, then raised to 89 to finish. WAY hotter than I have ever done before. I can report back...

Have ever had off flavors at those higher temps?
 
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SRJHops

SRJHops

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I always pitch towards the bottom end of the fermentation range and let it free rise on it's own. I do apply a bit of heat to get it to finish at the top of the range, once I see it start to level out. I really enjoy the Belgian character and this helps keep it from creating off flavors. The malt/adjunct bill I really do think what flavors the yeast push during fermentation. Play around with fermentation temps, that's what makes this hobby fun! YMMV

So how high does it usually go during free rise? 75 or so?
 

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On thing to decide is how much yeast character YOU like. Also, the balance between esters and phenols. I tend to like lots of yeast character in my Belgians. Yeast tends to produce more esters at higher temps, which may hide some of the clove and pepper type phenolics.

I have had very good luck using WLP530, pitched at 68F, left to rise up to 74F, but with temp control keeping it from getting warmer. It is usually up to 74F after one day of active fermentation. As fermentation slows, I will hold the beer at 74F to 76F to finish. I might play around with different temperatures.

I brewed 3 batches with Wy3787. This is supposed to be the same Westmalle strain as WLP530. These 3 batches were one pack that was harvested and repitched. I just did not get the amount of yeast character out of those that I wanted. It could have been the yeast or it could have been that I was fermenting them too cool. This was a few years ago, toward the start of my dive into brewing Belgians.

I open fermented a Quad with WLP530 that turned out wonderful. In theory, open fermentation should help to increase esters and also reduce fusel alcohols. I would not read too much into a data point of one, but it is something I want to try out again. In this case it was a Fermonster fermenter in my chamber with a hop sack over the opening. I do generally let all my batches go for a few days with just a foil covering instead of a blow off tube, but I am not sure if that has any impact.

I brewed a Triple with M31. Half that batch was temp controlled (maybe starting at 64F and a slow controlled ramp of temps) and half was fermented at room temp. That batch pushed itself up to around 78F during fermentation. The room temperature batch had harsh fusel alcohol notes that never cleared up. In a side by side, the temp controlled one was always a clear winner for me (though some friends thought the room temp batch had better "Belgian" character). I am not sure if that applies beyond this recipe or M31.
 
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SRJHops

SRJHops

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On thing to decide is how much yeast character YOU like. Also, the balance between esters and phenols. I tend to like lots of yeast character in my Belgians. Yeast tends to produce more esters at higher temps, which may hide some of the clove and pepper type phenolics.

I have had very good luck using WLP530, pitched at 68F, left to rise up to 74F, but with temp control keeping it from getting warmer. It is usually up to 74F after one day of active fermentation. As fermentation slows, I will hold the beer at 74F to 76F to finish. I might play around with different temperatures.

I brewed 3 batches with Wy3787. This is supposed to be the same Westmalle strain as WLP530. These 3 batches were one pack that was harvested and repitched. I just did not get the amount of yeast character out of those that I wanted. It could have been the yeast or it could have been that I was fermenting them too cool. This was a few years ago, toward the start of my dive into brewing Belgians.

I open fermented a Quad with WLP530 that turned out wonderful. In theory, open fermentation should help to increase esters and also reduce fusel alcohols. I would not read too much into a data point of one, but it is something I want to try out again. In this case it was a Fermonster fermenter in my chamber with a hop sack over the opening. I do generally let all my batches go for a few days with just a foil covering instead of a blow off tube, but I am not sure if that has any impact.

I brewed a Triple with M31. Half that batch was temp controlled (maybe starting at 64F and a slow controlled ramp of temps) and half was fermented at room temp. That batch pushed itself up to around 78F during fermentation. The room temperature batch had harsh fusel alcohol notes that never cleared up. In a side by side, the temp controlled one was always a clear winner for me (though some friends thought the room temp batch had better "Belgian" character). I am not sure if that applies beyond this recipe or M31.

I have a feeling I am going to end up wanting to pitch between 68 and 70 most times, and letting it free rise up toward 80. So, a little hotter than seems to be recommended by many brewers.

I have read that maybe some fusels are the trade-off to get more fruit, so your friends liking the one with fusels makes some sense.

I think the advice I keep reading to pitch on the low end is to indeed tamp down the esters, more than to avoid fusels. Which could be why I personally find some of the more acclaimed Belgians (including Westmalle) to be a lacking in the fruit flavors I like. Some of them taste more like imperial pilsners to me.

So, as you noted, balance is the key. How hot can I push to maximize the fruit flavors, but still have some phenols? Plus avoid harsh fusels?
 

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As other said, you will need to experiment to find the flavors you like. Yeasts will give different characters depending on the fermentation temperatures. Page 178 of Brew Like a Monk has a table of expected flavors for lower and higher temperature ranges for several yeasts. 3522 shows clean and malty from 65-75F and clove, bubblegum, tart, phenolic from 75-85F.
 

blkmagik98

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Thanks, totally agree. I have golden strong in the fermenter now... I pitched at 75 and it went up to 85; I held it there until close to FG, then raised to 89 to finish. WAY hotter than I have ever done before. I can report back...

Have ever had off flavors at those higher temps?
I have a golden strong in the fermenter now as well. Wyeast 1388 with a double starter, 1.3L of water to a cup of DME and ran it twice. Pitched at 64 degrees and ran it up to 84 over five days, where it's holding at now. Started at 1.088 and it's currently at 1.006 and looks about finished.
 
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SRJHops

SRJHops

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I have a golden strong in the fermenter now as well. Wyeast 1388 with a double starter, 1.3L of water to a cup of DME and ran it twice. Pitched at 64 degrees and ran it up to 84 over five days, where it's holding at now. Started at 1.088 and it's currently at 1.006 and looks about finished.
Thanks. What your current thinking on pitching low and ramping up? As opposed to pitching at 75 and allowing to free rise to 85? Does a slower start help create or avoid something?
 
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SRJHops

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As other said, you will need to experiment to find the flavors you like. Yeasts will give different characters depending on the fermentation temperatures. Page 178 of Brew Like a Monk has a table of expected flavors for lower and higher temperature ranges for several yeasts. 3522 shows clean and malty from 65-75F and clove, bubblegum, tart, phenolic from 75-85F.
True, but in the text several Belgian brewers said they start in the low 60s to control the yeast. Maybe they want more clean and malty, which explains why a lot of the acclaimed Belgians are a bit bland to my palate.

One thing I wonder is whether it's better to pitch low (65) and ramp up, or pitch hot (75) and let it ride...
 

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I've never pitched this low before but it was recommended in a recent article about Belgian golden strong ales in Craft Beer and Brewing. It's supposedly what Duvel does, so I decided to try it out.
 
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SRJHops

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I've never pitched this low before but it was recommended in a recent article about Belgian golden strong ales in Craft Beer and Brewing. It's supposedly what Duvel does, so I decided to try it out.

I've read that too, but the puzzler is they say they will let it free rise to 84. You correctly realized it would not do that on its own, so you must have had to raise the temp yourself for those last 10 degrees or so I would guess. Be sure to report back!
 

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Will do....I'm running Brewblox on a fermentation freezer and adjusted it to rise two degrees per day over a five day period as it definitely would not do that on its own.
 

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True, but in the text several Belgian brewers said they start in the low 60s to control the yeast. Maybe they want more clean and malty, which explains why a lot of the acclaimed Belgians are a bit bland to my palate.
I have noticed that too. Some of my favorite "Belgian" beers are from Unibroue in Canada. They tend to use spices in more beers than I would like, though the level of spice is generally low enough that they don't jump out. Their beers tend to have a lot of yeast character. I brew a Dubbel that I really like, but is more in line with their Dubbel (Maudite) than with some of the classic Belgian Dubbels.
 
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SRJHops

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I have noticed that too. Some of my favorite "Belgian" beers are from Unibroue in Canada. They tend to use spices in more beers than I would like, though the level of spice is generally low enough that they don't jump out. Their beers tend to have a lot of yeast character. I brew a Dubbel that I really like, but is more in line with their Dubbel (Maudite) than with some of the classic Belgian Dubbels.
Agree that Unibroue is a bit heavy handed with the spice, especially coriander. My favorite of their beers is Don de Dieu. I tried their yeast once and it didn't make an impression, but I think I fermented it too cool.
 

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I feel that my Belgians come out great, I'll start them at 64 or so and raise the temperature 2-3 degrees each day until it gets in the mid to upper eighties, hold it there for several days then let it drop on its own until it gets into the mid seventies and cold crash it from there. I'll keep it at 34 for three to five days, then into the keg, via pressure transfer. For several years, I have fermented most all beers under pressure and see no ill effects.

Did a triple and a quad once, and I could not keep them in the fermenter, both had major blow off.
 

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My Wyeast 1388 Duvel Tripel Hop clone is still going. Thought it was going to finish at 1.006 but it's around 1.002 now.
Duvel.jpg
 
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SRJHops

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My Wyeast 1388 Duvel Tripel Hop clone is still going. Thought it was going to finish at 1.006 but it's around 1.002 now.View attachment 771989

I tend to co-pitch most of my Belgians with Saison yeast, so those low FG's are norm in my "brewery." Interestingly, I find that many folks can't discern dryness very well. I often get comments about the nice level of sweetness in my 1.000 FG beers! I recently got dinged by a judge who said my .998 FG Saison wasn't dry enough, LOL.

Bottom line is I bet your beer will be excellent - did you ferment low and use a lot of sugar?
 

blkmagik98

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I tend to co-pitch most of my Belgians with Saison yeast, so those low FG's are norm in my "brewery." Interestingly, I find that many folks can't discern dryness very well. I often get comments about the nice level of sweetness in my 1.000 FG beers! I recently got dinged by a judge who said my .998 FG Saison wasn't dry enough, LOL.

Bottom line is I bet your beer will be excellent - did you ferment low and use a lot of sugar?
I pitched at 62 and set Brewblox to raise the temperature 4 degrees per day up to 82, and used 3 pounds of clear Candi sugar.
 
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SRJHops

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I pitched at 62 and set Brewblox to raise the temperature 4 degrees per day up to 82, and used 3 pounds of clear Candi sugar.

Nice! I meant to write "mash low." But thanks for sharing the full fermentation schedule. Love to hear how it turns out.

I have a tripel up next week. I'm using my other fermenter for the golden strong, otherwise I might be tempted to split the tripel into two batches. Pitch one in the mid 60's and follow your schedule, and pitch the other one at 75 and let it free rise.
 

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Nice! I meant to write "mash low." But thanks for sharing the full fermentation schedule. Love to hear how it turns out.
It ended up at 1.001 for three days, so I did a CO2 transfer to a keg and purged it. It's currently sitting in my second fermentation freezer at 28 degrees for 20 days, after which I'll switch it over to the keezer and carb it up. Will let you know how it is after it carbs.
 
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It ended up at 1.001 for three days, so I did a CO2 transfer to a keg and purged it. It's currently sitting in my second fermentation freezer at 28 degrees for 20 days, after which I'll switch it over to the keezer and carb it up. Will let you know how it is after it carbs.
Excellent. Let us know. Dry Belgians are the way to go!

It's not a true experiment, because the beers are different, but I pitched my golden strong at 75 and let it free rise to 85. Will bottle this weekend and can report back a week or so after that.

Yesterday I pitched a tripel at 70 and will see how much it rises. It was at 71 as I left for work this morning, but it was just getting going...

Will the golden strong have harsh fusels or be extra tasty? Will I wish I fermented the tripel warmer to get more flavor? We'll find out!
 
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Reporting back on the Golden Strong that I pitched at 75 and let free rise to 85.

It's not a very good experiment, because I co-pitched 3522 Ardennes with 3711 French Saison (which I know can handle the heat). But my initial tastings do not detect any fusels. With that said, I will be entering it into a competition this summer, so we will see if the judges detect any.

However, I also didn't get a big blast of flavor -- or more flavor than usual when fermented a lower temps. It tastes pretty good at this point, after a week carbing up. Some nice fruit esters, and maybe a touch less phenols than usual.

So, not sure I really need to pitch so hot. My current thinking on fermentation temps for most Belgian yeasts is to pitch in the high 60's, with a goal of hitting at least 75 for most yeasts.

I do believe that chart in Brew Like a Monk that you get better flavors from some of the yeasts at higher temps, but I don't think you have to pitch that high -- only GET into those high ranges during the first 2-3 days or so, when the yeast is generating its own heat.

I maybe need to experiment with Saison yeast exclusively, though I have been making some good ones without pitching hot, so not sure I really need to do that experiment. Maybe I'd pitch them at 70 or 72 and let them get into the low 80's.

I have a Tripel that I pitched at 70 and let free rise to 79 up next for tasting. Bottling this weekend.
 

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I do believe that chart in Brew Like a Monk that you get better flavors from some of the yeasts at higher temps, but I don't think you have to pitch that high -- only GET into those high ranges during the first 2-3 days or so, when the yeast is generating its own heat.

The vast majority of the yeast flavors we desire occur in the first few days. After that if you let the beer get warmer you can create flavors you don't want but free rising at that point is mostly about keeping the yeast chugging through the wort. Some strains, the Duvel strain in particular, get sluggish as fermentation winds down. If you hold in the mid to low 60s for too long you'll miss a lot of ester production--if that's what you want.

I tend to pitch non-saison Belgian strains in the upper 60s and let them free rise to 74-75F. I favor ester production and like a lot of it.
 
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The vast majority of the yeast flavors we desire occur in the first few days. After that if you let the beer get warmer you can create flavors you don't want but free rising at that point is mostly about keeping the yeast chugging through the wort. Some strains, the Duvel strain in particular, get sluggish as fermentation winds down. If you hold in the mid to low 60s for too long you'll miss a lot of ester production--if that's what you want.

I tend to pitch non-saison Belgian strains in the upper 60s and let them free rise to 74-75F. I favor ester production and like a lot of it.

Thanks, sounds like I'm on the right track. I do favor ester production, so I want to get to the top of the range and a bit beyond (according to Brew Like a Monk) in the first few days. So pitching in the high 60's and letting it free rise to the mid to upper 70's seems like a winner.

What temp do you tend to pitch your Saisons?
 

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What temp do you tend to pitch your Saisons?

Really depends on the strain. I'd pitch most commercial strains along that same upper-60s rise to mid-70s schedule I use with abbey/trappist strains. 3711 I find to be pretty boring at those temperatures. I haven't brewed with it in a long time but I would pitch around 83 and let it rise to 89 and hold it there. You can pump out distinct lemon and pepper notes out of it rather than the kind of muddled phenols in the 60s and 70s. I find much higher than 89 and the flavors would start to become coarse and it would throw a little fusel. No problems in the upper 80s.

These days most of my saisons come from a mixed sacc/brett culture that is extremely finnicky. It won't even get serious about fermenting until it gets over 70 and has to ferment around the mid-70s. I usually keep starters in the low 80s
 
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Really depends on the strain. I'd pitch most commercial strains along that same upper-60s rise to mid-70s schedule I use with abbey/trappist strains. 3711 I find to be pretty boring at those temperatures. I haven't brewed with it in a long time but I would pitch around 83 and let it rise to 89 and hold it there. You can pump out distinct lemon and pepper notes out of it rather than the kind of muddled phenols in the 60s and 70s. I find much higher than 89 and the flavors would start to become coarse and it would throw a little fusel. No problems in the upper 80s.

These days most of my saisons come from a mixed sacc/brett culture that is extremely finnicky. It won't even get serious about fermenting until it gets over 70 and has to ferment around the mid-70s. I usually keep starters in the low 80s
Thanks for the great advice on 3711. I use it a lot, but have never pitched it that hot. I tend to get a 10 degree free-rise with my system, so next time I will try pitching at 79.

I am planning to co-pitch 3711 with the Dupont strain next time. It can handle those temps, right?
 
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Just to put more data out there... Now that my beer is fully carbed, I consider pitching at 75 to be a failed experiment. It just didn't help the beer, and I am now detecting some fusels. I'll be pitching at 67 or so from now on....
 

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Just to put more data out there... Now that my beer is fully carbed, I consider pitching at 75 to be a failed experiment. It just didn't help the beer, and I am now detecting some fusels. I'll be pitching at 67 or so from now on....

That result seems to back up some of my experiences.

I am a little curious about open fermenting at high temps. Some webinars by Escarpment Labs indicates that open fermenting can help with ester production and also reduce fusels. My only trial on open fermenting was a Quad about a year ago. It turned out wonderful and was ready to drink very fast (a month or two in the bottle). I don't think I fermented it too warm though. I probably pitched at 68F and let it rise to around 75F.
 

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Just to put more data out there... Now that my beer is fully carbed, I consider pitching at 75 to be a failed experiment. It just didn't help the beer, and I am now detecting some fusels. I'll be pitching at 67 or so from now on....
Just put my Duvel clone in the keezer on CO2 yesterday and will report back about how my 62 degree pitch tastes in a week to ten days.
 

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Have to say that my clone is the closest one to Duvel that I have brewed so far. I did the Tripel Hop recipe and it's probably as close as I'm going to be able to get from home. Sorry it took me a bit to get back, but I worked 65 hours one week, 79 the following one and then popped positive for COVID-19. Tasting was done prior to COVID, but I've only noticed that a few things taste weird with COVID and I didn't lose my taste or smell.
 
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