Brewing in extreme cold

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Jtvann

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I have been brewing outside in the summer and indoors in the winter. I dont want to over exaggerate my weather conditions like nearly everybody does when talking about how hot it is for them, or their ground water temps. I'd like to be realistic, and ask if any have brewed and fermented and stored equipment year round where it can get cold.

I have once in my 2 years here seen negative 8 on my truck mirror thermometer. Dunno how accurate that was, but it was pretty dang cold. I'm sure my enclosed garage was warmer, but by how much, I dont know. I could try to get a daily average of it mattered. I'd still figure atn night it will be below freezing every night.

I can do either biab and 3 vessel electric. Fermenter is a Ss 14g unitank. I have used a larger insulated cooler with a powerful fish tank heater to maintain 90 degree water. Pump warm water through the coils to keep from freezing.

I know I can maintain my temps during active fermentation, and probably even while cold crashing etc. I wonder if I'm wrong on that, in how hard it is to do. I've done it for 1 batch. Storing my gear, how careful do I need to be about it being dry? Dont want any ice to form and break my jaded hydra chiller etc.

Post your experience and let me know your concerns.
 

myndflyte

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Well I have brewed in the middle of winter. It kind of sucked but loved how fast chilling went. That being said, I fermented indoors and I store all my brewing stuff inside. I just don't feel comfortable having that stuff outside in my garage where it can be super cold or hot/humid as hell.
 

Pappers_

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Your chiller springing a leak is a real danger. I have a Canadian friend who did exactly that - didn't get his immersion chiller dry and then the chiller ended up with splits in the copper. He found out when he was chilling a batch of RIS.
 

Sammy86

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Brewing in the winter in New England sucks...I mean sucks...thankfully we've had pretty mild winters the past two so it hasn't been terrible.

Chilling is significantly easier, I have on a few occasions put the boil kettle outside in the snow to rapidly chill...now with my upgraded all in one system will certainly be a new adventure. I'll have to keep you posted.
 

twd000

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I brew in my garage year round in New Hampshire. Electric BIAB. Besides dressing for the occasion, the only thing I do differently is make sure to blow out my immersion chiller as part of my cleanup routine. I made a fitting for my air compressor hose to connect to the chiller

I ferment in the basement- wouldn't want to battle ups and downs of garage temperature to control fermentor
 

RM-MN

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I have once in my 2 years here seen negative 8 on my truck mirror thermometer. Dunno how accurate that was, but it was pretty dang cold. I'm sure my enclosed garage was warmer, but by how much, I dont know.
Where I live we consider -8 F a warm day in January as I have seen the temp go below -50. You unheated and uninsulated garage will be about 5 degrees warmer than the outside temp in you close the door. Insulated garage will be 10 to 15 degrees warmer. Plan that everything with water in it will freeze in your garage. Using your chiller and allowing the water to discharge outside will create a skating pond.
 

Dland

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I brew outside, I think the coldest was in the teens F though. If it is colder than that, I'll wait for another day. In winter I store my water hose and filter inside, instead of in shipping container. I make sure all valves part open and vessels upside down before I put them away, any ice in valves or quick connects thaws with well water next brew session. I blow out immersion chiller with compressed air after I use it all year around. Plate chiller stored upside down. During brewing, occasionally run water so hose does not freeze, usually do this anyway washing kegs & stuff during sparge, boil etc.

It is important to have good boots, insulated water proof gloves, and good to take breaks inside by wood stove.

Fermentation is in a cellar that has never got below freezing, but do sometimes need to use fermwrap heater and insulation even fermenting lagers.
 

skidmark

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I used to brew outside here in Michigan. I think my coldest day was 15degF. I would suggest that it is safest to store your chiller indoors to eliminate the risk of freezing.

One additional caution is to be aware of spilled water. You can quickly find yourself standing on an ice rink. My second one additional caution is to be careful with your bare hands. Touching cold metal with damp hands is like Ralphie licking the flagpole. On the plus side, in the cold, dry air your screams for help carry much farther.
 

madscientist451

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I love brewing in the winter. In fact I'm so busy in the summer, I look forward to when it gets dark at 5 pm and I don't have to do anymore yard work.
I use my 8.5 gallon pot on my Kenmore electric range while my woodstove keeps this old house toasty warm. I have an outdoor keggle rig, but I'm not going out there in the dark when the wind is blowing the snow sideways and the wind chill is below 20F.....
I don't use my immersion chiller in when its below freezing, because I usually use that outside with a garden hose. I usually brew after work and then just set the brew pot outside in the cold overnight, the next morning it will be chilled off enough for pitching the yeast.
 

Yooper

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It gets really cold in the UP of Michigan in the winter- sometimes -40F or so- but we can't have outdoor water lines and things because they will absolutely freeze solid. The ground water out of the tap for chilling is 40-45 degrees, though, and that's a bonus.

That's the main reason I started brewing indoors with my electric system, though. I can't ferment outside, since everything would freeze in one night. Brewing outdoors in the winter in a cold climate can be done, but it means hauling water out, equipment in (to clean), a fermenter in, etc, so it's really difficult. If someone has a heated attached garage, it'd be doable though!
 

myndflyte

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Oh, I'll also add that I plan everything out that I'm only turning on the outside water once. I use distilled water to mash so the only time the water gets turned back on is to chill and clean everything.
 

Beer666

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Do no boil beers inside. I started doing that because it was raining here all the time.
 
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Jtvann

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I was wondering how doing the entire process, fermenting and all would be. It sucks having to run a water hose through my downstairs window, and put all excess water in a bucket with a sump pump out that same window.

You never get all the water to go where you want it. Always some amount gets on the floor. Cleaning is a hassle too, even with a utility sink draining ... to the sump pump.

I feel like I could maintain fermentation temps just fine. Blow off reservoir? That'll freeze for sure if just using starsan. I could store some of the smaller items inside and only use them on brew day, like my immersion chiller. I'd want to be able to plan for the worst though. How catastrophic to a unitank would it be for a power loss. Is it realistic that it would freeze solid.

Also just wondering about things I'm not thinking about. I love brewing in my garage. I hate lugging all my stuff downstairs and using the steam condenser and battling the sump pump in the winter time.
 

HB2 HughBHomeBrew

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It gets really cold in the UP of Michigan in the winter- sometimes -40F or so- but we can't have outdoor water lines and things because they will absolutely freeze solid. The ground water out of the tap for chilling is 40-45 degrees, though, and that's a bonus.

That's the main reason I started brewing indoors with my electric system, though. I can't ferment outside, since everything would freeze in one night. Brewing outdoors in the winter in a cold climate can be done, but it means hauling water out, equipment in (to clean), a fermenter in, etc, so it's really difficult. If someone has a heated attached garage, it'd be doable though!
Fun off topic fact -40F is same as -40C
 

twd000

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I should mention my utility sink in my garage. It was a summer-only setup with a shutoff valve when I moved into the house, but I re-plumbed it to be a year-round sink with a long-reach sillcock faucet. It is REALLY nice to have hot and cold water available in the garage year-round. Like the one time my nephew came to visit during the holidays and puked all over his car seat. It's great to hose stuff down outside without freezing your hands off


My garage floor is also sloped to a center floor drain, which means spilled water doesn't freeze into an ice rink
 

JimRausch

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I didn't see where you live Jtvann, but I live and brew in Maine. It gets pretty cold here- down to -20s sometimes, occasionally lower, but usually between 0-30 *F in most January, February and March. Can also get into the 90's in the summer, which I absolutely hate. I brew in my garage with the door open, using a propane burner. I use swamp coolers for fermentation temperature control. But, I digress..... I take advantage of the seasons to plan my brewing schedule: Brown ales, Porters, Stouts, Irish Reds, PAs and IPAs in the Spring and early Fall. Altbiers, Kolsches and Ciders in later Fall. Lagers in Winter. I use Kveik yeast to extend my brewing into the warmer early summers, but stop completely in July and August. Except for Wines and Meads- those I can do year round, and especially in the summer because they don't involve slaving over a hot kettle.
 
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Jtvann

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I didn't see where you live Jtvann, but I live and brew in Maine. It gets pretty cold here- down to -20s sometimes, occasionally lower, but usually between 0-30 *F in most January, February and March. Can also get into the 90's in the summer, which I absolutely hate. I brew in my garage with the door open, using a propane burner. I use swamp coolers for fermentation temperature control. But, I digress..... I take advantage of the seasons to plan my brewing schedule: Brown ales, Porters, Stouts, Irish Reds, PAs and IPAs in the Spring and early Fall. Altbiers, Kolsches and Ciders in later Fall. Lagers in Winter. I use Kveik yeast to extend my brewing into the warmer early summers, but stop completely in July and August. Except for Wines and Meads- those I can do year round, and especially in the summer because they don't involve slaving over a hot kettle.
I'm in central far eastern nevada. At about 6750 elevation. My summers are usually 90s, but can get to 100 as seen this year. Winters usually around an average of 20-30 during the day, but can get below zero at night rarely.

My main concern is doing 100% of the process outside. Any water left behind or exposed could freeze damaging equipment. It's easy to say I can take small stuff like immersion chiller indoors for storage. My unitank is what I'm mostly worried about.

What do I do for a air lock? I always use a blow off. I could use my spunding valve set to zero pressure and fill it with straight vodka. Mostly looking for the little things that I haven't thought of that could turn into a big problem.
 

Saunassa

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Here in northern Minnesota I usually wait to brew until it warms up to 10f or so before brewing in my attached garage. Not insulated or heated. With the burner going to boil the wort it actually gets quite warm near it. That said I store everything inside the house where it is warm.
 

Conehead

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Well I have brewed in the middle of winter. It kind of sucked but loved how fast chilling went. That being said, I fermented indoors and I store all my brewing stuff inside. I just don't feel comfortable having that stuff outside in my garage where it can be super cold or hot/humid as hell.
My first immersion chiller split when I stored it in the garage during the winter.
 
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