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Ductapeman

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Hi, gang, sorry this is long but I don't get much chance to talk about some of this--
Seven or eight years ago I got interested in brewing, took an all-grain course at the local supplier's and had a great time-- bought a pile of crap, two carboys (one poly, one glass which I later gave away), big pot and immersion chiller, everything I thought I'd need to do the deed starting right into whole grain work. Then the sky started to fall, and continued falling for about six years. To make a very long story as short as possible, I was up to my hips in lawyers for several years, lost my brother and my Mom and the family home, which the court thought I could get half a century's worth of stuff out in two weeks-- things got tossed several times very thoroughly and a good bit of it destroyed by rat action in storage. The last straw was losing my job of fifteen years on Christmas Eve 2020 (co. went under). So after I locked myself in a closet and stopped screaming and shaking, I have been picking up pieces and reassessing-- and getting interested in beermaking again.
I just went through as much of the stuff as I can find, and it looks like most of the stuff is still in good shape, a lot of it still in the factory wrap, so thinking about running down to the shop and picking up a kit to get started. My main issue is going to be temperature control, or the lack of it. The only place I have to work is an unheated garage, so since the winters here in the Northwest ate usually about 40-45 degrees and raining, have been thinking about building a small enclosure for the fermenter, with a heating pad or something under the vessel and some kind of controller to keep the temp stable. I could cobble up a controller out of an Arduino, but it seems like overkill, so: BIG QUESTION and the reason for this post: Does anyone use some sort of controlled-temp in their fermenting? Probably asking that wrong, but would sure appreciate some help. I have the audacity to think that this is the only real problem I should have-- sanitation is a snap, I worked running sterilizers in hospitals for several years. Thanks for listening, I'll be back in when I've got something cooking-- Lee
 

Mike B1190

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I'm not entirely sure if your're asking if temperature control is important or if you're looking for suggestion on how to keep your fermentation temperature in range, so, I'll comment on both.

Temperature control during fermentation is very important. Different yeasts respond differently to different temperatures and it's typically best practice to keep each strain within its ideal temperature range for best results. It seems you're aware of that. So, yes, most brewers have solutions in place to control fermentation temperature to some extent.

A lot of people use mini fridges or chest freezers connected to an external temperature controller as fermentation chambers. Often you can find old dorm fridges on craigslist for $50 bucks or so that will fit a fermenter which work very well.

Obviously the fridge will keep things cool in the warm season, buy in winter, many will put something like a heating pad, or seedling mat in the fridge to keep the fridge warm, as you suggested. You could also use a heat lamp or a light bulb in a paint can, but those options are questionable from a safety standpoint. I also can't personally vouch for effectiveness of these devices because I've only ever needed to bring temps down, not up, and my fridge does that no problem.

If you don't want to buy a fridge and are somewhat handy, you might consider building an enclosure, as suggested. Look up son of a fermentation chamber. That might give you some ideas.

Another possibility might be putting the fermenter in a tub of water with an aquarium heater or bucket heater attached to a temperature controller to create a warm water bath. Maybe even a sous vide stick would work. For the cold version of this, freeze gallon water jugs and put them in the tub of water to create a swamp cooler.

Welcome back to the hobby.
 

ncbrewer

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Welcome back. Very sorry to hear about the problems you had - I hope you're well past them. I can't add anything to Mike's post.
 
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Hey buddy sorry you went through all of that. Coming out the other side ready to brew again speaks volumes about your resilience. On the current state of brewing I have some very good news, in fact you might want to crack open a beer and sit down for this.

While you were away there has been a revolution in yeast science. Specifically, ancient Norwegian farmhouse brewery strains called "Kveik" have been isolated and are now commonly available. What makes them revolutionary, and a boon to new brewers and those without temp control is that they will happily ferment clean beers at a wide range of temps all the way up to 100F+. I know it sounds crazy but you can brew great beers at room temperature with no temp management at all, all year round. Some of these new strains are also tolerant of underpitching, in fact some even taste better that way, so you don't have to bother with making a starter. Oh, and they'll reliably finish the job even if you forgot to aerate the wort.

I guess you could say that Kveik yeast has made homebrewing a lot easier to get into by eliminating the three biggest mistakes new brewers make; not aerating the wort, not pitching enough yeast, and fermenting too warm.

Do some reading here on HBT about the various Kveik strains and their other benefits, including fermenting high gravity beers super fast, as well as producing super clean, lager-like beers with zero temp management.

And welcome back!
 
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hottpeper13

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If you have to ferment in the garage, the most cost effective way would be to make a 2 layer insulated wrap out of reflectex that covers all but the air loc,and put a reptile heat mat with rheostat(Amazon 12$) under it. I myself spent the money on a controller(ST1000) also and I can see the temp without unwrapping. Plus One on the Kveik, Lutra will do a pretty clean beer at 68*-74*. For me it also is important to keep the temp constant so after the exothermic phase I wrap it to keep it from fluctuating like a normal house does.
 

IslandLizard

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Why ferment in the garage? Brewing, yes, but move your fermenter to an area that's more stable in temps, and easier to control.

You could use a fridge as a fermentation chamber, with an external temp controller, and add a heater to it. But from what I've gathered, most fridges should not be used in areas that freeze.
 

hottpeper13

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I found an old Styrofoam ice chest from a lobster boil block party we had. When put on end it holds a 6.5 gal big mouth with a heater pad and controller. That's how I did my first lagers in the garage here in Wisconsin in Jan and Feb.

So simple and cheap and reuse instead of recycle,just throw a lobster boil for the neighborhood!
 

leedspointbrew

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I found an old Styrofoam ice chest from a lobster boil block party we had. When put on end it holds a 6.5 gal big mouth with a heater pad and controller. That's how I did my first lagers in the garage here in Wisconsin in Jan and Feb.

So simple and cheap and reuse instead of recycle,just throw a lobster boil for the neighborhood!
Where did you find a styro cooler that big? I'd like to find something like for my own winter ferments.
 
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Ductapeman

Ductapeman

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Hi, thanks for all the kind words-- sorry it took so long to get back, got drafted on short notice to watch the great-grandkids (girls 2 and almost 4, and a boy on the way). Yes, it was the temp control of the fermentation I was concerned about. I had been thinking of wrapping the carboy in some roofing insulation I have and sticking a heating pad or something under it on some kind of standoff-- the styro box is a great idea. Then, weirdly, my wife suggested I use a half-bath in the back of the house-- which would solve the thermal issues and almost all my other remaining problems, and I was not about to ask if I could use it (and the Old Married Guys nod sagely). It isn't like it's functional, granddaughter flooded it out last spring, so the shower pad should work just fine. I'll let you all know when the deed is done, I promise. Have a great week!
 

hottpeper13

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We had a block party and had 2 containers flown in from Main(was a charity event) full of live lobster and seaweed.

Like I said , Have a lobster boil!
 
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