How long is fermentation temp a big issue?

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johndan

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I'm getting back into homebrewing after a long hiatus (25 years) and am struggling with controlling temps during fermentation. My previous home had fairly good climate control and I generally make ales, so keeping the temperatures in the 65 - 70F range wasn't a problem. My current house has horrible climate control--I don't mind much on a physical-comfort level, but this summer during fermentations it's frequently gotten close to 80 during the day.

I've looked into all the methods for controlling fermentation temperature (chest freezers w/added temp controller, swamp coolers, etc.) and I think my best option (for a number of reasons) is to just purchase a fermenter with heating/cooling controls.

Here's my question: Is controlling the temperature mainly a big issue during the first week or so of fermenting and less of a problem after that? I usually have a couple of fermenters going (staggered in timing), so I don't know if I can get away with having one temp-controlled fermenter at the start of the ferment, then another non-temp-controlled fermenter later in the process. Or am I going to need two fermenters with temp control?
 

Gnomebrewer

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The first few days. The bulk of ester and higher-alcohol production is during the first half of the ferment, or during the most active part of the ferment, or during the start of the ferment (depending who you believe). Regardless, if you pitch a healthy amount of yeast and oxygenate, in standard beers you'll be past the most active part of the ferment and 50% attenuation in a few days. Letting things warm up after that won't hurt.
 

Gnomebrewer

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And welcome to HBT!
FWIW, I normally let my beers warm up with about 6 points of gravity remaining to help them finish off. That's normally about four days after pitching.
 
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johndan

johndan

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Great--thanks for the advice.

(And apparently I should have dug a little harder into the Search function on the forum. I found this thread about five minutes after I posted my question.)
 

Jim R

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Depending on what you are using for a fermenter, it isn't that expensive to achieve perfect fermentation temperature control and cold crashing. I use a $180 mini-refrigerator from Home Depot and a $35 Inkbird controller from Amazon to accurately control the refrigerator temperature.

This refrigerator is nice because it doesn't have a freezer to take up valuable space. It holds my SS brew tech stainless fermenter and a couple of kegs when I turn it down to serving temperature. I also have a Fermotemp heating pad around the fermenter but that was almost a waste of money because I never need heating.

 

kartracer2

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Hi @johndan and welcome,
Our history/current situations are very similar. I can't answer your question directly but I offer this. Something you might look into is using Kveik yeast. I have not used it yet my self but what I have read it will be what I use during the mid-west warm period. (next week if all goes right) It wants warmer ferment temps and ferments fast according to reports. Might not work if you brew a yeast specific style ie. Hefe wiessen.

Not trying to change your mind,, I wish I could swing better temp control but just something that you might consider.

Brew on, :mug:
Joel B.
 
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johndan

johndan

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Yeah, I looked into the mini fridge or chest freezer with the Rainbird controller and a heating pad. I already have the Rainbird and heating pad from another project, but I haven't been able to find a small fridge or freezer, either used or new, anywhere near me. I live in rural community in way, way upstate NY (I can see the lights of Montreal's suburbs on the way home from work).

Right now, I'm looking at an Ss fermenter and adding the heating/cooling kit, which bumps the price up a bit, but if I only need to worry about temps near the start of fermentation, I can transfer to a secondary fermenter (uncontrolled temp) in order to get another batch started in the Ss fermenter.
 

jswillbrewforbeer

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Depending on what you are using for a fermenter, it isn't that expensive to achieve perfect fermentation temperature control and cold crashing. I use a $180 mini-refrigerator from Home Depot and a $35 Inkbird controller from Amazon to accurately control the refrigerator temperature.

This refrigerator is nice because it doesn't have a freezer to take up valuable space. It holds my SS brew tech stainless fermenter and a couple of kegs when I turn it down to serving temperature. I also have a Fermotemp heating pad around the fermenter but that was almost a waste of money because I never need heating.

Great suggestion! You can take it a step further with a $24 Amazon heating wrap and a $9 Amazon thermowell to get precise control of the fermenting beer, not just air temp!
 
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johndan

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Thanks. I'll look into the Kveik as well. Seems like a simpler (and cheaper) solution.

Hi @johndan and welcome,
Our history/current situations are very similar. I can't answer your question directly but I offer this. Something you might look into is using Kveik yeast. I have not used it yet my self but what I have read it will be what I use during the mid-west warm period. (next week if all goes right) It wants warmer ferment temps and ferments fast according to reports. Might not work if you brew a yeast specific style ie. Hefe wiessen.

Not trying to change your mind,, I wish I could swing better temp control but just something that you might consider.

Brew on, :mug:
Joel B.
 

Gnomebrewer

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Do you keg? If you keg, forget about transferring to secondary fermenter (risking oxidation), just transfer straight to keg with about 3 to 8 points of gravity remaining and stick a spunding valve on the keg - finish fermenting in the keg. It's a really good method that reduces Oxygen in your beer.
 
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johndan

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Probably kegging at some point down the road, but currently just bottling. I started research kegging systems but decided I need to solve one problem at a time.

Do you keg? If you keg, forget about transferring to secondary fermenter (risking oxidation), just transfer straight to keg with about 3 to 8 points of gravity remaining and stick a spunding valve on the keg - finish fermenting in the keg. It's a really good method that reduces Oxygen in your beer.
 

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I found a large(ish) wine fridge on Craigslist for $75, and built a temp controller based on a $15 Inkbird unit. A reptile heat pad underneath the fermenter provides heat in the winter. The fridge has a clear door (which I like). I mounted a window shade that I can pull up when needed to keep light from skunking the beer.

Years later it's still going strong.

IMG_20181121_103131_825.jpg IMG_20181121_103253_981.jpg
 

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Can YOU keep your pipeline full with only every using one fermenter? It takes a bit of planning and regularly spaced brewing to do so in my own experience if you are sharing with friends and family. It might be easier to do so if you can brew larger batches 10+ gallons. It can be harder to do brewing lagers.

I have two mini-fridges myself. I've been slowly building up my pipeline since the virus hit and now I have a fully stocked keezer (4 kegs) which includes three lagers and a Kolsch. I have the option to brew 10 gallon batches but don't usually unless it's a tried and true recipe but I like variety anyway. When it's colder than ale temps, you can get away with just a seedling heating pad or equivalent for ales. It took a bit of time to find the fridges somewhat close but I did after a few months of off and on looking. Have you tried the FB Marketplace? If you don't mind a drive to get them you might find some eventually. Gas is cheap at the moment and being rural you are probably used to having to drive to get odd items when necessary.
 
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johndan

johndan

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I'm still working at the 3- and 5-gallon level, which is why I'm trying to keep two staggered batches going at the same time.

No luck with FB Marketplace or Craigslist, even with fairly long drives (up to a couple of hours). Actually, I can't even buy new within that distance at Lowes or Home Depot. Farther than that isn't an option right now given my workload.

Can YOU keep your pipeline full with only every using one fermenter? It takes a bit of planning and regularly spaced brewing to do so in my own experience if you are sharing with friends and family. It might be easier to do so if you can brew larger batches 10+ gallons. It can be harder to do brewing lagers.

I have two mini-fridges myself. I've been slowly building up my pipeline since the virus hit and now I have a fully stocked keezer (4 kegs) which includes three lagers and a Kolsch. I have the option to brew 10 gallon batches but don't usually unless it's a tried and true recipe but I like variety anyway. When it's colder than ale temps, you can get away with just a seedling heating pad or equivalent for ales. It took a bit of time to find the fridges somewhat close but I did after a few months of off and on looking. Have you tried the FB Marketplace? If you don't mind a drive to get them you might find some eventually. Gas is cheap at the moment and being rural you are probably used to having to drive to get odd items when necessary.
[/QUOTE]
 

Jonakr

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I used an insulated bag with blocks of ice for a couple of years. I was super excited to upgrade to a chest freezer and ink bird controller. I generally have 10 gallons fermenting at any given time, but I can add another 2 for experiments.
 

Sammy86

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I had one of these bad boys before I got my chest freezer set up as a fermentation chamber.

It works like a charm! Two frozen 2 liter bottles switched out every 12-18 hours kept the beer at 64 degrees, 4 frozen bottles keeps it lager temps. If you catch morebeer on a sale or a coupon you can get it for like 50 bucks.
 

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Depending on what you ferment, and what kind of space you have available (basement with drain?), cooling with a small flow of tap water might do the job. I have a short copper loop in my (glass carboy) fermenter, and an external copper loop taped with aluminum tape (for A/C ducts, I think) to the outside of my kegs. I cool them with a home built active cooling contraption, but that's just because I have to do everything in my kitchen. For fermenting ales and Weissbiers, tap or well water would work just fine.
 

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Thanks. I'll look into the Kveik as well. Seems like a simpler (and cheaper) solution.
An extra perk to using the kveik yeasts are they are super-easy to save and reuse. You can easily scoop off krausen or trub and store in fridge, or you can dry them and store in freezer for (literally) years. Just look up the threads to find out more. But saving $10 or more per batch is nice.
 

porterguy

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I had one of these bad boys before I got my chest freezer set up as a fermentation chamber.

It works like a charm! Two frozen 2 liter bottles switched out every 12-18 hours kept the beer at 64 degrees, 4 frozen bottles keeps it lager temps. If you catch morebeer on a sale or a coupon you can get it for like 50 bucks.
+1 on these insulated bags. Using one for many years before recently getting better temp control. Works great.
 

Deadalus

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I'm still working at the 3- and 5-gallon level, which is why I'm trying to keep two staggered batches going at the same time.

No luck with FB Marketplace or Craigslist, even with fairly long drives (up to a couple of hours). Actually, I can't even buy new within that distance at Lowes or Home Depot. Farther than that isn't an option right now given my workload.
[/QUOTE]
That's too bad, I knew about the freezer shortages but not the fridges too. Down the road I am also interested in a conical and may fiddle around with a DIY glycol chiller. I know personally I am leaning towards a larger sized conical (14 gallons) as I could fit a 10 gallon batch in there. I have a two bigger kegs I could use for that batch size. I still think I would want two, whether that is two sevens or a seven and a 14. A large part of that is because I like to lager.

You just have to get through the summer though mainly (?), one might do you just fine. After the summer you could heat wrap (heating mat) any ales that need it. I take it you just don't have a cool spot in a basement available? I was just recently able to keep a NEIPA at 70 with only having to hit it with a few rounds of icing. I use a laundry tub and then put in either a frozen soda bottle or I have some of those reusable ice cube wraps. I was a little bit on the high side coming off chilling (76) but did manage to bring it down to 70 in short order. I should have waited to pitch the yeast though but I was on a tight schedule so I will have to see if that affected it any. (My ferm chambers had carboys finishing up in them.)
 

Jim R

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Right now, I'm looking at an Ss fermenter and adding the heating/cooling kit, which bumps the price up a bit, but if I only need to worry about temps near the start of fermentation, I can transfer to a secondary fermenter (uncontrolled temp) in order to get another batch started in the Ss fermenter.
The problem with the SS Brewtech cooing system is that it is only a cooling coil within the fermenter. You still need to provide cold water with an ice bath that you have to screw around maintaining throughout fermentation or you have to buy an expensive glycol chiller. It is much cheaper to buy a new mini refrigerator or freezer which then can be used for refrigeration when you get sick of bottling and go to kegging.

Here is the stainless version of the freezer-less refrigerator I linked above that Home Depot will ship to your house with free shipping. Can't get any easier than that if you already have an ink bird controller.

 

jrgtr42

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ONe thing I've seen is a homebuilt fermentation chamber. A box, however big you need, with a small A/C unit mounted in or on it. Preferably an older hard-switch unit, so you can control it with an external temp controller. Most of the newer units you'd have to manually turn on if the power gets turned off, like with these units.
Usually the boxes are dimensional lumber framed, with plywood outside, and foam insulation inside.
I think there's a bunch of threads about those somewhere on here.
 

balto charlie

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I'm still working at the 3- and 5-gallon level, which is why I'm trying to keep two staggered batches going at the same time.
[/QUOTE]
If you are only doing 1 carboy at a time I would (and have) filled a bucket with water and put frozen ice bottles inside and swap them out once or twice per day. Put melt bottle back into freezer when I remove from ice bath. It can keep my beer at 68-70. I do it for 3 day then leave it in the water until finished. Usually I don't brew in summer because of this. This year, due to increased alcohol consumption I am forced to brew this month. I have 3 carboy chilling now in a 3 baths.
 
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johndan

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Actually, I do have a cool basement, which was a side question I hadn't posted yet: Our basement isn't finished and has a rough concrete floor, mold from humidity, firewood storage, mice, etc.

I'm concerned about contamination from all of this. I know in theory if I keep everything self-contained with a blowoff tube in a bucket of Star San I should be OK, but it seems like all of my batches have some minor mishap that might open the fermenter to contamination. I've had to dump contaminated batches and it's painful (as I'm sure some of you know).

That's too bad, I knew about the freezer shortages but not the fridges too. Down the road I am also interested in a conical and may fiddle around with a DIY glycol chiller. I know personally I am leaning towards a larger sized conical (14 gallons) as I could fit a 10 gallon batch in there. I have a two bigger kegs I could use for that batch size. I still think I would want two, whether that is two sevens or a seven and a 14. A large part of that is because I like to lager.

You just have to get through the summer though mainly (?), one might do you just fine. After the summer you could heat wrap (heating mat) any ales that need it. I take it you just don't have a cool spot in a basement available? I was just recently able to keep a NEIPA at 70 with only having to hit it with a few rounds of icing. I use a laundry tub and then put in either a frozen soda bottle or I have some of those reusable ice cube wraps. I was a little bit on the high side coming off chilling (76) but did manage to bring it down to 70 in short order. I should have waited to pitch the yeast though but I was on a tight schedule so I will have to see if that affected it any. (My ferm chambers had carboys finishing up in them.)
 
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johndan

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4.4 cubic feet will work for 6.5 gallon plastic buckets? I was looking at larger fridges. This might work… Thanks.

The problem with the SS Brewtech cooing system is that it is only a cooling coil within the fermenter. You still need to provide cold water with an ice bath that you have to screw around maintaining throughout fermentation or you have to buy an expensive glycol chiller. It is much cheaper to buy a new mini refrigerator or freezer which then can be used for refrigeration when you get sick of bottling and go to kegging.

Here is the stainless version of the freezer-less refrigerator I linked above that Home Depot will ship to your house with free shipping. Can't get any easier than that if you already have an ink bird controller.

 

Deadalus

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Actually, I do have a cool basement, which was a side question I hadn't posted yet: Our basement isn't finished and has a rough concrete floor, mold from humidity, firewood storage, mice, etc.

I'm concerned about contamination from all of this. I know in theory if I keep everything self-contained with a blowoff tube in a bucket of Star San I should be OK, but it seems like all of my batches have some minor mishap that might open the fermenter to contamination. I've had to dump contaminated batches and it's painful (as I'm sure some of you know).
Shouldn't be anything at all getting in it. Switch to an airlock if you don't have any blowoff. My basement is unfinished, block walls. You're not talking like an old boulder wall basement here right? You did say upstate NY you might have an old old house. I do run a dehumidifier in the summer.

Not saying I've never lost a batch but I don't think it was the basement. I don't bottle in mine I do that in the kitchen when I bottle. I mostly keg though.
 
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Newish house (built in mid 1980s), so I guess I should be ok. I ordered the Magic Chef mini-fridge that Jim R mentioned up-thread. So my plan now is to use that for the first week or so of fermentation, then move the fermenter to the basement until it's ready to bottle, then bring it back up to the kitchen for bottling. We'll see how it goes.

Thanks to everyone who has replied to the thread. You've all been extremely helpful.

Shouldn't be anything at all getting in it. Switch to an airlock if you don't have any blowoff. My basement is unfinished, block walls. You're not talking like an old boulder wall basement here right? You did say upstate NY you might have an old old house. I do run a dehumidifier in the summer.

Not saying I've never lost a batch but I don't think it was the basement. I don't bottle in mine I do that in the kitchen when I bottle. I mostly keg though.
 

VikeMan

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4.4 cubic feet will work for 6.5 gallon plastic buckets? I was looking at larger fridges. This might work… Thanks.
If in doubt, measure your equipment (including blow-off setups) and look up the internal dimensions of the fridge.
 
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johndan

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I do, but I don't trust store web pages to be accurate. And Home Depot's page on this doesn't seem to give interior dimensions. The PDF spec sheet just lists exterior dimensions. I did, though, Google the product and it appears many homebrewers use it for the same buckets I use as well as Ss Brewbuckets, so I went ahead and ordered it. If nothing else, it looks like I could convert it to a kegerator down the road.

If in doubt, measure your equipment (including blow-off setups) and look up the internal dimensions of the fridge.
 

phbern

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I had one of these bad boys before I got my chest freezer set up as a fermentation chamber.

It works like a charm! Two frozen 2 liter bottles switched out every 12-18 hours kept the beer at 64 degrees, 4 frozen bottles keeps it lager temps. If you catch morebeer on a sale or a coupon you can get it for like 50 bucks.
I have one of these as well, they work great. The Cool Brewing company also sells special freezer packs to go with it. More expensive than soda bottles, but they get and stay cold for at least 12 hours.

Products

Paul
 

Jim R

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Here is some info on the dimensions of that Magic Chef refrigerator with some pictures in the link. Hope this helps.

The internal measurements are about 28 1/2" height, 16" width and about 18" deep. By cutting the door divider a little, I added about 2" to the depth or a total of about 20" which I needed for the top of my SS Brewtech 7 gallon fermenter.

You do then lose a little of this internal space with the back shelf for the compressor. This measure about 8" high by 6" deep and goes across the full 16" width of the refrigerator. Again there is no freezer compartment taking up valuable space.

 
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johndan

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Thanks for this. So it looks like my 6.5 gallon plastic bucket will fit but the Ss Brewbuckets might be too tight by about a half inch after subtracting for the compressor. Maybe I can make up the 0.5" with cutting into the door. I'll check once I have the fridge. (I don't have the Ss Brewbucket, but it's what I was considering as a future purchase.)

Here is some info on the dimensions of that Magic Chef refrigerator with some pictures in the link. Hope this helps.

The internal measurements are about 28 1/2" height, 16" width and about 18" deep. By cutting the door divider a little, I added about 2" to the depth or a total of about 20" which I needed for the top of my SS Brewtech 7 gallon fermenter.

You do then lose a little of this internal space with the back shelf for the compressor. This measure about 8" high by 6" deep and goes across the full 16" width of the refrigerator. Again there is no freezer compartment taking up valuable space.

 

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A friend of mine bought a similar sized mini-fridge and built a collar for it out of 2x4's to avoid cutting into the door. I'm not sure how it attaches though but I think I've seen some examples here before too. I built one for my keezer but it sits on top.
 

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My SS Brewbucket fits in this refrigerator. I just had to cut a little of the door divider off where the top of the Brewbucket would contact the door.
 

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Dancy

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I had one of these bad boys before I got my chest freezer set up as a fermentation chamber.

It works like a charm! Two frozen 2 liter bottles switched out every 12-18 hours kept the beer at 64 degrees, 4 frozen bottles keeps it lager temps. If you catch morebeer on a sale or a coupon you can get it for like 50 bucks.
That is exactly what what I have and love it! My Speidel 7.9g fermenter is a bit too tall for it but works fine as I wrap a bungie cord near the top. I only do ales but found I have to be careful not to go too nuts with the ice bottles as I got down to 54 degrees at one point. Also, one time the edge of the Speidel’s valve ripped the interior lining, which I patched so now I tape some bubble wrap over the valve.
 

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My SS Brewbucket fits in this refrigerator. I just had to cut a little of the door divider off where the top of the Brewbucket would contact the door.
Stupid question... do you need the insulation wrapped around the fermenter, or is that for attaching a temperature probe?
 

Jim R

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Stupid question... do you need the insulation wrapped around the fermenter, or is that for attaching a temperature probe?
I have a Fermwrap heating blanket around the fermenter so I use some insulation outside of the heater. I am not sure I really need it though because it rarely turns on. I also have a temperature probe in the thermowell of the fermenter.
 
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