Keeping Primary Cool during Fermentation

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JMcManaway

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So, I live in Eastern NC and a week out from Fall the heat decides to spike and we've got temps around upper 90's. Thus, on my first brew (which, by the way was a lot of fun and I can't wait to do the next), I've got high temps (71-77). I'm doing an Irish Stout from Midwest (extract). I've got my primary fermenter in a tub with some cold, wet towels and a few frozen things.

I'm considering buying one of those 60qt igloo coolers to put it in, but my question is - is it worth it at this point? I put it into the fermenter yesterday. I've also heard that any fruity/off-flavors that I might get from too high temps can be lessened/eliminated by a long conditioning period? I've also read of Yeast strains that can work for Ales/Porters/Stouts at higher temperatures.
 

Bytor1100

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I just bought a big cooler that holds 2 carboys. I'll fill them with water and add frozen water bottles. I am actually just testing this method out today with BierMuncher's Blue Moon clone. I slightly modified the recipe to add a little more ABV. OG was 1.046. We'll see how it works out. I had a hefe that ran way to hot during fermentation and don't want it to happen again. Plus I don't have room for another fridge of freezer.
 

ChshreCat

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Another trick I learned while living a few years in a hot climate with no AC might work here. Over there, if you really needed a break from the heat you'd go into the bathroom, close the door and turn on the vent. The idea was that the hottest air in the room was sucked out at the top and the coolest air in the hallway was drawn in through the crack under the door. We could drop the temp of the bathroom by as much as 10 degrees.

Not the best method, but might help get through a day or so until something better can be done.
 

Tripod

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Hello All,

I am not the voice of experience here, but as an engineer, I'm an uber-planner and the t-shirt/fan trick is what I'm planning to do.

Here in GA, we can get some pretty funking temperature swings. Some years, we can only percieve of spring and fall by the calendar. It's usually like summer on monday and then a sudden change on thursday. It can also cool down quickly for a sudden thunderstorm and then the sun will come out and make everything hot and way humid, all on the same day. I'm planning to leave as little as possible to chance.

-Tripod
 

planenut

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Assuming central air or a window unit, Has anyone ever built a small box (cardboard or wood) and put it around an air vent with the carboy inside. Leave an opening for air to escape but I would think the a/c is putting out air around 50 degrees and would provide significant cooling. I have my carboy near a vent in the coolest room in the house and it is staying pretty steady at 64 degrees. Occasionally 66 and that is w/out a box. I try to keep that room around 68-70 all the time. By the way, mine is w/out a box..
 

brewt00l

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I'm considering buying one of those 60qt igloo coolers to put it in, but my question is - is it worth it at this point? I put it into the fermenter yesterday. I've also heard that any fruity/off-flavors that I might get from too high temps can be lessened/eliminated by a long conditioning period? I've also read of Yeast strains that can work for Ales/Porters/Stouts at higher temperatures.
I guess you'll find out from the sound of things.

I use one of these:
Pictures of the "Son of Fermentation" chiller in action
 
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JMcManaway

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Alright, so my fermentor is sitting in a plastic tub with some water, a milk jug that has frozen water in it, and towels draped on it. I haven't been home to check the temperature, but I will after I get out of class tonight.

My plan is to continue with this, swapping out frozen things (bags of peas, frozen stew, the roommates' frozen meat, whatever works) to get the temp down (I don't have a fan, unfortunately). I was thinking of it giving it an extra week or so in the primary (3 weeks total), then letting it condition in the bottle for atleast a month before I crack one open. I haven't even verified that any esters are present, but I'm scared they're inevitable at the temps we've had lately.

Thanks again to everyone on this board - it is a HUGE help.
 

Edcculus

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Another trick I learned while living a few years in a hot climate with no AC might work here. Over there, if you really needed a break from the heat you'd go into the bathroom, close the door and turn on the vent. The idea was that the hottest air in the room was sucked out at the top and the coolest air in the hallway was drawn in through the crack under the door. We could drop the temp of the bathroom by as much as 10 degrees.

Not the best method, but might help get through a day or so until something better can be done.
I have a small bathroom so this is what I do. It stays a good 7-10 degrees cooler if the door is kept shut. By putting a wet t-shirt over (no fan) I can get the ambient temperature of the carboy down to 61. Its probably a little warmer during fermentation, but I'll take it.
 
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JMcManaway

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So I've been swapping out bottles of frozen water in the tub and I've got the water around 55-65 degrees, depending upon the time of the day. Airlock activity has stopped, but I know that's not really an indication of anything. When I smell above the airlock, it smells like beer...it smells like good beer, actually. I don't pick up any banana smells or anything that shouldn't be there - is this a good sign? Is it a sign at all? Would I even be able to smell esters in the airlock?
 

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So I've been swapping out bottles of frozen water in the tub and I've got the water around 55-65 degrees, depending upon the time of the day. Airlock activity has stopped, but I know that's not really an indication of anything. When I smell above the airlock, it smells like beer...it smells like good beer, actually. I don't pick up any banana smells or anything that shouldn't be there - is this a good sign? Is it a sign at all? Would I even be able to smell esters in the airlock?
There are all kinds of smells during fermentation- most of them bad (sulfur, bananas, etc) but it doesn't mean a thing. True to keep a more consistent temperature, maybe only switch out the water bottles one at a time, for example. It's good to have it cooler, but it'd be better to be consistent at a slightly higher temperature than have a 10 degree temperature variation. It's probably not fluctuating too much inside the fermenter, since it's really hard to change the temperature of that much liquid quickly, but it's good to try to keep it more uniform.

If you're really dying to know how the beer is, why don't you use your wine thief (or a sanitized turkey baster) and take out a sample and check the SG and then drink the sample? That's what I would do!
 

kornbread

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I live in NC also and I've been working on the same problem this summer. I think I've got the problem fixed. I built a modified "son of a fermentation chiller" out of an old cooler and some insulation. It works great.

My first all-grain batch tasted great the day I pitched the yeast. But, after it fermented in the upper 70s, it tasted like crap. In fact I didn't finish the bottle.

I was going to dump it until I read this: https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f39/never-dump-your-beer-patience-virtue-time-heals-all-things-even-beer-73254/

So, I left it alone for 12 weeks and then popped one open. It is Much better!!! It's not great but it's very drinkable. I'm gonna give it a few more weeks before trying it again.

My point is that even if it doesn't turn out well don't give up on it.

Good luck
 

jgohean

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I had the same problem, temperature in the upper 70's, sulfur smells, and worried about the off-flavors. I've since used the rubbermaid + water + ice pack trick. The water helps filter out any fluctuating temperatures and keeps it nice and constant. I added 2 ice packs once a day and the temperature stayed a nice 70.

 

Kauai_Kahuna

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I just need to chime in and point out that controlling the temperature during primary fermentation is very important to making good beer.
Keeping it within a range will help A LOT, controlling it makes almost as much of a difference.
I used to use a small fridge and made great beer. When that broke I could still make good beer with the wet towel / ice method, but after a while I just had to bite the bullet and get another fridge with a temperature controller. Once I did I was kicking myself for not doing it earlier.
Is it required? No.
Does it help? Yes.
Go forth and create great beer. Some people have it lucky with a basement that holds a perfect temp...... Lucky them.
 

Tripod

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I had the same problem, temperature in the upper 70's, sulfur smells, and worried about the off-flavors. I've since used the rubbermaid + water + ice pack trick. The water helps filter out any fluctuating temperatures and keeps it nice and constant. I added 2 ice packs once a day and the temperature stayed a nice 70.

Your setup is almost identical to mine with the rubbermaid, etc(at least my planned setup). Still planning on batch #1 this coming Monday, though, so I can't tell you the results of the finished product yet. Has this set up been working for you?

-Tripod
 

jgohean

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Has this set up been working for you?
This too is my first batch, so I can't testify to long term results.

But this setup has been great for maintaining temperature. The closet stays about 77 through the day, but I can keep the water at 70 by dropping in 1 ice pack (sometimes 2 if the temp is too high) in the mornings and another when I get home from work.

I also used soda bottles with water frozen in the freezer which work just as well.

The nice thing about water is that it will handle large fluctuations in external temperature without it changing very much because it's such a large heat sink - so even if you have variations in your house through the day, the temperature of the water should remain nice and constant.
 

Tripod

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This too is my first batch, so I can't testify to long term results.

But this setup has been great for maintaining temperature. The closet stays about 77 through the day, but I can keep the water at 70 by dropping in 1 ice pack (sometimes 2 if the temp is too high) in the mornings and another when I get home from work.

I also used soda bottles with water frozen in the freezer which work just as well.

The nice thing about water is that it will handle large fluctuations in external temperature without it changing very much because it's such a large heat sink - so even if you have variations in your house through the day, the temperature of the water should remain nice and constant.
I just brewed batch #1 (brewer's red ale from The Home Brewery...) yesterday and went with the rubbermaid/water/t-shirt setup...no fan yet but I'll add it if needed. I am finding that it works really well! Like you, I can't speak of the long term results but the initial results are impressive.

I never considered how much of a buffer the water is to the temperature fluctuations all over the rest of the house. I have a room thermometer in the room I am using that reports a swing between 72*-79*F...but the stick-on "fermometer" reports a fairly constant 68*-70*F. Airlock is bubbling like mad and I am almost hypnotized by it! :D

Good luck with YOUR #1! :mug:
 
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JMcManaway

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The Beer Gods are undoubtedly looking down on me and saying, "Oh Ye of little faith..." I took a sample, absolutely beyond sure that I had ruined this beer. "Top O' the Banana Irish Stout" was going to be its name and I was going to drink every last bit of estery beer as propitiation for my beer-making sins.

I took the sample - the SG was 1.022 and lo' and behold....it's delicious. It tastes like an Irish Stout (albeit a bit sweet). There's not a bit of banana taste to be found.
 

carnevoodoo

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Stouts will be a little more forgiving! With a darker, roastier malt profile, you can hide some of the bad stuff.

Glad it turned out well.
 

Throckmorton

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I just built the son of a fermentation chiller as mentioned previously by a couple other posters. It works extrememly well. It keeps the beer at a constant temp and you only have to switch out the ice jugs every one or two days.

Here are the plans:
http://home.elp.rr.com/brewbeer/chiller/chiller.PDF

Everything can be found at Home Depot, and costs around $70 to build.
 
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