Things I ought to know about yeast but don't.

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clarenancy

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I'm sort of new to brewing and have been relatively successful with my beginner extract kits. At least I've gotten beer that I like to drink :)

Now I'm getting a little experimental, and experienced my 1st flat bottling job. This brings up some questions that I'm sure mean that I don't really understand the yeast. Like most cooks, you follow the recipe and hope you like it. Until you learn a little more.

So here I am.

I'm using dry yeast. I like the Belgian styles so SafAle BE-134 or 256 have been the main ones that have come with the kits I've used.

1. The BE-256 says ideal temps lower than 68° but acceptable up to 77°. I've used this one a few times on a Leffe clone and I've enjoyed the flavor and the ABV. And the carbonation in the bottle. I live in the deep south and don't cool my house anywhere near 67°, but if I did, how would this alter the outcome of my beer?

2. As I understand it, there is unspent yeast in the brew that the dextrose using while in the bottle. So, if I add honey for instance, at the end of the primary fermentation, am I going to tax or use up the yeast activity I need for bottle conditioning?

3. The one that came out a lot flatter than I'd like (not completely flat but disappointingly flat) was a golden strong. It taste good and is very high, maybe too high ABV. This recipe asked for 2 yeast packets and a very long 2ndary fermentation. Did I leave it too long and thus over use the yeast or is this likely a case of Clare didn't use enough dextrose when she bottled?


Thanks in advance for your knowledge.

Clare
 

hotbeer

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3) The one bottle or one batch?

If bottle, and you prime the beer before you bottle, which is what I do, then maybe you didn't mix it thoroughly. Fears of aeration probably have us not mixing well. But I've found that using pot with a shiny inside, I can see the refraction differences when light shines into it. So then I can be relatively assured it's mixed. Maybe not so sure if I aerated it, but one less worry.

If the batch, then I'd think the priming sugar calculation was off. How did you figure it?
 
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clarenancy

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Thanks for responding.

I haven't drank the whole batch, but so far, every bottle is flatter than I want. Not entirely flat but almost.

The instructions say 2/3 cup of corn sugar. I have a scoop that size and use it. Sometimes I add a little extra sucrose (about an ouce) but I'm not sure that I did that this time.
 

hotbeer

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I like to use a kitchen scale. Weighing ends most doubts about how much was really used for most anything.

Did you perhaps have more beer that you bottled than what was expected? That will leave you with not enough carbonation. Couple batches ago I did my priming solution for a 120 fl. oz but only bottled about 84 fl. oz. Every one a volcano.

Interestingly the over carb'd beers seem to go flat almost as soon as the foam subsides. Not sure if that's the nature of over carb'd beer or if that indicates I may have an another issue. Maybe the same as your issue.

I'm too noob to have an idea for anything else. But I'm sure someone will come along soon with some ideas.
 

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Hi Clare, and welcome to HBT!

A few thoughts on your questions:

1. Ferm temps can greatly alter the outcome, some good, some bad. If you're having trouble maintaining temps you could set the fermenter in what's called a swamp cooler. Just a big bucket or plastic bin, filled with water. You can add ice (or better yet, freeze water in plastic pop bottles and drop in a few throughout the day). Put an old t-shirt or towel over the fermenter and let the water wick upwards, and run a small fan on it. The evaporation, plus the cool water, will keep the temps down. I'm not overly familiar with BE-134 or 256, but many Belgian yeasts do well if you pitch on the cool end of their range, then let the temp naturally float upwards after a few days.

2. Usually, there is a fairly large population of yeast remaining after primary fermentation is done. If you add the honey (or any fermentable sugar) later in ferm, the yeast will ferment that as well. After that there will generally be enough viable yeast remaining for bottle-conditioning, unless the alcohol level is so high that it's died off. Check the yeast's alcohol tolerance, if your beer is close to that maximum, you might want to repitch some yeast at bottling time. Most any neutral yeast will do, like US-05, Nottingham, or CBC-1.

3. If your Belgian strong is under-carbed, it may be that the yeast pooped out on you, due to the high alcohol. Next time, you could repitch some fresh yeast before bottling, as mentioned in #2.
 
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clarenancy

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MaxStout,

Thanks. That's good info.

That swamp cooler method is how i chill after brewing. However, not with the tshirt. My groundwater is 80° out of the tap this time of year. This is why a wort chiller is no good for me. But I have a vast collection of those cooler blocks that ship with the vaccines given in our clinic. Using a galvanized washtub, I surround my kettle with those in water. Takes about 20 minutes. I'll try getting it cooler before pitching next time. But I couldn't maintain it more than a day or two. Work!

Your description of my uncarbed problem is what I suspected. How much yeast would you add? Would you bottle immediately? Would want exploding beer!

I'll buy some cheep yeast to mitigate that.
 
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For temperature control, during fermentation, you could build a fermentation chamber.

There's threads on that here. I built one last year, before I switched over to conicals and a glycol chiller to keep things under control. It also gives me more thermal flexibility with the batches (can have two fermenters at two different temperatures at the same time). The chamber uses a small fridge (usually under $200) as the cooling part. A PID controls when it turns on and off depending on the temperature in the chamber. Use 2x4 to make the frame, OSB for the skin (inside especially) and rigid foam insulation to keep it stable. Just be sure to make it narrow enough to go through any doors you have between where you make it and where it will live. I made that mistake at the start and had to take it apart, modify, put it back together and then wheel it into the room. Yes, DO put caster wheels (four) with at least two capable of being locked on it. That way you can easily move it around even when loaded with fermenters. Just be sure to get wheels that are rated for the weight going into it (don't cut it too close on those numbers).

Added benefit of the chamber is you can also set it up to be a warming chamber for winter times if you need to. Basically, you can better control the temperature your beer is fermenting at year round. Fermentation temperature control is one of the easy ways to improve the quality of your beer.

I will ask how you're oxygenating your wort before you pitch the yeast in? For higher OG batches, oxygenation is even more important. The yeast require O2 in order to make strong cell walls during their replication phase. I've been using pure O2 to oxygenate my wort for about a decade now. For a long time it was using a sintered stone on a stainless wand that I'd put into the chilled wort before pitching. Run the O2 through that into the beer and then pitch the yeast (1-2Lpm for anywhere from 1-3 minutes depending on batch size and OG). I've changed my method to be at my plate chiller wort out port before it runs into fermenter. Just one less thing to do post chill to the wort before pitching the yeast. Using pure O2 I've had yeast go beyond they're listed ABV tolerance.

Are you using any yeast nutrient in these batches. Again, higher OG batches benefit from this.
 

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For re-pitching just prior to bottling, about 1/4 of a packet of dry yeast is plenty for a 5 gal batch. Carefully stir the yeast in the beer just before bottling to evenly distribute it.

Repitching doesn't cause bottle-bombs. Having incomplete fermentarion and/or adding too much priming sugar is what can cause it. Make sure fermentation is done. Take a couple successive gravity readings a day or two apart. If they are the same, it's ready to bottle.

Use one of the online calculators to determine the right amount of sugar to use for the desired CO2 volumes. If you have an accurate kitchen scale, weigh the sugar--much more reliable than going by volume in cups.

A fermentation chamber is a big help in making better beer. A small chest freezer and a low-cost temp controller, like Inkbird, is all you need.
 

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How long was the secondary on that flat beer?
Generally it'd take a couple months for enough yeast to die off to affect anything - though I did a cider a while back that I just never got around to secondary, and didn't repitch when bottling. It still ended up with plenty of carbonation, even after 6 months fermenting.
|And like the others said, fermentation temps are one of the biggest differences that you can make that will drastically improve your beer. You don't even need to spend a ton of money. Check the size of your fermenters (are you using ale pails or the like?) and keep tabs on Craigslist or FB Marketplace. Eventually you'll see a fridge or chest freezer for cheap or even free. Add in a temp controller, you can find Inkbirds for $30 or so on Amazon, and you're good to go. You don't need to keep the fridge plugged in unless you're actually using it, so old and energy inefficient doesn't really matter. If you want to get fancy, a 2-way controller, and a heating pad will allow pinpoint control of temps.
 
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clarenancy

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For temperature control, during fermentation, you could build a fermentation chamber.

There's threads on that here. I built one last year, before I switched over to conicals and a glycol chiller to keep things under control. It also gives me more thermal flexibility with the batches (can have two fermenters at two different temperatures at the same time). The chamber uses a small fridge (usually under $200) as the cooling part. A PID controls when it turns on and off depending on the temperature in the chamber. Use 2x4 to make the frame, OSB for the skin (inside especially) and rigid foam insulation to keep it stable. Just be sure to make it narrow enough to go through any doors you have between where you make it and where it will live. I made that mistake at the start and had to take it apart, modify, put it back together and then wheel it into the room. Yes, DO put caster wheels (four) with at least two capable of being locked on it. That way you can easily move it around even when loaded with fermenters. Just be sure to get wheels that are rated for the weight going into it (don't cut it too close on those numbers).

Added benefit of the chamber is you can also set it up to be a warming chamber for winter times if you need to. Basically, you can better control the temperature your beer is fermenting at year round. Fermentation temperature control is one of the easy ways to improve the quality of your beer.

I will ask how you're oxygenating your wort before you pitch the yeast in? For higher OG batches, oxygenation is even more important. The yeast require O2 in order to make strong cell walls during their replication phase. I've been using pure O2 to oxygenate my wort for about a decade now. For a long time it was using a sintered stone on a stainless wand that I'd put into the chilled wort before pitching. Run the O2 through that into the beer and then pitch the yeast (1-2Lpm for anywhere from 1-3 minutes depending on batch size and OG). I've changed my method to be at my plate chiller wort out port before it runs into fermenter. Just one less thing to do post chill to the wort before pitching the yeast. Using pure O2 I've had yeast go beyond they're listed ABV tolerance.

Are you using any yeast nutrient in these batches. Again, higher OG batches benefit from this.

Thanks for your information. Sorry I'm so slow to reply. I've been away from a real keyboard and the phone is too tedious.

I've been looking into a fermentation chamber. I've been undecided if it is worth it. But maybe it is. I've never kept my bucket any lower than the 70°. My husband and I recently realized we'd quite adapted to the warm temperatures when he fussed that I was going to set the AC to 74° so my bucket would be cool enough. But even so, I truly have been happy with all my brews but the super high gravity one that did not carb properly.

And yes, somebody above asked how long it was in the 2ndary ferment bucket. The answer to that is almost 2 months, as recommended in the chat beneath the Golden Strong Ale recipe at Northern Brewers' site. But I don't know that I'll bother with that again. I've been getting just at 6 ABV or so and that is just right for my taste. The Golden Strong is really too high. I'm not trusting my reading but it seemed more than 10 and one bottle packs quite a punch. It's more potent than the Victory Brewery's Gold Monkey (good stuff in moderation).

Oxygenating is not something I've ever heard of. All I read is to not aerate it too much. I simply cool the wort in my galvanized tub and when within the acceptable range, I poor it in my sanitized bucket, toss the dry yeast in and give is a gentle stir. Cap it and set it in a dark corner of my bedroom.

I've only been at this a year. Providentially, I bought the kit for myself as a Christmas present in December of 2019, just before the pandemic.

I'm not sure how sophisticated I intend to get. My goal was to simply brew beer that I likes at a cost that is not crazy high. I so much prefer the Belgian styles and some Germans than any others and they are hard to come by here. And when they are available they are way more expensive than I want to pay. If I buy a kit of $30 and get 50 bottles, I'm paying 3.60 for a six pack or 60¢ whereas a 6 pack of La Fin du Monde, another favorite for me, is $15 a 4 pack. Leffe or Abita Spring Andygator are my favorite cheap beers, but even they are near $10 a six pack.

I've been spoiled by a local store that sells the six packs from bad deliveries. Apparently, the distributors has to get rid of any that ride along with a bashed case. I recently bought cases of Duval for what amounted to 50¢ a 16 oz can. It was like winning the lottery :)

I will seriously look at the temperature controlled chambers if you experts think it will make a better beer.
 

Golddiggie

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IME, controlling the fermentation temperature, even if you ferment under pressure (where ester formation can be repressed at higher PSI levels) is an easy way to get better beers. A chamber makes controlling the temperature a "set and forget" process. No more needing to keep an eye on things.

I would also highly advise getting a wort chiller. Getting the beer to pitch temperature fast is a GOOD thing. You can also get much clearer beers since the cold break removes proteins from solution. Even a simple (and slow) immersion chiller will help (you use it in the boil kettle).

Look at the oxygen wands and such. That's an entry level oxygenation system. It also makes getting enough O2 into the beer easy, and fast. You cannot get above 8ppm of O2 infused in a wort no matter how hard you try without using pure O2. I've used pure O2 to infuse my beers since early on. I've never had a batch that had any kind of negative effect from my method. It's also how breweries infuse the wort with oxygen before pitching the yeast. As mentioned O2 is critical for the yeast to form healthy/strong cell walls during their replication phase (during the lag time). The more O2, the faster they can get that done and get down to fermenting your beer.

I don't do any secondary transfers for beers. Giving the batch enough time in primary does everything for my batches. Right now, since I'm using conicals, I'm going about three weeks from brewing to serving. Each batch gets about two weeks from pitch to chill to harvest the yeast. Then I chill to carbonating temperatures and start the CO2 infusion via carbonating stone. 3-5 days later it's going to keg and can (I can what doesn't go into a keg).

I have an old ale in fermenter now that was brewed a week ago Saturday. It's almost done fermenting (about 7.6% ABV) and I plan to chill it to harvest the yeast this coming weekend. I'm going to age it on oak spirals for a few weeks before it gets chilled and carbonated. Total time for the batch, from grain to glass, is going to be about 5-7 weeks (depends on how long I leave it on the oak). I'm also brewing my English IPA (~5.5%) this weekend. That will be about three weeks from grain to glass. Maybe a few days longer since I plan to dry hop in fermenter once I harvest the yeast (after 10-14 days from pitch).
The glycol chiller makes a LOT of this possible. You can do it with a fermentation chamber, but it's not as easy.
 
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clarenancy

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IME, controlling the fermentation temperature, even if you ferment under pressure (where ester formation can be repressed at higher PSI levels) is an easy way to get better beers. A chamber makes controlling the temperature a "set and forget" process. No more needing to keep an eye on things.

I would also highly advise getting a wort chiller. Getting the beer to pitch temperature fast is a GOOD thing. You can also get much clearer beers since the cold break removes proteins from solution. Even a simple (and slow) immersion chiller will help (you use it in the boil kettle).

Look at the oxygen wands and such. That's an entry level oxygenation system. It also makes getting enough O2 into the beer easy, and fast. You cannot get above 8ppm of O2 infused in a wort no matter how hard you try without using pure O2. I've used pure O2 to infuse my beers since early on. I've never had a batch that had any kind of negative effect from my method. It's also how breweries infuse the wort with oxygen before pitching the yeast. As mentioned O2 is critical for the yeast to form healthy/strong cell walls during their replication phase (during the lag time). The more O2, the faster they can get that done and get down to fermenting your beer.

I don't do any secondary transfers for beers. Giving the batch enough time in primary does everything for my batches. Right now, since I'm using conicals, I'm going about three weeks from brewing to serving. Each batch gets about two weeks from pitch to chill to harvest the yeast. Then I chill to carbonating temperatures and start the CO2 infusion via carbonating stone. 3-5 days later it's going to keg and can (I can what doesn't go into a keg).

I have an old ale in fermenter now that was brewed a week ago Saturday. It's almost done fermenting (about 7.6% ABV) and I plan to chill it to harvest the yeast this coming weekend. I'm going to age it on oak spirals for a few weeks before it gets chilled and carbonated. Total time for the batch, from grain to glass, is going to be about 5-7 weeks (depends on how long I leave it on the oak). I'm also brewing my English IPA (~5.5%) this weekend. That will be about three weeks from grain to glass. Maybe a few days longer since I plan to dry hop in fermenter once I harvest the yeast (after 10-14 days from pitch).
The glycol chiller makes a LOT of this possible. You can do it with a fermentation chamber, but it's not as easy.
Wort chiller won't work for me if my ground water is 80° will it?
My galvanized tub with ice packs gets me to 70° in 20 or 30 minutes. I thought that was pretty good. I actually took one bucket of hefeweizen to my brother's who keeps his home closer to 68°.

I'll study the other things you suggest. I like that speed of your process. I'm just following directions but your not the 1st to tell me I can skip the 2ndary. Ordinarily, I'm 2 weeks, 2 weeks, 2weeks.

Space is a big issue for me. I doubt I'll ever keg for that reason.
 

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My glycol chiller and two conical fermenters take up less floor space than the fermentation chamber I built did. It also gives me more flexibility for temperature control.

For ground water THAT warm, you still have options. I recall a video some years back where a person was using a barrel with ice water in it that to chill his ground water to maximize his chill rate. He ran the water that went through his wort chiller through an IC inside the barrel. So he was doing two heat exchanges, but it seemed to work for him. You could get that setup, chill the wort as far as possible with ground water, then finish it with the barrel setup. A simple transfer pump is all you would need for when you switch to the barrel chilled exchanger.

Yes, it's more complicated than otherwise. BUT, you would be able to get your wort at least closer to the optimal pitch temperature in not a ton of time. Of, add a glycol chiller to your setup, with chill coils in the fermenters and get that to drop your wort to pitch temperature in a few hours. Provided you don't try to go from too high a temperature with the glycol chiller. I wouldn't attempt to chill something above 100F to pitch temperature due to how much it would tax the chiller. The brewery level chillers could probably do it, but those are not in the budget range for most home brewers.

Using a secondary is really only needed in rare cases. Such as you're adding new sugars and/or a new yeast that won't play well with what's already in the fermenter. Most often a transfer is done with mead/wine, not beer. Right now my normal (or not aged on oak/something) batches are ~3 weeks from grain to glass. Before the conicals and chiller, I was usually running four to five weeks from grain to glass. That was using a corny keg carbonating lid which shorted the carbonating time from two weeks to about a week. Main difference was the time it took for a keg contents to chill down to temperature before I put the CO2 feed onto the lid. Now my beer gets chilled from yeast harvest temperatures to carbonating temperatures in a handful of hours (I often let it run overnight).

Kegging can take up less space than you might think. You don't need to get a large keezer setup. I used a 10.x cubic foot fridge/freezer for my first keg fridge. I had up to four 3 gallon kegs inside with three faucets through the door. I set that up when I was living in a 500 sq ft apartment.

With enough $$ you can do pretty much anything for brewing. ;)
 

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Hi Claire, welcome to the forum! I hope we haven’t overwhelmed you with responses here!

For many of us, tinkering with toys and processes is half the fun of brewing. There is nothing wrong with simple brewing, especially since you’ve been creating beer that you like!

Belgian beers are very forgiving. You did well to start with that style!

1. yes, fermentation temps matter.If your ambient temp is 74, it’s likely that the temp in your carboy spikes up to 80 or so.The Belgian yeasts you have been using are very forgiving, and the “off flavors” that 80 degree fermentation temperatures produce sometimes taste good in Belgian beers. Even so, everyone I know has liked their beer better once they started having some control of fermentation temperature. Maybe start by getting a stick-on thermometer for your next brew. See how high the temperature gets. If it’s above the recommended temperature for your yeast (you can find the recommended temperature on the yeast manufacturers website), then think about some sort of cooling method.

If you are able to cool your wort to room temperature in 20 minutes, you should get an acceptable “cold break” (stuff coagulating and dropping to the bottom) so your ice tub method is fine. Wort chillers are cool(no pun intended), but with 80 degree ambient, you would need to use a pump to push ice water through the wort chiller. It’ll get you a slightly better “cold break”, but personally I wouldn’t prioritize this over finding a way to control fermentation temperature.


2. Adding honey at the end of fermentation is a bad idea for 2 reasons. First it does wear out your yeast and make it more difficult to bottle condition. Second, honey ferments very, very slowly. You may think that your beer is done, only to have it keep fermenting the honey in the bottle, leading to over-carbonation.

3.Think of your yeast during fermentation as kids on a playground, and bottling as kids in a car seat on the way home from the playground. The more stimulation you provide during fermentation (additions like sugar or honey, high ABV brewing, long secondary, high tempuratures), the more likely your yeast “kids” are to fall asleep once you bottle. A “bottling yeast” like CBC-1 or champagne yeast is good insurance, but you may not need it unless you “wore the kids out” with one of the things above.

so, for your high ABV brew that’s not carbonating in the bottle, you can probably get it to carb up by a) shaking it around a bit, b) getting it a little warmer (like maybe 80 degrees), or c) leaving it for a very long time. Or maybe all of the above. The downside is, all of these methods can produce some off-flavors, not enough to make your beer undrinkable, but it’s a compromise, nonetheless. Maybe try the methods above for this beer, and plan to use a bottling yeast if you make another high-ABV brew.
 
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clarenancy

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Thanks BrewNYC!

I like your yeast as kids analogy :)

I had actually done some studying of an Australian no chill method. They have water quantity issues so they came up with a solution, but I decided that my ice bath was effective enough.

Golddiggie, I'd have to get my husband to give up some of his photog equipment space to get even the fermentation chamber some space indoors! He ought to sell it all off as he's very retired now. But that is easier said than done.

I'll work on it thought. I have a friend with a fridge like you describe. I have been envious of it.

Clare
 

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Repitching doesn't cause bottle-bombs. Having incomplete fermentarion and/or adding too much priming sugar is what can cause it.
Funny the subject gets mentioned time-wise for me. I just bottled an eight month old 13% ABV Belgian. I was a little concerned. I used a 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 pk yeast (too much, I get it) in two cups of water and let it sit overnight. Then I used 1/2 cup sugar in water for priming for bottling. It appears that I won't have any trouble with over-carbonation but might have a yeast aspect to it.
 

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Funny the subject gets mentioned time-wise for me. I just bottled an eight month old 13% ABV Belgian. I was a little concerned. I used a 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 pk yeast (too much, I get it) in two cups of water and let it sit overnight. Then I used 1/2 cup sugar in water for priming for bottling. It appears that I won't have any trouble with over-carbonation but might have a yeast aspect to it.
When it's done and you put the bottles in the fridge a few days, most of the yeast should settle out. Betcha it'll be fine.
 
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clarenancy

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Okay, looking at the cost of a 7 cubic foot chest freezer, they are quite cheap by my estimate. It looks like I could fit 2 buckets in there. I'd just have to squeeze my husband's darkroom stuff in a tighter space! Or he could sell it to offset my brew habit :)

I looked at the carb calculator at Northern Brewer.


Have any of you used one of the other sugars on that list?

And do any of you have alternative recommendations for the yeast for the style of beer I'm looking at?
 
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Since no one else has mentioned these yeasts yet, I will:

Saison yeast likes it hot. The character you get from it may match what you are looking for with Belgian strains, others may be able to comment, or check yeast producer websites for flavor and temp profiles.

I hear a lot from people who like kveik, fermented warm/hot. I have yet to try this, but they have become very popular yeasts for those without temp control.

Just my $0.02.

Peace,

Reevesie
 
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clarenancy

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Thanks David and Reevesie!

I will look into the Mangrove. And as I said before, I've not had an issue with the quality of most my batches. It's just that we are having such a heat wave and my husband and I are hard put to try to cool the house to what would be within the ideal range of those yeast I mentioned above. It's not just the electric bill, it's that we've adapted to not wanting it too cool. My husband is putting on a long sleeve shirt at 73°! I feel certain I've always had it hotter than the ideal but not quite as warm as it is now. I think, for now, I'm going to brew my next batch Sunday and again, take it to my brother's much cooler apartment.

Meanwhile, I'm surfing the marketplaces for a used chest freezer to attach to that Inkbird thermostat device. But while I'm considering it, would not a fridge to the same trick? Say an upright with no freezer?

Clare
 
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clarenancy

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Based on your OP, Mangrove Jack M-41 is great for Belgian. I make 12% ABV-plus triples and it works great. I use two packs though.
David, I just looked at those Mangrove Jack yeasts. All the ones that are comparable to what I brew have a "best at" heat range that is quite high. I brew a nice hefeweizen too!

Perhaps I don't need a fermenting chamber and just buy yeast that is tolerant of my house average temps. The M-41 and M-20 go into the 80°!
The WYeast that I choose not to buy because of shipping and temps, I just looked up WY3727, it's temp range is 69 to 95!

I will definitely be trying these. If any of these make a beer like the ones I've been enjoying I can absolutely bypass a fermenting chamber unless I lose my love for this style beer. Doubtful as that is!

Thanks for the tip!
 
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clarenancy

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Based on your OP, Mangrove Jack M-41 is great for Belgian. I make 12% ABV-plus triples and it works great. I use two packs though.
I took your advice and produced a lovely beer. Sipping on it right now.

Bought 5 of the M41, 5 M49, 5 M31.

The M31 is making a tripel for me right now.

Thanks!
 
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