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Lager without a fridge/freezer?

Alright, so our basement right now is cold, maybe cold enough to hit the high end of the temp range for lager yeast but will never get cold enough for the lager condition phase and we don’t have a spare fridge/freezer nor do I plan on going through with getting one.

Question: Has anyone tried dropping the temp by putting the carboy in a bucket of water and refilling it with a bit of ice every day? Yes the temperature would be wildly inconstant but I’m not a perfectionist. Would this work? Has anyone done it? What are some of the downsides?

I obviously have never done a lager but have been curious about it.

Swamp cooler…

Get as much water in there as you can (~10 gallons is good) and instead of ice, use frozen plastic bottles filled with water. I saved Gatorade bottles, SoBe, etc. and fill them with water, freeze them and rotate them. I made lagers this way for a few years and it’s doable. 10 gallons of water will keep 5 gallons of wort/beer pretty consistent. Then you can do the lagering phase in a garage or something… as long as you don’t let it freeze up there in MN. Cheers.

[quote=“cam0083”]Alright, so our basement right now is cold, maybe cold enough to hit the high end of the temp range for lager yeast but will never get cold enough for the lager condition phase and we don’t have a spare fridge/freezer nor do I plan on going through with getting one.

Question: Has anyone tried dropping the temp by putting the carboy in a bucket of water and refilling it with a bit of ice every day? Yes the temperature would be wildly inconstant but I’m not a perfectionist. Would this work? Has anyone done it? What are some of the downsides?

I obviously have never done a lager but have been curious about it.[/quote]

The swamp cooler would work for keeping you in the fermenting temp. But I don’t think it would work wellm for lagering temps, and lagering in the garage in MN would most likely end with frozen beer, the high temp in St Paul today is 17F.

I think your best bet would be to make a psudeo lager with a very clean, crisp ale yeast ferment low.
I have had great luck making rauchbier with US-05 fermented at 56F, and no lagering period.

Thanks guys, I’m running some temp tests in the basement now to see what I can get with swamp cooler.

I will say this… if you don’t think it will work, use ale yeast. If you can fill a bucket with water (as an experiment) and take the temp of it after 12 or 24 hours and it’s near 50°, you can do it. If it seems high, go with ale yeast. I will also say this… while I completely agree with what gregscsu is saying about the ale yeast, I would also suggest that the flavors that you get from lager yeast is just not the same as those you get from ale yeast and vice-versa. With some beers, the character is all in the yeast and a clean ale yeast will be different. Good luck & cheers.

Ps. I also put some Starsan solution in the bucket since it will be sitting there for X amount of time… don’t want a stinky pond in your basement. Cheers.

I’ve only used swamp coolers for ales in the summer. I suppose if your ambient temps are low enough it might be possible. Just remember the more thermal mass you have the less your fluctuations will be. Get a decent sized container and a 24-pack of bottled water. Keep those guys in your freezer and rotate frequently. You just might be able to do it :slight_smile:

edit - Ferment that is.

It’s funny how people on here call a bucket of water a swamp cooler. Where I live a swamp cooler is what we use to cool the whole house. We ferment in buckets of water. We don’t ferment in our swamp coolers.

There are different lager yeast with different temp requirements. You might be able to acceptable results without really cool temps. You’ll just have to try different things. I see lot’s of people here telling others that they are fermenting too warm. I usually disagree. I say just go for it.

I have a friend that ferments lagers in swamp coolers, but, like you, my cellar is cold (48-50°F) in the winter. I ferment there for 5-7 days, move it to 55-60°F for a few days just as it starts to fade from peak fermentation, then up to 62°F to finish; 2-3 weeks total. I’ve been doing this with WLP830, which is a pretty forgiving yeast, and the results have been excellent.

Then I keg, naturally carbonate, and stick in the fridge. After a 1-2 weeks, the beer has usually dropped clear. Now, the beer is 6-8 weeks old, which, I’ve been told, is what German breweries shoot for “grain-to-glass”, freshness being hugely important to them. The beer tastes great at that point and, frankly, lagering doesn’t seem to add much to them. I’ve noticed that with months of lagering, hop flavor fades from the Pilsners and malt will get a little rounder (and the beers will start to taste more like imported German beer, instead of beer in Germany) as oxidation damage starts to show, but these beers don’t need to be stored cold for a long time to be delicious if they start at a reasonable gravity and are fermented clean.

However, lager yeast doesn’t drop very well, and the beer is going to taste subpar until you get that yeast out of there, and you’ll need cold temperatures for a week or, probably, two to get the beer to drop crystal clear. If you are bottling, you can just go straight to bottles after fermentation and plan on storing bottles for a couple weeks, undisturbed, but it is tough not to resuspend these fluffy lager yeasts.

The best lager flavors happen when you can ferment at 48-50 and then lager at 32-34. If you live in a cold climate, try to find a place that stays a consistent 32-34 degrees to lager. If you lager warmer, the beer will not be as crisp and tasty. When I lived in Oklahoma, my back porch stayed 48 during the winter so I could serve my ales there, and ferment lagers. I used my tap fridge for lagering and made some tasty beers. Now that I live in Texas refrigeration is the only way to go. I think you could find a closet on an outside wall or garage corner next to the house that would stay just above freezing. I think lagers are fairly easy if you can control the temperature.

I made this particular item a few years ago, and it actually worked pretty well. I only used it for a couple of batches because I thought it was pretty labor intensive for a lager, when I really prefer ales. But I still use it as my fermentation chamber today, just without the ice. The temp stays more consistent in my basement when the fermenter is inside.

http://home.roadrunner.com/~brewbeer/ch ... hiller.PDF
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