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Temperature control for brewing ales

Historically, when making ales, I’ve always stored my fermenter in the bottom of my pantry during fermentation. The inside temperature in my house varies between 74 and 80 degrees depending on the time of day. I live in Austin, Texas and we are still using air conditioning every day even as I write this in October.

I recently purchased a chest freezer for making my Oktoberfest marzen lager - which is now bottled. I’m currently making a Belgian style ale (clone recipe of la Fin du Monde). I’m using the White Labs Belgian Abbey Ale yeast. White Labs recommends fermenting with this strain between 66 and 72 deg. F.

Here’s my question: Will I have a better outcome if I brew this ale inside the chest freezer where I can get very specific temperature control?

You will have a more predictable/repeatable product if you can maintain the temps in a narrow range.

The subjective part is finding the temp that produces the flavor components you like.

I would have to say yes. I cannot think of any beer I would ever want fermenting in a room that was upper 70’s or 80’s - that is just way too warm. I would use that temp. controlled freezer for every beer you brew. Fermenting beer is warmer than the room it is in. Generally, most ales you want in low to mid 60’s. When I do belgians I start in the upper 60’s for a week to 10 days and then go to lower 70’s for another week to 10 days, and then back down… but I would never ferment a beer in the 80’s - I think you would get some tremendous off flavors, fusel alcohol, etc.

Also, remember you want to try to read the temp of the fermenting beer - not the temp. inside your freezer. So, find a way to do that. I tape the probe to the side of my bucket and cover with a good thick layer of bubble wrap so that I am more or less measuring the temp. of my beer.

Thanks for the opinions everyone. I finished making my wart today - I pitched the yeast - and put the primary fermenter in my lagering cellar with the temperature set at 66 degrees F.

I think that you are both right. Keeping the temperature in a tight range will likely produce more repeatable results. And 75-80 degrees F. is really too high for this (and most other) ale strains.

I have the probe thermometer taped to the primary fermenter. Hopefully this will give me an accurate reading.

Thanks everyone for the input. I love this forum!

I purchased a mini-fridge a little over a year ago to ferment largers. I quickly realized that it works great for ales too. I ferment most ales in the low 60’s for 3-5 days then take the primary out of the fridge and let it warm up to room temp. Temperature control is only crucial for the first few days of fermentation. When I see active signs slowing or stopped, I don’t worry about the temp. Warming it up towards the end of active fermentation helps the yeast finish up too. This system has been working well for me.

For lagers, temp control is crucial throughout the process from primary fermentation through lagering. So lagers tie up my fridge for longer periods of time. So now, my lager fridge is usually an ale fridge used for the occasional lager. I guess the moral here is I need another fridge :slight_smile:

I’m convinced that the single biggest improvement I ever made in my brewing were when I moved from Oklahoma, where my indoor temperatures tended to be similar to yours, to New Hampshire, where I have a basement that stays in low sixties to upper fifties pretty much year round.

There are a few styles where the higher temp is better. I made a saison once that I fermented in my garage to get higher temps over the summer, and the temp got as high as 85. That’s right, here in NH 85 is unusually hot. Anyway, the result was great for that particular beer. But most ales are best somewhere in teh low 60s.

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