Yeast and temperature fluctuation

Hey folks, I am brewing my first, it’s the NB English Pale Ale extract kit w Danstar Nottingham Ale Yeast. I’ve got the primary fermentation in am “ale pail” in the closet and am taking temperature readings off the side of the bucket in the morning and the evening.

The yeast tells me that its preferred temperature range is between 57 and 72. My readings have been coming in around 66, but w fluctuation between 61 and 68 - I was trying to keep it cooler so I cracked the window when I went to work and then shut it up when I came home. If I just leave it alone the temperature will probably sit at 66-67.

I know it is hotter inside the pail. Do you think I should do any of the cooling tricks - wet t-shirt contest, tub of water, etc - to keep the temp in the lower 60s or just leave it alone?

With the temps you’re maintaining, I’d say you’re waaaaay ahead of most first-time brewers. I think you’ll be just fine. As the weather warms up later in the year, temp control during fermentation may be an issue for you. But for this batch, I’d say you’re good.

Agreed. Sounds like you’re doing a good job with temps. Of course, you don’t want swings in temps, but at least your not having swings up into the 70’s. Keep trying to hold a constant temp in the low to mid 60’s. Even upper 50’s for that yeast is fine.

Also remember a cool fermentation temperature is only crucial for the first few days of fermentation. After the first 3-5 days an increase in temp isn’t a bad thing. Most flavors contributed by yeast are formed in during the first few days, which is why that’s the crucial temp period.

The fluctuation is what I was worried about. We’ll see, I guess… The kit says to primary for 1-2 weeks and then secondary for 2-4 weeks; I am thinking I will just primary for 3 weeks and then into the bottling bucket. I was hoping that any early fluctuations would “even” out?..

You are correct that swings in temperature are actually worse than fermenting a degree or two cold/hot.

66 is a great temperature for the strain you are using and the style you are making.

To minimize swings, I would just place the bucket in a water bath (one of those plastic tubs works great, with just 4-5 inches of water). This will make the thermal mass bigger, and the activity/exothermic activity of the yeast will have a harder time moving the temperature.

I also subscribe to the theory (with usually very good results) that temp control is really only critical during the first 3-5 days of fermentation. After that, as long as the temp is increasing, you will get good attenuation and low esters/minimal if any fusels. So, if you also subscribe to this theory, you can move your fermenter into a warmer area after the first few days.

So the temps stabilized at about 66 for the first week or so but have moved up to 69ish for the past 2 days - I check once in the morning and once in the evening. The temperature is stable, slow bubbling out of the airlock, thus my plan is just to leave it alone.

I am not going to rack on secondary, instead I was going to leave it in the primary for 3 weeks and then bottle? Does this sound like a decent plan given the style (English Pale Ale) and my temperatures?

Definitely. 3 weeks, then bottle. This is my SOP for almost all beers (except I keg). Sometimes they sit 4 weeks if I get busy.