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I currently have 4, 5 gallon batches going. After a bad episode of brewing at a high temperature (72-75*F) for 2 batches, I have gone in the opposite direction and aim for 60*F, and frequently dip below that (57-59). I get very irritated when my wort gets to even 63*F.

After some Internet reading, I am starting to worry that 60*F is too low for most ales, and that it will cause a lower attenuation. I am willing to sacrifice a lower alcohol content if it means better taste, as I know that a higher temperature causes the ester production that most often decreases the palatability of beer.

Does my desire to decrease this ester production beyond reasonable action (i.e., brewing at 60*F), have unwanted taste side effects that I am not considering?

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Some yeasts create different flavors at lower temps. What yeast strain(s) are you using? Some ale yeasts might be fine at 60F, but not others. –  Graham Sep 3 '13 at 12:11
    
@Graham I started brewing in May and am only on my 14th batch, so I'm doing all sorts of strains as I'm new to this and testing the waters. I use the WYEAST company, who lists a very large range (usually 64-72). I had a strain for a Belgian Dubbel where they said 78 was the maximum, and I brewed it at that temperature and it ruined the beer, so I just don't trust it.. –  Matthew Moisen Sep 5 '13 at 7:13

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

As you reduce the temperature you need to compensate with more yeast, just as you do when brewing a lager. E.g. for a 1.050 ale fermented at 60°F a 2 liter starter would be the minimum.

Alternatively, if pitching from a smaller starter, increase the temperature slowly after primary fermentation is almost complete - e.g. 3 days or when you hit 75% of the target gravity - raising the temperature then will not produce significantly more esters and will increase the yeast metabolism so they continue fermenting rather than drop out.

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Each yeast you use will have a recommended temperature range, however, that doesn't mean it's ideal to swing wildly, even within that range. You can typically get away with temps below the recommended range, but above the range will definitely produce off flavors, as will stressing the yeast out with wide temperature swings over the fermentation period. Even submerging your fermentation vessel in water is helpful if you don't have tight temperature control. Finding a room or a fridge you can dial in to be a constant temperature (and one recommended for your yeast) will improve your fermentation characteristics.

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I use ale yeasts at fairly low temps all the time and I haven't experienced any so far that have negative characteristics at 60F. Some, like WY1007, 1728, or 1056 even work fine down into the 50s. Yes, a lower temp will produce fewer esters, but in general that's what I'm looking for. Whether fewer esters are a positive or negative effect depends on what you want.

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