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I've just moved from a Condo into a house, where I am now paying for heat.

In the area that my Domestic Sergeant Major has permitted me to brew in, the temperature varies from 16° to 21° C throughout the day. What's a good type of beer to brew there until I can install some temperature controls?

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A note on units: I'm assuming you mean 16 and 21 Celsius. I did a quick online conversion and that would be 60-68 Fahrenheit. Maybe edit into your question? –  Pulsehead Nov 9 '10 at 13:24
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No edit. We, the rest of the world, have to drag you Americans kicking and screaming into the 21st century. –  Chris Cudmore Nov 9 '10 at 13:36
    
-1 for the mysterious temperature –  Joe Philllips Nov 12 '10 at 14:30
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@chris: While I agree with your comment in principle you should really use °C or (*C) instead of 'degrees'. It's simply not accurate. After all, people don't know if you are an American living in Alaska were it might be 16*F-21*F throughout the day. :-) –  Martin Scharrer Apr 21 '11 at 22:51
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Why would you want to freeze water at 0 and boil at 100? 32 and 212 make way more sense! –  Paul May 8 '11 at 5:07

6 Answers 6

You'd be best to check on the yeast package for the optimal fermentation temperature range. Both Wyeast and White labs have this info on their respective websites. There you can find the range, and figure what type of yeast will work best. Generally, the cooler the fermentation temperature, the cleaner, but longer the fermentation will take.

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So select the yeast, and determine what kind of beer to make from that. –  Chris Cudmore Nov 8 '10 at 21:40
    
I agree that yeast are mostly what you're worried about when talking temps. At 16-21 *C you'll brew some tasty ales I'm sure. –  Paul May 8 '11 at 5:01

16-21 C is 60-68F. That's prime ale brewing temps. As for the temp swings, remember Charlie Papazian's advice, "Relax! Don't worry! Have a homebrew!"

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For this situation, you may want to consider yeast strains where extra phenol and ester production due to a stressful environment is considered a good thing in the final product.

Typically Belgian yeast strains are more tolerable of stressful environments, in fact some brewers intentionally raise the temperature of their belgian ales in order to get the most ester and phenol production out of the yeast, which is considered desirable for these yeast strains. Other styles coming to mind are:

Kolsch, Hefeweizen, Saison

It's important to remember that frequent and significant temperature fluctuations are usually a bad thing for your beer. This can lead to stressed out yeast which can lead to off flavors, including acetaldehyde sour apple flavors. Anything you can do to minimize the amount of frequent variations will be a good thing. I suggest looking in to swamp coolers or swamp warmers. You may also want to consider leaving the carboy in a bath tub full of water, so that the overall thermal system is much larger and more resistant to big temperature swings.

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Some belgian strains (WLP570 IIRC) are very finicky about negative temperature swings and often drop out early once the fermentation rate drops, unless temperature is maintained. –  mdma Apr 4 at 13:35
    
I disagree that Kolsch and Hefeweizen benefit from raised temps. Kolsch is fermented on the cooler side of normal ale temp ranges, and Hefe's fermented warm taste like banana or Juicy Fruit gum, which isn't always what you want (I'll be pitching some WLP380 into a hefe this weekend and will keep it at 62-64F). –  Graham Apr 4 at 17:47

This winter I'm going to try brewing more steam beers, which are ales that use lager yeasts. The lager yeasts don't require high temps so you don't need to worry about keeping the fermenter warm.

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You can brew darn near any ale at those temps, but remember that your ambient temperature is NOT what the yeast ferment at. Fermentation produces a large amount of heat, so your fermenting wort is often 2-8 degrees hotter than the ambient air temps around the carboy. This can make a big difference on the final taste of the beer if you start pushing into the upper boundaries of the yeast's preferred temps.

If you aren't up for automated temp control yet, I recommend you build a "swamp cooler," which is basically:

  • A big water bath for your carboy (like a beverage tub), half full of water
  • Some frozen ice packs or soda bottles (change them out daily)
  • An old t-shirt or towel (put it half in water and drape half over carboy)
  • A box fan to blow on the carboy & cloth.

Put the carboy into the water bath, wet the cloth and drap it over the top/side of the carboy, and turn the fan on and point it at the carboy. The fan blowing over the cloth will evaporate the water in it, which cools down the carboy. As water evaporates, the cloth draws more liquid up from the water bath. An ice pack or two in the water further helps to stabilize the temps.

Add some sanitizer or a little bleach to the water bath to help keep the mold away. It will only take a few days of primary fermentation before the yeast calm down, then you can break this rig down if the Domestic Drill Sargent starts complaining about the wet towel/t-shirt. As primary fermentation slows, the heat generated by the yeast drop down to a level where they'll raise the carboy temps by only a degree or two, so your ambient temps will be perfectly fine. Awesome in fact, especially if they stay in the low 60's.

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While these temperatures are great for brewing, it's the swing in temp that yeast don't like. Get as consistent as possible with refrigeration or otherwise first.

That said, 2nd generation is actually much more tolerant to temperature swings than the 1st generation of yeast you get right out of the vial/bag. This will help you brew most types of beers without too much crazy esters.

Beers you want to be estery are Belgian beers, which you can brew most types of beers with a Belgian strain of yeast. Hope that helps!

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