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I am making a porter, and just started fermentation a couple of days ago. I have never manipulated temperature before, but have read that this is vital when making pilsners, so got curious. Is there any benefit in manipulating temperatures for dark ales and porters and the likes?

The beer is built by modifying a brown porter recipe with rye and maize amongst other things. It is fermented in a converted refrigerator with temperature set at 19°C. I use WYEAST 1335 British ale.

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There are many benefits in having accurate control over the temperature of your brew. It allows you to control many variables. You can:

  1. control the ester profile
  2. alter the speed of fermentation
  3. improve the health of your yeast
  4. speed up the clearing of your brew

Lets look at 1, for the first 3 days you get the majority of your yeast reproduction, fermentation and thus ester production occurring. A slightly higher temperature here can lead to a more ester rich flavor profile, due to more rapid yeast growth; conversely a cooler temp will lead to a cleaner flavour.

This leads on to 2. faster yeast growth leads to a brew reaching the end point of a fermentation faster. A lower temp can lead to a cleaner flavour, but a slower fermentation.

Yeast health is affected by the temperature, too hot and you kill it, too cold and it will produce HSP (Heat Stress Proteins) and may fall dormant. Dormancy is usually induced by rapid drops in temp (>1C/hour). Maintaining it in its happy temperature range will help ensure you can reuse the yeast for multiple brews as you have not subjected it to excess stress.

Crashing the temperature at the end of the fermentation can speed the clearing of the beer, and ensure fermentation is halted.

Looking at your Brown Porter recipe, I would personally pitch in at ~20C and let it drop to 17C over the next few hours. I pitch in at 20C as it gives the yeast a little boost to their metabolism as they first encounter the wort. I generally do British ales ~17C as I like the cleaner ester profile most British yeasts give at this temp. At 19C you will likely get a few more fruity esters but nothing that adversely affects the style, as this yeast can tolerate upto 24C you will not get anything drastic, but your brew will likely finish before one at 17C.

With the same recipe and yeast but fermenting at 17C, 19C, 21C, and 24C you will get 4 different tasting beers.

If you wanted a clean flavour but a rapid fermentation, you could pitch at 22 cool to 17 over 6 hours, let ferment for 2-3 days at 17C, then raise the temp to 20 to quickly finish off. Accurate control of temperature and rate of change allows you to tailor your temperature/time profile to your needs.

I hope that helps. For more information grab a copy of Chris White - Yeast

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  • I can agree with your preference of not so fruity beer. This malts was picked as to (in theory) produce a slender beer, so i would very much like to continue on that track. It has already been a few days, so is it too late to lower the temperature further without risking the yeast? It was pitched at 20°C, but should now be at 19°C, granted that the cooling system has done its job.
    – DJHellduck
    Feb 9 '16 at 13:45
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The utility of ramping up temperature can change wildly depending on yeast strain, pitch rate, wort composition, the fermentation temperature and much more. I wouldn't necessarily pin it to dark ales, but as you mention British Ale yeast, I'll speak to it from that stand point.

Fermentation does create some of its own heat. As the fermentation winds down the temperature drops and some of the yeast starts to flocculate. Ramping up the temperature as fermentation slows keeps more of the yeast in suspension for longer. English Ale yeasts are particularly well known for dropping out early should the temp drop even a couple degrees. You can then encourage a drier beer when using English Ale yeasts.

This does hold true for many other strains of yeast, to differing degrees of success. If you fermented a beer warm (at the high end of its range) ramping up the temp later does little to nothing.

Ramping the temp on a lager strain encourages a complete ferment as well as speeds up the process of reabsorbing some fermentation byproducts like acetaldehyde and diacetyl. (However, it should be noted on the homebrew scale at least, those byproducts are practically a non issue if pitching the correct amount and starting the ferment at a low temp. But that's a different topic)

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  • It was pitched at around 20°C i think, and it is now down to around 19, if the cooling system has done its job. Is that drop necessary for fluoccitation to happen, or do we have to take it down further? (And is it still time to adjust this, given that it has been a few days?)
    – DJHellduck
    Feb 9 '16 at 13:36
  • If it began fermenting at 20C and now has dropped to 19C 2-3 days in. You could expect to see premature flocculation. To combat that I'd set my temp control system to 20-22C. This will hep drive to the best FG possible for that wort at this time.
    – brewchez
    Feb 9 '16 at 14:29
  • FWIW, I think a 19-20C pitch temp is going to be fine for limiting the 'fruitiness' of this yeast strain during its first 3-4 days of ferment. I wouldn't worry about that.
    – brewchez
    Feb 9 '16 at 14:31

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