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Everything posted by zorak1066

  1. us05 (safale/fermentis) does a good job without imparting too many esters. it's kind of a neutral yeast. .. and as mentioned , is forgiving of occasional spikes in temperature. if you had the money you could order a pack with each kit (assuming mr b sells it). save the fromunda yeast and use it as sacrificial yeast when doing high grav beers. you simply boil them in about a quart of water for 10 mins or so, then remove from heat and allow to cool with a cover. when cool dump it into your lbk. the dead yeast will feed the yeast you pitch in. think of it as doggie treats for yeast. you dont have to do this but i treat the yeast the best i can to keep them happy.
  2. Dillweed.. the simplest thing you can do to make better beer is temperature control. the typical ale yeasts like an ambient temp of about 58f-66f. this is the temperature around your lbk. when yeast ferment, they produce heat. during the first week of fermentation the temps inside the lbk can be on average 5-10f hotter if not more.if you arent providing a relatively stable temperature around the lbk of 58-66f, that means the yeast get as hot as maybe 75f-80f at their busiest! way too hot. your typical ale yeast gets stressed out at that high of a temp. they produce esters or flavor profiles when stressed from heat. this is a chemical called Acetaldehyde . this makes a strong green apple or apple cider flavor in your beer. it can make your beer taste to some people like cheap wine or really fruity. the yeast the usually comes with mr beer kits likes the temperature range mentioned above. if you get an igloo ice chest, a cheap digital aquarium thermometer with a lead and a probe, and some 1/2 liter bottles of ice you can easily fix your problem. next batch, put the lbk in the igloo chest. dangle the aquarium thermometer probe in the cooler. put the digital readout outside. you can shut the lid on the wire. it shouldnt hurt. turn on the thermometer and note the temp. it will probably be your house room temperature. now take a 1/2 liter plastic bottle of ice and put it in the cooler away from the lbk. close the lid. come back every hour to 2 hours. note the temp inside the cooler. you want to shoot for 58-66f. a 1/2 liter in my experience will slowly drop the temp to around that. you can add more ice bottles or use less ice depending on how your set up is responding. when you get the temp in the cooler to the optimal range, watch how long it stays there. usually i can go about 12 hours with very little fluctuation on about a liter of ice. when you figure out how long your ice will stay effective , all you do is every x hours swap out the ice with the same amount. once about a week goes by your primary fermentation stage should be about done and temp control isnt as important. be aware that too low temps, your yeast will fall asleep. too high and they pee out apple cider flavors. different yeast strains behave differently. true lager yeast love cold temps and require temps in the low 50s to work. wheat ale yeast like hefeweizen yeast tend to make earthy or clovey flavors at the low 60s, and banana flavors at the upper 60s to 70s. saison yeast love really hot temps. i let mine go as high as 76f to make a complex fruity / funky / yeasty / floral flavor. know your yeast. if you make it happy, it will make good beer. good luck! dont rush things. keep things simple as you can until you get the basics down like temp control and sanitation. beer is not a quick thing. it takes time.
  3. yeast are living things. imagine if you just spent a week locked in a freezer and then jumped into a tub of hot water. thermal shock is a real thing. you want the yeast to gradually acclimate to both gravity and temp of the wort. ideally your pitching temp and your yeast temp should be not more than 15 f different i think i read somewhere. an example of a less than optimal pitch: you rehydrate the yeast in water of 98f. by the time you go to pitch it has cooled to say 85f. your wort temp might be for example 65f. 85-65 = 20f difference. not exactly optimal. dry yeast has come a long way though in improvements. you might get a little thermal shock die off if there is such a thing, but surely it will be insignificant. i put my dry yeast on the counter when i start brewing. if i'm just tossing it in, by the time i'm ready for it the yeast is at room temp which is just fine. yeast are incredibly hard to kill accidentally. the more common homebrewer 'mistakes' merely slow it down because it has to reproduce to a level sufficient to do the job. you get more lag time. or you piss them off and they pee out goofy esters.
  4. mr beer kits are largely hopped malt in cans, lme packs and booster. they are made so the beginner can make good beer easily, fast, and with little muss or fuss. that being said: with their kits you boil water, then turn it off and remove from burner. you add your malt and stir in. no smell there really. you add cold water to lbk and add your wort to it.. again. no smell. you add the yeast... and let it work its magic. you MIGHT get a faint wafting of hops... some malty smell as it ferments. IF you piss off the yeast they can produce a variety of smells from apple cider to sulfur. nottingham and US04 have on a couple occasions for me made sulfur. not bad... and once i corrected what they were complaining about it got better. (temp and lack of nutrient in a hobo wine, and just temp in a beer). notty can also throw off faint banana smells sometimes. when i brew with malt boils, hops etc the house picks up a smell akin to raisin bran cereal and pine trees. only way i can describe what i detect. take a big whiff from a bran cereal box while holding a fist full of pine needles. if you have a stove hood with a fan, that will help. i cook mine outdoors on a propane burner because in florida, brewing indoors creates gobs of humidity.. and electric stoves suck at heating wort evenly...also cost to operate is high. i love the smell and it doesnt linger more than a couple days. if your brew day assaults your nose and makes you go 'oh gawd im going to puke' then you might be doing something very wrong. use good water. avoid municipal tap water if it is chlorinated. chlorine can make your beer taste and smell like rubbery band aids. ive found wine yeasts to be more likely to throw off big stinks than ale yeast. never use bread yeast for beer. it cant take the alcohol, and it makes nasty bready, yeasty , low alcohol content beer. quality yeast and good water... sanitation... care... and you will make good beer. temperature control is critical even with mr beer kits. every yeast has a sweet spot in temps that they do best at. ale yeast typically likes a range of ambient temps from 58f-66f when they are first getting busy with the ferment (ie 3-5 days). yeast make different esters (flavors) at different temps. you can play with this as you build experience. a hefeweizen yeast at the low range of optimal might make cloves and earthy spice esters. same yeast fermented at the hot range of optimal can make banana or bubble gum esters. hope you have fun with this. it's one of the few hobbies that you can drink your mistakes!
  5. watering down your wort wont do squat to your fg. the impact is to your starting gravity. it makes it lower. water is 1.00. your typical ale starts around 1.04. your typical mr beer without booster is lower. dumping half the wort out reduces the sugars available when you add back the water without adding back the sugars. FG is based on expected yeast attenuation.. . ie how hungry they are. you will likely have the same fg (ie around 1.01). (unless you added lactose..then it will be a point or so higher). you just made 'near beer'. next transfer sanitize a ladle and funnel. put funnel in carboy mouth. ladle the wort into the carboy like this until you have a manageable volume to dump without spillage. . . then do a slow pour using the funnel. a wide mouth funnel that sits a good way into the neck of the carboy helps.
  6. dont boil hme. you drive off everything mr beer worked to put into it like hop essence. if you are doing a hop boil, you need some dme or one of the mr beer LME (unhopped) pouches to boil with the hops. if you just boiled hops and water you made nothing more than hop tea. i tried it once. epic fail. hops need malt in a boil to do their magic. sour and tart are often used interchangeably. wheat beers are naturally tart to a degree. my first impression of wheat was ick...sour. i grew to love them. if you are deliberately making a sour and using something like brett c , then yes.... that fermenter will need to be used for nothing but sours usually. brett is a hardy yeast and will find any scratches or nicks to hide it so ive read. it is doubtful that you had a wort infection. i think you would know. lacto bacillus makes great snotty filmy bubbles that eventually form a pellicle. acetobacter would turn your beer into vinegar. brett also makes a pellicle. mashani ( a former member here ) reported that he has colonies of brett in his AC ducts. just about every other beer ends up a sour for him , which he liked so .... if you just boiled hops in water then dumped in the hme, that's probably impacting the flavor negatively. if you boiled the hme, that could have some negative flavor impact too. next weiss, try boiling less hops like a .25 oz with one pouch of lme golden from mr beer. flame out and remove from heat. add hme and stir in to mix. if you want to dry hop for aroma, put hops in a hop sock on the last week of fermentation. add the sanitized hop sock of hops to the lbk. if you want to get better extraction make sure the hop sock sinks. you can do this by sanitizing a heaviy glass shotglass and adding that to the hop sock with the hops to weigh it down. some use glass marbles that they sanitize. the only molasses smells i ever got in beer were with us04 when i used brown sugar in the beer. the yeast eats the sucrose and leaves behind the molasses. i ended up with a licorice stout.
  7. yep.. ester production typically happens during the most vigorous part of fermentation and during the reproduction / budding phase. only ie the first 3-4 days. now and then i'll have a yeast go nuts for over a week before settling down. oh and with us04... at bottling time if you see little floaty flecks on top this is common. it's just yeast that have linked together on the surface to form 'rafts'. us04 has always made rafts for me for the last 3 plus years.
  8. you can over pitch. 11g in 2.25 gallons just means shorter lag time before it takes off. dont even bother to rehydrate. sprinkle on. dont even have to stir. just make sure you have already agitated the wort to aerate. you will have some cell die off due to osmotic shock but you are still overpitching and will be fine. note: us 04 is a monster. put a cake pan or something under the lbk in your cooler. KEEP YOUR TEMPS AROUND 58-62f ambient. this yeast produces apple like fruity esters when it gets hot. when you start hitting 68f ambient it will start throwing off fruitiness that you might not like in your ale. if at high krausen you see foam shooting out the vent in the lbk leave it be. when things start to subside you can take a spray bottle full of sanitizer or star san water, spray the outside of the lid, the underside, the lbk... take a sanitizer soaked power towel to clean up the mess in the cooler and on the outside of the lbk. either swap the lid for a clean and sanitized one or rinse and sanitize. make sure your vent holes arent clogged... then screw it all back together again, lid on.. i have seen us04 literally act like a volcano, nearly blowing the lid off my fermentation buckets. even expired or past the best by date uso4 has done this for me. side note- you can get a gram scale and a coffee filter and split it into two batches but why? too much effort. too much risk of picking up something on your yeast. yeast is cheapish.
  9. i used to store mine in a drawer to boil later as yeast nutrient for better quality yeast.
  10. i would not use the comb either.. ick. slow pasteurize .. do not boil. boiling honey drives off the chemical compounds , aromas, etc... that make mead complex. really though.. if youre making JOAM it isnt meant to be rocket science.
  11. there are manufacturers of 'honey' in america of 'fake honey'. it is basically honey flavoring added to corn syrup or other crap. cheap ingredients make cheap / meh product. if you can afford spending a ridiculous amount on grade a tupelo unfiltered etc or organic single pollen yadayada honey, go for it. my taste buds arent that sophisticated. the JOAM is not meant to win awards. it is to show you mead making in its most primitive and simple form. it will make a good approximation of mead in a short time. ive made both joam and real quality mead. both came out good. the joam is surprisingly good for how you make it. you can make mead as complicated as you want.. just like beer. i made a blueberry mead (melomel) with quality honey and a quality wine yeast. i racked it about 4 times over a handful of months before bottling. i ended up making an 18% abv mead that actually tasted good , because the yeast were very very healthy and went beyond the expected attenuation. the walmart honey has a good flavor for cheap. it is a mix of many nation's honey so each bottle will be slightly different depending on sourcing.
  12. if you are talking about JAOM recipe... read it carefully. he says leave it alone for the whole 2 months. dont jiggle it. dont rack it. dont feed it nutrients. just follow the instructions to the letter. if you mess this one up then you might need to reconsider brewing as a hobby. he wrote it to be virtually foolproof. that is why he says the recipe will violate all manner of standards and best practices of mead or wine making but dont worry. it is to get you a quick result that is drinkable. if he gives you a 1 gallon recipe and you want to double it? go ahead. the oranges will float on top almost the whole time it is fermenting. it will look like everything stopped but it hasnt. the oranges will start to look really gross but that is ok. since you wont be removing the pith of the peel if you follow it to the letter, you can expect some bitter notes in your mead too. i did my first exactly to the recipe. my second i peeled the orage, sectioned it. i removed using a sanitized spoon, as much pith as i could and added the peel to the mix. do not use more than a single clove for flavor unless you really like the astringency of cloves. i think he adds a clove to his but cant recall atm. do not bottle it until the full couple months time is up. you can use really cheap Sue Bee honey. i have had good results using walmart's 5# bottle of honey... https://www.walmart.com/ip/Pure-N-Simple-Honey-80-oz/19857743 it's cheap. it's real honey. some ppl suggest lightly boiling the honey and water to purify it. i never have. boiling drives off the stuff that makes honey taste naturally good. the only thing i did when concerned about rogue yeasts in honey was to bring water to about 145f-160f, turn off the heat... add the honey , cover and let it cool naturally to room temp. this will kill off yeasts or any bacteria... but again. with JOAM follow it to the letter. if he says just dump honey into water? do it. i havent looked at the recipe in awhile. excuse any repeated info here... im tired. been getting little sleep so i tend to talk in circles.
  13. with the typical wheat beer / hefe / wit yeast... if you ferment on the lower side of 'optimal' you tend to get clove , slight peppery or spicy esters. if you crank up the heat to the right of optimal, you tend to get banana esters and possibly hints of bubblegum. i let a hefe yeast get way too hot once and made gorrilla pee wheat... heavy banana esters. just a general guide. always research your yeast to see how it is expected to behave and what temps it likes.
  14. google: Joe's ancient orange mead recipe. it is a simple show mead or quick mead. just substitute the bread yeast with the beer yeast. wine yeast works better / cleaner but you can try it with beer yeast. JOAM mead is ready in about 2-3 months. my first one came out a little bready but not bad. the oranges floating in the mead before racking looked disgusting , covered with a grey slime film... but it's fine. just yeast colonies and such. this recipe is a down and dirty quick mead. it violates tons of rules used by professional mead makers. it isnt meant to make perfect ooooo gonna win a medal for this mead. it makes a drinkable, fast one. . . that tastes good. my second one i used a cuvee yeast and it came out incredibly complex in flavor. suggestion: if the instructions dont say so do this - take the orange(s) and wash them with an unscented dish soap. use a clean scrubby and very lightly buff the outside peel while washing it. you want to get any insecticide, bacteria, yeast etc off. rinse very well. note - the bread yeast has a low alcohol tolerance and typically dies off leaving a little residual sweetness. . . and a slight bready twang. note 2 - if using beer yeast and the recipe doesnt mention it, ( i think it does ) add a generous handful of raisins to provide some more nutrient. what i did was heat some water on a stove to about 160f. flame out and remove from heat. add your raisins. cover. let it come to room temp. this will kill any stray yeast that might be in the raisins.. or dont bother and just toss them in. it isnt meant to be a perfect mead. there are tons of forums out there with threads on this mead. it is super easy.
  15. side note- when whisking take care to keep the whisk away from the plastic. scratch the plastic and you have lovely places for bacteria to hide.
  16. with extract brewing water chemistry is not critical. you can brew with distilled water and extracts. your wort will have sufficient nutrient. when you start doing grains, that's when chemistry is important. i always used bottled mineral water from my local grocery store. i wrote the wellhead source company and got a full chemical analysis from them, and liked what i saw. for extract, if it tastes good ... it probably will make good beer. a gallon of ice might lower your temps too much depending on the size of the cooler. keep tabs on the temp and modify your ice accordingly for the first couple days. make it too cold and the yeast will go to sleep.
  17. if you put 2 carb drops in normally in a full bottle... and you put 2 in a half bottle , you best check bottle often and bleed off excess co2. i dont bother adding sugar to my trub bottle when there is so little volume in the bottle of actual beer. rather i put it straight in the fridge and give it a couple days for the yeast and trub to compact. then i sample.. being careful to leave the trub in the bottle. there will still be lots of yeast active in your trub bottle so expect gas and some bloating.. maybe the runs unless you are used to drinking live yeast. never judge a beer by your trub sample bottle either. the trub bottle will just have more co2 because of what you did. just bleed off the excess every couple days or so to prevent the plastic bottle from distorting and blowing up. again... when you go to pour your trub bottle to sample... slow careful pour and try to leave all the icky trub in the bottle. it wont kill you if you drink some. trub just tastes like bready yeasty sludge. it might have a bitter edge too. trub is just dead and tired yeast cells, fats, proteins, and settled out byproducts of fermentation. it has lots of vitamin b compounds and can actually be good for you BUT... the presence of live yeast cells will cause you tummy distress. when you drink yeast, they can survive for a short time in your intestine and stomach. theres lots of undigested food and residue in your gut that they will immediately attack for food. this makes gas which has only 2 ways out of you. when they make it to your colon it has the effect of colon blow... once your gut adapts to the presence of so much yeast it isnt so bad. similarly , people who drink kombucha get horrible bloating and gas from the yeast and active bacteria in the culture... as do some people who eat lacto fermented veggies. all of these are great for your gut health but have unpleasant side effects like the runs.
  18. another relatively easy solution for tall fermenter temp control.. get one of these https://www.walmart.com/ip/Sterilite-30-Gal-114-L-EZ-Carry-Flat-Gray-Spicy-Lime/111488611 one that is tall enough to accomodate the fermenter and airlock if any. line it with reflectix insulation inside and out... https://www.walmart.com/ip/Reflectix-Insulation/38752784 you will have room enough for probably 2 buckets and ice bottles. then add one of these... https://www.walmart.com/ip/HDE-LCD-Digital-Fish-Tank-Aquarium-Thermometer-Terrarium-Marine-Temperature-Black/178909155 probe in the box, display outside the box. you can shut the lid on the wire with no problems. that's how i do mine. it isnt air tight but i can keep a ferment at 58f easily by swapping out bottles of ice on a schedule.
  19. if you are handy with tools and have some bucks to blow... go to hardware store. get some wood and some styrofoam sheets.. make a box lined with styrofaom to accomodate the fermenter. you can put the lid on the top like a lift off lid. add a cheap thermometer with a probe to put inside. add a bottle of ice..tada. it would be easy enough to make unless you have no coordination, are almost blind and have the shakes like me. or get a cheap mini fridge tall enough to fit the fermenter. remove shelves. insert fermenter. add thermometer probe. find the setting that keeps it around 60-64f for ale.
  20. rick nailed it as usual. another thing you can do is a steep of carapils (crushed grain) to add body and head retention. foam is entirely for looks. i'm fine if the head collapses after only a couple minutes. as for cold impacting taste, that's why i drink room temp beer. every time i have chilled a beer it tastes muted and slightly acidic for lack of a better word. (largely due to more co2 in solution). i think the only beer i would ever intentionally chill for me would be a kolsch. i'm not a fan of that saddle blanket / straw taste that some kolsch yeast produces. (unless its the hops they used in it?) chilling it knocks it back a few notches. i might chill a 'lawnmower beer' too.
  21. another thing you can do when you get the brewing bug... become 'that guy' who can only talk for hours about yeast , beer and brewing. that was me. a colleague at work made the mistake of telling me he was into beer one day. for over a year i would corner him to go on and on about my latest brewing exploits, how wonderful yeast are, etc. not everyone shares your obsession. they just want free beer. another reason i like this forum... you can come here and talk for hours about brewing and no one will look at you like you are some kind of preachy weirdo or something. yep i can look back and laugh. oh and for the record? my kind of chimay red not quite clone came out great. after only 1 month in the bottle it has a lovely banana ester, a nice heaviness that i like, a light hoppy presence.... was it worth the extra work to do a decoction mash? i think so. i'm trying to be good and keep my hands off them. ive only had 5 bottles in one month.. 32 left in the cooler. hope to see how going more than 2 months impacts the flavor. must....resist.... incidentally danstar abbaye yeast does a good job. first time using it. i kept the temp at over 72f for most of the first 2 weeks and it makes fairly strong banana notes.
  22. re new brewer jitters... most if not all of us have been there. really want to get it right. you want to enjoy the hobby but you dont want to make mistakes. some of us obsess like first time parents on our first beers. we rush to the fermenter every 5 minutes and freak out at everything we see. common freak outs: omg it's not doing anything! i mean i pitched the yeast 2 hours ago and it's just sitting there! i mustve killed the yeast! - lol. that was me. yeast can take a day or 2 to get started. it's not uncommon for yeast to start off slow, especially if you didnt give them any o2 at the start. or if they arent happy with the temps. omg i see foam! it must be an infection! - foam on top is krausen. krausen is an old german word for 'hey! i'm making beer!' or something. foam on top = good. omg there's a layer of sludge on the bottom! i mustve killed the yeast! - sludge on bottom is 'trub', another old german word that means 'see i told you i was making beer'.. or something. omg i used whirlfloc and now it looks like my fermenter is full of sea weed! - me again. whirlfloc is made from sea weed or irish moss more correctly. when it first expands to trap proteins and such before it settles out, it can look pretty gross. omg i took a sample from the spigot and it tastes like bread! it must be an infection! - no. you are sampling trub. trub is yeast poop, lazy or dead yeast cells, fats, proteins, etc. prop up the spigot end a little with a couple cd cases and trub will settle out behind the spigot. not where it can flow out. omg i dropped a piece of label from a can in my wort! - it happens. you will likely be fine. if you want you can either remove the labels ahead of time on brew day or just give the can a quick dunk in sanitizer before you open it. i never worried about it. just use a sanitized spoon to fish the label out. etc. once yeast get going they are very tough and will aggressively defend their turf against intruders like bacteria, mold, other yeasts. you can still get these infections but healthy yeast that are happy will likely keep these things away. use proper sanitation and care and youre golden. so relax. ask questions. try to not panic. be orderly and take care while brewing. limit distractions. keep the dog and cat out of your brewing area. keep the kids out. follow instructions.. take your time. wait til youre done with brew day THEN have a beer. -z-
  23. welcome. relax. your first few brews will probably be full of mistakes unless you have ocd about following instructions to the letter. use these to learn the process. dont expect that your first few beers will be super awesome. they might be.. they probably will be at least as good if not better than store bought run of the mill beer. your first brews should be simple.. which is why we warn about not getting all mad scientist too early. the most important things to know when starting: 1. patience. can you make beer in 7 days? sure. will it be good beer? probably not. 2. dont lift the lid once its going. you can 'perv' the yeast all you want from the outside. just dont freak out when you see things like foam or gunk 3. ask. every mistake you can make has been made at least once by probably every other person here. there are no dumb questions. you WILL make mistakes. they happen. you might drop a label peel in the wort. you might forget to stir. you might do any number of things... we've all been there. relax. 4. yeast are incredibly hardy. if you dont go doing silly things to them like adding boiling water to them or stirring with a used toilet brush, they will do what they do. they might not do it like you hoped but they are living things. they do what they do. give them food, shelter and proper temps and time. 5. you dont need to stir them in. agitate the wort before you pitch. they will find the food. you agitate at the start to mix in o2. o2 is needed at the very start of fermentation only... the reproduction stage. once the yeast get going? leave them be. 6. yeast are not vampires. you will not skunk a beer under normal house light. UV light skunks hop oil. (sulfur development) 7. learn all you can. . . but dont be too eager to start new techniques and styles until you have built up on your basics. can you immediately start doing all grain? sure... but all grain is complicated as heck. math.. chemistry... science... more equipment. more work... learn the basics. master them. give yourself about 2 years of nothing but kits while you learn. gradually add stuff like hop boils with unhopped extract. .. or steeping grains. now one last point. remember this: garbage in - garbage out. if your water is full of chlorine from the tap.. or tastes like sewage, dont use it. chlorine can contribute an off flavor that is like rubber or band aids. use a good bottled mineral water. for extract brewing you can even use reverse osmosis or distilled water. the most important thing is that it tastes ok in the glass. good to drink? probably good for extract beers. if you ever get into all grain, that is when water chemistry becomes super important. good luck and happy brewing! if you get to the point where it's frustrating the snot out of you.. or you feel 'gosh.. this is hard work. i dont like this'... find a new hobby. no point in doing something as a hobby that you dont enjoy. you can make this as simple or as hard as you want. that's why i like brewing. i love making things difficult with gobs of science and extra steps. im weird that way. -z- ps. mr beer has an awesome customer support system. if something goes horribly wrong that isnt directly due to negligence on your part, they can work with you. if a spigot breaks for example, let them know. dont come here to bad mouth mr beer if you over-torqued the spigot. (which happens btw if you arent careful).
  24. yeast are living things. living things act weird from time to time. no 2 fermentations will be identical for this reason. i double pitched us04 that was expired, thinking i needed to boost cell count. big mistake. it was still very very viable and the fermentation was a gushing volcano for over a day plus. i've seen us04 behave like saison yeast.. slow, dainty eater with a very small krausen head. same yeast. ive had rafts of yeast on some batches at bottling, that were absent on others. you can predict the flavor outcome based on temperatures and expected ester development. you cant predict how vigorously the yeast will feed. that's one of the things i find fascinating about yeast.
  25. a good cooler with 1/2 to 1 liter bottle of ice should keep things cool for about 12-14 hours. before you start using this method with wort, get a wireless digital thermometer or a cheap aquarium probe type thermometer. put the sensor in the cooler. add a bottle of ice, close lid and monitor temps. keep a log and check it every hour. this will give you a good understanding of how much ice will impact the ambient temp inside and for how long. I use a cheap submersible aquarium thermometer. I put the probe inside and close the lid on the wire leading to the display. I set the display on top of the cooler so I can easily see it. a swing of maybe 2 0r 3 degrees isn't that drastic if your temps are good to begin with. so if you are late changing the bottle out it shouldn't make that much of a difference.