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jasbo

Controlling fermentation temps

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Hello, everyone. I'm the latest new guy. I have a couple of questions before I start my first Mr. Beer batch, probably tomorrow.

 

1. I've read over the instructions and seen they recommend 68 to 76 as a target fermentation range. But many of the regulars on this forum seem to favor the mid-60s. Can you tell me what the thinking is on this?

 

2. Since fermentation will bump the wort temperature, should I try to put the LBK in a cooler room the first few days for active fermentation, then move it to a warmer room, or is it better to let it stay put than be carting it all over the house? I'm planning to use an old picnic cooler for insulation and light control. I figure I can put jugs of cold or warm water inside the box to help correct the temps. Would that be enough?

 

Years ago, I did some brewing, maybe 15 batches of the buckets-and-carboys thing, but it's been years, so I'm glad to see there are helpful people here ready to lend a hand. Thanks in advance.

 

BTW, You won't have to convince me to exercise patience. I remember from 8 or 10 years ago that the batch is done when it's done, not when the calendar says. And I remember with some pain that the best beers I drank were the ones that sat in the bottle for 8 or 9 months. The pain was from the fact that just as they were getting really good they were gone.

 

Jim

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1)  The newest recommendation is to keep the fermentation as close to 65-68.  The folks at Mr. Beer can comment further.

 

2)  From what I've read, avoid moving the keg once you've pitched the yeast.  Picnic cooler is great, just get some 20oz bottles of your favorite soda, and refill them with water.  Freeze the bottles, and if the temp of the fermenting beer gets too high, put a frozen bottle or two around it to keep the temp down.

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Fermenting too warm will cause the yeast to create off flavors, in particular a "green apple" flavor.  Keeping the wort temp at 65 or below will help prevent this.  @MiniYoda's suggestions for keeping things cool are right on.  My basement stays pretty cool, but in the summer the temperature hits around 70.  At that point I keep the LBK in a cooler with two bottles of frozen water that I change out a couple of times each day.  This works out very well for me.  Of course, you could always go for a more elaborate system with a fridge and a temperature controller, but that's not necessarily a requirement unless you're looking to brew lagers (which need to ferment much cooler than ales).

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I keep my LBKs in a cooler at 65, using ice bottles to keep them there.  I usually have to swap them out a few times a day during the first few days, but once high krausen is done I usually do it once a day as necessary..  After the first week I don't worry too much if the temp gets up around 70, though.  According to some of the much more experienced brewers on here, at that point in the process it won't cause off flavors.

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2 hours ago, jasbo said:

I've read over the instructions and seen they recommend 68 to 76 as a target fermentation range. But many of the regulars on this forum seem to favor the mid-60s. Can you tell me what the thinking is on this?

 

The long and the short of it is that if you go too high with the temp, you may end up with off flavors. The only way to fix that is a long, long conditioning period, and even that doesn't always fix it. On the other hand, if you go too cold, worst case the yeast goes dormant. That will extend your fermentation time a little, but it's easy to fix (specifically, move it somewhere warmer). Like every brewing rule, there are exceptions, such as wheat or saison yeasts that develop different esters at warmer temps that may be intentionally created per the style.

2 hours ago, jasbo said:

Since fermentation will bump the wort temperature, should I try to put the LBK in a cooler room the first few days for active fermentation, then move it to a warmer room, or is it better to let it stay put than be carting it all over the house? I'm planning to use an old picnic cooler for insulation and light control. I figure I can put jugs of cold or warm water inside the box to help correct the temps. Would that be enough?

 

It's not really necessary to move it somewhere warmer later in fermentation, although temperature control is especially critical during the first week. A picnic cooler is the simplest and least expensive temperature control. I usually recommend 1 or 2 frozen water bottles changed out every 12 hours to keep it cool, or a hot water bottle every so often to keep warm. Of course, there are many products to help with  temperature issues, some we sell currently (http://www.mrbeer.com/digital-temperature-controller-outlet-thermostat), and some we'll be adding this year.

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1 hour ago, MRB Tim said:

 

The long and the short of it is that if you go too high with the temp, you may end up with off flavors. The only way to fix that is a long, long conditioning period, and even that doesn't always fix it. On the other hand, if you go too cold, worst case the yeast goes dormant. That will extend your fermentation time a little, but it's easy to fix (specifically, move it somewhere warmer). Like every brewing rule, there are exceptions, such as wheat or saison yeasts that develop different esters at warmer temps that may be intentionally created per the style.

 

It's not really necessary to move it somewhere warmer later in fermentation, although temperature control is especially critical during the first week. A picnic cooler is the simplest and least expensive temperature control. I usually recommend 1 or 2 frozen water bottles changed out every 12 hours to keep it cool, or a hot water bottle every so often to keep warm. Of course, there are many products to help with  temperature issues, some we sell currently (http://www.mrbeer.com/digital-temperature-controller-outlet-thermostat), and some we'll be adding this year.

 

Tease! :)

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Thanks for the replies, everyone. It looks like the instructions have changed from the ones I saw online. The instructions I got Friday with my kit say 65-72. That should be easier for me to achieve, since we keep our house around 65 this time of year.

 

On the down side, I was bummed to discover the fermenter that arrived with my kit had a problem and I won't be able to start my first batch until the folks at Mr. Beer send me a new one. There was a bad seal between the LBK and the spigot. Josh Beer at Mr. Beer said the pic I emailed them exhibited "bad flashing." Does this happen often? It seems like something they would check for before sending it out. The two halves just don't meet up properly.

 

Jim

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37 minutes ago, jasbo said:

Thanks for the replies, everyone. It looks like the instructions have changed from the ones I saw online. The instructions I got Friday with my kit say 65-72. That should be easier for me to achieve, since we keep our house around 65 this time of year.

 

On the down side, I was bummed to discover the fermenter that arrived with my kit had a problem and I won't be able to start my first batch until the folks at Mr. Beer send me a new one. There was a bad seal between the LBK and the spigot. Josh Beer at Mr. Beer said the pic I emailed them exhibited "bad flashing." Does this happen often? It seems like something they would check for before sending it out. The two halves just don't meet up properly.

 

Jim

 

Bummer!

 

The good news is the Mr Beer team excels at customer service. They will take care of you!

 

Manufacturing......just can't get to 100%. Even if you hit 99.9........someone is going to experience the ill effects of that .01.

 

Hang in there and  think of it this way, you get to get started on the most critical element of home brewing....patience!

 

Waiting to get started sucks, but it just a tease for when your beer is brewed and you realize....wait....I'm not going to be drinking this until when!!!!!

 

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They used various suppliers at one point, and some kits in retail had issues.  Several I bought a few years back they had to replace.

 

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7 hours ago, MrWhy said:

Hang in there and  think of it this way, you get to get started on the most critical element of home brewing....patience!

Well, I've already failed the first test of patience. Instead of waiting for Mr. Beer to deliver a replacement keg, I went to the semi-local Winco today and bought a keg-and-extract kit just to get a functioning fermenter. I really want to get this batch going this weekend so I can bottle before a vacation we have coming up in mid-April.

 

Now I have something you might call a happy problem. I have to decide which extract kit to do first, the Bewitched Amber that came with today's kit or the American Lager or Aztec Mexican Cerveza that came with the original kit. Any thoughts out there? Has anyone found any of those to be favorites, or closer to fool-proof?

 

Jim

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As far as fool proof, they are all the same.  Any fool can brew these (trust me...this fool has).  I agree with RickBeer that the Bewitched Amber Ale is very good.  Second choice would be the Cerveza, and I'd save the American Ale for another batch.

 

If you are torn, consider this.......which one has the youngest expiration date.  They are all safe, but that might help you flip the three-sided coin

 

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Just sampled the BAA I'm bottling tomorow. Already the best Mr.B I have tasted!

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Well, that was quick. Never made beer before breakfast before. Took about 20-25 minutes.

 

Others have probably figured this out, but I'd add one thing to the list of items to sanitize: scissors. I found the yeast packet tough to tear so had to do a quick sanitize on a pair of scissors to cut it open. Other than that I think it went well. Thanks for the help, everyone.

 

EDIT: OOPS ALERT. Damn this is embarrassing, but I just had this fear fall over me that I didn't give the wort a good stir before pitching the yeast. I'm not sure, but I don't have a distinct recollection of mixing it all together after adding the final few quarts of water.

 

Would you, wait a couple days to see if it starts to ferment or agitate the fermenter, or even open the top and give it a stir? Like I said, embarrassing.

 

Jim

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1 hour ago, jasbo said:

Well, that was quick. Never made beer before breakfast before. Took about 20-25 minutes.

 

Others have probably figured this out, but I'd add one thing to the list of items to sanitize: scissors. I found the yeast packet tough to tear so had to do a quick sanitize on a pair of scissors to cut it open. Other than that I think it went well. Thanks for the help, everyone.

 

EDIT: OOPS ALERT. Damn this is embarrassing, but I just had this fear fall over me that I didn't give the wort a good stir before pitching the yeast. I'm not sure, but I don't have a distinct recollection of mixing it all together after adding the final few quarts of water.

 

Would you, wait a couple days to see if it starts to ferment or agitate the fermenter, or even open the top and give it a stir? Like I said, embarrassing.

 

Jim

 

I wouldn't mess with it at this point. Yeast is an adaptable and hardy organism. It should be fine.

 

Not stirring before pitching won't stop fermentation.

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Agitating the fermenter merely causes beer to slosh out the air vents...

 

Agreed, leave it alone.

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Thanks, guys. It's live and learn time, I guess. Today's lesson: Always be suspicious when you hear yourself say, "Boy, that was easy."

 

Jim

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Hey, everybody. I thought I'd revive this 4-week-old thread just to say my Bewitched Amber Ale seems to have survived my first-kit jitters. It fermented nicely despite my forgetting to stir before pitching the yeast.

 

I bottled yesterday after 21 days at 65 degrees and four days in the fridge. The Igloo cooler with ice early on worked like a charm. And the shot glass I drew to clear the gunk out of the spigot's gateway before bottling tasted real promising, not at all sweet.

 

I do have another question, though, and thought I'd ask it here rather than start another topic.

 

Can I reuse the sanitizer I used for the bottling yesterday to treat spoon, spatula, scissors, etc for a new batch two or three days later? Everything I sanitized with it (brand new Mr. Beer bottles and a wand) was clean to start with, so I figured it wouldn't be exhausted. I just decided to pour it from the bottles right back into the 1-gallon water jug I used to mix it. It's the Cooper's stuff that came with the kit. Thanks.

 

P.S.: Next up is the 1776 Ale. It looked like it might be a good early drinker to build inventory.

 

Jim

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You can re-use the Mr. Beer sanitizer within one week IF YOU STORE IT IN AN AIRTIGHT CONTAINER IN THE FRIG, then warm it to room temp before using it.  Otherwise, no you cannot.  

 

It is oxygen based, so you can't just let it sit.  

 

You should be using 1/2 the packet, so you should have plenty to both do a batch and then do the bottles 3 weeks later.  

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3 minutes ago, jasbo said:

Can I reuse the sanitizer I used for the bottling yesterday to treat spoon, spatula, scissors, etc for a new batch two or three days later? Everything I sanitized with it (brand new Mr. Beer bottles and a wand) was clean to start with, so I figured it wouldn't be exhausted. I just decided to pour it from the bottles right back into the 1-gallon water jug I used to mix it. It's the Cooper's stuff that came with the kit. Thanks.

 

P.S.: Next up is the 1776 Ale. It looked like it might be a good early drinker to build inventory.

 

Jim

Jim,

 

Glad to hear your first batch is going well.  With regard to the Mr. Beer sanitizer it doesn't have a long shelf life.  Same day is about as good as I would trust it for sanitizing.

I use StarSan which when mixed using distilled water can be used over and over again until it becomes cloudy or the PH rises to above 3. 

An 8 oz bottle of concentrate will last over a year unless you really brew a lot.

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Thanks, gents. At least I assume Rick and BDawg are gents. In the end, I guess it seems silly to economize on sanitizer, when it comes with every Mr. Beer kit. I was just thinking that conserving was a good idea. But if there's any risk at all, it's better to use the new envelope that comes with the can.

 

Jim

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