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Homebrew Beer All Year Long - Even in Warm Climates
Warm Temperatures Are The Enemy Of Homebrewing
For people that live in a warm climate, one of the enemies of homebrewing is hot temperatures. Up until recently, I have started the brewing year near Oktoberfest with apple cider beer and then end the brewing year in late May with apple cider beer again. In between, it is beer, beer, beer.
The reasoning was that the yeast for the apple cider beer can still thrive in warmer temperatures, up to 78 degrees but the beer yeast needed temperatures of 76 or below. Since I don't have a cellar and don't have special temperature-controlled brewing equipment, the most economical thing to do is to wait until the temperatures have cooled off. Even during the cooler temperatures of the year (like this year), tropical winds can blow in and warm things up prohibitively. I was brewing lager this winter and needed to turn on the air conditioner to keep temperatures down.
The cheap and easy solution is to use yeast that thrives at warmer temperatures. There are also inexpensive options to use equipment so that you can brew any yeast all year long as well.
You've already figured out, most likely, that I am not a master homebrewer. The practical engineer/scientist is me overrules tendencies that I have to delve into brewing more deeply. I will have some tips later in the article on some practical ways to brew your own tasty beer or ale. But, if you are looking for an article on craft brewing, then you will definitely need to look around some more (but hopefully I have something that might interest you).
Beer and Friends in a Mountain Cabin
How to Brew Cooler Worts in Warm Temperatures
There are still pretty economical ways to brew lagers and other beers that require cooler brewing temperatures in warm temperatures. If you want a special beer for Oktoberfest, for instance, and the temperatures outside are still too warm to make your house cool economically then you can still have your brew with a little bit of extra investment and planning (yum).
One option is to purchase a wine refrigerator that is big enough for your beer fermenter container. Just make sure it has removable shelves and your container will fit. One advantage of this option is that you can see your wort as it is fermenting without opening the door. Another advantage is that you can use yeast that never perform well at the temperatures that you keep in your house. Check to see what temperatures it supports to make sure it will work for the beer, ale, or lager you are planning. The ideal wine serving temperature may be a little cool or even warm for some of the brews you are contemplating. Of course, if you need temperatures near freezing, a regular refrigerator works.
A second option is to use an old refrigerator with a thermostat and probe to control the temperature. The refrigerator is plugged into the thermostat and the probe is placed in the refrigerator. The thermostat turns the refrigerator on and off to keep it near the temperature you specify. The temperature range for the thermocouple is wider than the wine cooler (and of course your refrigerator) so you can brew at virtually any temperature while controlling the temperature of your wort closely.
There are other options such as using kegerators or special brew-making equipment that can control temperature but I am limiting my discussion to options that are inexpensive and available to many brewers. I haven't investigated it but WilliamsWarn has a BrewMaster that looks very intriguing - for those of you that are hard core.
Mr. Beer Brewing Explained - This is the Basic Method I Use
How to Brew Any Time, All Year Long!
What prompted me to write this article was the discovery that Coopers brewing yeast can be used at temperatures from 70°F to 80°F (or 21°C to 27°C). The yeast I had been using in the Mr. Beer kits that I had bought needed to stay below 76°F or 24.4°C. The danger if the temperature gets too high is that the yeast reproduce tiny mutant deviant yeast (which sounds like a very bad thing) instead of nice healthy normal yeast. Or, your brewing could just halt and you end up with a bad batch. Consequently, I would only brew beer for certain months during the year since it didn't seem worth it to go through the extra steps to keep the wort cool enough. My refrigerator is in the garage and I don't like to run it in the hot weather because it wasn't designed for that. It is also old and inefficient. With the Coopers yeast that problem is solved and I can let the temperature creep up during the hot afternoons to save money and still brew beer!
The other thing I liked about the Coopers yeast is that it says it is more temperature tolerant in general than other yeasts I have found. Sometimes it is difficult to get your wort temperature in the range you want so that you can add your yeast. With this yeast, it says to add if it is in the range of 64°F to 90°F (or 18°C to 32°C) - which is very easy to do. This reduces the challenge of adding cold water or putting the container in an ice bath to try to quickly lower the temperature. I will still aim for the ideal brewing temperature but won't be too worried if I am off slightly. And yes, every time I brew beer I worry that something went wrong...
Coopers Brewing Yeast Handles Warm Temperatures
You get 7g of Brewing Yeast, enough for 6 gallons
Use a Thermostat to Control Your Brew Temperature
This is a newer model of the one I have.
Me With a Beer
Homebrew Tips and Other Brewing Tips
I won't repeat the tips you see everywhere - cleanliness is so important, etc. Check out the video for these types of tips. Here are a few things I have picked up over the years though.
- You can brew great tasting beer using inexpensive beer kits like Mr. Beer. I really, really like my homebrewed beer. I know that there are better beers out there but there is nothing like drinking your own beer.
- I don't like spending a lot of money on specialty beers and think it's worth it to brew your own instead. You can add extra ingredients (like blueberries or lemon or spices) and hops and things to jazz up your wort and make some really good beers. There are lots of recipes around you can adapt and still use with your basic kit ingredients.
- Buy two or three Mr. Beer brewing kegs and make larger quantities of beer at once. A lot of the recipes are for five or six gallons of beer. You can just use like two Mr. Beer kegs and make it a little stronger or three and add more food for the yeast (like cans of fruit, honey, extra dry malt extract, etc.). I just do two and make it a little stronger or spread the dry malt extract over multiple batches.
- Have a written plan ahead of time. Even though you think you know what you want to do, it's good to have your plan written out. Then, when you have to adapt (and you will), then go back and modify your plan or add notes for next time.
- If you are using a refrigerator or wine cooler to brew beer, you can also let your beer age in it after it is bottled and has carbonated, which is generally better.
- Expect to spend more time than you think you need so you are not rushed. Something always seems to pop up or take longer than you think or your timing is off a little so you have to take longer in the end (at least for me).
- Drink a beer while making beer - preferably your own beer.
These are only a few tips. Share your tips in the comments! Enjoy your beer!