Dialing in beer temps from brew day to bottling

Don’t spread this around, but brewing pretty good beer at home is easy . If you can boil pasta and follow a few simple instructions while paying strict attention to keeping things sanitary, even a rookie can put together a decent all grain brew with minimal investment or brewing knowledge. So why then doesn’t everyone do it, and why again do people pay upwards of $20/bottle for some holy grail Ale? The answer to both is at once simple and the same… brewing GREAT beer is actually quite hard and requires an absolute attention to detail, a bit of luck(or the clever use of math to reduce luck’s part asymptotically to near 0!) and using a quality recipe. As it turns out, temperature adjustments at key times in the process can make a dramatic difference in the quality of your final product.

If I had to pick one dimension that most radically affects a beer’s overall flavor and character it would be mash temperature. Different styles, grain bills and personal taste may lead to confusion here. For beginners I solidly place the magic number at 153°F with a tendency to err slightly warmer up to, but no more than 155°F.  This works in concert with my choice of highly attenuating ale yeasts and favorable water chemistry which yield a typical FG of 1.010 and just the right malt backbone for a variety of IPAs/DIPAs. If you find your gravity readings are much higher, ie 1.016-1.018, and the beer a bit too malty/sweet then adjust down a couple of degrees at a time until you find a balance you like. Aiming right for Stone’s magic Enjoy By mash temp of 147°F will most likely dry the heck out of your beer and leave little to no mouthfeel, body or malt flavor. Remember, people spend years, lifetimes even exploring the nuances of this age-old chemistry.

Boil your wort vigorously! Extract and partial mash brewers are likely to find their brewing instructions do not always encourage a full length boil. Generally this is due to the use of a hopped liquid malt extract or an attempt to shorten the brewing schedule. Without going into excessive detail, always adjust for this, adding the HME towards the end of the boil if need be and put your wort through 60 mins minimum of high heat. In the case of a partial mash this is essential to boil off sulfurous compounds and begin the coagulation and precipitation of protein called hot break. These proteins will cause beer haze and off flavors if not removed.

Hop stands are growing in popularity and I for one am completely on board. Standard hopping schedules call for an end of boil aroma addition that typically does not have sufficient exposure to the wort. In other words, you turn off the burner, add the aroma hops, cool, remove the hops and move to the fermenter. This idea calls for a stand at post boil temp for upwards of 45 minutes allowing the aroma hops to steep. This is a simple step between the hot and cold breaks that will radically improve the flavor and aroma contribution of late hop additions.

Cool your wort as fast as you can manage! As a follow-up to the hot break this is called the cold break. Both are aimed at removing protein from the beer and reducing haze while improving flavor and shelf-life. Lower the wort’s temp to roughly 80°F as quickly as possible using an ice bath or wort chiller, etc. The wort is now ready to be moved to the fermenter and aerated.

What is the perfect fermentation temp? This will vary depending on the yeast strain you choose. Two key factors here are understanding what the manufacturer means by their stated temperature range and the effects of variation within that range. Wort fermentation creates heat. If you are not measuring your wort’s temp directly, it is essential to adjust for this. If your target wort temp is 60°F, factoring in an average +5° to a maximum +10° bump from the yeast’s activity, ambient temp would need to be 50°-55°F. Remember at 55°F, if the yeast makes the wort 10 degrees warmer you are now fermenting at 65°F! With all that in mind, it get’s slightly more complicated as you adjust the beer’s character within the target range. Unlike mash temp, you always want to aim low as there is little to no risk save stalling a finicky strain. At the higher end, as the yeast reaches its max recommended temp, undesirable flavors, excessive esters and higher alcohols will be produced yielding fruity booziness that’s generally terrible to taste. Hold the beer at the lowest advisable temp possible until primary fermentation is complete. Verify this with a hydrometer if possible otherwise allow ample time.

Diacetyl rests are a simple yet often overlooked means to improve the flavor of homebrew. After holding your fermentation temp at the lower end of the advised range until reaching the desired FG, raise the beer’s temp 5-10 degrees. This will encourage the yeast to consume its byproducts, namely diacetyl and greatly improve the flavor. 3-4 days of elevated temps in secondary or just prior to bottling is sufficient.

For naturally carbonated beer conditioning temp is another key factor. Now that the beer has been bottled, it is essential to warm the beer to the yeast’s max temperature or slightly higher to encourage proper sequestering of CO2 and complete consumption of the primer and byproducts. This is absolutely essential for proper conditioning of a Saison yeast, but advised under all circumstances. This will further reduce and remove any remaining diacetyl that was not broken down during the resting period. If your bottles fail to carbonate and you are sure you added primer raise the temperature a bit more and wait.

Hit the numbers. You’ll hear it again and again, what temp did you mash at, ferment at, how long was the boil, did you let the bottles warm up enough? Temperature control is a key factor in each stage of brewing. Keep these tips in mind and cooking up your next batch of brew will yield a much better tasting beer.



About mrhopsbeertalk
Avid homebrewer and craft beer taster. I love all the hops I can get. #hops #ipa #iipa #ipl #porter #dipa #specialtyale #saison #craftbeer western mass · mrhopsbeertalk.wordpress.com

2 Responses to Dialing in beer temps from brew day to bottling

  1. Reblogged this on Valley Beer Hole and commented:
    Nice write up with good easy to follow advice. From mrhopsbeertalk

  2. Pingback: Mastering 3724 – Brewing with the Dupont Saison yeast round 4 #3724Saisonyeast #Summerbrewing #warmtempyeast |

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