We have all heard this said when it comes to real estate, but did you know that location is also important in homebrewing? Experienced homebrewers may know why, so for those who are fairly new to brewing I will explain why.
If you have read the label directions on your yeast (or the recipe you are using) you will know that when fermenting with a lager yeast you should do so at a temperature range of 45 to 55 °F (7 to 13 °C) and for ales 68 to 72 °F (20 to 22 °C). So the rest is easy, right? Find a place that you know the temperature is what is called for, place your fermenter there and wait for your airlock to quit bubbling. So now you have waited for what you think is the correct amount of time (since you have read all the forums and the recipe says it should be done fermenting), but something is wrong!
Where did you place your bucket? On a shelf in a cupboard, close to a window that is always being opened and closed, did you set it on the floor or perhaps you placed it in the laundry room or near the furnace. Did you know that depending on where and in what room, that it can have an effect on your fermenting time?
You must remember that heat rises, so depending on where your fermenter is placed you could be lagering at a higher temperature than you think. The time of year and where you live may also play a role in the temperature of where you place your bucket. If it is in the spring the ground may be thawing, causing your room to become colder, over a few weeks time this could play a role in making sure that your yeast has the proper temperature to do its job.
The laundry room in your unfinished basement may seem like a perfect place to ferment your ale as it may have a thermostat so that you can set it to the optimum temperature. Oh... did I mention that this temperature will vary due to the heat generated by using the washer and dryer?
While the varying temperature may not play a significant role in your fermenting process, you should be aware that it may hinder how quickly and how well your yeast works.
On another note - I was once told that you should never point out potential problems unless you have a possible solution. So here are a couple of solutions for fermenting each type of yeast.
- if you have an old refrigerator or freezer that has a temperature controller on it, you could set it to the optimum temperature and place your fermenter in there.
- if you are in between kegs you could always use your kegerator to store your fermenter
- there are electric brew belts and jackets specifically for brewing on the market. Simply wrap them around your fermenter and they will keep it warm (always read and follow the directions)
- use an aquarium heater. Set your fermenter in a large wash tub and fill with warm water, add the aquarium heater and set it to the temp you want. Try to fill the tub as much as you can so that the heated water surrounds most of the liquid in your fermenter - that way the contents will stay at a consistent temperature
An easy way to monitor the temperature in your fermenter without disturbing your yeast is to use a stopper with a thermowell attachment.
If you are ready to get some elaborate homebrewing equipment you could always purchase fermenters that come with heating and cooling systems, but these do come at a hefty price. I know many homebrewers are not yet ready to take this step and use their own way of heating and cooling, and their homebrews turn out just fine.