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May 14, 2005, 12:16 am
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How do you handle the heat?
As I sat in my car this past Saturday afternoon watching the beads of sweat
form on my forehead in the rearview, I suddenly had the inspiration for the
topic of this month's brewing tips: Hot Climate Brewing.
There is a common misbelief that good beer simply cannot be made in a warm
climate. Unfortunately, this causes many brewers to pack up their fermenters
and go into hiding for three months out of the year. So if you are thinking
about putting away the keg and calling it quits for the summer, read these
tips first and then you too can have a brewriffic summer!
Firstly, we need to define what "hot" means. Mr. Beer yeast is specially
designed to ferment within a very wide temperature range. However, the ideal
fermenting temperature range for Mr. Beer yeast is 67 to 72 degrees.
Therefore, we will call anything above 72 degrees "hot".
In order to keep your tasty brew happily fermenting below 72 degrees in the
summer months you may chose from either of these well tested methods. The
most obvious solution is to ferment your beer in a spare refrigerator. The
refrigerator technique is nice because you can easily control the ambient
(surrounding) temperature, but sadly only a few of us have a spare
refrigerator that we can dedicate to our beloved homebrew.
But there is hope for the rest of us committed brewers. An ice chest stocked
with some frozen 1-2 liter soda bottles filled with water can also do the
trick. This is a much more cost effective alternative to using a
refrigerator, and is very easily managed. To raise or lower the ambient
temperature inside the chest simply add or remove frozen bottles. Make sure
to keep extra frozen bottles in the freezer and create a rotation schedule
so you always have frozen bottles in your ice chest. Believe it or not, I
have even used this method to lager my beer!
The most important aspect to either of these cooling techniques is to know
the ambient temperature. If you do not measure the surrounding temperature
of the keg you will not know if you have an ideal brewing temperature. To
measure the temperature of your brewing surroundings you can either use a
Mr. Beer brew temperature gauge (brewmometer) as I do, or for an even more
accurate temp reading, you can use a thermometer in a glass of water. To do
this, simply fill a glass with water and then set a thermometer inside the
glass. Finally, set the glass next to your keg. After it has sat by your keg
for a few hours check the thermometer and you will have a very accurate
reading of the ambient temperature.
Taking the temp from the water glass instead of the air is more accuarate
because, unlike the air, the water temp will not change rapidly as you open
the door to the cooler or refrigerator to check on your keg. After you know
the surrounding temp you can begin needed adjustments by adding/removing
frozen bottles from your ice chest, or by raising/lowering the temp dial of
Use these practices and you will never have to face the long hot days of
summer without a frosty homebrew in your hand again. As brewers we must rise
to each challenge and overcome for the sake of our taste buds and those
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