When I first started brewing, I kept it simple. I started with extract and eventually moved to all-grain, followed recipes like they were gospel, sanitized like a mad man and let the beer do it’s thing. One specific area that I made note of but had little control over was fermentation temperature. I did my best to try to keep the fermentation temperature within the ideal range, but I was limited to a closet and to be honest, it would get hot as Hades in there at points.
Utilizing this sit and hope method, I made good beer and drinkable beer. But, it wasn’t amazing. I knew that I needed to make the move to control fermentation temperatures. I could build a bells and whistles brewery but if I couldn’t maintain fermentation temperatures it was a lost cause.
This is where fermentation chambers come in. I decided to splurge and buy a chest freezer with a digital Johnson Controls temperature controller. All I can say is that…now I make great beer. The fermentation chamber was an absolute game changer for me and my pursuit to make better beer. Here are a list of things to consider if a homebrewer and on the fence about buying/making a fermentation temperature.
- Make your yeast happy: It is no surprise that yeast prefer a specific temperature range. If you are fermenting a Saison, you would want to ramp up the temp to the mid 70s (some go higher), if you are making a Pilsner you will want to ferment at 50-mid 50s and a good ol’ IPA in the mid-high 60s. That is one hella of a range, and it would be difficult to do with a good old swamp cooler in a tub some other contraption. By buying/making a fermentation chamber, you could ferment all those different styles with ease and peace of mind. So, make you and your yeast happy and control those fermentation temps. Plus, nobody wants to drink an IPA that tastes like solvent because you fermented at 85 degrees.
- Lagering: If you are like me, you will go to the ends of the earth to find the best German Pilsner. Not only will you go to the ends of the earth to find one, you will do just about anything to brew a fantastic one. A fermentation chamber allows you to get it right. Lagering without fermentation chambers is basically impossible, so if you are a lager head, bite the bullet and buy/make a fermentation chamber.
- Peace of Mind: Brewing should be fun. It shouldn’t cause you to be stressed and anxious. I remember before building a fermentation chamber, I was constantly concerned if my beer was reaching the upper temperature range. I was stressed and concerned over homebrewing. I decided that it just wasn’t fun anymore and decided a fermentation chamber was the next purchase and I haven’t looked back. So, save your pennies and get that chamber!
With summer right around the corner, controlling those fermentation temperatures are going to be of the utmost importance. Do yourself a favor and invest in yourself, your hobby and your beer and buy/make a fermentation chamber. There are numerous forum threads on this very topic, so take a gander and determine what is best for your brewing needs, budget and space. So, when you brew that first batch of fermentation controlled beer and it turns out fantastic….send me a couple of bottles! Cheers!
For more of my equipment and my setup read my post on Advanced and Not-So-Advanced Homebrewing Equipment