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MAINTAINING A WARM FERMENTATION IN COLD WEATHER

Have you stopped brewing, or are you just brewing lager because your brew area is just too cold when the temperature drops? There are many ways to keep your fermenters warm, even if your brew room is icy cold. We have heard many suggestions over the years, from temperature controlled/heated refrigerators to light boxes and electric blankets. Here are some ideas, and the inevitable disclaimer:

DISCLAIMER: some of the following brew tips call for the use of electrical devices or lights for purposes they were not designed for. These brew tips are ideas only and we at 7 Bridges are not responsible for damage or personal injury resulting from your use of these devices.

A Light Box: A simple incandescent light bulb can provide enough heat in a small space to keep your fermenter warm. Use a large box, build an enclosure, or section off a small closet. Place a utility light with a 60 to a 100 watt bulb inside the enclosure to provide heat. The fermenter should be covered with a thick cloth to keep the light from reaching the beer, and the light bulb should be at least 8 inches away from the fermenter and any flammable materials. Keep a thermometer in the light box to monitor the temperature.

Electric Blanket: We have heard from many customers who have reported success in using an electric blanket to keep their brews warm during fermentation. The danger in using an electric blanket is that it can create too much heat. To prevent overheating your fermenter, first wrap a thick blanket around the fermenter, and then drape the blanket loosely over this. A fermometer (stick-on thermometer) will help to monitor the actual fermentation temperature. Check the temperature frequently.

Aquarium Heater: If you have a large tub that can hold water and will fit your fermenter (the water does not have to reach the top of the fermenter), you can use an aquarium heater. The aquarium heater should be placed in the tub of water, and the fermenter resting in the warm water will stay at the temperature you set with the heater thermostat. When purchasing an aquarium heater, it is important to buy the right one. Aquarium heaters are rated for volume of liquid and for temperature differential. If you want to heat 20 gallons of water (include the volume of liquid in your fermenter in your calculations) about 10 degrees over the average room temperature, you should buy an aquarium heater of 200- 300 watts. A good aquarium heater has both a thermostat and a temperature sensor that measures the current water temperature. For a small investment, this is one of the most effective ways to keep your fermenter warm and at a constant, controlled temperature.

Digital Temperature Controller: A digital temperature controller, an insulated enclosure (such as a refrigerator, and a heating pad or other thermostatically controlled heating device can also be used to keep fermentation warm. This method requires a more modest investment, but because the digital temperature controller can control both heat and cold, it may be worth it if keeping your fermentation cool or brewing lager is a concern.

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