Now that the holidays are past us and Tulsans have extra time on their hands before the chores of spring and summer steals it away, brewing beer is foremost on most homebrewers minds. In Tulsa, where the summers are hot and humid, brewing is such a challenge that many hold off till the cool weather of winter. Winter is often referred to as “homebrew season” and the cooler weather is the main reason.
Why cool weather? Well, yeast don’t like it hot. There are 2 distinct species of beer yeast. Lager yeast (known as S. pastorianus or by older terminology S. carlsbergensis or S. uvarum) ferment at very cool temperatures, usually between 45-55°. Ale yeast (known as S. cerevisiae) like temperatures between 60-75°. Regardless of whether it is a lager or ale, beer that is fermented above the temperature range of the yeast being used creates an overabundance of esters which cause off-flavors that detract from the intended flavor of the beer. Luckily, Tulsa has a good 4-6 months of mild weather that makes it easier to ferment at the correct temperatures.
Even during the brewing season however, temperatures can vary. Here are a few tips to control the temperature of fermenting beer:
- Steady temperature is more important than specific temperature. For example, if the suggested temperature is 68° but trying to reach that temperature is difficult, it is better to ferment at say 70° or 72°, rather than constantly trying to lower the temperature every time it goes up. The stress on the yeast will cause it to drop out prematurely, leaving precursors to several off flavors that the yeast is supposed to clean up.
- In Tulsa the temperature can vary by several degrees within a short time span. The cheapest way to control dramatic temperature swings with fermenting beer is to place the fermenter in a central closet that doesn’t get a lot of exposure to outside walls. Another option is to place the fermenter in a water bath, increasing the thermal mass of the beer. This slows down radical temperature swings significantly.
- Investing in a fridge and temperature controller not only gives homebrewers great control over fermentation temps, it creates a homebrewing season that never ends. Brewing year round, a homebrewers dream.
High Gravity Homebrewing & Winemaking Supplies
7164 S Memorial
Tulsa, OK 74133