A couple months ago, we posted something on our Facebook wall about the fact that we were running out of room for our carboys, which led us to stashing the overflow in our employee bathroom. We asked people what creative things they had done in the past to address this same problem at their house/apartment/igloo/etc.. Well we got some really good feedback, and as expected, some pretty creative ideas. What the responses showed us is that every customer’s home brew setup is different, and all of us face unique challenges when it comes to storing our fermenters. Next time you run into that dilemma, here are some of the key things to consider when picking your fermenter’s living quarters.
- Consistent Temperature: Many people don’t pay attention to this one, but it is one of the biggest things that will affect the taste of your beer, after you’ve moved it from your brew pot. Yeast strains are just like people, some like it hot, some like it cold, some like it warm. The happier the yeast cells are with the surrounding temp, the better the beer will taste. Too high or too low of a temp can lead to yeast producing off flavors. Ale yeast typically works well in the 65-70F range, and lagers 45-55F. We list the optimum temp ranges for each strain we sell on our site, if you ever have any questions. Temperature can be monitored very easily with things like a fermometer. Realize that a location with great temperature during the summer time (like a basement), may be too cold during the winter time, so just keep an eye on it.
- Keep it Dark: Yeast like to do their thing with the lights off :) This includes house lights, and light from the sun. Once hops are isomerized, they are prone to a chemical reaction that creates a skunk-like aroma when exposed to UV light. There is a controversy about how long it takes to skunk, but it’s always best to be on the safe side. It’s completely fine if the lights are turned on in the room from time to time (like a bathroom), but in general, keep the fermenter in a room that is naturally kept dark. Basements are great for this, but if you don’t have one of those, a closet works great. If you don’t have one of those, or if your wife won’t give up her shoe space, you can wrap it in a towel to help keep the light out. Check your temp when using a towel as they can insulate somewhat, which will increase the temp (remember item 1 from before). Might be a good thing though if your temp is a bit colder – killing two birds with one stone!
- Keep it Stable: Pick a place where there won’t be a lot of commotion and where it can remain UNmoved. You don’t want your dog or your kids knocking the fermenter over during play time, and you want to avoid having to move it constantly from place to place as this will shake up sediment. An elevated location away from commotion is a double win because you avoid someone knocking it over, and you can rack directly from there without disturbing the sediment.
- Be Ready for a Mess: If you’re brewing a high gravity beer or maybe just brewing with a vigorous fermenting yeast strain (i.e. Wyeast 1007 German Ale, Wyeast 2565 Kolsch, or wheat beer strains) you’ll want it in a spot that can afford to get messy in the event of a really active fermentation. Blow-off tubes help, but even those aren’t fail-safe. If you have the perfect spot, but you don’t want it to get messy, just but your fermenter in a black trash bag – helps protect it from light AND contains an erupting fermentation (see below).
So, what’s the most random place you stored your great fermentation?