We all brew beer in varying places with different equipment, weather, supplies, etc. All of these will affect how your beer will be brewed and the different tastes that it will produce.
Temperature is an important part throughout the brewing process, but how important is it to bring your beer down drinking temperature right after you bottle or keg it?
Your homebrew doesn’t need to be chilled immediately. But, after you’ve bottled your beer you need to keep it at the same temperature it was fermented at. This allows the yeast to start a second mini-fermentation in the bottle. When kegging, you don’t have to keep the same fermentation temperature.
So, this means that if you are brewing in a fairly cold winter, you may actually need to keep your bottle beer nice and snug. Whereas, in summer, putting them in a fridge or freezer with a temperature control unit (or just back into your fermentation chamber if you use one) is the best course of action.
Now, that’s not the entire story so what I want to do is to go into a few more details about when exactly you need to chill your beer, even if you don’t plan on drinking it just yet.
What to do to your beer after bottling?
Now I know that you want to go off and drink this as soon as possible, but to ensure that you have the best beer possible you will have to wait a bit.
First of all, you want to keep your beer safe and at a stable temperature. You always want to keep the same fermentation temperature for bottle conditioning so the beer doesn’t mature and/or carbonate as it should.
You spent a lot of time and effort on it so if it was to get ruined or broken for some reason that would be very unfortunate. You will want to keep it in a cool dark area like a cupboard, pantry, or even the basement.
Having it inside a plastic bin or cardboard box with a lid or cover can help to prevent sunlight from hitting the bottles and, in the worst-case scenario, avoid a mess if a bottle was to explode.
For most common types of ales and lagers, it will take 3 to 4 weeks for bottle conditioning to be finished. A good way to test is to have a beer, try one at the end of the first week, then a week later, etc. Your taste buds are the best hydrometer that one has in their arsenal.
In my experience, if you store the beer at the right temperature (roughly what you fermented it at) then the beer will get better with age and waiting at least 4 weeks will be reward enough.
After your beer has been bottle conditioned you can keep it at the same temperature or chill it. If you don’t need to right away then you can allow it to warm up to room temperature, but make sure you give it a good 24 hrs to chill before you chug down on it. For further and a more in-depth explanation check out my full article here on where to store your homebrew.
New to homebrewing? Please feel free to read my ultimate guide to brewing beer at home and where to start.
Should you chill your kegs while force carbonating?
In most cases chilling your kegs while force carbonating is a bonus, but not always called for.
A keg is a great way to drink your beer instead of bottling and it uses forced carnation. You directly infuse CO2 into the beer instead of relying on leftover yeast to reanimate and feed on your priming sugar as in bottling.
This process is not only faster but leaves less room for errors, so make sure you have the proper equipment and know what you are doing as it can lead to disastrous outcomes if you do not.
There are two methods to force-carbonating. The first method uses lower levels of CO2 pressure and carbonates for a longer period of time. The second is higher pressure and agitating the beer at certain times. Both are equally effective but the second is quicker but more labor and knowledge-intensive.
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You will need to use certain PSI pressures for the two types of forced carbonation around 20PSI and 30PSI. These are just guidelines and it is important to note that the temperature will play a part in how to correct CO2 volumes will be achieved when carbonating.
The lower the temperature, the faster the CO2 will dissolve into the beer. You will, therefore, need a lower CO2 pressure for that specific volume if chilled correctly.
Do you need to refrigerate beer after it’s been bottle conditioned?
No, you do not have to refrigerate it right after. I would recommend that you just need to keep it in a dark, temperature-regulated space where it will not be disturbed. If you do choose to refrigerate it though, you will first want to wait until it has been fully conditioned.
The conditioning time is usually 2-4 weeks but can be much longer for a beer such as Belgian ales or beers with a higher ABV. By the end of this time, the yeast will have consumed the sugars, and the carbon dioxide should be absorbed into the beer.
No one wants to have an unbalanced or tasteless beer, so take your time. As I keep saying, you want to make sure it is kept at that temperature at which it was fermented.
And once you do put it in the refrigerator, make sure that it isn’t taken in and out of the refrigerator so that it can warm up too much. If the beer warms up too much it can start to affect the taste and even ruin it.
So, only load up that fridge with the beer you can finish before your wife gets home with the groceries!
How long will my beer stay good for?
After you have conditioned the beer correctly, homebrew should keep well from about 6 months to a year. Its flavor could even evolve and change during the lengthier periods depending on the type of beer you are brewing. See my article here for the full details.
Do your research on the type of beer that you are brewing and the different ways to store it. While some will improve over time other beer flavors will start to deteriorate and even turn stale after a few months while some may not until 12 months. Kölsch, the famous drinkable beer from Cologne is an excellent example of a beer that should be drunk very Schnell.
The longer-lasting beers tend to be of an ABV of 8% or higher. These are great ones for holidays as you can make them and time them relatively easily with the seasons. Another example from the great German beer tradition is the traditional Ocktoberfest beer style, Märzen
What happens to beer that gets too warm?
When a beer gets too warm or even hot it can develop off-flavors and really starts to taste bad (you will often hear the phrase “skunked” beer, but this isn’t always just to do with heat).
The reason for this is not the actual change in temperature. The cause of this is just warm or hot temperatures. You always want to keep your beer cool/cold not only for taste but for its shelf life.
By keeping the beer at the brewer’s intended temperature you can keep it for months or years, on the other hand keeping it in a warm room could drop its shelf life by months.
If the beer gets to a really hot temperature, this could render it palatable for a few days. On a positive note, it will not kill you and there is no real health hazard to drinking. It is still drinkable but will just taste bad.
So if you can get your hands on an old refrigerator for your garage, store your beer in there. If not, consider getting something to actually show off your beautifully bottled beer.
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Do you need to cold crash your beer?
No, you don’t always need to cold crash your beer, even if you are able to. In some cases depending on your style of beer, you may not want to clear it up.
Another point to think about is that, when kegging, you should not just crash the temperature of your beer to carbonate as fast as possible. You want to store it at a temperature that is appropriate for the style, from there you can simply adjust the CO2 pressure levels to what they need to be at.
Another common mistake is that homebrewers will begin the carbonation process right after they transfer the beer from the fermenter to the keg. Brewers will most likely be lowering the temperature of the beer while they introduce the CO2 to try for better carbonation.
The problem arises when diacetyl (a natural byproduct of fermentation) doesn’t have enough time or the proper temperature to be reabsorbed by the yeast. Even after you reach your final gravity, the diacetyl flavors could be in the beer and so a buttery taste would be present.
My professional brewer friend tells me to always leave the beer in the fermenter at least 3 days longer than any recipe tells me, and even up to a whole week longer to get rid of issues like this.
Should homebrewed beer be pasteurized?
Most middle to large brewers today will take the extra steps to sterilize their entire production and keep it extremely sanitary, this includes pasteurization. Among other reasons to do this one is that you really don’t have to worry about refrigeration anywhere in the production and transposition of the beer.
Even without pasteurization, there is very little chance that it would spoil before it reached us unless the beer is left out in the extreme heat.
For homebrewers to spend this amount of time and effort to pasteurize their beer is up to them but the general consensus is that it is not necessary. If you are going to store your beer properly and then consume it relatively quickly after it is complete you don’t need this extra step in there.
If you choose to pasteurize, some purists would say that the change in temperature could ruin the profile and true flavor of your beer. Most people though, would not know the difference unless they had identical beers sides by side and were informed about it.
Note: If you do have a yeast intolerance or allergy make sure you check when trying beers and ask for professional advice. Many smaller craft brewers do not pasteurize and this could be an issue for you.
What temperature should you serve beer at?
In general, between 33 °F to 55 °F (0.5 °C – 12°C) would be optimal temperatures to drink them. The higher the ABV the warmer the temperatures, so something like a Belgian Dubbels would be served between 50 °F – 55 °F (10 °C – 12°C). A wheat beer would be in the middle between 40 °F to 50 °F (4 °C – 10°C).
On the other hand lagers, you would want to have served at cooler temperatures like the American mainstream lagers would be between 33 °F to 50 °F (0.5 °C – 10°C).
If you want to really push your brewing to the next level then going down the all-in-one system route is definitely the way. It’ll give you more control over every stage of the process as well as solving a lot of the headaches that come with more basic brewing.
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