The problem with yeast

22:08, Jan 09 2013

Ah summer. Gotta love it - long sunny days, beaches, barbecues and brews. And we know that in Palmerston North it has been a stunner. I, for one, have loved getting home after a late shift at work and still being able to chuck on some shorts and enjoy a beer outside.

While summer is conductive for imbibing, it has laid waste to any plans I had of brewing. Not because of the imbibing, but the weather - it's just been too freaking hot! Not for me either, but for a bunch of bacteria known as yeast.

Yeast is the most important ingredient in the brewing process. Without yeast, beer simply would not exist. Yeast, to put it bluntly, eats sugar and makes bubbles and booze. Bubbles and booze are the things we really want in (most) beer. Without yeast, you would have a flat, sweet fluid which would probably rot your teeth as quick as M&Ms.   

The problem with yeast is that it is a fickle little thing. Too cold and it doesn't want to work. Too hot and it won't behave how you want it to, putting flavours like alcohol (think really nasty tequila/vodka/meths), rotten banana or paint stripper.

To make matters even more confusing, certain kinds of yeast like to live in certain conditions. In this post I touched a bit on the difference between lager and ale yeasts. Lagers like to be cold, while ales like to be warm. And brewing with either yeast has its own challenges.

Lagers are the hardest to brew with in most parts of the world. They need to ferment between seven and 13 Celsius. We're lucky to get temperatures in that band for a solid period of time. On the other hand, ales like to ferment at a much more pleasant range of 15-22ish. 

However, keeping beer at those temperatures is tricky. It's easy to keep ale warm - just throw on a few blankets, chuck it in the hot water cupboard and she'll be right - but nearly impossible to cool it down. Which has been my problem this summer; the shed I brew in has rarely gone below 20 degrees at night and usually sits around 28 degrees during the day.

So I won't be brewing for a while, which sucks. Unless any of you have some tips for me.

How do you deal with temperature control when brewing? Or are you in the same boat and waiting for cooler weather?

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