Where to Store Your Homebrew While It's Fermenting

Where to Store Your Homebrew While It's Fermenting

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Emma Christensen
May 19, 2015
(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)
(Image credit: Henry Chen)
  • Today's topic: Finding the best spot in your house to stash your fermenting beer
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You want to stash your fermenting beer somewhere out of the way so you're not constantly tripping over it, but where it's still accessible so you can get to it when you need to. Also, it needs to be away from sunny windows, but still at room temperature, and also where an accidental spill won't be too annoying to clean up.

This is potentially a tall order, especially for those of you brewing in small city apartments without a handy basement or spare closet. Today, let's talk about some of the best spots to store your beer, and what to do if your place gets really hot or cold when the seasons change.

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)
(Image credit: Henry Chen)

What to Look for When Storing Beer

To recap, we're looking for a spot that is:

  1. Out of the way, but still accessible
  2. Not in direct sunlight
  3. Maintains a steady room temperature
  4. Easy to clean up if spills happen

You want it out of the way because it's annoying to be constantly stepping over it on your way to the fridge or moving it when you want to watch television. But you also don't want to bury it at the back of a closet where you forget about it or can't check it easily.

Direct sunlight (specifically, ultraviolet light) also isn't good for beer. You've probably heard that bottled beer needs to be kept out of the sun so it doesn't get light-struck and turn skunky, and the same is true for beer as it ferments. Skunked beer tastes like stale cardboard, which is no one's idea of a tasty beer.

It's also a good idea to keep an eye on the thermostat once your beer starts to ferment. Ale yeast, like we're using here, tends to work best between 65°F and 75°F, though some particular strains are happy up into the 80s. Basically, as long as you're comfortable, your yeast will be comfortable. This basically means to avoid storing your fermenting beer in a cold garage during the winter or a hot attic during the summer, and to also take some extra precautions if you don't have air conditioning during the summer (see below).

Last but not least, it's a good idea to store your beer somewhere that's easy to clean up if fermentation gets a little raucous and the top pops off the bucket. This doesn't happen often, but when it does, you'll be happy you thought ahead. If you end up storing your beer in a closet or carpeted area, think about putting it inside a plastic bin or laying a drop cloth under the beer.

Best Spots Around Your Home for Storing Beer

The best storage spots tend to be interior closets or other spaces toward the middle of the house — away from windows, exterior walls, or traffic. Do a little scouting around your home and don't be afraid to get creative. Think about which spots always seem to be coolest in the summer and warmest in the winter.

Behind the couch, tucked next to the guest bed in the back room, a corner of the basement, or even the bathroom are all good options. In one of my former apartments, the landing outside my front door was always significantly cooler during the summer than inside the house, so I would line up my jugs and buckets out there. If your place tends to be sunny, you can also throw a blanket over the beer or put it inside a big cardboard box to shield it from sunlight. Whatever works!

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

Tips for Brewing During Heat Waves and Cold Snaps

When the temperature starts dropping below 65°F, the yeast start to get sluggish and will eventually go into a state of hibernation. Above 75°F, it will get more jazzed up and start eating the sugars more quickly — which sounds like a positive since it means primary fermentation finishes more quickly, but really, these yeast are stressed out and not performing their best.

Between 75°F to 85°F, you'll start to notice some fruitier, spicier flavors in your beer, especially bananas, cloves, fruity bubblegum, ripe pear, and green apples. Depending on the kind of beer you're brewing, these flavors might be just fine (say, a Belgian saison or a hefeweizen) or not very welcome (say, a crisp IPA). But on the whole, the beer will still be tasty and you'll be happy drinking it.

Above 85°F, the yeast get really stressed. In addition to the fruity and spicy flavors, you'll start to notice more harsh solvent-like flavors, like grain alcohol. It's not harmful to drink this beer, but it just doesn't taste very great. Don't throw your beer away if a heat wave hits, though — it's worth letting it finish fermenting and tasting it before deciding what to do.

Above 100°F, and the yeast will likely start to die and will struggle to finish fermenting your beer. Super bummer. Avoid brewing during really hot times of the summer if you can.

So what's an eager homebrewer to do during the long, hot summer months and the long, cold winter months? Here are a few tips:

  • Choose the best brew day: The beer is most vulnerable in the few days after your brew day. If you can't keep your beer somewhere air conditioned or heated, avoid brewing right before a forecasted hot spell or cold snap.
  • Move your beer around: It's not ideal to move your beer a lot while it's fermenting (it stirs up the sediment and can jostle the airlock), but it's better than leaving it in a too-hot (or too-cold) spot. Find the coolest (or warmest) places in your home and move the beer around as needed.
  • Cool down hot beers: If a heat wave takes you by surprise, try wrapping your bucket or jug of beer in wet towels. You can even slip freezer packs between the layers of towel. The wet towels and evaporating moisture do a surprisingly good job of keeping the beer a few degrees cooler than its surroundings.
  • Warm up cold beers: If you can, bring your beer somewhere inside where it can stay at room temperature. If you can't, look into getting a heating pad or heat wrap — both are available at homebrew stores. Avoid anything that might heat your beer too much, like putting it right next to a furnace or on top of a hot radiator.

All right — now tell me: Where are you storing your beer during this phase of Beer School?

Brew Better Beer: A Companion to Beer School

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

I love brewing beer so much, I wrote a book about it! Brew Better Beer (May 2015, Ten Speed Press) is a complementary guide to Beer School. Take a look for even more nerdy details about homebrewing, how to brew 5-gallon batches, and plenty of recipes for different beers.

→ Find it: Brew Better Beer by Emma Christensen

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