Temperature has a major effect on your beer, during all stages of the brewing process. Some folks might argue that the most important temperature is what it is served at, but there are a number of points prior to that where temperature can make or break your beer.
<h2>Temperature During Brewing</h2>
When you are mashing, the temperature you mash at can cause a change in the flavor of your beer. A temperature at the low end of the recommended range (63-66 degrees Celsius) can lead an easily-fermentable mash that is likely to end in a dry beer. Meanwhile mashing at the higher end of the range (71-74 degrees Celsius) is likely to result in beer with a sweet, malty character.
Sparging also requires a specific temperature for efficient extraction. Unlike mashing, sparging has a very specific range – 76-77 degrees Celsius. This provides for high efficiency while not extracting any of the harsh tannins in the husks of grain.
<h2>Temperature During Fermentation</h2>
This is the point in time when temperature will have the biggest effect on your beer. Yeast is very delicate, despite the fact that we are using it in such a brawny beverage as beer. Fluctuation in temperature can result in stuck fermentation due to cold temperature, that makes the yeast go dormant. On the other end of the spectrum, if it is too hot, bacteria can develop and produce off flavors.
While the beer has been fermenting at an ambient temperature for weeks, it can still be damaged before it is in drinkable shape. When bottling and carbonating your beer, you need to pay attention to temperatures. When bottling, make sure the bottles are not too hot or too cold – extreme temperatures can weaken the glass, not to mention cause off flavors in the beer.
The same goes for storage during the carbonation process. Storing bottles at or very close to 20 degrees Celsius is optimal for fast, even, efficient carbonation. Lower or higher temperatures will diminish carbonation or cause exploding bottle.
There have certainly been more than enough myths about storing beer that have circulated over time. Behind all of them is a touch of truth, though.
First off, storing a beer at extreme temperatures can most certainly ruin it. Anywhere below 4 degrees Celsius or above 30 degrees is a danger zone. Freezing or below, or above 35 degrees, should be off-limits. Freezing will cause ice crystals in the beer, and will diminish carbonation. Many people will “cellar” a beer if they plan to hold on to it a while – cellaring around 10-15 degrees Celsius is the best range, although lower is tolerable.
Certain beers handle temperature fluctuations better. Delicate beers are more in danger of temperature damage – a kolsch or light lager will be damaged easily, while a sturdy ESB or stout can take temperature changes across a wider range, and more often.
Of course, the temperature the beer is important, but for many, it is a matter of preference. Some folks will tell you there is a specific temperature for a certain beer, but that’s not entirely true. Some will enjoy a beer at a different temperature than others, it’s up to you to find the right temperature for yourself.