Fermentation control on a budget

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by Jesse14, Dec 19, 2012.

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  1. Jesse14

    Jesse14 Initiate (151) Jul 21, 2011 Massachusetts

    What is the best method for controlling your fermentation temp for the money?

    I hear about a wet shirt and a fan; an aquarium heater in a tub of water; a temp controller and an electric blanket; and a dedicated fridge with a temp controller.

    I'd be willing to spend about $150 on a set-up but not sure which way is the most versatile. My basement is high 50's in the winter and high 60's in the summer on average.
  2. scurvy311

    scurvy311 Disciple (345) Dec 3, 2005 Louisiana

    Use wyeast 2565 Kolsch for pseudo-lagers or 1007 German Ale or 1010 American Wheat in the winter and or many other ale yeasts in the summer. These yeast fall within that range and will allow you to brew a wide range of beers.

    That will be $150.

    But also seriously, I really enjoy my used fridge with Johnson controller. I checked with a few apartment complexes and assisted living operations in my area. Im not sure if this is the policy everywhere, but ours change fridges out every 10 years. I got a great deal.
  3. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,005) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    For $150 you should be able to get a used refrigerator (or chest freezer) plus a Johnson Digital Temperature Controller.


    P.S. I basically follow the scurvy311 approach and tailor my homebrews with the seasons.
  4. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Defender (695) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    Your basement coupled with wet T-shirt and dehumidifier...priceless (if you've already got the dehumidifier) : )
  5. ericj551

    ericj551 Initiate (0) Apr 29, 2004 Alberta (Canada)

    My system is pretty simple, I throw my fermenter in my brewpot and fill partially with water. I have a probe thermometer dangling in the beer, so when I see the temperature start to rise, I add reusable ice packs to the water bath. 4 ice packs swapped out in twos every 12-24 hours makes it easy to keep a beer at 68.
  6. Jesse14

    Jesse14 Initiate (151) Jul 21, 2011 Massachusetts

    Great tip on scouring the local wrinkle farms. I have a few in my area that might be dumping some old fridges. That's the route I want to go but there's not much room left after buying a controller. Any idea on who has the best deal on those online?
  7. ryane

    ryane Initiate (159) Nov 21, 2007 Washington

    Go on ebay there are controllers called stc-1000, they are ~$20 shipped (from china) and they are pretty good little control units for fridges. They also dont typically need a SSR either as they can switch 10A. Another plus is they auto-switch between heating/cooling if hooked up

    Only downside to them (not really all that bad) is they only display in celcius
  8. inchrisin

    inchrisin Defender (654) Sep 25, 2008 Indiana

    For $150 I'd get a fridge off craigslist and a thermometer control. It'll usully keep you within 2F.

    If you want to do it on the REALLY CHEAP, buy a 20 or 30 gal tupperware. Put your fermenter in it and fill the tupperware halfway with water. Frozen 2 liters are great for abot 10-12 hours of steady temp control in the winter, spring and fall.
    NiceFly likes this.
  9. PortLargo

    PortLargo Devotee (466) Oct 19, 2012 Florida

    I struggled with towels, tubs, and blocks of ice with some success. But I became happiest when I rescued a mini-fridge from the junkman and bought a Ranco ETC off ebay (~$46). You program the temp and just walk away. Pretty much guaranteed to keep the range you set (for me it is + or - 1 degree). I have a Black IPA fermenting at 71 with no more effort than pushing a button.

    It is possible to adjust the thermostat control on some fridges/freezers to give you a poor-man's approach to controlling temps. Basically you crack the housing of the thermostat and fiddle with the spring mechanism, effectively overriding the factory setting for range of temperature. With some effort you can use the built in thermostat dial and set a higher temp than normal for a fridge. It might involve a search of a couple homebrew forums but you should be able to find the details.

    Many experts claim that constant temp control during fermentation gives great rewards.
    inchrisin likes this.
  10. NiceFly

    NiceFly Aspirant (275) Dec 22, 2011 Tajikistan

    I also use the "swamp cooler" method of fermentation control. I use igloo coolers or a large plastic tote, depending on how much I have fermenting.

    The plastic totes are OK, the coolers are better. You can keep the temp pretty close checking twice a day with some frozen water bottles.
  11. inchrisin

    inchrisin Defender (654) Sep 25, 2008 Indiana

    I really like this idea of a cooler. I think I've only ever seen one cooler online that would fit a carboy/better bottle/or ale pale. I kind of wish I bought that for a mash tun. :slight_smile:
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