January 2019 | Karl Gammler
AT THIS TIME of year I’d like to share a few thoughts on temperature control. Although we wait all year for warm weather, it can be a home brewer’s hardest challenge to keep their fermenter at that magical 20° Celsius. If you are fortunate enough to have a basement with a cement floor, temperature control may not be a concern. The not-so-lucky can use a swamp/ghetto style of cooler.
This is a vessel large enough to house at least the bottom third of a fermenter. Sit the fermenter in the container and almost fill it with water, then drape a wet towel or old T-shirt over it, to wick the moisture. A couple of 2 litre frozen water containers will keep the water cold – swap them out as they thaw. For a small outlay this method works surprisingly well. A dead or unplugged fridge can be used in a similar fashion without mucking around with wicking.
Swap a 2 litre frozen container daily and it should keep the fermenter nice and cool. If the temperature of the FV starts to creep up, use two frozen containers or turn the fridge on for an hour or so. (Just don’t forget to turn it off again.) If you’re going on holiday and can’t be there to nurse your brew, or just can’t be bothered with the extra labour, it’s time to step up to dedicated temperature control.
On your shopping list will be an old second-hand fridge (Gumtree has heaps) with a large enough space to house your fermenter. If you can find a fridge without a freezer compartment, you can reinforce a shelf and house two fermenters. Next on your list is a temperature controller from either LHBS or eBay. I use Inkbird ITC-308, which has the ability to both cool and heat (for winter) and has 2 power outlets for a fridge or heat belts. Attach the probe to the outside of your fermenter by taping insulation over it, (a cut-up stubby cooler is best.) This allows the probe to measure the temperature inside the fermenter and not the ambient temperature in the fridge. Sit the probe in a jug of water if you have two fermenters.
Set the controller to 20°C and turn the fridge on. When your fermenter creeps up to 22°C, the controller will turn the fridge on until the temperature drops and then turn it off again. This uses very little power and has a cut-off safety feature. It also gives you the ability to cold crash (there’ll be more about this process in a future article) In winter, use the controller in conjunction with a heat belt.
Plug the belt into the controller and hang the belt up in the fridge or wrap it around the fermenter. You don’t need the fridge plugged in for this.
Recipe of the month:
Black Velvet Deluxe Kit:
Beermakers Old Fermentables:
500g light dried malt,
500g dark dried malt Yeast: Kit,
Safale S04 or Danstar Nottingham Final volume: between 19 and 22 litres
Over the years I have tried just about all the dark ale kits and Beermakers is the one I always go back to. This recipe turns out much nicer than a Tooheys Old and is every bit as good as White Rabbit Dark Ale, if not better.