I have more hobbies than I care to admit, two of my favorite are brewing beer and my reef tank (saltwater aquarium). In the past few years one of the trends in the reef hobby has been aquarium controllers. Recently I purchased and received my first controller, an Apex Jr which cost about $140. There are more advanced systems that go up to about $500 but this fits my needs. My controller has 4 outlets along with a processor and web server which allows me to control lights, heater, and pumps. It also includes a temperature probe. Here is a picture:
I am able to control and view stats on my reef tank via any computer with a web browser and there are also apps for iOS and Android. The outlets are each highly programable for instance you can set the heater to operate or not operate based on the temperature of the water taken by the temperature probe. The unit also keeps a record of temperature and can show it in a graph form. From the dashboard or apps you can instantly see the status of any outlet and also control it. Here is a picture of the dashboard, as you can see you can also add a feed from an ip camera:
So as I am driving today and excited about my new reef tank controller I begin to wonder if it wouldn't be the ultimate fermentation temperature controller? A Ranco two stage temperature controller cost $140...same price as the Apex Jr. but I think the Apex Jr would offer so much more.
1. The Apex Jr has 4 outlets so it could control two fermentation chambers...two coolers and two heaters. No different than what the majority of us do with our temperature controllers now. Plug the freezer in one outlet and in my case a small heater in the other.
2. The Apex Jr comes with a temperature probe that is submersible in saltwater so I would assume the same would be true for the wort. No more worrying about taping the probe to the side of your fermenter or buying a thermowell just drop it in the fermenting wort.
3. The Apex Jr is HIGHLY configurable...I have only had mine a day so I have a lot to learn but you can set up emails alarms...maybe an alarm if you temperature gets over 80 degrees or something similar. Maybe you are out of town and you want to move your temperature down 2 degrees...you can do that from your phone. How about an IP camera in your fermentation chamber so you can see it from work? If it's dark you could use on of the 4 outlets on the controller to turn a bulb on and off from anywhere you are.
I think for the same price as we are now paying for ranco this offers much more. Another think that interests me that I need to learn more about is an expansion module for the system that checks salinity which is measured in specific gravity although the module reports a conductivity value which would need to be converted...here is the module:
Not sure if it would work for beer but how cool would it be to monitor SG from your comptuer? I am going to post on the Neptune forum to get a little input as to how the temperature probe would fair in wort but I may just buy a second one of these and give it a try with my beer.