Anyone with "Brew Belt" experience?

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legaleagle

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Looking for feedback on Brew Belt as found here: http://www.williamsbrewing.com/BREW_BELT_HEATER_P1974C100.cfm

I am looking at this as a possible solution for a lager brewing set up issue I have. I have a side-by-side fridge/freezer in my garage. The freezer side is used heavily to keep our family's frozen bulk foods (think Sam's Club). The fridge side is used lightly and I have wifey's permission to stick a bucket or carboy in the fridge side (yea, either will fit :D). Problem is that I cannot get the fridge side warmer than 42 degrees, which would effectively limit all my lagers to the cold tolerant Danish Lager yeast (ie, Wyeast 2042). And, because I need the freezer section to keep food frozen (and the compressor pumps into the freezer, with bleed-off of cold air into the fridge via holes in the middle wall), a thermostat override controller or unplugging the unit won't work (and no, getting another fridge or freezer is not an option :().

This Brew Belt thingy seems like a potentially like a cheap, simple solution to my problem. The advertisement says it will keep the fermenter 10 degrees above the ambient temp. This would put me in the 52 degree range and open up the full spectrum of lager yeasts for me. So my question is does this thing really work? and will it work in my fridge as described?

Hearing from somebody with actual experience would help. Thanks!
 

FullDraw

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I like the idea, and will let others comment if that will work. I have one and use it, but I do know you should not use it with glass carboy. It has the potential to create a hotspot and could lead to glass failure. But on the bucket, no problem.
 
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legaleagle

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cayuga - can you give me an idea of your experience with the temperature rise? is a 10 degree rise from ambient your experience as advertised? since this thing does not appear to have a thermostat, it seems logical to me that the warmer the ambient (ie, 55-60 degrees) the higher the brew belt will rise the fermenter (like say 15-20 degrees), whereas the colder the ambient (i.e. 40-45 degrees) the less the brew belt would rise the fermenter (like say 8-10 degrees) given that it gives off a fixed amount of heat. the latter scenario is what i am hoping for as anything in the 48-53 degree range would be ideal for my purposes.
 

twohands

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I have one; I use it to keep my cold office temps from making ale yeast sleepy during the winter, or to help boost saison yeast (and some other belgians). It works well, and might be a solution to your problem, especially if you add some outer insulation to the bucket / better bottle. I can also say that my carboy didn't fail the time I tried it (somehow I missed the warning), but don't do it. get a BB, or use a bucket.

YMMV :fro:
 

bknifefight

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I use a Brew Belt and think it is pretty nice. I do use it on glass although it is not recommended. As far as the raise in temperature, I think it advertises to keep the temp between 70 and 75 but obviously if it is in 45 degree fridge, this would not be true. In my basement right now I think it is raising the temp of a carboy about 8 - 10 degrees.
 
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legaleagle

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T-Hops - THAT is exactly what I need! Looks to be the more controllable solution. Thanks for the suggestion :mug:
 

FullDraw

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I do like that wrap around for the carboy. as far as temperature raise, you have some control. the higher on the bucket, the less rise in temp. Place the belt toward the bottom, you get a little more heat (effect, not actual output). If you have an active fermentation (that rolling boil look), were it resides may not have that much effect as the wort mixes itself. My results were a 55* basement, doing ales in the 65* range (+ or -). Originally, I bought it for winemaking, and still use it for that.
 

Crazytwoknobs

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Your idea sounds good, but if you were going to use a thermostat, where would you put the probe?

I haven't done it yet, but I'm going to be putting my glass carboy in a storage bin with about 6-10 inches of water. I'll use a submersible aquarium heater (30-40w) and tape the thermister on the outside of the carboy above the waterline (lightly insulated). This is because my basement is a wee bit too cold.
 
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legaleagle

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folks - this feedback tells me i am on the right path with this. My additional research and the consensus of the group here seems to be that the carboy heater can cover nearly the whole side of either a glass carboy or plastic bucket - so if you really need all the heat it has (as i certainly will), you can get it spread over much of the carboy surface. also, it is apparently flexible enuf to place a small sliver onto the fermenter if you want less heating (or want to place it further up the sides for even less heating). It costs 39$ v. $21 for the Brew Belt, which is not supposed to be used with glass and covers only a narrow 1 or 2 inch band (possibly creating different termal layers in the fermentor before and after the intense roiling fermentation phase). for me, since i use both buckets and glass carboys, and will likely need the full heat treatment throughout the fermentation, i will go with the carboy heater. thanks to all for your great input on this.

crazy - if you look at the temperature controllers here http://morebeer.com/search/102282 (scroll down towards bottom), you will see they also sell something called a "thermowell" that goes into the fermentor (can be sanitized) attached to a rubber stopper - the controller's probe is dropped into this thing to monitor the temp of the fermenting wort. with the heater attached to the controller, you now have complete control within 1 degree (or so they advertise). but, that's another $125 for the thermowell and controller. i think that give my low ambient temp of 42 degrees, a runaway heat up above 55 degrees is unlikely (and it it happens, i can easily drop the fridge temp beyond the heater's ability further warm the fermemtor).
 
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legaleagle

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another benefit that occurs to me with this contraption is that i would think that you can use it to help buffer the drop from the relatively warm pitching temp of the wort to your desired fermenting temp when you place it a much colder environment with no other means of temperature control.
 

RiverCityBrewer

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Keep in mind if using this thing in a fridge that by heating the fermenter you will also make the compressor fire more often, or in a worse case scenario keep the compressor running constantly until it freezes up... this makes a wife very unhappy.... ask me how I know.

Joe
 
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legaleagle

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River - how do you...ah, never mind. Thanks for the heads up. This could be a problem. I will have to monitor it and see how it goes. This would work in 2 week fermentation cycles, with a few days diacytal rests in between. That cyclical rest might be enuf to avoid problems (plus I live in the Tampa, Fl area with a pretty hot west facing garage so a frozen compressor would be interesting to see).

But carrying your thought one more step: I might be wrong about this because I am not an expert on fridges, but I think this unit has a single compressor that blows into the freezer side and then leaks air into the fridge side thru a series of ports. There are seperate controls for each side of the unit located inside the fridge. I am wondering if it is possible to somehow disable/mod the fridge side control such that it never/rarely demands that the compressor come on - only the freezer demands the compressor to come on as normal. This would allow continued cooling of the fridge incidental to the freezer cooling, but won't increase demand as the fridge compartment warms. The idea being an end result of not much increase over the normal compressor load.

Does anyone know if this is possible? If so, how would you do it?
 

Crazytwoknobs

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Thermowells are more trouble than they're worth I hear. I remember a thread where someone referenced some other site that had researched the subject a bit. I think they tested a thermowell vs. taped on vs. taped on with insulation vs. midair near the fermenter. The thermowell and the two thermisters that were taped on the side were pretty much all the same. It may have been the guy from morebeer who's on the brewing network all the time, now that I think about it.

I looked at the picture again, and there's more room on the fermenter to place the thermister than I thought. I thought there wouldn't be room for some reason. Worst case scenario you could put it underneath...?

When you get it, post here about what it's made of (like what it feels like and how well it'll make contact with the surface of the carboy).
:mug::mug:
:drunk::drunk:
 

PTisch

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Northernbrewer.com has a temperature control kit that might interest you. It is the Thermowell Fermentation Kit.
 
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