Cheap temperature control?

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spiffcow

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I just finished racking my second batch to the secondary fermenter, and I've noticed that the only truly difficult thing so far (besides waiting until the beer is ready) is controlling the temperature. I live in an area where the temperature varies dramatically, and I need a system that will handle both heating and cooling to keep the fermenter at the right temperature. I also need it to be inexpensive. I was considering trying to rig something with an arduino board, a heating belt, and some peltier coolers, but that would require a lot of work. Are there any cheap solutions available? I don't mind building something, but I'd prefer buying something off the shelf if it's cheap enough.
 

damdaman

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Well, I plan to use my basement to keep things cool in the summer, but to keep things warm in the winter I just use an oil/electric plug-in space heater. I have it in my fermentation closet and on the lowest setting it keeps things at about 68-70 degrees.

It uses minimal electricity and since it's enclosed in the closet it does a great job.
 

Palefire

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Swamp cooler (lots of threads about it). Frozen water bottles when warm, aquarium heater when cold. Or so I've heard about the aquarium heater, that is - it doesn't get cold enough here for me to need one.

Seriously - it's really cheap and works quite well for almost any ale you'd brew.
 

MurderMittenBrewing

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Well, I plan to use my basement to keep things cool in the summer, but to keep things warm in the winter I just use an oil/electric plug-in space heater. I have it in my fermentation closet and on the lowest setting it keeps things at about 68-70 degrees.
+1

I use a closet in the back of my apartment and use a space heater to keep a steady temp. I think it's much easier to control temperature in the winter than in the summer.
 

RandomSF

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+1 on aquarium heater.

Just did a batch with the fermenter in a tub of water with an aquarium heater. Held within a degree for the whole time. <$20 for rock solid temperature control is OK by me.
 

nebben

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Swamp cooler (lots of threads about it). Frozen water bottles when warm, aquarium heater when cold. Or so I've heard about the aquarium heater, that is - it doesn't get cold enough here for me to need one.

Seriously - it's really cheap and works quite well for almost any ale you'd brew.
Yes!

Also, even without ice or an aquarium heater, if you immerse your fermenter into a bath (rubbermaid container or cooler) of water, you've increased the thermal mass. Even with temperature fluctuations, they wont be as wild with so much liquid around your fermenting beer. Adding ice or the aquarium heater to that external liquid just helps even more.
 

boredatwork

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Any water bath technique will have its limitations. This does not make it any less valuable of an option, but I often had difficulty controlling the temperature in a swamp cooler type setup during certain months of the year.

While it is more expensive, a small fridge + a temperature controller + a heating pad makes a great no-fuss setup if minimizing cost is not the primary concern. It shouldn't cost any more than $300 - and less if you are good at craigslist.
 

apologeticus

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+1 to Craiglist. there's a guy in the charlotte area right now selling an old fridge for $20. he's already removed the shelves as he was using it to store kegs in his garage. if I weren't so insanely broke right now I'd snatch it up.

(there's another guy selling 7.5 gallon carboys for $15. why do the best deals pop up when I'm broke?)
 

maida7

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I just bought a used fridge for fermentation off craigslist for 30.00. I ordered a dual temp controler off for 100.00 So for 130.00 I can control both heat and cooling.
 

boredatwork

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+1 to Craiglist. there's a guy in the charlotte area right now selling an old fridge for $20. he's already removed the shelves as he was using it to store kegs in his garage. if I weren't so insanely broke right now I'd snatch it up.

(there's another guy selling 7.5 gallon carboys for $15. why do the best deals pop up when I'm broke?)
I can just see it now... craisglist layaway.
 

ReeseAllen

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Well, if you really want to go on the cheap, frozen water bottles and an electric heater of some kind are about your only option, but you're going to have to tend to the damn thing for the whole fermentation. How much is your time worth to you?

Personally, I'd go automated. I'll be damned if I'm going to sign up for having to check on my fermenters and replace frozen bottles or adjust the heater multiple times per day during the entire fermentation.
 

bonzombiekitty

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I got an aquarium heater to bring my temp up during the winter. Just started using it last night, and it seems to work well enough but I think the temp control is off. Water was 62 and I had it set for 71, and it wouldn't heat, set the heater to 80, and it heats the water to about 70, which was my goal.
 

Handle

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+1 to Craiglist. there's a guy in the charlotte area right now selling an old fridge for $20. he's already removed the shelves as he was using it to store kegs in his garage. if I weren't so insanely broke right now I'd snatch it up.

(there's another guy selling 7.5 gallon carboys for $15. why do the best deals pop up when I'm broke?)
Ha, you and I continue to see the same deals. I've been seeing chest freezers going surprisingly cheap lately as well (under $50). I think there was even one being given away for free, but it was all the way down in York.
 

Yooper

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I made my "Yooper Lagerator" out of some foam sheeting, and a cooler. It has wheels, so it can be moved easily. In the summer, I add water and a couple of frozen water bottles to keep it cool. In the winter, I add water and an aquarium heater to keep it warm. Sometimes, just the water bath alone is enough to keep the temperature from fluctuating. I have a floating thermometer inside the water bath, to monitor the temperature.

I removed the lid, so I still use the cooler as a cooler if I need to, by sticking the original lid back on.

 

wonderbread23

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I made my "Yooper Lagerator" out of some foam sheeting, and a cooler. It has wheels, so it can be moved easily. In the summer, I add water and a couple of frozen water bottles to keep it cool. In the winter, I add water and an aquarium heater to keep it warm. Sometimes, just the water bath alone is enough to keep the temperature from fluctuating. I have a floating thermometer inside the water bath, to monitor the temperature.

I removed the lid, so I still use the cooler as a cooler if I need to, by sticking the original lid back on.
I built one recently, and it is awesome. My house sits in the high 70's. I swap out one of those re-usuable blue ice thingies once a day, and it keeps my fermenter right 64*. I have a fermometer on the carboy and a floating thermometer in the water. I think it was probably less than $40 after buying a cooler at Walmart and a sheet of foam insulation.
 

apologeticus

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I got an aquarium heater to bring my temp up during the winter. Just started using it last night, and it seems to work well enough but I think the temp control is off. Water was 62 and I had it set for 71, and it wouldn't heat, set the heater to 80, and it heats the water to about 70, which was my goal.
sounds like you got an aquarium heater with wattage too low for your water volume. also, a small pump to circulate the water helps, otherwise you get a "hot spot" in the area around the heater and cooler spots elsewhere.
 

bonzombiekitty

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sounds like you got an aquarium heater with wattage too low for your water volume. also, a small pump to circulate the water helps, otherwise you get a "hot spot" in the area around the heater and cooler spots elsewhere.
I have at most 10 gal in the container and the heater is rated well above that. I took the temp of the water around the meter thinking that a hot area might be the issue, but that didn't seem to be the case. Only thing I can think of outside of a faulty heater is that the hot spot is inside the heater where the thermometer is.

I was thinking of getting a pump anyways
 

jdc2

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I was considering trying to rig something with an arduino board, a heating belt, and some peltier coolers, but that would require a lot of work. Are there any cheap solutions available? I don't mind building something, but I'd prefer buying something off the shelf if it's cheap enough.

I eventually bought a temp controller and another fridge, but
you can cool a 6-gallon carboy in a large trash can filled with
water. Put a floating thermometer in the bath, add ice cubes
when necessary. Just depends on how accurately you want
to control the temp.
Jim:mug:
 

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