Putting Together a Temperature Controller

I’ve been told by many other homebrewers that one of the most important things in homebrewing is repeatability.  If you can’t repeat your process exactly and only change one variable at a time, how are you ever going to dial in a recipe and/or diagnose then reduce faults?

So one of the most variable parts of my brewing process thus far has been fermentation temperature control – basically I had none.  I started off with the fermenter sitting in the corner of the room, meaning that the temperature would fluctuate based on what the central heating is currently setting the room temperature at or the time of year.  I then migrated to placing the fermenter in a large flexible plastic bucket (something like this) filled with water.  This did a good job at stabilising large temperature fluctuations, but the overall temperature was still dependent on the room temperature and the time of the year.

So enough was enough, I had a spare fridge in the garage which was going to become my fermentation chamber, and a tube heater borrowed from a buddy at work,  now all I needed was a temperature controller…

Here’s the shopping list – I got the STC-1000 is from eBay and everything else from Maplin:

* 2m for main power lead, 1m each for heater/fridge plug sockets, the remaining cable I striped and separated out the cores to use for the internal wiring in the box.

To put the thing together I cut holes into the box using a Dremel hand saw and a drill, then simply followed the instructions in this great video, but instead of using heat shrink wraps, I used the terminal blocks and wired the mains cables into one side (coming directly from the plug connector) and the wires from the controller to the other side:

And this is the final result!



I’ve got in use on a batch as I type this and it’s happily holding the fermentation at 19 ºC. 🙂

Stone – Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale

Stone - Sublimely Self-Righteous AleIt’s Day 12, the final day of the #12BeersOfXmas!

Stone – Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale (8.7%, 1 pint bottle)

It pours dark black, and I mean totally black; no light is coming through this one; and it’s got a light brown head that laces the glass nicely and it’s lightly carbonated.

The aroma is full of tropical fruits and small hints of roasted malt.

The flavour is very reminiscent of the Stone IPA I had last week, delicately balanced tropical fruits, citrus and bitterness, but this time all set against a malt backbone that is more dry and has a hint of roastiness. This is one bloody good beer!

Overall this is a great Black IPA, possibly the best one I’ve ever had, and an awesome way to round off the 12 days!

Dogfish Head – 90 Minute Imperial IPA

Dogfish Head - 90 Minute Imperial IPAIt’s Day 11, the penultimate day of the #12BeersOfXmas and it’s time for another big US double IPA.

Dogfish Head – 90 Minute Imperial IPA (9%, 12oz bottle)

This one pours a nice orange colour with a slight hop haze and a lively carbonation.

The aroma is big on the US style citrus and tropical fruit notes – pineapple, mango, passion fruit, lychee – followed by a sweet malty character.

These characters follow on into the flavour of the beer, giving intense citrus and tropical fruits on a good strong malty backbone. It’s also quite full bodied and almost chewy. Each mouthful ends with a strong bitterness and a slight alcohol warmth. There’s a lot going on in this beer!

Overall this is a really good double IPA, not the best I’ve had but still well worth checking out.

Crooked Stave – Hop Savant

Crooked Stave - Hop SavantIt’s Day 10 of the #12BeersOfXmas, only two more to go! Today’s beer can only be described as “different”…

I picked this one up (along with a few others) whilst in New York a month or so ago and I’ve been really looking forward to trying this. It’s made by Crooked Stave, and it’s an American Pale Ale, made with Citra, Mosaic and Simcoe hops, but here’s the twist it’s fermented in oak foeders (they look like barrels) entirely with brettanomyces! This is my first 100% brett beer so here goes…

Crooked Stave – Hop Savant (6.7%, 375ml bottle)

The beer pours a very hazy light straw colour with a small white head that quickly disappeared.

The aroma is very very different – highly acidic, lemony, sweet and with a very faint hint of maltiness, not at all like a “regular” pale ale.

The flavour is very much aligned to the aroma; acidic, slightly sour and light bodied. The only beer I’ve ever had that is similar to this was a Rodenbach in of all places a Fullers pub a few months back – I really quite enjoyed that then, and I’m enjoying this one now. It’s not a beer for gulping down, but one for sipping slowly.

Overall I really quite enjoyed this one. It’s not one I could have every day, or every week even, but every now and then something like this would be lovely!

Brewdog/Mikeller – I Hardcore You

Brewdog/Mikeller - I Hardcore YouIt’s Day 9 of the #12BeersOfXmas! Now it’s time for one of my all-time top beers…

Brewdog/Mikeller – I Hardcore You (9.5%, 330ml)

It pours a light straw colour at the base of the glass leading up to dark orange at the top with a smooth off white head.

The aroma is great, strong hoppy resin notes combined with a small amount of malt and citrus.

The flavour on this is where it really shines, the strong hoppy resin notes from the aroma are present, along with much more citrus and a very good sweet malty backbone and mild bitterness to round it all off. It’s also medium bodied with a medium carbonation level – this is a real pleasure to drink.

Overall this is a great double/imperial IPA and I bloody love it!

Marks and Spencer – Greenwich Smoked Bock

M&S - Greenwich Smoked BockDay 8 of the #12BeersOfXmas is upon us and it’s time for something a bit different…

Marks and Spencer – Greenwich Smoked Bock (6%, 500ml bottle)

This one is brewed for Marks and Spencer’s by Meantime Brewing Co. down in London and is quite a new one in their (M&S’s) range of beers brewed for them by decent british breweries.

The beer pours a dark caramel brown with a good sized off-white head and lively carbonation.

The aroma is really quite subtle, I’m getting hints of malt and smokiness but not a lot else to be honest.

This subtlety however is forgotten when you actually taste the beer – it literally slaps you in the taste buds with caramel, smokiness, toffee, smokiness, malt, smokiness oh, and a little more smokiness. Did I mention the smokiness? The closest thing I can equate the overall character of this beer to is the German smoked cheeses you get in the supermarket, it’s like someone dropped a tonne of those all blended up into the mash tun. That said, it’s not so overpowering (compared to other smoked beers I’ve had in the past) that it’s tough to drink – I’m really enjoying sipping on this one and it’s actually fairly refreshing, just like a bock should be.

Overall, I really quite like this. I didn’t expect this level of smokiness, but as I said before it doesn’t make for a hard going drink. I think I’ll be picking this one up again!

Stone – IPA

Stone - IPAIt’s Day 7 of the #12BeersOfXmas and it’s another from Stone.

Stone – IPA (6.9%, 12oz bottle)

This one pours a light orange in colour, with a light fluffy white head and medium carbonation.

The aroma is a lot more delicate than I expected – light floral, citrus notes combined with equally light pine and resin, it’s really quite delicate and pleasant.

The delicate nature of the aroma is matched in the flavour also, light orange, grapefruit and other citrus characters backed up by a piney resinous punch and a little bit of biscuity malt. This is much more subtle than the other Stone beers I’ve had in the past, and I have to say it’s better for it – this is a real delight to drink.

This is a fantastic IPA, not at all headline grabbing and extreme, just delicate, well balanced and wonderfully made. If you can get hold of one do it, do it now!

St. Austell – Smugglers Grand Cru

St. Austell - Smugglers Grand CruMerry Christmas everybody! It’s Christmas day, which is Day 6 of the #12BeersOfXmas, and it’s time for something I’ve been saving for a while…

St. Austell – Smugglers Grand Cru (11.5%, 750ml bottle)

I’ve had this one stashed away in the back of the cupboard for two years so it’s time to break it out. From the moment the cork was popped the air was filled with the aromas of toffee, vanilla, oak, maltiness and booze; lots and lots of booze. It pours crystal clear, but dark brown in colour and is well carbonated with a persistent off white head; it looks and smells great.

The flavour in this one is complex to say the least, sweet malt, vanilla, toffee, caramel, along with dried fruit characters such as prunes or dates; this is then followed off with a nice boozy alcohol warmth as you would expect with a beer of this strength. It’s medium bodied and well carbonated so this one is a sipper but I have to say it’s delicious.

This isn’t normally the sort of beer I’d go for but for a one off treat, it’s really hitting the spot today – bloody lovely! 🙂

Stone – Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale

Stone - Oaked Arrogant Bastard AleIt’s Day 5 of the #12BeersOfXmas, and it’s time for another beer from Stone.

Stone – Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale (7.2%, 12oz bottle)

The beer pours a dark brown/red colour and is crystal clear with a nice gentle carbonation and a thin white head.

To be honest there’s not really any noticeable aroma coming from this beer, maybe mild hints of vanilla but I’m really struggling with this one.

Thankfully there is a bit more going on in the flavour, hints of toffee, vanilla and caramel but all of these are subdued somewhat by the overpowering and crushing bitterness that follows them – it just seems to mask all of the delicate and subtle flavours that were there before. It’s medium bodied and finishes quite sweet so it’s more of a sipping beer than one to swig.

Overall I’m not overly impressed with this one, it’s ok (and drinkable, I’m not about to pour it out at all) but the harsh bitterness seems to mask everything else that would have been going on in it. Fingers crossed tomorrow should bring something nicer…