It’s been four days since we kicked off the start of the new brew season and Florida was hit with lower than usual temperatures. Normally this would be an item of concern, but with the newly built fermentation chamber, the bubbly malty goodness of my Concussion Red is sitting happily at 68 degrees.
After a lot of research and decision making on whether to spend a couple extra dollars or pull out my DIY skills, I decided to use the Inkbird LTC-308 dual temperature controller. This controller is easy to setup, maintains temperatures, and can set high/lo and temperature control in 1 degree increments. The temperature probe readout displays in tenths of a degree, which is convenient to track temperature changes. Also, adding a layer of foam to the probe on the outside of the bucket helped stabilize the temperature to better account for the thermal mass of the 6 gallon bucket. This prevents rapid hot/cold cycling of the freezer. For heat, I am using a simple filament light bulb. For all but 10 days a year in Florida, this is more than enough heat control.
This will be my first temperature controlled homebrew, so we’ll see how it turns out.
After long delay in brewing I decided to pull out one of my favorite malty ale recipes. When I’m brewing on a regular basis, this is a staple brew in my inventory, and has been for several years. It is light enough to enjoy on a hot summer day, and hearty enough to warm the soul during the colder days of winter.
So with a year off from brewing, set up went surprisingly well. All of my equipment was built and designed on a budget, but sturdy enough to endure years of carefully crafted brewing.
The day started on the warmer side of 70F and it was looking to be a nice warm December day in Florida. Luckily after about an hour into our brew session, the clouds rolled in and kept the temperature at a very comfortable 70F. We did get about 30 minutes of light on and off showers during the boil, but decided that it would only add more “character” to our final product.
With the boil complete, it was time to cool the wort down to pitching temperature. If you have experienced brewing in Florida, you know that ground water temperatures are not conducive to wort chilling. So being a resourceful and frugal home brewer, I concocted a double wort chiller setup. The first wort chiller sat in a cooler of ice water at around 48-50F, which fed into the main workhorse chiller in the brew pot. The cooling efficiency is absolutely amazing as the water going into the wort brings temperatures down relatively quickly compared to ground water temperatures.
Also, another pleasant addition to my home brewing arsenal is my new fermentation chamber. My current cohort in brewing crime helped build a sleeve for a small freezer. I purchased an Inkbird ITC-308 dual temperature controller, plugged the freezer into the cooling outlet and a filament light bulb into the heating outlet. I spent 3 days testing the design with a 5 gallon bucket full of water to make sure it worked as intended. I will post updates on how well it handles the rigors of fermentation in a couple of days.
All in all my first day back to brewing went very smooth. Starting Gravity was only a few points off of the estimated numbers, the equipment is still working great, and I will have a keg of home brewed goodness in a few weeks.
Until next time!