It cools, it heats, it cools, it heats…

Prior to now I’ve been using an electric mat to provide heat to my fermenting bins, along with some rudimentary insulation. This is rather hit and miss, as it doesn’t have a thermostat and my basement is quite cold and draughty. Add to that the fact that I can only ever gauge the temperature of my wort / must using the crappy little plastic strip thermometer that came free with the fermenter, and it’s clear that I need to invest in some techmology if I want to improve my alcohol production techniques. I’ve gradually been assembling a collection of items with which I can build a temperature controlled fermenting chamber, and I’m ready to start construction. The wife managed to score me a 250L fridge from an auction for 30 bucks! It’s a bit battered and the compressor is quite noisy but it works and that’s the main thing. I (finally, after about a 6 week wait) got my STC1000 temperature controller from AliExpress. God bless China! I have a couple of cheap extension cords and a plastic project box to house it all in, and I’m ready to have a crack at putting it all together. I watched a couple of YouTube videos on wiring up the ubiquitous STC1000 and it seems pretty simple – I know one end of a soldering iron from the other, and I’m ultra-cautious with amps and volts and the like so it shouldn’t be beyond me. The Chinglish instructions and wiring diagram are not confidence inspiring, so it’s good that people like this dude have already gone to the trouble. The first test goes perfectly – I appear to have wired it up correctly (i.e. it doesn’t go POP when I plug it in). I test it by plugging desk lamps into the two relay sockets and watch them go on and off as I put the temperature sensor in the freezer and remove it again.

The ubiquitous STC1000 temperature controller

My STC1000 in its housing

I remove all the shelves and vegetable crispers and egg trays and all the other crap from the fridge, leaving just one shelf in the bottom to stand the fermenter on. My original plan was to cut a hole in the top of the fridge for the airlock to poke out of, but this fridge is so large that I don’t think I’m going to need to. I know that a vigorous fermentation generates a lot of CO2 but I don’t think it’s going to be enough to force the door seal to open. If I don’t have to ruin the fridge in the process, so much the better because at least it can be returned to its original purpose in the future.

Next brew I make, whether it’s cider, stout or lager, whether or not it’s particularly fussy about temperature, I’ll use this bad boy. If nothing else, it’s removing the fermenter from the drafty basement and putting it in an insulated box, thus making the heating aspect easier. Whether or not I ever need to invoke the cooling function remains to be seen. This is Dunedin, after all…

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