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My first brewing attempt (from a can) has just finished bottle fermenting and it turned out pretty bad (mostly just tasted very weak). I'm not concerned though, I know what mistakes I made along the way, and I'm already excited about my next batch.

For this next one, I want to ensure I have proper temperature control (one of my main mistakes). So, I've got this fridge spare. From what I understand, I'll need to buy the following items to control it:

Is this everything I need?

I was thinking, then I would try a Fresh Wort Kit (baby steps!). Is it then simply a matter of:

  1. Pour wort into fermenter
  2. Add appropriate yeast
  3. Put in fridge, set temperature, wait
  4. Bottle after FG is stable in a week or so

Thanks in advance, I really appreciate the assistance :)

EDIT: one final question. With most Fresh Wort Kits - do I need to worry about storage time or temperature? Or is that only once fermentation begins?

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Storage time/temp - for any foodstuffs, cooler and shorter is usually better to reduce oxidization. Oxidization happens 3 times faster for each increase in 10C/18F. –  mdma Mar 21 '13 at 15:09
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3 Answers 3

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Yes this is pretty much all you need, apart from a spare grommet for the beer temp sensor. (Those fresh wort kits look great - I may never have started AG brewing if they had those locally!)

However, I wouldn't put the sensor in the beer. The beer will take a long time to change temperature, while the fridge chamber cools quickly. What tends to happen is the fridge temperature decreases much below the beer temperature, and stays there until the beer temperature has fallen below the setpoint, and the fridge compressor is switched off. But then the fridge is still very cold, often below freezing, and the beer continues chilling, missing the setpoint.

With a simple on-off controller, the most effective solution is to place the sensor in a small glass of water, or simply leave it free floating in the fridge. In the early stages of fermentation, set the setpoint a couple of degrees (C) below your ideal temperature, to account for the heat generated during vigorous fermentation. As time progresses, you can increase the temperature up to the setpoint.

For measuring the temperature of the beer, more advanced control is needed, including a separate sensor in the fridge to keep the fridge temp a few degrees within the beer temp. The brewpi project implements a system like this.

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I would recommend going with something like this for temp control. http://www.amazon.com/Control-Products-TC-9102D-HV-Temperature-Controller/dp/B0057APR3I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363828571&sr=8-1&keywords=dual+stage+temperature+controller It's what I use on my 49cf True cooler for fermenting and it controls the cooling system and a radiant heater for the winter months. It's cheaper than piecing one together and all in one so it's ready to go. You can use a heavy gauge extension cord to wire it up, then run the probe into the refrigerator.

As far as the rest of your process, all sounds good except the bottling after a week or so. If it's a lighter style (cream ale, hefeweizen, etc) wait at least 2-3 weeks before bottling. Darker styles (stouts, brown ale, etc), wait 4-6 weeks. That's likely why you're not too satisfied with your first batch. It takes patience. Even a lighter style beer will typically take 4-6 weeks before it's ready.

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the links in the question are all to .au domains, so he's probably in AU - the controller you link to comes with a US plug - will this be compatible? –  mdma Mar 23 '13 at 0:52
    
The controller I linked to does not come wired with a plug, so it's whatever plug he chooses to install. –  CodeBrewer Mar 24 '13 at 15:31
    
Ah, ok, great! ;) I was confusing it with another controller. –  mdma Mar 24 '13 at 16:17
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Preface:

  • The temperature controller you linked to is roughly an STC-1000. It can be had for $30USD on eBay, which is a little cheaper (28 AUD) than the linked item.
  • The hobby box you linked to looks like a good price.
  • The probe that you linked to is entirely unnecessary. You can get just-as-good temperature control by taping the temperature probe to the side of your fermenter. It's sufficiently small that there's no real benefit. Once you get into 30+ gallon fermentations, having your temperature probe in the middle of the fermentation makes sense -- at 5 gallons, it's not worth $30AUD.

For new homebrewers, the following course is generally what I recommend:

  1. Brewing from a can (hopped malt extract)
  2. Brewing from malt extract and loose hops (pellets or leaf)
  3. All-grain brewing

Generally, temperature control will not make too much of a difference at "Level 1". You would be better served by getting better ingredients, and particularly at having attempted multiple brews. Practice makes perfect!

As far as your main question regarding "is this everything I need [for temperature control]"? Yes, those are the specific items required for temperature control -- in addition to a refrigerator/freezer to maintain the proper temperature.

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