I've decided to begin assembling the components for temperature control, as I am walking around telling new homebrewers that its the best thing one can do to improve quality, yet I myself don't have it. I am going to buy a temp controller and a freezer (but will need to make space, as I live in a small rowhouse), but was wondering which controllers are best for homebrewing. There seems to be quite a bit of price difference out there. At the high end, I was looking at this one by Ranco:


Also by Ranco, but a third the price: http://www.amazon.com/RANCO-ETC-111000-Digital-Temperature-Control/dp/B0015NV5BE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1328194583&sr=8-1

I've also heard of some people having good experiences with Johnson, such as this one: http://www.amazon.com/Johnson-Controls-Digital-Thermostat-Control/dp/B00368D6JA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1328194583&sr=8-2

I would prefer to have to do minimal wiring/splicing, etc. myself, as my wife is already patient enough with my obsession and don't want to add and electrical fire and burned-alive dog to the mix to test it further.

Maybe this should be a community wiki?

Thanks in advance!

  • Does anyone know if can use one of these on a window air conditioner for a walk in cooler.
    – user3976
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 12:20
  • Incidentally, do you plan on purchasing the fridgerator? How much do you plan to spend and how many carboys would you like to fit in it? Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 21:36

6 Answers 6


I use a Love TS-13010. The price has gone up a bit, but you may be able to find a deal on the eBay. I wired it into an electrical box so I can just plug any devices I want temperature controlled into it. Then you don't have to ruin the wiring in your freezer, and you can convince your wife that you can still use it to store meat :)

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Here's how mine is wired:

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And since the front is splash-proof, I even used one to replace the analog temp control in my kegerator fridge!

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I have 2 of the Johnson analog controls. Super easy to use, no wiring involved. Works like a charm. I just need to pick up a Thermowell sometime soon.

  • is the thermowell just a casing for you to drill through the fridge and insert a probe? Several of the Johnson's tout that they have a 1/16" probe, so could you just put that through the lid's seal?
    – Pietro
    Commented Feb 2, 2012 at 21:51
  • No the Thermowell is essentially an extension to the controller probe mounted on what's basically a bung, so that the probe extension reaches does into the fermenting liquid itself. Check out this link: morebeer.com/view_product/16672/beerwinecoffee/…
    – GHP
    Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 14:54
  • Thermowells are nice but not necessary. I have been taping a folded over towel to the side of the carboy and putting the probe in there against the glass. Works fine. I keep thinking about getting a thermowell, but I end up spending the money on other brew stuff instead.
    – brewchez
    Commented Feb 4, 2012 at 0:59

I use this analog thermostat from Johnson with my keezer. (No affiliation with Rebel. Just like them personally.)

Doesn't require any splicing/wiring. Very convenient. Just need to run the temperature probe into the freezer somehow. (I have a collar on mine, so it works perfectly.)

  • I also like Rebel. Good online shop.
    – GHP
    Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 13:42

Two weeks ago I was in exactly the same place you were. I bought the Ranco model, just haven't bought my freezer yet (gotta clear space in the garage first). I'm also considering a thermowell.

My criteria were that the controller needed a full range of brewing temps (~32-80F, which some cheap home aquarium models don't), that I could change it from heating to cooling, and that it be pre-wired.

I chose the Ranco ETC-111000, pre-wired from ETCSupply.com. Haven't had a chance to use it yet, but it seems solid. I chose it over the Johnson model because you can change the state (cooling or heating) in the menu. With the Johnson model you have to unscrew the faceplate and change jumpers.

The Ranco ETC-211000 model is their dual-stage model- one outlet controls heating, one controls cooling. I don't anticipate that I would use that feature. At worst, if I need simultaneous heating and cooling I can get a second controller.

After making my purchase, I found this two-stage pre-wired model from Rebel Brewer, which I might have bought if I had seen it before. It's a little bit more expensive than the others but cheap for a two-stage model. The submersible probe is a plus but it only reads in degrees Celsius.


The Ranco and Johnson controllers are both solid controllers, and they will work just fine. I know guys that have used both of them, and the only thing I would recommend is that you buy a controller that will work for you as you make changes to your system. To that end, here are a couple recommendations:

  • Buy dual stage - You may not be concerned about heating your fermenter right now, but I suspect as you go, you will find that you want to have a greater control of the stability of your temperature (I did, as did others I know). You will spend a little more up front for a solid dual-stage that can control heating and cooling, but it's cheaper than having to buy a second controller down the road.
  • I know you said you didn't want to do much wiring, and I certainly understand where you're coming from. I am a noob when it comes to fabrication, electrical, etc. That being said, I bought an STC-1000 on ebay for $20, which came with a temp probe and solid state relays built in to the controller, and wiring the project was really quite simple. I installed it with an electrical outlet (two plug, controlled independently), and now have a nice-looking, homemade, 2-stage temperature controller, that I have a great deal of pride in when I look at it. Total time to do the work, maybe a half hour. Longer to research how I wanted to wire it, but if you want some help, feel free to let me know. I'd be happy to offer my non-professional advice. :)
  • Lots of good points - although note that the STC-1000 comes with mechanical relays, not SSRs. (I've had one in pieces - you can hear them click when they activate.)
    – mdma
    Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 16:08

I picked up a unit on ebay that came with it's own thermocouple and SSR for about $40, free shipping. You'd need to build a housing like the Love digital one, but it's a fun little project and it works perfectly. I have the same units hooked up to my electric HLT for controlling sparge temp and one on order for my electric RIMS system I'm building. They're great!

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