9 Devices to Heat or Cool Your Fermenter

by Billy Ellison Updated on March 11, 2016

When it comes to fermenting, temperature is one of the most important steps towards happy yeast.

Ale yeast is happiest at 68 to 72°F, while lagers usually perform best at 45 to 55°F.

Previously, we discussed options for controlling your fermentation temperature.

However, controlling temperatures is only piece to the puzzle. Actually heating and cooling your fermenter is another animal altogether, and it usually requires a separate device or two.

This time, we’ll share some options to help you condition your fermentation station, whether you need to bring the heat or chill it out.

Some of these devices have their own temp controllers, so in those cases, no external controller is needed. But most of these gadgets don’t have a digital temperature controller built in, so you will need to add one.

A very reliable controller that I use and recommend is the Inkbird ITC-308 Digital Temp Controller

Homebrewers' Choice
Inkbird WiFi Digital Temperature Controller Thermostat
$49.99

WIFI smart controller supports both IOS & Android, WIFI supports 2.4GHz Wi-Fi router, free APP “InkbirdSmart” which is able to control dual temperatures at any time.

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Remember though: Ambient temp doesn’t always equal beer temp. 

OK, on to the gadgets. We’re going to assume here that you’re not quite ready to make the leap to a 20 gallon SS glycol cooled conical fermenter. So the options below are more realistic for the wallet.

And while this is not an exhaustive list, we hope that it gets your creative gears moving, and takes you one step closer fantastic homebrew. First up, heating:

Heating Belts

Best Selling
Brew Fermentation Heating Belt
$23.30
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Pros

  • (lack of) Noise – This is a big plus for me. I want to have good beer, but not at the sake of disrupting the peace of my household. Not a problem for heating belts.
  • Easy on/off control – These run on simple resistance. The only on/off is tied to your temp controller of choice.
  • Small – Again, if space is an issue, belts and wraps store away nicely in a bin, tray or cabinet.

Cons

  • 1 per fermenter – If you have multiple fermenters, you’ll need multiple belts.
  • Hot Spots – This may only be in my head, but it’s something you will want to watch. This can be minimized with smart temp-probe placement, but it will take experimentation.
  • Durability. As Billy B. told me, “I had a FermWrap and it completely fell apart on me”. Your mileage may vary, but replacement may come earlier than other solutions.

Get your own BrewBelt Heating Belt here. You won’t regret getting this one.

Seedling Mat

Pros

  • Even distribution heating across pad – You can build a fermentation environment with this integrated into the base. The heat will distribute across the whole area.
  • Potential for multiple fermenters – These come in multiple sizes. Get the one that best fits your brewing area.

Cons

  • Hot enough? In theory this would be the equivalent of electric radiant floor heat. That means I already know the answer is yes, it will heat up to whatever temp you need it to. However, is the output the same as radiant floor heat? I plan to answer that question soon.
  • Heat only – In the summer will you need to bring temps down? You will need a separate cooling device for that. Plenty of options in this article.

Heating lamps

Pros

  • Great for bringing temp up – The heat that comes off of heating lamps can make for quick heating options.
  • Entire fermentation chamber – One per chamber, so if you have multiple fermenters, there’s still only one lamp needed.
  • DIY Options – These homemade bucket + heating lamp setups have become popular too.

Cons

  • Too Hot? – Positioning is everything. You don’t want to encourage bacteria growth with higher temperatures.

*Update – I now recommend you get a safer version of the old “bulb style” heat lamp. These ceramic heaters do a great job with out the potential risks of fire and last a lot longer that a standard bulb does too. They also screw right into a light socket.

Cooling: Converted Refrigerator, Chest Freezer, or Cooling Jacket

Pros

  • Self contained – If you already have a spot for a refrigerator or freezer, you are but one temp controller away from a dedicated environment. Cheers!
  • No venting – The detriment of conditioned air doesn’t apply here. Refrigerators are built to keep the cool in and the heat out.

Cons

  • Size – It’s a refrigerator (or a freezer). They’re big. They don’t pack away after use.
  • Cost – Unless you are replacing an existing one in working condition, or can pick one up on the used market, refrigerators and freezers are on the more expensive end for this dedicated purpose.
  • Only one temperature per unit. This can be a problem with multiple fermenters.

These freezers are the homebrews choice when building a kegerator+freezer = Keezer. (Here’s how to build a Keezer.)

Insulated Fermenter Jacket 2.0 CoolBrewing

Homebrewers' Choice
Home Brewing Fermentation Cooler by CoolBrewing
$72.99

Is compatible with buckets, fermenters and carboys up to 8 gallons. ALSO large enough for ½ barrels kegs and can hold up to 4, five gallon corny kegs.

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Pros

  • Self Contained – Place your bucket fermentor, corny keg, or cononical right in.
  • Small footprint – Again, there’s no more floor space needed than you are already taking up with your fermenter. If space is an issue, this is an attractive option.

Cons

DIY Glycol Chiller

DIY Glycol Chiller by Matt Smith

Check out this post on how to make a DIY glycol chiller.

Ss Brewtech FTSs

brewtech-1

Pros

  • Fermentation Nirvana – If you can’t afford a jacketed glycol professional fermenter (in other words, most of us non-pros), then this can get you close. It’s obvious Ss BrewTech really thought this product out.
  • Chills and Warms – Whatever control you need, just adjust the water source for hot or cold conditioning.
  • Straight looks awesome, especially when stacked.

Cons

  • Cost – List price is US$249.95 plus the cost of the fermenter itself.
  • Made for specific fermenters – This is designed especially for BrewTech’s fermenters. Perhaps in the future there will be a generic option, but for now you need an Ss BrewTech fermenter.
  • Space – Requires a cooler to hold the water for conditioning.

Check out Billy B.’s review of the FTSs system and the stainless steel bucket fermenter.

What do you use to heat or cool your fermenters?

As you can see there are many options to condition your fermentation area, each with their good points as well as bad.

Homebrewers are a clever bunch and are always coming up with new gadgets to serve them, like these smart keg monitors that were funded on Kickstarter.

Billy Ellison: (other Billy, Wd, etc.) is a transplanted Southern boy currently living in Southwest Missouri. Since being exposed to the homebrewing community, he has been building his passion for the full variety of beer styles. Not one to be tied down to one style, he continues to branch out in brewing styles, making each recipe his own, building a base of recipes for all to enjoy. Look out for building projects too, as RIMS has become a fascination of this fledgling homebrewer.