According to experienced homebrewers, temperature control during the fermentation is second only to sanitation (and perhaps healthy yeast). It’s been hot here over the last few months and I’ve been struggling to keep my fermentation temperatures down to a reasonable level by way of a laundry sink full of water with regular additions of slicker pads from the freezer. So, I went ahead and scored myself a full-sized fridge for just $30 on TradeMe (broken thermostat which I removed and hard-wired to permanently on) as well as a $100 TempMate from CraftBrewer in Australia.
The TempMate allows me to keep a constant 18 degrees (you can set the temperature to anything you like) for my ales by turning the fridge on when it gets too warm and by turning on a heading pad (not needed yet as it’s still too warm) when the temperature drops below that. The TempMate ships with very few instructions as to how to wire it up, and, given that the penalty for getting it wrong is possibly death by electrocution and also keeping in mind that if you are a home brewer you are likely going to wire it up yourself instead of consulting an electrician (undoubtedly with a belly full of beer like I did), I’ve decided to share my setup.
A caution: this is 240V mains stuff and cocking it up really can result in an untimely death so if you are going to do it yourself be very careful.
The best guide I could find was on the Melbourne Homebrewers website and I basically copied their setup so check them out.
From Ideal Electrical I shelled out a whopping $50 (I could buy almost two fridges for that!) for a fully sealed enclosure along with two unswitched sockets ($20) — one for the fridge and one for the heat pad — and cable glands ($7) to hold my power and temperature probe cables firmly in place at the back. All of the cabling came from an old computer monitor power cable which I shortened and divided up to make all of the cross connections as well as the main power-in lead. I used a drill, a hacksaw blade and a craft knife to create all the cut-outs and holes. It’s a thing of beauty and it works a treat. Now, to brew a batch of Ordinary Bitter on Saturday morning and keep the bugger at 18 degrees throughout fermentation!