The Best Temperature Controller for Brewing and Distilling (In 2022)

Temperature controllers, one of the most common forms of laboratory equipment, provide practically infinite capabilities for enabling experiments in a wide range of research sectors. Their primary function is to monitor and control the temperature. Temperature controllers aid in the efficiency and safety of several industry production methods by establishing and maintaining the temperature. Temperature control devices have been used in a variety of sectors, including the healthcare sector and the packaging and making of beverages and food.

What is a temperature controller?

A temperature controller is a device that assesses the difference between a setpoint and a measured temperature to control the temperature. The controller receives a signal from a sensing element and emits it to a control device such as a fan or heater. In simple words, a temperature controller is an instrument that maintains a specific temperature.

There are many examples of temperature controllers in our home. We are mostly familiar with thermostats, which are the simplest temperature controller in our homes. When an oven temperature is set, a controller checks the actual temperature within the oven. If it goes below the specified temperature, it transmits a signal to the heater to bring it back up to temperature. A hot water heater uses a thermostat to regulate the temperature of the water and keep it at a predetermined level. Refrigerators also employ thermostats. So, if the temperature rises too high, a controller takes action to reduce the temperature.

Why do I need a temperature controller?

Temperature controllers are intended to keep an object or process at a predetermined temperature. A controller is used to establish a temperature via a set point in any application where temperature control is necessary. A temperature sensor of some form is used to measure the temperature at that place to the appropriate setpoint. Some applications require heat to maintain a specified temperature, while others necessitate cooling, and some require both. Temperature control is essential in many operations.

Any setting that requires consistent maintenance of a specific temperature must have temperature controls. This can occur when an entity is intended to be cooled, heated or both, and to maintain the desired temperature in the face of current variability. 

Basic methods of temperature controller

There are two basic methods of temperature control: open loop and closed loop. The most basic type is the open-loop, which uses continuous heating and cooling with no consideration for the heat flux produced. Closed-loop control is considerably superior to open-loop control. A closed-loop application continually measures and adjusts the emission temperature to maintain a consistent supply at the required temperature. Closed-loop control is always aware of the output signal and incorporates it into the monitoring process. 

Common temperature controller applications

Temperature controllers are used to managing industrial processes or activities in a wide range of sectors. Temperature controllers are often used in industry in machinery such as injection shaping and forming, plastic extraction, food processing, blood banks, thermal-generating machines, packaging machines, beer brewing, and food storage. A quick review of several popular temperature monitoring sectors of the industry follows:

Packaging

Packaging equipment incorporates sealing bars, adhesive applicators, thermosetting functions, cling wrap processes, or labeling applicators that are designed to operate at specific temperatures and durations. To ensure the quality of the final product, temperature controllers accurately manage these procedures.

Healthcare

Temperature controllers are used in the healthcare industry to improve temperature control precision. It is commonly used in  testing equipment such as sterilizers, refrigeration equipment, incubators, and laboratories where objects must be experimented upon within certain temperature constraints.

Heat Treat/Oven

Temperature controls are utilized in ovens as well as heat-treating applications such as boilers, furnaces, heat exchangers, and ceramic kilns.

Plastics

The plastics industry utilizes temperature control extensively in mobile cooling and drying systems, along with forming and pressing machinery. Temperature controllers are used in forming equipment to accurately monitor and regulate temperatures at several crucial stages in the plastic manufacturing operation.

Food

Temperature controls are commonly used in the food industry for such things as cooking, mixing, baking, and sterilizing. Temperature duration is controlled by controllers to achieve the desired results of keeping the food stored and tasting in the best way.

Fermentation and brewing

Temperature control of actively developing malt can significantly influence the taste of the finished beer. If the temperature is not controlled during the fermentation, it might result in a tasteless, overly citrus or rough alcohol. 

What to look for when buying a temperature controller?

One of the primary technologies that distinguish professional brewers from homebrewers is temperature control. In contrast to professionals who use insulated cylindrical vessels to confine fermentation within a defined temperature range, most amateurs do without a regulated, isolated environment. The temperature controller act as the core device of that environment.

Below are some points to consider while purchasing a temperature controller.

Analog and digital 

Analog controllers are the most basic and often the least expensive. If you merely need refrigeration and don’t need ultimate accuracy, these are excellent choices. In terms of deadband, analog controllers have a greater gap than digital controllers. Analog controllers have a 3°F (2°C) difference. After reaching the desired temperature set, it will be dead. When the temperature falls 3°F (2°C) from the set temperature, it will reactivate. However, the digital temperature controller has a 1°F (0.5°C) or less difference from the desired to the dead temperature.

Single and dual stages

A single-stage controller is in charge of only one heating or cooling source. A dual-stage controller is in charge of both. Dual-stage is utilized in areas where the temperature often fluctuates between day and night. A place where at night it is very cold and in the day it is overly hot, so you will need temperature control to keep your beer at the desired temperature by using both systems’ heating and cooling.

Single and programmable temperature

A single-temperature controller is simple to operate. Simply enter the desired temperature and it will take care of the rest. However, a programmable controller has the option to add some functionality. Assume you wish to initiate fermentation at one temperature and progressively increase it over a few days to achieve complete attenuation, followed by a cold crash to remove yeast from suspension. To perform each step with a single-temperature controller, you must manually flip the switch. However, a programmable type allows you to set the temperature as a function of time and there is no need to reset it again and again. 

How to set-up a temperature controller

For Cooling

  • Link the fridge’s power line to the controller. 
  • Insert the probe into the fridge. 
  • Set the temperature controller to the temperature you choose to meet the yeast requirements for your brew.
  • The controller will regulate the interior temperature of the refrigerator by turning it on and off as circumstances change. 
  • The fridge must be configured to be as cold as you require.

For Heating

  • Use a refrigerator while it is switched off or a specially constructed heating box.
  • Connect your heating source/heating box/ refrigerator to the temperature controller.
  • Insert the probe into the refrigerator or heating box.
  • Set your thermostat to the proper temperature.

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The importance of temperature control during fermentation

Fermentation temperature management is arguably the single most important component in homebrewing’s progressive development. The yeast works best between 67 and 71 °F. This is the perfect balance for ensuring that your yeast does its work without creating too many undesirable flavors. High temperatures encourage yeast growth, but it also accelerate the replication process and increase ester production as well; pitch enough yeast and monitor the temperature to prevent this. The undesirable off-flavors are usually obtained because the fermentation temperature is not controlled accordingly.

Esters: They are frequently viewed as fruity, such as pear or nail paint remover. While certain esters are good in specific types, they can damage when they are not in the desired taste. Esters can be reduced with conditioning, but high quantities may never improve.

Acetaldehyde: It is commonly associated with raw pumpkin or green apples. All fermentations produce acetaldehyde byproduct, but it can accumulate in high concentrations in uncontrolled conditions of temperature.

Fusel alcohol: A heated alcoholic flavor that almost tastes sloppy or vodka-like. This usually fades with conditioning.

Tips for fermentation temperature control

Fermentation temperatures are very critical to focus and work on. Some yeast work better warm, while others work better cold, but the damage occurs when the temperature of the brew changes from hot to cold and back again.

Controlling temperature and reacting effectively to variations during the brew cycle, especially during fermentation, will greatly impact your beer. It is recommended to buy a standard bimetal meat thermometer and calibrate it to 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) with 50/50 ice and water. Yeast thrives or dies according to temperature, so it is important to keep an eye on it. Most strains of brewer’s yeast can withstand temperatures in excess of 110 oF (43 oC), but it’s not a smart option to let your brew get that hot. Unless your yeast strain is adapted to higher temperatures, pitching should begin around 70 oF (21 oC) with lots of oxygen. 

The variable temperature of fermentation in homebrewing can be reduced with a little forethought. It is not recommended to leave the fermenting beer in the sun. When brewing hops beer, UV radiation may cause it to taste sour. A cupboard or darkened basement that maintains a tolerable temperature range is a suitable location. Make temperature-controlled brewing easier with vintage freezers in the garage. The temperature inside a home refrigerator fluctuates fairly often, but a small standing thermometer may give you some idea. Your garage floor is more likely to fluctuate than any refrigerator in operation.

Best temperature controllers

AGPtek Digital Temperature Controller STC-1000 (Best Budget Temperature Controller)

  • It has both alternative cooling and heating modes.
  • It has an easy process. Just set the temperature setting value and the differential value to control the temperature.
  • It also features temperature adjustment.
  • It also offers protection against cooling control output delay.
  • It is also integrated with a built-in alarm. When the temperature exceeds the temperature limit or there is a sensor fault, an alarm is triggered. 

Pros

  • It has a reasonable price.
  • It is small in size. 

Con

  • It requires effort to set it up. It’s technical to understand. 

Price

$21 

AGPtek Digital All-purpose Temperature Controller STC-1000 w/Sensor
  • Switch the modes between cool and heat
  • Control temperature by setting the temperature setting value and the difference value
  • Temperature calibration

Johnson Electronic Temperature Control A421 (Best For The Beginner)

  • It is an electronic single-stage temperature controller.
  • It offers a lockable front-panel keypad for setup and customization.
  • It has a LCD display.
  • It is also designed with sensor offsets, temperature setbacks, and adjustable temperatures.

Pros

  • It is simple and handy.

Cons

  • Single stage, heating or cooling can’t work simultaneously.

Price

$116

Johnson Controls A421ABG-02C A421 Series Electronic Temperature Control with Pre Wired Power Cord, -40 to 212 Degree F Temperature Range
  • Electronic Single Stage Temperature Control, 120/240 VAC, UL TYPE 1, IP20, SPDT, with 12 amp power c
  • Featuresa lockable front-panel touchpad for setup and adjustment, and a Liquid Crystal Display (LCD)
  • Replaces the popular A419 Johnson Control model with upgraded technology.

Inkbird ITC-308 Digital Temperature Controller (Best For The Advanced Home Brewer)

  • The displays have degrees in both Celsius and Fahrenheit.
  • As circumstances change, so can the power of refrigeration and heating equipment.
  • Two display windows display both the measured and the set temperature at the same time.
  • It also offers an alarm. When the temperature exceeds a certain threshold or the sensor malfunctions, a buzzer alert will sound.
  • The maximum output load it offers is 1100W for safety (110V).
  • It has the ability of temperature and compressor delay to safeguard your refrigeration/heating equipment.

Pros

  • It has a WiFi option as well.
  • It is waterproof.

Cons

  • It has a single probe.

Price

$35

Inkbird ITC-308 Digital Temperature Controller 2-Stage Outlet Thermostat Heating and Cooling Mode Carboy Homebrew Fermenter Greenhouse Terrarium 110V 10A 1100W
  • 🥇🥇【Easy to use】 Supports °C/°F display.
  • 🥇🥇【Dual relay】able to power refrigeration and heating equipment as conditions change.
  • 🥇🥇【Dual Display Window】Displays measured temperature and set temperature at the same time.

Pymeter Digital Temperature Controller (Best Professional Grade Temperature Controller)

  • It has dual probes that are capable of controlling two sockets separately.
  • Maintain the desired temperature range by adjusting the on-off setpoint.
  • Each socket has a heating and cooling mode that is intelligently identified by an on-off setpoint.
  • It has alarm integration, which is useful for probe malfunctions.
  • It also offers a power-on delay, which protects the output device from excessive on/off switching.
  • Its settings are saved even when the power is turned off.

Pros

  • It has dual probes.
  • It is waterproof. 

Con

  • It has no WiFi. 

Price

$27

Pymeter Digital Temperature Controller Dual Probe Reptile Thermostat Controlled Outlet Cooling Heating Pad Heat Mat Thermostat for Reptiles Homebrew Aquarium Greenhouse Terrarium Carboy Heater
  • ✓【Dual Probes】Quite different from other thermostats, Pymeter temperature controller is equipped with 2 waterproof accurate sensors, make it possible to control 2 sockets for heater and cooler at the same time or separately.
  • ✓【Dual Sockets】Each outlet has independent temperature controlled switch and it intelligently identify heating or cooling mode via ON & OFF set-point, it is very easy and flexible to keep target at desired temperature range.
  • ✓【Safe and Reliable】Support High and Low Temperature Alarm; Temperature Difference Alarm, this is very helpful to keep target safe from malfunction of any one probe. Cooking fishes NEVER happen!

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