Thermometers – my cheap reliable options

I wanted to express my view on thermometers, including the dodgy ones I used, so you don’t make the mistake I did 😬

It was only the second beer I had ever brewed, a Vanilla Stout. Everything went well until the sample of wort I had removed to pitch my yeast…well….it seemed it just did not want to cool down, it wouldn’t go cooler than 32°C. As I tested with another thermometer, my heart sunk, my IKEA thermometer was out by 10°C. It’s the only beer to this date that ended up tipped down the drain, mashing at 56°C when it should of been 66°C resulted in a watery flavourless beer that was undrinkable. I purchased a similar looking thermometer from a brew shop, it too failed almost identically. When using it for the second time, it started reading 10°C higher than actual, luckily by this stage I was double checking with another thermometer. I returned the thermometer to the brew shop, and the manager was honest with me explaining, ” We’ve had alot of these returned.”

Perhaps a quality tested version of these probe/wire thermometers, but stay away from the cheap ones! They were both around $10-$12, I suppose you get what you pay for….or do you?🤔

I RECOMMEND THE FOLLOWING…

My favourite thermometer is old school, this simple, $16 Spirit Thermometer. It reads quickly and I know it’s reliable. Obviously it’s a little more delicate, and I don’t push it’s boundaries by using at boiling temperatures, but I found it perfect at 300mm long for measuring all the wort and water temperature checks needed around mashing. Cheap and reliable.

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My $12 Bi-Metal Thermometer that came with my brewing kit hasn’t skipped a beat! These thermometers (in basic terms) measure temperature as coiled metal expands and retracts as a reaction to heating and cooling. Apparently if they are knocked around alot they may need to be recalibrated simply by adjusting with a small bolt at the back, but I haven’t had to recalibrate mine yet. These types of thermometers are popular with brewers, often built into brew pots and mash tuns (as I did ). Cheap and reliable!

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There are times I want a more precise account of what temperature I’m at, like when pitching yeast or to double check the temperature of my aquarium fermentation vessel. I looked in brewing forums, and votes on the best brewing thermometers, and it seemed the Thermopen was very popular….but at $150+?! Perhaps I’m cheap, but not shelling out that sort of coin for a thermometer.

I found an Australian site that specialises in thermometers, and settled on this Testo Thermometer. It’s quality tested, industrial standard waterproof, 2 year warranty, so for $36 I consider it a good price. It hasn’t let me down after many brew days, but if I did have one complaint the probe is a little short at 120mm.

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These are the 3 thermometers I use, so as you can see no need to spend big money. Always make sure you have a minimum of 2 thermometers, not only so you can double check temperature at crucial times, but also in case one breaks halfway though your brew day.

I’m working on some upcoming blogs that will include my refractometer vs hydrometer testing, and a killer recipe for a Russian Imperial Stout.

Until then..

Happy brewing 🍺

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