Our house is cold. Really, really cold. It’s a combination of bad insulation and windows that never shut quite right. And in a closet with its own window and no radiator, the beer is fermenting in what is probably the coldest corner of all.
My amber ale did not start bubbling its first night. It still wasn’t really bubbling the next morning, either, and I had a sinking feeling it was just too cold for the yeast. Ben, always up for an electronics project, suggested a fix.
Quite a while ago he and our friend Phil made a Sous Vide machine by attaching a slow cooker to a PID (proportional integral derivative) controller. The PID essentially regulates the temperature of the slow cooker, turning it on when it gets too low and shutting it off when it gets too high. This lets you keep the slow cooker at a constant temperature. Fill the thing with water, submerge a bag full of chicken, and you can cook at a low, slow, constant temperature until the meat is almost falling apart. It worked, and the chicken was definitely tender.
Ben had the idea to attach the PID to a space heater and set it to 65F. The closet would be the water bath, and the beer would be the chicken, if you want to keep talking in Sous Vide terms.
He rigged the whole thing up and set it on the floor of the closet, on top of a pizza stone for safety’s sake. It seemed to work, but then it got hot in places it shouldn’t have. Like the electrical cord.
So we unplugged it.
We plugged it back in a week later, and it promptly blew a fuse. So much for hacking.
And the beer started fermenting on its own anyway. Turns out all it needed was some time.