Brewing yeast requires temperatures between 15.6 and 23.9 degrees Celsius. These temperatures aren't difficult to maintain from spring to fall. Home brewing fermenters in basements and sheds, though, often can't hold this temperature range during winter. You can choose from several heaters to keep the fermenting beer above the minimum temperature requirements for yeast to thrive.
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Flexible Heat Pads
Flexible heat pads under the fermenter can provide adequate heat for your brew. You can wrap pads around the bottom of a fermenter for oddly shaped containers. The fermenting brew heats and the warmth penetrates the liquid with conduction and convection.
The flexible heat pads are washable and can be controlled with a thermostat to keep the fermenter at a target temperature. The heat pads can be 30 or 60 watts.
Plate heaters are similar to flexible heating pads, except they're rigid and must remain under the fermenter. The plate heater provides a continuous heat that keeps the brew warm. You need to control the pad, however, to avoid overheating the beer.
The plate heater comes in 30 and 60 watt powers and is generally cheaper than flexible heating pads.
Belt heaters wrap around the whole fermenter to provide warmth across the surface area of the container. The belt heater is a strand of resistance wire that's plugged into the wall. The belt heater is not controlled by a thermostat, so take care when using it.
The advantage of the belt heater is its price. It's the cheapest way to heat a home brew in winter, although the belt heater works better in conjunction with a thermostat or timer.
Some use a hotplate at its lowest temperature. The hotplate is an electric element capable of producing high temperatures. You can buy hotplates at big box stores, but their temperature control is heavy-handed. Temperatures can also vary greatly.
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