Aquarium heater/separate temp probe = bad with corn mash

Any hardware used for mashing, fermenting or aging.

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nerdybrewer
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Aquarium heater/separate temp probe = bad with corn mash

Post by nerdybrewer » Sat Nov 19, 2016 3:55 pm

I have a very thick corn mash with the grains, also oats & wheat in there.
I use a titanium aquarium heater with a separate temperature probe and a controller that shuts off the heater when a set temperature is reached, turns back on when it cools.
Unfortunately the thing sits there and cooks the corn that's nearby and the temperature probe never senses an heat even if it's just a few inches away.
I have strained out a lot of the floating grain, skimmed off the burned stuff and tossed that first.
I'm hoping that with some of that grain out it would maybe allow me to put the heater back in and warm the mash up, it's sitting at about 55F right now.
I have a heating pad strapped to the outside of the container right now but it's not doing much to warm anything up.

Looking for ideas? This isn't going well and I've got over 50 gallons of mash sitting there cold.
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Re: Aquarium heater/separate temp probe = bad with corn mash

Post by ShineonCrazyDiamond » Sat Nov 19, 2016 4:26 pm

I. Feel. You.

I am currently struggling with the best solution also. Thanks for posting. In it together :lol:
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Re: Aquarium heater/separate temp probe = bad with corn mash

Post by DFitz » Sat Nov 19, 2016 5:08 pm

I have two barrels that I use to hold a water bath for my fermenters. I put the tank heaters in the waterbath and it holds my fermentor at a desired temp.
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Re: Aquarium heater/separate temp probe = bad with corn mash

Post by nerdybrewer » Sat Nov 19, 2016 7:27 pm

I was thinking of going to the hardware store and buying some big pipe and putting the heater inside a big metal pipe and then inserting that into the mash, just to give it a bit more area that is getting hot.
I see the way it works with your big water bath, currently that's not practical with my setup.
I'll spend some time in the hardware store tomorrow and see what I can put together.
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http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=52975

Time and Oak will sort it out.

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Re: Aquarium heater/separate temp probe = bad with corn mash

Post by NZChris » Sat Nov 19, 2016 9:54 pm

Insulate it.

A 50 gallon ferment should start off producing more heat than it needs to keep itself warm, all you have to do is prevent it escaping and make sure it doesn't overheat. I wrap mine in anything I can find, old blankets, sleeping bags, duvets. Added heat should only be needed near the end of the ferment, a few Watts underneath the fermenter should do it, the most I use in winter might be 100W and that is spread over four lamps or a heating pad so that the fermenter isn't spot heated, (plastic fermenters can melt if too close to a high Wattage lamp).
My last ferment had an old electric blanket as the first layer. It had been thrown out because the switch was buggered, but with the heating elements wired directly into the controller it was more than enough to keep a dead rum at a very tropical 95F for six days for extra flavor to develop.

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Re: Aquarium heater/separate temp probe = bad with corn mash

Post by nerdybrewer » Sun Nov 20, 2016 9:06 am

NZChris I believe you have the ultimate answer.
I'll sacrifice my insulated box which is the wrong size for this fermenter anyway but I also need to get it up to at least 75F.
I suppose the heating pad I have duct taped to the side would do it especially if I move it lower as right now it's placed so that about 1/3 of it is above the mash line.
Well I've got work to do out in the shed, hope I have enough duct tape left for this.
At least there's a hardware store across the street if I need more. ;)
Cranky's spoonfeeding:
http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=52975

Time and Oak will sort it out.

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Re: Aquarium heater/separate temp probe = bad with corn mash

Post by nerdybrewer » Sun Nov 20, 2016 1:29 pm

Short term solution.
I moved the heating pad so the top edge is below the top level of the mash, duct taped to the outside of the container.
Then built this enclosure out of 1" thick foam board and duct tape with a foam board top.
Crappy (throw away) blankets and pillows around the bottom.
Got my temperature controller in there, reads 56F at the moment.
If I can get this to come up to at least 70F I'll pitch new yeast.
Thinking I'll just use a huge gallon container of activated bakers yeast, maybe 2 cups yeast to a gallon warm water with a little sugar in it.
I need to get this thing fermenting, if it's not already ruined.

Maybe I should be learning something from this experience...

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http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=52975

Time and Oak will sort it out.

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Re: Aquarium heater/separate temp probe = bad with corn mash

Post by nerdybrewer » Sun Nov 20, 2016 2:01 pm

You know how it's common to add ice to lower the temperature to pitching range?
What if I add nearly boiling water to bring the temperature up to pitching range?
This mash started out in the 1.080 range so adding some number of gallons of hot water will just bring the SG down a ways and it will all get distilled twice anyway so heck, I'm going out to boil up some water!
Cranky's spoonfeeding:
http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=52975

Time and Oak will sort it out.

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Re: Aquarium heater/separate temp probe = bad with corn mash

Post by DFitz » Sun Nov 20, 2016 2:21 pm

Bread yeast doesn't ferment too well in the 70s. It likes temps in the 80s and lower 90s. I'd recommend checking some LHBS and see if anyone carries an American Whiskey yeast even 05 would be better than baking yeast and that's pretty easy to find.

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Re: Aquarium heater/separate temp probe = bad with corn mash

Post by nerdybrewer » Sun Nov 20, 2016 2:33 pm

I pitched a great starter of Trappist ale yeast when it was 75F.
Then all the above crapstorm hit so I don't think that yeast will take off.
I figure bakers is what I've got right now that I can use if I can get the temp up.
The mash has been sitting in the 50's temp for several days, it needs to get to fermenting now.
I have grave doubts that the ale yeast is still viable, maybe it is and just needs to warm up.
Cranky's spoonfeeding:
http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=52975

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Re: Aquarium heater/separate temp probe = bad with corn mash

Post by nerdybrewer » Sun Nov 20, 2016 3:23 pm

I was heating the water during my last post.
I just added the boiling water and stirred until it reached 81F.
Pitched a gallon of very active yeast.
Now we wait.
I sure hope I didn't completely screw this batch, things will go much more smoothly next time!
Cranky's spoonfeeding:
http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=52975

Time and Oak will sort it out.

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Re: Aquarium heater/separate temp probe = bad with corn mash

Post by NZChris » Sun Nov 20, 2016 5:02 pm

Heat rises, so unless you stir a ferment, a heater at the top will only warm the top leaving the yeast freezing their nuts off in a cold layer at the bottom.

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Re: Aquarium heater/separate temp probe = bad with corn mash

Post by nerdybrewer » Sun Nov 20, 2016 6:09 pm

NZChris wrote:Heat rises, so unless you stir a ferment, a heater at the top will only warm the top leaving the yeast freezing their nuts off in a cold layer at the bottom.
Right on Chris.
I stirred like a crazy guy before checking the temperature and pitching yeast.
The temp probe is off in the center of the mash about 12 inches down in it while the heat source is about 18 inches away and taped to the outside of the container.

It's still reading 81F - think it's good now.
I'll check for signs of fermentation tomorrow, but I expect it to be going big time.
Cranky's spoonfeeding:
http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=52975

Time and Oak will sort it out.

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Re: Aquarium heater/separate temp probe = bad with corn mash

Post by varocketry » Mon Nov 21, 2016 8:26 am

I had some 'immediate attention required' brake job on my wife's car this weekend (left rear metal-on-metal). Delayed me looking in to the ferments that's been held at 82 degrees now for a week since everyone's comments that 72 deg was too low.

With the cold snap we've had, the external warmer and blankets couldn't get the temp up, so I added a 100w aquarium tank heater. It's all controlled by a Johnson Controls A419.

I hope the aquarium heater hasn't cooked grains immediately adjacent to it as stated above.!!!

I like the heated water batch idea. Depending on what I find tonight and if the aquarium heater burned the ferment I may have to try that route.
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Re: Aquarium heater/separate temp probe = bad with corn mash

Post by NZChris » Mon Nov 21, 2016 11:18 am

varocketry wrote:With the cold snap we've had, the external warmer and blankets couldn't get the temp up...
When that happens to me, I add another duvet and wrap the whole lot in a survival blanket.

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Re: Aquarium heater/separate temp probe = bad with corn mash

Post by nerdybrewer » Sat Jun 16, 2018 2:20 pm

I couldn't find any followup to this so here one comes.

I stilled the stuff after finishing the ferment and squeezing it all out.
It tasted pretty nasty all the way through, like burned corn.
WTH, I had a Balcones barrel that had been used a couple times by me so I thought I may as well age the stuff rather than just throw it away.
So once every 4 to 6 months I've taken a taste.
Badness was getting less and less.
Now it's been 19 months, so I drew off a gallon so I'd have something glass I could use to put my alcoholometer in.
Well it's down to 48% from about 68% when it went in.
It looks lightly oaked.
It smells good.
I put a bit in a glass with a big round ice ball in there and have been letting that melt while I searched for and added to this thread.
Now the taste.

Pretty smooth.
It does taste smoky, but not burned.
Since I have history with this I know the flavor that has mellowed and it's gotten to the stage of: "what's that smoky flavor?"
It used to be the taste of: "Who burnt the dinner?"

Given more time it may be pretty good.
Glad I didn't dump it.
Cranky's spoonfeeding:
http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=52975

Time and Oak will sort it out.

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Re: Aquarium heater/separate temp probe = bad with corn mash

Post by bluefish_dist » Sun Jun 17, 2018 8:38 am

NZChris wrote:Heat rises, so unless you stir a ferment, a heater at the top will only warm the top leaving the yeast freezing their nuts off in a cold layer at the bottom.
That is very true. Now I have heaters at the bottom of my tanks and temp probe at the top. The downside of this is with a thick wort, you need to stir to prevent overheating the bottom. I do all grain out, so it's not an issue for me once the yeast starts working.
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