The fermenter is perhaps the single most important piece of equipment in any homebrew assembly. But keeping it the perfect temperature is vital to properly developing the flavor of your beer.
That’s where a fermentation chamber comes in. This will keep your wort at a stable temperature, enabling the yeast to do its work. But if you want to buy one, the range of options available can make it hard to know where to start.
We’re here to help! We’re going to look at seven of the best fermentation chambers out there. We’ll set out what makes them great, as well as any limitations you need to know about. And our buying guide will help you choose the one that’s right for you.
The Best fermentation chamber on the Market 2021
1. Cool Brewing Fermentation Cooler
Cool Brewing’s soft-sided fermentation cooler provides a great storage solution for either carboys or kegs. And it won’t cost a fortune either.
It’s big enough to hold carboys or even buckets all the way up to 8 US gallons in capacity. Alternatively, it can hold a half-barrel or no fewer than four 5-gallon Corny kegs.
You use it with either frozen water bottles or Cool Brewing’s own ice packs. With two 2-liter bottles of frozen water, the cooler will reduce the temperature in your fermenter by 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
The more bottles you add, the greater the temperature drop. The most you can add is six bottles, giving you an impressive reduction of 30-degrees Fahrenheit.
The interior is lined with waterproof PEVA vinyl. The effective insulation means you’ll only need to change your bottles or ice packs once a night. Do that and you’ll maintain the required temperature.
On the outside of the cooler there’s a transparent pocket. This allows you to insert a piece of paper with details of your brew. Take a note of the beer style, fermentation time and target temperature. That way you’ll never lose track of what you’re doing, no matter how many batches you have on the go.
The cylindrical cooler stands 26.5 inches high and has a diameter of 21.5 inches. When you’re done using it, you’ll just need to wipe away a little condensation. It will then be ready to go again. Or if you’ve finished brewing for a while, it collapses down so it’s easy to store away.
There’s very little not to like about this simple yet ingenious design. One side-effect of the soft sides, though, is that it can make getting your fermenter in and out a little awkward. If you can get a friend to help, you’ll find it easier.
You won’t get precision temperature control here, but this is nevertheless an excellent and inexpensive way of cold crashing your beer.
- Very easy to use – just add ice packs or bottles of frozen water
- Excellent insulation means you’ll only have to change the ice once a day
- Collapses down for easy storage when not in use
- It’s a bit tricky to get the fermenter in and out without an extra pair of hands
- You won’t be able to continuously monitor and adjust the temperature.
2. FermWrap FE-650-40
If the Cool Brewing option is great for cooling your wort, consider the FE-650-40 from FermWrap when you want to warm it up. It’s another simple and economical solution.
Here, the aim is to keep your wort warm enough for the yeast to reproduce. This is achieved by a thin, flexible heat mat which wraps around your fermenter.
It will increase the temperature of your wort by between 5 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit. If your fermenter is open to the elements, it will keep it between 10 and 15 degrees warmer than the ambient temperature.
You can increase that temperature still further by using the mat in conjunction with Fermentap’s carboy jacket. That will add a layer of insulation, reducing the amount of heat lost to the air.
The mat draws 40 watts of power for gentle heating, and works from a 115-volt power supply. It comes with a power cord and standard US adapter.
It has a surface area of 2 square feet. There’s no way of increasing or reducing the heat level unless you buy a separate temperature controller. But you can make adjustments in a more low-tech way.
For maximum heat gain, wrap the whole heat mat around your fermenter. If you need a gentler heat, the manufacturers suggest attaching only a portion of the mat to the vessel. That will, though, mean that part of your wort gets warmer than the rest.
Either way, this doesn’t come with any cords to secure the mat. Fortunately, duct tape does the job very effectively.
- Simple and economical way to increase the temperature of your wort by up to 20 degrees
- 40-watt output for gentle heating
- Very easy to use
- You won’t be able to control or monitor the temperature precisely unless you use this in conjunction with a temperature controller
- Doesn’t come with any cords to secure it to your fermenter – but duct tape works fine.
3. Inkbird ITC-308 (Our Top Pick)
The Inkbird ITC-308 won’t directly heat or cool your fermenter. But it will control other units that do, enabling you to see the current temperature at a glance. And even better, it will maintain a steady temperature within pre-set parameters.
It has two sockets, one for a heater – a heat mat works well – and one for a cooling unit. Whatever devices you use, the maximum output will need to be no more than 1,100 watts.
You can set and monitor your desired temperature in either Celsius or Fahrenheit. Just set the temperature at which you want your heater to come on and switch off. Then do the same for your cooling unit.
A glass probe goes into your wort – use a thermowell for this – or can be taped to the outside of the fermenter. This will monitor the temperature and send the readings back to the controller. It’s accurate to within plus or minus 2 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Inkbird will then turn the different units on and off as needed to keep the temperature within the correct range. The current temperature is shown on the bright, clear digital display. And an alarm will sound if it strays outside your pre-set levels.
There’s another alarm to alert you if something goes wrong with the sensor. That means you’ll be able to check the temperature manually and take corrective action if needed.
This does take a little time to set up, not helped by the instructions, which aren’t as clear as we’d like. But stick with it, and it will give you a perfectly controlled fermentation chamber. That’s well worth its surprisingly modest price tag.
- Accurately controls heating and cooling units to create and maintain the perfect temperature in your fermenter
- Bright, clear display shows the current temperature in either Celsius or Fahrenheit
- Alarms to alert you if the temperature strays outside the target range, or if there’s a problem with the sensor
- Set-up takes a bit of time – be prepared to persevere with the less-than-clear instruction manual
- You’ll need to buy the heating and cooling units to go with this separately.
4. North Mountain Supply Fermentation Cooler Bag
This cooler bag from North Mountain Supply stands 25.5 inches high and has a generous internal diameter of 16.4 inches. That creates enough space for a carboy up to 6.5 US gallons in capacity. And if you’re using a standard fermenter with an airlock, it will hold up to 8-gallon versions.
The principle here is very simple. The bag provides effective insulation to the fermenter. You then add whatever is needed between the bag and the vessel to adjust the temperature.
If you want to cold crash your beer, add ice packs or frozen bottles of water. Stack them around the fermenter, and the bag will keep the cold inside. Depending on how much you add, you can reduce the temperature by between 10 and 15 degrees below the ambient temperature.
If you want to keep your beer at a warmer temperature, this will work equally well with a heat mat. Just make sure you get one with a thermostat or automatic shut-off to ensure it doesn’t create a fire hazard.
One thing to note is that the bag will leak if you simply add ice. It’s possible to manage the mess by placing it on top of a pan – but that pan will need to be big. Cooling with ice packs or frozen water bottles is a better option.
Even then, you’ll almost certainly find some condensation collects inside the cooler. It’s a good idea to stand it on a towel to protect your floor.
When you’ve finished with it, give the bag a wipe to prevent mold forming before you store it. It will fold away easily, so you won’t need lots of storage space.
The downside of those soft sides, though, is that they won’t stand upright on their own. That means that the top will sit on top of your airlock, and can impede gas exchange.
Some users have come up with creative solutions using a plastic hoop and PVC tubes to create a rigid skeleton. If you’re handy, you might want to give this a go. But a simpler approach is to use a pole to prop up the top.
- Can be used with either ice packs or a heat mat
- Easy to use and store
- Good value for money
- You’ll need to find a way to keep the top from blocking your airlock – propping it up with a pole will do the job
- It’s not waterproof, so it will leak if you use it with raw ice.
5. Propagate Pro Brewing & Fermentation Heat Pad
This heat pad from Propagate Pro is one of the most cost-effective options out there for keeping your fermenter warm.
As its name suggests, it was originally developed for horticultural use. But the circular pad works just as well beneath a fermenter as a flowerpot! It can be safely used with either glass or plastic carboys or bucket fermenters.
The pad has a diameter of 12 inches, so it will fit under vessels of most sizes. And because it’s held in place by the fermenter itself, there’s no wrapping or taping it in place required.
A built-in thermal control shuts off the power at 100 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent the pad from overheating. That means you won’t have to worry about scorched yeast or worse, any kind of fire hazard in your home.
It will effectively warm your fermenter to between 5 and 20 degrees above the ambient temperature. And it comes with a handy stick-on temperature gauge so you can monitor the temperature at any time.
One thing to note before you stick on the gauge, though, is that once it’s there, it’s there! If you try to peel it off and reapply it to another surface, you’ll almost certainly damage it. So make sure you put it on the vessel you want to use most often as your fermenter.
This is a simple device, and there’s no way of adjusting the temperature – it’s either on or off. You can, however, plug it into a temperature controller like the Inkbird. That will ensure it heats the fermenter to your target temperature before switching off.
The pad is powered by a 120-volt supply and comes with a 6-foot long power cord and standard plug.
- Heats to between 5 and 20 degrees above ambient temperature
- Auto shut-off to prevent overheating
- Comes with stick-on temperature gauge to allow you to monitor the temperature in your fermenter
- It isn’t possible to adjust the temperature, although it can be used with a separate controller
- The stick-on temperature gauge will be damaged if you try to move it from one vessel to another.
6. Kenley Fermentation Carboy Heater
Kenley’s heat pad is a lightweight film that wraps around the outside of your carboy. And its very competitive price tag also includes its own temperature controller. If you’re looking for an economical way to create a consistently warm fermentation chamber, it’s a great option.
It will work with any kind of fermentation vessel – carboy, bucket or standard fermenter. The only requirement is that it should have a capacity of up to 8 US gallons.
It’s very easy to use. Simply wrap it around the outside of the fermenter and secure it in place with the elastic bands provided. The only potential problem is if you’re using a larger fermenter. In that case, you might find the bands are a little too small. No matter. Simply use duct tape instead.
The film measures 32 inches by 11 inches. A cord enables you to plug it into the controller. This is powered by mains electricity and has a probe which sits inside the liquid and monitors the temperature.
The probe sends back signals to the controller, enabling it to switch off the heat when it reaches the target temperature. When the temperature falls too low, it will switch the heat mat on again.
We have heard of some cases where there’s a lag between the maximum temperature being recorded and the mat switching off. Keep an eye on it the first time you use it, and you can adjust the target temperature downwards if needed.
There’s an automatic cut-off if the temperature reaches 108 degrees Fahrenheit. That will protect both your carboy and your yeast.
And don’t worry if you’re making kombucha. Yes, the mixture will be too acidic for the probe. But you can simply tape the probe to the outside of your fermenter instead. The temperature reading won’t be quite as accurate, but with experience, you’ll be able to compensate for that.
- Cost effective heat mat and controller package
- Easy to fit to any fermenter with a capacity of up to 8 gallons
- Automatic cut-off at 108 degrees Fahrenheit protects both the yeast and your fermenter
- The elastic bands supplied may be a little short to secure the mat to larger fermenters – but duct tape will work just as well
- We’ve heard some reports of a short lag in the mat switching off after reaching the desired temperature.
7. Brewer’s Edge Mash and Boil
For an honest-to-goodness all-in-one brewer and fermentation chamber, you can’t go wrong with the Mash and Boil from Brewer’s Edge. It’s the most expensive option on our list by some way, but you get both a fermenter and temperature controller.
It’s a very attractive unit too, made entirely of stainless steel and double-walled for insulation. It has a maximum capacity of 7.5 gallons, and it will mash up to 16 pounds of malt.
It’s designed to make all-grain brewing easy, allowing you to both mash and boil in the same vessel.
There’s a stainless steel spigot at the front, so it’s easy to transfer the contents. But as long as you’re fermenting your beer for less than a month, you can do so without decanting it. A fermentation lid is available separately.
The temperature is controlled by a thermostat, which you can set to either Fahrenheit or Celsius. You can even program it up to 24 hours in advance. If you want to heat up your strike water while you’re out at work, this is the perfect option.
It runs on 110 volts, so will work on any standard US household circuit. Just plug it in, and you’re ready to go. It comes with a 5-foot power cable and standard US plug.
One thing to note is that if you’re going to be leaving this somewhere cold, it’s worth investing in an insulating jacket. Although the double walls help, the stainless steel will still conduct the heat.
- Great all-in-one option for all-grain brewing
- Fermentation lid is available separately
- Thermostat can be set in either Fahrenheit or Celsius
- Pricey – but you get a lot for your money
- Rather vulnerable to heat loss.
If you’re still not sure which option is the answer to your fermentation chamber prayers, read on! Here are some questions to ask yourself before you make your choice.
Hot, cold – or both?
Establishing a consistent temperature for fermentation means ensuring the yeast has enough warmth. That means investing in an insulation jacket, heat mat or both.
But when fermentation is complete, you may also want to cold crash your beer. That will leave you with a beautiful, clear beverage. And to do that, you’ll either need a temperature-controlled fridge, or a vessel that can be filled with a coolant of some kind.
The answer may be, of course, that you want to do both! If that’s the case, it’s a good idea to invest in a temperature controller like the Inkbird. That can be connected up to a heating mat and cooling unit to give you the best of both worlds.
How will you monitor the temperature?
If you’re going to be on hand throughout the fermentation process, you may be happy to monitor the temperature manually. In that case, a simple heat mat can be ideal. Just plug it in and check the temperature now and again.
Choose an option with an automatic shut-off if it reaches a certain temperature. That will give you the peace of mind of knowing that neither your yeast nor your fermenter will be damaged.
If you want more control, you can plug your heat mat into a controller. The Kenley version comes with its own controller for maximum convenience.
But most heat mats will work with standard temperature controllers. These are a great option if you want to be able to leave your fermenter for periods without checking it.
And if you’re looking for a cooler, check the specifications. They will usually give you an idea of how much the temperature will drop per ice pack or bottle of frozen water.
Check the capacity
Finally, check that your chosen option will be suitable for the volume you’re brewing.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one product, like the one from Brewer’s Edge, that will be simple. Just check it will hold as much as you’re planning to brew in a single batch.
But remember that both coolers and heat mats will be designed to work with vessels up to a particular size. And ensure you check capacities against the type of fermenter you’ll be using too. The maximum capacity for a Corny keg, for example, may be lower than for a carboy.
Time to choose your fermentation chamber!
We hope our tour of some of the best fermentation chamber options out there has helped you in your search! Work through the questions in our buying guide, and you’ll be sure to find a set-up that’s perfect for your needs.
Our favorite is the Inkbird ITC-308. It turns any fermenter into a perfectly temperature-controlled fermentation chamber for brilliant brewing results. But you will have to buy a heat mat and cooling unit separately.
Whichever option you choose, we hope you enjoy the journey to the perfect homebrew!