If you’re making a yeast starter for your homebrew, regular stirring is crucial. It will add as much oxygen as possible to the mixture, giving the yeast everything it needs to reproduce successfully.
But stirring your starter every five minutes isn’t always practical. That’s where a stir plate comes in. It takes all the hard work out of preparing your yeast starter by keeping it continuously agitated.
If you’re thinking of investing in one of these clever gadgets, read on! We’ve reviewed seven of the best stir plates for homebrew, and we’re going to take you through their pros and cons. Then take a look at our buying guide to learn how to choose the one that’s best for you.
Quick Pick: The Best stir plate for Home brewing
The Best stir plate for brewing 2021
1. Apera Instruments AI2801 (Our Top Pick)
The AI2801 from Apera Instruments is a mid-priced stir plate with plenty to recommend it.
It’s a compact machine, standing just under 2 inches tall and less than 5 inches wide. It weighs a little under 15 ounces.
Its powerful magnetic stirrer will agitate up to 3 liters, or 0.8 US gallons, of liquid. That will be big enough for even large yeast starters.
Note, however, that this capacity does assume the liquid is in a cylindrical container. If you’re making your yeast starter in an Erlenmeyer flask, the plate will just fit a 2-liter version. And that’s with the base overhanging the edges.
The good news, though, is that there’s a removable non-slip silicone cap on top of the plate. That will minimize the risk of your vessel moving as the liquid is stirred. And that means your yeast starter will stay safe inside!
There are also rubber feet, which keep the machine standing firm on your countertop. That also means that it’s very quiet – there’s no rattling around during operation.
There’s an oval stirring bead to ensure the liquid is effectively agitated. And there’s a choice of three different sizes – 30, 35 and 45 millimeters – depending on how much liquid it needs to stir. It can work at speeds of up to 2,300 revolutions per minute.
The speed is selected by a simple dial. It turns smoothly and easily. The lowest setting is at 12 o’clock and the highest at 9 o’clock.
Note that if you put it on a high setting with a thinner liquid, it will throw the stir bar. But the higher power will come in handy if you’re preparing a very thick yeast solution. Get the right balance of speed to viscosity, and the bar will stay securely in place.
The power comes from mains electricity. Simply insert the cable in the port at the back of the stir plate, then plug it into a socket. The green power switch has an LED inside, which lights up when it’s on.
- Smoothly adjustable speed control, with a maximum speed of 2,300 revolutions per minute
- Non-slip silicone mat keeps your vessel secure
- The compact footprint won’t take up much space on your countertop
- The plate is a little small – a 2-liter Erlenmeyer flask will overhang the sides
- If you select too high a power with a thin liquid, you may find it throws the stir bar.
2. INTLLAB Magnetic Stirrer
This magnetic stir plate from INTLLAB offers excellent value for money. It’s one of the least expensive models on our list. But it also has an impressive maximum stirring speed of 3,000 revolutions per minute.
The plate on this one measures about 5 inches square, and is made of 316 stainless steel. It’s strong, looks smart and is easy to keep clean. It’s also smooth though, so take care as you place your vessel on top.
That smooth surface is also important when considering the capacity of the vessel you’re using. The plate is large enough to fit something with a capacity of 3 liters – as long as the container is cylindrical.
If you’re using an Erlenmeyer flask, the diameter of the base will be larger than the top of the vessel. That means even a 2-liter capacity flask will overhang the sides of the plate. Together with the smooth surface, that can make things rather precarious. We’d recommend this one for smaller flasks.
It comes with a single magnetic stirring bar. The speed of this is controlled by a simple dial at the front. It’s intuitive to use, with the lowest setting in the 7 o’clock position, and the highest at 5 o’clock.
We have, however, heard some concerns that the magnet holding the stirring bar in position isn’t as strong as it could be. That means that even turning up the power very gently can lead to the bar being thrown off.
This is far from a universal experience, so it seems to be a quality assurance issue. If you get a good unit, the speed will increase smoothly and the stirring bar will stay put.
That does make this a bit of a gamble. But with this kind of power at such a modest price, it may well be a gamble worth taking.
- Neat machine that won’t take up a lot of room on your worktop
- Impressive maximum speed of 3,000 revolutions per minute
- The stainless steel plate looks smart and is easy to keep clean
- The smooth plate and relatively small surface mean this won’t be the right choice for stirring larger vessels
- The magnet strength seems to vary between individual stir plates.
3. JOANLAB Mini Stir Plate
Although this stir plate from JOANLAB is termed a “mini” version, it still has enough oomph to stir 3 liters of liquid. And it’s reasonably priced too.
The maximum stirring speed is slightly lower than some other options, at 2,000 revolutions per minute. These are powered by a brushless motor, making it both energy efficient and resilient.
The lower power means that the 3-liter capacity relies on the liquid being very thin. It will handle 3 liters of water just fine. But if you want it to stir a more viscous wort, you’ll need to reduce that volume.
2 liters will be just about okay, if you set it to maximum power. 1 liter will be more comfortable. So this will be best suited to smaller yeast starters.
The round stir plate has a diameter of 5.32 inches. That’s big enough to comfortably hold a 2-liter Erlenmeyer flask. And the whole machine has a footprint of 6.29 by 6.61 inches. That means it won’t take up a lot of room on your worktop.
It’s powered by mains electricity and comes with a standard US plug and power cord. You can run it for as long as you like without it overheating. And it’s very quiet too, so it won’t disturb the household if you run it overnight.
The speed is controlled by a simple dial which sits at the front of the base. It turns smoothly and easily.
It comes with a single mini stir bar. JOANLAB also offers a bundle with the stir plate and a box of eight different-sized stir bars. If you’re looking for more versatility, that’s a good option.
- Stir plate has a diameter of 5.32 inches, making this more generous than other compact versions
- Will run for as long as needed without overheating
- Quiet operation
- Not as powerful as some stir plates – 2 liters is about the limit for a more viscous wort
- Only includes one mini stir bar, although you can buy it in a bundle with 8 differently sized bars if you need more options.
4. Slendor Magnetic Stirrer and Hotplate
If you’re looking for a stir plate that can heat as well as stir, consider this one from Slendor. It offers both functions at a remarkably competitive price.
As well as a Teflon-coated stir bar, you’ll get a useful stand and clamp, designed to hold a thermometer. You’ll need this to keep track of the temperature of your brew.
Both the temperature and stirring speed are controlled by simple dials at the front of the unit. The stirring dial sits on the left. Turn it clockwise to increase the speed gradually from a minimum of 100 to a maximum of 2,000 revolutions per minute.
On the right-hand side sits the dial for the temperature. This is again a simple, no-step rheostat. The maximum setting heats the hot plate to 716 degrees Fahrenheit. So take care if you’re using this feature! And certainly, make sure it’s positioned where children or pets can’t reach it.
Note that there are no markings on either dial. That means that you will need to use a thermometer to check the temperature of your wort. And it’s fairly tricky to get the sweet spot between lukewarm and boiling hot.
The footprint of this one is a little larger. The bigger control panel means the distance from front to back is 8.5 inches. It’s 5 inches wide overall, and the stir plate is square, measuring 4.7 inches wide and long. Make sure your vessel is positioned centrally so the spin bar works as it should.
The stand for the thermometer is 12.6 inches tall. And it’s 7 inches from the front to the back of the clamp.
The drawback here is the capacity. It’s designed to manage a maximum of 1 liter, so if your yeast starter is larger than that, it won’t be suitable.
- Includes a hot plate as well as a magnetic stirrer
- Comes with a stand and clamp for a thermometer
- Very low price for a machine of this kind
- The dial for the heat doesn’t have any temperature markings, and needs to be handled with care
- Designed to stir no more than a liter of liquid.
5. Faithful SH-2
Faithful’s stir plate is another that also incorporates a hot plate. It costs about a quarter as much again as the Slendor model. But it’s still reasonably priced for a machine that can both heat and stir your wort.
The design is very similar to the Slendor stir plate. The plate itself is square, with the same 4.7-inch width and length. The control panel slopes forward beneath it, with one dial for stirring speed and another for temperature.
It comes with a 1-inch stir bar. The stirring speed can be set to anywhere between 100 and 2,000 revolutions per minute. Note though, that there are no markings, so you’ll be guessing the precise speed.
Turn it up gradually, or it will throw the stir bar. But if you do that, it will handle up to a liter of liquid effectively. That makes this best suited to smaller batches.
Turn on the heat and you can get temperatures up to 716 degrees Fahrenheit. The hot plate is made of anodized aluminum, so it will conduct the heat effectively.
But if you want to warm up your wort gently, you’ll need to be very careful. Move the dial very gradually, and check the temperature continuously.
To do that, you’ll need to make use of the clamp and stand that comes with the stir plate. This is a little shorter than the Slendor version, at 9 inches high. Insert a thermometer into the clamp and position the probe in the liquid. Then watch it like a hawk to avoid your wort overheating!
The machine comes with a standard US plug and power cable. While you’ll need to be near a power point to use it, you won’t have to worry about battery life. It can be used continuously for up to 4 hours on high speed, and up to 8 hours on a medium setting.
- Use it for both stirring and heating
- Comes with a clamp and stand to hold a thermometer
- Can be used continuously on a medium setting for up to 8 hours
- Adjust the speed gradually or it will throw the stir bar
- Take care with the heat – the temperature can change suddenly and there are no temperature increments on the heating dial.
6. YaeCCC HJ-2
The HJ-2 stirrer is another that’s best suited to small batches. It will stir up to a maximum of a liter of liquid.
The simple design features a round stainless steel stir plate atop a control box. There’s an on-off switch, a light to show when it’s on, and a dial to control the stir speed. Rubber feet keep the whole thing steady on your countertop.
The stir plate has a diameter of 4.7 inches. That’s another reason you’ll be best avoiding bigger flasks or jars. But if you’re making up smaller batches, you’ll benefit from the compact footprint. The base measures just 6 inches square, making this great for locations where space is at a premium.
There’s no heating function with this one, but there’s a reasonable range when it comes to the stir speed. Turn the dial and you’ll be able to get up to 2,400 revolutions per minute.
In reality, hitting that maximum speed will depend on how thick the liquid being stirred is. If it’s really thick, the 25-watt motor will deliver lower revolutions, even on the highest setting.
If you’re making a yeast starter, though, it will be more than up to the job. And despite the specified maximum capacity, we’ve heard of cases of it being reliably used with 1.5-liter starters.
Note, though, that you’ll need to use a vessel with a flat bottom. If it’s concave or convex, the stir bar will spin out.
If you’re handy, you can fix that problem fairly easily. Replacing the ceramic magnets inside the plate with neodymium ones will do the job. And even with that extra expenditure, this will still be a very cost-effective option.
It runs on 110 volts, and comes with a power cord and standard US plug. It’s designed to be used for up to 8 hours on a medium setting, and up to 4 hours cranked up to the max.
- Very compact machine, great for smaller yeast starters
- Maximum stir speed of 2,400 revolutions per minute, depending on how thick the liquid is
- Can be used for up to 8 hours continuously on a medium setting
- Not suitable for use with containers that don’t have perfectly flat bottoms
- Won’t suit those looking to make yeast starters bigger than 1 to 1.5 liters.
Anzeser’s stir plate is a simple design that offers exceptional value for money. In fact, it’s one of the least expensive models on our list.
Despite its diminutive price tag, you’ll get both a decent capacity and an impressive top stir speed. This will cope with up to 3 liters of liquid, and will stir it at up to 3,000 revolutions per minute.
As ever, though, those maxima need to be treated with care. if you’re stirring a very thin liquid, you’ll be able to achieve them. But for a thicker wort, that top speed is likely to be significantly slower in reality.
The design here is very familiar. There’s a circular stir plate, this one made of aluminum, which sits on top of a box housing the controls. Those controls are as simple as they get. There’s the usual dial for the stir speed, and an LED that lights up when power is flowing to the unit.
The stir plate is made of 5052 aluminum, so it’s easy to clean. It’s 5.12 inches in diameter, so it’s a decent size for a 2-liter Erlenmeyer flask.
It comes with a stir bar, a power cable and a standard US plug, and an instruction manual. It’s nice and quiet while it’s running, so you won’t disturb the whole household.
We’ve heard of some issues with the unit breaking after relatively short periods of use. It comes with a two-year warranty, which offers some reassurance.
- Maximum capacity of 3 liters, and will comfortably hold a 2-liter Erlenmeyer flask
- Maximum stir speed of 3,000 revolutions per minute
- Comes with a two-year warranty
- No hot plate
- We’ve heard of cases where units have failed after short periods of use.
If you’ve looked at the reviews but still aren’t sure which is the right option for you – read on! Our buying guide will help you refine your shortlist and make the perfect choice.
Do you need heat?
To begin with, consider whether you need a stir plate that will also heat your wort.
There are a number of models on our list that do both jobs. And although they’re more expensive than options without heat, they’re still modestly priced.
But they do have their limitations. You won’t be able to select a specific temperature – the dials just allow you to turn the heat up and down. That means you’ll need to monitor the temperature of your wort yourself using a thermometer.
And you’ll need to do that throughout the heating process. The maximum temperatures here are well above the level at which you’ll kill the yeast. And less expensive hot plates can struggle to maintain lower temperatures consistently.
Check the capacity
The next thing to consider is how much liquid you’ll need the stir plate to agitate. Whilst most models will specify a maximum capacity, treat those figures with care. They may rely on the liquid being thin. If you’re going to be stirring a more viscous yeast starter, expect the maximum capacity to be lower.
It’s also a good idea to check the dimensions of the plate. Make sure the bottom of the vessel will fit onto it properly. If you’re using a vessel where the base is bigger than the top – like an Erlenmeyer flask – the maximum capacity is likely to be lower than stated in the specs.
You won’t want the base of the vessel to be so much bigger than the stir plate that it risks being unstable. The 3-liter models on our list will work well with 2-liter Erlenmeyer flasks.
How long will you need to stir?
All the stir plates on our list are powered by mains electricity. That means you won’t have to worry about battery life limiting how long you can use them for.
Even so, don’t assume you’ll be able to use them indefinitely. The motor can overheat if it’s left running for too long. So check any maximum times for continuous operation. Some of the models on our list stipulate a maximum runtime of 8 hours on a low to medium setting.
Time to choose your stir plate!
We hope you’ve enjoyed our round-up of the seven best stir plates for homebrew. Whether you’re making larger or smaller batches, there are some great options here. And you won’t need to spend a fortune to get your hands on one.
Our favorite is the AI2801 from Apera Instruments. We love its simple yet effective design, and its powerful motor. And it’s competitively priced too.
But whichever model you choose, your new stir plate will take the hard work out of making a yeast starter. Enjoy sitting back and letting the machine take the strain!