New Brew Tool

If you like to cook, then like a brewer you know the importance of taking fast and accurate temperature readings.  The best kitchen tool for this is the Thermoworks Thermapen:

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The thing I love about this tool is that it reads the temperature in a matter of a few seconds.  This is important when yo have your head in a hot oven or over a smoky grill.  With a price approaching $100 it is not a cheap tool, but it is very useful.

Unfortunately it does not work as well in the brewery.  The short probe only reaches the top few inches of the mash.  But even worse, the Thermapen does not like humidity.  In my experience, after a few uses over a steaming wort the unit just goes haywire.  (Lucky for me, it dries out nicely and continues to work!)*.  So I asked Santa if she could bring me a better thermometer for brewing.  And she did!

In addition to the Thermapen, Thermoworks makes a number of other models of thermometers.  Here is the one Santa brought:

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This is called their Two Channel Thermocouple with Alarm.  No fancy marketing terms here.  This unit reads the output from two different Type K thermocouples (sold separately).  As the name implies, the first channel allows you to set high and low limits with the alarm sounding whenever the temperature falls out of that range.  These units are useful for grilling and smoking, too.  One probe can monitor the oven or grill temp while the second probe can be inserted into the meat and warn you when the correct temperature has been reached.

But for brewery use I have found a flexible, silicone coated and tipped probe to be useful.  Unlike a meat probe, this thermocouple has no metal tipped sheath.  In the past I have had thermocouples short out due to water entering the probe at the junction where the sheath ends.  The following picture shows how I have been using the new probe: I thread it through a short piece of copper tubing, which then allows me to position the probe anywhere I want inside the mash:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI can now continuously monitor my mash temperature.  I find this particularly useful when making brew-in-the-bag mashes: whenever the temp drops out of range the alarm goes off and I add a bit of heat from the burner. Small mashes tend to lose heat quickly, so this method helps me keep my mash temperatures fairly constant.

And as a free gift, Thermoworks threw in this free little thermometer:

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It is small, the probe is only 2 inches long or so, but it is great for measuring the temperature of the grain before mash in.  Thanks!

* Thermoworks now makes a moisture resistant Thermapen.  I cannot say how well it works, but my experience with this company has been good so I would anticipate the best.

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