Review: Black Box Fermentation Controller
I recently used the Black Box Fermentation Controller and my experience could not have been better.
The device shipped directly from Black Box via USPS and was ready to go out of the box. For my initial test, I used a heat wrap (as described in our Small Investments for a Big Impact post) to apply heat to a Dusseldorf Altbier fermentation. I programmed a specific fermentation temp profile by following the instructional videos on the Black Box website and found it to be incredibly easy, even for a non-engineer type like me. I fermented in a room that was in the high 50s and ran a program to raise the beer from 60 to 64 over 4 days (raising by 1 degree each day), then held it at 65 for another week. I also asked it to keep a temp within .1 degree of my target temp at all times, for which it had no problem.
I monitored temp by attaching the included rubber probe to the outside of my fermenter and insulated the probe from outside air to minimize interference. I also assumed that the outside of my fermenter is a degree or so cooler than the center so adjusted my program accordingly. This seemed to work well, though if you wanted to get more precise you could always swap out the probe.
After my first go-round, I learned several things about the Black Box fermentation controller that make it superior to the others out there:
- The device (and its software) is meant for homebrewing. The menus make sense in the context of homebrewing fermentation profiles and are quite intuitive. After you go through them once they are a piece a cake to use again
- The Black Box is dual stage, meaning it works equally well for controlling a cooling mechanism (e.g. a fermentation fridge) as a heating source. And, unlike the Johnson where you have to take the cover off to switch between heating and cooling, the Black Box does so right from the interface
- I found the probe that comes with it ample for my initial purposes, but if you don't like it you can replace with a better probe (you cannot do this with the Johnson, for example)
- Unlike the vast majority of STC-1000s out there, this one comes programmed to farhenheit so you don't need to convert from celcius, which is convenient.
- It's super affordable (you'd only save a few bucks by buying all of the components individually, and even if you want to it's not that easy to find an STC-1000+ with the ability to flash the firmware)
And to boot, it's pretty badass to look at.
Because of all these benefits, I'd highly recommend picking up a Black Box if you are in the market for a fermentation controller. If you prefer to DIY it, grab the right STC-1000+ from Black Box and follow their instructions to build it yourself.