Measuring the temperature of the mash is something that can cause a lot of headaches for the all grain homebrewer. The more you open and check the temperature in your mash tun, the more likely you are to throw it off. If you’re less neurotic than me, you may be able to trust your cooler mash tun to keep it’s temperature like it should, but if you’re willing to give up that control you may be less likely to try homebrewing in the first place.
Floating thermometers are standard for those of us with coolers converted to mash tuns. They are cheap, easy and accurate, but you still need to open the top and pull the thermometer out to check it, which is inevitably going to drop the temperature of your mash. The solution is a digital cooking thermometer.
These devices usually have a probe to insert into the food you are cooking with a wire connecting to a digital display showing the temperature picked up by the probe. The probe can be placed in your mash tun with the wire coming through the lid without disturbing it’s seal. The only problem is that the wire is usually not safe to submerge in the liquid of the mash. The probe will have to be inserted to a shallow depth, leaving room for heat pockets and for the general rule that your mash is probably hotter in the middle than on the fringes. Your floating thermometer likely suffers from the same problem, though.
The gadget I <a href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000DIU49/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0000DIU49″>picked up</a>, found once again on <a href=”http://www.homebrewfinds.com/2014/03/heads-up-maverick-et-73-wireless.html”>Homebrew Finds</a>, takes this idea one step further and offers a second, wireless display allowing me to roam the house and backyard while still indulging my OCD side and constantly checking my mash temperature. It is meant to be a thermometer for monitoring a smoker, which is usually outside and left on for very long periods of time.
This model also has a second probe. The first, like the version I mentioned, is sharpened to stick into a piece of meat and check it’s internal temperature while the second is rounded and meant to check the temperature inside the smoker. So far, I’ve been using both probes, the sharpened one stuck into the actual mash and the rounded one just inside the lid of the mash tun. I was interested to see what the difference would be. The variance in temperature is much wider than I expected and it makes me wonder how different various pockets inside the mash may be. In summary, it makes me even more nervous instead of assuaging my fears. Other than stirring the mash thoroughly at the beginning, what can you really do, though? So basically, I’m going to start just skipping the second probe and trust the first one.
Whether or not this any more accurate than my old floating thermometer (I think it is), it is still a lot easier to use. I would definitely recommend it, or something similar, to any all grain brewer. I am still wondering if there is a way to get the probe deeper into the mash, though. Does anyone have a suggestion for a way to submerge it deeper without breaking it? Is there a waterproof equivalent out there?