It's that time of the year when the wish list begins to expand, and we wistfully flip through our lab supply catalog. Like most people, we wish we had the capital to purchase whatever equipment we deem utterly necessary, unequivocally critical to our happiness and well being.
Of course, this being the really real world, that is not how it goes, especially for a small non-profit. We depend on the charity of others (thank you PolyScience) or our ingenuity. So when we find ourselves lusting after some particular tech that we can't afford, we often take a shade-tree approach.
For much of the fermentation processes we are exploring the ideal temperature is between 30 and 40 degrees Celsius. This happens to be beyond the scope of the balmiest of Danish summers, and certainly unrealistic when the entire bay freezes over in the winter (see photo).
A quick search online garnered this PID controller from Auber. It can utilize any heat source (hot plate, light bulb, crock pot, etc.) which just plugs in the rear of the device, to hold specific temperatures within .1 degreee C. Looking for an strong even heating source we strolled the isles of our local home improvement and came across electric underfloor heating. Laid in a thermal box it works exceptionally well with minimum energy loss. We have linked two of the thermal boxes together with no problem. This allows us to keep our Garum trials and solid state vinegar fermentation at an optimum temperature while also providing space to inoculate barley with mold for our yellow pea fermentation. But the controller can be used anywhere a precise degree of heat must be maintained. Reducing stocks at steady temperatures is rather easy. Hooked to a crock-pot or rice cooker it becomes sous vide machine. It could quite easily be adapted to become a dehydrator, or with a small fan, a controller for a grill. We used it in conjunction with a humidifier and heater to transform a small room into a meat curing facility. A adaptable device such as this assists creative solutions to difficult problems.
All in all, we greatly recommend picking one up, and letting us know what uses you guys come up with for it...
view out the lab this past winter