Stir Plate Recommendations

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Stir Starter Stir Plate

Bring your homebrewery to the next level with the StirStarter Yeast Starter Stir Plate. Dry yeast works great, but you want to give those little one-celled friends a head-start to make quality beer.

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Perform a quick search for “Stir Plate” and the results will cover a wide spectrum of products. The results will likely include everything from home-made devices built from computer fans and cigar boxes to medical laboratory grade devices with prices reaching thousands of dollars. With those types of results, how is anyone supposed to decide what is right for a home brewery?

For many (myself included) the answer is a culmination of many factors. Personally, my criteria starts with the ‘ol mighty dollar and what I am comfortable investing in my brewing obsession. Being relatively handy, I always look to see if I can reasonably manufacture the item. It also has to be functional and work for what I am trying to accomplish.

The Poor Man's Yeast Starter

In the spirit of the craft, I wanted to make my beer better. One of the ways I intended to do that was to begin making yeast starters. I started with a Star-San sanitized Mason jar on the kitchen counter. I would mix up the dry malt extract, a bit of yeast nutrients and a White Labs vial in the jar and sit it on the counter. Whenever I walked by the jar (and thought about it) I’d give the jar a shake to rouse the yeast and put it back on the counter. It worked but it wasn’t ideal and my wife wasn’t a huge fan of having the jar in the kitchen. However, that doesn't discount the importance of creating a starter.

DIY Stir Plate

diy stir plate

After a bit of research and a little scrounging parts, I made my own stir plate. The first one utilized a computer fan with rare earth magnets from a hard drive and a potentiometer for speed control. The plate worked and was very cheap and easy to build. It was a little small, my magnet wasn’t perfectly centered and the speed control eventually burned out. Back to the internet I went. I read many instructions on constructing stir plates and decided that I was going to give it another try. I used a larger fan, centered the magnet and re-did the speed control. Like so many others, this plate served me well and the cost was still less than I’d have spent buying one.

Fast-forward a few years, many brews and a couple of cross-country moves later. After one of the moves, I found the stir plate had been damaged. Being in a new place, still getting the house together and unpacked, I really didn’t have the time or resources to fix the stir plate that had served me well for many years. The move was a result of a job relocation with a little bump in pay so I did have some “discretionary” funds. Off to the internet once again.

Choosing A Pre-Built Stir Plate For Homebrewing

commercial stir plate for home use

This time I was looking for complete stir plates to purchase. Even with the experience I had, the options were still overwhelming. There is a crazy number of stir plates available. Everything from very simple DIY looking models to Lab grade stir plates and entire shaker tables like those I have seen in large craft breweries. I knew I didn’t need anything too elaborate (read “expensive”) so I ruled out the lab/medical grade choices and of course the shaker table is out.

During this information overload, I realized there are more options available than my old home-built model even thought about having. Some features to look for include:stir plate banner

Speed control: The majority of stir-plates out there use some type of dial to control the speed of the stir bar. Some have numbers or a scale to give you a reference point. Other models are digital and the user selects a number that correlates to a pre-set speed. The advantage to this is that the speed is constant and easily repeatable. Of course the drawback is that there is no “3.5” setting you either choose 3 or 4. The speeds are limited by the preset speeds. On the other hand, the dial type speed control allows more flexibility and finer adjustments to the speed.

Indicator light: or something to let you know that the unit is on. Now you could make an argument as to whether or not it is necessary, they do provide a quick verification from across the room to tell if your stir plate is on or not.

Volume Capacity: Many of the manufacturers also let you know what volume of liquid the unit is rated to stir. I looked at stir plates with ratings from 1000ml through 5 gallons. Not that I have the need to make a 5-gallon starter, but I thought that a stir plate may work well for degassing a batch of wine or mead. I typically make between 1500 and 2000ml starters and I wanted to know that the plate I make would support that.

Timers: The timer can be set to stop the stir plate in one hour increments from 1 to 48 hours. Not really a must-have in my case, but you may have a need for this.

Make a list of features that you want and use that to narrow your list down to a few different models. Then read reviews on the final products to help guide your decision.

I always advocate for researching items before purchasing whenever you can. The path I took and the choice I made was right for me at the time. There are hundreds of options in the market and new ones emerge every day. Everyone’s situation is different and what worked for me, may or may not work for you.

The Stir Starter is an affordable and functional stir plate that many homebrewers use and can accommodate a 2000ml flask.

written by Jay Straight

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