Category Archives: Reviews

Hands On: Captain Crush, Adjustable Three Roller Grain Mill – Including Mash Tests

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Here is a Hands on Review of Northern Brewer’s Captain Crush, 3 Roller Grain Mill.  It includes thoughts about the mill, photos of the mill in action and a crush/mash trial.

The Captain Crush Grain Mill


The box.  It’s large.


Not only is it large, it’s heavy.  My Ultraship 55 (usually my grain scale - Review) shows a whopping 21 lbs 7 ounces.


Over half of that weight is the roller mill assembly itself.


Top of the mill

 
Bottom of the mill


Base.  The circular pieces in the middle are designed to fit nicely on a bucket.


Assembled.  This mill is huge and it looks cool.


Profile view

 
One of the nice things about the Captain Crush are the easy adjustment knobs.  You can change settings quickly and without tools.  The current setting is NB’s recommended “optimal setting”.  Also notice the drill connection shaft toward the top left of the mill body.

 
Installed on a bucket.

 
The base fits perfectly inside this 5 gallon bucket.

 
Front view

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For size comparison side by side vs my Barley Crusher Grain Mill

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Profile view compared with the Barley Crusher.  As you can see the Captain Crush Mill is considerably larger.

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Top down view vs Barley Crusher

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The official size of Captain Crush’s Hopper is 11 lbs.  I’ve found that it can hold at least that much.  This picture shows the vast majority of the malt bill for 1 Hour IPA – continuously hopped IPA.  The malt bill for that is 13 lbs.  The hopper is holding just under 12 lbs… 11 lbs 14 oz.

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Front View

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A picture of the crush

Mash Trials:
These are side by side mash tests using the Captain Crush Mill on “optimal” setting vs store crushed grain.  The Rahr 2 Row both milled and unmilled were sourced at a reputable local homebrew shop.  Note that it did not come from Northern Brewer.  To produce as consistent results as possible, I measured everything (water and grain) in grams to the nearest single gram.

Procedure:

  1. Weigh 906 grams (1.997 lbs) of grain
  2. Weigh 2,715 grams of strike water (.717 gallons)
  3. Heat up strike water to 162 deg F.  Overheat by a degree or so and then stir back down to temperature.  It’s easier to hit a stable temp going down vs hitting it going up.
  4. While strike water is heating pre-heat mash tun with 1/2 gallon of 212 deg F water.
  5. Place grain (inside of bag) in cooler.
  6. Add strike water.
  7. Stir and record temperature.
  8. Mash for 60 minutes.
  9. Drain first runnings.
  10. Grain back in mash tun.
  11. Add 1,884 grams (.497 gallons) of 212 deg F water to the grain and stir.  I normally would not sparge with boiling water.  I used boiling water to take one more variable out of the equation.
  12. Drain second runnings.  Let grain bag sit on strainer for 5 minutes.
  13. Record volume and gravity.

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Each test used 906 grams (1.997 lbs) of grain

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Each Test used 2,715 grams of strike water (.717 gallons).  For some reason I didn’t use the tare feature when I weighed the water.  The pitcher ways 547 grams.  That makes the water 2,715 grams.

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This 2 Gallon Rubbermaid Cooler Served as a Mash Tun.  I used a paint straining bag to contain the grain.  This process worked pretty well.  This would be good equipment and technique to use for small batch all grain brews.  For consistency, I pre-heated the cooler prior to placing grain and strike water into it.

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A 5 gallon paint straining bag contained the grain.

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My Thermapen reading mash temperature.  The temperatures of each trial mash were close but not identical.  One read 151.5 deg F, the other read 152 deg F.  I consider that to be within the limits of what I can test and produce in my kitchen.

Results Store Milled:

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Store Milled Grain

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Collected Wort.  With the help of an on-screen ruler, I’m going to estimate this at .859 gallons collected.  That means that .355 gallons were absorbed.  Making the absorption rate for this grain and crush .177 gallons/lb.

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My Atago Pal-1 Digital Refractometer reads 10 Brix.  That’s on OG of 1.040.  Rahr 2 Row should provide 37 points per lb.  That means there are a total of 74 points in the two lbs of grain I used.  .859 gallons of 1.040 wort comes out to a total of 34.375 points or an efficiency of 46.4%.  That’s low.  Although, the point of this particular experiment is to compare two grinds, not to measure the efficiency of one technique vs another.

Results Captain Crush Milled:

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Milled Grain

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Collected Wort.  I’m going to estimate this at .875 gallons collected.  That means that .339 gallons were absorbed.  Making the absorption rate for this grain and crush .170 gallons/lb.

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My Atago Pal-1 Digital Refractometer reads 13.2 Brix.  That’s on OG of 1.053.  Rahr 2 Row should provide 37 points per lb.  That means there are a total of 74 points in the two lbs of grain I used.  .875 gallons of 1.053 wort comes out to a total of 46.375 points or an efficiency of 62.6%.  Again, the point of this particular experiment is to compare two grinds, not to measure the effectiveness of a particular set of equipment or technique.


Store Milled Grain (left) vs Captain Crush Mill using “optimal” setting (right). Click to zoom.

Mash Test Conclusion:

  1. The store Milled Grain I used produced an efficiency of 46.4% vs an efficiency of 62.6% when using the “optimal” setting on the Captain Crush.  That’s a comparative improvement of 34.9%.
  2. The Captain Crush’s “optimal setting” produces a great crush.
  3. Grain crush is a big part of efficiency.  Store crushed grain can be on the under crushed side.  Some stores do this to help prevent stuck sparges.  That’s a valid strategy and it may be way you want.
  4. If you are looking for more control over your mash milling your own grain provides you with quite a bit more control.  It also allows you to buy grain in bulk and crush right before brewing.  That preserves freshness and leads to better tasting beer.

The Captain Crush is a solid grain mill.  It has a good capacity, produces a great crush on the optimal setting and can easily be adjusted.

Check it out - Captain Crush Grain Mill

Also note that the full product manual is available on the “Additional Info” tab of the product page.

Also Consider:

801121-2Great Prices on Bags of Malt

 

Stainless, Vacuum Insulated 64+ OZ Growler… $22.31 + Hands On Review

This highly rated 64+ OZ Stainless, Double Wall, Vacuum Insulated Growler has dropped to $22.31.  That’s the lowest price we’ve featured this at (by 85 cents) and just 14 cents off the Amazon record.  These ship free with Prime or with a qualifying $35 order.  For comparison, the black version of this is selling for 23% more at $29.06.  This is a bargain.

I have this growler and it’s amazing.  Check out my Hands on Review for more information.

Lifeline 7508 Silver Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Double Wall Barrel Style Growler – 64 oz. Capacity - $22.31+ Free Shipping with Prime or Qualifying $35 order Filler Items


PinnedStirStarter *15% Drink Tanks *Used Ball Lock Kegs *Dual Scale Refractometer


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    More Recent Finds, AmazonAmazon Free Ship Add-OnsDraftPortable ServingGrowlersBottlingReviewsAmazon ReviewsHBF TestedGreat Deals

    Hands On: Insulated, Reusable 22 OZ “Paper” Bag – with Temp Trials


    The “22OZ BOMBER INSULATED PAPER BAG” from Beerloved is an insulated, reusable and water resistant bag that has the appearance of a standard paper bag.  Here’s a look at with some temperature trials.

    The bag

    The inside of the bag

    A look at the bag with a 12 oz long neck (120 Minute IPA) in it.

    I wanted to do so some by side temperature testing to see how much insulation this really provides.  When choosing the beer, I wanted to err on the ironic side, so I chose a couple bottles of Deschutes 2014 Reserve Mirror Mirror Barley Wine.  I really like the idea of showing up to a get-together with a great beer in what appears to be a paper bag.  That’s probably because I am a generally hilarious person. :)

    Here’s the setup:  The same two beers.  One in the insulated bag the other sitting out with two ChefAlarm Thermometers (Hands On) tracking the beers.  In this first shot, I have my ThermoWorks TempTest 1 showing the ambient temperature.  The ambient temperature at the start of this test is 64 deg F. The beer in the bag is at 42 deg F and the un-insulated beer is 42.6 deg F.

    Top of the bag.

    After about 32 minutes the insulated beer is at 44.2 deg F.  It has lost 2.2 deg or .068 degrees per minute.  The un-insulated beer is at 47.1 deg F and has lost 4.5 degrees or .141 degrees per minute.  That un-insulated beer is rising in temperature just over twice as fast.

    After about 60 minutes the insulated beer is at 45.8 deg F.  It has lost 3.8 deg or .063 degrees per minute.  The un-insulated beer is at 49.8 deg F and has lost 7.2 degrees or .12 degrees per minute.


    Check it out – Here

    15% Off… Beerloved is running a 15% off sale across their entire Utility Collection.  This bag is part of that collection.  Use promo code UTILITY15 to get that discount.

    Beerloved is a small California based, family owned business.  They seek to support local artisans, small businesses across the US and to support the craft beer culture and movement.  Read more about Beerloved.  Beerloved has a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee.  If you don’t love you purchase, you’ll get a refund.  Orders of $100 and more ship for free.

    More From Beerloved:

    20% Off Captain Crush Three Roller Grain Mill – Save $60


    Northern Brewer is offering 20% off Any Order of $150 or more.  There are a couple exclusions.  This sale does apply to the Captain Crush 3 Roller Grain Mill.  This promo saves you $60 on the Captain Crush.

    Check the Captain Crush Out – Here
    Grab the 20% Off Promo Code – Here


    I own this mill and like it very much…

    Posts featuring the Captain CrushFirst Looks - Quick Update: Malt Crush Trials

    Also from NB: Ends Tonight – 20% Off 2 or More Select Beer Kits


    Pinned: $50 Off Kettles *20% off NB! *15% off Nikobrew *CO2 Manifold *$0 Ship Fermenters


    MoreRecent FindsNorthern BrewerNorthern Brewer ReviewsAll GrainGrain Mills

    First Looks: PET Big Mouth Bubbler


    Here’s a First Looks post on the new 6.5 Gallon Big Mouth Bubbler Large Mouth Fermenter that is available from both Northern Brewer and Midwest Supplies.


    For height on this, including lid, I got roughly 21 1/2″

     Width at the bottom is roughly 10 1/2″

    Width at the top of the fermenter is roughly 5 3/4″.  I’m hooking on the outside of the lip on the other side, so I would call the actual opening roughly 5 1/2″.  Plenty large enough to get my arm through.

    They are kind of difficult to see in this picture, but the fermenter has hash marks built into it denoting 1 gallon increments.  I found the first one to be right on.  The remainder seemed just a little high to me.  I’d shoot for just under each hash mark after the first one.

    The stated capacity of the 6.5 gallon fermenter is… 6.5 gallons.  By my measurements it’s actually 7 gallons.  There is approximately 3/4″ of an inch left over with 7 gallons of water in the fermenter.  

    Here is the full fermenter with my generally handy 1 Gallon Rubbermaid Commercial Pitcher.  I use that for a bunch of things including on Brew Days.  

    One of my tests on the fermenter was to carry it chock full of 7 gallons of water to my utility sink to empty it.  That’s about 58 lbs.  It held up fine and did not collapse or otherwise deform when I rested it on the side of the sink to empty it.

    Bottom of the fermenter.

    The lid is in two parts, an outer threaded ring and an interchangeable inside portion.  I have the single ported version, but a double ported version is also available.  The second port can be used for racking and easy sample taking.  When not in use a solid universal stopper is used to seal the second port.

    Stopper and airlock installed.  The stopper seats firmly in the port.

     A custom designed carrier is also available for this carboy.  It has adjustable handles and horizontal straps.

    Here’s the locking strap on the carrier.

    The adjustable horizontal straps.

    The carrier is Made in the USA.

    Side view of the carrying straps.

    The 6.5 PET Big Mouth Bubbler Wide Mouth Fermenter.

    These are available from both Northern Brewer and Midwest Supplies.

    MoreRecent Finds, Midwest SuppliesMidwest ReviewsNorthern BrewerNorthern Brewer ReviewsFermentation, Fermenters, Carboys, Great Deals

    First Looks: 6.5 Gallon Wide Mouth Glass Fermenter


    I’ve been eyeing these large mouth glass fermenters (Northern BrewerMidwest Supplies) for quite a while.  I finally have one to call my own!  Here’s a first look at the fermenter and accessories.

    Both Northern Brewer (5 gallon - 6.5 gallon) and Midwest Supplies (5 gallon - 6.5 gallon) carry these fermenters.

    Midwest Supplies’ offering qualifies for for their current, limited time, free shipping offering.  Just put together a qualifying order and these ship for free from Midwest Supplies.  That promo works on most things including heavy glass items like Glass Big Mouth Bubbler FermentersGlass Carboys and Bottles.

    The box.  It arrived well packaged in a sturdy box.


    A nice little note from the fellow homebrewer that packed this.  Thanks Andy P!


    What I’ll call the neck of the carboy is nice and thick.  Probably difficult to see from this picture.


    I used my digital calipers to measure the thickness the neck this and came out with .454 inches.  The rim tapers in a bit so it is a little bit more narrow as it reaches the top.


    The 6.5 Gallon Big Mouth Bubbler with lid installed.  The lid is screw top with a PE Foam Lid Seal.  


    The lid with the center cap removed.


    The lid with included stopper installed.  As you can see the stopper has a nice, tight fit.


    The 6.5 gallon bubbler with lid, stopper and airlock (not included) installed.

     
    One of the coolest parts of this large mouth fermenter is the… large mouth. :)  That allows you to easily get in the carboy to clean it, add and remove ingredients and harvest yeast.  The way my calipers work means the display is upside down for this photo.  I get an inside measurement of 5.198 inches.  Wide enough to easily fit my arguably gi-hugic arm inside the carboy.

    To illustrate, this photo shows the Top Find - 7508 Lifeline Double Wall Vacuum Insulated GrowlerReview.  Inside of the Big Mouth Bubbler.


    A custom carrier is available for the big mouth bubbler.  Here’s a picture of that installed on the carboy.  Both the handles and the horizontal straps are adjustable.  All related accessories can be found on the product page for the fermenter (Northern Brewer - Midwest Supplies).


    The strap is made in the USA.  It’s a quality construction and feels solid when installed.  The straps tighten down to lock the carboy in the carrying harness.


    Locking adjustment for the handles.


    Here’s a photo of the horizontal strap and mechanism.


    A side view of the carrying handle straps.


    The Big Mouth Bubbler includes a nice microfiber glass for drying.


    Seals are available in 5 packs.  You get two lid seals and three cap seals in each pack.  These five packs are a mere… 99 cents.


    The carboy and strap fit nicely in the included shipping box.  I’ll hang on to that for storage.

    I’m very impressed with this fermenter.  I’m planning to brew Northern Brewer’s Cascade Mountains Double IPA this weekend and give it a go for a fermentation.

    Midwest Supplies Free Shipping Promo makes this a great time to pick one of these up.  Check them out – Here… 5 gallon - 6.5 gallon

    These are also available at Northern Brewer: 5 gallon - 6.5 gallon.


    More from Midwest:


    More from Northern Brewer

    Great Deal: Stainless, Vacuum Insulated 64+ OZ Growler… $23.16… New Record Low

    This highly rated 64+ OZ Stainless, Double Wall, Vacuum Insulated Growler has recently sold for as much as $30.08.  It’s just dropped to $23.16.  That’s a new record low Amazon price.

    I have this growler and it’s amazing.  Check out my Hands on Review for more information.

    Lifeline 7508 Silver Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Double Wall Barrel Style Growler – 64 oz. Capacity - $23.16 + Free Shipping with Prime or Qualifying $35 order Filler Items


    Pinned20% Off GrogTag *$5 Off at Amazon *Free $20 Gift Card *Bazooka Screen


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      More Recent Finds, AmazonAmazon Free Ship Add-OnsDraftPortable ServingGrowlersBottlingReviewsAmazon ReviewsHBF TestedGreat Deals

      Hands On: Drink Tanks Growler and Keg Cap


      The Drink Tanks Growler is a Stainless, Double Wall, Vacuum Insulated Growler.  It has an optional Keg Cap that converts the growler into a mini draft keg.

       The Drink Tanks Growler is…. Assembled in Bend, Oregon.

       Back side of the product tag contains contact information for Drink Tanks in addition to some information about the growler – 64 Oz (1.9L), 18/8 Stainless Steel, Double Wall Vacuum Insulation, BPA Free and Lifetime Warranty.

       The Drink Tanks Growler

      A look inside

      A close up on the handle.  It feels nice and sturdy.

       The standard cap installed on the growler.  Both caps have an o-ring and a double bail locking system.  Remember to engage both bails.  I have forgotten the side that stays on the cap and that doesn’t make for a great seal. :).  When both bails are engaged the cap has a very solid seal.

       Inside of the standard cap.  Notice the installed o-ring.

       You do get an extra o-ring.  I’m not sure if that comes standard of if it’s part of the Keg Cap option.

       The front of the growler

       Here is the optional Keg Cap.  You get a carrying bag, two CO2 cartridges, an adapter, tubing and a faucet.

       The inside of the Keg Cap.  You can see both the CO2 inlet and the pressure relief valve.  The PRV is set to release at 10 PSI.

      The Keg Cap installed.

      Prior to installing the Keg Cap, you’re supposed to pour one glass of beer.  Next remove the standard cap and install the Keg Cap.  Finally give the growler a charge of CO2.  The PRV lets off CO2 at 10 PSI.  The instructions also say that you “You don’t need much CO2″.  I find that especially true as the growler gets down to the last pint or two.  If you need more CO2 at this point, just give it a light tap, don’t go until the PRV starts letting out CO2.  I’ve had foaming problems when doing that.  Towards the end… a light tap of CO2 is enough.

      Here is Drink Tanks video on installing and using the Keg Cap

       The system does a good job of picking up most, nearly all, of the beer in the growler.  The picture shows what was left after dispensing this particular growler of beer.

      The included instructions (click to enlarge)

      I’ve wanted this growler for a long time, since it was in the Kickstarter stage.  I’m glad to finally own one.  It is well built and has a great set of features.  The double wall insulation means beer stays cold for longer and the personal draft keg option is very cool.

      The Drink Tanks Growler can be purchased… Here

      Also Nikobrew carries branded versions of the Drink Tanks Growler – Here

      Free Second Temperature Probe with Purchase of ThermoWorks ChefAlarm

      ThermoWorks is offering a free additional temperature probe with the purchase of a ChefAlarm.  

      The sale is described as follows… “For a very limited time we’ll include a second oven probe so you’ll have a spare – $15 value!”

      Check it out - Here

      I own this thermometer and timer combo.  Check out my Hands on Review

      Here are some pictures of my ChefAlarm being used with my Igloo Cooler based Mash Tun…

      Temp probe cable running under the lid

      The ThermoWorks ChefAlarm tracking mash temp like a champ.  It keeps a running high and low tally so you know what has happened over time.  It also features both high and low alarms.


      Recent Finds:

      Hands On: ThermoWorks RT600C Super Fast Thermometer – Accuracy and Response Time Tests + Sale

      Note: This is a comprehensive update and expansion of a June 2012 review that was posted on Homebrew Finds.  It includes additional photos, accuracy and response time tests and information about recent updates to the RT600C thermometer.


      I’ve owned and used ThermoWorks’ Super Fast RT600C as a homebrewing thermometer since 2011.  It’s very accurate, has a super fast response time and has a great set of features.  Because of my work on Homebrew Finds, I have a large number of thermometers.  I propose that, considering it’s price point, the RT600C is one of the best thermometers available for homebrewing.

      The Thermometer along with the included Pocket Clip.

      The RT600C has a good sized probe (4.9″) but only 1/4″ needs to be submerged to get a reading. 

      Close up of the face.  You can see the NSF certification along with power and min/max buttons.

      Back of the thermometer dissasembled.  The left panel includes both a deg C/deg F mode button and a reset button.


       The battery door includes and o-ring


      The RT600C is waterproof.  Not just splash proof or “kind of waterproof”, it’s waterproof.  IP65 rated to be exact.  That means you can put this in a dishwasher – up to 190 deg F.  To illustrate I’ve submerged it in the Top Find Rubbermaid Commercial Brew Day Pitcher (Review).


      Close up of the submerged RT600C
      Stock Photo

      Stock Photo


      Accuracy:

      Testing with ice water in my Lifeline Vacuum Insulated Stainless Growler (Review).  The RT600C reads a perfect… 32 deg F.


      Still 32 deg F, side by side with my ThermoWorks Thermapen (Review)


      I’ve experienced different boiling temperature on different days using the same equipment and testing methods.  Boiling temperature is a moving target.  It is based on elevation and atmospheric conditions.  The day of this test, boiling point was a consistent 211.8 deg F as read by my highly accurate Thermapen.

      The RT600C reads 211.5 deg F.  It’s reading to .3 deg F low.  Well within it’s stated accuracy of +- .9 deg F.

      Response Time:
      This video shows a response time test using the RT600C.  I’m counting the start of the test as right when the metal basket hits the water. The probe of the thermometer is submerged at 1 second into the video. It levels out at 139.6 deg F at 7.85 seconds. That’s a response time of 6.85 seconds. For .1 deg F resolution, that’s a great response time. For comparison, I’ve tested the Thermapen (Review) and gotten a response time of 5.4 seconds (at 130.4 deg F).  The Thermapen is an amazing thermometer, but it’s also about 5 times the cost.

      In Action:

      Checking the grain bill temp of More Beer’s Citra Pale Ale.  This recipe features Rahr 2 Row, White Wheat, Carapils, Crystal 15 and of course… Citra.


      Checking the mash temp of More Beer’s Citra Pale Ale


      Auto Shut Off (now included)

      In the original version of this review I noted that the RT600C does not have an auto off feature.  Not a huge deal if your version (like mine) doesn’t have auto off.  What you can do is… shut it off :).  If you do forget, the batteries are relatively inexpensive.  Update: ThermoWorks has changed the design.  The RT600C now includes and auto-off feature.  If for some reason you wanted a version that has no auto off, that’s found in the RT600B.  That one stays on like the RT600C used to.  Not very helpful for homebrewers.  I think that’s generally used by food service professionals trying to test dishwasher temperatures and such.

      Some of the RT600C’s features:

      • Waterproof.  In fact it is dishwasher safe up to 190 degrees F.
      • Has a super fast read time- 5-6 seconds.  IP65 rating.
      • Accuracy to ±0.9°F (±0.5°C)
      • C/°F switchable
      • Only requires 1/4″ of the probe to be submerged to get a reading
      • Has a .1 degree resolution
      • Records Minimum and Maximum Temperatures.  You can use this to monitor serving and fermentation temps.
      • Long Battery Life – up to 5,000 hours of continuous use
      • NSF Certified
      • Tough Commercial Design
      • Manufactured by Thermoworks.  Warranty - The RT600C comes with a one-year coverage on material and workmanship including any failure in the thermometer circuit. Includes online, email and phone access to the ThermoWorks technical service group.


      I purchased my RT600C back in October of 2011.  As of this update (June 2014) the same unit continues to be an amazing thermometer.


      With years of practical use in homebrewing and beyond, I can recommend the RT600C (ThermoWorks - Amazon) as a great homebrewing thermometer.  Considering the features, performance and cost, this is arguably one of the best values for your money.  Along those lines, the RT600C continues to be one of our Top Find selections.


      Sale: ThermoWorks has discounted the RT600C by about 16%.  It has been selling for $19 a while, it’s on sale for $16.  Shipping direct from ThermoWorks is a flat $2.99 for orders of $49 or more or $4.99 for smaller orders.  The Amazon offering has also been discounted by the same amount.  That offering ships for a flat $4.99.

      Direct from ThermoWorks…
      RT600C SUPER-FAST ® POCKET THERMOMETER MODEL #RT600C - $16 + $2.99/$4.99 Flat Rate Shipping 


      via Amazon…
      RT600C Super-fast Water-resistant Digital Pocket Thermometer - $16 + $4.99 Shipping

      Also ConsiderFree Big Mouth Bubbler PET Fermenter

      PinnedSMaSH IPA Sale *RT600C Therm Sale *Free Large Mouth Fermenter *5 Off at Amazon


      Recent Finds: