The Stir Plate - At a recent homebrewing meeting, my buddy shared a worksheet with needed yeast count and target gravity readings. I quickly realized that aside from a few of my smaller batches, I was usually under-pitching my yeast. I sometimes use dry yeast, activating it for about 4 hours before I pitch it, and usually use the "yogurt" vials. I didn't lose a batch to infection last year, but why risk it? Realizing I will need to pitch more yeast for my IPAs and Stouts, Porters, and Barley Wine this spring or risk a slow or stalled fermentation, I was faced with the thought of buying multiple smack packs of yeast...or multiplying the yeast. In the spirit of BudgetBrewery, I went with doing it myself, learning a little, and creating a better way to brew.
  • Electrical Box Container - $.30
  • Fan - $1
  • Rheostat & Rocker Switch - $10
  • Plastic Platform - $3
  • Power Adapter - Free

optional

  • Hobby Box (container) - $5


I lucked out at the local PC recycling store and found a 110 fan (normal cord) for $1 so I didn't need to worry about a power adapter/converter

I had planned on using a 100mm or 80mm computer fan with lights but couldn't pass up the deal. This also cuts out the need for a power converter; I had already located 2 different old cell phone chargers that would have worked.

I think it is cool when you can see the inner working of a machine so I would opt for a clear container if you are using a computer fan. I originally planned to go this way until I found the all-inclusive fan. If you are into "dazzle" you could even get a fan with lights. You could also certainly fabricate this out of cheap whitewood or a cigar box. I even found some online made out of Tupperware. I purchased this box for $5 at the local hobby store, but didn't end up using it.

You can make this project for just a few dollars if you have things you can use around the house. To start, I took a laptop I don't think we had used since 2006. It was garbage so I smashed it up, recycled the battery, and took the Rare Earth Magnet out of the hard drive. Depending on your setup you may even need two of these.

Go into your old hard drive. It should look kind of like a record player, but the needle "writes" on the disc. At the base of the needle, under the crescent-shaped metal is your magnet. These are small but with much stronger polarity than the magnets on your 'fridge.

You may just need to glue the magnets on the fan and be all set, but I have heard about the fans spinning too fast so I wanted a way to regulate speed. I may also use different size beakers and flasks in the future based on yeast needs. I solved this with a $10 fan control. This is for a ceiling fan but works great. Some guys will use a separate switch and speed control but I think this is an easy, inexpensive way to accomplish both tasks. I can safely plug it in and then use the switch to turn it on at the lowest of 3 speeds first.

I used an electrical outlet box for $.30 so the wiring wouldnt be exposed.

Wired up and ready for magnets and top platform

You will need some kind of platform for the 2L Erlenmeyer Flask or beaker to rest on just above the fan/magnet. You could probably get away with stiff cardboard or plastic, but I wanted to be able to see the fan so I can easily center the flask. I opted for a clear acrylic sheet for $3 at the home improvement store. Leave the protective coating on it until you drill the attachment holes.

Make sure you get the magnet right in the middle or you will have problems. Mine wanted to move towards the edge (metal under the fan) until the glue dried. I had to re-do it 3 times. It looked centered but if off a little the larger stir bars will fly off...

Success! Look closely, that little stir bar is blurry from the speed. This is a cider starter for an upcoming apfelwein, but I will post a better photo of whirlpool action on the next beer starter I do.