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Aug 29, 2013 09:17 PM

Affordable equipment to maintain constant temperatures?

So I've been in yogurt making lately and while I get decent results by letting the oven heat up a little and then leaving it in there overnight, it is a little inconsistent. I've been also looking into seed sprouting and read that you need to get brown rice at a constant 80-100 F for it to germinate.

Are there incubators or water baths out there that can keep constant "high" temperatures that don't cost an arm and a leg?

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  1. Have you tried looking for used medical equipment online or at auctions? Universities with strong science departments, and medical schools, sell their outdated equipment reasonably.

    1. The most affordable equipment I can think of to improve the consistency of temperature for something like yogurt is a wide-mouth thermos. I know I've seen whole web sites devoted to cooking with residual heat, but have no links to hand.

      1. <Are there incubators or water baths out there that can keep constant "high" temperatures that don't cost an arm and a leg?>

        I agree with ellabee. A yogurt maker probably is the most affordable options for you. Alternatively, you can get one of those rice cookers with a germination function.

        17 Replies
        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Hmm I looked into yogurt makers and they would be the perfect solution except it seems as if most of them only have one temperature setting. I'd like to be able to adjust to whatever temperature for multiple purposes.

          I saw some rice cookers have "gaba" brown rice setting, but again it also only has one temp setting at 104. Plus they seem to get pretty pricey.

          In other words I don't want to buy anything that isn't a multitasker.

          1. re: takadi


            Their folding bread proofer is great for bread, yoghurt making, and for tempering or melting chocolate. Honestly it's great for anything you need a constant temperature on. The limits of this machine are mostly the interior size (Which the company is currently in the works to making an expander for their original machine to make it bigger and not make customers that need the extra space to rebuy a bigger version of the machine) and the imagination of the user when it comes to a temperature and humidity controlled environment.

            I don't know if you would consider it to be affordable ($148), but it is a great multitasker and its temperatures can be manually set anywhere in between 70-120 F.

            If you do any bread baking or chocolate work it might be the tool for you. They are great machines and the company is very helpful and friendly when communicating with customers.

            1. re: KungPaoDumplings

              KPD, do you actually have this proofer, and if so, how sturdy is it? Is the thermostat accurate and approximately how large is it (all-in) when folded?


              1. re: iyc_nyc

                I do not currently own one, I have personally used one though (And really want one).

                They are very sturdy if you follow the instructions correctly when assembling.

                The thermostat can be off (But, isnt necessarily) by about 5 degrees either way, but if you put your own thermometer in with what you are doing you can adjust the temperature and it will stay constant (As long as your ambient room temperature doesn't change drastically).

                King Arthur says these measurements:

                Inside box (open): 12 1/2" x 15" x 8 1/2" high
                Outside body (open): 18" x 14 1/2" x 10 1/2" high
                Outside body (closed): 18" x 14 1/2" x 2 1/2" (It also says 2 3/4" as well, so I would account for 2 3/4") high

                Despite the small discrepancy that King Arthur Flour has about the height when closed the dimensions seem very accurate.

                You're welcome, not a problem!

                1. re: iyc_nyc

                  I own one, I've had it for 2 years now. It's held up fine and you can fit a 13x9 pan in it.

                2. re: KungPaoDumplings

                  someone who had a chocolate shop used to temper with an electric roaster. i dont know how low they go but over 400 degrees.

                  1. re: KungPaoDumplings

                    So I purchased the Brod and Taylor last year and have been using the unit with relative success. However I do notice that the temperatures seemed a little low than what the thermastat tells, I would have to let the yogurt sit in the unit much longer than the recipe required for it to firm up.

                    Last week I finally gave in and got a thermapen and the first thing I did was measure the temperature accuracy of the proofer. According to the website it should be off by 1 or 2 degrees but it was off by 4 or 5 degrees and as much as 10 or 11 degrees in some temperature ranges. I called Brod and Taylor and they actually sent out a new unit..unfortunately this new unit, after testing, is also inaccurate.

                    1. re: takadi

                      I have one I got for proofing bread dough but, since I have it, I finally tried it for yogurt. I didn't bother confirming the accuracy of the temps but it does the job very simply and reliably.

                      I also was recently making a monster batch of brownies. I was supposed to chop up almost 3lb of chocolate to melt and there was no way I was dealing with the mess of 3lb of chopped chocolate. I put it in the B&T at 120˚as chocolate chips and unsweetened chocolate in 1/4-oz chunks in the bowl I was going to mix in. It took a little longer than an hour (OK since I plan the best part of a day for these monster bakes and had plenty of time). And it wasn't so heated that I really needed to cool it to incorporate in my recipe.

                      To my mind this was MUCH better than the waste and mess of all that chopping!

                      Next, I'm going to try it for cultured butter.

                      1. re: rainey

                        Are you culturing it from raw cream or pasteurized cream? If you are using the former, then all you need to do is set out the cream at room temperature for 24 hours. Pasteurized cream needs an inoculation of buttermilk (most commercial yogurt contains mostly thermophilic lactic acid bacteria whereas buttermilk contains mesophilic bacteria). From then you can also culture at room temperature for 24 hours

                        1. re: takadi

                          I wish I could find raw cream. Not living on a dairy I doubt I could get my hands on any since the food police took over everything. ; >

                          I haven't done cultured butter yet but wouldn't my homemade yogurt be adequate? The first ingredient listed on the dry culture I originally made my yogurt from is bulgarius. Thermophilus is the second ingredient. Acidophilus is the remaining ingredient. I see no mesophilus listed at all. Is that essential?

                          The buttermilk in my fridge only lists "bacterial culture".

                          1. re: rainey

                            I think bulgarius is thermophilic as well. Mesophilic and thermophilic create different flavors and textures, which might affect the end product. I'm not an expert so I don't know what will happen if you use thermophilic bacteria to make cultured butter...I'm predicting the cream will end up very thick and cheese-like which will make it difficult to churn, but you should try it out if you are curious.

                            Buttermilk is made from mesophilic bacteria, mostly S lactis and leuconostoc types.

                            You could do a side by side, culturing one with buttermilk culture and another with yogurt culture

                      2. re: takadi

                        Brod & Taylor's "bread proofer", for some bizarre reason, decided not to use an actual thermostat that measures actual internal temperature. Instead they use some kind of formula to determine how much energy the unit thinks ought to be required to heat up to the selected temperature.

                        Unfortunately in the real world this means that the temp you set is not the temp you get unless your ambient temperature and conditions match whatever the processor in the proofer is using as its base starting conditions.

                        I was all set to buy one when I found this out. I'm sorry, but doing it this way really shoots their claims for accuracy in the foot.

                        Apparently if I want an accurate incubator, I'll just have to make one myself. Which I can do for way less than what that fold-up plastic box would have cost me.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        I would have preferred 100 at maximum but I did look into the Brod and Taylor bread proofer and it seems like a neat little device. The only thing I really don't want to do is pay for some 400-500 dollar industrial grade piece of equipment, like those sous vide water circulators.

                    1. re: Alan408

                      Modern heating pads turn themselves off for safety reasons. I have returned numerous pads for this reason. I used to use them to create a proofing box.

                      1. re: smtucker

                        Any recommendations? Most of the ones I see only have one temp setting. There's one I see on amazon that seems to have temperature adjustments, but I'm not sure what the range is. It also will only heat for a maximum of an hour, definitely not long enough for my purposes

                        1. re: takadi


                          This one will stay on indefinitely. I'm not sure it will come back on if you shut power off to it though. I mention this because most home-made incubators utilize a controller that shuts power off to the heat source when temp has been reached, and then turns it back on when it falls below that.

                    2. Ghetto sous vide might be a bit impractical, but it would certainly work and certainly be cheap (if you already have a large stock pot and a decent thermometer, especially).

                      I haven't made yogurt, but directions using sous vide are easily found on the web. Here's one.

                      As for the set-up, the cheapest method that works well is using a large stock pot on the stove. The bigger the pot, the more stable you can make your water bath. With a 4.5 gallon pot, I've done 30 hour preparations that worked quite well - the bath temperature changed only 2 degrees overnight as I slept, once stabilized. The downside is you'll have to check the water temperature and adjust often in the first hour or so to get it to a stable temp. It can take a bit of practice.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: cowboyardee

                        I'm actually into aquariums and fish keeping and I was actually thinking of making a "ghetto" sous vide water circulator using a tank full of water, one of those aquarium heaters, and those water pumps to circulate the water. The only problem I would think is that the jar might float in the water instead of stay submerged

                        1. re: takadi

                          Well, if you're into aquariums (as I am), can you live with adjustable temps that top out in the low to mid 90s?

                          Float your germination container in a spare tank of water (I usually have spare tanks around - or get one for this purpose) and buy an appropriately sized aquarium heater. For example most in the Hydor line have a 70-94F range, and are accurate to +- 1F. Since you wont have anything to look at, you can even insulate the tank.

                          Small tanks are cheap (especially spare tanks), and a good heater is <$30.