I recently came across a gadget that can be used to maintain starter temperatures in a rather easy way. The LUX WIN100 is a programmable thermostat with built in sensor that also has an outlet. It is designed for room air conditions or heaters where a constant temperature is desired. The unit plugs in and when the desired temperature is reached, the power cuts off. After cooling down a degree or two, it comes back on keeping a rather constant heat.
So can this be used for managing a starter at a constant temperature? I took a large cardboard box, put the device, a 100 watt lamp, and the plastic wrapped bowl holding the starter on the room rug. Lamp is plugged into device, and device is plugged into an extension cord coming out to wall outlet. Simply place the box upside down on all of it with flaps open and spread out on the floor.
The unit was on the floor next to the bowl. The sensor worked surprisingly well! I periodically tested the culture with my laser thermometer and it was accurate to within 1-2 degrees.
Rather than caught up in trying to time multiple stages at multiple temperatures, it is far easier to use the “hold” function, and set to the desired temperature and it takes about 2 second to set to another temperature.
For my 55% Detmolder Rye Bread method, I built the starter as follows:
Freshen: 5 hours at 79°, followed by the basic sour at 76° for 18 hours, followed by full sour at 86° for 4 hours, with bulk fermentation and proofing at 82°. This certainly will work for single stage. So not as pretty as a commercial proofing chamber, it is cheap and easy.
The unit costs about $35 online, but can be as high as $65 so shop around if you wish to find one…