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General Category => Equipment and Software => Topic started by: kgs on June 17, 2012, 03:07:15 PM

Title: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: kgs on June 17, 2012, 03:07:15 PM
I'm looking at converting a small fridge or freezer to a fermentation chamber (using a temperature controller). Assuming the equipment has the right space, is there an advantage to one or the other?

I see the following on Craigslist: http://www.ajmadison.com/cgi-bin/ajmadison/VM301W.html -- but I see a number of fridges as well. I plan to take a carboy with me when I check out the items.
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: Pinski on June 17, 2012, 05:29:46 PM
I use the "keezer" model made from a chest freezer. Once things are in place it's still easy access all of the connections if adjustments are necessary. Swap outs don't involve moving other kegs out of the way. Drawbacks to the chest freezer would be the awkward lifting of full kegs into the keezer and cleanout is not as easy as it would be with "fridge" model.
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: nateo on June 17, 2012, 06:41:21 PM
I went with a chest freezer only because it easily holds 2 carboys, plus a few 1-gallon jugs. Depending on the fridge, you may have a hard time fitting two in there. If you only need it to hold one, then either would work, and the fridge-style would probably be easier to get beer into and out of.

At the time, I didn't have the desire or time to scour CL and find a good deal, and you can buy a basic freezer for under $200.
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: kgs on June 17, 2012, 07:03:38 PM
I went with a chest freezer only because it easily holds 2 carboys, plus a few 1-gallon jugs. Depending on the fridge, you may have a hard time fitting two in there. If you only need it to hold one, then either would work, and the fridge-style would probably be easier to get beer into and out of.

At the time, I didn't have the desire or time to scour CL and find a good deal, and you can buy a basic freezer for under $200.

Thanks to both of you -- you actually answered a number of questions and made me feel ok about buying new if need be--my fiddle-factor is fairly limited 95% of the year.  The fridge-style freezer is almost required from a physical-access point of view.
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: jeffy on June 17, 2012, 07:45:30 PM
I went with a chest freezer only because it easily holds 2 carboys, plus a few 1-gallon jugs. Depending on the fridge, you may have a hard time fitting two in there. If you only need it to hold one, then either would work, and the fridge-style would probably be easier to get beer into and out of.

At the time, I didn't have the desire or time to scour CL and find a good deal, and you can buy a basic freezer for under $200.

Thanks to both of you -- you actually answered a number of questions and made me feel ok about buying new if need be--my fiddle-factor is fairly limited 95% of the year.  The fridge-style freezer is almost required from a physical-access point of view.
That's what I was going to mention - lifting a full five gallons out of a chest freezer requires either a healthy back or some winches.  I'm OK with the first option, but I'm not getting any younger.
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: boapiu on June 17, 2012, 11:49:52 PM
I opted for a stand up freezer. With one temperature controller, that is better than a fridge-freezer combo. And I did not want to lift carboys and buckets in and out of a chest model. Mine holds two buckets on the bottom and two carboys above them on a shelf. There is still storage in the door. Make sure the shelves are removable. Some actually are part of the cooling system and can't be removed.
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: kgs on June 18, 2012, 09:00:05 PM
I opted for a stand up freezer. With one temperature controller, that is better than a fridge-freezer combo. And I did not want to lift carboys and buckets in and out of a chest model. Mine holds two buckets on the bottom and two carboys above them on a shelf. There is still storage in the door. Make sure the shelves are removable. Some actually are part of the cooling system and can't be removed.

I'm going to visit Sears to look at this one:

http://www.sears.com/kenmore-6.5-cu-ft-upright-freezer/p-04629702000P

Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: boapiu on June 19, 2012, 09:55:38 AM
I read one of the reviews and it stated the freezer coils are imbedded in the shelves. That means you won't be able to remove or adjust the shelves. Which means buckets or carboys won't fit.
Title: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: kgs on June 19, 2012, 10:05:33 AM
That would indeed be a show stopper. I'll report back.
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: davidgzach on June 19, 2012, 12:11:49 PM
If buying new, I would make a cardboard cutout of the diameter of your carboy and take it with you to the store.  I'm only assuming you want two to fit on the bottom at one time. 

Dave
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: kgs on June 19, 2012, 06:14:23 PM
If buying new, I would make a cardboard cutout of the diameter of your carboy and take it with you to the store.  I'm only assuming you want two to fit on the bottom at one time. 

Dave

I am planning to take an actual carboy with me. :-) Looks like that Sears model (and a couple similar to it) do have fixed shelves used as conduit for coolant. Darn. I'm still going into Sears soon to see what they have. 
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: morticaixavier on June 19, 2012, 06:23:21 PM
If buying new, I would make a cardboard cutout of the diameter of your carboy and take it with you to the store.  I'm only assuming you want two to fit on the bottom at one time. 

Dave

I am planning to take an actual carboy with me. :-) Looks like that Sears model (and a couple similar to it) do have fixed shelves used as conduit for coolant. Darn. I'm still going into Sears soon to see what they have.

I like the selection of items they chose for that pic. a bowl of strawberries and two grapefruits? in the freezer? then several half gallon boxes of ice cream, and am I mistaken or is that a twelve pack of cheep beer on the bottom shelf?
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: Jimmy K on June 19, 2012, 06:55:38 PM
am I mistaken or is that a twelve pack of cheep beer on the bottom shelf?

Must keep that cheap beer fresh.
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: euge on June 19, 2012, 07:14:47 PM
am I mistaken or is that a twelve pack of cheep beer on the bottom shelf?

Must keep that cheap beer fresh.

I think that is actually "butter".
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: morticaixavier on June 19, 2012, 07:17:55 PM
am I mistaken or is that a twelve pack of cheep beer on the bottom shelf?

Must keep that cheap beer fresh.

I think that is actually "butter".

ahh okay, that makes slightly more sense. still don't get the strawberries and g-fruit.

Wow off topic much?

kgs,

I have two used fridges, one for keggerator the other for fermentation. I wish that I had a chest freezer for fermentation just based on footprint v. capacity and efficiency but I can see the problems with lifting fermenters out. If you could rig up a transfer method, syphon or pump and put a chest freezer on wheels so you could roll it over to your kettle that would be ideal in my opinion.
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: davidgzach on June 19, 2012, 07:51:38 PM
If buying new, I would make a cardboard cutout of the diameter of your carboy and take it with you to the store.  I'm only assuming you want two to fit on the bottom at one time. 

Dave

I am planning to take an actual carboy with me. :-) Looks like that Sears model (and a couple similar to it) do have fixed shelves used as conduit for coolant. Darn. I'm still going into Sears soon to see what they have.

NICE!
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: kgs on June 19, 2012, 07:55:58 PM
am I mistaken or is that a twelve pack of cheep beer on the bottom shelf?

Must keep that cheap beer fresh.

I think that is actually "butter".

ahh okay, that makes slightly more sense. still don't get the strawberries and g-fruit.

Wow off topic much?

kgs,

I have two used fridges, one for keggerator the other for fermentation. I wish that I had a chest freezer for fermentation just based on footprint v. capacity and efficiency but I can see the problems with lifting fermenters out. If you could rig up a transfer method, syphon or pump and put a chest freezer on wheels so you could roll it over to your kettle that would be ideal in my opinion.

This is what I really need: http://www.wbur.org/npr/155278207/you-know-you-want-one-personal-robots-not-ready-for-you-yet

However, I think I'll find a small fridge or used upright freezer -- it is in the cards for me this summer. I appreciate all the help!
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: davidgzach on June 19, 2012, 08:53:56 PM
I would go with the fridge as the upright freezer will have shelves made of cooling coils.  Unless you definitely do not want to have a couple of carboys on the shelves....

Dave
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: kgs on June 19, 2012, 10:51:07 PM
I would go with the fridge as the upright freezer will have shelves made of cooling coils.  Unless you definitely do not want to have a couple of carboys on the shelves....

Dave

I am starting to see what you mean -- the upright freezers in the size range I'm looking at seem to have shelves made of cooling coils. The larger freezers are too big. Boolean logic is coming in to play here.

If I attach a controller to a fridge, what happens to the freezer? I understand it's not usable for fermentation, but I don't know why. Is it on a separate control? Does it stay a usable freezer or is it rendered non-usable?
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: euge on June 19, 2012, 10:57:08 PM
Many fridges today are actually cooled by the freezer coils which blow down into the refrigerator compartment. I think it would work anyway with a controller as long as the probe is in the fridge compartment.
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: boapiu on June 20, 2012, 02:45:17 PM
I am trying to remember my set up when I used a side by side fridge freezer for fermentation. I think the freezer part was just where I stored some extra grains in zip lock bags to ensure they were safe from bugs. The temp controller could only reliably keep one side at consistent setting. Another thing to keep in mind is that a full carboy or fermentation bucket is probably too heavy for most shelving. In my present incarnation I have a piece of wood cut to length that acts as a brace to support the shelf when I have carboys sitting on it.
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: rob_f on June 20, 2012, 04:20:09 PM
I used a side-by-side when I first got into kegging.  With two temperature controllers I controlled the freezer side and the fridge side.  The freezer controller turned the refrigerator on and off.  The fridge-side controller controlled a computer fan mounted in the duct between the sides, pulling colder air from the freezer to the fridge.  This worked well for lagers at 36F and ales at 46F.  The lager side also doubled as a conventional fridge for hops, bottles, etc.
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: Jimmy K on June 21, 2012, 01:54:15 PM
am I mistaken or is that a twelve pack of cheep beer on the bottom shelf?

Must keep that cheap beer fresh.

I think that is actually "butter".

Zoom in - I'm pretty sure it is beer. Even has barley on the box.
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: Joe Sr. on June 21, 2012, 02:31:50 PM
I think it's a case of this: http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/912/2910

Popular in the Dominican Republic, I'm told.

EDIT - could be butter, though.  It's hard to tell as all of those items look like cut and paste jobs that are not actually in the fridge/freezer.

Anyway, what the hell is that orange thing?

If it was me, I'd go with an old fridge with the freezer on top.  At least, that's my eventual plan.  Space to keep hops and things in the freezer, fridge for serving.  Maybe my old Sanyo become a fermentation chamber.
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: ccfoo242 on June 21, 2012, 02:32:54 PM
No, it's butter...
(http://www.worldsfoods.com/shop/pc/catalog/l/president%20butter%20french.jpg)
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: phillamb168 on June 21, 2012, 02:47:39 PM
No, it's butter...
(http://www.worldsfoods.com/shop/pc/catalog/l/president%20butter%20french.jpg)

So I gotta ask, how much did you pay for that butter? Because President is a pretty common grocery store brand and costs ~2 eur ($3). I ask because I just got back from 'American' shopping for prep for our 4th of July party, and I bought a box of Domino dark brown sugar for $8, and a pack of 4 dry ranch dressing packets for $15. Exporting is a hell of a business.
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: Joe Sr. on June 21, 2012, 03:06:50 PM
Dunno what the butter costs, but years ago I took a suitcase full of Hidden Valley Ranch ranch dressing out to San Francisco for a buddy who couldn't get it out there (apparently not healthy enough).

His parents dropped it off at my house and I traveled with like a gallon or more of dressing.

I was a ranch dressing mule.

Obviously, this was long before the TSA...
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: phillamb168 on June 21, 2012, 04:02:55 PM
Dunno what the butter costs, but years ago I took a suitcase full of Hidden Valley Ranch ranch dressing out to San Francisco for a buddy who couldn't get it out there (apparently not healthy enough).

His parents dropped it off at my house and I traveled with like a gallon or more of dressing.

I was a ranch dressing mule.

Obviously, this was long before the TSA...

Dunno if you can classify that stuff as a 'liquid.'
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: Jimmy K on July 19, 2012, 12:38:26 PM
Obviously, this was long before the TSA...
Dunno if you can classify that stuff as a 'liquid.'

Now I'm wondering if I could bring a frozen water bottle through security. Technically, I'd have no liquid.
 
And we're way off topic.
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: mainebrewer on July 20, 2012, 11:52:17 AM
The standard 'fridge with freezer on top, as noted by Euge, uses the freezer to cool the refrigerator compartment.
Set both controls (freezer and refrigerator compartment) to max cold.
The probe from the external temp controller would be located in the refrigerator compartment (ideally attached to the fermenter or using a thermowell) will control the temp in the freezer and 'fridge compartment.
The freezer will be the same temp as the refrigerator compartment.
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: gordonstrong on July 20, 2012, 02:13:18 PM
kgs -- what did you ultimately do?

The problem with most small fridges is that the compressor is inside the box, so it destroys the footprint.  Freezers are better in that regard, but you need a temperature controller. 

You might go through restaurant and retail surplus lists and see if you can get an upright fridge with sliding or swinging glass doors, like how you buy cans of soda and the like.  True is one brand name I see often.  Probably called coolers.  New will be spendy, but who knows what you can get from an auction or liquidation.

When I was in Argentina, I saw people use those all the time.  Fermentation temperature control is a big issue in South America.
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: kgs on July 22, 2012, 07:22:54 PM
What I did was decide to mull things over a while and work on other brewing-related projects.  ;) (Put a ball valve in my kettle, got a March pump and used it for the first time -- awesome! -- and built and tested a hop spider.)

I'm mulling over small chest freezers--either new or what comes up on Craigslist. On the one hand, they would require lifting carboys in and out. On the other hand, it would put fermentation on this floor, so I would no longer have to lug full carboys to and from a garage. I'd still have to stick with small batches, but I'm ok with that.

A used upright fridge or wine cooler would be a good find. I've noticed Sears sells freezerless fridges. I will set up a couple of searches to ping me when things pop up. I assume when I get this I'll buy a dual-temp controller.

Meanwhile, I'm brewing recipes I know will come out well in the 62-64 degree temps in the garage, and considering a brew belt to get my Belgians tasting like Belgians.
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: euge on July 22, 2012, 07:27:45 PM
What capacity are you looking for? You could get a 4cu fridge for a couple hundred and a single carboy (or bucket) will fit in nicely. You might not even need a controller if you play with the thermostat a bit. Remember it will try to stay at that temp set-point on it's own. You could also put the fridge on a timer so it will cycle on periodically and stay in the low 60's.
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: kgs on July 22, 2012, 08:09:33 PM
So far the 4cu fridges I've seen all have that problem Gordon notes -- the compressor hump. Is there a brand that doesn't?
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: euge on July 22, 2012, 08:31:54 PM
Looking at mine... I don't see a problem except maybe with a fermentation lock. The hump is minimal but if it won't fit...

Total interior height is 29.5". Interior width is 19" and I have 22" from the hump to the top and the depth is over 16".

Can't remember off hand the dimensions of a carboy but it will take my 8 gallon buckets just fine.
Title: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: kgs on July 22, 2012, 09:41:17 PM
What brand is it?
Title: Re: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: euge on July 22, 2012, 10:07:12 PM
What brand is it?

Sanyo 4912

You can get identical under other brand names. I think Haier makes them now.
Title: Converting fridge or freezer to fermentation chamber
Post by: kgs on July 25, 2012, 03:10:47 AM
I'll keep my eyes peeled for the 4+ fridges. Thanks!