Author Topic: Cost effective ways to control fermentation temperatures?  (Read 1144 times)

Offline Jarhno

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Cost effective ways to control fermentation temperatures?
« on: September 10, 2013, 09:50:14 AM »
First off, thanks for taking the time to read this.

With the aim of crafting a better brew, I was wondering what would be the most effective expenditure for me to make now that I have some all-grain equipment (10gal mash tun cooler, 15gal brew kettle w/ ball valve, high output propane burner). I first thought that i should buy a keg, but now that I've done some research on the AHA forums I seem to think that purchasing some device to control my fermentation temps. would be a lot more worthwhile/beneficial.

As I've been looking around it seems a lot of folks use old refrigerators with digital temperature controls to turn off or on the fridge as needed/automated. This seems that it would work just fine for me as I live in Oregon and will probably not need any device to heat up my fermentor in the winter.

So my real questions are: 1.) Is the fridge method pretty standard?, 2.) Is there a resource anyone knows about for refurbished fridges or something like that esoteric to brewing? Or are friends, family, and Craigslist my best hopes?

Anyways, thanks for your thoughts, opinions, and time everyone.
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Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Cost effective ways to control fermentation temperatures?
« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2013, 09:58:06 AM »
Craigslist is always a good source for fridges.  Keep in mind, though, that depending on the age of the fridge the newer ones are far more energy efficient which can save money in the long run.

Lots of people use chest freezers, too.
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Re: Cost effective ways to control fermentation temperatures?
« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2013, 10:16:16 AM »
Fridges are by far the popular approach. I don't think there are any nationwide sources other than craigslist. Other options would all be local (newspaper, friends, yard sales, etc.) You can use a freezer too. New freezers are cheaper than new refridgerators. With either, you'll have to buy a temperature controller.
 
Son of a Fermentation Chiller is a low cost option - as is putting the fermentor in a cooler with ice packs and manually controlling temperature by swapping them out.
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Offline scott

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Re: Cost effective ways to control fermentation temperatures?
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2013, 10:58:09 AM »
I don't know about fridges, but a chest freezer works great.  Plus you are able to lager in it.  Craigslist is the way to go.

For a temperature controller, I recommend looking at a BYO article that explains how to build one.  It is the Jan/Feb 1012 issue, you may need to buy it.  I am sure there are also other resources/ videos that show how to do it.  You buy the controller off e-Bay from Hong Kong for about $20-25.  The project is just wiring everything up.

This is the route I took and it is far better that having to manually control the temperature.  I've been very satisfied.
Scott

Offline djsanta

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Re: Cost effective ways to control fermentation temperatures?
« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2013, 12:22:02 PM »
Temp control is definitely the best choice for your next upgrade.  Fridge or freezer both work well.  I have one of each, both sourced from local friends...free.  Buy a good digital temp controller.  I have a Ranco that I love.  Shop around online, I found mine at an electronics dealer...$20 less than any of the popular homebrew sites.
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Offline Jarhno

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Re: Cost effective ways to control fermentation temperatures?
« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2013, 01:51:19 PM »
Wow, thanks for the tips everyone. I don't know if I would have ever considered a chest freezer (or freezer in general) but now that I think about it, it really doesn't matter since the temp' controller will turn it off before anything detrimental happens.

Seriously, thanks again. I really appreciate it.
You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.  - Frank Zappa

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Re: Cost effective ways to control fermentation temperatures?
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2013, 08:20:51 AM »
If you look around here you'll find other threads weighing the merits of refridgerators vs freezers as fermentation chambers.
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Offline denny

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Re: Cost effective ways to control fermentation temperatures?
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2013, 08:53:17 AM »
If you look around here you'll find other threads weighing the merits of refridgerators vs freezers as fermentation chambers.

Yep!  I got a lot of great info when I asked a couple weeks ago, but I still haven't decided which way to go.
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Offline ketch32

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Re: Cost effective ways to control fermentation temperatures?
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2013, 09:12:43 AM »
I know that Oregon has been seeing a heat wave, but I would think about how much you think you'll need it versus say kegging.  I, too, had this decision, but I decided that the few months I needed cooling didn't outweigh the year-round kegging (no more bottling!), which I did a keezer for.  To keep costs low and only need to do it 2-3 months in SoCal, as was said this: "Son of a Fermentation Chiller is a low cost option".  I have actually taken it a step further and got 20 gallon garbage cans, put the carboys in, fill with water to the level in the carboy, place ice packs (frozen water bottles) in water if the water temp is too high.  The water takes longer to change temps than air and creates an insulating barrier.  The garbage cans also do not let any light in once you put the lid on and contain any blow-off or mess (had splattered walls before). $15 garbage can + water = cheap cooler.  The refrigerator/freezer with temp control will be much better at holding constant temps and will give better results, but there is more investment and monthly costs also associated.

Cheers!
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Offline Jarhno

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Re: Cost effective ways to control fermentation temperatures?
« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2013, 10:35:46 AM »
If you look around here you'll find other threads weighing the merits of refridgerators vs freezers as fermentation chambers.


Aaaah, Fermentation Chambers. I did try to look around the threads for awhile but I lost heart after some time because I didn't know what the technical term was. Thanks again everyone, and I'll do my best to not repeat thread topics.

And as to what Ketch32 said: I do want to start kegging sooner than later and I totally agree that it is a year-round benefit (especially since I love to share homebrew with friends and family and pouring from a tap would be friggin' awesome), but I've found that my beer/fermentor temps swing a significant amount every single day (from highs at 5pm-ish to lows at 5am-ish). From what I've read I can't help but believe that constant fluctuations are less than ideal, and I think a chamber would go a long ways towards Better Brew. Thank you for the suggestion though, how inexpensive that system is is intriguing.
You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.  - Frank Zappa

Offline thatgeekguy

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Re: Cost effective ways to control fermentation temperatures?
« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2013, 11:05:38 AM »
Patriot Supply on FleaBay is a great source for cheap Ranco controllers, even less than they're commercial website and free shipping.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/RANCO-ETC-111000-DIGITAL-TEMPERATURE-CONTROL-120-240V-/200708519091?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2ebb28f4b3
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Re: Cost effective ways to control fermentation temperatures?
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2013, 06:23:24 AM »
Thanks again everyone, and I'll do my best to not repeat thread topics.
Nobody hear gets uptight about that like on other boards. Maybe they don't have enough beer.
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Offline phunhog

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Re: Cost effective ways to control fermentation temperatures?
« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2013, 08:03:38 AM »
I know that Oregon has been seeing a heat wave, but I would think about how much you think you'll need it versus say kegging.  I, too, had this decision, but I decided that the few months I needed cooling didn't outweigh the year-round kegging (no more bottling!), which I did a keezer for.  To keep costs low and only need to do it 2-3 months in SoCal, as was said this: "Son of a Fermentation Chiller is a low cost option".  I have actually taken it a step further and got 20 gallon garbage cans, put the carboys in, fill with water to the level in the carboy, place ice packs (frozen water bottles) in water if the water temp is too high.  The water takes longer to change temps than air and creates an insulating barrier.  The garbage cans also do not let any light in once you put the lid on and contain any blow-off or mess (had splattered walls before). $15 garbage can + water = cheap cooler.  The refrigerator/freezer with temp control will be much better at holding constant temps and will give better results, but there is more investment and monthly costs also associated.

Cheers!
I still think that this is one of the best ways to go...assuming your climate allows for it.  I have taken my water bath system up a few notches.  I can heat/cool the surrounding water, much like a glycol system, so my water bath stays at a constant temp without too much fussing. Not to mention I ferment in a 1/2 bbl sanke keg...won't be able to get it into a fridge.

Offline morticaixavier

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Re: Cost effective ways to control fermentation temperatures?
« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2013, 08:12:10 AM »
Thanks again everyone, and I'll do my best to not repeat thread topics.
Nobody hear gets uptight about that like on other boards. Maybe they don't have enough beer.

mostly cause we all like to hear ourselves type. Any opportunity  8)
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