Author Topic: Temp Control newbie  (Read 760 times)

Offline Estaban

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Temp Control newbie
« on: June 27, 2018, 08:37:59 PM »
I'm sure you're all tired of seeing and answering this question but I've gone deep into the topic here and got my head turned around. All I want to know is what's the best, relatively cheap, brand/model of beverage cooler/ refrigerator to fit a standard glass carboy in, set a fermentation temperature (without having to build or add on to the machine preferably)  or easiest set up and forget about until fermentation is done. I travel about an hour each way to and from work, volunteer with the local fire department and generally help around the house and neighborhood when I've got the spare time so when I do brew I want to be able to know it's hitting the right temperature. So far temp control has been my biggest obstacle as I live in the desert and the only room available in the house where I keep my fermentation will hit lower than 50 in the winter and over 85 in the summer.  I was looking at a Tramontina 126 can beverage cooler but it was just a little too short height wise on the inside to fit a carboy with bubbler air lock. I don't have much room except for about a 4x4 ft area.
Any and all suggestions welcomed please!
« Last Edit: June 27, 2018, 08:41:37 PM by Estaban »

Offline Bob357

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Re: Temp Control newbie
« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2018, 08:58:25 PM »
I recently got an 18cf refrigerator at Lowes for $245. It was new and had a minor defect that doesn't affect performance. Even came with factory warranty. It comfortably fits two 7 gallon fermenters and has storage space too.

 With a refrigerator you need an external temperature controller because fermentation temperatures aren't in the range it was made to work within. Many of the temp controllers require no electrical modifications. You just plug the controller into the wall socket, plug the fridge into the controller, run the temp. probe into the fridge and set the desired temperature. No need to even drill a hole for the temp. probe, Just shut the door on it and the door seal will still do its job. You can likely get by cheaper but, for the difference, I don't want to trust a used fridge.
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Offline Robert

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Re: Temp Control newbie
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2018, 09:57:22 PM »
+1 on the "scratch and dent" fridge.  The Inkbird 2-stage controllers (heat and cool) are a good deal for $35ish, plug and play, no mods needed like Bob said, and I find a Fermwrap (also cheap) taped to the back wall of the fridge does a fine job of providing enough gentle heat (50° nights, you'll need it.)
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Offline Estaban

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Re: Temp Control newbie
« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2018, 10:40:05 PM »
With a refrigerator you need an external temperature controller because fermentation temperatures aren't in the range it was made to work within. Many of the temp controllers require no electrical modifications. You just plug the controller into the wall socket, plug the fridge into the controller, run the temp. probe into the fridge and set the desired temperature. No need to even drill a hole for the temp. probe, Just shut the door on it and the door seal will still do its job. You can likely get by cheaper but, for the difference, I don't want to trust a used fridge.

Thanks! I tend to overthink things and hopefully then my old beat up mini fridge is deep enough and still operable in order to use with the carboy.

Offline Estaban

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Re: Temp Control newbie
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2018, 10:42:54 PM »
+1 on the "scratch and dent" fridge.  The Inkbird 2-stage controllers (heat and cool) are a good deal for $35ish, plug and play, no mods needed like Bob said, and I find a Fermwrap (also cheap) taped to the back wall of the fridge does a fine job of providing enough gentle heat (50° nights, you'll need it.)

Thanks! Plug and Play is where I want to be. As I told Bob I hope the old mini fridge I've had outside is still good and big enough and with the temp controls you recommended I just might be able to get out of this extremely cheap.

Offline MNWayne

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Re: Temp Control newbie
« Reply #5 on: June 28, 2018, 01:59:16 PM »
I gave up on using bubbler air locks and now only use blow off tubes. Besides eliminating the mess from an over active ferment, the blow off tube saves me 2+ inches in height. That could be the critical 2 inches you need to fit the carboy into a smaller space. Use a 90 degree barb elbow between the stopper and tube.

Offline jkirkham

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Re: Temp Control newbie
« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2018, 09:03:51 AM »
If you have a fridge try to use it. I actually stick my temp probes In a bottle of water when I set the temp on my controllers, if the water is a certain temp, I feel like I have less to worry about for the ambient. I am likely going to turn my fridge into a cold side controlled fridge, I’m pretty sure I could stagger two carboys in here if I put a ss shelf in (and I already have one that fits)

I also recently bought a 7cf chest freezer. I don’t plan on using it for my cold side temp control, but I think a 5cf one would easily fit a carboy (or two) I paid $60 for mine, fairly cheap considering what I am replacing was $150. Even where the compressor is it’s 20” to the top so a blow off valve with that 90* elbow just might fit. One carboy will defiantly fit. With the chest freezer though you have to lift the carboy and drop it in, don’t throw your back out.
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Offline MNWayne

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Re: Temp Control newbie
« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2018, 04:11:25 AM »
Be sure to use a brew hauler carboy strap. When I'm old and even that is a hassle I think a track on the ceiling would be cool. Haul the fermenter up out of the freezer using a pulley and then roll it along the ceiling track to the countertop.

Offline Estaban

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Re: Temp Control newbie
« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2018, 07:51:08 PM »
If you have a fridge try to use it. I actually stick my temp probes In a bottle of water when I set the temp on my controllers, if the water is a certain temp, I feel like I have less to worry about for the ambient. I am likely going to turn my fridge into a cold side controlled fridge, I’m pretty sure I could stagger two carboys in here if I put a ss shelf in (and I already have one that fits)

I also recently bought a 7cf chest freezer. I don’t plan on using it for my cold side temp control, but I think a 5cf one would easily fit a carboy (or two) I paid $60 for mine, fairly cheap considering what I am replacing was $150. Even where the compressor is it’s 20” to the top so a blow off valve with that 90* elbow just might fit. One carboy will defiantly fit. With the chest freezer though you have to lift the carboy and drop it in, don’t throw your back out.

Would you set it to Max or Min on the temp settings for the freezer? Also thanks to everyone that has answered so far!

Offline Robert

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Re: Temp Control newbie
« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2018, 08:01:46 PM »
You want to set a fridge to its coldest setting when using a controller, but I have learned you need to set a freezer to its warmest setting.  This holds temps very steady in my freezers; setting them colder, the swings were way too big.
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Offline jkirkham

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Re: Temp Control newbie
« Reply #10 on: July 03, 2018, 08:57:10 PM »
If you have a fridge try to use it. I actually stick my temp probes In a bottle of water when I set the temp on my controllers, if the water is a certain temp, I feel like I have less to worry about for the ambient. I am likely going to turn my fridge into a cold side controlled fridge, I’m pretty sure I could stagger two carboys in here if I put a ss shelf in (and I already have one that fits)

I also recently bought a 7cf chest freezer. I don’t plan on using it for my cold side temp control, but I think a 5cf one would easily fit a carboy (or two) I paid $60 for mine, fairly cheap considering what I am replacing was $150. Even where the compressor is it’s 20” to the top so a blow off valve with that 90* elbow just might fit. One carboy will defiantly fit. With the chest freezer though you have to lift the carboy and drop it in, don’t throw your back out.

Would you set it to Max or Min on the temp settings for the freezer? Also thanks to everyone that has answered so far!
Tbh I have no clue. My fridge that I use has a dial inside but it is worn and doesn’t say anything. I’d go with what Robert says for the fridge settings, my controller is set to 38* though. My fridge is also kinda jacked. All I know is the beer is cold and it matches what lcd temp strips show, those aren’t the best for knowing exact temp and I don’t really have another thermometer to check.

I would recommend putting the probe in a bottle of water. If the water is cold, everything else should be. We do this same technique at the restaurant I work at. I also do this with the freezer I spoke of, that’s in an inkbird though and I have it set to kick on and off if the temp is 2* above or below the setting.
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Offline denny

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Re: Temp Control newbie
« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2018, 09:22:52 PM »
You want to set a fridge to its coldest setting when using a controller, but I have learned you need to set a freezer to its warmest setting.  This holds temps very steady in my freezers; setting them colder, the swings were way too big.

I set mine to the oldest settings and it doesn't cause me any problems.  Maybe depends on the make of freezer and controller?
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Offline Robert

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Re: Temp Control newbie
« Reply #12 on: July 03, 2018, 09:31:05 PM »
You want to set a fridge to its coldest setting when using a controller, but I have learned you need to set a freezer to its warmest setting.  This holds temps very steady in my freezers; setting them colder, the swings were way too big.

I set mine to the oldest settings and it doesn't cause me any problems.  Maybe depends on the make of freezer and controller?
Quite likely.

Here's how I learned. When I got my first freezer, before ever using it for beer, I put a keg of water in it for a couple of weeks, with a thermometer in the keg.  Tried a bunch of arrangements.  With the freezer at its warmest setting and a +2°/-2° swing on the controller, the water held steady at the set temp.  But with the freezer set colder, it would get so cold in the chamber when the freezer kicked on, the controller couldn't react quickly enough, and the water would plunge toward freezing.   You might want to try a similar experiment to find the best setup on your own equipment.

(BTW my probe is in the air, not water, and the liquid in the keg still holds steady.  Remember,  liquid will change temperature much more slowly than air, as it has much greater thermal mass.)
« Last Edit: July 03, 2018, 09:35:22 PM by Robert »
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Offline jkirkham

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Re: Temp Control newbie
« Reply #13 on: July 04, 2018, 07:25:57 AM »

(BTW my probe is in the air, not water, and the liquid in the keg still holds steady.  Remember,  liquid will change temperature much more slowly than air, as it has much greater thermal mass.)

I get what you’re saying, and, I guess I’m wondering what is better, a shorter or longer wave length of oscillating temperature?

If the probe is in the air and you open the keezer (as I would be doing) the unit would kick on to adjust he temp faster than if he probe was in water. But if the probe is in water, the unit should not kick on as often.
Thoughts?
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Offline Robert

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Re: Temp Control newbie
« Reply #14 on: July 04, 2018, 11:38:23 AM »
One advantage of a freezer over a fridge is that, with the door on top, all the cold air doesn't spill out when you open it.  When my fridge (fermentation chamber) is opened, yeah, it kicks on.  Freezers (lagering and keezer), no.  Anyway, how often are you going to open it?  The difference in how much work your compressor does should be negligible.  Also, the jar of water isn't a real analog for the beer for those using the freezer (or fridge) as a fermentation chamber, as it isn't generating heat like the ferment.  Just another consideration.

I think if I had the probe in water, I'd want zero "swing" set into the system, because by the time the probe registered a change,  the beer would already have changed temperature.  A few degrees swing in air temperature, and the beer will stay steady. 
« Last Edit: July 04, 2018, 12:10:03 PM by Robert »
Rob
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