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Old 05-29-2008, 12:34 AM   #1
dfh99
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Default Refrigerator as fermenting chamber

Question for the warm-climate brewers:

Is there any reason why I shouldn't buy and use a standing refrigerator (with external thermostat) -- as opposed to a chest freezer -- for use as a temperature-controlled fermenting chamber? I am attracted to the fridge (a model without a freezer) because the vertical space looks more useful than chest-freezer space, and because, I am thinking, that because the fridge is optimized to cool to a higher temperature than the freezer, it might be more efficient at maintaining even-higher fermenting temperatures than a freezer?

To put it another way -- why, 90% of the time, do you hear about people using chest freezers, rather than refrigerators, as externally-controlled fermenting coolers?

Thanks for any advice--

Dan

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Old 05-29-2008, 12:43 AM   #2
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I'm using two stand-up freezers. They are frost-free models and I used some spare lumber to support one of the wire shelves better so I can (with the lower door shelves cut off) put a 7 gal carboy on bottom and one on the shelf at the same time, each with blowoffs or airlocks, so I could ferment at least 10gal at once. There's room for some cornies in there with it if I were to use one as a lagerator. I got two-stage controllers (ranco) and I wired in some metal dome lamps with reptile ceramic heat bulbs in them for the heat stage, the freezer on the cool stage, so I can maintain a range and leave them in my uninsulated and unheated garage year round without worry.

A fridge would likely work as well. The beefier cooling capacity of the freezers (and the cheaper price for a stand-up unit as compared to a fridge-only standup, which are impossible to find on craig's list in my area) worked for me. I'm sure if you can find a fridge-only, it will work great.

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Old 05-29-2008, 12:55 AM   #3
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Yeah, the chest freezers at Sears are cheaper per cubic foot, but I'm convinced that the vertical space will be that much more useful than the horizontal space, that it'll even out in the end.

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Old 05-29-2008, 12:58 AM   #4
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It depends on your end goal. A lot of people like to condition their beer in Cornelius kegs alongside the fermenters, which happen to fit quite nicely in certain chest freezer models. You can usually fit way more kegs in a chest freezer than a vertical fridge. However, if you're bottling, you may find the vertical model to be of more value.

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Old 05-29-2008, 01:18 AM   #5
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Just to quibble a bit about efficiency. Most of the cold air will fall to the bottom of a fridge and so there is a temperature differential between the top and bottom of the fridge. This is not as pronounced on a chest freezer.

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Old 05-29-2008, 01:23 AM   #6
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Post your location in your profile.
If you live nearby I might be able to tell you how to get one of these:

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Old 05-29-2008, 01:25 AM   #7
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It's Houston, TX (changing profile now)

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Old 05-29-2008, 04:49 AM   #8
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I'd go with an upright freezer plan. Check craigslist. They will give you the most versatility. Solid ale temps and the capability to lager and cold crash without worry. I have a couple of fridge/freezer and modified the thermostat and cut some holes from the freezer down. I have conicals. It works, but I'd go for a upright. I thought I'd use the freezer for storage, but at times it can get too cold.



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Old 05-29-2008, 09:10 AM   #9
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My buddy gave me an upright refrigerator a while back. It is perfect for fermenting four carboys. Right now I have some thick insulation partitioning the top from the bottom. I'm finding that the top stays warmer by about 20F naturally (its ~90F in Phoenix now), so I maintain the bottom at about 44F (for serving from three cornys) and the top at about 65F (two ales ferment there).

I've been trying to come up with a clever (inexpensive) way to ferment four carboys each at a different temperature within this one refrigerator. That would make a very nice compact setup. It might be possible to partition it four ways and have dedicated heating mechanisms in each cell (this would work in winter as well, when temps drop to ~30F). If I were rich, this would not be an issue, but I need to think about efficiency and cost of the heaters/controllers, so I have not decided how to proceed.

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Old 05-29-2008, 04:57 PM   #10
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I just started using my outside fridge for fermenting with a controller. I figured I could put my tap on it also and when fermenting is done, regulate and use that for beer. I know this sounds sub optimal, but it is my solution till I can get another chest dedicated for fermenting. It does limit you to one brew at a time however.

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