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Old 02-02-2011, 03:17 PM   #1
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Default Fermentation chamber build

SWMBO has given her blessing to turn "my" half of the garage into a micro brewery. I never park in there anyway.

So as a part of this, I am going to build a fermentation chamber. It's going to be a 4'hx4'dx8'w insulated plywood box with access door(s). I have a convenient window, so I am going to get a small window AC unit and duct the air in through the top of the chamber.

Now, there are a couple of ways I can go: 1) I can divide the box in half with the air inlet on one side and an AC register in the middle wall. I can adjust the register (and maybe couple it with a small fan) to allow some of the cool air into the second chamber. The side with the air inlet would be cooler for lagers and the other side for ales. OR 2) I can make it one chamber and try to find the temperature sweet spot where the lagers taste right/ferment correctly but the ales don't stall. Is 58-60 degrees too warm for lagers or too cool for ales? I want to be able to have both perking at the same time.

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Old 02-02-2011, 03:23 PM   #2
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I have an Old Ale and a Pecan Brown ale fermenting at 55* right now. I used WLP007 on the Old Ale and S-05 on the Pecan. They both had nice Krausen so they should be fine.

I'd just rig up a PC fan controlled by a thermostat between the two and not be too concerned. Mount it high on the separating wall and it may be fine.

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Old 02-02-2011, 03:38 PM   #3
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If you want one warm side and one cool side think of this... AC removes heat so the heat has to go somewhere, normally out the back of the window unit. I had posted awhile back the idea to put the AC unit between the two chambers keeping one cool and one warm. What do you think? I never really got much of a response back the first time I suggested it.

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Old 02-02-2011, 03:41 PM   #4
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If you want one warm side and one cool side think of this... AC removes heat so the heat has to go somewhere, normally out the back of the window unit. I had posted awhile back the idea to put the AC unit between the two chambers keeping one cool and one warm. What do you think? I never really got much of a response back the first time I suggested it.
I would thing the heat form the A/C unit would be too hot for any ale. Especially in the summer.
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Old 02-02-2011, 03:45 PM   #5
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If you want one warm side and one cool side think of this... AC removes heat so the heat has to go somewhere, normally out the back of the window unit. I had posted awhile back the idea to put the AC unit between the two chambers keeping one cool and one warm. What do you think? I never really got much of a response back the first time I suggested it.
You would not be able to control it, if you needed heat and not cold or vice-versa you would still get both. As well, you would likely have uneven heating as the two sides are not likely to hit temp at the same time.
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Old 02-02-2011, 04:03 PM   #6
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Yeah, I vote for having only one chamber, and the ability to adjust it for fermenting ales or lagers. Besides, ales should only need to go in there for 5-7 days max, after which they can warm up a bit.

I was thinking through all this ferm chamber building and getting really excited, and then I got a deal on a 7 cu ft chest freezer and haven't looked back. It's just nice to be able to ferment and then crash cool in place. Plus I can use it for cold storage when it's not fermenting. I brew frequently, but not so frequently that I can't manage my space. $150 for the freezer and the controller and you're done.

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Old 02-02-2011, 04:04 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by prrriiide View Post
SWMBO has given her blessing to turn "my" half of the garage into a micro brewery. I never park in there anyway.

So as a part of this, I am going to build a fermentation chamber. It's going to be a 4'hx4'dx8'w insulated plywood box with access door(s). I have a convenient window, so I am going to get a small window AC unit and duct the air in through the top of the chamber.

Now, there are a couple of ways I can go: 1) I can divide the box in half with the air inlet on one side and an AC register in the middle wall. I can adjust the register (and maybe couple it with a small fan) to allow some of the cool air into the second chamber. The side with the air inlet would be cooler for lagers and the other side for ales. OR 2) I can make it one chamber and try to find the temperature sweet spot where the lagers taste right/ferment correctly but the ales don't stall. Is 58-60 degrees too warm for lagers or too cool for ales? I want to be able to have both perking at the same time.
My first thought is why so tall? Are you putting in conicals? If it is a little lower it would make a great table top area for storage or working on.

I like your two chamber design, it would likely do almost exactly what you want. With temperature control you have two choices, use the chambers ambient temperature to make adjustments or use the beers temperature via a thermowell to make adjustments. In my experience the latter is superior as it eliminates temperature spikes during early fermentation and is pretty much set it and forget.
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Old 02-02-2011, 11:06 PM   #8
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My first thought is why so tall? Are you putting in conicals? If it is a little lower it would make a great table top area for storage or working on.
I thought about that. I don't have a conical...yet. But if I build the chamber big enough to handle it, I'm ready to go when I get one. AFA the table height, I plan on using the top more for storage than for work space. I have a big old wooden desk I plan on using for that.

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or use the beers temperature via a thermowell to make adjustments. In my experience the latter is superior as it eliminates temperature spikes during early fermentation and is pretty much set it and forget.
Can you explain that a little bit further? As in, I have no idea WTH you're talking about...
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Old 02-03-2011, 12:20 AM   #9
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Can you explain that a little bit further? As in, I have no idea WTH you're talking about...
A thermowell in your fermentor allows you to put the temp controller's thermistor into the fermentor. That way, you control the temp of the beer, not the temp of the room.
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Old 02-03-2011, 07:27 AM   #10
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Now a follow-up...

After thinking about it some more, I'm realizing that I need to build at least part of it 8' tall, due to the window placement. The AC unit will need to feed directly into the chamber for efficient cooling, yes? Ducting it won't work because the air return (which makes up most of the front of the window unit) needs to be able to draw warmer air out of the area to be cooled. So...

What I am thinking is that if I need to build part of it that tall, then I should divide it and use the top half (which will be the coolest) as a conditioning area after bottling (and eventually kegging), perhaps even as a future keg cooler/tap wall. Then use the lower half for lagering, and the short part next to it for ales. One AC unit should be plenty to cool all three sufficiently. But...

Can I depend on the physical properties of heat transfer to cool the lager chamber sufficiently (but not too much) just by letting the cold air sink through a vent in the floor of the upper chamber (especially if I don't insulate that floor in between the upper and lower chambers)? Then I can draw air from the lagering chamber into the ale chamber with a PC fan to cool it. And, if I am drawing air into the ale chamber with the PC fan, it will by default draw colder air down into the lager chamber and make it colder. Too cold, maybe? Or perhaps a duct straight in to the ale chamber from the top chamber, bypassing the lager chamber?

I did a quick sketch...



Or am I just being too complicated with wanting separate ale and lager chambers? If I kept the ambient temp at, say, 56°-58° would I be able to do ales and lagers simultaneously? Or is that too cold for an ale?

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