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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > DIY Projects > Fermenters > Fermentation Chamber build
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Old 04-13-2011, 08:43 AM   #1
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Default Fermentation Chamber build

Building off of this thread...

After waiting on a tax return, dealing with a family issue and several other delays, I am ready to begin construction.

I have decided to move my box to a different wall in the garage to deal with the placement of my attic stairs. So the box will be the same in concept, just the higher temp ale chamber will be on the left instead of the right.

I have acquired a 6000 BTU window unit, and have all of my lumber. I purchased some 1" bead foam board and will buy the 3-1/2" R-13 batt rolls this week. Instead of PC fans, I have elected to use bathroom exhaust fans (LINK). 50 CFM for $14 with an in-line baffle and a 3-1/2" port. I'll use 3-1/2" bath exhaust vent for the little ducting I need. I received two of the aquarium temp controllers, and a friend gave me an analog controller that I intend to use on the coldest box.

So all I have left to buy for my parts list is the ducting, 1 fan, the batts, outlets/boxes, and some zip cord to run the electrics.

Here's the space I'll be building in:



Updates to follow...soon, hopefully!

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Old 04-13-2011, 03:21 PM   #2
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Looks like you have a nice space to work with. How big of a chamber are you planning?

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Old 04-14-2011, 04:51 AM   #3
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The footprint will be 4' x 8'. Half of it will be 4' tall (the ale chamber), and half will be 8' tall - two 4' chambers stacked on top of each other (lager chamber in the bottom, cold beer storage/conditioning in the top).

Walls and top will be 2x4 with insulation and 1" foam board interior surface, with OSB exterior.

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Old 05-14-2011, 03:16 AM   #4
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Here's what I'm cooling with:



Question: will I have to by-pass the internal thermostat on the A/C/ unit to get it down to ~35*, or will just turning the knob down let me cool it as much as I want?

Here is the build so far:



The left box is for ales, the right-bottom is for lagers, and the top is for cold beer storage. All of the parts are in-hand, now I just need more than an hour at a time to finish the dayum thing!!

First brew will be 10g AG Kolsch...alongside a 5g ext Amber. I hope 15 gallons will get me through July...

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Old 05-14-2011, 01:13 PM   #5
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That unit will not get down to 35 without you modifying the thermostat. Some people have claimed you can just 'trick' the thermostat by either relocating the probe to the outside of the box, or putting a small heat source near the probe so it thinks it is warmer than what it really needs to be.

My AC unit does not let me do that. I put a 45W halogen lamp right near the probe and it still only goes down to 55 or so. I think there is some sort of internal safety that will not let it drop lower. I havent gotten around to gutting and bypassing the thermostat, mostly because I dont intend to bring my temps down further than that.

If you don't like the idea of bypassing the thermostat, I would give the probe trick a try first. You might get lucky.

The other thing you need to worry about is when the temperature drops that low, you will have freezing on the evap coils, especially when the condenser cycle is off. People have gotten past this by either wiring the fan on the unit to run constantly, or installing separate PC fans that blow towards the coils constantly. This allows the ice to thaw by blowing above freezing air over the coils. I would suspect that this is going to be a pretty big issue in that coldest chamber when you are trying to approach 35. Making sure the box is absolutely airtight, and not opening it very often will keep the moisture level down and will help.

Sorry for the long winded post. If I would spend some time actually working on my ferm closet instead of talking about others', I would be done with it!

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Old 05-14-2011, 08:16 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kpr121 View Post
That unit will not get down to 35 without you modifying the thermostat. Some people have claimed you can just 'trick' the thermostat by either relocating the probe to the outside of the box, or putting a small heat source near the probe so it thinks it is warmer than what it really needs to be.

My AC unit does not let me do that. I put a 45W halogen lamp right near the probe and it still only goes down to 55 or so. I think there is some sort of internal safety that will not let it drop lower. I havent gotten around to gutting and bypassing the thermostat, mostly because I dont intend to bring my temps down further than that.

If you don't like the idea of bypassing the thermostat, I would give the probe trick a try first. You might get lucky.
Thanks for the tip...I'm not sure if I'll try the probe thing or just jump straight to bypass.

Quote:
The other thing you need to worry about is when the temperature drops that low, you will have freezing on the evap coils, especially when the condenser cycle is off. People have gotten past this by either wiring the fan on the unit to run constantly, or installing separate PC fans that blow towards the coils constantly. This allows the ice to thaw by blowing above freezing air over the coils. I would suspect that this is going to be a pretty big issue in that coldest chamber when you are trying to approach 35. Making sure the box is absolutely airtight, and not opening it very often will keep the moisture level down and will help.

Sorry for the long winded post. If I would spend some time actually working on my ferm closet instead of talking about others', I would be done with it!
Something that you don't see is that in the top (coldest) box, I plan to install a return baffle. The cold air will blow into the chamber, and the return air to the coils will flow through the un-cooled return air path. There will be a single 3-1/2" inlet from each of the 3 boxes into the return air path. Hopefully, this will prevent freezing since I don't plan on insulating the baffle.
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Old 06-04-2011, 05:17 AM   #7
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Time for some updating...

I finally have been able to squeeze in some build time. Let's start with a pic from right after the last one:



In this pic you can clearly see the 2-1/2" gap between the box and the wall, due to some moulding and electrical conduit. If you look in the A/C opening, you can see the 3 layers of blue-foam used to seal around the window. Same view, backed up a bit:

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Old 06-04-2011, 05:22 AM   #8
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Today, I was able to mount the A/C unit in the opening. Sounds easy, and wasn't TOO difficult. Just had to put on my thinking cap a bit. Since the A/C unit isn't really deep, and the box is away from the wall, the AC unit only sticks out the window opening about an inch:



So, after framing in the front (that goes inside the box), I had to deal with the exterior. If I had left it as-was, the insulation and wall inside the window would be open to the elements. So I did some southern-engineered framing on either side of the A/C unit and tacked in some 1/4" luan panels on a diagonal so that the AC unit's side vents were unobstructed:



All sealed with metal/aluminum duct tape.

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Old 06-04-2011, 05:27 AM   #9
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I then set about sealing the inside as tightly as possible, using OSB, 1/4" blue foam, and the all-important metal/aluminum duct tape:



I also by-passed the thermostat on the unit, so now as long as the switch is turned on, the fan and compressor are running.

Next step: adding the return-air baffle to the rear of the box...

EDIT:
BTW...I'll throttle my camera down to a smaller rez next time...

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Old 07-28-2011, 06:39 AM   #10
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IT'S...ALIIIIIVE!!!!

Finally...after many far-too-separated days of sweat and insulation rash, splinters and re-works...it's alive and running.

First, after installing the baffle on the back of the top (cold) box, I realized that I didn't have hardly any room in it. Sooooo...out it came, and in went a smaller air return baffle. Here you can see part of it with one of the bath exhaust fans in place:



This one is back a little further, and you can kind of see the door construction as well. It's OSB with 1 x 2-1/2 framing. R-13 batts in the framing skinned with 1" R-7 foam board. As with the entire unit, it's all sealed and edge-wrapped with metal tape.



Here is the completed unit all buttoned up. Top box is cold crashing/storage, to be kept at ~ 38-40*. Bottom right box is lagering, to be kept at ~ 55*. Bottom left is ale, to be kept at ~ 65-68*.



I finished hooking up the controllers at about 11 p.m., and after 30 minutes of a shower and getting ready for work the temp in the cold box was at 44*.

The lager box was at 73* and the ale box was at 72*.



I'm letting them run tonight while I'm at work to see how the temps stabilize. Hopefully, the fermentation boxes will eventually get down to the temps I want.

WOO-HOO!!! Brewday Saturday, assuming everything works as envisioned!
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