I started brewing with a mini-fridge that barely fit a 5-gal homer bucket, and now have moved into what I'm hoping will be a box big enough to hold four, 6.7-gal buckets. Living in central Florida I don't have the luxury of being able to ferment in the basement. Heck, even 'room temperature' for me is about 10 degrees warmer than what most people mean here on HBT . Anyway,
I busted the cooling element on my original mini-fridge, but lucked out on a Craigslist find for only $20. The coils are all on the back instead of inside the walls so I decided to see if I could cut it back to make more room inside my box.
When all you have is a hammer.... well, all I had was a pair of pliers. This thing looks like a big can in need of a can opener.
I was finally able to peel off the outer, metal layer and get to the foam underneath.
I used an old coffee table that my wife had transformed into a play table for the kids. The plan is to split the top and bottom and add the fermentation chamber in the middle; raising the top 26-28 inches. (that's it in the lower left)
This is as far as I've gotten so far. Tomorrow I hope to get a sheet of the 2-inch foam-board insulation and start cutting it to make the box.
You can barely see on the right side of the image, but that's what I'm currently using to ferment in - a 3.5-Cu. Ft. chest freezer. Once I get my new chamber built, the chest freezer is getting a collar and will become a nice keezer
I've been using one of the STC1000's to control my temperature and haven't had any issues. I'll be ordering a second one probably this week for the keezer project.
So I have the floor and the back wall in place. I've also sealed in the mini-fridge and most of the left-side wall. This is just to fit check the bucket footprints and make sure that the door (front facing) will be big enough and in the right spot to add/remove buckets.
I've blocked off where the front will be and mocked up the opening to make sure I can move everything around. I know that I have the floor space for four buckets, but this proved that I could actually move them in-and-out through the door and not have to completely disassemble the box to cram four of them in.
I'm still pretty new to home-brewing and don't have a long history with the homer buckets, but from what I've read I decided that it's okay to brew in them without a liner. For every don't-use article/forum thread that I read I found another that said they were okay; I think it comes down to what you feel is best for your setup (how is that for not directly answering the question ) That being said, the primaries I'm moving towards are ale-pail style white buckets, but that is due to the lack of 6+ gallon buckets available on the cheap at Home Depot and not because of perceived health concerns.
The box itself is almost done. I have to glue the top on and then spray foam the crack around the mini-fridge and maybe the seams, depending on how cleanly I can apply the spray.
I did test it out and within about 10 minutes the inside air temp dropped from 80 degrees down to 74. The real test will be to see how long it brings 5-gallons down to 68. I may have to help it some with a bucket or two of cold water or maybe even a bucket of ice. I'm guessing that once I have two or three batches fermenting away at 68 there will be enough thermal mass in there cool down the next batch and definitely enough to hold the temperature.
Yup, I plan on putting a 5-inch AC-powered fan in the front right corner and maybe another on the small compressor hump on the left side if necessary. I'll need to check other peoples' builds on how they're running the fans, e.g., on full-time, on a timer, or just when the fridge is running.