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Old 03-29-2013, 05:00 PM   #1
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Default The "Perfect" Fermentor Cooler/Fridge?

So I'm looking for a place to put my 6 gal carboy when it ferments and have a few ideas.

One is a wine cooler. I think I need to get like a 40+ bottle one to hold the size of the carboy. But it's limited as to how cold it can get if I decide to do other than ales.

the other is the refrigerator, but finding the right one is tough.

My other option which I like because I'm a vintage type guy is getting an old antique refrigerator like from the 30's type to put the carboy in.

Anyone doing this? Any Pros-Cons of all three ideas?

What are you guys using?

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Old 03-29-2013, 05:29 PM   #2
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You are missing the 1 that most homebrewers pick - a chest freezer with an external temp controller. Of course, if you can get any of them as craigslist finds or giveaways, then that would make the decision for you.

The external temp controller really is the best way to go. You can stick the probe right on the side of the fermenter and really dial in the temp you want. That is better than relying on air temp to trigger the internal controllers. Also, if you get a dual stage controller, you can use it to run a heating belt as well.

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Old 03-29-2013, 05:30 PM   #3
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The ideal is any fridge or freezer/chest freezer that will fit the carboy with a temp controller added, which is pretty much all of them.

Quote:
the other is the refrigerator, but finding the right one is tough.
I think you are overthinking this. Any $50.00 fridge or chest freezer off Craigslist will do the job once you add a $60.00 temp controller. MOST fridges and freezers will fit a carboy, finding one is far from tough.

A wine cooler likely costs wayyyy too much, and like you said, wine coolers generally don't cool lower than 50F or so, making them unusable for lagering.

I personally use a commercial display cooler, which is just basically a big fridge with a glass front. I got mine used on Craigslist for $125. I then have a Johnson A419 temp controller that cost me $56.00 shipped. I like the "bling" of the glass-front cooler, so I was willing to spend a bit extra.

BTW, I also have a vintage fridge I use as a kegorator, but I don't think you are going to find one that has the footprint to fit a carboy for fermenting. The older ones are MUCH smaller than modern fridges. That route is obviously be much more expensive than the $100-150 it would cost to put a temp controller on a used fridge/chest freezer.

Good luck!
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Old 03-29-2013, 06:09 PM   #4
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Just another perspective on the vintage fridge -- I agree w/ TopherM that you'd need to measure carefully to be sure a fermenter would fit (according to Northern Brewer the diameter is 12" but the top will be somewhat wider, and then it's 18" tall but you'd need to add several inches again for lid + airlock). And unlike a chest freezer it would at best hold one fermenter. I may have lucked out but the '49 Crosley I'm currently converting into a kegerator would definitely fit one fermenter (height would be a closer call than width/depth in my case).

As far as cost goes you could probably find a vintage fridge in the $100 range if you're willing to spend some time monitoring Craigslist, and can live with (or repair) one that has some dings or peeling paint (this might depend on how much collector activity there is in your part of the country -- you could be out of luck in LA). It helps that since you'd be tearing all of the shelving out anyway you don't care if the interior is in good shape or not, which a restorer/collector probably would. If you land one from the 30s - early 50s and the door gasket is still good it shouldn't cost more to run than a newer model, and might be much cheaper to run than one from the 60s-80s (see discussion in kerber's kegerator build thread). Of course you'd still need to buy or build a thermostat.

Only point is that if you have sufficient time and patience you might be able to go the vintage fridge route without spending a ton more money. Of course if you decide you want to pretty the fridge up once you get it, the costs will run up on you quickly!

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Old 03-29-2013, 06:23 PM   #5
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Fosaisu! Do you happen to have a pic of your 49 Crosley? Mine is a 49 Crosley Shelvator. Here's a pic after I did the paint work and replaced the wiring and insulation, but before I added the taps:



Mine would fit a carboy with a few minor modifications (the floor shelf is not flat, it is slightly tiered), but I would never use this as a fermentation chamber after all the work I put into it. Fermentation chambers stay in the garage, this is the showpiece of the mancave!
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Keg #3 - EMPTY!
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Old 03-29-2013, 06:27 PM   #6
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DrinkingLounge,

Here's what I use as a fermentation chamber. This is a stock photo, but I have the same model. It was originally $1200.00 new, but with a little patience and persistance, I got a used one for $125 from a out of business caterer liquidating their assets on Craigslist.



I used to use square primaries, and could fit three at a time in my chamber, but the square primaries were a PITA to clean, so now I use mostly better bottles, and fit one along with storing some beers, hops, and yeast in this unit.

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Secondary #1 - Downtown Flanders Brown (brewed August 2012)
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Keg #2 - Fall of the Ukraine Baltic Porter (lagering in keg)
Keg #3 - EMPTY!
Bottled - NONE!

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Old 03-31-2013, 05:46 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TopherM View Post


Fosaisu! Do you happen to have a pic of your 49 Crosley? Mine is a 49 Crosley Shelvator. Here's a pic after I did the paint work and replaced the wiring and insulation, but before I added the taps:

(cont.)

No way, glad to hear I'm not the only one with a '49 Crosley (mine's also a Shelvador)! I'm going to throw together a thread in the DIY section with some pics once I'm done, I'll PM you a link then.

For some reason I can't see your pic though, any chance you could repost it? I'd love to see another one of these! I'd also be interested to hear how far you went with the wiring and insulation (I redid the door insulation and the accessible wires, including the power cable and the wires to the compressor, but didn't pull the inner box out b/c it seemed like that would be a huge hassle).

Speaking of pics, have you seen any of the ads for the '49 Crosley? They're pretty amusing, and I'm planning to frame one and put it up next to my kegerator when it's done. Here's one:
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Old 03-31-2013, 05:17 PM   #8
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I ferment in a mini fridge with a Johnson temp controller, and I keg/lager in a large chest freezer with a 2nd controller. Works great!

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Old 03-31-2013, 05:24 PM   #9
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I have a full size fridge with an Ebay temp controller. Takes some work and gathering parts, but it's quite a bit cheaper than a Johnson controller. See the build thread here.

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