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Old 09-30-2010, 02:27 AM   #1
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Default Basement Fermentation Cabinet

I live about 40 Miles outside of Chicago and my house has a basement which I am in the process of finishing. The basement is well below grade so the ambient temperature down there stays pretty consistent and with the level of insulation and vapour barrier I am installing the temperature and humidity level will be easy to control.

A section of the basement will be my brew room where I intend to install my fermentation cabinet. My plan is to make it two tier with the top being for ales and the bottom for lagering and cold storage, based on what I have read flipping through the mountain of DIY posts on this subject it made sense to ferment ale on the top and lager/cold store on the bottom and my understanding of heat/rising cold/sinking. The cabinet design portion of the build and proper insulation doesn't have me stumped, all in all the cabinet will be ~6ft tall and ~6ft wide with a depth of ~2.5ft. The heating/cooling portion with proper air flow is my main concern.

I would suspect that keeping a chamber warm in my insulated basement in an insulated chamber is easier than keeping it cool, hopefully I am not off base with this assumption. So in order to provide the cooling and from what I have read thus far using an A/C unit is the way to go. Most is not all of the examples I have seen use a window mounted A/C unit that has been hacked to provide lower then normal temps.

From what I understand from the similar posts I have read the A/C unit needs to be mounted at the top of my proposed cabinet. Since I don't need to keep the top chamber below 60 for ales, does it make sense to create a separate insulated chamber just for the cool air from the A/C unit and then pump/fan it to the two other chambers based on temperature needs?

Since most window A/C units are mounted in a window with exposure to the outside has anyone who has used a similar setup indoors/basement had any issues with the A/C unit blowing air into the the room it is in? These units, as with any A/C need to drain the moisture they pull from the air, I suppose just providing a drain for this would satisfy this need, yes/no?

What about a fresh air intake the the cabinet/chambers, is this needed or is this something that a window A/C provides? In comparing to my home A/C, most rooms have a vent that allows air to circulate out of the room so no pressure builds up (the mystery door shutting on its own issue), so I assumed its needed...?

Any advice/suggestions on how to properly maintain two individual chambers inside a cabinet that is inside a basement/room would be great!!

Thanks!

David



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Old 09-30-2010, 02:51 PM   #2
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Well I am no expert but let's try to dissect this one step at a time. I am doing something similar but my "chamber" is a commercial kegorator.

Given you have a well insulated chamber and you need two distinct temps, in its simplest form I would set it up with two temp controls and use a fan to blow cool air to the warm section. I am using a piece of heavy duty foam as a partition and sealing it with the HVAC metal tape. Not the most Fabtastic but it insulates well. Then using two of the eBay aquarium controllers, one to regulate the normal cooling system of the chamber and the second will operate a fan/heating element. I am planning on a 120 CPU fan with a cover over it like you see on the dryer vents of a house to "seal" the chamber when it's not blowing. Since the eBay controllers have dual purpose for hot and cold, I will be putting either a light bulb or some other heat source in the warm side just in case the temp is too cool for whatever I am brewing. Like I said this is not the most amazing plan but it should work well given all things are installed correctly. I have threatened the idea of a linear actuator to open a "window" to the cool side but my brain makes it overly complicated for the simplicity and function that is required.

Now for the actual cooling unit. I am not 100% on this but a window unit would not only be noisy but you would have to deal with the hot air and condensation. Granted I am not sure as to the full setup in your basement and whether the noise and heat source matter but it is always a concern. Depending on your level of MacGyver you could dismantle a freezer/refrigerator and use the cooling elements in there or possibly get one of the floor a/c units that are commonly in motels. I look at it as they were intended to work in an indoor environment therefore designed to better accommodate than a window unit indoors. Just my .02 on all of it. Keep us posted with pics/thoughts!



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Old 09-30-2010, 03:20 PM   #3
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If you're building an insulated space that's not bigger than about 100 or 200 cubic feet, this might be a solution for you:

http://www.amazon.com/Koolspace-koolR-Wine-Cellar-Cooling/dp/B0023RLY44/ref=pd_sbs_k_2

It's a wine cellar cooling unit. It says it's for 300 cubic foot wine cellars, so I'd go a bit smaller.

Here's a direct link to the Koolspace site if you wnat to research different models:

http://www.koolspace.ca/component/option,com_virtuemart/page,shop.browse/category_id,16/Itemid,27/index.php?option=com_virtuemart&page=shop.browse&c ategory_id=16&Itemid=27&vmcchk=1

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Old 09-30-2010, 05:10 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DeBrewer View Post
Well I am no expert but let's try to dissect this one step at a time. I am doing something similar but my "chamber" is a commercial kegorator.

Given you have a well insulated chamber and you need two distinct temps, in its simplest form I would set it up with two temp controls and use a fan to blow cool air to the warm section. I am using a piece of heavy duty foam as a partition and sealing it with the HVAC metal tape. Not the most Fabtastic but it insulates well. Then using two of the eBay aquarium controllers, one to regulate the normal cooling system of the chamber and the second will operate a fan/heating element. I am planning on a 120 CPU fan with a cover over it like you see on the dryer vents of a house to "seal" the chamber when it's not blowing. Since the eBay controllers have dual purpose for hot and cold, I will be putting either a light bulb or some other heat source in the warm side just in case the temp is too cool for whatever I am brewing. Like I said this is not the most amazing plan but it should work well given all things are installed correctly. I have threatened the idea of a linear actuator to open a "window" to the cool side but my brain makes it overly complicated for the simplicity and function that is required.

Now for the actual cooling unit. I am not 100% on this but a window unit would not only be noisy but you would have to deal with the hot air and condensation. Granted I am not sure as to the full setup in your basement and whether the noise and heat source matter but it is always a concern. Depending on your level of MacGyver you could dismantle a freezer/refrigerator and use the cooling elements in there or possibly get one of the floor a/c units that are commonly in motels. I look at it as they were intended to work in an indoor environment therefore designed to better accommodate than a window unit indoors. Just my .02 on all of it. Keep us posted with pics/thoughts!
Thought about the freezer/fridge cannibalization method however I worry about the CU FT size of my cabinet and the ability of a cooling unit from one of the mini fridges to handle cooling in the mid 30's to 40ish range without keeling over. I suppose that with proper insulation minimizing loss actually maintaining temps at this range may not be an issue?

I like the idea of a portable/floor unit, though finding one on the cheap/used seem a lot more difficult. I guess I can start deep diving into that search...

I am attaching a few photos of my basement to give an idea of what I am working with, since it does influence my fermentation design. . Since I am getting ready to finish the basement I decided to understand my fermentation needs before I began creating the final layout, especially how it impact the brew room I am creating.

As can see from the pictures the brew room will be surrounded on 3 sides with walls that are concrete were the floor is 9ft below grade. I will be venting the room to the outside with an exhaust fan so I suppose I can do the same thing for any cooling unit that will be blowing warm/hot air. As for noise, I am an sysadmin that spends a lot of time around running servers so white noise is nothing to me, even the deafening type.

Based on my general observations of the temps in the basement I shouldn't have to battle with the extreme temp fluctuations of any of the seasons (will be getting a USB thermometer running on a Linux laptop to keep an eye on it and graph it so I can get an better idea), its always cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter then any part of the house even with the ventilation registers in the basement closed.

Any thoughts on my proposal for creating a cooling chamber within the fermentation cabinet and distributing the cool air where it needs to be? Does that make sense? Sort of like a DIY fridge within the cabinet and since the cooler air will drop to the bottom chamber it shouldn't take much to push it down there and the top ale chamber will just need fan distribution...I am guessing.

Thoughts?






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Old 09-30-2010, 05:12 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WaltStarr View Post
If you're building an insulated space that's not bigger than about 100 or 200 cubic feet, this might be a solution for you:

http://www.amazon.com/Koolspace-koolR-Wine-Cellar-Cooling/dp/B0023RLY44/ref=pd_sbs_k_2

It's a wine cellar cooling unit. It says it's for 300 cubic foot wine cellars, so I'd go a bit smaller.

Here's a direct link to the Koolspace site if you wnat to research different models:

http://www.koolspace.ca/component/option,com_virtuemart/page,shop.browse/category_id,16/Itemid,27/index.php?option=com_virtuemart&page=shop.browse&c ategory_id=16&Itemid=27&vmcchk=1
I like the idea, expensive though, but I do have time to search for used ones or even restaurant liquidation houses.....

Thanks!
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Old 09-30-2010, 07:26 PM   #6
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I like the idea, expensive though, but I do have time to search for used ones or even restaurant liquidation houses.....

Thanks!
I was reading some of the reviews of that specific model and it seems like they have to be replaced every two or three years. There are loads of other choices, though, so a wine cellar cooler may be your answer. Wine cellars for red wine should be kept at about 55 degrees F, so they'd be good for a lager closet.
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Old 09-30-2010, 09:58 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WaltStarr View Post
I was reading some of the reviews of that specific model and it seems like they have to be replaced every two or three years. There are loads of other choices, though, so a wine cellar cooler may be your answer. Wine cellars for red wine should be kept at about 55 degrees F, so they'd be good for a lager closet.
I'd like to be able to get the temp down to at least 42 since some of the lagers I have looked at require tempts that low. A great find would be an old walk in cooler cooling unit, I bet they can get cold. Not sure where to even begin to look for a used one of those or even what they are called beyond my hack job name!!!
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Fermenting:
You Want MO Pale Ale
Secondary - Cyser & New England Hard Cider
Bottled: Nada
Kegged & OnTap: Bad Santa Stout, Jeep Trail Brown Ale, Red Skies at Night American Red, Panty Dropper Hard Cider


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I'd go with the 2". You can always stir the wort with a sanitized spoon if your worried about hot/cold spots. You will be hitting the 6+" with everything...ask Ron Jeremy!
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Old 10-01-2010, 12:00 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adurotec View Post
I'd like to be able to get the temp down to at least 42 since some of the lagers I have looked at require tempts that low. A great find would be an old walk in cooler cooling unit, I bet they can get cold. Not sure where to even begin to look for a used one of those or even what they are called beyond my hack job name!!!
You could always go with a freezer and a Johnson Control unit. Then you'd be able to drop the temperature below freezing to clarify before kegging.
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Old 10-01-2010, 12:35 AM   #9
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You could always go with a freezer and a Johnson Control unit. Then you'd be able to drop the temperature below freezing to clarify before kegging.
That is a good idea and was how I originally was going to approach my cabinet. I may revisit it again.....

What turned me away was having only top access to the freezer; something I could probably live with if I could figure out how to create two separate temp chambers, so to still ferment lagers and store/clarify while integrating into the design a top chamber with front access that could be used for fermenting ales. Unless I left the bottom for storing/clarifying and divided the top into lager/ale and controlled the temp to those chambers.

Does that make sense or is it the beer talking?
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________________________________________
Fermenting:
You Want MO Pale Ale
Secondary - Cyser & New England Hard Cider
Bottled: Nada
Kegged & OnTap: Bad Santa Stout, Jeep Trail Brown Ale, Red Skies at Night American Red, Panty Dropper Hard Cider


Quote:
Originally Posted by Hammy71 View Post
I'd go with the 2". You can always stir the wort with a sanitized spoon if your worried about hot/cold spots. You will be hitting the 6+" with everything...ask Ron Jeremy!
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Old 10-01-2010, 01:01 AM   #10
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You seem to have plenty of space, so why not purchase 2 small chest freezers, add collars to them so they're tall enough to hold cornies, and keep 1 at serving/lagering temps and the other at ale temps?



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