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Old 06-02-2009, 07:19 PM   #1
stephelton
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Default Fermentation Chamber Concerns

I've been brewing some ideas in my head for a while about making a fermentation chamber/cabinet. I have really liked Jason Smith's ideas which he talks about here:

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f51/fermoire-45567/

Quick summary of his project: A large (custom built) armoire is separated into 4 well insulated chambers. In one chamber, a large bucket of ice water is kept very cold by periodically adding ice. Garden pumps pump this water through plastic tubing to each chamber, where a couple fans blow the air over the water to cool the chamber. A micro-controller, using numerous thermometers, activates and deactivates the fans and pumps as necessary to achieve target temperatures.

His craftsmanship is superb. I'd like to do something very similar, but with a couple differences and additions.

1) I'd like to do something MUCH smaller (and lighter.) His fermoire is gorgeous, but is much too large for my needs. I'd like to do something that is one level high, with chambers only as large as they need to be, which brings me to my first concern.

I've been using these 15 gallon plastic containers in which malt extract is served. My LHBS sells these, and they are great. You might ask your LHBS if they'd do the same. Anyway, these containers are just about 14.5" in diameter and 26" in height. A chamber designed solely for these would not need to be very large, but if the cooling design is dependent on adequate airflow, it needs to be larger. Does anyone have any input on how large? I'm sure the angle and placement of the fans makes a big difference. If the air can't flow, the result will be pockets of warm and cool air which will not be effective.

2) Jason uses ice water to cool the air. Unfortunately, this requires busing chunks of ice back and forth. He reports that with two ale fermentations going on, replacing ice once a week is adequate. However, with multiple 15 gallon lager fermentations, I fear the frequency would increase drastically.

I'd therefore like to use an air conditioning system to cool the water. There are a number of compressors available for different purposes, and I'd like to choose one with three main considerations: (1) price, (2) noise, and (3) ease of installation.

The third is particularly important because the construction of the chamber/cabinet will dictate strict requirements on where the compressor and evaporator coils will go.

To anyone with experience using compressors for custom purposes, do you have any input or recommendations?

Thanks a lot!

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Old 06-03-2009, 01:07 AM   #2
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Why can't you just use a cheap window air conditioner? You can buy one new for about $100, use a $50 Love controller to control the temps, and be done with it. You might need a fan to circulate the air as well to get even temps, but that seems like a straightforward solution.

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Old 06-03-2009, 01:32 AM   #3
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I've been toying around with an idea and collecting parts. (not my idea. I'm sorry I can't remember your name.)
I have a kegerator with a freezer that I just can't seem to get the funk out of.
The thought is to put a bucket with a gallon of antifreeze in the freezer and using a cheap fountain pump to move the fluid through a heat exchanger with a fan blowing on it. I scavanged 2 heat exchangers out of a junk window a/c unit.
When the temp controller calls for cooling, kick on the pump & the fan.
It would not be too far fetched to run multiple chambers off the same glycol tank. Or course one would need multiple temp controllers, heat exchangers, fans, pumps.
But, I do need to come up with something soon to beat the Arizona heat.
Cheers
-David

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Old 06-03-2009, 01:37 AM   #4
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this is what i've done.
The Northern Brewer Homebrew Forum • View topic - Fermentation Chiller (Pic's Included)
I have not tried to get it down to lager temps but I have it set to a nice 62 right now.

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Old 06-03-2009, 01:48 AM   #5
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My plan already includes to use multiple thermometers, fans, and pumps. I had thought about using glycol instead of water. The latest issue of Brew Your Own uses a window based A/C, runs the evaporator coils through a big tub of glycol, and then pumps that through a coil of copper tubing welded to the outside of a keg used for fermentation.

The reason I don't want to use a window A/C is because they are large and noisy. And I don't want to use a love controller because I want to chill different fermentations at different temperatures, in much the same way that Jason's fermoire can (mentioned in my original post.)

Also, by programming my own microcontroller (Arduino), I can collect extensive data to help maintain the temperatures I want most effectively, and can do some very advanced temperature control (might change from day to day, etc.) as well as being able to monitor and interact remotely. Plus, it just sounds really fun.

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Old 06-03-2009, 01:50 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bashe View Post
this is what i've done.
The Northern Brewer Homebrew Forum • View topic - Fermentation Chiller (Pic's Included)
I have not tried to get it down to lager temps but I have it set to a nice 62 right now.
That is a very nice setup, very space effective. Have you paid attention to how frequently the fans have to be run?
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Old 06-03-2009, 02:18 AM   #7
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bashe,
That's exactly what i'm talking about. You nailed it man!

It wouldn't take much to add another controller (or program another zone with Arduino), pump & fan to the same antifreeze bucket.

The BYO article with the A/C exchanger in the glycol bucket wasn'y going to suit me for all the same reasons you mentioned Steph & the power consumtion of a window ac unit.
The freezer is going to run anyway. Just control the low draw pump & fan. When the temp calls for it.

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Old 06-03-2009, 02:24 AM   #8
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I do not have "true" temp control right now. I have everything plugged into an old model train controller. It will run for a little bit then shut off, I think the controller is over heating. So it runs for a few seconds then shuts off for about 30 seconds then runs for a few more seconds. Its not the best or safest thing but its what I am going with till my temp controller I ordered comes in the mail.
What I did to build my chamber was get a cheap metal shelving unit from walmart and enclose it in foam. It fits 3 carboys. I want to eventually enclose it in wood like the one I linked.

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