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Old 10-19-2009, 07:41 PM   #1
Erythro73
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Default My mother of a fermentation chiller

I'm still not a brewer, but I'm preparing myself to do my first batch soon enough. However, this summer, when I began to think about what I needed to do (after reading Papazian's and Palmer's book), I read that it was important to ferment at the good temperature. This brought to me many questions and complications due to my limited space (I'm in an appartment with my gf) and due to my hands' agility limitation (I'm really _not_ a handyman). I'm in Montreal and, as it is humid here, there's no swamp cooler. With that in mind, I posted a thread here ; http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f39/temperature-129115/

OK, in Montreal, the winter is cool, but as I'm in a big building and there's some old people here, the heat is set very high for the entire building. And my only space to put my cooler in is a small closet far away from a window... So, I need some kind of temperature control.

I continued to read on this board, and I've stumbled upon the Son of a Fermentation Chiller / Mother of a fermentation chiller. Now, these things seemed perfect to me. It's a very aesthetic solution as I didn't like the idea of having lot of water to cool with ice... it's a lot of hassle for no precision in temperature control, although very cheap. And I didn't find igloo cooler anywhere near my apartment.

However, I'm kind of a anti-handyman. My father was of the school of thinking that it could hurt me, so he never let me use his tools whenever he was working. And, well... I'm more of a theorist than a manual kind of guy, I have always been very poor using my hands. Yesterday, I managed to destroy an Ikea furniture my gf bought while trying to build it...

But I was willing to learn as the thing seemed about right. I wanted to have a nice wooden thing with insulation foam in it's interior. With wheels to move it around in my apartment... So, one of my friend, who is a lot more of a handyman than me (hell, he helped his dad to build extensions to his house, built many other things and like to work with his hands) accepted to help me. But, he was here to _help_ me, not do all the work himself.

We didn't have any specialized tool like a saw here. Only basic stuff and a drill he brought. We asked the hardware store to cut the plywood sheet the good size for us. They were the right size, right, but... they weren't straight. So the fermentation chiller isn't perfectly straight which gave some complications.

Here is some pictures of its construction :
Plywood sheets (1/2")


Insulation foam (1") and Reflectix insulator


The wooden base :


Beginning to put insulation foam (I varnished the interior wood with oil varnish before putting insulation foam):


Gluing the insulation foam on the wood. I put mecanical pressure to be sure the glue holds well :


The doors and cold strips to insulate better the sides of the doors...


The final product :


The ice compartment :


The two doors (one only to switch ice, and the other one to put my carboy inside) :


THe front view, with pencils and pens holding the doors tight (my gf will probably want her pens back soon...)


So, I'm very proud of having build this. I learned a LOT of things with it. First thing first : a project always take more time than predicted.

I'm running some test as of now about maintaining a good temperature. There's nothing in it, I just want to see how well he can holds the temperature. Right now, I managed to hold a 65 F for (it's not over yet) for at least 42 hours, which surprises me. There's still some ice left... so I'm very impressed and I think it can hold for at least 48 hours. With 4 liters of ice in Sprite bottles, which is about 1 gallon. My apartment is approximately at 75 F, so I have a small dT of 10F.

I was surprised that there's so much differences between a typical water bottle and a typical cola bottle. As an example, water bottles (Naya, Esker, Dasani and the likes) needed the fan to run all the time, but were holding the temperature OK for a long time. I couldn't cool, but I could maintain the temperature. However, Sprite and Coca-Cola gave their coolness faster so the fan could stop periodically from running.

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Old 10-19-2009, 08:50 PM   #2
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Where does the air travel? I cant see any path for the cold air to go from the bottom units where the ice will be to the top where you fermenter will be.

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Old 10-19-2009, 09:02 PM   #3
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Oh, I forgot to take some picture of this little detail . There's six holes (0.5" diameter) between the two ice compartments so the air circulate between the first and the second compartment, and there's three holes in the second compartment, on the the top, so the air can circulate from the ice compartments to the bucket.

You can see these three little dudes here :

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Old 10-19-2009, 09:06 PM   #4
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Oh yeah, and to thank my friend for helping me out... I made him discover the truly greatest, one and only... Rochefort 10.

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Old 10-19-2009, 09:19 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Erythro73 View Post
Oh, I forgot to take some picture of this little detail . There's six holes (0.5" diameter) between the two ice compartments so the air circulate between the first and the second compartment, and there's three holes in the second compartment, on the the top, so the air can circulate from the ice compartments to the bucket.

You can see these three little dudes here :
Still if the air is just being moved from the one chamber to the next where is the warmer air inside the larger chamber being drawn in. What I mean is you need to cause positive/negative pressure in the colder compartment to move the air around the whole unit by drawing in warm air from the carboy area with the fan otherwise the air will just circulate between the two little compartments.
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Old 10-19-2009, 09:22 PM   #6
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That's great you will be able to have good temp control on your very first brew. I think two of the most important things for producing good beer are controlling your fermentation temperature control and patience.

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Old 10-19-2009, 09:41 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by springer View Post
Still if the air is just being moved from the one chamber to the next where is the warmer air inside the larger chamber being drawn in. What I mean is you need to cause positive pressure in the colder compartment to move the air around the whole unit by drawing in warm air from the carboy area with the fan otherwise the air will just circulate between the two little compartments.
There's no second hole on the back (above the fan) to push the warmer air behind the fan, if that's what you mean. In fact, it's as simple as it gets sincer the colder air won't push the hot air, but will only cool it. And by my tests I did, it works well. The cold air has to go cool the surrounding of the top portion of the chiller, as the fan push it through. Maybe not the most efficient, though. But, 46 hours after the beginning, it's still at 65F instead of 75F with 4 liters of ice. This way, the surrounding of the ice is always "cold" as to minimize ice's melting.





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Old 10-19-2009, 09:49 PM   #8
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I was just thinking that it may be more efficient to move the air around the entire unit . Seems that if you drilled a hole in the back right corner and placed the fan under the three holes you would actually be moving the cold air around and the fan may run a lot less and the temps would be more stable from top to bottom of the unit.I have to run a fan in my kegerator as the air at the top is a good 7°-10°warmer than the bottom I have one in the fermenting fridge also .But hey if its working for ya now why mess with it

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Old 10-19-2009, 10:23 PM   #9
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I was just thinking that it may be more efficient to move the air around the entire unit . Seems that if you drilled a hole in the back right corner and placed the fan under the three holes you would actually be moving the cold air around and the fan may run a lot less and the temps would be more stable from top to bottom of the unit.I have to run a fan in my kegerator as the air at the top is a good 7°-10°warmer than the bottom I have one in the fermenting fridge also .But hey if its working for ya now why mess with it
That's sure is a good idea, but as you said, its working now (plus moving the fan now would be a pain in the *** as the power lines are passing behind the pink foam.... a better way to do it would be to rotate the plywood sheet separating the ice compartments from the top part 180 degrees, but I get your idea). One of my engineer friend always says to me "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". (The problem with fixing it right now as your idea goes, it's that I don't have a drill with me... it's my friend who brought his... and well, our schedule doesn't fit very well together these times, so I prefer to give it a run with a true beer before doing anything).

If I have efficiency problems when I'll run it with a true fermenting wort, I'll be sure to check after your idea. Thank for the input!

(Now, I'm more excited about the idea of brewing my first beer than fixing minor problems who doesn't stop my fermentation chiller from going well) :P
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Old 10-19-2009, 10:52 PM   #10
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I agree, I think the air needs to be cycled. That's kinda the whole point behind these chambers. Either you pull hot air from the top and push cold air in the bottom. Or push cold air to the top letting it sink to the bottom where it is drawn and cycled again.

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