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Old 02-16-2007, 01:58 PM   #1
Saxmk6
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Default Lager Equipment

I am planning on getting the necessary equipment to start brewing Lagers.

Will you give me some suggestions of your equipment that you use for brewing Lagers please?

Ex. Old refers, temp control, etc...

Thanks and everyone have a cold one on me....


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Old 02-16-2007, 02:31 PM   #2
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How do I cash in on that cold one?

All you really need to start is a little 4-something cubic foot college-type fridge. Every one I've ever used can sit pretty nicely in the 50-55 range as well as the 37-38 range. A 5 or 6 gallon carboy will fit inside, you just might have to rig up a 'custom' fermentation lock. I coupled a length of siphon tubing to a stopper and run it down the side of the carboy into a tequila bottle. A standard bubbler-lock might not fit vertically.

If you want the ability to do multiple batches at once, the best thing to look for is a chest freezer. A standard stand-up fridge will also work, but fitting multiple carboys really is better suited for a low-and-wide profile of a chest. These are available new for $200-400, depending on size. I haven't made the jump to a chest freezer yet, but when I do I plan on going into the store with 2-3 glass carboys and 'testing' out the fit.

The only other thing you might want is a nice temperature controller. Ranco make a few models, one for like $60-70 that is analog/dial based and one for $100-110 that is digital. If you don't get one of these, you will have to develop a good idea as to what setting on the fridge gives you your desired temperatures. I've done many lagers by simply being familiar with my fridge's settings and stop checking with a bottle of water that lives in there which I occasionally probe for temerature.

Overall, it can be done super-cheap or you can go as extravagant as you want. It all depends on your desire capacity and ease of use (temp. controller or not).


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Old 02-16-2007, 02:39 PM   #3
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Here are a couple suggestions. First, if you can take advantage of your cold location, that could save energy cost. For example, if your garage is down in the 40's, whatever you use for a container can be slightly warmed on a dual mode controller. If you think about it, it's weird to heat your house then put a smaller box in there to cool to about outside temps. Energy used in both cases basically fighting each other.

In my case, I got a big upright freezer and put a single stage (cool-only) controller. I had it in my garage in the fall where it was about 50 degrees. Here I am trying to ferment a lager at about 55 and the temp is slowly falling to garage temp. It's nice that the compressor didn't have to run at all, but I was going to drop too far. If I had a dual mode controller, I would have put a 25 watt light bulb inside to compensate if the garage temp dipped. The same could be said right now where my garage is exactly 33 degrees (perfect for lagering). Due to my single stage controller, I have the freezer in my 66 degree basement wasting energy. (I know I could just sit my carboy in the garage but I don't want to risk having it freeze.)

Also, if you do get a chest freezer, keep in mind you might want to lager now, keg later so make sure you can fit a bout 4 corny kegs in there.
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Old 02-16-2007, 03:28 PM   #4
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I started out with a chest freezer and a temp controller. I looked at used freezers, but at the time I decided I would just buy a new one for about $200. I also bought a Johnson temp (cool only) controller for about $50.

I had that setup for several years - the temp controller recently died, and I was able to get a new digital Ranco from Ebay for $50. The benefit of the digital is that it can be either heat or cool - mine is single stage, so it can't do both at the same time.

I found that since the freezer can be a constant temp, I'll often do my ales in there (especially in the summer) where I can keep a constant 68 deg F (or whatever.) You can also get these Ranco controllers in a dual stage model where you can control both heat and cool at the same time - this is just what BobbyM was talking about - I don't have a garage, so my freezer is in the basement - I guess I am just going to have to buy a new house to be more energy efficient!!
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Old 02-16-2007, 04:39 PM   #5
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I always wanted to build a fermentation chamber in my basement and have a dryer vent hose connecting it to the outside. My logic was that the overall temp of the basement is 66 constant in the winter. The outside is usually below 35. I figure, the controller could be set to 33 to run a small 3" fan to pull air into the chamber from outside. A small "flapped" exhaust port in the chamber would let the warmer air out. This would essentially work for both lagering at 33 and fermenting at 55 as long as the outside temp was a little colder than your desired set temp. This could even be your freezer whereby the exercise I'm describing would keep your fridge from running during the winter. Worth it?
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Old 02-16-2007, 06:42 PM   #6
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Humm.. thanks for the suggestions!
As of now, I only brew ales due to temprature control issues. It has been so cold receintly, I thought about Lagers more. I thought about a freez or fridge in the garage, and perhaps that is a good idea. As you said temp contol in the winter is easier outside. Or perhaps not since we are -5 for the past two weeks.

If nothing else something to think about how I want to start brewing Lagers.

Thanks again...Here's too you!!!
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Old 02-16-2007, 07:24 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobby_M
I always wanted to build a fermentation chamber in my basement and have a dryer vent hose connecting it to the outside. My logic was that the overall temp of the basement is 66 constant in the winter. The outside is usually below 35. I figure, the controller could be set to 33 to run a small 3" fan to pull air into the chamber from outside. A small "flapped" exhaust port in the chamber would let the warmer air out. This would essentially work for both lagering at 33 and fermenting at 55 as long as the outside temp was a little colder than your desired set temp. This could even be your freezer whereby the exercise I'm describing would keep your fridge from running during the winter. Worth it?
You would have to build this around something with more logic than just a temp controller though - consider this - if the outside temp got warm, say 60 deg F, the fan would kick on to pull cold air into the chamber, but then never shut off. There would need to be an environmental sensor outside to make sure the incoming air was at the appropriate temp. Maybe another Ranco that shut off the 1st when the temp got too high.

Is it worth it? Probably not, when you consider what it actually costs to run a fridge/freezer, the cost of the electricity for the fan, and the up font costs of the control system.
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Old 02-16-2007, 07:28 PM   #8
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That is a compelling idea, Bobby_M. I agree with MA tho that you'd be at the mercy of the weather. We here in New England could get a 15 degree day followed by a weekend in the 50's in the winter.

Also, I think you'd have to worry about moisture control. If not from a beer perspective, from a home/mold/mildew perspective.
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Old 02-16-2007, 08:03 PM   #9
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I was thinking more in terms of a slightly more automated version of the fermentation chamber that uses ice as the cooling. Up here in NJ, we haven't had a day over 35 in about a month. You'd have to babysit it at least when you suspect a outdoor rise over your set temp.

My newest cheapskate idea is to ferment a lager in my 35 degree garage by putting the carboy in a insulated box with a light bulb. The cheap part is the controller I found on clearance at Lowes for $15. You plug up to a 100w bulb into it and set the temp anywhere between 40-60 degrees. It's called a winter minder or something like that made by Honeywell. It's supposed to warn your neighbors when your heating system is not working (while on vacation I suppose). Weird idea, unless you're a brewer.

My previous dedicated lagering fridge is going to be my keg fridge now so no more 55 degree temps.
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Old 02-17-2007, 05:21 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobby_M
My newest cheapskate idea is to ferment a lager in my 35 degree garage by putting the carboy in a insulated box with a light bulb. The cheap part is the controller I found on clearance at Lowes for $15. You plug up to a 100w bulb into it and set the temp anywhere between 40-60 degrees. It's called a winter minder or something like that made by Honeywell. It's supposed to warn your neighbors when your heating system is not working (while on vacation I suppose). Weird idea, unless you're a brewer.
I saw that device at Home Depot in the fall - Should work great during the winter.


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