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Old 06-16-2012, 03:59 PM   #1
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Default Cheap Fermentation Chamber - The Blood, Sweat and Beer build

So, I recently had won a bet with SWMBO, and my prize purse was $60 in my own slush fund.

I have decided that I want to build a fermentation chamber, and this will be my build thread. I have been looking at a lot of other ones, and as an engineer I like to tinker, and abuse things (using them for things other than they were originally intended).

I have looked at the "son of a fermentation chamber" as well as some other options and I wasn't exactly pleased with them, so hence me making my own.

My overall goal with this project is to find a solution that works, given some restraints:
  • It has to be under $80 total, ($20 is from what I had left before the bet).
  • It has to fit in a corner of my bar room, as I live in a row house, and that is my only sanctuary.
  • I'd like it to hold 2 6.5 gallon carboys.
  • I would prefer to use a mini fridge or it's guts because our freezer is kind of full and can't handle liter bottles in it.
  • I would preferably like to have it raised off the ground a little bit as to make it easier for racking purposes.
  • I would like to have a view window, so that I can look at it, if not a door will suffice so that I can peek in.


SWMBO has yet to come home yet, but I have just scored a Mini fridge on Craig's list for $2. The reason it was so cheep?

The person had the fridge locked for transportation, however when he went to open it, the key broke off in the lock and he couldn't get it open.

So I finally got it open, and this is what it looked like inside.


Now I am debating whether to leave the fridge as is, take off the door and use it for the chamber, or to put the door on and some how suck out the cold air. All the heat exchange coils are on the back:


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Old 06-16-2012, 05:28 PM   #2
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This is my preliminary design/idea. And no its not pretty because I didn't want to spend the time doing it up in sketchup.Click image for larger version

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Old 06-19-2012, 03:20 AM   #3
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So, I bought some 2" EPS, and SWMBO found an old wire frame shelving unit at a yard sale for $5. My plan is to line the shelving unit (2'6" tall) with the EPS. I have started to dismantle the mini fridge and the pictures are below:

Decided to work on top of the Keezer, because I'm tall and it makes it easier.
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Not to mention magnets help with the holding of the screws
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Finally got the protection fin off.
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Found the power converter
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Got most of the screws and now its mainly detached from the back
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Old 06-19-2012, 03:25 AM   #4
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What was left connected after the main part detached
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Got a nice Ranco temperature controller. I probably would have paid $2 alone for just that, but i got a compressor to... BONUS
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Trying to figure out what the white and black cables do, they are glued in there pretty good, Ill be trying to dig them out.
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If anyone has any idea what they do, I'd much appreciate the information, and why they are going into the fridge.


EDIT: Found out what the cables go to.... A lightbulb! Ill just unscrew it at the connector, I'll have to get a multi-meter to find out what the Voltage is on that, maybe I can use it to power a fan.
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Here is the plate on the inside... yes its clipped a bit but all the good information is there
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As I have been dismantling this fridge, I have been very very impressed with the engineering behind it. I really like how the heat sync/heat distributor, runs into a tray that gets drained to outside the fridge, and I think I may try to incorporate something like that into the build. Also, all the parts I have seen so far are wicked solid. I have not been gentle with anything and I have yet to have something bend or break on me. Additionally, they made it really nice and easy for the wiring, and now I can go return the 3 pronged extension cord I bought to use in this.

Reason: Found out what the cables were for
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Old 06-22-2012, 12:53 AM   #5
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So today I was able to cut out the particle board to fit the compressor,
The hole towards the top is for putting the cooling coil into the chamber.

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This is with the compressor attached to the back
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Old 06-22-2012, 02:48 AM   #6
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Looking good. Keep posting pics.
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Old 06-22-2012, 03:46 AM   #7
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So I just put the guard on, and remembered I forgot to take a pic of the back of it, with all the components. I then realized that not everyone is tech/mechanically savvy, so I thought I would break it down and describe what I took off the fridge that is going to help me. If I make a mistake in describing the components please correct me.

Components:
Compressor: This takes the cold refrigerant and condenses it which causes it to get super cold.
Heat Sink: This allows for heat to be exchanged with the air more efficiently.
Transformer: This converts the power from the wall outlet into something that wont burn the fridge motors
Temp Controller: Cycles the compressor on and off
Pump and Heat exchange: This is where the heat that is absorbed inside the fridge is exchanged with the air outside of the fridge
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This is the wiring view. Things to note:
Black Cable: Power Line/Load
White Cable: Neutral
Green: Ground
I added the little black mount to the wire, that is going to the wall, so that it wouldn't get yanked off.
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Reason: Correct Wiring diagram
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Old 06-24-2012, 01:30 AM   #8
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So I finally got some time to start building again. I took out all the middle shelves, and then put the 6.5 and the 5 gal carboys in to make sure they fit, and they do. I am using the wire frame as a support inside, I'll try to not alter it to much in case we need to use it in the future.
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It was hot out today, so I waited till the afternoon to do the cutting outside. I just got a large T for 13$ at Home depot, but that won't count against my budget because I expensed it against a small cubby SWMBO wanted me to build.
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So cutting the Foam, made me feel like I was trapped inside of a snow globe. I'm pretty sure its in my lungs, but I used a circular saw (60 tooth finishing blade) to cut the EPS, and the cuts came out nice and clean, in the store we used a utility knife. But the saw was way better
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With the stand I had, I used a 1/2 inch drill bit to cut a pilot hole where the legs of the stand were. I then pushed them through, so that they are tight and dont need to be insulated, but I will probably wrap some tape around them.
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I used a mixture of Liquid Nails and toothpicks to hold the pieces in place.
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Old 06-24-2012, 02:05 AM   #9
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Got the 5 sides put together, I am going to let the front be the removable part and just attach it with tape when I need to.
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I lined all the joints with tape.
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Now I am just trying to figure out how I am going to attach the compressor and coils. Once I do that, all I need is the Ebay aquarium temperature controller to come from china and I will have a complete fermentation chamber.

I started growing the yeast for the Oktoberfest I will be be brewing next weekend hopefully the controller comes in this week some time.
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Old 06-24-2012, 07:44 PM   #10
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So I finally figured out how to mount it. I used some zip ties on the coil that pops through, to align it inside. Then I used some bolts with washers to Mount them to the organizer on the inside, because the foam wouldn't hold it. Make sure you have someone watching the drill come out the other side, so that you don't accidentally drill a hole in the coils or compressor.

I circled the mount points in red in the pictures

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I then got a $6 one speed fan from Walmart, to distribute the cold air and make sure the air does not become stratified, (I've had it happen in my keezer and I put one of these fans in there too.)

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Now its time to put the front on and fire up the compressor, and see how this bad Larry performs.

Just for ease of use I have attached the board pattern and cutout I used:

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Cost breakdown so far:
$25 - 2" x 4' x 8' - EPS foam board
$6 - Plywood board
$6 - Walmart Fan
$2 - Mini fridge
$5 - Metal wire frame organizer
$21 - Ebay Temp controller
$8 - Project enclosure from Radio Shack
$3 - outlet plug

So the total is currently at $76.
Right on budget.


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