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Old 07-07-2012, 05:44 PM   #1
BobTheFourth
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Jul 2012
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First of all, this is my first post in this forum, so Hello Everyone!

I'm about to make the switch to kegging my homebrew instead of bottling, because bottling is a pain in the butt. My plan is to use a chest freezer to hold the kegs - I've picked out one big enough to hold four, plus a carboy on the hump. But that's just the background - it occurred to me that I may be able to use this machine to power an external ale fermentation chamber as well, and was wondering if anyone had tried this and what the results were. Searches on this forum and the internet didn't really turn anything up that sounded similar to my idea.

What I was thinking of doing is adding a collar to the chest freezer and hooking up some 3-4" diameter insulated ducts - one for an inlet and one for an outlet. These would run to an insulated chamber big enough to hold a couple carboys. A temperature controller would turn on a fan mounted in the exhaust duct when the temperature dropped below a typical ale fermentation set point, thus circulating cold air up from the freezer.

Another (more expensive) option I considered was using a system of copper pipes & coils filled with water to move the heat instead. This would require the temperature controller to modulate a small pump, but might be more efficient and responsive. The coil in the freezer could be immersed in a cold water bath to improve heat transfer.

Thoughts? Sound crazy, or doable?

 
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Old 07-07-2012, 05:54 PM   #2
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Doable.
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Old 07-08-2012, 12:31 AM   #3
kev
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The air only sounds good.mount your supply duct low to the bottom, your return duct should be up at the highest point. That is also where you want to mount the thermostat. No such thing as too much insulation for fermentation chamber, all the way around. Just make sure that the thermostat/ temp controller has access to return air. Don't over fill chamber with fermenters you want good air flow or it will not work. Bad side is that all fermenters will be at same temp. Water coils could likely freeze. And you have to factor in viscosity, air elimination in your piping, can the pump handle the cold water? And the air would be a cheaper build. Just my thoughts good luck keep me posted as to how you make out. Cheers

 
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Old 07-08-2012, 12:54 AM   #4
FatBaldBeerGuy
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This sounds like an amazing idea, looking forward to progress.
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Old 07-08-2012, 03:12 PM   #5
BobTheFourth
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Thanks for the votes of confidence. I was pricing out the water-based system a bit and decided it would end up costing as much as just buying another small freezer, so I'll probably go with air just based on cost. I'd like to figure out a way that I could have multiple independent chambers if possible, so that I can have a primary and a secondary going at once with the appropriate cooling - suggestions to that end would be excellent. I'm not sure how the ductwork would have to be arranged - I don't want to have too many holes in the collar and too much ductwork cluttering up the inside of the freezer. Having only one inlet and outlet in the freezer would be best if I could do it that way.

 
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Old 07-10-2012, 04:25 AM   #6
kev
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A couple more thoughts. I forgot to mention that you are going to need to add dampers in the supply and return ducts to keep cold air from bleeding into fermentation chamber and cooling down too much. Also the more warm air you move you finished beer will also warm. If you want multiple chambers you will need more ducts, especially if you want each one to have its own temp. Difficult but nut impossible. Don't forget to add a t-stat for each chamber. I don't want to be a kill-joy, I want to see you succeed. Good luck keep us posted. Cheers

 
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Old 07-10-2012, 04:46 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobTheFourth View Post
Thanks for the votes of confidence. I was pricing out the water-based system a bit and decided it would end up costing as much as just buying another small freezer, so I'll probably go with air just based on cost. I'd like to figure out a way that I could have multiple independent chambers if possible, so that I can have a primary and a secondary going at once with the appropriate cooling - suggestions to that end would be excellent. I'm not sure how the ductwork would have to be arranged - I don't want to have too many holes in the collar and too much ductwork cluttering up the inside of the freezer. Having only one inlet and outlet in the freezer would be best if I could do it that way.
I think this will work reasonably well, but I'm not an expert in this. I'd build the ferm chamber from insulation, and just put in a foam board divider to separate the two temperatures. You do need a controller with temp sensor in each chamber, but a fan blowing cold air from the freezer can go to the cold side of the ferm chamber, and another fan can blow cool air from the cold side to the warmer side of the ferm chamber. It just requires 2 temp controllers, and 2 computer fans and probably a flap. Easy peasy.
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Old 07-10-2012, 07:10 PM   #8
BobTheFourth
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kev View Post
A couple more thoughts. I forgot to mention that you are going to need to add dampers in the supply and return ducts to keep cold air from bleeding into fermentation chamber and cooling down too much. Also the more warm air you move you finished beer will also warm. If you want multiple chambers you will need more ducts, especially if you want each one to have its own temp. Difficult but nut impossible. Don't forget to add a t-stat for each chamber. I don't want to be a kill-joy, I want to see you succeed. Good luck keep us posted. Cheers
Yeah, definitely dampers at the inlet and outlets from the chambers and the freezer. Though I'd think if the freezer and the chamber were at the same height, I wouldn't have to worry too much about bleeding since the cold air would naturally settle. Hopefully I won't have to worry too much about the kegs warming up - 10-20 gallons of beer is a lot of thermal mass.

I'm hoping to have only one tube in and one out of the freezer, and having the cold air split up in some sort of manifold. I just need to figure out a way to keep the chambers from drawing air from each other instead of the freezer. Maybe some dampers functioning as check valves could help with that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cromwell
I think this will work reasonably well, but I'm not an expert in this. I'd build the ferm chamber from insulation, and just put in a foam board divider to separate the two temperatures. You do need a controller with temp sensor in each chamber, but a fan blowing cold air from the freezer can go to the cold side of the ferm chamber, and another fan can blow cool air from the cold side to the warmer side of the ferm chamber. It just requires 2 temp controllers, and 2 computer fans and probably a flap. Easy peasy.
I'm thinking about this as well. I'm just not sure how well it would actually work with them being separately controlled. There may be situations where I have stuff in the "hot" chamber but not the "cold" chamber (or vice-versa) and it would be more efficient to be able to deliver the air there directly. And if only one side was "running", it might have trouble pushing enough air through the other chamber to keep circulation going (and if it could, it might upset the temperature in the other chamber, especially if the cold chamber is running and the hot chamber isn't). But this option does potentially solve the ductwork issue, and having only one chamber with a divider is easier to build and manage, so its worth exploring this option some more. I may be over-thinking the disadvantages.

 
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Old 07-10-2012, 07:31 PM   #9
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Sounds like a cool idea. The only thing I can think of that may cause a problem is the BTU rating of the freezer. With multiple fermentation chambers and kegs comming in and out you should make sure that the freezer can handle the load and keep up without stressing. I would also try and put this somewhere where ambient temps won't fluctuate much. Good luck with the build, let us know how it turns out.
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Old 07-10-2012, 07:46 PM   #10
Xpertskir
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May 2012
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Great idea, but seems a bit unnecessary.

The problems I see

Cost and effort vs the alternative, which is a CL chest freezer(with or without a collar)with a 65-75 dollar temp controller(my 2 carboy holding unit cost me 135 out the door). I can lager, you will not be able to with your set up.

The biggest issue with this is logistics. This would force you to serve and ferment in the same place. For me serving is in my bar room and fermenting is in another room all together.

Also, the possibility of over taxing your compressor is also possible.

I would say if you love to tinker, have a logistical set up for serving and fermenting that makes sense, and are open to the possibility of this not working out...full steam ahead.

 
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