A couple months back I asked the group here about some off flavors I was getting, and one suggestion I received was to make sure I controled my fermentation temps. I had been winging it, and decided that correcting that would be my next project.
Before I proceed, I am the first to admit that my solution isn't practical.
A chest freezer w/ external thermostat would have been considerably cheaper (and I would have long since been done with it!) but I don't have a really good spot for one. I had always been a fan of the Son of a Fermenation Chiller and started out thinking that would be the route that I would go. Always thought they were kinda limited in space though. Since the garage gets well past 100 most of the summer, I wanted it to be an inside "pet". A big styrofoam box doesn't go with most of the decor, so I kept pondering on it. I thought a shell around a SOF Chiller might work. Then I thought "hey, I could even make it a little bigger". Then I thought "ooh, and I could have seperate chambers and maybe try lagering some day". I planned something out and it wound up being too big to get around the corner of the room I had taken over with the rest of my brew stuff (previous building experiences taught me the hard way to check that first before building).
My loving wife saw my dilema and said "why don't you build something that you could put in the entry way of the house?" How cool is that?
So then I got to thinking about something that looked like an armoire. I settled on one that would fit into the corner (we really did need a bigger piece of furniture in the entry... maybe not a beer fermenter, but to each their own).
So, I've finished building it finally. Still have a lot to do inside it though. I wound up with 4 chambers. I had planned it to hold two 6.5 gal carboys in each, but it turns out that it will hold three in each.
For cooling, I struggled with figuring out how to get air in and out from the ice chamber to each of the fermenation chambers. My plans for ducting had it taking up some pretty serious real estate. I wound up deciding on something that I haven't seen before, so I'm still at this point not sure that it will even work. I'm dedicating one of the chambers for ice and a 5-gal bucket of ice water. In that, I'm placing three pumps. Each pump will deliver/return ice water to each of the other three chambers, independent of one another. Inside each chamber, I am going to use a radiator that the "overclockers" use in their water-cooled PC's. Each of those will have two 120mm PC fans on them to draw the warmer fermentation chamber air across the chilled radiator. This will transfer the heat out of the ferm chamber air to the chilled water and back down to the ice chamber. So now the only space I will lose inside is what it will take to get some 1/2" pipe/tubing routed through it.
My thinking is (hopefully this isn't too far from reality) that since the cabinet is indoors, and the ice chamber is huge, that I can load it up and let it run for a few days without having to mess with ice swaps. If I have to, I will have some room in the actual fermentation chambers to place some ice if I find that I've overloaded what the ice chamber can absorb. I looked into some of the larger peltier coolers (like what they put into the small single room air conditioners) thinking that might help limit my trips on ice, but they were insanely expensive, so I'll have to do it the 1800's way to keep fresh ice. I wound up using three stacked sheets of 3/4" styrofoam to make each chamber, so each one is 2.25" thick on all sides (except the front at the moment!) It sounded like folks were getting a day to 1.5 days on an ice change with the SOF Chillers. I don't really expect to actually load up the rest of the cabinet to it's nine 6.5 gal capacity, so I don't think
that I'll be overloading it's cooling capacity, but heat transfer isn't exactly my bag, so we'll just have to see!
I bought a handful of Dallas "1-Wire" temperature sensors and a 1-Wire to Ethernet converter so that I can get my temp readings back to a computer. I've got a little more programming to do, but the computer will monitor the temps, compare them to what I've told each chamber to target, and then toggle on/off the corresponding pumps and fans (via a 1-Wire relay switch), and email me alerts for events that need attention (the ice chamber's water temp and/or air temp out of threshold being the main one).
So I've got to get it plumb'ed up, wired up, programmed up, and some styrofoam plugs made to go behind each of the doors, then I should be able to test it out and see if I made a fermentation chiller or another cubby-hole for junk.
HERE ARE SOME PICS: