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Did you build a "Son of Fermentation Chiller"?

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Brewing Clamper

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I was just wondering how many of you have built one and if you think it was worth the time, effort, and money. I'm considering building one as I may not be able to convince the SWMBO that we have room for a fourth fridge.
 

bradsul

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If you mean 'son of fermentation chiller' I built one to hold 2 primaries. Process aside it made the biggest improvement in the quality of my beers. No off-flavours due to temperature and being able to maintain a constant fermentation temperature makes a huge difference.
 

hardrain

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bradsul said:
If you mean 'son of fermentation chiller' I built one to hold 2 primaries. Process aside it made the biggest improvement in the quality of my beers. No off-flavours due to temperature and being able to maintain a constant fermentation temperature makes a huge difference.
Is this two or simply twice as long? I was wondering b/c I was hoping to keep a primary and secondary in one.

the DC summer is going to be here soon and I need to be prepared.
 

bradsul

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hardrain said:
Is this two or simply twice as long? I was wondering b/c I was hoping to keep a primary and secondary in one...
I made the main chamber basically double the width so it would hold 2 buckets. I also added a second fan (one draws air from the cold chamber, the other pushes air into it) to account for all the extra space. Rather than having to take the top off I also made one of the sides come off in 2 panels (one for each bucket) for ease of loading.
 

Funkenjaeger

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I don't exactly have much use for it this time of year around here, but in the warmer months my fermentation cabinet (not a SoFC, but same idea) is very important to me. We don't run A/C in our apartment, so for much of the summer it's my only way to ferment in the low-to-mid 60's instead of mid-to-high 70's (or more).
 

hardrain

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Funkenjaeger said:
I don't exactly have much use for it this time of year around here, but in the warmer months my fermentation cabinet (not a SoFC, but same idea) is very important to me. We don't run A/C in our apartment, so for much of the summer it's my only way to ferment in the low-to-mid 60's instead of mid-to-high 70's (or more).
how warm of air temp can these thing handle? it gets pretty hot on the third floor, espically during the day when i'm at work at running the a/c doesn't make sense.

i'm going to have to build a double wide then...
 

bradsul

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When I was looking into building a fermentation temp control of some sort I remember reading about some guys who used them in their garages in the summer where ambient temperatures during the day were over 100F. That sold me on building one.
 

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I built one out and I encased it in hardboard - in Hawaii the temps can get pretty high in the afternoons. Right now I just use the ice jugs during vigorous fermentation and once that subsides the temps stay much steadier than if my fermentor was sitting in a closet inside the house.

Over the last week, my primary hit a low of 69 and high of 74. In my book, that is worth the time it took to build.

One day I'll buy a chest freezer for my two kegs and use my small refrigerator for fermenting.
 

foxtrot

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I built two of them and have been an indispensable item for the brewery. Thing I like best about them is their portability. In the winter, I use them upstairs for warmer temps (ales), in the summer downstairs to keep from getting too warm (requires less ice too).
 

hardrain

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bradsul said:
I made the main chamber basically double the width so it would hold 2 buckets. I also added a second fan (one draws air from the cold chamber, the other pushes air into it) to account for all the extra space. Rather than having to take the top off I also made one of the sides come off in 2 panels (one for each bucket) for ease of loading.
well this settles it then, i'm going to need on my april...

so double wide or double long?
 

bradsul

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hardrain said:
well this settles it then, i'm going to need on my april...

so double wide or double long?
I guess based on the original design I made mine longer. However I moved the access from the end to the side so it then became the front, making it double-wide. :D If that is as clear as mud I can post a picture later tonight.
 

hardrain

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bradsul said:
I guess based on the original design I made mine longer. However I moved the access from the end to the side so it then became the front, making it double-wide. :D If that is as clear as mud I can post a picture later tonight.
haha, i think i follow but a photo would be great.
 

Madtown Brew

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I built two of them last year, both were "double-lenth."

They definitely work, that's for sure. I was even able to lager in mine, holding temps in the mid 50's.

One peice of advice, figure out beforehand how you're going to deal with water from the sweating jugs. Either build a drain, or have the jugs sit in a second container so that you can easily remove that water.

The disadvantage with a SoFC is that they require an immense amount of babysitting. Another factor you have to consider is the power usage to freeze the ice jugs.

Also, consider how much freezer space you will need to hold/freeze the jugs you require. I found that I had to virtually clear out my kitchen freezer in order to make space for the jugs. Not to mention my GF getting pissed that everytime I put a couple jugs back into the freezer, all her ice cream and popsicles would melt. After about three months of changing jugs out every other day, I broke down and got a chest freezer.

These issues may or may not apply to you. Just thought I'd share my experiences.
 

hardrain

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good stuff, i have all inclusive rent, so while i'd like to use as little energy as possible, but its not a deal braker. Money and space are the issue. If I can fit two fermenters for $70, plus be able to move the thing, it might be worth it.

plus it would be fun to build.
 

bradsul

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Here is mine. I only use 2 bleach jugs (only one in the chiller at a time) and I change it out each morning. The jugs still have ice in them (even in the summer) and my fermentation temperature (of the beer, not the air in the chiller) holds at 65F in the summer.

 

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Good stuff, just wondering where you guys were able to find the foam board like that. I went to Lowe's today and they didn't have 4'x8' nor did they have the extruded type. What type did you use when you made yours? Thanks.
 

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bradsul said:
Here is mine. I only use 2 bleach jugs (only one in the chiller at a time) and I change it out each morning. The jugs still have ice in them (even in the summer) and my fermentation temperature (of the beer, not the air in the chiller) holds at 65F in the summer.

I just got mine built and I can't wait to use it. I had to buy 2 1"x 4'x 8' sheets as I couldn't find the 2" stuff and glue them together. I think all in all I have like 65 bucks in mine. The only thing that was a pita was having to keep running back and forth to the store for more glue.

Any way, a ? for you, How did you find out the right temp to set it to keep the beer temp at 65? and does your fan pretty much run constantly?
 

DeathBrewer

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i got the 1½" foam and it can keep temperatures at 25F below ambient and can easily maintain within a few degrees. I half-assed mine...i just glued it together and use duct tape across the front and some weight on top to keep it sealed tight enough. It still works wonderful!

mine suddently stopped working...i think my fan crapped out on me, but it did so just as the colder season started here so i haven't bothered to fix it yet. i'll get to it in another month or so :D
 

Evan

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i built one with one ice chest, and its L-shaped. i have two thermostates/fans so i can do two beers at different temps and i can also close them off if i'm only using one. i really like it, its been awesome and i say build it if you have the room.
 

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i'd fall on and break that thing if i built it. it'd have to be encased in wood or steel or something.. :D
 

bradsul

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kjones said:
...Any way, a ? for you, How did you find out the right temp to set it to keep the beer temp at 65? and does your fan pretty much run constantly?
I keep a single frozen bleach jug (4L) in mine and it sits at about 61F with the fans running fairly often (though to be honest I don't pay attention to it). Figure on your fermentation temperature being 4-5F higher than the chiller temperature and set your thermostat accordingly.

If you don't have any, get those stick on thermometers for your fermenter so you can keep track and adjust the temperature if necessary.
 

kjones

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bradsul said:
I keep a single frozen bleach jug (4L) in mine and it sits at about 61F with the fans running fairly often (though to be honest I don't pay attention to it). Figure on your fermentation temperature being 4-5F higher than the chiller temperature and set your thermostat accordingly.

If you don't have any, get those stick on thermometers for your fermenter so you can keep track and adjust the temperature if necessary.
I just tried it out for the first time tonight,I have been able to maintain 60 degrees with 2 2 liter soda bottles for the past 9 hrs. ( I havent saved bleach bottles yet) but anyway I am thorougly excited with the results as there is no way that i could have 2 fridges for brewing...my thermostat for the house is sat at 72 degrees, i have minimal meltage of the bottles at this point, and i have been opening it alot to check
 

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I just finished building my chiller this afternoon. I ended up spending about $175 on it because I didn't have many of the tools... so you might save $75 or so if you have 'em already.

I have a digital thermostat controlling the temp, although I haven't quite figured out how to have the fan operate as a function of the temp... so right now it's just on all the time.

You don't really need the wood for stops/supports, I just used the foam weather stripping for that. The soldering is a piece of cake, and if you follow the instructions for the connections to the outlet it should work no problem.

It peaked out at about 95 F this weekend, meanwhile my wort stayed at a cool 70 F.

So far, it's been worth it. Without it I wouldn't be brewing this summer, or spending a ridiculous amount of money on a mini fridge that I would've torn apart.

So I say go for it.
 

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I'm building mine right now. Everything except the board has cost me about 40 bucks. 15 for a "digital" thermostat (it runs on 2 AA batteries, which is a pain, but the temperature response is almost instant, which I love), about 5 bucks for a 12 volt computer fan, another 6 for a universal AC/DC converter, and another 6 or so for a caulking gun of liquid nails and the gun itself, some electrical tape (if you have some this cuts a few bucks off here and there).

I need weather stripping still, but that's pretty cheap. I should clock out for under 100 bucks.

This seems like it will require less babysitting than the towel & ice bottles in a trashcan trick. It seems like I can regulate my temperature a lot better too, which is the main motivation for this.
 
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I have a digital thermostat controlling the temp, although I haven't quite figured out how to have the fan operate as a function of the temp... so right now it's just on all the time.
So you wasted the money you spent on the temp controller. It is acting as a useless device plugged into your wall right now as apposed to a temp regulator. The only point of the temp controller is to tell them fan when to turn on/off. If you post your wiring and temp controller I'm the people here would have you running properly in no time.
 

GilaMinumBeer

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I plant to build mine around an old dorm fridge.

I already have a Ranco controlled chest freezer but, I always keep kegs in it and it sucks to have to raise the temps for cool controlled Ale fermentation. The dorm fridge is too small for a bucket or carboy to fit in so, cabinet it is.

I plan to just use the thermostat that the fridge has for now and maybe install a pancake fan to circulate the cold air more efficiently.

The plan is to simply remove the door and build the foam box around whats left of the fridge.It'll prolly be overkill but, I am considering 2 thicknesses of foam or double insulated to keep the cycle time minimal. Plus it'll be in my garage.
 

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For those who are considering building this thing, I'd suggest that you scour craiglist a bit. I found an old upright freezer for $20 and I added a new temp controller for $40. So, I have a rigid, well insulated box that can hold 4 carboys without any ice changeouts for $60 which seems less than the foam box idea. Of course, you'll need the extra room for it and you have to have patience to find a deal. I recently saw a fridge on the side of the road. The owners saw me looking and said "it works fine". Free ingredients/soda fridge...
 

bradsul

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For those who are considering building this thing, I'd suggest that you scour craiglist a bit. I found an old upright freezer for $20 and I added a new temp controller for $40. So, I have a rigid, well insulated box that can hold 4 carboys without any ice changeouts for $60 which seems less than the foam box idea. Of course, you'll need the extra room for it and you have to have patience to find a deal. I recently saw a fridge on the side of the road. The owners saw me looking and said "it works fine". Free ingredients/soda fridge...
Some of us don't have that option unfortunately. For myself I live in an apartment and I'm not allowed any major appliances that didn't come provided with the unit. Otherwise I would have done exactly as you said. I can't wait until I get out of apartment hell. :mad:
 

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old technology makes a comeback, you know my great grandmother used to call the refridgerator an "ice box" because they used to do exactly what the sofc does with the exception of the fan...
 

DeathBrewer

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For those who are considering building this thing, I'd suggest that you scour craiglist a bit. I found an old upright freezer for $20 and I added a new temp controller for $40. So, I have a rigid, well insulated box that can hold 4 carboys without any ice changeouts for $60 which seems less than the foam box idea. Of course, you'll need the extra room for it and you have to have patience to find a deal. I recently saw a fridge on the side of the road. The owners saw me looking and said "it works fine". Free ingredients/soda fridge...
there are some advantages to these for some people.

i have a small apartment and things get changed around alot. it helps to have a portable chiller.

i also have a very bad back. the light weight of the chiller really helps alot with that.

it keeps a very consistent temp, too, and doesn't run a whole lot. i only have to change the ice out every few days. i'd say it costs less to freeze the ice than it would to keep another fridge running.

i'll get a chest freezer soon, but this thing has served me well.
:mug:
 

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So you wasted the money you spent on the temp controller. It is acting as a useless device plugged into your wall right now as apposed to a temp regulator. The only point of the temp controller is to tell them fan when to turn on/off. If you post your wiring and temp controller I'm the people here would have you running properly in no time.
If it's running off of batteries (more digital thermostats run off of batteries it seems, even my analog one does nowadays, I think the batteries run the temperature reader, which is very, very sensitive and fast to react) then it's not a loss, it's just a wiring issue.

If he's got 12 volts running into the thing and it's functioning, he can get the fan to turn on. The big question is: is the thermostat a cooling/heating or just heating item?

If it's just heating, you'd have to build a relay circuit to basically reverse it's function. It might be easier to buy a heating/cooling one than try to wire up a relay.

I think this is the most important thing that some people miss. MAKE SURE YOUR THERMOSTAT IS RATED TO COOL (ie it can turn on the AC). It's not nearly as useful if it can only heat.
 

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I don't mean to flat out poo-poo the idea of SOFC in one shot like that. I would agree that it has utility for people that absolutely cannot accomodate or find a hand me down fridge.

I'm just posting a PSA to those considering one to weigh the option of a near free fridge/freezer etc before spending $60 on a uni-task foam ice box.

Many would tend to agree that at first instinct, an extra fridge costs more in energy than transfering ice to pull the same heat load than a refrigeration unit. It's a myth. Making ice is just moving refrigeration duties to a different location. The thermal load is the same. Where it starts costing more is if you get a really old inefficient unit or use a 18cuft chest freezer for a single carboy. Setting a fridge to 68F for ale fermenting hardly ever kicks the compressor on once the temp is stable (unless its in your Phoenix 110F garage of course).
 

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Yes, but keep in mind that any old free or cheap fridge you find is likely going to be very inefficient. If you're putting your ice jugs in a newer, more efficient fridge, it's still going to be a net cost savings. Also, you only need ice when you're fermenting. With a freezer/fridge, it's a bit hard on them to unplug them and plug them back in just when you need them. If you run them constantly, you're going to be using a lot more energy than just freezing ice jugs.
 

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I'm not buying it. When I don't have anything fermenting, I turn the controller up to 80F or so and it never runs. Even if you left it at 68F indefinitely, it would hardly ever run with no thermal load on it (fermenting beer). Even an inefficient unit wouldn't increase your energy spending unless you had something fermenting at all times.
 

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This is what I built. I went a little overboard, but I needed something that could go into the living room because I don't have any other place to put a freezer in my condo. I think the freezer is the best idea. HD had a magic chef for $190 and a $50 love controller and you are set. Just buy her something nice and then try to run it by the SWMBO.
 
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If it's running off of batteries (more digital thermostats run off of batteries it seems, even my analog one does nowadays, I think the batteries run the temperature reader, which is very, very sensitive and fast to react) then it's not a loss, it's just a wiring issue.

If he's got 12 volts running into the thing and it's functioning, he can get the fan to turn on. The big question is: is the thermostat a cooling/heating or just heating item?

If it's just heating, you'd have to build a relay circuit to basically reverse it's function. It might be easier to buy a heating/cooling one than try to wire up a relay.

I think this is the most important thing that some people miss. MAKE SURE YOUR THERMOSTAT IS RATED TO COOL (ie it can turn on the AC). It's not nearly as useful if it can only heat.
I wasn't saying his unit is useless, I was saying since it is wired up wrong it wasn't doing anything (therefore "acting like a useless device"). I understand IF he wries it up correctly he can get the fan going off the thermostat, THat's what I was getting at.
 
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