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Fermentation Chiller

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<moving this thread to it's own as I'm sure I'll have questions!>

tnlandsailor said:
Fermentation is definitely the key to a great beer; particularly primary fermentation temperature. The ability to control your fermentation temperature has a PROFOUND impact on your beer. Much more so than almost any other brewing parameter.

However, I have to take exception to the notion that as long as your ingredients are "reasonably" fresh, your ingredient choices don't matter. Brewer's make WORT, yeast makes BEER. You have to give your yeast the right thing to ferment, or else you won't get what you want. Different ingredients do different things, therefore your results will vary quite a bit with your ingredient choices.

On a side note, there is a great homemade tool to control fermentation temps called a Fermentation Chiller. I've used one (actually two) for 4 years now and I can tell you it is fabulous. By far the biggest improvement to my beers has been a direct result of controlling the fermentation temperature. Check out my website under "Other Gadgets" for photos and a link for detailed instructions on how to build one.

Prost,
Dennis Collins
Knoxville, TN
http://sdcollins.home.mindspring.com
 
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I located it. Click here for instructions. They're extremely detailed even down to part #'s at radio shack etc. 14 pages worth in Acrobat fashion. The guy touts keeping at 60f stable temp in his garage in summer at 95f. $60-70 avg. to build.

(I think I feel sick and need to leave work now). ;)
 
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As a heads up for those intrigued on building one of these. You can get these fans at a computer store as well or better yet, take one out of an old computer like I just did at work (I am a computer geek). Also on the 12v DC converter; everyone usually has these laying around wondering what it once powered. As long as the label states 12v dc output it'll work.

I think I have an old thermostat at home and already have an indoor/outdoor thermometer as well. All I need is the wallboard! (and a truck to bring it home )
 
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Hey TNLandSailor,

I went to a Lowes and Home Depot and they had 2" Polystyrene but it wasn't of the extruded sort; basically just looked like 2" thick styrofoam. In looking at your picture you had pink stuff. Would you recommend extruded for sure?

Also, you had some plywood on the floor for the fermenter; assume that was to minimize denting from the carboy weight...

Going to build mine this weekend if I can locate the extruded (if necessary).
 
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FYI,
They don't sell Extruded Polystyrene at my local Home Depot and Lowes. I had to make calls to local insulation companies and found two that sell it in 4'x8'x2" sections locally.
 

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desertBrew said:
FYI,
They don't sell Extruded Polystyrene at my local Home Depot and Lowes. I had to make calls to local insulation companies and found two that sell it in 4'x8'x2" sections locally.
Keep up the good work man! :D I'm watching this thread like a hawk until you get all the dirty work done. :p I'm gonna do this as soon as you get yours done, maybe you can post some pics of the build process, and post any problems/solutions you run across. I've got big-time worries about brewing this summer, and this looks/sounds like a perfect solution.
 

tnlandsailor

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The pink stuff is what they use on homes and buildings and such. I've seen the other type, the white stuff they make styrofoam cups from. I wouldn't use that, I'm afraid it wouldn't hold up very well. The extruded polystyrene has a pretty dense foam structure and holds up really well. I would look for this type. It may come in a different color besides pink, but you can definitely tell the difference between it and regular styrofoam.

Yes, I put some plywood on the floor of the carboy chamber because I was worried about the weight of the carboy denting the floor. I think this is a good idea.

If you are planning to build one of these and have access to a table saw, I think this would really make your job easier. Square and accurate cuts are the key to getting this thing to go together right. Also, I think you could leave out the little rods that are mentioned in the instructions to hold the lid and front in place. Mine seems to fit snugly enough without them.
 
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Well, it's done. I took some pics and slapped together some web pages on prices, supplies. Sorry the site is a little slow but my upload speed isn't so hot at the house...

Think it turned out great however and have an ESB 'chillin' inside.
 

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Will this type of cooler work in a garage in the Texas summer?? 90 plus degrees!!!
 
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I believe I read in the instructions that the guy who created this lives in the desert somewhere and ferments in his garage when it's 95+. I got another 20 days or so before we're at a consistent daytime temp of 100+ for the next 3 months so I'll let everyone know of performance. We do cool off nice at night here though to mid-upper 60's

I'm keeping mine in the garage... worst case scenario is you have to have more ice than 2 jugs in it and change more often but I'm sure it'll function just fine.
 

tnlandsailor

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Nice job desertBrew! Your chiller looks perfect. I think the photos you took will go a long way to show others how the thing goes together. Your question about how to get the cans in and out easier: if you look the photos I pasted at http://sdcollins.home.mindspring.com/FermentationChiller.html down at the bottom, I glued in some pieces of molding about a foot long into diagonally opposite corners of both ice chambers, then laid a piece of stainless tubing across the top. The jugs then sit on top of the tubing, elevated a foot off the bottom. This makes them easier to get to and I also think they cool a little better this way. I've got some other pointers on this page as well. I also recommend dropping a kitchen towel into the bottom of each ice chamber to catch the condensation from the jugs. This enclosed space will mold quickly if you don't get the moisture out. Change the towels when you change the jugs.

Regarding performance in hot places, it's just a matter of how hot. In a 90 F room, with 4 jugs, you can easily get an air temperature inside the chiller of 60 - 65 F, you will just have to keep an eye on the jugs and change them out at least every 2 days depending on what the temperature in the ambient room does. Just keep an eye on the internal air temp, when the fan starts running continuously, or the air temp starts to climb and can't be brought down, it's time for new jugs.

Prosit,
 
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Thanks, pictures are a good thing...

I haven't done any mods yet to the ice chambers as I didn't want to do anything permanent until I used it for a while. I'm not complaining but it "still" hasn't been warm here yet (low 80s) and wasn't sure how well it's going to work when it's 100+ in the garage. I guess if it gets so hot that 4 jugs can't keep up I'll have to bring it indoors (wife would not be happy). I really don't have room for 8 jugs (4 in chiller/4 freezer) rotating so hoping 2 switched daily would suffice. We shall see when that time comes as it always does :eek:

After using it for about a week now it is a great thing!! :D I tossed a secondary ferm almost complete in there as soon as I was done building it for the heck of it. The real test is the next batch. I just brewed a Hefe this past Sat and the inner temp is set for about 64 and the thermometer on the fermenter is at 68 (supposedly optimum for WL hefe yeast). Changing the 2 ice containers every two days is doing fine at about 85 max outside. Fan goes on/off every 5m or so at this temp.

FYI - plastic Folgers cans suck; hard to get a hand on em to pull in/out. Might drop and damage; need bottles with handles. I don't have anything but milk jugs yet so was concerned of them breaking though. With that I like your concept with the molding and dowels and will retrofit this week. Great idea on the towels. Will do that as well. No humidity here yet but it does come in Jul-Aug where condensation will be an issue.

Thanks for your help!
 

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I had a real problem with milk jugs. They just didn't hold up to repeated freezings and thawings. Found out the hard way that they split open (it wasn't pretty). As a counter measure, I put them into gallon sized zip lock bags (a very snug fit, the seal will not close) which helped a bit, but my final solution was to use some heavy duty plastic jugs I found at www.usplastic.com. Part #66152. So far, these have worked very well, no splitting. The thicker plastic insulates a bit more so they don't chill quite as well, but the ice in them lasts just a bit longer.
 

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tnlandsailor said:
I had a real problem with milk jugs. They just didn't hold up to repeated freezings and thawings. Found out the hard way that they split open (it wasn't pretty). As a counter measure, I put them into gallon sized zip lock bags (a very snug fit, the seal will not close) which helped a bit
The trick is water/ice will flow toward the path of least resistance. When water freezes it will push out as well as up. Next time just don't fill your container to the top and leave the top off so the ice can move upward as it expands.

The baggie is also a good idea, BTW. :D
 
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tnlandsailor said:
my final solution was to use some heavy duty plastic jugs I found at www.usplastic.com. Part #66152. So far, these have worked very well, no splitting. The thicker plastic insulates a bit more so they don't chill quite as well, but the ice in them lasts just a bit longer.
If you get a chance, could you measure the height of those bottles? I pulled the ice maker not in use out of my spare fridg/freezer and is where I'm putting the bottles to freeze and is just high enough to house two milk jugs. Anything taller and I'd have to pull the shelf out then listen to the "wrath of wife" on taking the whole thing over :rolleyes:
 

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DB--That thing looks awesome! You did a great job. Also many props for the website instructions, especially the parts/materials list. I'm really gonna love that when it comes time to build my own.

I just got done making my own wort chiller (immersion) and the next project is a couple of cooler "tuns" to complete my transfer to all-grain brewing. Once I start experimenting more with my own recipes, the fermentation chiller will definitely be a project I have to do.

Great job bro.
 

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Regardless of the room you leave in your milk jugs for expansion, the sides still balloon quite a bit. At freezer temps, the plastic in the milk jugs becomes almost brittle, or at least at lot less flexible that it is at room temp. I surmize that the reduced flexibility of the thin plastic and the ballooning effect of the walls caused a crack and subsequent leak which I conveniently found after the jug melted :eek: . Just be forewarned. The zip lock trick is ok as a temporary fix, but don't rely on it for your final solution.

I'll try to remember to measure the jugs I got from US Plastics and post the measurements. I know they are just a bit taller than the milk jugs.
 
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ORRELSE said:
I just got done making my own wort chiller (immersion) and the next project is a couple of cooler "tuns" to complete my transfer to all-grain brewing. Once I start experimenting more with my own recipes, the fermentation chiller will definitely be a project I have to do.
Great job bro.
I haven't used nor have a wort chiller yet. Was sticking the kettle in the pool when it was 50 degree water but that's getting warmer now. Building your own wort chiller; I thought I heard it isn't any cheaper than purchasing. What did you use & costs?
 

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tnlandsailor said:
Regardless of the room you leave in your milk jugs for expansion, the sides still balloon quite a bit. At freezer temps, the plastic in the milk jugs becomes almost brittle, or at least at lot less flexible that it is at room temp. I surmize that the reduced flexibility of the thin plastic and the ballooning effect of the walls caused a crack and subsequent leak which I conveniently found after the jug melted :eek: .
You're probably more right that you know.

I never let mine freeze to that point, just a bit on the surface. I've had them for about a year now (about 10-11 of them) and had only 1 leak.
 

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desertBrew said:
I haven't used nor have a wort chiller yet. Was sticking the kettle in the pool when it was 50 degree water but that's getting warmer now. Building your own wort chiller; I thought I heard it isn't any cheaper than purchasing. What did you use & costs?

I had almost everything I needed for it in my garage, minus the copper tubing. I found a 50' roll of 3/8 tubing at a local Ace hardware for $22.50, and a tube bending spring for $2.79 at the same place. I had 2 worm clamps and I cut an old garden hose in long enough pieces with the connections still on it. One of the hose pieces is long enough to go out my patio door, while the other is only about 6 inches long and connects to the kitchen faucet with a small faucet adapter. Your methods may very, but your total cost could be less than 30 dollars. Most 50 foot chillers you find in catalogs are upwards of $50 bucks (some are $60 or more!), so with very little time and effort, and at significant savings, mine was done. If you can do that fine fermentation chiller, you can certainly make a wort chiller! :)
 
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Little update on the fermentation chiller:

I started swapping ice out daily (2 containers) about a week ago whilst in the 90's and there was still a baseball size chunk-o-ice in there each eve. Still was in the low 60's inside and fan wasn't running constantly.

Haven't gotten home yet to check the ice however it hit 104 today. 108 for Sat and 110 for Sun. :eek: That's abnormally warm for this time of year and about as hot as it ever gets.

This is the test...
 

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We hit 95 today in Texas and I have to change the 2 plastic Folgers cans each day. I now have 3 cans in the chiller....should last alittle longer. Overall it works great....keeping my ale at 70F with no problem.
 
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Hey BBQBrew. Glad to hear it's working for you as well. You just build it or been using one for a while?

BTW - We were at 108, 109, 107 the last three days and It's kept at 65 (what I was aiming for) no problem with 2 cans and the fan isn't running constantly. Just change them each day. Great idea! Love it and a heck of a lot better than jury rigging wet towels and fans etc.

Only problem I see myself building another one down the road so I can get back to two batches going but have to get creative with my space...

LandSailor: I did your 1/4 round dowels in the chambers. Works great and now the plastic folger cans are working just fine.
 

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WOW !!

Well Living in the Desert's of Western Colorado, we are already up in the steady 90's during the day. I have had my Swamp Cooler running for about a month already to keep my wine cool, so I guess I will just have to give this a try.

I guess another plus is that it will be a Dark Temperature controlled environment, which is awesome for wine.

Perhaps if a Wine Forum Mod is reading this - could you put a sticky note in the wine forum with a link to this post?

Thanks for the info, and I will definately take pics as I Build.

Kilroy
 

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One Question I do have though, is the airflow.

Looking at the pic's and the diagrams, I can see the cut outs, and one of them has a fan - no prob there. The other side though is sealed by the lid, and there does not seem to be anywhere to pull the heated air over the other ice bottle?

Perhaps I am reading too much into it, and I should just build one, Perhaps it is not completely air tight. Perhaps the dividing wall between the two ice partitions would benefit by adding a window at/near the bottom. This would force the hot air - pulled in to one chamber, to then be cycled down and then over the other bottle, and then out throught the fan over the carboy.

Like I said perhaps I am reading too much into it, but that is the way my brain works.

Kilroy
 

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kilroy,

The divider wall between the ice chambers doesn't go all the way to the bottom. Ice bottles/cans on one side...fan on the other pulls the air down over the ice and up and thru to the carboy.

Works like a charm! You can really bring down the temp fast...I have been very impressed with how little the fan comes on to keep the temp below 70 in a garage that is well over 90!

:D
 

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Awesome -

Thanks for the update.

Also - I think in your pic's you have some steel pipe or something that raises the ice-bottles up.

I was thinking some 1/2 inch pvc and a X adapter, stick 4 pieces of the PVC and you got a nice plastic (non rusting :) ) stand for the ice bottles.

Kilroy
 
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Think you were looking at tnlandsailor's site as I added that retrofit later. Anyhow, I added the little 12" 1/4 round dowels on the bottom of the ice chambers (glued) on 2 sides of the square opposite and then I just rest 5/16 dowels I had as spare stock from the top & front locks on the top of them to elevate the ice containers. Only reason to do it is to make it easier to get them out. Also, you want it so it is temporary so you can add more than 1 ice container per side if needed (underneath the dowels). I wouldn't do this part until you build the basic unit then it'll make sense. Thats what I did...

Hotter than the blazes today (105+ whatever). I had less than a cocktail cube in the bucket by the time I got home. Was still at 68. 1 day is all you'll get with 2 when it's this friggin hot. I change it out at night.
 

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I decided to put my chiller to the test this week. I've got a kegger competition coming up and had 4 entries. Problem is, I only have room for 3 kegs in the fridge. As I was contemplating taking over half of the fridge in the kitchen for a week, I decided to put the keg into the chiller with 4 ice jugs, crank it down and see what happened. In a 70 F room, I was able to chill down and hold the chiller at 42 - 45 F for the whole week, swapping out the jugs twice over the last 6 days. That's the same temp as my fridge. Worked great. Now I have 4 chilled kegs. Good thing to remember in a pinch.

The 42 - 45 F range is the practical limit for my chiller. It doesn't sound like much, only a 25 F delta from ambient, but it's only 10 - 13 above freezing which is pretty impressive. I'll bet that if the ambient were a bit higher, say 80 F, I'll bet I could still maintain the 45 F temp, the fan would just cycle more often. Also, it could be the lower limit on the thermostat I'm using. I just slid the lever all the way to the left. I need to check to see how cold it would get if I just left the fan running continuously. Has anyone tried this yet?

By the way, I promised someone here that I would measure the ice jugs I am currently using. I haven't done it yet (obviously). Do you still need the dimensions?

Prosit,
 
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Sorry for being lazy... I think I remember someone here talking about the right adhesives to use but I'll just ask...

Looks like I'm stuck with using 1" thick sheets instead of 2" due to the small friggin town I live in. Could you please let me know what adhesive you used and how good it worked? I remember toying with this before on another completely seperate ordeal and never finding a good adhesive which would work. I also remember it got quite pricey trying out this with adhesives going for three to six dollars a tube :rolleyes:

Thanks...
Neil
 

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You can glue two 1" sheets together to get the 2" thickness you need. Just make sure you have could service coverage and you let the glue set for 24hrs.

Liquid Nails makes an adhesive just for foam board. You should be able to find it at your local hardware store or home improvement warehouse. Checkout the link below.

Liquid Nails

You might try contacting DOW and see if there is someone in your area that sells foam board. Check the link below.

DOW Styrofoam
 
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Liquid Nails - they sell one specific for styrofoam/polystyrene as well. I just don't know about the 1" stuff. As mentioned, glueing 2 together would be the best idea then but it's just not as firm as the bonifide 2" construction grade. Do the Dow thing. Maybe they can get you answers.
 

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I just built one of these guys. Seems to be working ok but I have noticed something I wanted to ask about. It seems like the main chamber cools too fast for the thermostat. I will set it for 65 F and it will cool it all the way down to the upper 50s before shutting off. Then it seems to rise too fast for the thermostat as well since it gets into the upper 60s before kicking back on again. Since this seems to keep the average temperature fairly close to 65 (yielding a constant 68 on my fermenter thermometer which is what I am going for) I don't think this is a problem but I was just wondering if anybody had any ideas. Maybe my box isn't sealing well enough? My thermostat is the same one desertBrew used (bimetal) so it's not a movement problem (like you might have with a mercury switch thermometer).
 
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If I'm shooting for a target of 68 mine seems to turn on around 71 or so and doesn't turn off until 63. If using the exact one as mine there is a screw you can turn to in/decrease the range. They typically give it some min/max before activation so your furnace/AC isn't constantly turning on & off costing electricity. I know I did tweak mine a bit right away as I wanted it to stay relatively stable.

As you mentioned though, ultimately your 5g of beer isn't fluctuating. FYI - I have the temp strip on my fermenter to get the real temp
 

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desertBrew said:
FYI - I have the temp strip on my fermenter to get the real temp
Yeah, that's what I did as well. I will have to look for that screw. Damn, wish I hadn't thrown away the instructions for the thermostat...
 
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cygnus128 said:
Yeah, that's what I did as well. I will have to look for that screw. Damn, wish I hadn't thrown away the instructions for the thermostat...
Tug off the cover and on the top-left is some circle thing with a screw in the center. I'm at work so going off the top of my head but pretty sure that was the locale. Which way to turn? 50/50 shot ;)

Or, google that bugger and get the directions. I'd suspect they're online...
 
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Temperature indicator and controller

May be a bit more than some want to spend but this is really cheap for what it is. If your going to spend 15 on a thermostat and 10 on a thermometer with probe, this isn't too much from that. It may even be able to handle a frigde if you are handy enough to wire up plug ends on a cord since it's SPST contact can handle 16amps. This thing has adjustable hysteresis (the deadband) and temperature settings and it all goes outside the fermentation chiller or your fridge / deep freeze. I just ordered two of them but it will be a while before my ferementation chillers are done.
Hardest part for me is the foam. I have to wait till I get a weekday off from work so I can drive down to Memphis TN to get my foam. BTW ... I found a place that sells the foam in 2", 3" and 4" thicknesses. The price increases proportionally but I think I will base my thickness on the rigidity of the foam. The 2" is probably more than enough for the insulation but if I find it a bit flimsy, I may opt for the thicker stuff.
I have also gotten peltier coolers to power my units. Once again, a bit more money than those who want to save by going with ice jugs but this will eliminate ever having to change out ice. It will also allow me to ferment at ANY reasonable temperature. In a 75f room I am confident that I could get the fermenting beer down to freezing if I cared to. Another nice thing about the peltiers... in the winter, I can reverse two leads and keep my beer WARM!!!

I'm just loving this c#*p :p O.K. O.K. im a gadget freak!
 

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desertBrew said:
Or, google that bugger and get the directions. I'd suspect they're online...
For anybody who has the same thermostat...

http://www.hunterfanhq.com/tools/sales/hunter/preseason/images/owners/41259.pdf

Looks like the little copper dial covering the temp. selector/bimetal part does the trick. I found it to be tough to turn but it conveniently does tell you what direction to turn for a wider temp. range (I turned in the other director). Since it is attached to the temp selector I found it to be helpful to turn the temp selector to its most extreme position (in whatever direction is helpful) and then use a screwdriver or small pair of pliers to turn the copper thingy (I have very short fingernails but if you had some I suspect they would work as well). I am gonna give it a little time and then watch it turn on and off (I have the LED mod installed) and I will report success or failure (since I'm sure you're all dying to know ;)).
 
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