looking for a cheap method for fermentation temp control

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jimlin

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So far, I've done four 5-gal extract/steeping grains batches, with buckets, and only a primary. In the cold weather, the basement gets down to around 50°F (60 in the warmer weather). Thankfully, the in-law apt in our house is only in use during the summer months (when they escape the FL heat June-August). This leaves the great room over the attached garage available most of the year. We tend to shut the doors from the main house to that room so we don't pay to heat a large unused area. Therefore, if the main part of the house has the thermostat set to 67 or 68, that big room is in the lower 60s. So I've done what I can using different rooms in the house, a bit plastic tub with water to hold the fermenting bucket, etc.

Thing is, in spring or fall, temps can fluctuate quick a bit in New England, and therefore, so can the ambient room temps. Ideally I would stop using my in-laws area for beer-making activities, because eventually, something's going to happen... like a clogged blow-off, exploding fermenter kind of thing, and I'd rather deal with cleaning that up in a confined space that can handle a mess... like my unfinished basement.

Soooooo... would I be wise to get a temp control, a ferm wrap, and build some kind of hard foam insulation box? Definitely not looking to pay the $$ on a freezer to only use it to house fermenters.

We DO have an ancient, not working, freezer in the basement, but it's an upright type. Looks like a regular kitchen fridge, but only one main door and it's all freezer. The issue is that the shelves appear to be hardwired and not easily removed (will post a pic tonight from home). We were going to toss it once we realized it won't work anymore, but IF I could remove the damn shelves, I could at least use it as nothing more than a large insulated box which cold hold a couple buckets/carboys.

Seeing that I am only using buckets at this point, I'm thinking any kind of thermostat would be attached to the side of the bucket. From what I have read so far, that may not be as accurate as a thermowell, but much better than measuring ambient temp, right?
 

brieuxster

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So you could use the upright freezer as a Icebox powered fridge. Frozen plastic pop bottles of water provide the cooling, thermal mass and freezer insulation keeping it steady, along with keeping the door closed.

Use a reciprocating saw, or a jig saw to gnaw on those shelves as long as they are coolant free.
 

Robusto

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I haven’t done it yet, but I’m planning on taking a large, heavy-duty box and line it with a few layers of this stuff:

http://www.daviddarling.info/images/foam_board_insulation.jpg

You can find it pretty cheap in home improvement stores, or if there are any construction sites near you you can ask the guys for the scraps- they usually throw away pretty big peices...

or, if you want to use your freezer, you could take a sawzall to the shelves or if your shelves are the old wire kind, a heavy pair of wire cutters or bolt cutters should do the trick.
 

RosewaterFoundation

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Search Dave's Cheap n Easy fermentation chiller....would probably only really work with carboys. I took this basic idea and made something very similar (don't currently have room for a chamber or extra fridge). It works really well. Holds temp to whatever I get it down to, and I only switch out a 16oz bottle once a day to keep it at temp.

Granted, it's not amazingly acurate, but you can anticipate variables like the difference between temp in the cooler and in the carboy and adjust as you see fit. It is, in fact, a cheap and easy way to get some temp control.
 

_JP_

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4-year old 5 cu ft chest freezer: $50 (craigslist)
Johnson A19: $free (discarded at work)
5' extension cord to wire to A19 terminals: $2 (harborfreight)

Using this freezer allowed me my first drinkable homebrew. Temp fluctuations in my house killed the earlier brews.

I use a hair dryer in it in the winter for heating. Just unplug, switch terminals on A19, and plug back in.

A foam box with its own window A/C unit sounds like a winner too - those can be had for free to $50 on craigslist.
 
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jimlin

jimlin

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mainly I'd need to heat rather than cool, given my basement temps. Was figuring just an insulated box, a fermwrap, and a Johnson thermostat to turn the fermwrap on as needed. The insulated box to keep the temp a bit more steady once it's warmed up enough with the fermwrap. (Assuming the existing freezer proves a pain given the shelving) The samples some have responded with show a lot of cooling setups, and I don't think that would really be a need for me, given the typical temps in my basement.

JP, nice score on the free A19 ;)
 

_JP_

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If it's only heating you need, you could get by with one of these: http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc...splay?langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053

Wire it to a hair dryer, heating pad, or other heat source.

Come to think of it, I've made a germination incubator for my gardening last couple years out of a submersible aquarium heater ($10 @ petsmart or walmart) stuck in a gallon jug of water. The warm water gives off enough heat to keep a cooler nice and warm, (although it stratifies real bad - hot at top, warm at bottom of cooler). It has a thermostat built in. Put that in the freezer with the shelves cut out. That'd probably be your cheapest way.
 
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