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Stacked Dual Chamber Fermentation Chamber Build

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BiteSize

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I've been brewing for about three and a half years now, and up until this point, I have fermented my beers at ambient temperatures. Much of the time, this meant cranking the household AC in the summer time (much to the chagrin of SWMBO) and blasting heat in the winter time (much to my chagrin). I brewed one lager last year while we lived in an A-Frame cabin that had a 3/4's finished basement. I used by keezer that was empty at the time as my lagering chamber. It was a Maibock that turned out excellent and left me wanting to brew more lagers. So all of this has led me to finally pull the trigger on building my fermentation chamber, but above all, I want to continue pushing the quality of my brewing to higher levels.

Here is the end result... read on for a detailed description of the build. Hope you enjoy!



When designing my chamber, some of my major desires were such that the chamber was able to:

  • Ferment both lagers and ales simultaneously
  • Have two chambers controlled independently
  • Heat and cool each chamber
  • Hold two carboys in each chamber
  • Have room to hold kegs as they condition
  • Be moveable since we currently rent and are likely to move within the next year and a half.
  • Be finished with an attractive look up to SWMBO's standards for being a household item.
  • I'm sure there are more, but you get the point.

I have very limited skills with SketchUp so I went old-school and drew up my plans by hand. Took me a while to work out the details, but provided a good starting point to rough calculations for material needs and estimated costs.



Made the trip to Menard's to get most of the supplies for the build. I'm planing out controlling each chamber with STC-1000 project boxes. The components for those I sourced online.





We made all the lumber cuts first for the build of the chamber frame/skeleton.



I will be adding these air grille returns to provide ventilation/cooling for each of the fridge units. They started out as white, but I painted the with stainless colored spray paint. I picked up one of the fridges from CL for 20$, and the other is one that I have had in the shed for the past two years. Luckily, both are Emerson Electric and have the same widths and depths.

 
OP
BiteSize

BiteSize

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We built the chamber independently at first. The chamber on the left is the base unit, that will house the larger of the two mini fridges. The right chamber is the top unit cooled by the smaller fridge.



Here is my dad mooting one of the 4" casters to the base. I have to give a big thanks to my pops for lending his tools/garage/input for this project. It's always a good time getting together to tackle a project like this. We had great success building a keezer together, but this project is certainly more involved.



Next, we mounted the left frame of the skeleton to the base.



This is after we mounted to top chamber to the bottom one. My dad was have a good time. I definitely was not a mad as I seem to appear in this photo... must have been thinking too hard about something. :confused:



We counter-sunk several screw hole pretty deep so that the 4" screws we had for the build had enough depth into the opposing boards. Again, thanks to the old man for having to tools on hand. :rockin:

 
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BiteSize

BiteSize

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Took a pause to get our priorities back in order. :mug: Plus, this is a shamless plug for Hoosier Nation! Go IU!



We ran into a few snags with the bottom framing for the top fridge. The metal brackets that the compressor is mounted to jammed up our plans for a minute. We cut away part of the bracket with an angle grinder, but we still had to notch out substantial parts of the bas 2x4's to have the built-in metal feet on the fridge bracket slide into place. Of course we didn't make the first cuts deep enough, so we had to got back for another pass using a table saw.... doh!:cross:







I was satisfied to get in back in place after the second round of cuts.... something about measure twice?!?

 
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BiteSize

BiteSize

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This is what we wound up with in the end. Got the job done!



After the first weekend of work, I am quite pleased with the progress made, and the results so far. There remains much to be done, but I am pretty pumped about the project! Here is what the finished frame looks like:





Cheers! :mug:

 

DizzyD

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Wow that's pretty slick Rob!!! Looking forward to the continuous progress! Keep the pictures comin'!
 

Jipper

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Looks awesome! Keep up the great work, and keep us posted!
 

old-pasture-brew

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Nice work but we need more pics! More updates!! Ha ha. Love the time spent with dear old dad too. I'm sub'ing in on this build.
 
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BiteSize

BiteSize

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Nice work but we need more pics! More updates!! Ha ha. Love the time spent with dear old dad too. I'm sub'ing in on this build.
Seriously, if only this damn work week didn't get in the way! Hopefully I can get some things done tonight. Time to start cutting the plywood and insulation. Stay tuned!
 
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BiteSize

BiteSize

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I made some more headway on the build last night. I got all the plywood cut for the walls, and started laying out and cutting the foam-board insulation. At the recommendation of a friend of mine, I bough a heated-wire styrofoam cutter to chop up the insulation. While it is definitely the right tool for make nice clean cuts, it is by no means a quick method to get the job done. We wound up timing the cuts and calculated an average speed of about 4.5 inches/minute. I finished the top, bottom, and middle panels for the chambers and got them glued-in with foam board adhesive. Here are a few phone pics of the process:







I'm going to try to finish making the cuts tonight so I can make some serious
progress this weekend.
 
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BiteSize

BiteSize

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Stealthcruiser said:
Nice. If I had known how slow the process was going to be, I definitely would have considered making a DIY cutter. Im in it to win it at this point with the tool I got. What can you expect for tools from a craft store.... Thanks for the great info though!
 
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BiteSize

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After several hours of cutting foam board with the TOB cutter that I purchased, I got all the panels cut out. Most of them fit nice and snuggly, but one needed a little bit of trimming. I used a knife blade attached to a sabre saw, and it cut through the foam like butter. Could have save some serious time if I went this route from the get-go. You live and learn.



All the plywood panels are cut and mounted. We cut ventilation opening for both fridges, and got the chamber doors cut out. Additionally, we cut and mounted the access door on the left side of the chamber. Eventually this will house the temperature controller and power strip, plus allow access to the fridge compressors if needed.





There is still plenty to get done, but the progress is coming along.
 
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BiteSize

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I made some huge progress this through the week and this weekend! Earlier this week I assembled my two STC-1000 "eBay temp controllers", and tested them out with some plug in lights. Both seem to work for now, but I didn't do any programming to change settings.



I hit the project hard this weekend, putting in around 12 hours both days. Yesterday, I started by sealing all of the internal foamboard seams with silicone latex caulk. Once I caulked them, I covered them with aluminum foil tape.





I then cut out my cable access channels for both chambers. I will be running power strips into both chambers in addition to the temp probe and wiring for the paint can/light bulb heaters.



Next, I dry fit all of the door panel trim work and clamped it all in place before screwing everything together. A lot of trial and error to get the right spacing, but it was a crucial step to ensure that each door would actually fit the opening.



I also cut out all of the vinyl flooring panels to eventually line the interior of both chambers. Here is the back panel roughly placed in one of the chambers.



Once all of the trim was laid out, I screwed everything in place and began some of the hardware installation. Each chamber door has two handles and four barrel bolts that hold it in place to the exterior trim. I went with the pull-off door method instead of hinged doors to minimize the amount of fuss I would have to mess with to get the right fit. We'll see how they perform. Here are a few shots of the doors in place and the hardware installed.





I was working on the project till late in the night on Saturday. SWMBO was even nice enough to hang out and keep me company while I installed the vinyl panels to the interior. She kept getting me fresh beers too! :mug:







That was enough for Saturday. I got up early Sunday and got right back to work on the chamber though.

I sealed all of the vinyl panel seams with clear silicone and made sure everything was well adhered to the chamber walls.






I spent most of the day getting the first coat of stain on everything. I went with Minwax "Sedona Red" in honor of my native Northern Arizona. I got a second coat on both of the chamber doors, but just one on the main cabinet. I also spray painted the smaller of the mini fridges black to match the other.









The last thing I did was to put a layer of vinyl on the chamber doors foam panels and tape the perimeter with foil tape.

 
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BiteSize

BiteSize

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I'll definitely post a parts list once it's all done. I'm in it for roughly $425 at this point. I had one fridge already and scored the other on CL for $20. I'm hoping to have this done sometime this week. Trying to brew a few batches this weekend... might have to postpone till next if the chamber is not quite finished.
 
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BiteSize

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I have finished the chamber build for the most part! :ban:

I moved it to my house with the help of several friends to help with the heavy lifting. I would estimate that the chamber weight in the ballpark of 200 pounds without any carboys in it. Here is the end product in its new spot in my office.









I wound up putting two coats of stain and two coats of polyurethane for the finish. I installed the fridges and sealed them with clear silicone once we got it moved to my house. I hooked up computer fans in each chamber that I will run continuously. Also, I installed 12-LED strip light bars in each chamber.



Here you can see the access panel door and the guts of the system:





This project was incredibly fun to build, and I am proud of the end result. I have been doing to testing on it today to see how it holds temps. So far so good. I'll try to post a parts list and price sheet later. Cheers! :mug:
 

Grandpasbrewery

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How much bigger do you think it would need to be to hold, say, 4x 6.5gal carboys? Or do you think you are reaching the thermal capacity of the small fridges already with your setup?
 
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BiteSize

BiteSize

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I think it might need an additional few inches in depth and width. There is a decent amount of clearance from front to back as it exists. I think perhaps 3-4 more inches of depth, and another 2-3 in width, would be sufficient for the interior chamber dimensions. As for the fridges, I would want to push them much past where they are currently. Both are relatively small, however, since it's not outside, it should only need to maintain a 10-30 degree F differential from ambient temps.

I test both chamber for ale temps. Each was plenty capable of maintaining 62-68 with ease. I also cranked the bottom chamber down to lager ranges. It took about 18 hours to go from 22.5 C down to 12.5 C... that was with the compressor going basically non stop. I left it there overnight then cooled to 7.5 C which took another 8 hours or so. It seems that the temps hold fairly steady once at the desired set point. After turning off the bottom chamber at 7.5, the water temp was up to 10.8 C after 10 hours.
 

Dewrag

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Your dual chamber is much prettier than mine. I suck cold air from the freezer using a PC fan...

IMG_20150424_102251_555.jpg
 

Spludge

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Daaaaammmnnnnnnnnn dude! What a build


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beardown2489

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I just built a mini ferm chamber. But one day, this is exactly the kind of chamber I'll build. The DIY skills of this group are awesome and quite inspiring
 

Feeny

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Awesome build! I am gathering ideas for my own build and the idea of using two fridges stacked feeding into two different chambers. Any updates on how its holding up? Have you done any lagers in it yet?
 
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