The Weber Fermentation Chamber

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TimWeber

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After this summer's heat my wife and I realized that we couldn't brew consistently or well if we didn't have better temperature control during fermentation. We have one fermentation fridge but I only holds one carboy and we were brewing once a week. I decided it was time to build a walk in cooler!

Now I really can't take credit for coming up with this. I absolutely have to thank John Beere for the inspiration as well as a few others on this site. I'll add acknowledgments as I find the threads :)

My Requirements:
  • It would be large, large enough to hold a lot of fermenters.
  • It would have multiple temperature zones.
  • I needed to be able to take it apart and move it if need be.
  • I wanted to be able to load fermenters easily.
  • I wanted to be able to carbonate kegs in it, and store bottled beer.

Lots of fermenters meant a chest freezer would not work. I had an extra 5000 BTU window air conditioner lying around, so I opted to use that instead of a dorm fridge. Before going into the details of the build I'll just give you a picture of the final product.


The chamber on the left is for lagering, carbonating and storage and is held at 35F. The chamber on the right is for ale fermentation and held at 68F. It's been in operation for a few months now, and holding strong. The lager chamber can hold 15x 6.5 gallon carboys and the ale chamber can hold 5x 6.5 gallon carboys and two conditioning cases. Next, I'll post how I made it.
 
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TimWeber

TimWeber

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I started off by constructing the four sides of the chamber. I decided to go with 3x2s to try and reduce weight a bit. The walls were constructed similar to house with a cross beam on the bottom and top. I used mold resistant paneling for the outside.



On the left side I made a hole for the AC unit. This was where I made my first mistake. I made it a bit too short and a bit too long. I hadn't yet decide if I wanted to use the window fillers that came with it.

I decided to make the step up in the front for two reasons. The first was for structural rigidity. The second was the thought that since cold air sinks, maybe less cold would fall out of the chamber every time I opened the door.

I bolted each side together so that I could disassemble the unit if I wanted to move it. I placed window striping along each side at the joint, outside of the bolts to seal the sides.

 
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TimWeber

TimWeber

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Making the floor of the chamber. This is it upside down. I used 2" foam insulation and tons of GreatStuff.


The door has a compression fit. I put weather striping all along the outside. To latch it shut I actually have to lean against it.
 
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TimWeber

TimWeber

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The top is built in 3 pieces. I did this to reduce the weight I had to lift, and also it provides more support to the front of the chamber, as the door puts some torque on that front wall. The side pieces are bolted to the top.



The AC unit needed to be modified a bit. I put a panel of fans on the front to blow across the evaporator to try and de-ice it.



I had to disable to the PCB on the AC unit in order to force it to cool below 65. I'll follow up with a schematic as soon as I find it. :) I plugged the AC unit into a Ranco controller. Hey and ELECTRICITY WILL KILL YOU! DON'T DO WHAT I DID. IF YOU TOUCH A CAPACITOR THAT HAS NOT BEEN DISCHARGED IT CAN KILL YOU.


What that capacitor. That'll knock you on your butt if it doesn't kill you. I let it discharge for 24 hours then grounded it and checked it with a DVM just in case. I am very afraid of electricity. :)
 
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TimWeber

TimWeber

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I then started building the ale chamber


I drilled a hole in the bottom of the lager chamber.


I stuck a drier vent in the hole.


Then I stuck an AC fan on the inside to blow cold air out.


I put a drier hose at the top of the ale chamber.


Building the floor to the ale chamber


This was the best way I found to mount the probe for the lager chamber. I drilled a hole in the top of a whitelabs yeast vial, filled it with water and poked the thermistor from the Ranco down through the top.


And again the final chamber. I may add taps to this at some point. The lager chamber is at 35F and the ale at 68. I went back and use 1/8" foam to cover the entire inside and the floor. Turns out wood is a good conductor of heat. I will probably add more insulation come summertime. Right now it turns on for about 10 minutes every 3 hours.
 
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TimWeber

TimWeber

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Ahh I can't take credit for the holder posts. I saw The Pol do it first. :)
 
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TimWeber

TimWeber

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Approximate... 5.5 x 3.5 x 3.5 and the ale chamber is 3.5 x 2.5 x 2.5
 

android

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nice, definitely would LOVE to have something like that... thanks for the inspiration.
 

BigJay13

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Nice work! I will be doing something similar when get I get time/space. Thanks for the inspiration!
 

Douglefish

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I'm in the middle of doing almost the exact same thing. I have my main chamber build and working. Do you have any issues with not having a return vent for the air you are pushing into the small chamber?
 

Azharen

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I then started building the ale chamber


I drilled a hole in the bottom of the lager chamber.


I stuck a drier vent in the hole.


Then I stuck an AC fan on the inside to blow cold air out.


I put a drier hose at the top of the ale chamber.


Building the floor to the ale chamber


This was the best way I found to mount the probe for the lager chamber. I drilled a hole in the top of a whitelabs yeast vial, filled it with water and poked the thermistor from the Ranco down through the top.


And again the final chamber. I may add taps to this at some point. The lager chamber is at 35F and the ale at 68. I went back and use 1/8" foam to cover the entire inside and the floor. Turns out wood is a good conductor of heat. I will probably add more insulation come summertime. Right now it turns on for about 10 minutes every 3 hours.
I LOVE this build. I SO wish I had the room for something like that. I have a question about the ale chamber. How are you holding it temp at 68F when Ur pushing 35F through air tube?
 

klyph

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I LOVE this build. I SO wish I had the room for something like that. I have a question about the ale chamber. How are you holding it temp at 68F when Ur pushing 35F through air tube?
I would assume the fan is on a thermostat and only kicks on enough to get the ale chamber down to temp.
 
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TimWeber

TimWeber

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No problem with a return from the ale chamber. The lids to both chambers have a little air gap so there's an outlet for the warm air.

Sorry I guess I forgot to mention that I am using three temperature controllers in the system. The fan that blows into the ale chamber only turns on when the temperature of the fermenting beer raises above 68F.

The ale chamber has two controllers, one to operate the fan to blow in cold air, and another to turn on a incandescent light bulb.

The thing I like the most about this is now it is super easy to crash cool my ale after fermentation, and I have a staging area to carbonate kegs before they are loaded into my kegerator.

Couple of things I would have done differently. I would not have made the ale chamber top loading, I still might change this. I also would have made the primary chamber taller. Keeping the AC unit out of the cold would help better with evaporator iceing, and the AC is all metal, so it transfers heat well. Keeping it up higher would probably reduce the amount of time the the AC unit needs to be on.
 

Cyan

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I love your FC, bro!
Amazing build!
I just got done with the SOF, and I'm about to roll it out in front of a moving train.
I appreciate all the pictures, details, explanation, etc.!
Congrats! You are/willbe worshipped as a DIY god!
Peace.
 

czucker

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Excellent build. I'm planning on doing almost exactly the same thing. . . One question though.

Is the light bulb absolutely necessary? It would be much easier to use a two stage Ranco controller then to have to deal with a third. . .

Best,
Chris
 
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TimWeber

TimWeber

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The light bulb isn't absolutely necessary. I have not completed the insulation on the ale chamber and the temperture in my basement is in the upper 50s right now. If I didn't have the heat source then my beers would be fermenting in the low 60s. Of course I haven't needed to use the cold air fan in a while, so I am using the third controller on a seperate fridge at the moment.

I don't have a two stage ranco yet. I didn't know about them. I think I will definitely be purchasing one at some point soon.
 

tipicreeper

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Hi Tim,
I have your thread as a favorite & very interested in your progress.
Any progress, thoughts, changes, etc........
 

Zooom101

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my wife and I realized that we couldn't brew consistently or well if we didn't have better temperature control during fermentation.
I haven't even read the rest of the thread because I was so blown away by this statement. I didn't realize that wives were capable of such deep understanding of the intricacies of brewing. You're a lucky guy.
 

RDWHAHB

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Looks great. How about a 2nd air duct to return air to the lager chamber? That way you aren't pushing cold air out, and drawing hot air into the lager chamber. Might have to work a bit less that way.
Cheers.
 
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TimWeber

TimWeber

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No futher progress so far... I've been distracted by my brewery build. The thing is still working great. We just compaired electric bills over the last couple of months and there is no significant change noticed. The thing is working great! Still holding at 35F.

Zooom HA! I am a lucky guy, my wife is also an engineer and obsessed with brewing. She writes for Ratebeer and has a blog called brewcookpairjoy.com. She's going to brewing school with me too.
 

lcjustin

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This is fricken awesome!!! Im using a 13cu Chest Freezer and it can only hold 3 carboys. Was wondering what documentation you have on your build? Build Specs, how you overroad the AC unit, that kind of stuff.
 

John Beere

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Sigh.. I miss mine- a lot! But I'm about to build a new one and it will be very similar to what you've come up with, except it will be outside, under a lean-to as I've run out of room in my brewery.

I'm glad to see that the secondary chamber works like I originally imagined powered by another ranco and fan..
 

KFH

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I hate to necro a thread, but this looks like an awesome idea and exactly what I've been looking for. My question is this: I'll most likely be building and keeping this in the garage. In Arizona. During the summer. Will the 5K BTU A/C be sufficient to maintain the temps, or should I look into getting a larger unit? How much more insulation would be required, if any?
 
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