Will This Fermentation Control Setup Work?

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Andrew Hodgson

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Hello all. So to step up the quality of my brewing the next phase is a fermentation temperature control setup.

The lady and I were walking through BJ's yesterday and since I am now prowling for a ferm chamber I walked down the appliances aisle and found this wine refrigerator:

https://www.bjs.com/product/igloo-42-bottle-wine-center-refrigerator/3000000000001020586

It looked like it would be the size I am looking for so I got home and took a look at my situation.

Currently for fermenting options I have a 6.5 gallon glass carboy, probably soon to be retired to basement lambic duty. Other than that I use the standard 6.5 gallon fermenting bucket. The only other consideration I made for this was I may want to switch to the Big Mouth Bubbler style at some point in the future.

My question is the dimensions on the BJ's site are wonky as hell to me, first they are in mm which is fine but the "Depth with Door Open" measurement makes no sense to me. Can anyone make sense of them?

Anyway the link claims the (converted) dimensions are:
Height top top of Fridge: 31.4''
Depth (less door?): 19.685''

I looked up the dimensions for the carboys I mention above:
6.5 Gal bucket : 12'' diam and 17.5'' height
Big Mouth Bubbler 6.5: 11'' diam and 23'' height
6.5 glass carboy: Width (not diam) 12.5'' Hieght 22.75''

So it seems like the height is fine for all of them but I am a bit concerned about the depth. If anyone has any experience or insight it would be much appreciated before I buy this guy.

Also I plan on using this Inkbird to control temps. I know these wine fridges have internal temp control but the specs say it only does 40-61F. If I throw a seedling mat in there and the Inkbird will that work or would I have to do some kind of over-ride of the units internal controller? Does 40-61 mean that the product is only rate to be within those temps or that the controller will only do that range because it is intended for wine? Any insights or guidance would be very appreciated.
 
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mongoose33

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I've read that these units tend to only go down to the low 40s in temp. Whether that's a function of a weak refrigeration module or simply thermostatic control, I don't know. If you set it as cold as you can, will it stop at 41 degrees? Don't know.

If all you want this to do is help maintain temps for fermentation, it would probably work fine. But if you want to crash your beer in there, if it only goes down to 41 degrees, it's going to take a long time to do that. Speed of crashing is a function of temperature differential (wort vs ambient inside refrigerator). The greater the difference the faster the cooling.

Now, if you don't ever think you'll want to crash, maybe that doesn't matter. I can't see the price for this unit as I'm not a BJ's member, but many of us use tall dorm-style refrigerators as ferm chambers. You can find them on Craigslist in the $40-70 range. I've attached a pic showing mine; I was able to get my fermenter in there--the diameter is 11+ inches. I got away without having to trim the plastic stuff off the door, but more commonly people will do that.

Anyway: will you want to cold crash? Will the unit take temps below about 41? What's it cost and is it worth it to you (might be, we all value different things differently)?

Good on the inkbird and reptile mat, BTW.

minifermchamber.jpg
 
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Andrew Hodgson

Andrew Hodgson

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I am not married to cold-crashing with this unit at the moment. However maybe I should search through craigslist and see if I can find a cheaper solution. To your point spending 150$ plus the Inkbird for a unit that can't get to cold-crash temp might be silly.

And of course I literally just found one that looks similar in dimension to your for a hundred bucks in the next town over from me: https://albany.craigslist.org/app/d/mini-fridge-college-fridge/6657458871.html

I think 16'' wide and 18'' will be just fine for my purposes.
 

GoeHaarden

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I agree with Mongoose and all the points he made. I'd stick with a regular mini-fridge. Another thing to note is that on the wine cooler the bottom rack shows the wine bottles sideways. Probably indicating that there is a compressor hump in the back, and if a ~12" wine bottle won't fit then your fermentor may not either.

I'd offer that guy $60 bucks for that fridge or wait for another one. Also, I had to remove the front door panel of my mini-fridge for my fermentor to work so that's an option too for a slightly smaller one.
 
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Andrew Hodgson

Andrew Hodgson

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I agree with Mongoose and all the points he made. I'd stick with a regular mini-fridge. Another thing to note is that on the wine cooler the bottom rack shows the wine bottles sideways. Probably indicating that there is a compressor hump in the back, and if a ~12" wine bottle won't fit then your fermentor may not either.

I'd offer that guy $60 bucks for that fridge or wait for another one. Also, I had to remove the front door panel of my mini-fridge for my fermentor to work so that's an option too for a slightly smaller one.

Good point about the hump in the wine cooler.

Yeah I am definitely going to try to talk him down, 100$ for a used dorm fridge is the highest I have seen although that does appear to be a decent size and the craigslist ones I have normally seen are the minuscule ones. Time to hit the craigslist in earnest and start haggling. I feel like my peace of mind won't be met unless I bring down a bucket and jam it in there and see so we will have to go take a look.
 

ca_baracus

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Good on the inkbird and reptile mat, BTW.
Mongoose - what's the purpose of the mat in the fermentation chamber? Since I'm only brewing one batch at a time, I use my kegerator as a fermentation chamber and have been rotating ice packs around every day to maintain good ferm temp (I have an Inkbird on the way today).
 

Blazinlow86

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Mongoose - what's the purpose of the mat in the fermentation chamber? Since I'm only brewing one batch at a time, I use my kegerator as a fermentation chamber and have been rotating ice packs around every day to maintain good ferm temp (I have an Inkbird on the way today).
Heating mat to heat the fermenter when required.
 

flars

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The dimensions for the wine cooler are probably outside dimensions for under counter installation. Doors may commonly be outside of the cabinet face.
 

vgmohag

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Consider a small chest freezer, you can find them for around the same price as the wine fridge but you can use them for cold crashing as well as fermentation control
 
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Andrew Hodgson

Andrew Hodgson

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Consider a small chest freezer, you can find them for around the same price as the wine fridge but you can use them for cold crashing as well as fermentation control

That is a good idea, is the only extra consideration with the chest freezer versus a fridge having to deal with condensation while I run it above freezing temps?
 

vgmohag

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That's all that comes to mind. I've been using one as a fermentation chamber for going on 2 years and no condensation problem. I think the difference is, it's not always in use so has a chance to dry out. I have not noticed any puddling in the bottom at all. I run a dehumidifier in my basement though.
 

GPP33

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Use a chest freezer, it'll get colder for cold crashing, it's dark inside and is cheaper.

This guy will go on sale for labor day and will hold a carboy or bucket. I use the 7cf version which holds two fermonsters and a CO2 tank for protected cold crashing. I use an Inkbird ITC 1000 and a seed germination heating mat. Condensation will depend on where you live but in Co (very dry) I get very little though I do have to wipe it out after a 2 week ferment.

https://www.bestbuy.com/site/insignia-5-0-cu-ft-chest-freezer-white/8390036.p?skuId=8390036
 
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