Fermentation chamber


Completely screwed up the chilling on this by using the ice while it was still slush. Got nowhere near the right temps.

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Final size 20L. Boil 11L.
Bitterness:38 IBU
OG:1.020 FG:1.008

Steeping (in 2L 65-70 degrees)
100g American crystal 60L
40g American crystal 30L

1kg Light dry malt extract

14g Simcoe (14.5% AA, 10 min.)
14g Centennial (10.5% AA, 10 min.)
14g Mosaic (12.5% AA, 10 min.)
14g Simcoe (14.5% AA, 5 min.)
14g Centennial (10.5% AA, 5 min.)
14g Mosaic (12.5% AA, 5 min.)

Split the fermentation chamber in two to handle two fermenters on the go (the other has 507 with 30g Citra dry hopping). Was impressed by the fermentation chamber before splitting it – with extra foam tiles it consistently kept temps 7 degrees cooler than room temps, and it would maintain the temp for more than 24 hours. Will be less effective split in two tonight but I hope to free some more plastic storage boxes over the next few days.

22nd May 2014: I wouldn’t recommend making this. Something didn’t quite work with it; the hops flavours did’t come through. It may be because I used bags for the hops. Dry hopping didn’t help either – but that also may be because I used bags for the hops. In any case, it didn’t work. After dry hopping with Simcoe, Centennial, and Citra, I ended up blending it with another 503 (Pils) to create something drinkable, but not quite what I wanted.

…from the fermentation chamber. Three 500ml bottles of iced water at 7:30am and some foam floor mats as insulation, and the temp inside the chamber is still more than 3 degrees lower than outside 12 hours later. This actually might work.

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The new 'cool box' fermentation chamber

The new 'cool box' fermentation chamber

Meet the new rebuilt fermentation chamber! The old one worked and could maintain a temperature of 19 degrees, but it really stuggled. Too many of the joins were badly fitting, and the space inside too tight and irregular for decent airflow.

The new chamber is built with about 7 coolboxes of almost identical size. Three complete sealed boxes form the base, five lids form the sides (actually 4 lids and a bottom cut to lid size), and two bottoms make removeable lids:

...with easy access this time!

...with easy access this time!

Inside, the corners are reinforced with bits chopped from the old fermentation chamber; the joins in the side panels are taped inside and out and wrapped in cling film, and an extra layer has been added to the bottom, with foam added (black in the photo) to ensure the joins are tight. Fridges and freezers are coldest at the bottom – this extra layer not only gives extra insulation, but stops air leaking out in the join between the base and sides.

Reinforced corners, double bottom, and as much leak protection as I could possibly achieve

Reinforced corners, double bottom, and as much leak protection as I could possibly achieve

The design is completely fanless – I experimented with adding a fan to the old chamber and it made no difference so I’ve left it out this one.

The new chamber is able to maintain 19 degrees without the fridge running constantly – a distinct improvement. It’s also far easier to use – to open the old one I pretty much had to take it apart. This one I can just open the lid, and because cold air falls, there’s little temperature change if I open it quickly.

Currently it is only half full but by the end of the day there will be a second bucket inside with a porter!

If Lost in Fermentation’s dual chamber fermentation cabinet is Frankenfridge, what sort of beast have I created?

Frankenstein's Lovechild

Frankenstein's Lovechild

Built from a mini-fridge, thermostat, cold boxes from the local greengrocer, a digital thermometer to monitor the temperature inside (optional), and the most psychedelic lino I could find – the fermentation chamber now occupies the space where my bedside table used to be.

Here’s how it was born…

Take a mini-bar fridge...

Take a mini-bar fridge...

Take off the door - this one just unscrewed at the top and then lifted off...

Remove the door - this one just unscrewed at the top and then lifted off...

Make sure the box covers the entire front of the fridge...

Make sure the box covers the entire front of the fridge...

Then take of the lid and cut a hole the size of the fridge opening in it...

Then take of the lid and cut a hole the size of the fridge opening in it...

I just used a standard bread knife for the cutting - didn't give the cleanest of finishes though; a specialist foam cutting tool would probably have been better...

I just used a standard bread knife for the cutting - didn't give the cleanest of finishes though; a specialist foam cutting tool would probably have been better...

Here I've moved the fridge into position, taped on the lid, and then attached a second box (large, with a hole cut out the side). I've then fed in the wires for the thermostat and the (optional) thermometer...

Here I've moved the fridge into position, taped on the lid, and then attached a second box - this has a large hole cut out each side, to match the hole I cut in the lid. I've then fed in the wires for the thermostat and the (optional) thermometer...

You can see the second box I added above splits in the middle, giving me access. I've then cut a hole in the back to that and attached some more boxes (with corresponding holes cut in) to extend the space...

You can see the second box I added above splits in the middle, giving me access. I've then attached some more boxes (with corresponding holes cut in) to extend the space...

The last set of boxes open differently...

The last set of boxes open differently. I have the thermostat reading the temperature from the furthest point (you can just see a glass with water in the open box).

And that’s it. The one thing that isn’t included in the steps above is a fan. I’ll put this either in the fridge or between the two “areas”. I’ll plug it into the thermostat so that it switches on when the fridge does. While the chamber cools without the fan, I suspect the temperature isn’t even inside – the fan will circulate air, evening out the temperature and making the cooling more efficient. 

It looks both hideous and gorgeous at the same time. Hideous because, well, look at it – if it was a girl, you’d need a lot of beer before you wanted to put anything inside that. But gorgeous because I know it will help me to make beer in the summer. Over the next few weeks it will continue to evolve – I’ll get some more boxes from the greengrocer and make the walls thicker, and I’ll cover the joins better than I have done now.

Why did I use cold boxes instead of buying sheets of styrofoam? First because they’re free – so I thought “heck, why not try it? I can throw the boxes away if it doesn’t work.” Secondly, I don’t have a car and don’t particularly want to take large sheets of styrofoam on the subway. And thirdly, because it only has to get me past this summer – I’ll either leave Japan or move to a new place after then, so it will be time to go for something bigger and better. As long as it keeps the temperature at 19 degress, I don’t care whether the fridge is on all day or not – it’s way cheaper than aircon.

Although there are two spaces for buckets here, that’s only because of the design of the boxes – I’m planning on keeping everything at the same temperature. I should be testing it out with real beer this weekend!

Temperature control

Temperature control

The thermostat has been purchased and should be delivered tonight. Having spent close to 10,000yen, that means I will have a fermentation chamber – I’m just not sure how yet.

Options are:

1. Turn the kegerator into a fermentation chamber
2. Buy a chest freezer and use it as a fermentation chamber
3. Build the Alien Pod
4. Buy a mini fridge and then turn my entire shelf using into a fermentation chamber – like this (although I’ll be cooling instead of warming)

I’ll be deciding before the weekend.

Tonight I’m supposed to be tasting the dry hopped Lagunitas IPA and Unpredictable JPA, hoping to catch them while the hop aroma is vibrant rather than intense. Only trouble is I have a medical booked for tomorrow and shouldn’t drink anything tonight. Doh! A couple of sips wont hurt, right?

Fermentation chamber plan

Fermentation chamber plan

Yesterday I was thinking about getting a freezer to use as a fermentation chamber, but after reading about Frankenfridge on Lost in Fermentation, and these sites, I’ve come up with a better plan. Meet: The Alien Pod fermentation chamber.

Under the top of my kegerator, there’s a tube which extends down into the fridge. The plan is to add some duct tubing with a fan in the middle to feed the fermentation chamber. The fan will be connected to a temperature controller – probably the ND-610.

Kegerator tube

Kegerator tube

I’ll run a small tube back into the side of the kegerator – again there’s conveniently a hole already there (it’s currently blocked with a rubber stopper).

If I want to ferment lager, I can use one of my fridges – I’m only interested in getting to 19 degrees to ferment ale. That should be manageable with this setup.

Now all I need to do is work out whether it is feasible to build! I don’t have any tools, and I don’t yet know whether to get the duct tube or return tube.