I've been fermenting my ales in my home office, placing the Mr. Beer fermentation kegs on my desktop and using a window air conditioning unit to maintain 70F during the warmer months. After brewing 30 separate ale recipes and fermenting them this way I decided it was time to consider using a fermentation chamber to control the temperatures instead.
Enjoying A Glass Of Chocolate Covered Cherries During Construction
I sat down and spent a fair amount of time drawing out the dimensions and figuring out the construction method I would use. I wrote down the sizes of the pieces of plywood I would need for the top, bottom and sides and included some 1" x 3" pine boards to use for internal framing and constructing the chamber.
Original Design Drawing
Next it was off to Home Depot where I selected the 2 sheets of 1/2" plywood and had them cut into the size pieces I needed, which worked out really good for me since my only power saw was a small jigsaw and not very good for cutting large pieces of plywood. To hold the chamber together I used 1 1/2" and 3" sheet rock screws, the kind used for drilling into metal studs, after coating the joints first with wood glue.
The Inside Is Lined With 2 Inch Thick Foam Board
I lined the inside of the chamber with 2 inches of heavy duty foil backed foam insulation and sealed the joints with foil backed tape and duct tape to assure an airtight seal. The plan was to use frozen water bottles placed at the top of the chamber, since the cold air would naturally sink to the bottom and force the warmer air back up to the top to be cooled.
Plastic Storage Container From Walmart Collects Condensation
After assembling the chamber, doors, hardware and insulation I filled in any imperfections caused by the screws with wood filler and sanded the surfaces smooth. The finishing touches are still waiting to be completed, I plan to give the chamber a fast coat of urethane stain to protect the outside from spills. Although this piece of furniture won't be making it's way to my living room anytime soon, it will provide me with years or worry free service and a lot of lager beers.
The Chamber Holds Up To 4 Mr. Beer Kegs
The total cost of the project so far is under $200.00 and 4 or 5 trips to Home Depot, not to mention my time spent designing, building and finishing the chamber. The project was fun though and it gave me something to do while my current 3 batches of beer were fermenting away. The next time I post an update on Screwy's Fermentation Chamber I hope to show the finished product with 8 plus gallons of lager beer fermenting away.
Screwy's Fermentation Chamber In Progress
When I designed the fermentation chamber I had kept in mind that someday I would be using carboys or ale pails instead of the Mr. Beer little brown kegs. Today I mostly use 6.5 gallon white plastic fermentation pails for my 5 gallon batches. The chamber's inside dimensions allow it to hold two of these ale pails at a time with room to spare for the cool air to circulate.
At the time of this posting the chamber will be two years old in a couple of months and it still looks and works like the day I finished building it. I find myself using it more now than I ever imagined I would back then when I first thought of building one instead of buying a refrigerator and Johnson controller setup. Of course I did buy a small refrigerator for my beer, kegs and to make the frozen water bottles so now I have the best of both worlds.