What is a fermentation chamber? Simply put, It is the place where the beer fermenter goes to control its temperature. I started with a tub of water and a towel to "swamp" the carboy. I quickly learned that this is the bare minimum. This can help keep the yeast from making bad flavors. But we want to make great beer - not just beer with less bad flavors. Enter temperature control...
This project tasks a Danby 4.4 "all refrigerator" and turns in into a fermenting chiller, crash cooler, and even a hot box for making sour beers all while keeping the temperature within 1 degree Fahrenheit or Celsius.
1) Danby 4.4 Cu. Ft. Compact "All-Refrigerator" Model: DAR044A5BSLD
(Do not get the "compact refrigerator with the top freezer - too small)
1) Infrared reptile heater 60 watt
1) Temporary light socket medium base 2 wire (to energize reptile heater) (hardware store)
1) on/off 110v switch
1) 2 outlet wall receptacle
1) fan 120mm/12volt with plug (not hardwired)
2) Wall mount gang boxes (or 1 dual gang box) and appropriate cover for switch and wall receptacle.
- 10' lamp wire (2 conductor) (just buy a 10' 16 gauge extension cord, it already has the male connector needed.)
- 4' 3 conductor wire 14 gauge or larger.
- 2'x3' white vinyl 1/16" thick.
- assorted wire nuts
- Some scrap plywood for building a mount for the temperature controller.
4) 3/4" self tapping metal screws
12) 1" wood screws
1) Spray can black appliance epoxy paint (opt)
1) Liquid Nails (panel and foam) (opt)
1) 1/2" or larger i.d. grommet.
Temperature range: 30F to >110F
Approximate cost: $280 give or take.
Here is an inside and outside look at the Danby 4.4 "all refrigerator". Note, there is no top freezer in this model.
**After you receive the refrigerator, make sure you plug it in on the coldest setting for 12 - 24 hours. You are going to render this appliance nonreturnable, so make sure it works!!**
The first step is, unfortunately, the hardest step - interior door removal. Pictured here is the door with the gasket removed. Just pull at the gasket firmly a few inches at-a-time, careful not to tear it.
Here comes the Dremel. The hardware stores sell a plastic cutting circular bit for the Dremel, it worked very well. You want to cut the plastic so the the gasket can be put back on the door and that there is a small lip (approx. 1/8") for the vinyl to fit under.
If you have a samurai sword, now is the time to use it. I just pulled hard until the foam broke away. This method causes the door to cave in. I would try cutting is slowly next time with a long knife ... or sword :).
A little Liquid Nails pieced the door together nicely.
Note: It will make the vinyl installation easier if the foam does not protrude beyond the plane of the door's plastic. Making it all nice and flat will give a good surface for which the vinyl to adhere.
Also, use a small screwdriver and remove the foam that is just touching the plastic door's edge. This will allow the vinyl to easily go under the rim.
Here is the getto template I used to build the temperature controller mount. I had some plastic which matched nicely with the top of the fridge. You can uses plywood and paint it black.
The only thing I forgot was to angle the front bottom panel so it would mount flat on the refrigerator. The lid of the Danby comes off with a couple of screws, and the temperature mount can be attached from the underside of the lid.
Use woods screws to put together and mount.
Here we see the vinyl installed with a cutout in the center. I used the Liquid Nails to adhere it to the fridge.
This refrigerator is not quite big enough to fit my SS brew bucket fermenter. I believe it will accommodate 5, 5.5, 6 gal carboys without cutting the vinyl. A 6.5 gal will also fit, but some trimming of the door will be needed.
At this point I decided to paint, but it would be wise to paint at the end of the project as to avoid scratching. This is of course optional. If you do paint, make sure to sand the stainless finish so the paint will stick.
*Beware, this paint is messy! but holds up well.*
And now to the electrical part. I am not an electrician, and would only recommend the following if you are capable with electrical work. If not, get an electrician! Anymore questions? See my home page's disclaimer.
For the heater socket, I used the existing screws to mount an "L" bracket against either the back rail, or the cooling plate and ran the wire down the back of the rail. Drilling a hole in the interior bottom back of the fridge allows the wires to pass through and keeps my drill away from the refrigerant lines - add grommet.
The fan is mounted on a thin piece of aluminum. Here it is on the floor, but I decided to add another "L" bracket to the right side and mount it high.
The thermostat's probe is taped against a piece of foam so I can bungee it to the side of my fermenter.
I have mounted the gang boxes so there was no way I would hit a refrigerant line. The switch turns the whole contraption on/off. The right plug is the fan which runs continuously when the switch is on. The fan helps regulate the temp. and keeps moisture from building - less chance of mold. FYI: I also use Damp-rid.
The left plug is for the heater. It only comes on when the thermostat says so. The chilling is also a slave to the thermostat.
Mount gang boxes with self tapping screws.
Here is the wiring diagram for electrical. Note that I used the ITC-1000 controller which displays in F or C. The STC-1000 can be wired in the same way.