My minimalist philosophy of reducing wasted motion has forced me into this purchase (riiiiiight). After much thought and failed attempts to find a cheaper alternative, I finally scrapped my old craiglist fridge/fermentation chamber and replaced it with a new and improved upright freezer/fermentation chamber. This is by far the most expensive piece of brewing equipment I have, and will, buy. But damn it’s nice.
How did we get here? When I first started homebrewing, I worried too much about fermentation. For good reason. Temperature does matter, and temperature swings matter. I distinctly remember opening a batch of super fizzy, overcarbonated beer. I had been fermenting in the basement: too cold, too slow, a brewer too impatient, leaving an underfermented, fizzy beer. Learning my lesson, I started fermenting in the kitchen, which was probably still too cold in the winter, but an improvement nonetheless – no more fizz bombs. Yet having a fermenting beer in the kitchen is not ideal, or practical, and involved moving the beer too much in my opinion. My ultimate goal was to never move the beer.
Thus, 50 or so batches latter, I got a 30 dollar fridge, rigged it with an STC-1000, put a heat lamp in, and began experimenting with the convenience of temperature control. This was great. I never worried about temperature, I could make excellent Belgians, and I could use it to cold crash. However, I had three problems. First, because it was old, it took forever to get really cold. In the summer, it took days to get to freezing, and was horribly inefficient. Because I was using it to chill my hot beer, that was an issue. Second, the top freezer was unusable dead space. I could barely fit my pot in it, leaving no room to dry hop or add gelatin. Third, it’s too short for bottling. My bottling wand would be too low for comfort. So, when the beer was ready to bottle, I would have to move it to the freezer part. That stirs up the sediment and it’s God damn heavy. If you’re going to have a fermentation chamber, and if you’re going to bottle directly from it, then an upright freezer makes the most sense. It puts the beer at the perfect height for bottling.
So, back to my old crappy fridge. I thought I had a solution. I built a simple little platform for the fridge to stand on, using cinder blocks and a piece of thick plywood, which elevated the whole thing about a foot (the platform is shown in the picture above).
Still too short. Bummer.
I looked high and low for a cheap upright freezer from Craigslist. What you find are older models that don’t have removable shelves; the shelves are fixed and too short for a pot of beer to fit in. Removable shelves, then, are crucial. I learned that only ‘frost free’ newer models have totally customizable shelves likes that. Lowes had a perfectly sized one for a price I could swallow ($475), so I took the plunge.
I’m hoping to sell my old fridge/fermentation chamber on Craiglist.
I also got an Inkbird temperature controller, a simple plug-n-play device, rather than the STC-1000 which requires wiring. I attached it to the freezer with velcro.
That’s not all. Previously, I had a heat lamp for heating control, attached to the inside of the fridge. Bad idea. The heat lamp got so hot that it melted the plastic of the refrigerator. So instead I got a Lasco personal ceramic heater from Lowes.com. You simply plug it in to the Inkbird and that’s it. The whole system took my minutes to ‘install’ (plug in).
And here’s the payoff. While I’m brewing a beer, I can set this bitch to -20C. It will get there fast, even in the summer. This thing is a beast. I then proceed to make a beer: mash, boil, and chill to 100F or whatever. I place the beer in the freezer, let it cool, pitch the yeast, and wait. When it’s time to dry hop, I simply open the freezer door, open the lid, and throw the dry hops in. When it’s time to cold crash, I simply drop the temperature. When it’s time to add gelatin, I simply open the freezer door, open the lid, and add gelatin. When it’s time to bottle, I simply attach the bottling want and start bottling.
The beer never moves. I cannot wait. IPA, here we come.