New Upright Freezer: the Solution to Bottling from a Fermentation Chamber

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.

IMG_20160611_160846603

IMG_20160611_160900996

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.

IMG_20160611_160840172_HDR

 

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).

IMG_20160611_160857226

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.

 

 

 

Advertisements

10 thoughts on “New Upright Freezer: the Solution to Bottling from a Fermentation Chamber

  1. Nice updated setup! I love that inkbird temperature controller, it has been reliable and is so user friendly. I must admit, I was a little hesitant based on the low price, but I have no regrets several batches in. I also have the same ceramic heater, but ended up abandoning it in my setup because of how hot it seemed to get. I had some initial concerns with it, but what sealed it for me was when I almost burned my hand on the inside of the freezer compartment after it had been running for a bit. I ended up switch out to a reptile heater I set my carboy on.

    You have a lot more open air with your setup (I am using a 5 cf. chest freezer) but have you had any concerns with the amount of heat this thing throws off? Just curious.

    Always enjoy your posts, keep at it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the warning on the heat. I’m hoping it’s far enough away from the sides of the freezer to melt anything. I will keep a close eye, especially in the winter.

      Like

  2. Great article. Keep writing and shower your readers with such useful information. Keep it Up!!!
    Kies brings the latest range of high capacity Kieis Vertical Freezers that are super power-saver and super-chillier systems that provide best storage options. The systems are also having locking and wheel systems for better use.

    Like

  3. Jonathan Popoli says:

    I am a huge fan of your approach. Awesome. I am in the process of gathering all the needed equipment. I will most likely get an upright freezer like yours. How did you get the Inkbird probe cord and heater cord inside the freezer? Did you drill holes through the freezer wall? Thanks for providing such an amazing source of information.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Jonathan.
      I didn’t drill any holes and it seals just fine. The cords sneak in through the normal seal. Because the freezer is new, it seals tight and seems to work–I never see any bugs getting in.

      Like

  4. Don’t have the exact measurements, but it’s a full size freezer, if that helps, roughly the same size as a fridge. I can measure it for you if you want. It was from Lowes, one of the cheaper ones. Any upright freezer that has removable shelves would work well for brewing.

    Like

  5. Ryan says:

    Hi Matt, I just brewed my very first batch last night with a standard Brewcraft kit. Just found your site today, thank you for it. My first idea was “why so many vessels” and now after perusing your site I’ve discovered I can easily and inexpensively stay out of the kitchen and bathtub to boot, awesome! Question on this though – are you snaking the temp controller probe into the beer or just measuring the air temp inside the chamber (and checking the beer temp more frequently)? If probing the beer – any commentary on limiting contamination? I’m imagining building a temperature probe port into your vessel that would accommodate the controller probe and optionally also a temp probe for the heating phase.

    Liked by 1 person

    • During the first few days of fermentation, I snake the temp probe into the beer itself, so the lid isn’t fully sealed. My main reason: fermenting beer gets much hotter than the outside temp. After that, I usually tape the probe to the outside of the pot and set the temp to 70ish.

      Building a port in the vessel would be ideal, sounds great.

      Like

      • Ryan says:

        Thanks Matt,
        Since I wrote that entry I found The Weekend Brewer offers a $15 (#10 airlock-size) thermowell via Amazon I think your temp controller probe will fit into. To install the thermowell, one could drill a hole in the side of the pot and install with sealant, or similarly into a fermentation lid (arguably without the need for sealant). If one felt there’s no need for an airlock, one could use the airlock hole in a purpose-built fermenter lid such as Hobby Homebrew’s fermentation lid for the Brewer’s Edge Mash and Boil/Grainfather available on Amazon (or drill a second hole). I’m considering the Brewer’s Edge Mash and Boil for $300 as my one-pot and never deal with propane.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s