Ale Fermenter Box
The dimensions are 4'X2'X8' but after subtracting for insulation and for wasted channel space, the total storage capacity is 46.4 cu. ft.
I currently store cases of barelywine and 2-3 corneys in the top section. The middle section holds 3 - 6.5 gal and 1 - 5 gal carboys. I originally planned on using the bottom section for grains but shortly found it more useful for ageing 5 gallon corneys. I can store 10 kegs leaving room for rotating the kegs in and out.
Defining My Needs
Because of the almost year around heat in the Houston area, I needed a ferment cooler that could store several batches. I also like to age the bigger OG brews for several weeks before tapping them so I needed a way to store them. My garage was the best location but it runs close to 100º in the summer. I looked around at different options but most didn't suit my needs.
The fist and perhaps most popular option was to purchase a large chest freezer and temp controller. This works for a lot of home brewers, and has the advantage of being able to lager. Since I already had a 5 cubic foot freezer for lagering, my main need was for fermenting and storage so even the biggest chest freezers wouldn't provide enough room.
Second was purchasing a larger used commercial type cooler. This seemed like a very good solution but would require a bit of luck running down the right equipment and being in the right price at the right time.
Third and most appealing to me was to build a walk-in a cold room. While this was my favorite option, it would have hit the pocketbook a little too hard, so I settled on a compromise.
How "Big Bertha" Works
I could have built this with wire racks shelves but chose to make chambers that could maintain different temperatures. To accomplish this I built a channel to route the air flow from the bottom chamber up to the intake on the AC unit.
To allow air to flow between chambers I drilled several 2.5" holes. Seven holes for air intake and seven more for outflow. With the air flow restricted the temperatures will vary quit a bit between chambers. For example, after running the box for 24 hours and the outside air at 90º I found the following temperature in the box. The top sections was 53.5º, the middle section was 61.4º, and the bottom section was at 65º.
Warming In The Winter
The first Winter after building the box I contemplated using a lamp and an external controller. Instead I found this dual 1000/1500 watt heater with built in thermostat for $40 at Wal-Mart. Works great and keeps the temperature right at 65º. Around here the heater is only needed 2-3 months of the year. Next year I believe I'll hang it above the carboy's to maximize shelf space.
Shows the 2"x2" framework before the front panel was installed.
Yours truly attaching the front panel to the frame. To add strength to the box I attached all the wall's from the inside out using construction adhesive. A C-clamp was used to hold the plywood tight against the 2"x2" frame until the deck screws were attached. The 2" deck screws were just long enough to get a good bite in the plywood without going all the way through.
GE 5,200 BTU 110 VAC Unit. ($120 at Sam's Wholesale)
An Amber Ale, Brown Ale and Oatmeal Stout all ready to keg.
Sealing The Doors
Here's a close-up of how the door seal was constructed. I stapled the tubular insulation into place and then applied construction adhesive to the bottom of the wood lattice and nailed it down on top of the insulation. The lattice provides backing for the tubing.
After running it a couple of days I found a few places around the doors that were not sealing well and moisture was forming. The doors were a little flimsy and were starting to bow out on the corners. So, I added sash latches to the top and bottom of each door to give it a tighter seal. That took care of the leaks and no more moisture.
Est. Yearly Cost: