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Mini-Fridge Fermentation Chamber Build with Instructions

07-19-2013

While preparing to launch our Kickstarter campaign, we decided to have some fun and build a small ferementation chamber using a small fridge.

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Our inspiration came from Broken Glass Brewery post

The build process and the result you can see in the video below.

The chamber is designed to fit 3 carboys or 2 carboys and a small keg with a few beer bottles and brewing supplies. It’s fairly easy to adjust the dimensions to fit only 1 carboy and fit inside a small apartment.

The Build

I’d like to take you step by step through the build process and provide plans at the end.

First the parts (Details at the end):

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Went to HomeDepot and got a bunch of things, including a floor-model 3.5 cubic feet fridge.

The fridge is a Magic Chef Stainless Look

First step was to remove all the shelves, door, legs and bend down the freezer tray to get the most space. Then we started building the bottom frame.

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This was followed by the vertical supports to hold the fridge in place and provide space for up to 3 carboys.

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The top frame was constructed next.

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We ended up building it piece by piece instead of assembling it entirely and then fixing it to the frame. On reflection, this might not have been the best idea as we’re not fantastic carpenters and measuring 2x4s after a few beers does not produce the best results. We think we made up for it later though.

We sealed with silicon calk the major areas we were concerned with before starting on insulation. This was the most time-consuming and difficult task.

We put in some pieces in the bottom to provide support, followed by the “floor”

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After that we started measuring and cutting pieces around the two sides. We used a very sharp knife, which cut down on the amount of insulation bits floating around.

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At this point we stopped with insulation and started taping everything down. This allowd us easy access to all the nooks and cranies without having to contort in all kinds of painful ways. I would say this took us the longest amount of time, about 3-4 hours.

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The most difficult portions were the corners. The trick we figured out was to work in small segments and pre-bend down the length and then peel back the first half, stick that down and then peel and stick the other half. If you stick to about 4-6 inches for each length, it’s fairly easy and doesn’t stick back on itself.

With that task complete, we cut the inside wall and inserted that in. Taping it down at this point would have been impossible, so we turned the fridge on the side and I climbed in and started taping.

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In 85+ degree weather it’s not the best thing in the world, but we had plenty of beer on tap, so that helped.

Having finished that we stopped for the day.  The next day we started filling in all the openings with more insulation.

This went a lot faster since we could get to each part easily.  We did realize just how crooked our framing was at this point, but we made up for it.

Once we had all the insulation cut and placed, we taped it all down.

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We didn’t want to leave it like that so we got some 1/8” plywood sheets and covered the frame with them.  It provides a more pleasant view than all the insulation, plus it helps protect the fragile insulation wrapping.

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We didn’t stop there though, ugly corners are not something we want around, so we got some corner guards and attached them.

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Originally, we were thinking of using the fridge door as the lid; its already insulated and has hinges, but it was too small, so we made one from a 1/2” plywood.  Attached a handle and a hinge stop and were getting to mostly done.

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The “piece de resistance” is, of course, BrewBit Model-T!  We built a small pedestal for it, run a probe to an RJ-11 phone wall plate and inside the chamber and attached everything together.

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We also added some insulation to the lid to sit inside the opening.  While we’re not in Arizona, San Diego does get hot, and we don’t want to risk ruining a batch.

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To finish off the unit we want to stain the wood and put on a polyurethane coating.  That should help with any spills and humidity.

We also need to install some kind of flooring cover to protect the insulation.  Linoleum seems like the best option at the moment as it’s cheap and easy to clean.

Hope you enjoyed reading about our build as much as we enjoyed building it.  If you’d like to build your own, here is a list of parts and some drawings of the various dimensions (Apologies for crudeness):

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Part List:

  • BrewBit Model-T (http://kck.st/13kN3yG)
  • Fridge (http://thd.co/1bMOoX0)
  • 2x4 studs * 6 - We went with Green Douglass Fir, it’s cheap but very very soft and splits easily
  • 2”x4’x8’ R-Max 2” Poly ISO Insulation.  We had a sheet of 1.5” lying around and used all of it and most of the 2” one. (http://thd.co/196sSx0)
  • EPDM Tape - The silver stuff to tape up all the seams
  • RJ-11 round wall plug
  • We already had silicon calk
  • 2.5” and 1 5/8” screws to assemble the frame with.  Depending on how you’re screwing everything together, some work better than others.
  • 2 x hinges (http://thd.co/13Dyp5T)
  • Door pull
  • Hinge Support - We used left-hand one (http://thd.co/1bMUZAD)
  • Corner Guard * 4

Costs

The total cost ended up just under $200, not counting the BrewBit.  We had some parts so that shaved off $50-$80 from the total build.  The fridge was a floor model, so ended up being a lot cheaper too.

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