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How Badly Do I Need A Fridge?

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einnebcj

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Almost ready to brew - ordering my grains tomorrow and all going well hope to do my first BIAB on Friday night or Saturday.
The more I read, the more nervous I become that I'm setting myself up for failure if I don't have a fridge and an stc-1000 to regulate the fermentation process. Don't want to really go to all the effort if I'm stacking to odds against myself by not having the temp controlled during fermentation. Is this something I should get before my first brew or can I get by for now (and how?) and get the fridge later.
CheersChris
 

felten

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Depending what the weather is like where you are, you can just leave the fermenter someplace where the temp is stable and a preferably a little lower than your fermentation range.

If it's too hot, you can cool the FV down with a wet towel and a fan, or put it in an enclosed space with some frozen water bottles of some kind.

I think most people started out without a fridge/temp control, and probably quite a few people still don't use a fridge+STC. I'd suggest it should be the next thing you invest in though.
 

Wolfy

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You will not 'fail' without a fridge, however (depending on where you live and the temperature) your beer may not be as good as it could be if it was kept stable at the desired fermentation temperature. Many home brewers (and home brewing experts) agree that temperature control during fermentation is one of the most critical aspects of producing good consistent quality beer - a fridge helps with that, but there are other methods that can also be used.
 

Mardoo

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Here's how I've dealt with the fridge question. This is about as low tech as it gets and depends entirely on thermal mass and a bit of insulation. And of course this clearly won't work in all the environments in Australia.

You can get quite stable low fermentation temperatures without a fridge if you have a garage with brick or concrete walls, ideally in a corner that doesn't get much sun on the outside of the walls. Being a cash-poor semi-luddite I find this method great fun, and it depends on the seasons so it hits that Mr. Natural yummy spot too. (You will, however, need a fridge if you want to lager for clarification.)

I grabbed a pallet from the warehouse I work in and a bunch of balled-up used pallet wrap (like glad wrap on steroids) and stuffed the pallet full of the wrap. It's great insulation. Every warehouse ends up with extra pallets and a crapload of wrap and slipsheets - plastic or fibreboard sheets that go between the goods and the pallet. Most would be happy to give you some as long as you don't make it their problem. I got a couple of those mylar emergency blankets from Aussie disposals and stapled them over the outside of the pallet and then nailed some plastic slipsheets over the whole thing. I wedged that into the corner of the garage and then measured the open triangle between the pallet and the walls and used the fibreboard slipsheets, another mylar blanket and some waste lumber I found, as well as more pallet wrap, to make a cap for the compartment.

I put a spare fermenter filled with water in the compartment to add more thermal mass to enhance the consistency of temperature. Using my little corner of the garage in late autumn, winter and early spring I regularly get a consistent 10-12 degree temperature in my fermenting beers. In spring/summer/autumn it keeps a consistent 19-21 degrees even if it gets to 38 in the garage (note the problem brutally hot days bring). The key is to use the cool night air to cool down the thermal mass of the garage and all the stuff in it. Garage stuffed with crap? That's a good thing in this case. Turn it to your advantage!!!

So, there are alternatives, but clearly you have to be a bit of a geek to hang onto this one, and dedicated to making it work. I WILL get a fridge one day but for now this allows me to focus my limited funds on regular brewing.

Hope you work out a good solution.
 

manticle

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Aiming to set myself up with a fermentation fridge in the next fortnight but been AG brewing for several years without one.

Fermentation temperature control is crucial to good beer (actual temp varies with the beer). A fridge is one way of controlling the temp and possibly easier than most others (although some people think setting and forgetting an FC fridge at 20 degrees makes good beer and subsequently they don't) BUT - as long as you have a method of keeping your wort (not the air around etc) at preferred temp, especially for the first few days (and remember fermentation generates heat) you can make superb beer.

Also consider brewing seasonally.
 

Wolfy

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(although some people think setting and forgetting an FC fridge at 20 degrees makes good beer and subsequently they don't)
Then I'm lucky I set mine to 18 or 19 degrees and not the dreaded 20 degrees!. :ph34r:
 

QldKev

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I think most brewers started life without a fermenting fridge. While I think a fermenting fridge is an awesome item for brewery you can get away without them, fridges just make life easier. Work out what yeast you plan on using and it's appropriate fermenting temp. Then allow early stages of fermenting is exothermic so you will need to aim for slightly cooler in the test. Put the fermenter full of water (or better still a napisan mix) in the proposed spot for fermenting and try and keep it at the correct temp. Depending on where you are in oz and what yeast temps required you will soon work out if heating or cooling is needed. If heating is needed a heat belt can be used. If cooling either draping a damp towel over it, sit it in a water bath, then blowing air at it OR wrap it up with old towels / jumpers and throw in an ice bottle or two.

A couple of points I think for good fermenting. Keep the temp at the correct temp. Keep the temp stable. A lot of the flavour is created within the first couple of days of fermenting (allow a good healthy yeast pitch), so be really annal about temp control for that period.

QldKev
 

verysupple

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Totally agree with QldKev. My 2c: You can make good beer (i.e. much better than mass-produced commercial lager *caugh* VB *caugh*) just brewing seasonally, you can make great beer using the techniques QldKev said and you can make fantastic beer using a fridge+STC. So I guess it depends what your aim is. If you want to drink great beer with mates, you're set. If you're entering comps you may have a problem (but why waste good beer on judges? :p ).
 

Mike L'Itorus

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Totally agree with QldKev. My 2c: You can make good beer (i.e. much better than mass-produced commercial lager *caugh* VB *caugh*) just brewing seasonally, you can make great beer using the techniques QldKev said and you can make fantastic beer using a fridge+STC. So I guess it depends what your aim is. If you want to drink great beer with mates, you're set. If you're entering comps you may have a problem (but why waste good beer on judges? :p ).
agree. Look, the main issue (imo, but shared by many) that people have is with the cold side rather than the hot side. (ie, with the fermentation process, rather than the brewing process). Much of the problem is to do with uncontrolled temperatures. However, that being said, you are already a step ahead of many by acknowledging that it may present an issue. As mentioned, sensible yeast choice, bearing in mind your temperature capabilities, will go a long way in ensuring a quality end product. It just requires a little bit of forethought. Having a fridge, though, will enable you to tighten the parameters of the brew to a high degree, and give you the flexibility of being able to ferment what you want, when you want.

and for the purposes of fermenting....you can often pick up fridges for nothing, or next to nothing, that are too clapped out for adequate safe food storage temperatures......but are more than good enough to hold a fermenter at 18C. ;)
 

Wolfy

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[quote name='Mike L'Itorus' post='962984' date='Oct 16 2012, 11:41 AM']and for the purposes of fermenting....you can often pick up fridges for nothing, or next to nothing, that are too clapped out for adequate safe food storage temperatures......but are more than good enough to hold a fermenter at 18C. ;)[/quote]
Actually two of my 'beer' fridges have the opposite problem (one was free the other was $10).
The thermostat is broken so they stay on all the time and freeze everything inside - which makes them ideal when attached to an external (digital) temperature controller - but less useful for a normal fridge which is why people get rid of them.
 

Mike L'Itorus

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Actually two of my 'beer' fridges have the opposite problem (one was free the other was $10).
The thermostat is broken so they stay on all the time and freeze everything inside - which makes them ideal when attached to an external (digital) temperature controller - but less useful for a normal fridge which is why people get rid of them.
my last one was like this. Fine with a controler, as you say. Six of one, half a dozen of the other....but add a tempmate, fridgemate, stc, or any other sort of controler...and happy days.

Although, in the 'stay on all the time freezing all the food' versus the 'doesn't get cold enough for food' race, the former is imo better for brewing (with a controller), because you can do both the ferment, and the cold conditioning in the one; wheras the latter might be fine for the ferment, but not get cold enough for the crash chill and/or conditioning. Either way, cheap as chips in any case; or free, which is even better. Freecycle, gumtree, hard rubbish collection, other brewers moving onto bigger and better things....all of these are your friends.
 

mmmyummybeer

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I also brewed for years without a fridge. I just kept my fermentor inside, as our house has central heating and air-con. Sometimes the house got a little warm and I used to wrap a wet towel around the fermentor, but the beers all turned out ok.

As long as you have the knowledge to brew good beer you will always find ways to adapt to the equipment that you have, whether it be a wet towel or bucket of warm or icy water etc. So no need to stress what you don't have it will come later, (and probable lots more other stuff you never thought you would get :lol: )
 

tricache

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I also brewed for years without a fridge. I just kept my fermentor inside, as our house has central heating and air-con. Sometimes the house got a little warm and I used to wrap a wet towel around the fermentor, but the beers all turned out ok.

As long as you have the knowledge to brew good beer you will always find ways to adapt to the equipment that you have, whether it be a wet towel or bucket of warm or icy water etc. So no need to stress what you don't have it will come later, (and probable lots more other stuff you never thought you would get :lol: )
I just did the wet towel trick (and two 2L frozen water bottles) just recently...30degree heat outside, beer sat at 18 degree...cannot complain :)
 

RobboMC

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I brewed in the ensuite shower recess for many years before getting my first fridge.

It's amazing what a cold wet towel and a puddle of water ( block the drain of course )
can do in a brick walled bathroom.

Sooner or later though you will yearn for a fridge. In the meantime brew to your hearts content.

You may find Jan and Feb a bit too hot to brew in, so a few dozen spare bottles to fill
in advance to get you through will be handy. Brew lagers in winter, ales in spring and autumn
and just drink in summer.

I know a brewer that just won a class of the NSW Brew Comp and he brews in his brick garage
without a fridge!!! Cop that!
 

431neb

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Wolfy, as a beginner I muddle through with what resources I have. I found this method to be pretty effective when I shove an ice pack between the barrel and the insulation. Yes my shed is that messy.

View attachment 57833

PS See my PM re hop rhizomes.

PPS Apologies to all if the photo is too big or not there.

FFS !! That's some poor bastards bathroom.. ... I'll try again. I hope this works
 

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Spiesy

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Re: brewing in seasons. Problem is, I like to drink lagers in summer and heavy ales, porters and stouts in winter...

And I keg.

Fridge fermenting all the way for me. A bit of a pain in the arse to setup, but it gives you options to brew what you want, and a better chance of making sure it comes out right.
 

Blitzer

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+1.

I Keep a couple of spare bottles in the freezer, rotate and repeat.
Yeah I do the same swamp cooler with some freeze packs.

Though I've almost setup a fridge I just need to wait to next pay day and I will get myself a 20l jerry to fit in the bar fridge. (already got a controller)
 

manticle

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If you're entering comps you may have a problem
No problem here.

Fridge just makes things easier - plug and play, set and forget. There are other methods and if you spend the time and effort, you can make beer as good as using any other method of temp control.

Two firsts last year, two this year in Vicbrew with beer fermented in the no chill cube, in the laundry sink. Even when I set up my fermentation fridge in a couple of weeks, I'll only be able to ferment one beer at a time so I'll still be brewing seasonally for the others (and my ferment fridge will need to be my lagering/cold conditioning fridge).

@wolfy: I just mean that a fridge set at 20 degrees may see someone actually fermenting wort at 23 degrees if they're not aware and not checking wort temps rather than ambient temps. I presume you know this but not everybody will.
 

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