If you are trying to make better beer one thing that can help is being able to control your fermentation temps. Some people are fortunate to have a temperature stable area (such as a basement) to store their beer while it ferments. I am not one of those people and, if you’re like me, you may be looking for a good option for this problem. One option is to accept our limitations by brewing styles that do well with the ambient temperatures of our house or brew shed. Another option is to make a fermentation chamber.
There are a lot of different and effective ways to do this. If you Google “How to Make a Fermentation Chamber” or something similar, you’ll have no shortage of material for inspiration. What I was after for my brewing needs is an inexpensive, easy to move, simple fermentation chamber. Let me show you how I accomplished that.
To pay the brewing bills, I work at a veterinary clinic. We get our vaccines delivered in some large Styrofoam coolers. One day it dawned on me that the Mr. Beer LBKs I use as fermentation vessels might fit nicely in them. I saved one from the dumpster and sure enough they fit quite well, thus was born the freebie fermentation chamber.
Heating and Cooling
To keep the beer at an ideal temperature while it fermented, I tried several things. What ended up working best was another item from work that got tossed in the trash quite a bit…reusable ice packs. All it takes is a few packs to maintain a pretty steady 65 degrees F. By varying the size of ice pack and how many I add, I can regulate the temperature control a little bit. By adding a small heating mat connected to an STC-1000 controller I have pushed a few Saisons in to the 80’s and they turned out great.
An inexpensive digital aquarium thermometer can be used to keep tabs on the temperature. Just stick it to the side of the LBK and tape a few layers of bubble wrap over it. While not as accurate as a thermowell reading, it gives you a pretty good idea of how things are going.
These fermentation chambers also stack pretty well so if/when I’m fermenting more than one beer they only take up the footprint of one cooler. With 2 gallons of beer in each one, they’re easily manageable if you need to move them around.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, the total cost for this project was dirt cheap. You may need to spend a little if you don’t have a thermometer or if you need a heating pad. You’ll be hard pressed to get any more friendly to the wallet than this though. It may not be the best in terms of how well you can fine tune the fermentation profile, but it will help you make better beer. I know because my beer has been better since using these fermentation chambers.