Fermentation Chamber Reviews: Which One Should You Use To Control The Temperature Of Your Homebrew?

mini fridge fermentation chamber

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As a homebrewer, you know that yeast plays one of the most important roles when it comes to making great beer. Without yeast, there is no beer.

The yeast is responsible for converting the the sugary wort into alcohol during fermentation. But it’s also a big factor in cleaning up nasty off-flavors in your finished beer….. but only if the yeast can do its work in the right temperature and environment.

A fermentation chamber is a simple solution for keeping the yeast nice and happy while it does its job.

Fortunately, there are several fermentation chamber options available when it comes to controlling the light and temperature of your brewing box.

You can be creative with a DIY fermentation chamber and build a fermentation chamber yourself, or you can buy one that comes already assembled and ready to go like a stainless steel conical fermenter with temperature control.

Table of Contents

What is a Fermentation Chamber?

fermentation chamber, or brewing cabinet, is a place where your brew will rest while it ferments over the next 10 to 14 days. Having a fancy setup is not necessary to achieve a great final product, creating a cheap fermentation chamber can be as simple as finding a dedicated space in a closet.

Creating a chamber allows you to easily control the temperature of your ferment, either warm or cold, as the yeast requires, to create a particular style such as ale or lager.

There are various ways to create a space for your brew while it ferments. From DIY chambers to sophisticated models that are easy to set up, there’s options for different needs, and budgets.

Fermentation Chamber Options

Homebrewers have a wide range of options when it comes to controlling the light and temperature of your fermenting beer. You can be creative with various DIY solutions, or purchase equipment that require no assembly or modifications.

Listed below are 5 different ways you can keep your yeast nice and happy, and at the most optimal temperature while your beer is fermenting.

  • Swamp Cooler
  • Son of Fermentation Chiller
  • Modified Chest/Freezer
  • Conical Fermenter With Temperature Control
  • Cool and Dark Room

Swamp Cooler

Though the name may sound a bit strange, a swamp cooler is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to chill your fermenter.

There are a few different easy DIY variations when creating one. It simply controls the temperature of your homebrew by submerging the fermenter into a large bath of ice water.

You may use items such as a cooler, or a galvanized steel tub. You will need a lot of ice, frozen packs, or even frozen vegetables. Also, a fan to circulate the cool air around the fermenter, and a stick-on thermometer.

Once you submerge the fermenter, wait for one hour to get an initial temperature reading. Then, get a second reading a few hours later. Using a swamp cooler is easy, but it is not a set it and forget it. You need to constantly monitor the temps and add ice as it melts to maintain a steady temperature.

Pros

  • Easy to assemble
  • Very inexpensive
  • Simple to operate

Cons

  • Difficult to maintain a steady temperature as ice melts
  • Cannot walk-away, requires constant monitoring
  • Your brew can spoil rapidly if unattended
Here Is What You Need
  • Large galvanized tub
  • Lots of ice and water, or freezer packs
  • Stick-on thermometer to monitor the beer temperature
  • An optional small fan for more cooling. A fan blowing on the ice water will circulate the cold air around the fermenter. This is extremely helpful in hotter conditions.

Son of Fermentation Chamber

This chamber also has quite an interesting name, and might make you think of Frankenstein. It is a setup that was invented by a homebrewer back in 1995 as a DIY project.

It’s great for a homebrewer that wants to use everyday items to create an easy chamber for fermentation, and built to handle the height of a 7-gallon bucket with the airlock installed.

Like the swamp cooler, but a bit more advanced, the Son of Fermentation Chamber is composed of an insulated box, a fan, and a thermostat. However, this option is much more effective as it requires less monitoring and uses less ice.

It is an inexpensive way to ferment your brew if you have some woodworking skills. For safety reasons, including electric shock and fire, it is designed to use 12-volt DC voltage instead of a 120-volt AC circuit.

Pros

  • Budget-friendly
  • Requires little supervision
  • Simple components

Cons

  • You need woodworking skills and tools
  • Can be a fire or safety hazard if using 120 VAC household current
 
 ** For a complete instruction and installation guide, click here.

Mini Fridge Fermentation Chamber - Modified Chest/Freezer

Another great DIY project is taking a mini fridge or a chest freezer of at least 5 cubic feet, and converting it into a mini fridge fermentation chamber, or even a chest freezer fermentation chamber. If you plan on using a large chest freezer, you can also use it as a kegerator and hold your kegs by converting it to a DIY keezer.

In addition to the freezer or refrigerator, you will also need to control and monitor the temperature inside of the chamber. An Inkbird Digital Temperature Controller, is often the preferred choice for many homebrewers.

The Inkbird controls the compressor of the the freezer or mini fridge by turning off when the desired temperature is reached, and then will turn back on when the temp falls below the set point.

Alternatively, a modified chest freezer or fridge can also be used to keep the fermenter warm as well.  You can use a heating element such as the Propagate Pro Brewing and Fermentation Heat Pad to keep the yeast at a warmer temperature.

Pros

  • Easy to make
  • Requires little monitoring
  • Effective automated temperature control
  • Can double as a kegerator or keezer

Cons

  • Requires lots of heavy lifting to place fermenters inside
  • Components might be expensive for some homebrewers
  • Uses more electricity than other options
Here Is What You Need
  • New or used refrigerator or chest freezer (at least 5 cubic feet or larger)
  • Digital temperature controller with automatic shut-off
  • 120 Volt receptacle

Conical Fermenter with Temperature Control

For advanced homebrewers that don’t mind investing more money on their equipment and make large quantities, a conical fermenter with temperature control is ideal.

The Grainfather Conical Bundle is a preferred choice, which provides the best professional fermentation control similar to what commercial breweries use.

Since fermentation is one of the most important factors for a quality brew, this piece of equipment allows you to easily achieve any brewing style. It also makes it easy to use a variety of add-ons to further enhance your homebrew.

You will be able to adjust to the perfect temperature with its bottom patented dual valve digital temperature controller.

Pros

  • Best option for optimum temperature control featuring an LED display screen
  • High quality insulation and control
  • Performs exactly as advertised
  • You can achieve professional-grade brewing
  • Can last a lifetime if well maintained

Cons

  • Most expensive option on the list

Cool and Dark Room

If you have a dark and cool space, or you happen to live in a cave, you’ll have a perfect location for your ferment! Ideally, you’ll want a floor that can withstand spills and is easy to clean.

Many homebrewers use a walk-in closet, brewing cabinet, basement, garage, or even a bathtub in a guest bathroom. The key is finding a place where sunlight does not enter and where it can be left uninterrupted without the need to move it.

It is a great choice for homebrewers that only brew seasonally and don’t want to spend too much money setting up a chamber. You’ll need a stick-on thermometer and ice packs.

Pros

  • Simple to set up
  • Budget-friendly
  • Ideal for seasonal homebrewers

Cons

  • Difficult to maintain consistent temperature control
  • Must be closely supervised
  • Changing ice packs is inconvenient

The Importance of Regulating Temperature and Light

A key factor in fermentation is regulating light and temperature. Your finished brew will have a higher quality of clarity, flavor, and gravity when the right fermentation light and temperature are kept.

Whether your chamber is basic or advanced, the important function you want to accomplish is simply keeping the brew at the right light and temperature to avoid a foul finished product. This essential step allows the yeast inside your homebrew to transform your wort into a delicious brew.

The various settings for light and temperature allow different strains of yeast to produce particular brew varieties. Conditions must be ideal for the strain of yeast for it to produce the expected results.

For instance, when fermenting a lager, a cooler temperature is needed of approximately 45°F to 55°F (7°C to 13°C). Fermenting an ale, on the other hand, requires ideal temperatures of 68°F to 72°F (20°C to 22°C).

You must remember that turning the sugars in your wort into quality brew components and alcohol is a heat-generating process. Fermentation creates heat, and it can generate as much as 10°F to 15°F (6°C to 8°C) in a 5-gallon batch of beer.

Heat is necessary for the fermentation process to happen, but too much heat can contribute to off-flavors in your beer:

Fusel Alcohols

When yeast encounters high temperatures, it produces a compound known as fusel alcohols, which is German for “bad liquor”.

They are a type of alcohol that is heavier than ethanol, which is preferred for beer. It results in solvent-like flavors that will not give you pleasing results.

Diacetyl

If your homebrew becomes too warm during the fermentation process, you will end up producing excess diacetyl, which gives your brew a buttery flavor.

You may use a diacetyl rest to help the yeast clean up these excess compounds, but if the temperature is too warm, the diacetyl rest won’t be able to clean up the flavor entirely, leaving you with a dairy-like brew, and an awful disaster!

Esters

Another key in achieving the results you’re looking for is controlling the fruity alcohols known as esters.

Warmer temperatures make the yeast produce excess esters, which can leave your brew with a fruity taste instead of the actual flavor of the brew you seek.

When brewing ales, you will want varying degrees of esters, but to achieve the crisp and clean taste and texture of a lager, then you need to keep esters to a minimum.

Another key in achieving the results you’re looking for is controlling the fruity alcohols known as esters. Warmer temperatures make the yeast produce excess esters, which can leave your brew with a fruity taste instead of the actual flavor of the brew you seek.

When brewing ales, you will want varying degrees of esters, but to achieve the crisp and clean taste and texture of a lager, then you need to keep esters to a minimum.

Excessive Cold Temperatures

The yeast cannot get too cold either as it will kill it or make them sluggish failing to complete the fermentation process. One of the biggest enemies of a great brew is fluctuating temperatures.

The successful fermentation process requires a consistent temperature, which is provided by a regulated chamber. This piece of equipment avoids your homebrew from being under or over fermented. It is an important process within the initial 72 hours of fermentation, which is when the yeast is busy converting the wort into an amazing brew.

UV Exposure

Light is another factor that affects the target finish, gravity, and flavor of your final brew.

Your homebrew should be kept out of the light, sunlight in particular. UV light can cause a skunky flavor in your finished beer. Plus, light can generates heat, which can also change your fermentation temperature.

Final Say - The Best Fermentation Chambers

Being able to properly control the temperature and light of your homebrew while it ferments is what will give you the best quality brew. Not all homebrewers are alike, thus choosing a chamber depends on how much do you brew, your DIY skills, and of course your budget.

Regardless of which option you choose, consistency is the key. To produce the best brew, you want the temperature to have consistent readings so that the yeast can turn your wort into the desired brew style you are seeking.

Whether you use a simple DIY fermentation chamber or a fancy conical fermenter, you will get the desired results as long as you are able to maintain the temperature necessary to brew a great tasting beer.

Happy brewing!

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