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External Refrigerator Controllers

M

maddspoiler

Does anybody have any experience with external refrigerator controllers such as those sold from Williams or Midwest Supplies? I am looking at buying one soon for lagering/brewing during the warmer months and wondering... What one is the best bang for the buck? Or any companies/units I should stay away from? Thanks,
 

Ziggybrew

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I think they are all expensive.  For what it's worth, I'm happy with my Johnson analog controller. There was a DIY project floating around that I've been trying to find. Let us know if you've seen it.
 

jomebrew

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I have three Johnson analog controllers.  I have not complaints.  Sure, 66f is a little harder to pinpoint than a digital, but it aint that hard  ;D
 

BobBrews

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Don't forget to scan the web for best prices no matter what you buy. Craigslist, Ebay the whole gamut. I was looking a few years ago and although I didn't buy. It was a LOT cheaper on the net. Cheers!
 

jomebrew

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BobBrews said:
Don't forget to scan the web for best prices no matter what you buy. Craigslist, Ebay the whole gamut. I was looking a few years ago and although I didn't buy. It was a LOT cheaper on the net. Cheers!

This is generally true but I tend to support my local homebrew shop when it makes sense.  I don't always save a few bucks when I can pop over to the shop and get one.  for example, I have two new and one used controller.  I really like having the shop nearby and being able to drop right in anytime and get stuff.  I live in Silicon Valley and we pay serious sales tax.  Local prices are very competitive at MoreBeer and it is not uncommon for shipping and tax to be close enough that I don't end up saving much off the web so we might be a bit of a different case here.
 
M

maddspoiler

I found quite a few DIY projects on this subject but they can cost as much or more than an external controller from Williams. I believe buying one will be quicker and safer. Thanks,
 

Maine Homebrewer

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I've got one of the digital controllers from Williams Homebrewing and I like it.
I use it to turn a chest freezer into a keg cooler.

As far as lager goes, I'm fairly new. Last season was my first real attempt. I took advantage of my basement being in the low 50s during the winter. At the moment I have two kegged lagers in said chest freezer maturing at 32 degrees.  I must say the changes this brew is going through as it ages are amazing.
That means my ale must be dispensed at 32 as well.  Oh well. Purists be damned. Cold beer is nice.

I've never used my controller to maintain fermentation temperature.

I do ale when it is too warm for lager, and I'll be doing lager from now on when my basement is cool enough.

Cheers!
 
M

maddspoiler

I unfortunately do not have the luxury of a cool basement to ferment in. If I want to brew at all this summer it will have to be in the fridge.  :'(  Im trying to find a chest freezer on craigslist to ferment in then use the fridge for kegs/lagering.
 

Ziggybrew

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maddspoiler said:
I found quite a few DIY projects on this subject but they can cost as much or more than an external controller from Williams. I believe buying one will be quicker and safer. Thanks,
That is useful, thanks. 
 

Rusty Nails

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Try a local appliance store. If you tell them it's for homebrewing, they may be willing to help. The local one here offered to give me a fridge that came in on trade because it had no shelves. Unfortunately, I didn't have room for it.
 
M

maddspoiler

Finally got my johnson controller. Calibration seems off by about 3 degrees F. Other than that all is well.  Best price I found new was at Brewmasters Warehouse for 65 bucks including shipping. Took about 4 days to arrive via fedex ground. Thanks for the help guys! ;D
 

Maine Homebrewer

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I thought about using my chest freezer to ferment lager, but wasn't so keen on moving glass carbs in and out.  So I abandoned the idea.

Good luck with it and tell us what you eventually setup and how it works out.
 
M

maddspoiler

Right now Im just using a normal fridge with freezer up top to ferment lagers in and an air conditioned environment for ales. Im planning on finding a chest freezer on craigslist or at a garage sale to ferment in and use the fridge for kegs. Ill let you know how it turns out. So far so good though.
 

DaveinPa

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I have a Johnson Controls digital controller for my freezer.  You can dial in temperature pretty close.  I have mine set to a 2 degree range around the set point - freezer comes on at set point and goes off at 2 degrees below set point. The freezer only runs a couple times an hour, even with the narrow band.
 
M

maddspoiler

Found a huge chest freezer on craigslist for 20 bucks. Been using it for a few weeks now and it works great with the controller hooked up!
 

JSherm

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I have the Johnson Controls temp controller.  I used it for the first time on the last brew for both temperature control during fermentation and crash cooling (in a chest freezer).  I worked perfectly!  No complaints:

http://www.williamsbrewing.com/CONTROLLER-P762C100.aspx

JSherm
 

MaltLicker

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maddspoiler said:
Finally got my johnson controller. Calibration seems off by about 3 degrees F.

It helps to circulate the air inside the freezer.  Little three-inch fans from old PCs can be wired to old cell phone chargers to run when plugged in.  Moves air around inside freezer and helps a bunch.  "Damp Rid" also helps control moisture and condensation.

@Maine - Brew Haulers work well for me and my wimpy back. 
 
M

maddspoiler

Yeah, Ill have to try the damp rid because the chest freezers do not seem to remove moisture like a refrigerator does.
 

jomebrew

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I keep the probe of my external controller in a bottle of water.

I use a 3" PC fan to circulate the cold air.

I use a big PBW bottle filled with silica gel packs I get from stuff shipped to work.  This helps a lot with humidity control.  I dry these out underneath my burners on brew days.

I clean my keezer every three or four weeks.

I still get mildew on my kegs.  I clean the exteriors with bleach and rinse well.
 

420BeerNut

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I have one but be careful! The fridge I bought at Best Buy crapped out mid-lager and had to scamble to get food and crap out of the way of my normal food fridge for 2 (two!) carboys to continue fermenting, the beers came out great, but I ate like crap for a few weeks, everything was scattered. Have the fridge back and running, but may just serve draught for a while as a kegerator...
 
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