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I am looking to pick up a fridge for controlling temps. Are there any particulars I should know about when buying a fridge or is any old fridge good to go? I am also thinking of buying a chest freezer and I am interested in comparisons between getting a freezer and a fridge.

I am planning on using a Johnson digital 2 stage temperature controller. I also plan on heating the unit with this http://www.williamsbrewing.com/BREWERS-EDGE-SPACE-HEATER-P518.aspx during the winter months. Ideally this setup should be able to accommodate both ales and lagers.

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5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Not sure of your location or budget, but Home Depot is selling a great chest freezer for an awesome price. Here's a discussion on Homebrew Talk where some kind individual took the time to diagram out all the possibilities for what you can do with it as far as buckets, carboys, kegs, CO2 tanks, everything (and other freezers if you settle for something else).

The differences between the two are that, at least from what I've seen, you'll be hard pressed to find a 7 cubic foot fridge with the kind of floor space the above freezer has, especially at the price Home Depot is currently selling theirs at.

EDIT As an aside, I found out about this from Homebrew Finds, they're constantly posting up deals on all things related to brewing (kits, supplies, appliances, books, everything).

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Amazing answer! That discussion on Homebrew Talk is insane! Also, thanks for the link to Homebrew Finds. Now I've got just another reason to spend more money on brewing ;) The 7 cf freezer looks good, and while I was waiting for your answer I had pretty much decided on a chest freezer. The homedepot link even has a Johnson controller in one of the user reviews pictures! I'll probably get a 5 cf instead due to size constraints however. –  fthinker Jul 9 '13 at 11:50
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+1 for homebrewfinds! –  uSlackr Jul 9 '13 at 16:42
    
It really comes down to how much you brew. If you brew at least once a month, you may find it's not enough, unless you don't mind swamp-coolers for your secondary fermentations. –  Scott Jul 9 '13 at 16:49
    
I recommend putting a computer fan inside the chest freezer, it really helps avoid condensation build up in my keezer. –  paul Jul 10 '13 at 19:49
    
I just bought one of these from Lowe's, same price. Got the Johnson A419 (single-stage) controller. Can't wait for it to show up... –  Ben Mosher Jul 11 '13 at 14:36

Couple of additional notes and things to think about with the chest freezer. To use the freezer most efficiently I use the following process with 5 gallon batches. A few days prior to brew day I put 14 gallons of water into the freeze. 7 will be taken out for the brew, a bit for the starter and the rest for the batch. Once the batch is cooked up it goes back into the chest freezer with the 7 pre-chilled gallons. The extra water adds thermal mass to the freezer, will help keeps temperatures more stable, and will ease the power bill. After about 3 weeks of fermentation, I will brew my next batch using the crash cooling of the first batch to keep the initial fermentation temp. of batch 2 under control. and so the process repeats. Biggest drawback to the freezer is that it's not easy to lift a full carboy or bucket out.

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I agree with Scott in that chest freezers are generally the most efficient, inexpensive and roomiest way to go, and they're designed go down to freezing temps, which is good for lagering and cold crashing. But to provide an alternative answer for those with space restrictions, I use a used wine fridge I got off craiglist. It's large and deep enough to accommodate one carboy, even with the compressor bump and maintains ale temps very easily. It gets down into the 40s or 50s I think, but I haven't tried lagering in it. I already have a chest freezer that I converted to a kegerator (keezer), and I didn't have room for another one in my apt.

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The Lowe's counterpart is on sale right now, plus you can use a 10% off online code, which brought my total to $185 after taxes.

http://www.lowes.com/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10151&catalogId=10051&productId=4756819&cId=detail

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As @mastaberry noted at the end of his comment, an important thing to keep in mind when consider a fridge versus a freezer, is that if you get a freezer you will either need to be in physical shape to be able to lift the bucket/carboy into the freezer, or have the space to set up a pulley system.

A great place to look for chests freezers is craigslist, especially during the summer. For whatever reason people don't need their old chest freezer during the summer.

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