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What type of equipment do you need to build one?
How do you use it?
What are the realistic expectations of using one?

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In terms of brewing, I have seen folks keeping things cool by putting the carboy into a larger sized bucket of water, swap out ice or ice packs daily or more often if you live in a very hot place, and drape a wet towel around the shoulder of the carboy. For added cooling, you could point a fan at this whole setup.

I had a friend do this in his basement to brew a lager. It worked surprisingly well.

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What time of year did he do it for a lager? I've done the swamp cooler thing for ales a lot in the summer months. But now I wonder if you could lager with one in the late fall and spring. Interesting. –  brewchez Jul 1 '10 at 14:18
    
I brewed a Vienna Lager this spring using the swamp cooler/daily ice packs in my basement (which I think was around 50-55, not sure though) and it turned out very good. –  Room3 Jul 1 '10 at 19:11
    
@Brewchez: My buddy did it in late fall/early winter. He put it in his mostly underground basement, and filled it twice a day with ice and water. Not sure if this is important or not, but he did use better bottles instead of a glass carboy. –  Pulsehead Jul 2 '10 at 12:55

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