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What techniques would you suggest for cooling a lager during the lagering phase? Further, how important is the stability of that temperature?

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No-ones touched on the required stability of lagering temps yet. I'm curious how sensitive it is. –  C4H5As Jul 5 '11 at 23:39
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7 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Find a 4.2 cubic feet (or larger) minifridge on craigslist. I usually see them go for around $50 to $70, but YMMV depending on where you live. With the shelves removed, 4.2 cu. ft. should be large enough to hold a carboy.

Grab a temperature controller and use it with the minifridge. This will allow you to regulate the exact temperature inside, making it perfect for lagering, and for fermenting any other style of beer at the exact temperature you want. The Johnson Controls models are often highly recommended, but if the ~$80 price range is above your budget, I've seen them go on eBay for much less. You can also check your LHBS or look online -- there are often people getting rid of kegging setups that include them.

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Agreed. Trying to keep a beer at lagering temperatures without some kind of fridge/freezer set-up is going to be more trouble than it's worth. –  Simon Nov 9 '10 at 0:48
    
I'd recommend getting a minifridge without a freezer compartment. A carboy probably wont fit in a 4-5 cu. ft. fridge it has a freezer. It also makes it a lot easier to eventually convert it into a kegerator. Sadly, such minifridges can be hard to find. I scanned craigslist for a month for one before giving up and just buying a new one for about $175. –  bengineerd Nov 9 '10 at 5:50
    
Sometimes its hard to get good descriptions off Craig's List. So when you go to check out a fridge, be sure to bring a 6.5 gal carboy and/or an ale pail with you to make sure they can fit in. I had to cut the shelves off the door of my fridge, but now it fits a bucket or a pail perfectly. –  Graham Mar 23 '11 at 20:55
    
The Ranco controller is an excellent piece of hardware. I got mine off eBay from Patriot for $43 brand new. Wired the AC connection myself and it's been working flawlessly on my keezer for quite some time. –  Bill Craun Nov 4 '11 at 0:01
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Dig a hole in your back yard! Seriously a small bunker type hole just big enough to fit your brew is fairly cheap to build. Build a well insulated roof for it, make sure it's sealed to keep out pests. Underground temperatures are much cooler than above ground in warm areas, and much warmer than above ground in cooler areas. The temperature stays fairly consistent. I recommend digging about 6 feet in your back yard and drop a thermometer in there and throw some insulation on top and see what the temp is.

Another option is underwater brewing in a pool (if you have one) but this is much more complicated and kids complain when they can't swim cause dad is brewing again. lol Here's a video of an undersea brewery! http://vimeo.com/30311858#

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There's also the Cool Brewing fermentation cooler ($55). It works surprising well as long as you change the ice packs (or whatever you use to cool it) every 12-24 hours.

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Cheapest = Brew in the winter =P

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Not really very helpful. –  Poshpaws Jul 4 '11 at 13:29
    
I think its the most budget friendly approach so far. I can't believe the accepted answer involves so much expense. SO much for "budget" lagering. –  brewchez Jul 5 '11 at 0:25
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Where I live it never reliably gets cold enough long enough to do this. So this is not an option for everyone. Plus who only wants to do lagers in the winter? –  corymathews Jul 5 '11 at 16:10
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This seems to be cheap and easy solution. If you have a cooler, you can probably pull the whole thing off for $20.

http://www.bayareamashers.org/gadgets/Jim%27s%20minimalist%20fermentation%20chiller.pdf

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This really depends on how much effort you want to put into it and how closely you can monitor the temperature. I built a fermentation chiller (suburb.semo.net/jet1024/FermChill.htm) but I had to replace the ice every two days or so and that was after I spent a few weeks getting everything sealed nice and tight. I've since purchased a secondhand refrigerator and I'm getting temperature regulator. It was just too much work to monitor the temp closely. –  Tim B. Nov 9 '10 at 20:21
    
Yeah. This project is heavy on the "budget" side. I agree this is going to take a lot of time to manage. –  Scott P Nov 9 '10 at 21:18
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Move to Minnesota, nature's refrigerator/freezer, where I live? Controlling added heat is much easier when your entire garage is 36-38F for 4 months of the year and you don't have to do much to get the cooling side of things.

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:-) same with Manitoba, I'm insulating a small part of my basement off and it will be nice and chilly –  Nathan Koop Nov 9 '10 at 3:15
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I'm in Rochester NY. It goes from 75 to 25 in the course of a fall day. >.< –  Fishtoaster Nov 9 '10 at 3:44
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