I am researching different approaches to managing temperature for fermenting and lagering and am looking for folks different experiences. I live in the NE US (Southeastern PA) and currently ferment in the winter, raising the temp with insulated carboys and heating with temp controlled fermawraps to maintain temp. Then I lager in my 4-keg capacity keg fridge. However, I would like to control temp in both directions and ferment any time of year. Summer garage (where I’d ferment) temps range from 70sF to mid-90sF and typically 30sF to 50sF in the winter.
I brew 10-15 gallon batches, currently fermenting in glass carboys or Speidel plastic fermenters. But am considering switching to some sort of conicals over time (so need to accommodate a mix of the three containers).
I have been thinking about building a plywood/insulated chamber with a home A/C unit to cool, and rigging up some kind of heating method (fermawraps), but now think I want to go with something more commercial grade and reliable. I need reliable, clean, easy to maintain and easy to integrate into my brewing process. I want to brew uncompromisingly great German lagers so want a solution that will work well.
I am considering either:
Multiple individual fridges (wine fridge type appliance) that will each accommodate a batch of carboys, Speidel tank or conical for fermentation, then lagering of the batch.
Buy a commercial fridge (www.beverage-air.com/Main.aspx?pid=269&tab=270) that can hold several carboys/tanks/conicals and/or kegs.
Build/buy a multi-chamber wooden/insulated structure and a glycol chiller and run the lines to cool each chamber. (imagine two or three chambers separated in a large rectangular wooden structure, each chamber would hold a batch of carboys/Speidel/or a conical).
Does anyone have experience with either of these methods (or other alternatives). I really don’t want to mess with rigging up a bunch of full-size house fridges rigged up for this and want a solution that works well and is at least semi-elegant. My concern about the commercial beverage fridge is that it is a lot of space (I’m only buying one of these) so somehow needs to support multiple batches and lagering (varying temp ranges). But people seem to love these.
Any ideas and experiences are greatly appreciated!