We used to hear the word “ fermentation” in our Microbiology class when we were in college. Could you still remember what it means? Alright, let’s go back a little bit.
Fermentation is the process in which the substance is broken down into a simpler substance. Microorganisms like yeast and bacteria usually play a role in the fermentation process. Creating beer, wine, bread, kimchi, yogurt, and other foods are results of fermentation.
That definition is too scientific. Let’s check-in Wikipedia when it comes to food production. It may more refer to any process in which the activity of microorganisms brings about a desirable change to a foodstuff or beverage.
Let’s have the simplest words to understand more of what is fermentation. I’ve listed some of its synonyms from different online dictionaries: Souring, foaming, frothing, bubbling, brew. Any idea now of what we’re going to tackle in-depth related to fermentation? Want another clue? It’s something that almost everybody loves to drink, may it be in moderation, or those who get addicted to it – beer and wine.
If you love to drink beer or wine, you may consider brewing your own drinks inside your very own house, instead of buying every now and then. Aside from saving a stash, who knows… one day, you’ll have your own beer or wine company and maybe creating your own Yeast-Free Beer.
What is a Fermentation Chamber?
Let’s get started and talk about how to make wine or beer using a mini-fridge as a fermentation chamber. Wait, before that… What is a Fermentation Chamber? It is an insulated box with internal heating and cooling control which is very crucial in getting the desired taste of your homemade beer.
The next question that will pop up in your mind is – what about the temperature? Why is it important? Temperature plays a critical role in fermentation. Yeast – one of the four primary ingredients ( aside from malt, hops, and water ) in making beer, needs to be warm enough to be healthy. But too warm will stress the yeast. If it’s too cool, it will be sluggish and sleepy. We don’t want the yeast to shut down completely and not do its role – and that is to convert sugar ( from malt – usually barley ) to alcohol – the beer. Let’s make it simple to understand – temperature or the environment will have the biggest impact on beer flavor of any part of the brewing process. It’s the make or break of the entire method.
DIY Fermentation Chamber
Let’s continue. I’m hearing from you! Yes, this is going to be a DIY – “Do It Yourself” thing. I always believe that if you love something ( like beer ), you should know how to make it. So, let’s proceed. We all know that the refrigerator’s main purpose is to keep our food cold. But, why is it used by those people who brew their beers in their homes?
There is this certain foam – Polyurethane rigid foam, the insulating material which is most used throughout the world for refrigerators and freezers. They are excellent insulators. Going back to the definition of the Fermentation Chamber – it is an “ insulated box ”, with internal heating and cooling control. This is the reason why the fridge and chest freezers are being used.
Of course, we will begin with the materials needed for this DIY Fermentation Chamber. This list is from the website www.homebrewtalk.com :
1. Mini Fridge / Dorm Fridge ( old or new ) it doesn’t matter because you’re still going to remove the door anyway. As long as the insulation part is intact, that’s good to go!
2. OSB ( Oriented Strand Board)
4. Aluminum Tape
5. Foam Tape
6. Casters or Glue
8. Temperature Controller
Now for the tools needed, we only need Drill, Table Saw or Circular Saw for OSB and Utility Knife for Foam Insulation.
- There are a lot of ways on how to build the fermentation chamber at home. But, the goal is the same – to maintain the needed temperature to successfully brew the beer. Different kinds of yeast require different temperatures to maintain. Might as well ask the store about it.
- Let’s run through the steps of making the chamber. First, we need to prepare for the fridge. In almost all the videos I’ve watched, the door of the fridge needed to be removed. The reason for this is to easily add extensions. The question now that you need to ask yourself is, “ is my fridge’s power enough to suffice the extension?” You need to bear in mind that smaller areas are easier to regulate than bigger areas. Since we are still in the learning process, the usual mini-fridge will do.
- After preparing the fridge, it is now time to install the temperature controller. The most used device is the Inkbird ITC-308 Digital Temperature Controller, which can be bought from Amazon for $16.99. In this part, you might need to get a technician to make sure that everything is properly installed. We don’t want to disappoint ourselves in our first try in making beer, right?
- After preparing both the fridge and the temp controlling device, we are now ready to put our fermenter. We are now ready to start brewing our beer!
I know some of you are asking, “why mini-fridge?” Yes, we can always go for the bigger ones or the chest freezer. Stop there! You do not want to spend a lot on the materials needed if you are just starting to master the whole process, don’t you? If you wanna try something, let’s say food, you’re only going to get a little and not the whole thing right? It might get overwhelming. The same goes for trying to brew some beer at home. We need to perfect first using small quantities.
It’s very practical to start with a mini-fridge. Little ones are very cheap. These are just my take. There are some of you, I know who wanted to get the bigger ones instead. The bigger the area, the more fermenter we can put. The more bottles of beer we can make!
Whether we choose a mini-fridge or a big one, or a chest freezer, what’s important is the consistency of the temperature inside to make the beer we desire. Let’s give it a try!