Brewshed and Walk-in Cooler
(last updated 10/08/2007 10:40 AM )

I've described my cheap walk-in cooler on the B3 Forum and on The Brewing Network show and some people asked for photos.

This is the brew shed. It used to just be the garden shed. Now it holds all my junk, plus the walk-in cooler.
With the door open, you can see some of the brewing gear on the shelving unit.

I use 30 gallon trash cans for storing base grain. Each is lined with thick trash bags, plus I keep the grain in its original sack. I've never had a rodent or a single bug of any kind in my grain.

There is one bin for English Pale Ale malt (usually Crisp Maris Otter), one for Pilsner (usually Durst), and one for Munich (also Durst).

One wall of the walk-in is on the left side of this picture.

Specialty grains. You can see only a portion of them. I keep them in these jars which screw closed air tight. Each holds just over 5 lbs.

I've got every grain here that B3 and the stores around the area carry. No sense in not having the right tool on hand to do the job, right?

This is the cooling unit for the walk-in. It is just a 12,000 BTU Daewoo wall air conditioning unit. I bought it at Fry's on clearance during the winter for about $100. I hooked it up to a Ranco controller from morebeer.com. It can handle about 13 amps and the A/C unit draws a max of 11 amps.

An A/C guy that lives down the street told me that it wouldn't last more than a week, running at 37F. He was certain of it and told me I was an idiot for wasting my money on it. Regan Dillon at www.morebeer.com told me it would be fine, which is why I tried it in the first place.

Well, about 4 years later, it still works perfectly. Thanks Regan! Bite me A/C guy! (OK, at about 5+ years the compressor in the A/C unit finally died. Just about the time they were printing the Zymurgy article on walk-in coolers. Go figure. Is it still worth it if the unit dies after 5 years? For me, yes. Your mileage may vary.I replaced it with a 6000 btu unit, which was my only choice in the middle of the winter. It is now May and it seems to hold steady around 40F, not quite as cold as the 12K unit, but then I'm not trying to get the temp lower.)

Some folks have asked a few questions about this...

Question: How many cubic feet (or even square feet) you're able to maintain below 40* with that 12K btu A/C unit?

Answer: It is about 4.5' x 5.5' x 7' inside, which is about 175 cubic feet. When I first started using it, I accidentally froze some beer. I used to have a thermometer in the airflow from the unit and I measured air coming out of it in the minus 9F range. No wonder I froze some beer. Keeping the temp below 40F is no problem even in the hot 110F summers we get here.

Question: About how often is it running in the summer to keep those temps?

Answer: It depends on how hot the day, but even on 110F days, it runs maybe 30 minutes total once or twice a day. I've figured out it costs me around $2 or $3 per month average across the year.

Question: I see you used foam board, how thick did you use? I'm assuming it's over insulated 2X4 stud walls?

Answer: I used 4" of urethane board (two 2" thick boards) over insulated 2 x 4 stud walls. (It was about $200 worth of insulation when I did the project.) If you use regular styrofoam board, you won't have as much insulating power, but it will be about 1/10th the cost.

Here are some of the case boxes of beer. It is hard to get a full picture, but I can fit about 30 cases on each side. I just gave away about 30 cases of beer to make room for this brew season.

The slips of paper on the boxes are inventory sheets. It tells me what is in each box, so I can find the right beer for a competition or just to enjoy.

On the other side is about 10 or so kegs. They're stacked 2 high and two deep, though the photo doesn't show it.

To make the walk-in, I insulated the stud cavities with roll insulation. Then I put two layers of 2" thick urethane insulation over it to make a giant box. The insulation was the most expensive part. You can use cheaper styrofoam, but it won't be as temp stable as this.

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