Beer cellar/fridge help

Discussion in 'Cellaring / Aging Beer' started by dsal89, May 3, 2012.

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  1. dsal89

    dsal89 Initiate (0) Jul 6, 2008 Indiana

    Looking to spend at most $200.

    I have some bottles that id like to store and other things id like to buy as well to experiment with aging and whatnot and id like the proper place for it.

    Craigslist is currently having issues so anything you can recommend from another website would be great.

    Thank you and cheers!
  2. gueuzehead

    gueuzehead Initiate (0) Jul 6, 2011 Washington

    I have been looking around on Craigslist too looking at wine fridges with a similar budget. I would love to get some input from people on what brands to get, which ones to avoid.
  3. Eriktheipaman

    Eriktheipaman Initiate (0) Sep 4, 2010 California

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  4. closisinthehouse

    closisinthehouse Initiate (0) Jun 10, 2011 Florida

    Hello Erik!

    Where did you get the external temp controller from? I'm looking to get a new one for my fridge. Also, I dig the cellar you have and looks well organized.

    Thank You
  5. surlytheduff

    surlytheduff Initiate (0) Jul 22, 2010 Tajikistan

    I'm a big fan of "cardboard beer box" brand of fridges.
  6. Eriktheipaman

    Eriktheipaman Initiate (0) Sep 4, 2010 California

    Thanks! That pic is a few months old and a lot has come and gone since then. Now it is mainly fully of a BCBS vertical I've been building up for a tasting.

    I thought I got mine for a lot cheaper but I could be wrong. Anyways this is the one I have. It has what I think is a 3* or 4* unchangeable differential but I have not had any problems with it.

    I guess it didn't copy the link so here's a pic of the outside. Kind of a mess around it but you get the point.
  7. xpimptastikx

    xpimptastikx Initiate (0) Oct 8, 2008 Texas

    Wait till CL is working for you and keep an eye out for a chest freezer. It's better to get something big that you can grow into, instead of running out of space in 3-6 months. I spent 200$ for my 14.9cuft freezer, digital temp controller, and some damp rid. Right now it's holding about 130 - 12oz, 12 - 22oz, and 20 - 750mls.

    Here's a picture of my chest freezer.
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  8. Hoptimizer

    Hoptimizer Initiate (0) May 3, 2012

    I would say Edgestar beverage fridges online. My wife bought me one for my birthday and it's awesome. Around $220. It's a glass front so you'll still want a fairly dark area but it has 6 removable shelves so you can store the beer all sideways and the bottom is good for cans (I use it for Avery and 21st amendment beers.) also it has some LED lights up top so it's pretty damn cool looking
  9. Hoptimizer

    Hoptimizer Initiate (0) May 3, 2012

    Oh I forgot to mention DO NOT BUY a wine fridge as most of them don't get the beer cold enough. Wine doesn't need to be kept as cold as beer. I think it's something like 48-50 degrees for wine.
  10. evilc

    evilc Initiate (0) Jan 27, 2012 California

    If he's cellaring, 48 is TOO COLD for beer.
    RickyGlobby, yeaprolly, JrGtr and 6 others like this.
  11. Jparkanzky

    Jparkanzky Initiate (0) Apr 5, 2011 Ohio

    Sounds about right to me..... My basement dips to 50 in the winter, and up to 58-60 at the warmest times of the summer (was mid 80's for a couple days now, and my current temp is 52 degrees)

    I pulled a beer from the shelf last night, and drank it..... 52 is perfect for cellaring and drinking in my opinion.
    MisterKilderkin and Hoptimizer like this.
  12. dsal89

    dsal89 Initiate (0) Jul 6, 2008 Indiana

    Thank you everyone for your input!
  13. baybassboy

    baybassboy Initiate (0) Feb 23, 2011 California

    from a post i did on the old site...

    How To: Converting a Chest Freezer to "Beer Cellar"
    After dragging my feet for a few weeks, I have finally gotten around to creating this thread at the request of a few people. Basically, taking all of this out was something I was putting off…

    I began collecting, err, “cellaring” beers this past year. Like most people who take on this endeavor, I was soon looking for a place to store my beer. Living in Southern California, keeping these beers in a closet year round was out of the question. We don’t have basements. And frankly, I don’t have the space to commit an entire room to temperature controlled storage. About the time that I decided a temperature controlled chest freezer would work the best, my parents surprised me with one for my birthday! The following is directions on how I converted this chest freezer to maximize space, and best accommodate my beers.

    First of all, here I am with the chest freezer I am working with. For size comparison, I am just over 6’, 180. Like I said, space is an issue, so I have this out on a covered patio.

    It is a 7.2cu.ft. Frigidaire model #FFC0723DW. This particular one was brand new, but you can find great deals on similar units on Craigslist or at yard sales. This is a perfect size unit to create a smaller-medium sized unit. I will talk more about bottle capacity later, but if you are looking to store around 100 bottles, this is a good size to start with.

    The temperature control unit I have is a basic one that is pimped all over this site; a Johnson Controls – A19AAT. Here is a link…

    Bare bones minimum, these are the two things you need to begin storing beer (duh). However I, and you will, want to maximize space in this thing to fit as many beers as possible. To do this, it is necessary to build internal shelving that is strong enough to hold the weight of the bottles safely, yet not so bulky as to reduce maximum storage. I came up with a plan to create a shell of the internal dimensions that will accept adjustable shelving so that as the size of my bottles change, so too can my shelving arrangement (this will make more sense as we get to pics). After talking with my dad, who has become a local handyman since retiring from LAFD, we agreed that while Starboard is an ideal material, it may be smarter to start with something a little more affordable. Starboard is a marine quality material that is super strong, but you definitely pay for it. Our solution was Norwegian Plywood. This is a very strong plywood used in cabinet making and, best of all, it can be sanded. 3/8” is ideal for this application as it is relatively thin, but still very strong.

    First, I took measurements of all internal dimensions, and drew them out for future reference.[​IMG]
    No access to a scanner right now, so sorry for the poor quality.

    I wanted to create a shell that is exactly as the “Front-View” is laid out, with a shelf on either side. I figured out all pieces that I would need, and then drew these out on a “blueprint”.

    Then, I cut all of my pieces with a skillsaw and straight edge. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of this process, but you will see them all in a bit. In the end, I had 1 “small base”, 1 “large base”, 2 “large uprights”, 1 “small upright”, 1 “small shelf”, and 2 “large shelf” pieces. The shelf pieces are the same size as their matching bases. I then took all of my uprights, clamped them together, and drilled evenly spaced holes along the left and right outer edges that would be able to fit shelving pegs. I spaced these holes every 3/4” so that the shelving would be adjustable. You can see this in this picture[​IMG]

    After all pieces were cut and shelving holes were tapped, I screwed the bases to their matching upright pieces using multiple wood screws. Essentially, the large/non-compressor side is a big U-shape, and the small/compressor side is an L-shape.

    Back at the chest freezer, I dropped the pieces into place. Everything fit too snugly at first (a good thing), and I had to go to town with the belt sander to fit in. Also, I had to remove the top of the chest freezer from its hinges to get the pieces to fit.

    *CAUTION: The hinges are under extreme tension and if they pop open with your hand on them, you WILL break fingers and probably wreck your hinges as well
  14. baybassboy

    baybassboy Initiate (0) Feb 23, 2011 California

    Again, the snugness is very important as it will add to the overall strength of your shelving. Here are pictures of the “shell” and shelving holes once everything is in place. You can see the shelving pegs that I used in multiple pictures. For reference, the left side is the compressor side.

    The moisture spots in the wood is from outdoor storage of this wood prior to my using it.

    Here is where I have begun putting beer back into the newly outfitted unit.[​IMG]

    As you can see, on the large side I can fit 31/32 large format bottles (22oz-750ml). The FW boxes take up a lot more room than you would expect; same with the 750ml. On the smaller side, I can fit 28ish small format bottles (375ml or less).

    In this next picture, I have inserted a layer of shelving. I cut finger holes so that they can easily be put in and taken out.[​IMG]

    And finally, topping it off with beer.

    And putting in a couple of extras to be drunk sooner rather than later[​IMG]

    As you can see in the final pictures, I have a couple of other gadgets. The little black box is a dual temperature and humidity gauge.

    It is an Acu-Rite 00325 Home Comfort monitor ($12.19, free shipping on eBay). This is a dual temperature and humidity gauge that reads current levels, and 24-hour highs and lows. Super small and has a magnetic back so it can be placed almost anywhere.

    The camo thingy is a portable dehumidifier. I am using 1 Eva-Dry E-500 portable/rechargeable dehumidifier ($19.99, free shipping on eBay). Without this unit, I am reading around 70% humidity. With this unit, I am reading around 46-56% humidity. I am very happy with this range since everything I have read says that the sweet spot is to match your temperature. The only time I ever get visible moisture is when I have the top open for extended periods of time. Even then, it is never to a point that worries me. Living in SoCal, we get the occasional Santa Ana Winds. This is a very dry wind that blows from the deserts out to the ocean. We had a period of this a few weeks back, and I did have a humidity reading of 40% at that time.

    OK… a little TL;DR, I know. But hopefully this can answer some of the questions you may have, or at least give you an idea or two about storing beer using a temperature controlled chest freezer.
    zbelair, amesetz, OKFine and 23 others like this.
  15. gueuzehead

    gueuzehead Initiate (0) Jul 6, 2011 Washington

    Great write up baybassboy! Is there any worry about poor air circulation with the solid wood shelves?
  16. baybassboy

    baybassboy Initiate (0) Feb 23, 2011 California

    I have had ZERO issues with this setup. It has been in use since November
  17. baybum

    baybum Initiate (0) Feb 10, 2011 Pennsylvania

    great post, thanks for the help
  18. xpimptastikx

    xpimptastikx Initiate (0) Oct 8, 2008 Texas

    You might have a little issue if/when condensation forms on the inside of your freezer. Through the winter mine is fine, but when it starts to warm up outside the freezer stays on longer and creates a little more condensation along the inner walls. Just something to keep it mind since it does look like you're keeping it outside.
  19. baybassboy

    baybassboy Initiate (0) Feb 23, 2011 California

    understood, and something that I have been keeping an eye on.
  20. baker2gs

    baker2gs Crusader (409) Apr 19, 2010 Illinois

    First time caller, long time listener. Thanks for this post, it's provided me a lot of insight.

    I'm not trying to hijack/resurrect this thread but I bought an old fridge with a freezer on the top from Craigslist and the blue Johnson Controls external thermostat to keep the refrigerator portion at 55 degrees and I have the same Acu-Rite unit but it's reading at 16% humidity and I'm a bit concerned that oxidizing could occur. I have a bottle of water with the cap off and it hasn't change the humidity level at all.

    My questions are, should I be concerned that it's siting at 16% and if so, what are the possible fixes?

    Thanks in advance.
  21. Rollzroyce21

    Rollzroyce21 Pooh-Bah (2,211) Oct 24, 2009 California

    I have the same exact set up. I kept three mason jars full of water inside and did barely anything to increase the humidity; stayed @ 20%. I'm now considering buying a travel humidifier (battery operated) to see if it'll help. I think it'll make it too humid inside, but going to give it a try. I'll try and report back later.
    baker2gs likes this.
  22. jtmartino

    jtmartino Initiate (0) Dec 11, 2010 California

    Watch out for condensation buildup on the internal cooling unit. I used to use mini fridges until I realized there was a ton of moisture being accumulated within the fridge that was dripping down onto the bottles and their caps.


    Did you quote the wrong person? Your comment disagrees with what Hoptimizer said since you're actually storing your beer warmer than he recommends.
  23. loki993

    loki993 Initiate (0) Apr 16, 2009 Michigan

    Wow, a freezer never crossed my mind to use. I always figured getting the temp right would be a pain. Don't know why but I guess I just figured even using a temp controller it wouldn't work because its designed to be so much colder. I think it would also be a heck of a lot easier finding a decent freezer then a fridge too....
  24. jtmartino

    jtmartino Initiate (0) Dec 11, 2010 California

    Additionally, there's a few articles online that show chest freezers + temp controllers use FAR less electricity than a standard refrigerator. They're more popular among the homebrew crowd for holding corny kegs, but they work fine for bottles too.
  25. dsal89

    dsal89 Initiate (0) Jul 6, 2008 Indiana

    Soooo whoever that was that said id out grow the small wine were right lol

    But i do have another question since im buying a bigger one (also, i went with the wine fridge and i didnt have a problem with it)

    However, the model im looking at doesnt have flat shelves, it has shelves with little crevices in them for laying down wine bottles. What or where can i find flat shelves? I cant use plywood since the temp wont be able to flow throughout so im not sure what my other options could be
  26. jtmartino

    jtmartino Initiate (0) Dec 11, 2010 California

    This is no applicable unless the plywood is airtight to the walls of the beer fridge. Which is highly unlikely. Even if you were concerned, you could have some cutouts on the back to allow for more air flow.

    Plastic, metal, wood, whatever. They will all work fine.
  27. dsal89

    dsal89 Initiate (0) Jul 6, 2008 Indiana

    Awesome thanks!
  28. drgonzo2k2

    drgonzo2k2 Initiate (0) Aug 24, 2012 California

    FWIW, this is my story, with pics below. I am terribly happy with this setup...

    Not sure how much space you can dedicate, but after reading lots of threads here, I went with this:

    Plus this to regulate the temperature:

    I suggest searching Craigslist for "freezerless refrigerator" or "upright freezer."

    Those give you the most amount of storage and easiest access to your beer. They also seem to be models that other people buy and then can't get rid of when they move so you can bargain them down. I was able to pick mine up on CL for $150.

    Even after buying the external temp regulator, and paying someone else to pickup and deliver the fridge, I was under $250.

    The setup is pretty simple, you just plug the fridge into the temperature regulator, plug the regulator into the wall. Then there is a long wire with a temperature gauge that goes inside the fridge to measure the temperature. Turn the fridge to its coldest setting, and let it get down to temp. Load with beer and enjoy!

    A few thoughts I had when setting this up:

    1 - I ended up going with a freezerless fridge instead of an upright freezer. I know a lot of people on here go with the freezers, as those are a little more available on Craigslist, but...

    Supposing the temperature regulator ever fails. The way many of them work by default is to leave the power engaged. So if you have a freezer, instead of stopping at 55 degrees, it will go all the way down to freezing temps, which means frozen beer.

    If you have a fridge, even on its coldest setting, you're just going to wind up with really cold beer, so it would be safe. You can always turn the fridge up to its highest setting for a couple of days while you wait for your new regulator to arrive.

    2 - I took a bottled water, drilled a whole through the crack, and put the temperature probe in that, on the middle shelf, in the back of the fridge. This way I'm actually measuring the temperature of the liquid in the fridge (and so my beer) instead of the air in the fridge.

    3 - There's a bit of debate on what the "optimal" cellaring temperature is, but it's generally agreed to be between 50 - 55 degrees. I originally started with my cellar at 55, but I ended up kicking it down to 53. Most of the beers I cellar are best drank at their cellar temp, and for my personal taste, I liked the couple of degrees cooler.

    So, in the end, I set the gauge to 53 degrees, and it fluctuates between 52 - 54. The fridge doesn't kick on too terribly often, and when it does, it's not that noticeable at all.

    I hope that helps, and if you have specific questions, just ask!



  29. PGHbeer77

    PGHbeer77 Initiate (0) Jan 16, 2012 Pennsylvania

    I'm purchasing a house, and the house comes with an additional refrigerator in the basement. Score! However, the refrigerator has a freezer up top. I'd like to use the freezer at normal freezer temps to store extra meats and what not, but it'd be great to use the refrigerator portion to house some beers.

    Is there a way to regulate only the refrigerator portion on the bottom to convert it to around 55 degrees? The external regulator mentioned in the previous post looks like it would convert the whole thing (freezer and refrigerator).
  30. HeadyTheElder

    HeadyTheElder Initiate (0) Nov 3, 2012 Louisiana

    Why do you need an external temp controller? You can't set it at 55* from the inside temp controller?
  31. Eriktheipaman

    Eriktheipaman Initiate (0) Sep 4, 2010 California

    Nope. 55* is not a food safe temp.
  32. hooliganlife

    hooliganlife Initiate (0) Apr 12, 2007 Missouri

    ever any issues with humidity? basically for anything corked. i know wine coolers allow a higher humidity
  33. HeadyTheElder

    HeadyTheElder Initiate (0) Nov 3, 2012 Louisiana

    Just curious, how many bombers can you fit in that particular fridge?
  34. jtmartino

    jtmartino Initiate (0) Dec 11, 2010 California

    I have that exact same fridge in my garage. I picked mine up from a local used appliance warehouse, and it cost around $220 delivered (which was about 30 miles one-way, so a good deal).

    The probe in the bottle is key, and something everyone should do with a temp controller.

    Also, FWIW, I don't have any humidity issues with my beer. Really, really happy with the setup.

    You can fit 45-50 per shelf, I believe. Plus some in the door is about 160ish bombers, unless you want to lay them on their side and then you can probably get 180 plus smaller bottles.
  35. dsal89

    dsal89 Initiate (0) Jul 6, 2008 Indiana

    So here is my setup. It doesnt look too pretty because of how the cords are but im ok with that.


    Freezer hooked up to temperature controller and temp controller in an outlet.


    Inside with the probe in a bottle filled with water (dont worry, it isnt orange juice)
  36. oregonskibum

    oregonskibum Initiate (0) Mar 14, 2009 Oregon

    Another option is to look around town for used commercial equipment. I bought a restaurant style full sized, 2-door fridge whose compressor couldn't quite keep things as cold as they needed for food storage. Turns out on the warmest setting, the fridge stays around 54. It holds around 32 cases of beer and cost only $200. The risk is that the compressor or freon (or whatever) will eventually give up the fight and then repairs are expensive. But for now, it's working great.

    A warning on chest freezers. I used to use a chest freezer for a cellar (it's not my fermentation chamber). During the summer when it was running on a regular basis, the condesation dripped down the walls and was absorbed by the cardboard boxes I was using at the time. I got lucky and the bottom gave out of the box immediately rather than when the box was far off the ground. Your freezer will eventually condense moisture, so just plan for it from the start. Build a false bottom 1/4 to 1/2 off the bottom of the freezer if you plan to store bottles in case cardboard boxes.
  37. xpimptastikx

    xpimptastikx Initiate (0) Oct 8, 2008 Texas

    Damp rid is also another easy fix to this. My chest freezer sits in a garage that sees some pretty intense heat and the towel that all of the case boxes sit on is always dry.
  38. nawset

    nawset Initiate (0) Mar 19, 2011 New Hampshire

    Do you have your probe in a thermowell? If so, what kind? I have a couple of Johnson controllers but have yet to find a thermowell that fits the probe so right now, they are just hanging in the air mid freezer.
  39. dsal89

    dsal89 Initiate (0) Jul 6, 2008 Indiana

    I just have my probe in a bottle of water
  40. arkansastroy

    arkansastroy Initiate (0) Apr 9, 2009 Arkansas

    I am currently using a couple of wine fridges that I bought used. One was $80., the other $40. The one had flat wire shelving so no modification was needed. The other one I took all of the shelves out and cut a piece of 1/4 in Cedar plywood to fit and when it started drooping due to the bottle weight I added a piece of broom stick front and back for support. Coming into a cheap fridge soon so I will get a temp controler and move everything into it.

    My wine fridge settup:
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