6 key questions answered about our search for fermentation chambers
So what hell is all this commotion surrounding fermentation chambers and freezers?
Regulating fermentation temperature is a great way to improve beer quality. Like Christmas presents wrapped in paper, our fermenting vessels should ideally be wrapped in glycol jackets. Since ideal worlds are both boring and expensive, we’ve chosen an alternative avenue. With a bit of configuration, we transform used upright freezers into temperature controlled lager fermentation chambers.
Recently, our struggles reside in finding the right freezers to house our eight fermentation vessels. Specifications have to be exact (removable shelves, 50” tall x 20” wide x 20” deep with a flat base) which makes finding what we need about as easy as hunting bats with a BB gun blindfolded. As our sights our set on eight, our hunt has taken us all over the state in hopes of scoring perfect used appliances. Below we answer 6 key questions which will help to shed a little light on what the hell we’re doing.
1) What: like a five year old on an easter egg hunt, we’ve been searching high and low for used upright freezers on CraigsList or at appliance stores. Why not buy new ones? They’re flippin’ expensive (yes, we're still accepting investors).
2) When: everyday until our quota is met. Currently, we have four but need eight.
3) Where: our journey has taken us from Daly City to San Francisco to Santa Clara to Hayward and all the way to Visalia. With only one small pickup, each freezer requires a personalized mission. And it sucks.
4) Why: “Fermentation is the process by which yeast converts the glucose in the wort (immature beer) to ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide, giving the beer both its alcohol content and its carbonation” (link). In other words, fermenters are “beer incubators”. Take young beer, place it into a fermentation vessel, add yeast and out comes mature beer. Without these chambers, we don’t have a good product.
More importantly, many of our specialized beers are lagers (take our Yacht Club dry-hopped Belgian Lager or our Mexican IPL hopped with Jalapeños for example). Lagers ferment at cooler temperatures than ales (ales are the most popular beers on the West Coast, and yes, we make ales too). It's more complicated to brew lagers as a small startup brewery, but we care about making the best beer we possibly can, so we're giving it our best shot.
5) How: once we find the freezer, we gut it, add in a customized temperature regulator and place our fermenting tanks inside.
6) How much: used-$100-$400 x 8 = not cheap. New-$500-$1,000 = bankrupt
When you’re tiny like us, you have to think of creative ways to make beer without it costing an arm and a leg. Besides it being cost effective, our array of small fermentation vessels help diversify our beer lineup. Eventually, this will allow us to have several styles circulating throughout restaurants.
Note: if you’re looking for a way to elevate your fermentation game, contact us in about six months...we will be selling off our customized equipment when we expand.
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