Criterion 7 Cu FT Chest Freezer Fermentation Chamber Review
The Criterion 7 cu ft chest freezer works well for a cheap fermentation chamber. As far as I can tell it’s only available at Menards. The freezer will just hold two 5 gallon batches and two 1 gallon batches with certain fermenters. The best part is it is pretty much ready to go once you add your favorite temperature controller and heater if you need one.
I’ll start with how well it holds temperature. I’ve brewed four batches so far with this as my fermentation chamber and each one has stayed within 1 degree or less when actively fermenting. The one note here is that during early fermentation you might experience some overcooling when it cycles on. One of my batches dropped 4 degrees before fermentation ramped up. You’ll want a CO2 filled balloon or long tube for your blow off tube to avoid airlock suck back.
Space is the second most important thing for a fermentation chamber. The Criterion 7 cu ft chest Freezer can fit quite a bit with a couple caveats. It will fit two 5 gallon Ss Brewtech Brew Buckets as well as two 1 gallon jugs. The caveat here is you’ll have to have one of the Brew Buckets on something to elevate it a few inches to fit. I use a few blocks of wood for now. You’ll also need to use a blow off tube on the elevated bucket as the lid won’t close with a standard airlock.
Two standard five gallon plastic buckets will fit with similar issues to the Brew Buckets. Two 5 gallon carboys will technically fit using straps to lift in and out but I wouldn’t try glass. That said one carboy with a milk crate holder fits fine.
Finally, if you want to use the Criterion 7 cu ft chest freezer as a keezer it will fit three 5 gallon ball lock kegs, two 3 gallon ball locks, and a 15 pound CO2 tank. If you build a collar or go with a smaller CO2 tank then you’ll have a bit more room. The exact inner measurements are below if you want to calculate your layout yourself.
- With Hump: 32 inches x 14.5 inches
- Hump Height: 19.5 inches
- Without Hump: 23.75 inches x 14.5 inches
- Main Freezer Height: 27.25 inches
Brewing is the never-ending pit of money so it’s nice to save a few bucks on an upgrade. On sale, I was able to pick this one up for only $130 with tax. It’s definitely better than the $200 plus wine coolers or really pricey glycol chillers.
Ease of use is the last concern. If you haven’t built a keezer then you don’t know of the joys of heavy lifting. It’s a PITA to lift a full five gallon fermenter in and out of the freezer. Carboy straps, handles, or a milk crate are a must. Cleaning is another issue as you’ll need long arms or a brush to clean up the inevitable spills.
A bonus you’ll get from the freezer is cold crashing and rapid cooling for wort for pitching yeast. With proper timing, you’ll be able to cold crash your batches for amazing clarity. If you use an immersion chiller like me then you can transfer your semi-cooled wort to chill the last few degrees a lot quicker. I’ve been able to cool from 100F to 70F in about 10 minutes when I have the freezer really cold.
Overall I’m satisfied with using the Criterion 7 cu ft Chest Freezer for my fermentation chamber. My beer has improved greatly with only a bit of extra heavy lifting. A few wine coolers would have been great but this works for my budget.
- Cheap on cost and power consumption
- No modifications required
- Can fit several fermenters
- Greatly improves beer quality!
- Would make a solid keezer
- Requires an external temperature controller
- Requires heavy lifting
- Can be hard to reach in and clean
I recommend using the Inkbird 308 for a cheap and reliable way to regulate your temperatures. Check out my full review here.