Author Topic: Suffering from Cave Sickness  (Read 1054 times)

Offline John@PC

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Suffering from Cave Sickness
« on: July 03, 2013, 05:38:26 PM »
Definition:  "Cave Sickness is an emotional disorder caused by the inability of an artisan cheesemaker to be in reasonable proximity to their cheese "cave" for an extended period of time.  Also called "Cheese Separation Anxiety" or CSA, and akin to the symptoms of "Home Sickness",  it is manifested as a compulsive desire to flip, brush and wash their cheeses even though they are miles away"

OK, that was made up of whole (cheese) cloth but I'm definitely suffering from it.  I left instructions with my neighbor about caring for my cheeses over our 10 day absence, but I've just put in several new cheeses of various types (more than half in mini-caves) and I'm, well, concerned.

Enough of that sob story.  Main reason for posting is that I'm embarking on a new project to try to make a (very) low cost cave (or as the aficionados say, a "cave approximation") that anyone can make. 

Having some spare time I put together the "box" cave shown in the pictures using 1" thick extruded polystyrene from Lowes.  It's very crude because I didn't have access to good cutting accessories but my goal was more to get some baseline data.  My first test of the box (total R-value of 10, or about three times that of a conventional portable cooler) was to put one small "blue ice" pack (I'm guessing it was about 12 oz. but didn't measure) and monitor temperature.  Ambient temperature was 70F, and when I closed the box it took about 20 min to drop to 55.  Temperature remained in a tight 54 to 55F range for about 6 hr. and started rising slowly.  I opened the box and the pack was still semi-frozen.  Without boring you with the preliminary calculations these results exceeded my expectations.  I've got another test going with two packs overnight and we'll see how that does.

Will keep you updated.  And believe it or not, there actually is a real "Cave Sickness" ;D




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Offline John@PC

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Re: Suffering from Cave Sickness
« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2013, 05:42:01 PM »
Cave sickness must also be manifested by not attaching pictures to posts.  Sorry 'bout that :-[.

Offline Tiarella

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Re: Suffering from Cave Sickness
« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2013, 08:48:12 PM »
Cool experiment and thanks for sharing!  Could you repeat with temp probes in various places in the box?  I' curious about how much stratification of temps there is so probes at top and bottom would help answer that.  And I wonder about the impact of having a fee cheeses in there.  How much heat do aging cheeses put off?  I'm sure it varies. 

This is making me think of a series of  double foam boxes stacked with temperature probes in each one (to minimize opening). In my mind it almost looks like a bank of lockers.  I love the idea of no electricity except for the freezer that refreezes the ice packs.  Could you make the interior of a plastic that is easy to sanitize like the plastic that Farm Tek sells for milking parlours, etc?  Now I'm imaging that the foam frame is premolded and that plastic inserts are available that slide onto any of the slots.  making the plastic inserts movable means that the cheeses needing the most care can be put at more convenient heights while the ones on "autopilot" can be at ,ess convenient heights.  I have other ideas on this but I'll save those.

Offline Tomer1

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Re: Suffering from Cave Sickness
« Reply #3 on: July 04, 2013, 04:05:08 AM »
You could make the interior out of sheets of HDPE and glue the joints togther.

The Iso-Cave idea is nice. I feel like im wasting alot of electricity to run my cave.
Im setting up a wine room which will run at 15-17c, so putting a cooler with some ice packs to get the temp down to 11-13c seems ideal as I have some extra floor space.
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Offline John@PC

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Re: Suffering from Cave Sickness
« Reply #4 on: July 04, 2013, 06:15:41 AM »
Good suggestions Tiarella and Tomer.  I'm focusing on making a "KISAC" cave (Keep it Simple and Cheap).   Also going to make one using thermo-electric cooling as TEC modules are very inexpensive and efficient and this would eliminate need for ice.  It does have to be "cheap" because at some point I would just buy this.


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Offline John@PC

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Re: Suffering from Cave Sickness
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2013, 07:45:09 PM »
Well I'm finally back home after a 10 day absence and the cave-sickness is subsiding a bit.  However when I checked my cave I realized I may not have given my neighbor/care-taker precise enough instructions.  First, she forgot to fill the water tray for my humidifier and cave RH was 55% :-[ when I got home, and second my Jarlsberg looked like it landed from another planet (see picture below).  The hard cheeses had been coated with coconut oil and they weathered the storm just fine, and my others in the minicaves (a Reblochon and Brie) survived quite well.  In fact, I think the Reblochon had a wonderful time while I was gone and looked and smelled delightful so I included a picture of it :).

I put the Jarlsberg back in the cave until I get some advice from you.  My inclination is to brush the mold off and continue with the 68F temp. but is this the right track?   

As far as the "iso-cave" as Tomer aptly named it it I did get some very encouraging results that I'll share on a separate thread. 

Offline Boofer

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Re: Suffering from Cave Sickness
« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2013, 08:35:53 AM »
Congratulations, John, on enduring insufferable absence from your beloved cheeses. ;)

On the unpowered cave idea...I'm not sure how much air circulation comes into the picture, but I run a low voltage fan in each of my two caves to move the air around a bit. I must have missed it in my notes...what was the motivation for this project?

On the Jarlsberg: I would definitely remove the errant blue with vinegar & salt. That is, unless that was intended. ???

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Offline Alpkäserei

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Re: Suffering from Cave Sickness
« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2013, 03:08:51 PM »
Air circulation is critical to good aging. That's one reason I don't like the whole 'put the cheese in a little box' approach to getting higher RH, and recommend letting them air out frequently. You need O2 for just about everything on the rind of a given cheese be it BL, PC, GEO, PR, etc. And these will produce both heat energy and off gasses -ranging from CO2 to Ammonia. So in a tight, stale container you will get 'spots' of things.
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Offline jwalker

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Re: Suffering from Cave Sickness
« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2013, 07:00:05 AM »
John , thanks for bringing up the TEC's , I would never have thought of them otherwise .

I am just looking at a new cave now as my old one is full , I think I may just build my own using a 12 V TEC , like you said , they are inexpensive and very efficient.

As for the upright freezer you linked to , be very careful on Best Buy , watch the reviews , that one got 49 five star reviews and 59 one star reviews , seems your chances are more in favor of getting a bad one than a good one.

The cheese looks good. ;D

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No..........I'm not a professional CheeseMaker , but I play one on TV.

Offline John@PC

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Re: Suffering from Cave Sickness
« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2013, 11:03:45 AM »
I am just looking at a new cave now as my old one is full , I think I may just build my own using a 12 V TEC , like you said , they are inexpensive and very efficient.

I just purchased this kit from Ebay.  From China but then again everything is now :-[.  My goal is to make an "unpowered" iso-cave for less than $50 that can go 2 days without re-icing, and a TEC cooled cave for less than $75.  I may do the TEC one first because it would have a small cooling fan (to get the air circulation) and I think it could be possible to get by with 1" thick polystyrene foam (R-value of 5) which would save about $16 over a 2" thick panel.  As for size I was going to plan cut pattern to utilize a full 4' x 8' sheet of extruded PS - should net out 2 cu. ft or so cave. 


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Offline Sailor Con Queso

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Re: Suffering from Cave Sickness
« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2013, 02:17:53 PM »
I don't understand the principle of the TEC cooling. In particular, what kind of cooling capacity (BTUs?) does that little kit have? Please elaborate.
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Offline BobE102330

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Re: Suffering from Cave Sickness
« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2013, 02:45:36 PM »
It's just an odd property of a dissimilar metals junction that causes a temperature drop on one side with current. Efficiency is in the 10-15% range. Most modules are limited to around 10A at 12V, meaning that you'll get around 12-18W of heat removal per junction.  Enough to keep drinks cool in a small cooler, but not much more.  They are also limited in the temperature differential they can generate, so in a warm environment you may not be able to keep cool even if you are super insulated as required by the low cooling capability.  My girlfriend has a 12 bottle wine cooler that uses two peltier coolers.

In contrast, traditional refrigerators are 40-60% efficient.  A dorm fridge draws 3A at 120V, giving around 140W of heat removal assuming it is at the low end of the efficiency scale. 

Hooray! Knowledge flowing from me to Sailor for a change!  ;)  Thanks for all of your informative posts, Sailor.

Offline Sailor Con Queso

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Re: Suffering from Cave Sickness
« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2013, 04:37:38 PM »
Thanks Bob. Very helpful. Now I understand the basics of the Peltier module.

I have gears turning and am trying to see this in a practical application. Let me explain. I do a lot of blues. After draining, hooping, etc, the blue mold needs a few/several days to kick in. Room temp at 72-73F is too warm, and cave temp at 52F is definitely too cold. So, I put my blues in ripening boxes and incubate in a large milk cooler with a digital controller set at 62F. Works perfectly, but it would be really nice to reduce my electric load, and free up the milk cooler for other refrigeration needs - like actual milk.

I am familiar with the 12v Peltier drink coolers. So, what I am thinking is a super insulated (4" foam) closet sized box, say 4'w x 3'd x 5'h (60 cubic feet). Or maybe an old chest freezer. My thermodynamics is a little rusty, so how many of these would it take to go from ambient temp of 72-73F to the 60-62F that I want for my blues? If the TEC is around 12w, then it seems like it would take around 11 units to reach the 140w found in the dorm fridge.  However, I only need to get down to 60F so the load is actually less. I am finding units on ebay that claim 136 watts for just $9. Is that an actual possibility, to use just one of these to cool a dorm refrigerator? Are these things waterproof? Seems like heat sinks on both the hot and cold sides would increase efficiency.

The 12v supply to the Peltier can always be controlled by an external temperature controller with a thermocouple.

REVISION: I actually just found a 400w unit on ebay.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2013, 04:59:48 PM by Sailor Con Queso »
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Offline John@PC

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Re: Suffering from Cave Sickness
« Reply #13 on: July 10, 2013, 05:27:32 PM »
Another way to thick of a TEC is a thermocouple (T/C) in reverse.  T/C's are two dissimilar metals that generate a voltage at the junction when heated.  In the case of a TEC you reverse the process, and as Bob says you pump current in and get heat (or cooling) at the junction depending on polarity of the current applied.  Wikipedia has a very good summary if you're inclined for more detail about TEC.

I've run the heat flux calculations and I think the TEC could have a chance if ambient temperature is pretty constant and the delta T is not too great.  In other words if ambient temp is in the 72 degree range and target temp of the box is 55F a 6A module should maintain target temperature if the insulation is adequate (may have to be R10 which would be 2" of extruded polystyrene) and the "box" isn't too large.  Remember that a typical commercial ice cooler is (I'm guessing because of the thickness) R5 at the best.

I see it as a fun project, and even if you can't achieve the 20 deg F. differential it could be something good for what Sailor is talking about (i.e. a relatively "warm" cooler).  If it doesn't work you will still have a big-as* yogatherm!  >:D





Offline BobE102330

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Re: Suffering from Cave Sickness
« Reply #14 on: July 10, 2013, 05:39:42 PM »
The heat sinks are required to help draw the heat in on the cold side and get rid of it and the waste heat on the hot side. without them the efficiency would be almost nil.   

In your dorm fridge application you'll need to cut a bit of the insulation away and get to the skin, since the module isn't very thick. Be sure to allow for airflow into and out of the sinks.   I'd think you will do well with one unit since your delta T is pretty low.  As you said, if a cooler works...  Having the fan on the cold side on all the time would help even out temperatures.  The supply likely it will switch on and off with the cooling.