Author Topic: John's Cheese Cave #4 - Medium Forced Air Fridge-Freezer  (Read 4515 times)

Offline John (CH)

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John's Cheese Cave #4 - Medium Forced Air Fridge-Freezer
« on: June 15, 2008, 12:31:27 PM »
Cheese caves for ripening stage of cheesenaking should be 50-55 F/10-13C and ~85% humidity.

I live in very humid Houston Texas so no good cool basement type location so my first Cheese Cave for ripening cheese was to put the cheese on a mat in our forced de-humidified air kitchen fridge, that didn't work overnight it dried out and cracked. Subsequant checking with a humidity/temperature gauge found 39 F/4 C and 30% humidity.

My second try was a small cooler box with small gel ice pack and humidity/temp gage. That didn't work well as ice block sweated from air condensation and humidity too high @ 95% and cheese easily got external mold, and temp too cold so had to leave lid ajar.

My third try was a large picnic cooler box with large gel ice block and same gage, it worked better as larger and thus less temperamental but humidity still too high @ 95% and same mould problem and temperature fluctuations between when replacing ice blocks, every 1/2-1 day and thus still high maintenance.

My fourth try is to use an old medium size 220 volt Toshiba fridge from when we lived outside of US. Had to plug in a transformer to use it in the garage so not very energy efficient. My new 1 day old 3 lb / 1.5 kg Gouda is in there in pictures below. Problem so far is 1) the temperature is still slightly too cold at 46 F/8 C, I have the fridge on warmest setting, just raised the freezer setting, maybe that will bring fridge temp up, 2) the humidity even with bowl of water is only 47% as the fridge is forced air style :-[.

Any ideas on raising the humidity long term and short term? One short term fix is to put in a tupperware type plastic box with humidity gage and leave lid open a crack and adjust crack size based on huidity gauge. But this will take up room in fridge and long term be labor intensive.

If this doesn't work I was thinking of:
  • Wine cooler fridges as passive non-dehumidified non-forced air type cooling, but medium size ones are expensive and most have wire racks shaped with curves to hold wine bottles. The only medium sized model I could find with flat racks was nice with pull out drawers but USD500.
  • Small 1/2 height USD100-150 radient cooling fridges with small freezers could be better.

Looking for suggestions . . .
« Last Edit: June 15, 2008, 12:47:00 PM by Cheese Head »


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Offline DaggerDoggie

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Re: John's Cheese Cave #4 - Medium Forced Air Fridge-Freezer
« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2008, 01:03:56 PM »
The forced air fans in the fridge is so that cold air circulates around the food and helps to eliminate any nasty odors,  that's why today, you can find green food in the back of the fridge, and not know it's there.

Not sure how handy you are, but you can disconnect the fan, make sure you tape off any wires, and I would think that may work better.  Often there are two fans, one for the freezer and one for the fridge.  Also, there is sometimes a schematic stuck on the back of the fridge somewhere.  I would go ahead and disconnect both and see how that works.  Also, since you are not using the freezer, also disconnect the auto defrost as that will save you some energy and may help equalize the temperature.


Offline John (CH)

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Re: John's Cheese Cave #4 - Medium Forced Air Fridge-Freezer
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2008, 03:21:44 PM »
Thanks DD

My understanding is that the oldest style fridges had refrigerant pumped through tubes in an aluminum barrel that was the ice box. This was radient cooling where the fridge area below the ice box got the radient cold, you want colder fridge, make freezer colder. The problem with that system is that as air is cooled it holds less moisture which builds up over time as frost and ice on the cooling barrel requiring once every 6 months thawing out of the freezer and chopping the melting ice off. The next invention was auto defrost with a heat cycle to periodically melt off thath ice and let drip onto an evaporation tray normally located at base of fridge below the cold box as evaporated easier in most household's low humidity air. Some smaller 1/2 height fridges are still I believe built that way like this one with plastic inside door on small freezer compartment. I think your freezer that you are converting into a Cheese Cave is this style but with refrigerant coils in walls as no separate fridge - freezer, correct? The beauty of this is no air circulation and thus no de-humidification to low humidity.

The next significant advance was to have separate compartments and put the refridgerant heat exchanger outside the fridge compartment and blow air across it and into freezer and fridge compartments for more even cooling (and smell control like you said). Same behavior, when you cool air, it holds less moisture and water precipitates out on outside of fridge and drains into an external evaporation tray. This forced air style is what I have and I think as very efficient it also very effciently dries the air to very low humidity like our large household fridge does.

Question, the fridge is relatively sealed via heavy door seal, so I assume the fan just circulates very cold air from the freezer into the fridge and back to the freezer and the compressor is used to just cool the freezer, correct?

Two problems, first is temperature getting too low, you have a good idea in disconnecting the fan but then the fridge will probably not be cold at all asgarage/outside is 95F here today :D and freezer is completely separate unit and minimal convective cooling. Good idea on disconnecting auto defrost to save energy, I'll have to check wiring.

Second-main problem is humidity. Your freezer is no air escape system so not air is not de-humidified and you can build up humidity through bowl of water. My forced air fridge will always be dehumidifing I think no matter how many bowls of water I place in there. The only last good ideas I have are:
  • Putting cheese in leaky plastic containers in fridge to control humidity, not very good.
  • Buying a wine cooler with radiant style cooling like your freezer but problems as above.
  • Doing like you and buy small freezer and override thermostat controller
  • Buying older style 1/2 height fridge with drum style freezer so that less de-humidification than forced air, but worried that still some de-humidification and that it won't go warm enough like my current one.

Rock and hard place . . .

Offline DaggerDoggie

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Re: John's Cheese Cave #4 - Medium Forced Air Fridge-Freezer
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2008, 04:16:20 PM »
Here's what I am thinking if you disconnect the fans.  I have never done this, so I am not sure it will work, you are right that the fans circulate the cold air from the freezer, but there will still be some convection without the fans.  Since cold air is heavier, it should get to the freezer, but much more inefficiently and perhaps slow enough to raise the temperature of the fridge.  Also, since the air will be more stagnant, you should also be able to control the humidity better.

If it is still too cold, you could try buying the same type of thermostat I got, well, it should be here tomorrow, and control the temperature better with that.  Put the thermo-sensor in the fridge part and set it to 55 degrees.  I'm thinking that would work.  If it doesn't, you could still use the thermostat in a freezer or other cooler.

You are correct about the inner mechanicals of my freezer.  So far, my freezer is working well without the thermostat.  I just plug it in for ten minutes, get it down to 45 degrees and shut the lid.  So far it has taken 24 hours to reach 57 degrees and I just plug it in again for ten minutes.  Soon, I won't have to worry about that.

I started off with a bowl of water in there, but the humidity rose to 95%, probably because I have so many new cheeses in there.  I removed the water, plugged it in and let it run open for a while and got the humidity down and then closed it.  Right now it seems to be maintaining around 87% humidity.  As the cheeses dry, I will probably have to add water again.

Offline John (CH)

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Re: John's Cheese Cave #4 - Medium Forced Air Fridge-Freezer
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2008, 04:34:34 PM »
Thanks DD, sounds like your radient chest style freezer idea is going to work well, both humidity and temperature, congrats :).

A vertical door style freezer would be better access but I think that style is like fridges with forced de-humidified air.

Good point on fan, as still route for cold air to drop down into fridge and less de-humidifying, worth a try, but instead or disconnecting wires I just did it the redneck way, see picture.

Will let you know results . . .


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Offline DaggerDoggie

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Re: John's Cheese Cave #4 - Medium Forced Air Fridge-Freezer
« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2008, 04:45:11 PM »
LOL!  As you know, I'm into offroading so I enjoy seeing good, creative redneck mods. ;D

Offline John (CH)

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Re: John's Cheese Cave #4 - Medium Forced Air Fridge-Freezer
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2008, 09:00:09 PM »
Just checked the fridge for second time since installing the fan 4.5 hours ago that shuffles air from cold freezer into the fridge. Temp in fridge is now up to 66 F, a rise of 20F and probably still warming as still above 90 F in garage. Good idea though. Pulled screwdrive and fan started again when close freezer door, will let fridge pump temp back down to warmest probably 46 F again. Humidity reading 31 %, still low as bowl of water takes time to release water into air.

Agree using your thermostat would fix temp problem but don't think it will fix humidity problem. Have to think . . . wish I knew someone with a half height non-forced air fridge that I could set on high and measure temp & humidity . . . other option is buy one and then measure and if no good then return it and go down your freezer road . . . hate doing that to stores.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2008, 12:12:01 AM by Cheese Head »

Offline reg

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Re: John's Cheese Cave #4 - Medium Forced Air Fridge-Freezer
« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2008, 07:02:35 AM »
OK you guys you have me roaring with all this teck stuff this morning :-) this is a real hoot. the thoughts and things one will go through to try to get the perfect enviroment for aging our cheeses.

so far i'm still using the larger coolers but they need to be tended every 12-24 hrs. since i have vac packed all the cheeses now all i have to concern myself with is maintaining the constant 50-55* temps. it can be done but like everyone else i would like a better system

CH when using the downstairs fridge to cure meats and sausages i was given a heads up many years ago. this fellow told me to take shallow wide pans like cookie sheets and fill them with salt water and to put them at the lowest spot in the fridge. believe it or not it raised the humidity to 65-70% in no time. now if you can put that together with some of your other ideas you may create the perfect environment

interesting stuff. keep up the chatter and this thread could not only help with our cheese dilemmas but could also help with other things like curing meat and sausages
reg

Offline DaggerDoggie

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Re: John's Cheese Cave #4 - Medium Forced Air Fridge-Freezer
« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2008, 04:26:35 PM »
I think if you keep experiment it, you may get it right.  My freezer cave is still getting humidity a little high after a day but I open the lid for an hour and it drops.  Since it is a chest freezer, I'm not loosing much cold air since the cold air stays in there.  I think this will settle down after some of the cheese begins to loose moisture.  Then again, I do plan on adding more. ;D

Offline calgal98

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Re: John's Cheese Cave #4 - Medium Forced Air Fridge-Freezer
« Reply #9 on: September 06, 2008, 07:48:27 PM »
I'm playing with the idea of building a strawbale cellar above ground.  We live in heavy clay area and getting below waterlevel and hardpan is a real pain in the arse.  Oops.  I'm new so don't know if the arse word is acceptable... ???  Calgal


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