Author Topic: John's Cheese Cave #5 - Medium Radient Chest Freezer  (Read 7156 times)

Offline John (CH)

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John's Cheese Cave #5 - Medium Radient Chest Freezer
« on: June 21, 2008, 09:57:02 AM »
My fourth try at a cheese cave for maturing cheeses didn't work as medium fridge didn't go cool enough and humidity was way too low as forced de-humidified air.

Thus for my Cheese Cave #5 I have followed DaggerDoggie's lead and bought a used small chest freezer from a friend. I then set it on the warmest setting and as expected, the thermostat on the unit won't let it go above freezing and no where near the temperature required for maturing cheeses. Thus I have also ordered the same external Johnson Controls brand thermostat as DaggerDoggie to enable me to control the temperature to the desired Cheese Cave 10-13C/50-55F.

My unit as used and no auto-defrost and thus has frost buildup and thus I am thawing and washing it out. Surprisingly and sadly the label on the back says made in China rather than USA. Label is in dual language as many latinos in Texas.

DaggerDoggie, quick questions for when my thermostat arrives:
  • What setting do you set the freezer to or does it matter as the extrenal thermostat will govern?
  • My unit has a "Fast Freeze" button, which must be a turbo mode. I assume switch this off to be kinder to the machinery?
« Last Edit: September 18, 2009, 06:11:53 AM by John (CH) »


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Offline DaggerDoggie

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Re: John's Cheese Cave #5 - Medium Radient Chest Freezer
« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2008, 10:23:12 AM »
I think that is exactly like mine.  Nice score!  Mine also has no auto defrost, which is a good thing since they cycle a heating element to melt the ice and dry off any moisture on the sides.

I doubt it matters where you set the thermostat, since the external control will override the freezer's setting, but I did set mine to the warmest temperature.  Before my control came in, I was successful in using it by putting a thermometer inside and plugging it in until the internal temperature was 45 degrees.  I shut the lid and it would remain below 57 degrees up to 12 to 24 hours.  that is in my basement which is cool, but with a block of ice in there you may be able to do something similar.

Oh, the fast freeze is turbo mode.  If I remember correctly, it runs constantly when on.

I still need to build some wooden shelves for it.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2008, 10:31:58 AM by DaggerDoggie »

Offline John (CH)

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Re: John's Cheese Cave #5 - Medium Radient Chest Freezer
« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2008, 10:31:14 AM »
OK laid my unit down sideways on grass and washed it out, put in back upright and placed in corner of garage, lid open to let fully dry and to allow the oil etc to drain back properly into the compressor for a few hours. I looked at the compressor and yes you could probably turn the unit on end just by moving the compressor but will bend and maybe break tubes to coils and not worth the trouble.

I haven't switched mine on yet, where does the cold come from? All around unit I assume rather than just where the compressor is. As only mild coldness, I assume no problem in putting cheeses right on bottom, ie no concern of frost biite?

My unit has a verical plastic coated wire metal divider above the compressor which I rotated sideways and tucked a piece of wood at back and et voila one shelf. Mine also has a standard plastic coated wire basket that slides along top, I figure this can sit on right side above the shelf, now for the main area.

For sealed cheeses I'd like shelves rather than stacking cheeses on top of each other, preferably smooth so don't get indents in cheese and preferably non rusting as this will be a high humidity environment. For non sealed cheeses the same except I think they should go on hygenic removavble and washable wooden boards, question is what type of wood? I'd also like the system to be flexible, ie can change heights depending on where this hobby leads me. Asking a lot I know. A small plank style plastic shelving unit like this one would be idea, if I could find one small and strong enoughl. One idea is cut stuff to fit and wedge aginst sides but there could be quite a bit of weight ;D and that mail fail and we all know what happens to dropped cheese wheels ;).

So far I haven't found a small enough plastic system to fit mine. One thing that does fit is using two of these and then when want to check cheeses, just lift a whole unit out from two diagonal posts. Strong, adjustable shelves, and would fit space nicely, only problems with them is 1) metal and concern that even with chrome will rust, 2) railed and thus cheese will get indent mark, and 3) another USD50+shipping for two.

Another road is purpose build some shelves like you are thinking of . . . not in a rush, maybe I need to go look around WalMart and Target one day.

DD, yours thoughts? My unit ID is 27" tall, 28.5" wide, & 17.25" deep.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2008, 10:35:04 AM by Cheese Head »

Offline DaggerDoggie

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Re: John's Cheese Cave #5 - Medium Radient Chest Freezer
« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2008, 11:46:13 AM »
There seems to be coils that run all around the inside of the freezer.  If you turn it on for some time, ice will begin to form around the sides and bottom from the humidity.  I place all my cheese on pieces of wood or plates.  The inside is made of aluminum so I doubt cheese would be good resting on that and your cheese just may freeze to the bottom as the cheese itself my insulate the coils enough to allow it to freeze at that spot.

I have not come up with a good plan for shelving yet.  I want something flexible as well.  I like your idea of two shelves that could each be pulled out as a rack.  As for wood, many cheese makers show they have wooden racks in their aging rooms.  The only type of wood I have seen mentioned is spruce.  I would think, traditionally, makers may have used whatever local wood was available, although I wouldn't use pine as the sap can ooze out of unfinished boards for years and, while that might create an interesting flavor in cheese, I don't want it in all my cheeses.  I have some birch and cedar in my garage which I am thinking of using...I also have some cherry, maple, and oak, but that stuff is too dear to build cheese shelves out of.   I would also avoid any plywood due to the glue that may leach or gas out in a closed environment.  I share your concern with the metal rack.  It looks perfect, but overtime it probably would rust.  If you put some wood on top of the shelves, that wouldn't matter much.

I need to come up with a plan for the shelves soon.  That hanging basket is handy.  I could use two more.  I took my vertical divider out but I like what you did with yours.  I may copy that.

I guess I'm not much help as I am still in a quandary over what I am going to do and what will remain versatile.  I'll let you know if I come up with more ideas.


Offline John (CH)

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Re: John's Cheese Cave #5 - Medium Radient Chest Freezer
« Reply #4 on: June 22, 2008, 12:06:10 PM »
OK, thanks for your thoughts. Sounds like you at same place.

Our house here is only 3.5 years old so not much spare wood :-[, my dad probably has tonnes of pieces that would work. I agree, no plywood and no pine as cheese could taste like Greek Retsina wine, which I have tries 2-3 times but never aquired the taste :P. Growing up in Pacific NW albeit Canada side I'd also say cedar is out as to much natural self sanitizing oil in it. Reading Ricki Caroll's book she recommends well seasoned birch or maple and says do not use cherry or oak. I guess I could just use cheap or old wooden cutting boards for the few cheees that I am not going to seal for maturing. I still want the boards to be removable for easier cleaning.

Will also let you know if I come up with anything for shelving . . .


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Offline John (CH)

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Re: John's Cheese Cave #5 - Medium Radient Chest Freezer
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2008, 08:29:32 AM »
My Johnston thermostat control that I ordered from www.NothernBrewer.com on Saturday June 21 arrived Thursday June 26 here in USA. Just installed it and fired up freezer, need to get temp and humidity stable then will transfer cheeses to it. Still haven't bought any shelving.

Offline DaggerDoggie

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Re: John's Cheese Cave #5 - Medium Radient Chest Freezer
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2008, 11:46:45 AM »
Great!  Now you can get started with your cheese cave.  What I found with mine, after a week of experimenting, I was not able to control the humidity by opening the lid.  Yes it would drop when opened, but go right back up by the next morning.  I took out all the cheese and plugged the freezer directly back into the outlet, set it on high, and let it freeze.  I then cleaned out all the ice and now it seems to stay at 85 to 89% humidity.

Offline John (CH)

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Re: John's Cheese Cave #5 - Medium Radient Chest Freezer
« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2008, 07:06:15 AM »
Temperature stabilized at 12 C/54 F, humidity stable at 80%, bit low but should come up a little with cheeses in thei drying and maturing, so out the new Cheese Cave in service by placing my cheeses into their new home this morning ;D.

Not as many as DaggerDoggie but then I tend to eat mine before fully aged.

Offline DaggerDoggie

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Re: John's Cheese Cave #5 - Medium Radient Chest Freezer
« Reply #8 on: June 28, 2008, 09:47:58 AM »
That looks great, John.  You are doing better than me, even with your high-humidity climate.  I had trouble getting my humidity down.  Low is probably better than high as you can always add a bowl of water to raise it if you have to.

Offline John (CH)

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Re: John's Cheese Cave #5 - Medium Radient Chest Freezer
« Reply #9 on: June 28, 2008, 11:50:50 AM »
Don't know why you say better, just following your idea on freezer as Cheese Cave. If you are meaning the cheeses, you have way more and yes way more colorful 8), your blue looks wonderful.

I just checked my cheeses and dummy me put them on the rack this morning before cutting grass and they already have lines from the wire :-\. have to get a shelf system.


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Offline DaggerDoggie

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Re: John's Cheese Cave #5 - Medium Radient Chest Freezer
« Reply #10 on: June 28, 2008, 11:58:30 AM »
What I meant was your humidity control.  It took me a while to get that down.

Lines are better than dropping them. ;D

Offline reg

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Re: John's Cheese Cave #5 - Medium Radient Chest Freezer
« Reply #11 on: June 29, 2008, 06:39:59 AM »
the 'cave' looks great CH, good job.

one thing that i have noticed both with making cheese and curing meats is that the lower the temp the harder it is to have the higher humidity. now i think this can be a situation that we can make good use of if we are wise. my guess at this point is that at lower temps lets say 50-52*( by adding a small ice pac with the two larger ones in my case) it becomes hard to get the humidity we need for proper aging but with the 75-80% humidity that could be the optimal conditions that we need for drying without cracking. i'm actually working on these thoughts with the stirred cheddar and the manchego as we speak and it seems to be working so far. the plan is that when the cheese becomes dry to the point that i think is correct then raise the temps four or five degrees and raise the humidity 10-15% more by adding in some damp paper towels. i have tried this and so far it works like a charm. will continue to play with this idea and keep you posted 
reg

Offline John (CH)

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Re: John's Cheese Cave #5 - Medium Radient Chest Freezer
« Reply #12 on: July 16, 2008, 06:42:48 PM »
Problem continued with freezer Cheese Cave relative humidity increasing steadily to 96% on my digital gauge.

Removed all cheeses, turned unit off, and leaving lid wide open to return to ambient 55% RH here garage in Houston, Texas.

I then restarted freezer with digital electricity meter and after a few days it climbed all the way up to max reading of 99% with upper walls damp with condensed moisture. If I ran my finger along it would cause a line of drops to run down inside like on a window. I then propped open lid 1" at front and success . . . humidity has started to decline.

My readings:
  • July 12, 2008, Lid closed, Cumulative Time = 0 hours, Cumulative Power = 0 kwh, RH = 55%.
  • July 15, 2008, morning, CumTime=68 hrs, CumPower=0.97 kwh (0.34 kwh/day), RH=92 %, left lid open 1 inch at front.
  • July 15, 2008, evening, CumTime=80 hrs, CumPower=1.15 kwh (0.36 kwh/day), RH=94 %, lid open 1 inch.
  • July 16, 2008, CumTime=103 hours, CumPower=1.53 kwh (0.4 kwh/day), RH=90 %, added three moist Camemberts, lid open 1/2 inch.
  • July 18, 2008, CumTime=141 hrs, CumPower=2.13 kwh (0.4 kwh/day), RH=94 %, small puddle water in bottom, soaked out with towel and rubbed down upper sides where condensation, raised lid to 1.5 inch at front.
  • July 19, 2008, Temp=56 F/13 C, CumTime=165 hrs, CumPower=2.66 kwh (0.5 kwh/day), RH=91 %, small puddle water in bottom, soaked out with towel and rubbed down upper sides where condensation, lowered lid to 0.5 inch at front.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2008, 06:33:15 AM by Cheese Head »

Offline Austin_cheese_lover

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Re: John's Cheese Cave #5 - Medium Radient Chest Freezer
« Reply #13 on: July 29, 2008, 04:52:01 PM »
Hello,
This is my first time writing on this forum.  I actually haven't made any cheese yet, it is an intimidating process to jump into. I plan on making my mother cultures this evening and making an easy, non-press bag cheese this weekend.

Anyway, my question is regarding the cheese cave.  Do you think a stand up freezer will work as well?  I saw one free on craigslist.  It seems like at one point in the process the cheese needs to stay in 72 degrees and after when it is ageing the temp is much less.  What do people generally do about having different temps?  I live in Texas and, to save electricity, my house is rarely below 80 in the summer. Is is bad to keep it in 80 degree heat while it is hanging in the bag and/or before it is waxed? Sorry I don't know all the technical terms!

Thanks for all the help your forum has already provided!

Offline John (CH)

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Re: John's Cheese Cave #5 - Medium Radient Chest Freezer
« Reply #14 on: July 29, 2008, 05:40:35 PM »
Hi Austin_cheese_lover in Texas USA and welcome to this forum!

As you have yet to make cheese I agree that starting with a bag or square hanging cheesecloth soft Neufchatel or Cream Cheese is best place to start. There are some recipes posted in this forum along with simple mesophilic starter culture to get you going.

I thought about standing my medium chest freezer on end for easier access but looking at compressor and coils etc I don't think it would work/drain properly.

Mostly you need a cheese cave for 50-55F but the biggest problem and the most important parameter is controlling the humidity. The 72 F/22 C in recipes is really just meaning most peoples average room temperature. Here in Houston Texas with much higher humidity our AC is set in summer at 78F daytime & 76F night and I've had no problem hanging/gravity draining cheese overnight.

FYI, most hanged type cheeses are soft and thus you do not wax them as way too moist.