Author Topic: Custom Cheese Cave  (Read 9267 times)

Offline Cartierusm

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Custom Cheese Cave
« on: December 01, 2008, 07:16:28 PM »
This is my first post and I'm just starting to make cheese again. I live near San Francisco and have no basement. I've got a full machine and wood shop and I know engineering. So my task, with your help, is to create a perfect cheese cave. If I can come up with a good solution I'm more than willing to make any of the parts for other members.

Now that's out of the way I will probably be storing any waxed cheese, such as cheddar in my wine cellar which is 57 F and 50-60% relative humidity, I know it's a little low for wine but I'm going to try and bring that up to 70%. SO my challenges are to be able to store and humidify different mold-ripened cheeses without cross contamination and parmesan.

I'm going to use a new small dorm style refrigerator and a temp control. I use a Ranco ETC (Electronic Temperature Control). The problem I'm having is controlling the humidity. I don't like the idea of water plate in it as I'm more of an exacting kind of guy. Anyway as most of you probably know there are no cool mist small humidifiers out there that will fit in a small refrigerator. Especially ones that you can set the humidity. At first I thought maybe they make humidification beads, like for storing cigars and for laboratories, in the 85 and 90% range. I couldn't find any, I'll call some places tomorrow. So I can build a small assembly which is a reservoir and a small computer fan blowing air onto the water, this would be a humidifier. The problem is controlling it. Measuring and controlling humidity is hard. So there could be 2 solutions, build a DIY humidity control as ones I find online going as high as 95% are in the $130 range and that's too much for me, right now. So if anyone knows a place I find a DIY humidity controller or any other idea, that would be great. The other alternative is to build the device and then time how long it needs to be on by reading a hygrometer then turn it off and check how long it takes for the value to fall, manually turn it back on and so forth, I then can build a timer circuit board to turn the mini humidifier on and off, but that might not be that accurate.

The reason I want to build it myself, is that I want it to be cheap and I can make multiple units. If it works what I plan on doing is making a few on them then using Tupperware inside the temperature controlled refrigerator to ripen cheese without cross contamination because each cheese would be sealed in it's own Tupperware with it's own humidifier.

Any help would be appreciate. Thanks.
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Offline Tea

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Re: Custom Cheese Cave
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2008, 01:28:41 PM »
Good morning Cartierusm and welcome to the forum.  I think you will have struck a nerve with all of us, as we are all on a mission to find/build the perfect cave for our cheeses, so this thread will probably be watched with much interest.
You seem to have the main requirements needed, so I hope that some of the tech head here are able to help you in your endeavours.
Keeps us posted on your findings.

Offline Wayne Harris

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Re: Custom Cheese Cave
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2008, 07:04:15 PM »
Actually,  I'm under a self imposed work stoppage until I improve my cheese cave facilities.

So, I too am watching this thread with much interest.

Wayne A. Harris - in vino veritas

Offline Cartierusm

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Re: Custom Cheese Cave
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2008, 03:01:50 AM »
I've built some wine cellars and a ton of temperature controlled humidors so I know the perils of trying to control both cold and humidity. The problem I had when I first started building temp controlled humidors was that having electronic humidification going on when the a/c went on. As you know when the a/c goes on the water in the air condenses on the coils then the humidifier goes on to bring the humidity back up and as the condensed water evaporates into the air it over humidifies the unit. My solution was to have both 70% Humidification beads and electronic humidification. So when the condensed water evaporates the beads slowly soak it up. I've never had a problem yet.

So trying to create humidity in a cold environment is hard. I could build the physical parts such as the humidifier and electronics but I have no idea on where to find a schematic for such a device and I don't want to buy a $130 device. I've tried to find school science sensors from Vernier, i've used their stuff before. I looked at Cigar Oasis, which I use for cigars, electronic humidification but it only goes to 80%. I guess I could always go analog and use human hair, from my researches over the years it's the most sensitive thing to humidity changes, it will contract and expand based on the humidity. Actually some humidity controls use hair on the inside connected to a device to measure position.

I guess I might just do what I suggested build a small reservoir with a fan on top blowing on it and just hook up a variable loop timer, I already have one adjustable from like 3 seconds to 5 minutes. Then I'll check the humidity at different intervales through out the day and see what it looks like. It so funny that temperature devices are so easy to build and understand but humidity is like an elusive lover.

Humidity gauges are so cheap, even digital ones, I wish I could just add to the circuit board and say hey turn on if it drops below 80 and turn off above 80. Hell I guess I could take an analog hygrometer and put an optical switch in it's path at the humidity I want it to turn off at, but that's not a real sturdy solution.
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Offline Brian

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Re: Custom Cheese Cave
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2008, 01:23:44 PM »
I looked at Cigar Oasis, which I use for cigars, electronic humidification but it only goes to 80%

Nothing wrong with 80% humidity.  Is there?

B

Offline Cartierusm

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Re: Custom Cheese Cave
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2008, 08:20:09 PM »
No some of mine need to be at 90-95 percent and the cigar oasis is $100 and I would need multiple so I'm trying to figure out a better solution. I wonder if I buy one I could jus copy the circuit board...
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Offline SalMac

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Re: Custom Cheese Cave
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2008, 09:04:36 PM »
iButtons will do to control a whole range of devices you've described. Including humidifiers/dehumidifiers. Might need a central software controller to control interractions youve discussed but...

Youre widgety enough...lol

Sal

PS also there are plug based devices which will turn on and off de/humdifiers to levels you put in for not a lotta money (£25)
« Last Edit: December 08, 2008, 09:17:48 PM by SalMac »

Offline Cartierusm

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Re: Custom Cheese Cave
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2008, 04:50:18 PM »
is the iButton anything like MCUs? You know Pic chips and Parallax Micro Controllers? How hard are they to program?
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Offline Cartierusm

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Re: Custom Cheese Cave
« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2008, 06:39:18 PM »
So I'm debating on whether to keep the new small frig I just bought. I figure I'm going to be aging most mold based cheese in their own tupperware with a personal humidifier and most waxed cheese need to be aged at 50-55 F and I'll just be doing that in my wine cellar which is 57F. The only temp I don't have is 50F. Between my regular kitchen refrigerator 40F and my cellar 57 I should be covered. If you followed my posts thus far you know I go full out, so in 6 months if all the new cheeses turn out great then maybe I'll build a dual temp storage cave in the garage, but for now I might keep the small frig for ripening the blue cheese at 45-50, they still would be in a tupperware as I don't want the mold to infest the frig.
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Offline Sing_cheese

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Re: Custom Cheese Cave
« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2008, 03:24:38 AM »
Cartier,

What was you final solution?  I have the same issue as you and have trouble keeping all the cheese at different temps and humidity.  I currently have 4 wine coolers that are as follows -

1. 120 bottle cooler with temp at 58f and ~85% humidity (run an egg streamer in it 5 time a day to keep the humudity) use for smear rippened and blues and for non waxed cheeses (two compartments so not any cross contamination that I can see)

2. 120 bottle cooler with temp at 45f and 55% humidity (this is the natural humdity with just a pan of water at the bottom). I use this to store waxed cheeses and hanging provolone and Mozzarella.  Also for brining and used to store brine and other supplies.

3. 40 bottle cooler for bloomy rind cheeses at 48f and 90-99% humidity. I use an egg steamer 7-8 times a day to keep the humidity high.

4.  20 bootle cooler at 72f and about 55% humidity to mimic high/low latitude room tempature called for in recipes for drying cheese and for room temp brining.

Living on the equator has special problem like having to use ice to get the milk down to 86f for certain cheeses to culture. Also as many expats are getting retrenched due to the current economy troubles, used wine coolers are readily available and really cheap.

My humidity solution is a pain but as most expats in Singapore have full time help, keeping the temp and humidity correct in the caves is another one of the maid's chores.  Would love automate the solution though.  Wonder if you have had any further luck in automating humidity control in wine chillers used as cheese caves.



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« Last Edit: December 30, 2008, 04:18:41 AM by Sing_cheese »
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Offline Tea

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Re: Custom Cheese Cave
« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2008, 01:57:08 PM »
If wine coolers are cheap, can you send one my way???  Pretty please  :-*

I went looking for a fridge for a cave a few weeks ago, and of course after seeing the wine fridges, I think my heart was won over, although I did notice that it faultered and fluttered a bit when I saw the price though.  sigh

What a great set up though, being able to separate the cheeses like that.

Offline Cartierusm

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Re: Custom Cheese Cave
« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2008, 06:51:18 PM »
Sing,

I am a humidity master, I've been building temperature controlled humidors for 18 years, because obviously I smoke cigars, so I've done lots of research.

Depending on how much you want to spend. Cigar Oasis makes retail and commerial compact digital humidifier that go to 80%, not the best solution as it olny goes to 80% but it's digital and it's small.

If the frig is big enough you can use a stand alone humidifier from Amazon with a digital control as well, I hate analog read outs.

From my experiments over time a bowl of water does nothing, you need surface area, try using wet paper towels, they act as wicks. Spraying the wall with distilled water works, but makes it a pain the ass.

Other than that they don't make compact settable humidifiers that I've found. As for automating your egg steamer, that's doable, not expensive but takes a little research. Quite a few people on here talk about a device called the iButton, never used it, but it's basically a MCU or a PIC, if you don't know what those aycronms are then they aren't for you. I would buy a stand alone controller board that had timer frequency. So it's basically a timer that you set. You set the on time and off time. You can buy a digital one from any hardware store, not sure about singapore, but there they are $20 and have 12 set times, they are the ones used to hook up your lamps to so it looks like you're still at home when on vacation.

There are other options such as X10 controllers, I have a whole bunch, that you can use with you computer and software it comes with, it allows you to set unlimited number of timers. So you just plug whatever device, your egg steamer, and tell it was on and off time you want and it sends a signal from your computer via radio wave to the plug in device and turns on the appliance. This is really a good way becasue you can control about 300 different devices with it so for $50 you have a system which can be used to turn light on and off and a million other things. Here's the link http://www.x10.com/promotions/home_automation_n.html. Anytime you want to add more device you'll have to buy a module which can be had for $20 or less.

For you it seems as though you won't be able to fit a digital humidifier in those wine frig. What you should do is get the X10 system and just time over a day how long it takes for the humidity to drop in the wine frig, then time how long it takes the egg steamer to rehumidify it, then set timers according to those readings.
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Offline Sing_cheese

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Re: Custom Cheese Cave
« Reply #12 on: December 30, 2008, 10:03:58 PM »
Cartier,

Thanks for the information.  I am familiar with MCU's.  And the timer solution may work, but the $5 egg steamers that I am using have a pretty shallow water pan and need to be filled everytime I turn them on.  Also, as my labor is already paid for to change the pans and turn on the steamers, I think that the timers are kind of redundent except at night.  Will a fluctuatig humidity really effect the cheese a lot?  My current method particularly in my bloomy rind cave has a 5:30am - 10:00pm humidity of 90-99% and this drops overnight to about 75-80%. Will this adversely effect the Cheese??

I just ordered the cigar oasis that you recomended from amazon and as my daughter is in the US on holiday at the moment she can carry it back without the very $$ shipping costs.  I will give it a try in one of my caves and see how it works. 

 
Gerrit @ Urban Farmstead Singapore

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Offline Cartierusm

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Re: Custom Cheese Cave
« Reply #13 on: December 30, 2008, 10:12:05 PM »
Those humidities are fine. Cheese doesn't get effected that quickly, it won't notice the difference, I won't tell the cheese if you don't.

P.S. How often does the refrigerator part come on? A wine frig should be holding humidity better than that, unless your outdoor temp is high? I think you mentioned the temp earlier, so I think I answered my own question.

The problem with refrigerators coming on is that it draws water out of the air and thus the humidity, but if the wine frig is sealed it should eventually equalize back, unless there is a drain hose going from the cooling element to a pan unde the machine. But for wine it should be keeping in at least 70%, because that's what you want for wine, but as a wine frig, it may not consider long term storage.
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Offline cowboycheese

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Re: Custom Cheese Cave
« Reply #14 on: April 05, 2009, 07:27:36 PM »
What if you wired up the fridge/condenser and whatever you used for humidification so that it was either or? I.e: Condenser on, humidifier off - condenser off, humidifier on.  I like the fan on a wick method like my whole room/house humidifier uses only on a dirt cheap scale (pan, cheap auto air filter section and a $4 small variable speed dc computer fan - i think i found my next project...).

I guess you would need to strike a balance - but with enough insulation the cooling cycle should be minimal after the interior temp is stable.