The last few weeks I have been working on upgrading my “Meadery,” that is, the closet where I ferment and age all of my meads. After buying our house, I quickly claimed a closet in an extra bedroom for fermenting before we ever moved anything in. This small, 36″x31″ space is where all of my equipment should reside, but just having the floor and single top shelf was proving to be a problem. I don’t trust the top shelf to hold any weight, and my carboys, buckets and bottles were overflowing into all rooms of the house. Add in the additional brewing equipment I received for the Holidays, and an upgrade was in order.
A full brewing closet, with carboys, bottles, and odds and ends all over the place.
Given the constraints on space, I wanted to add a single mid-level shelf that could support the weight of six 5-gallon carboys. The shelf also needed enough space both above and below such that you could fit a carboy with an S-type airlock attached, and still have a few inches to add water to the airlock as necessary. I wanted the shelf to span the full 31″ width of the closet. This meant it had to be built into the closet, as the doorway was only 23″ wide.
Taking the inspiration from Ted’s Fishroom, I decided to use a modified dado joint to create the shelf. (Note: I also have a freshwater fish tank, that before I started brewing was fully stocked with white cloud mountain minnows and cherry shrimp, and aquascaped with assorted crypts, anubias, rotala and java fern.) I added two interior 2″x4″ spacers so that my plywood shelf would not bow under the additional weight. While fish tanks can be fully supported on their two long sides, my carboys carry the same weights, but the round bottom needs to be supported on all sides. I also drilled two outside spacers into the studs as additional support. This mitigates any issues from knocking the legs on accident and causing the shelf to topple.
A 5-gallon Better Bottle plastic carboy is roughly 26″ in height when the airlock is attached, so I planned for a minimum of 30″ space on the middle and bottom shelves. Measuring floor to the bottom of the hanger bar already installed in the closet, I had 68″ of space. This was just enough to fit in my design as I needed to take into account the additional height of the 2″x4″ cross members with the 3/4″ plywood shelf.
Left: The empty closet. Center: The initial frame with the back legs and two interior spacers drilled to the back cross member. Right: The finished shelf.
Over the course of 3 days, and what felt like way too long considering the simplicity of the design (but at least it is level!), I finally put the last screw into the shelf. Of course, after building it, I still have leftover equipment in the house. But a haphazard carboy or two is far better than where I began!
The completed closet, missing two 5-gallon carboys, a 1 gallon carboy, and a 1/2 gallon carboy, all currently in the center of our living room floor under MEA-watch. Looking closely, you can see the blackberry stain created by the first mead made on the new shelf.