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Jun 08, 2022 View:

Fermenting in colder weather

Ladies & Gents,

We're coming up on our first winter and I am wondering if we will have to make some adjustments for the colder weather. Our production is in a garage-type facility (no insulation, just a wood stove for taking out the chill). We ferment 100-225 gal. batches, depending on the product. Are we going to need to get some heating blankets or something like that to keep the temp up on the fermenters, or as long as we get the fermentation to start should we be okay? We're in Western KY, so at night we're talking temps dipping down to the 20's during the worst part of the winter, and highs in the high 30's/low 40's. Thanks guys.

Paul


Reply:

we are much further south so our main worry is cooling, generally fermentation keeps everything warm enough 65+. occasionaly we get a cold snap and we do not own a heater. we wrap with subfloor insulation (cheap and waterproof) but put two water bed heaters under the insulation (cheap-$12.00 and water resistant)our fermenters have never gone below 68 but we do not have freezing temps all day long. you guys that live up north are much tougher than me


Reply:

Ladies & Gents,

We're coming up on our first winter and I am wondering if we will have to make some adjustments for the colder weather. Our production is in a garage-type facility (no insulation, just a wood stove for taking out the chill). We ferment 100-225 gal. batches, depending on the product. Are we going to need to get some heating blankets or something like that to keep the temp up on the fermenters, or as long as we get the fermentation to start should we be okay? We're in Western KY, so at night we're talking temps dipping down to the 20's during the worst part of the winter, and highs in the high 30's/low 40's. Thanks guys.

Paul


Reply:

You did not mention what base you were fermenting, but finding out the proper temperature range is easy, just refer to the specs on your yeast. Most yeast used in distilleries are designed to ferment best between 68 and 80 deg. F. With most culture yeasts if the fermentation temp. exceeds 80 F. fermentation can be compromised due to cell death. In the opposite case, if the fermentation drops below 65 deg. F, the fermentation can become sluggish. By your post, I am assuming your fermenters are not jacketed. In cases where they are jacketed, but the ambient temperature becomes too low, I have seen instances where warm water was pumped through the jackets.

Remember that heating from the outside of a vessel takes a good bit of time to warm up the contents inside. You might want to consider sanitizing copper coils (boil them in water) and immersing them into the fermenters and come up with some way to pump warm water through them at no higher than 80 deg. F. This will allow for more efficient heat transfer since there will be no heat loss into the air like with heated blankets on the outside of the fermenters. Plus, there will be no chance of overheating as long as the water temperature is controlled. This would really work well with agitated fermenters, but I am assuming you lack that ability, so make sure to stir the mash (gently, try not to introduce O2) with a sanitized stainless steel or food grade paddle (not wood!) to help distribute the heat.

Eric Watson

Master Distiller

Cayman Islands Distilleries, LTD.


Reply:

Hi Paul,

You might consider switching to a lager type yeast which will be a better at that lower temp.

The thing we had to deal with was the ground water was so cold for our condenser that it was difficult to balance the still, since the out end of the condenser goes to the top of the still. We had to mix hot and cold water to make it balance.


Reply:

I've seen a few setups in unheated farm distilleries in europe where they put the fermenters in water baths with a little bit of alcohol to keep buggies out (20% abv would work fine), and warm the water that surrounds the fermenter using either immersion heaters or barrel heaters. The water helps to keep the heating element from causing temperature spikes.

http://www.mcmaster.com/#barrel-heaters/=4prwkv

http://www.mcmaster.com/#immersion-heaters/=4pt2qe

You're also going to want to keep an eye on the reflux on your still. There's going to be a pretty big difference between summer and winter temperatures in that shed.

Hope this helps.

Happy distilling.


Reply:

Hi Paul, what is the solution you find out to this problem.. I`m opening a distillery too, in a cold zone of peru. Did you install heating in the room where were the fermenters? or cover them with something?

Luigie


Reply:

Hi Paul, what is the solution you find out to this problem.. I`m opening a distillery too, in a cold zone of peru. Did you install heating in the room where were the fermenters? or cover them with something?

Luigie


Reply:

i am in washington and it doesnt get too cold but it does get cold i am setting up distillery and am looking at fermenting 55 gal. what about using fish tank heaters? i would think you would be able to keep a steady temp? is this a bad thought?