How to Use a Fish Tank Heater to Help Ferment Wine

Written by james clark
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Wine fermentation involves yeast consuming sugars in a grape juice to produce alcohol. Yeast is a living microscopic organism that thrives at certain temperatures and can become dormant if the grape must (fermenting liquid) gets too cold. A fish tank heater, properly cleaned, can sustain the temperature at a preset level and keep the yeast culture active. Because the tank heaters are small and typically designed to warm 10 to 20 gallons, this technique will work only with smaller batches of wine.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Fish tank electric heater
  • Wine fermenting bucket with lid and drilled hole
  • Bleach
  • Water
  • Nylon scrub brush
  • Plastic bucket

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  1. 1

    Test-fit the fish tank heater in the wine fermenting container first by determining if the heating element will insert through the pre-drilled hole in the lid. Fermenting wine must be sealed in an airtight environment to prevent contaminants from getting into the liquid and spoiling the wine. Fermenter lids with various diameter holes in the top are available at winemaking supply shops.

  2. 2

    Clean the tank heater probe in a solution of four parts water to one part household bleach, scrubbing with a nylon brush to sanitise the element.

  3. 3

    Check the recommended growth temperature for the strain of yeast in the fermenting wine. There are hundreds of yeast varieties used to produce different flavours and alcohol content in wine varietals and blends. Most strains of wine yeast can tolerate a temperature range of 39 to 96 Fahrenheit, but thrive in the 65- to 85-degree range.

  4. 4

    Insert the clean, sanitised tank heater probe into the fermenter lid so the element extends below the lid. Then lower this assembly gently into the wine and seal the lid to the fermenting bucket.

  5. 5

    Plug in the heater to a wall outlet and adjust the temperature control to the desired level.

  6. 6

    Allow the wine to complete primary fermentation, following the recipe's time and temperature specifications. Primary wine fermentation can take four to seven days. Approximately 70 per cent of fermentation will occur in the first week after you introduce the yeast to the juice. The remaining fermentation occurs after bottling.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep the fermenting wine out of direct sunlight in an area where the fermenting tank cannot be jostled or disturbed.
  • Be certain the fermentation lid and heater probe form an airtight seal over the wine fermenter to avoid spoilage and disappointment.

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