Posted on October 19, 2016 @ 08:44:00 AM by Paul Meagher
I now have a working mini-winery in my garage (see part 1 and part 2 for background).
I am testing the system out on some plum wine and plum port that I recently started fermenting. You can see wires dangling from the wall. These are wires from a humidity controller and a temperature controller. The temperature controller isn't doing anything other than monitoring the temperature of the fermentation bucket. I had an electrician install two 500 watt heaters, one for the (future) red wine zone and one for the (future) white wine zone, so I am not using my temperature controller at this time to control any aspect of the temperature. What I am using the temperature controller for is to monitor the difference between the baseboard temperature setting/current value and the fermentation bucket temperature (the temperature probe is attached to the fermentation bucket). The fermentation temperature runs a bit higher than the heater temperature setting so to get your desired fermentation temperature you have to set the heater temperature a bit lower that the desired fermentation temperature. I'm also monitoring and controlling relative humidity. If the humidity goes beyond a certain level an exhaust fan will come on. When the baseboard heaters come on they also dry out the air so they also act like a dehumidifier. Air quality is being monitored with my nose for now. When I visit the room I'll air out the room before I go in by leaving the door open and I'll leave it open after I go in if I feel it needs more of an air exchange.
When you reach milestones in a project they are times to reflect, learn, correct course, and plan for your next milestone. This is the 4th milestone for the mini-winery. The third milestone was sheathing it in and realizing that before I put up some trim I should consult on some electrical upgrades. It was not difficult to unscrew the plywood off the wall to handle the electrical upgrades. I could perhaps have planned better but the need to get something in place for an upcoming grape harvest meant I had to achieve some milestones fairly quickly in order to get ready. The 4th milestone was to actually get something fermenting in the room and monitoring the fermentation. The next milestone will be to build some shelving, figure out what to do with my wash tub, and scale up fermentation with grapes from my vineyard.
The plum wine/port that I am fermenting was from plums I harvested of a healthy and productive plum tree on our farm property (no nearby sprays and no treatments, all natural). I harvested 62 lbs of plums off the tree. I let them ripen for a while in my basement, then put them into plastic 5 gallon fermentation buckets after I broke the skins and ran a paint mixing tool on them to further macerate the must. Topped the fermentation bucket up a bit with water so there wouldn't be alot of air headspace in the bucket. I added pectic enzyme to break down the cell walls of the plum flesh to release the juice, and campden tablets to kill of the wild yeast. After 4 days of sitting, and with a few more campden tablets added to keep the fermentation halted, I juiced the plum mash at my kitchen sink by straining it through a nylon mesh that you can buy at wine store for this purpose. I had to hand rinse the bag of pulp and seeds to extract the more stubborn juice.
I had good recovery of juice using this method and didn't have to add any more water to my juice after I added the amount of sugar amount required for 5 gallons of plum wine and 5 gallons of plum port. This is my first time fermenting plum juice so we'll see how it turns out and what there might be to learn from it. I planted plum seeds from the tree in a part of my garden after harvesting just in case I need to produce plum juice in the future. Didn't cost me anything for the seed and the tree it came from impressed me. The mini-winery will give me a better ability to reproduce the fermentation conditions that might have resulted in a nice plum wine or port.
Today I will be driving down to visit the vineyard. Last time I was there I left early in the morning as the fog was lifting. I took a photo of the section of the vineyard I'll be harvesting this year. Most of it is netted against birds so hopefully the crop will still be there when I check it out.