The Fermentation Cupboard
I recommend using a fermentation cupboard and even in these days of rocketing fuel costs it is still worthwhile because consumption of fuel is negligible.
So many people have written to me from time to time asking for some idea of what a fermentation cupboard really amounts to that I am giving a few details here. Almost any cupboard can be converted into a fermentation cupboard. The ‘handy-carpenter-sort-of-bloke’ would have no trouble in making one to fit into a given space. About the only really important point is the shelving which should be similar to that used in airing cupboards and set in a similar fashion to allow for free movement of warmth. Bear in mind that a 5ltr (1 gall) jar of wine weighs about 6 kg (14 lb), so the timber will have to be strong. Another important point is that the distance between the shelving should be ample to allow for ajar of wine plus the lock to be moved in and out without knocking the lock to smithereens on the shelf above. Old kitchen cabinets, wardrobes and such like can easily be converted to a fermentation cupboard.
The illustration shows only five jars, but it will give you a rough idea of how to go about making something bigger. The heater illustrated is known as a 100w black heater (it does not become red like an electric fire) and is supplied complete with a thermostat set at 21°C (70°F) which is quite satisfactory. There are larger sorts and other fittings. If you have made wines previously and had sticking ferments you will know what a blessing a fermentation cupboard will be. But while on this subject, I think it wise and only right to bring to your notice the fact that certain yeasts will ferment perfectly satisfactorily and quite quickly, I am assured, even in fairly cold conditions.
Having made wines for over thirty-five years and watched the growth of practically every aspect of the hobby and some of the wild claims made for various ingredients and ‘items’ (I apologize for being vague but I cannot be otherwise here) I have become sceptical. Anyway, on a recent visit to a wine-making circle I engineered a situation where I might have first-hand recommendation for these yeasts which, I must admit, quite a number of people have been using with great success. One fellow was so enthusiastic about these yeasts that he offered me wines made with them and went on to explain that the three I tried had been fermented to dryness in under one month. A sweet wine would, of course, need a week or two longer. The wines were excellent and one in particular had fermented right out in just under three weeks. He still uses the fermentation cupboard he made years ago, but without any heat now.
All this is most remarkable, and because two other members of that same circle confirmed that the fellow was being perfectly honest I had no alternative but to accept what he told me. And I must admit that I, who must keep one stride ahead in this business if I possibly can, had fallen many paces behind. So I do urge you to try these cold fermenting yeasts for yourself and if you do not happen to be as successful as my informant you can always fall back on a fermentation cupboard. These yeasts do, incidentally, ferment well in a temperature of 5-10°C (40-50°F) which is, I should imagine, the normal temperature of an unheated room except in the coldest part of the winter.