Thursday, October 06, 2022

Fermenting Tobacco In An Aquarium

 ... might just work. Or it might not.

I had what I thought was a real brain wave and bought an aquarium heater to ferment my tobacco. The plan is simple. Take a plastic storage bin, put about 6" of water in the bottom, insert the heater and close the lid. Bingo! Warm, humid weather for the tobacco leaves.

Well, maybe. Here are the results from the last 24 hours. The green line is from the sensor in the chamber. The blue line is the sensor in the ambient air in the garage.

The humidity is pegged at nearly 100% as you'd expect from a sealed container with water in the bottom. The temperature isn't working so well. I've got the heater's thermostat set to 85, but the air above is fluctuating from 75 to 80. The best I've seen it manage is a 6 degree differential from the air in the garage. Next up for this chamber is to wrap it in insulation. No heat loss should lead to an 85 degree container, right?

Still, this doesn't get me where I want to go. The crazy people on the Interweb Tubes who make their own smokes claim that you want your fermentation chamber to stay around 120. There isn't an aquarium heater in the world that is designed to make bouillabaisse out of your fish like that. However, there are these things called bucket heaters that are made to quickly heat containers of water. I bought one of those along with an attic cooling system thermostat that goes to 120. I plan to set the thermostat for 110 and connect it to the power cord to the bucket heater. When the container gets below 110, the heater will heat.

Insulation will be wrapped around the container, of course.

As Tim pointed out in a comment earlier, I've now got enough tobacco to try a couple of different methods. I also have a bunch of unused plastic storage bins. In addition to the water heater idea, I'm going to do something more conventional and set one up with a 40W lightbulb in the middle of it. The tobacco will rest on the bottom with a moist towel over it. A thermostat will turn the light on and off at the appropriate time.

My Virginia tobacco has several leaves ready to go, so this has become a race against time. The last time, I let the tobacco dry until it became crispy. We really want the leaves to remain supple, so they can't dry much more or I've damaged them.

The thermostat and the bucket heater are supposed to arrive today. A trip to Home Depot or Lowe's and I'll have my insulation. I should have this going by Saturday at the latest.

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