Taking Care of Your Ferments in the Heat

Whew!  We are having a hot hot hot summer.  Well, hot for North Dakota anyway.  On a normal year, there might be a few days throughout the summer that I wish we had air conditioning but for the most part, summer is quite pleasant.  Well, this year is not like that.   Right now (2pm Wednesday) it’s 99F outside and the house is beginning to warm up.  It’ll be in the 90’s by late afternoon.  And because of that, some of my ferments are unhappy.  Most ferments do not like the house to be 90F.  To top it off, one of the areas I store my ferments is above the fridge.  In the winter, it’s perfect but in the summer… not so much.  I tested the temp the other day and when the fridge wasn’t actively running, it was 90F.  When it was running it was 117F!!!  Eek!  No wonder I’ve had some troubles.  Yes, it was silly of me to leave them there but I didn’t think the temp was that much different.  Thank goodness, I tested the temp or I might have killed off my kefir grains.

Which brings me to my point.  Kefir grains, both water and milk,  do not like it hot.  Kefir is most happy between 72F and 86F.  According to this research, a temp of 20C (or 68F) is ideal but they only tested 20C, 30C (86F) and 37C (98.6F).   Mine was getting to around 90F during the hot afternoon and it was not happy.  Not happy at all.  My kefir was still bubbling but it was tasting sweeter and I had noticeably less grains than previous batches.  My kefir was disappearing!

So what can you do in the heat?  One option would be to transfer your ferments to a cooler during the day and put them back out at night.  I don’t have a big enough cooler so this wouldn’t work for me.

Another option that I am exploring is to get a refrigerator specifically for ferments and somehow rig it up so it stays the right temp.  I’ll let you know how that goes.  A wine refrigerator is another option.  I wonder if I could find one used…

The Ferment Closet

Or you can move them to the coolest place in you house like the basement.  If I put mine in the basement, they would get forgotten so I searched the house.  It turns out that my closet is actually pretty cool.  I cleared off a shelf and put my ferments there.  I’m pretty happy with this set up because it’s also dark.  UV light can harm those good buggies we want.  I also finally gave in and put a window AC unit in my bedroom.  Now my ferments are at a happy 72-75F and my kefir is once again happily bubbling away.

So, don’t neglect your kefir in the summer!  I almost lost mine and I’d hate to see the same thing happen to you.  I’ll keep you posted on how my water kefir is doing.


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5 comments to Taking Care of Your Ferments in the Heat

  • Hi Melanie 🙂

    I posted a note about this issue a while back. Haven’t had much luck in finding a wine refrigerator that will fit in my space for a good price. After talking with Kathleen at Pickl-it I shortened the fermentation time by quite a bit. So far so good … not sure I’m getting an optimal amount of the good beasties this way, so I’ll play around with extending the time a bit. Just keep a good eye on the jar. I’ve had one very good batch so far with the shortened time 🙂 Sandor Katz mentions temp briefly in “Wild Fermentation”, if memory serves. I’d love to read his new book. It’s very comprehensive so I’m sure he deals with the issue of temp management in detail there.

  • […] When it Gets Cold Not that long ago we talked about taking care of your ferments when it gets hot (Taking Care of Your Ferments in the Heat).  The weather here is getting cooler and cooler causing me to make some changes again.  When I […]

  • Miriam

    I live in Florida, so I deal with this problem daily. Shorter ferments help. Running the AC (or putting the ferments in a room with a window AC) helps. If the temperature is just a little high, putting the ferment in a bowl of standing water cools it a couple of degrees (I use empty plastic food containers). If you have any ice packs and a styrofoam cooler, you can put the ferments in the styrofoam cooler with an ice pack next to it, and that will lower the temperature nicely for a while. You need to make sure you change the ice pack when it thaws.

  • David

    Get a Kimchi frig. They have multiple compartments for fermenting or storing. Everyone in Korea’s got one so find a local Korean person and ask how to get one.

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