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Would you recommend using dry ice to control the temperature of must?
Dry ice and must
In preparation for this season’s crush I have been thinking about
several different ways of protecting my wine from oxidation. After
primary fermentation and MLF the CO2 levels in my primary vats will
quickly drop. I was thinking about investing in a small tank of Argon to
keep the primary gassed during maceration. I have also heard of people
dropping in small pieces of dry ice in the must then covering the tanks
after punching the must down. Would you recommend using dry ice on the
John Ivica Duich
Dry ice can be a tremendous help for small-lot winemakers in the
grape or must stage. Dry ice is really just frozen carbon dioxide gas
and will cool the air (or liquid) where it’s placed whilst releasing
carbon dioxide gas as it sublimates. Dry ice never melts; unlike frozen
water it goes directly from the solid to the gaseous phase, releasing
those white, wispy “mad scientist” bubbling mist effects. Trust me, the
Wine Wizard is a fan!
I like to float dry ice pellets in a pie tin on top of my half-ton bins
of must for an effective and simple CO2 blanket to help ward off
bacterial infection during a cold soak. Sometimes I even put dry ice
pellets (a few pounds/1 kg) in my half-ton picking bins if my grapes
have a particularly long way to go from field to the winery. This cools
down the bin slightly and the pooling carbon dioxide gas helps retard
bacterial growth along the way. You could pop a couple of dry ice
pellets into your carboys before filling them instead of gassing the
headspace. However, I’d be sure to ask your supplier if their dry ice is
food grade and that it smells okay. You want to be sure that any
material you put into your wine is clean. Argon gas is heavier than
carbon dioxide, so it is a better choice to blanket headspace with;
however, it doesn’t have any of dry ice’s cooling effects and tends to
be more expensive than carbon dioxide gas. All three materials have
different applications and indications so I’ve been known to use all
three during the course of a harvest.
Do be aware that if your wine is or gets cold enough, you may actually
increase the amount of dissolved carbon dioxide gas in your wine, which
may or may not be desirable to you at that stage in your wine’s life.
Also, do be careful around dry ice. It can easily cause frostbite
effects with prolonged skin exposure and does generate carbon dioxide
gas, which can pool in enclosed and low-lying areas, presenting a hazard
to pets, children and winery workers. Don’t forget that it can cause
pressure buildup in closed containers; if you choose to use it in your
carboys, attach a fermentation lock until you are sure that all air has
been displaced and no more carbon dioxide is evolving. Otherwise, you’ll
have a busted carboy, and that’s never fun, no matter how cool it looks
while bubbling out all that 80s dance party fog!
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