I was luckily enough to meet with Professor Robert Steidl from LFZ Klosternburg in Austria and listen to his presentation on yeast. One of the key points Professor Steidl raised was the importance of yeast re-hydration in ensuring good quality inoculation and subsequent fermentation. He then introduced the Hefebutler, made by Austrian company SITT Developments. The Hefe or Yeast butler is an automated yeast re-hydration machine. Designed to prepare yeast in a controlled manner and inoculate the tank automatically when it reaches the correct point.
I would guess that almost all winemakers have experienced re-hydration & inoculations issues. My personal list includes running out of hot water, finding all cellar thermometers broken leaving you to judge temperature by feel, overflowing yeast buckets and hefting heavy buckets up to the top of tanks.
Added to the list of problems is my personal red mist issue, which is cellarhands abandoning the yeast re-hydration process to go to lunch, leaving the poor yeast starving hungry and shivering with cold.
SITT seem to offer a solution to these problems. From the website information the machine seems to work in the following way:
- Roll the machine to water supply where it automatically fills to correct level and warms to the correct temperature.
- Roll the machine to your juice tank and connect it.
- Once correct water temperature is reached, the beep tells you to add a bag of yeast. From then on it's all gravy.
- The butler carefully stirs the yeast, aerating and adding nutrition as required. The butler will also take juice from the tank and cool the yeast down until it is the same temperature and sugar level minimising thermal & osmotic shock.
- At this point the butler injects the yeast culture into the juice tank and the ferment can begin.
- The butler is then detached from the the juice, reconnected to the water, where it self-cleans, minimises risk of cross contamination.
It would be good to try out in a real winery situation, to see if improvements to ferment and winemaker sanity are worth the money.