The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Advantage of using wine cooler as proofer - manipulating temp while at work

barryvabeach's picture

Advantage of using wine cooler as proofer - manipulating temp while at work

I wanted a proofer that would handle chilling the dough to get longer ferment times, some suggest pizza fermentation is much better when chilled, but significantly warmer than the average home refrigerator.  So I bought a small wine cooler.    I later wanted to work with some higher temps - like the 82 F.  I bought one of the cheap digital controllers, and wired it up , then hooked it up to a heating pad which I kept in the wine cooler.  So when I wanted  a warm ferment, I unplugged the fridge, plugged in the controller for the heating pad, and when I wanted cooler temps.  unplugged the controller, plugged in the wine cooler. 

Today's revelation was I wanted a 6 to 8 hour ferment at 82F to bolster the sour in the sourdough, but knew I would not be back at home for about 12 hours.  Found two of the outlet timers you use to make lights go on and off when you are on vacation, set one up so that the heating controller would run for 6 hours, then set up the other timer to bring on power to the wine fridge ( which defaults to 54 when it is plugged in ) to kick on after 6 hours, and to run till I got home.   I came home to a very well risen, but not overproofed bulk ferment.     Sorry I hadn't thought about it earlier.  It may not work for everyone, but it may help with someone else struggling to fit sourdough fermentation around a work schedule. 

DanAyo's picture

Great idea, Barry.

I’m curious. What is your heat source and how do you control the temperature of the heat? I assume the wine cooler is set for a certain temperature and that for it you use an on/off cycle.

It amazes me how industrious a person can become when properly motivated. What will the future hold?

I am in the process of building a retarder. The last piece is due tomorrow. I am taking my queue from Maurizio on The Perfect Loaf, only I chose a small 3.2 cubic foot chest freezer because of limited space.

We’ll have to compare notes once I’m up and running. I look forward to learning from your prior experience.


barryvabeach's picture

Dan, thanks. The temp on the wine cooler can be adjusted digitally, though when I am using it with a timer,  when it comes on, it comes on at the default temp of 54, so I have no real control over that.  I thought about wiring it to the digital controller - which has output for heat and cooling, but decided against it, since previously ,  i needed either heat or cooling, not both.

The heat source is just a heating pad. It sits in the bottom of the wine fridge, then there is a piece of foam poster board above that, then I taped the sensor for the controller on the wall of the cooler above the foam board.  The controller is just a cheap on off digital controller - my guess is the temperature swing is around 5 degrees .  My wine cooler is a small 6 bottle unit , so the heating pad provides enough heat for the space.  Your 3.2 cubic feet chest freezer sounds much bigger, though it is probably better insulated.   If I were starting from scratch,  I might buy an aquarium heating pad, that may take up less room than the regular heating pad you would find at a drugstore.