Step 6: Q & A

Picture of Q & A
The following is a helpful "Q and A" following this project. Questions by inquiring hobbist , answers by me, (Surf Monkey Coconut)!.

Q: Cool setup- never seen it done like that before. Any concerns of the foam smell transferring to the tobacco?

A: I know the foam smell you are talking about, Its an undeniable chemically semi-sweet smell...I've experienced it in the past when using a hot wire to cut foam blocks...no doubt very toxic!

In my past experience as well as experiences in this fermenter, insulating foam is for the most part stable and inert; It won't off-gas unless it is melting. In terms of my fermentation chamber, there is no problems with overheating or melting...yet!

There are several websites dealing with curing chambers and the standard home made type is made of foam wall insulation and an oil heater. All I can think of is fire hazard!! Dedicated home growers use old refrigerators with a heat source.

I did see a fermenter made of ply-wood, and i can tell ya, that one would most definitely off gas formaldehyde and other such chemicals found in the adhesives.

Q: So you haven't noticed any sort of ammonia smell coming from the tobacco?

A: I really haven't! Although I may not be identifying the ammonia as released from tobacco leaves correctly.

When I think of ammonia, I think of a sharp biting smell, the chemical smell from either a bottle of windex or urine..(I once had mice as pets, which had that horrible smell...)

When I was researching tobacco fermentation I pictured those fermentation barns in central America to be awful, perhaps like walking into a tear gas chamber...Taking this into consideration I have my fermentation cooler in an unused bathroom which has the ceiling vent on a timer (it turns on for 10 mins every hour). But really, there are no unpleasant smells to be vented. I even leave the bathroom door open.

I did miss a stage in my above aromatic observations...between the wet grass and raisin stage there was a strong cereal smell..like toasted corn flakes, which probably lasted for the entire 2nd week. But to me, all of these smells were delicious!! I wanted to just bury my nose in the leaves during the raisin stage, but for purposes sterility, i resisted!

Q: I wouldn't imagine such a small batch would give off an overwhelming smell of ammonia.

A: Very true! This is just 3 hands of tobacco and it does have quite the aroma associated with it! A factory barn with hundreds of thousands of hands fermenting, well...that would be a whole different level of aroma.

Q: Surf Monkey Coconut, your insurance agent called me looking for you. He said he needs to do a random check inside your house but you keep on ignoring his calls.....

Anyway that is soo cool. Also how do you keep the humidity. I realize the leaves are moist at first but after the moisture evaporates do you have to have any humidification device in there?

A: yeah, as you can imagine, lamp is very similar to an oven, where the dry heat generated constantly takes away the humidity. I don't really monitor the humidity too much, I just give it 15-20 distilled water misting on and between the hands about 2-3 times a day, just to keep the leaves semi-moist.

On one end you want to keep the leaves from getting soggy to avoid mold and decay, and at the other end you want to keep the leaves from becoming dry and brittle without moisture, fermentation not will occur.

Keeping it right in the middle keeping the leaves are warm and supple seems to be the goal..The layer of wet napkins and saran wrap helps a little to hold in moisture between mistings. Also, in the images above you can see the vent holes I cut in the top and bottom of the cooler...I have since plugged them up to hold in the humidity...there was too much ventilation going on.

That being said it is taxing to spray the leaves so often. In the next batch I think I will see if placing the leaves in a large plastic bag will work better.

The essential pieces for fermentation is 120 degree heat and humidity. The fermentation cooler I built is, in my humble opinion, is a very cheap and affordable chamber for the home enthusiast.

since taking the pics, I have modified and refined the design making it even simpler...ive plugged the holes, and took out the aluminum foil, and put the second batch of leaves in a large plastic bag with a twist tie on the top to better hold in the moisture.

Really its just a foam cooler with a $5 light from Home Depot now...

Oct. 26, 2011 UPDATE:

In the final version of this fermenter, a (I simply used a cooler with no air holes, just one hole punched at the top for the light fixture). I've found this setup makes the temperature get much too high, (due to the excellent insulation of the cooler, the cooler gets cumulatively hotter and hotter). To counteract this situation, I have replace the bulb with a lower wattage, 32 watt and put the light on a timer, set to go on for 30 mins then off for 45. This seems to be the right amount of heat!
loved both the video and this instructable. I can't wait to try it on my Aztec Rustica tobacco!
jtyler54 years ago
To me the way you have this all set up is nothing more then a fire hazzard. Now I do think I have a better way to accomplish this process. Which I am getting from my experience with raising tropical reptiles and snakes. It would be slightly more expensive but the concept is entirely the same.

What you would need is a fish take with a lid. The lid can be a screen lid for if you think that you need to remove some of the ventalation from the chamber. You simply need to take tin foil or plastic wrap and wrap the lid.

Now for say jackson chameleons who require just about the same conditions as you are describing. They do like it slightly cooler but they do love the extra humidity. So what I would do instead of wrapping the screened in lid is I would simply add a second clamp lamp and or maybe a strip floresent light with a day light bulb. This would take away some of the extra spaces allowing the humidity to escape. Also instead of a 30 watt bulb I would use atleast a 90-150 watt incadecent bulb.

This give you the heat source you would need to keep it around the temps you are talking about. Then for the moisture you just need to either set up the tank with either a water dish on one side. When the water evaporates out you simply need to add more water to this dish and you are all set.

I have not tried this my self yet since I recently decided to start growing my own but I will be taking my knowledge of keeping tropical reptiles alive and mixing it with the process you are talking about. Also I want to note that if you are noticing that your cured leaves are getting slightly to dry simply make sure that you place the light over the water and not over the leaves. This way you are not forcing them to dry out but instead giving them the humidy and heat from the water. It will make the water evaporate alot faster but to me this sounds like it would be a much safer and reliable solution.

If any one feels like trying my method out please feel free to contact me and let me know if it works while I wait for my first plants to grow.
magacin15 years ago
No plastic bag,there no oxigen. No oxigen _ no oxidacion_no fermentation
guy906 years ago
Thanks for the upload- I feared an indoor fire too, when I saw the articles they had on these things already! had to settle on polystyrene sheets in the end tho, those coolers are rare and expensive over here! suprised that a 30W bulb would be capable of generating the right heat tho? was considering the use of a computer fan in the base, after all, cool air and a medium heat source is how a food dehydrator works ; ) let me know what you think