For thirsty oenophiles, a new invention out of the Swiss École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne might just be a godsend. Requiring only grape juice and small compartments of yeast, the machine can produce wine in a mere hour compared to the typical one to three weeks of the traditional fermentation process. The downside? It only makes one milliliter of wine per hour, which means you’d have to wait nearly a week to enjoy that glass of wine. Oh, and the machine won’t be available to the public any time soon.
Daniel Attinger, the inventor of the “micro winery,” is a microfluidics researcher from Iowa State University in addition to being a wine connoisseur. He came up with the device so winemakers could test different types of yeast and different temperatures of fermentation quickly and cheaply. This could be particularly useful in light of the agriculture disruption caused by climate change. In the past, French wine grapes usually only matured early during periods of drought; now they’re maturing early regardless of precipitation levels.
“Due to the heat, some crops ripen too quickly, the harvest takes place sooner, and the wines end up with a higher alcohol content or a different taste,” Attinger said in a press release from the École Polytechnique. “We need to find a way to analyze and adapt how the wine is made.”
Attinger’s machine works by forcing the grape juice through a main channel with the yeast divided from the juice by a thin membrane. The holes of the membrane are so tiny that they force the chemical reaction between the yeast and the sugar (yeast cells eat sugar molecules, creating alcohol and carbon dioxide) to happen much more quickly than
Lorraine Boissoneault is a writer in Chicago who covers science, history, foreign affairs, and adventure. She's written for Weather.com, Salon, Forbes, JSTOR Daily and many others. Her first book, The Last Voyageurs, was published by Pegasus in April 2016.