Using sauna as a heat source

Started by Zoey, September 22, 2009, 12:23:16 PM

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I decided to post this here since the sauna issue is probably interesting only for us Finns.

I was reading a beer making tutorial (yes, I'm brewing beer right now) and it mentioned the possibility of keeping the beer mush warm in a sauna. Of course cheese temperatures are pretty low for a sauna, but if you just have a thermostat or thermometer that goes low enough, couldn't a sauna be used for keeping milk/whey warm during the making?

At least the following come to mind:

- fresh milk is the right temperature if not cooled in between, so could it be used right away in a mildly warmed sauna? If the milk is cold to start with, the temperature rise might be too slow?

- how long might it take to warm milk from 28C to 38C (isn't this a popular range for meso)? wonder if it would be doable

- might be handy when dealing with huge amounts of milk that don't fit into kitchen equipment (could this be a solution to the question of how to handle large amounts of milk)

- the sauna could easily be cleaned if the cheese making turns out to be messy

I know, I'm crazy. Probably even more crazy than most cheese makers.  :D


Personally, I like the creativity and enthusiasm. 

I assume you are talking about putting a vat of cheese in the sauna? 

Its all about temperature controll.  If you can controll the temp of your cheese milk using this method,  It really does not matter where the heat comes from.

However, I can think of a dozen concerns I might have.
Sauna chemicals spashing into the cheesemilk being right up there at the top.
Manageing the temperature of the sauna to match the needs of the recipe.


I don't know much about saunas but I'd think they'd get hot enough.

Now a hot tub ... that'd be one heck of a cheese vat!

Sailor Con Queso

I'm thinking of a "mud" bath in a hot tub full of melted cheese.


Nice that I got so many replies.

A Finnish sauna is actually very hygienic - the wooden surfaces dry very well because of the heat, and no molds or bacteria can survive in it. This issue is usually discussed when talking about hygiene concerning the people using the sauna, but I don't see a reason why it wouldn't apply to cheese.

Commercial sauna surfaces are often other than wood. Those are a different issue.

The temperature control might be tricky, but I think it would be possible (hard to say without trying of course). I'm only afraid that hot air might be quite much slower in transferring heat, than a stove or double boiler. Well... at least a bucket of water left in a sauna will become burning hot in a few hours, so I'm using that as an encouraging fact...


I read the word 'sauna',  but in my mind I was picturing a jacuzzi (The bubbly bath thing)

So a suana, a hot room?

I think temp might be a problem there.  You will have a tough time controlling the temp of the vat.
Thermal transfer in the air is rather in-efficient.  Besides, if you need to raise the temp of the cheese and hold it, you are basically raising the temp of the whole room.
That sounds expensive.


Yep, it is expensive if using electricity. If using a wooden sauna with firewood grown by oneself, it's another thing. Probably should include a long explanation of the Finnish sauna culture.

Anyways, in the countryside, where I'm hoping to once have my cow, we have a sauna that is warmed with firewood. The firewood is practically for free, if you don't count the hours spent making it.

I'm thinking of this as a way to solve the coming milk situations which may arise with two cows producing full milk amounts during summer months. This could be a way to get rid of scrap wood and turn the high milk yields into cheese. So the energy is actually not so much of an issue.

My experience tells me that a sauna will heat up water in a few hours to so hot that I cannot touch it with my bare hands. And I mean cold water, around 10C. So, assuming the summer day is around 25C, I would have to raise the temperature by 5-15C (for meso starter) - or less if using cow warm just milked milk. Pretty sure that would be doable, if I can just control the sauna temperature enough.

I'm thinking "double boilers" so that when I reach target temperature, I could use a same-temperature water proxy to keep the milk from warming up too much, and when I want to heat it up, discard the proxy to quicken the process (no risk of too quick, I assume).

I think the temperature might be an issue with firewood though... if I miscalculate, it's not easy to quickly alter the temperature... unless I open doors and windows and let the cold air come in from outside. That might work. Well...  a lot of questions in my head, but I wanted to share these thoughts in case someone has something to add.


This sounds like great efficiency to me. Use up scrap wood; make cheese with copious amounts of milk. You might want to keep a pail of cold water outside to cool off your double boiler or water bath. Of course, in the winter, it will have to be ice! Then there is always the temperature difference between the top of your sauna and the bottom near the floor to think about. Maybe three thermometers to get your exact temps and how long it takes to get there (top bench, middle, floor level) and a notebook are in your future. Good Luck, have fun!


You could try with a pot of water first and see what happens.


Debi, yep, I guess I should do that.

From now on, when I use the sauna, I'll take a bucket of water with a thermometer and measure temperature changes. Of course taking into consideration pam's comments about different height surfaces.

Maybe the key is to keep the sauna temperature at a fixed level and just move the buckets. That should be more predictable than trying to control sauna temperature. Besides, if the sauna temperature stays stable, I could use it to roast malt at the same time. ;)


I think I am having trouble envisioning this.

My mental picture of a sauna is a whole room.  you go in, sit down.
Perhaps toss some water on some hot rocks.

Now, moving the vat of milk, inside that room, would not make sense to me, unless you are moving up and down, or inside or outside the room.

Am I gettin the right picture?


Perhaps a short essay on Finnish sauna culture is needed. I don't know about Finnish sauna culture, but if they are anything like the native Alaskins I know, they use their saunas every day or at least days at a time; they keep them hot, and its a dry heat. They are small rooms and moving a pail of milk (here I envision a stainless steel bucket with a bail handle) up or down a bench or even onto the floor to regulate temp, to not be a hard thing. When someone is not in the sauna it is just a very hot room begging for some use. Friends of mine use theirs for raising sourdough. They sit it on the floor on a tray and put a bucket over it and put a thick towel over that.


Ah maybe I am confusing sauna with steam bath? I am thinking a bunch of steam.


Yep, you are thinking steam bath... wonderful things they are too.


pam has it pretty much correct. Sauna is a dry room, and if you want moist/steam, you have to throw some water on hot rocks. The water evaporates and gives a moist steamy air, but that only lasts for a while, so while no one is bathing in the sauna, it's dry (often around 10% humidity according to my hygrometer).

There are significant temperature differences in different parts of the sauna. Near the heat source (hot stove with those hot rocks on top) it is the hottest, and since heat goes up, the sauna might be 100C at roof height, and only 30C at floor height.

So for warming milk... I think the floor would be perfect to maintain a temperature around 28C, while the seats or even some kind of roof mount could be perfect for cooking curds at higher temperatures. I'm pretty sure that even thermophilic temperatures could be met.