Chemistry of Fermentation & Distillation


MW 3:30 - 4:20, Fridays 3:30 - 6:00 (we won’t always go this late)


101 Jordan Hall (most classes)


Dan Gezelter
office: 258 Stepan Chemistry

Holly Goodson
office:  439 Stepan Chemistry

James Parise
Office: 416 Jordan


Homework: 10%
Labs: 10%
Two Exams (October 11th and December 4th): 40%
Final project paper (due November 27nd): 20%
Final project presentation (November 27, 29, December 1): 10%
Class Participation: 10%


This course is an overview of the chemical and physical processes that take place during the fermentation and distillation of alcoholic beverages and other foods. It is intended as a science elective for students who have completed at least one year of chemistry at Notre Dame. It will provide an overview of chemical concepts needed to understand the molecules, reactions, separations, and physical transformations during the production of wine, beer, and distilled spirits, but it will also discuss fermentation in a broader culinary, cultural, and industrial context.

The course will be structured as a MWF lecture with some Friday classes being replaced with hands-on laboratory activities or field trips.

Hands-on labs will include: chemical analysis of sugars, sulfites, and titratable acidity of starting materials, initiation and monitoring of a fermentation process, distillation of a multicomponent solution, and analysis of the distillate at multiple stages of the process.

The extended Friday class times will also be used to to tour off-campus facilities, including a working winery, brewery, and distillery.

Field Trips:

September 8th: Hands-on brewing exercise (Gezelter home)
September 22
nd: Iron Hand Winery
October 13
th (tentative): Virtuoso Distillery
November 10
th (tentative): Crooked Ewe Brewery
November 18
th (tentative): Noble Americas ethanol plant
December 6
th: Fermented foods tasting lab (Goodson home)

Homework & Readings:

Homework and reading assignments will be posted to the class Sakai page.

Texts (not required, but really interesting):

A brief note:

You are not required to taste or ingest any fermented or distilled food or beverage as part of this course. If you are under 21, it is not legal for you to have alcoholic beverages in Indiana.

As part of some activities or assignments, we will discuss and even suggest sampling particular styles or classes of beer, wine, or distilled spirits.  If you are not yet of legal drinking age, you can save this information for when your twenty first birthday arrives.