Adding Sulfites To Homemade Wine

Adding Sulfites To WineI started fruit wine making in May. Yesterday I came across reading something on your blog which caught my attention. Something that I haven’t read or was told before. That is to add Campden tablets and sorbate after each racking. Do I need to do this after each racking or is it OK with every other racking?… By me not adding any since I started and going on my 3 and 4th rackings am I in jeopardy of losing my wine?…

Eric — LA
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Hello Eric,

The fact that you haven’t been adding sulfites [Campden tablets] to your homemade wine doesn’t mean you have ruined it by any means. There are winemakers that never use sulfite and turn out good wines. But having said this, I would urge you to start adding sulfites to homemade wine.

Sulfites such as Campden tablets and sodium metabisulfite make sure your wine does not spoil during the wine making process. After the wine has been made, sulfites help to insure that your wine will keep for many years and not just weeks or months in the wine bottle. Sulfites also help your wine to be free from the effects of oxidation. This is when the color of the wine darkens and the flavor taken on a little bitterness. Adding sulfites to homemade wine is not an absolute necessity, but it only makes sense to do so.

Potassium sorbate on the other hand is a different beast. It should only be used before bottling the wine – if at all. It is required if you are planning on back-sweetening your wine at bottling time. If it is not added along with the sweetening sugar, you stand a very strong chance of experiencing a re-fermentation of your wine while in the bottle. This can eventually result in popping corks and fizzy wine.

Shop Campden TabletsThere is no reason to add potassium sorbate at any other time than at bottling. In fact, if it is added before the fermentation has completed it will most likely result in a sluggish or stuck fermentation. I would not recommend adding it at bottling time if you are not making a sweet wine. It is not necessary.

If you are making wine from fresh fruit, I always recommend adding sulfite to homemade wine about 24 hours before adding the yeast. Leave the wine must uncovered during this 24 hours so that the sulfite gas may dissipate. Then add the wine yeast as you normally would. Doing this will easily destroy any wild molds, bacteria, etc. that may be coming along with the fruit.

I always recommend that sulfite be added before bottling, as well. This is the dose that keeps the wine fresh and free of oxidation while in the wine bottle. Before fermentation and before bottling are the two times I would never forgo.

I also suggest adding sulfites to wine after the fermentation has completed. This is with the understanding that the wine is going to sit for a while before clearing up. This will keep any airborne contaminants from growing on your wine while clearing.

Shop Potassium BisulfiteOnce the wine is clear and you have racked it off the sediment, I would also recommend adding a 1/2 dose of sulfites if you plan on bulk-aging the wine. If you plan on bottling within a few days don’t worry about it.

Eric, at this point I would add a dose of Campden tablets. Just on per gallon. If you are on your 3rd or 4th racking you shouldn’t need to rack your wine any more other than to bottle it, at which point I would add another dose of Campden tablets. No potassium sorbate should be added unless you are sweetening your wine.

Adding sulfites to homemade wine is important and highly recommended. It’s like buying insurance for making a wine that doesn’t spoil or oxidize. If you do not add sulfites you can make wine successfully, but most will find it hard for the wine to keep over extended periods of time without refrigeration.

Happy Winemaking,
Customer Service at E. C. Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

16 thoughts on “Adding Sulfites To Homemade Wine

  1. I too am still a (kid) at making Wine I"ve been down both roads
    So i am therefore most thankful for all the good advice given here!
    Made some real good peach this summer I added just a touch of
    almond which I think add greatly to the flavor!

  2. I bought Zinfandel must I haven’t put anything in it its starting to change flavor can I add something now or its too late I made it last year in September

    • Vince, nothing will reverse what has already occurred but you can possibly prevent further damage by treating the wine with 1.5 Campden tablets per gallon of wine.

  3. I added camden tablets to the fresh juice to kill any wild yeast and waited the 24 hours before adding my yeast. My son accidentally covered the pails so very little of the SO2 escaped. I vigorously poured the juice into another container and waited about 2 hours before i added the yeast. Was this enough time? Should I worry about the SO2 level ruining my primary fermentation?

    • Chris, unfortunately there is no way for us to know if enough of the sulfites dissipated or not.All you can do at this point is keep track of the fermentation with your hydrometer to see if the fermentation did start and is progressing along.

  4. I thought some sulfites were a natural by-product of the fermentation process. Also, I do not add any to my finished wine prior to bottling because some people are highly sensitive to sulfites and can suffer an allergic reaction to those compounds.

  5. I am confused on how to add the sulfites before bottling. I usually wait for fermentation to stop, rack and add sulfites. then I let it settle and bottle in the next step. If I add sulfites right before bottling I could likely stir up the minute amount of sedation that developed. Does this mean I need to rack another time so I am able to stir in the sulfites before bottling? Thx.

  6. I accidentally over-sulfited my Vidal Blanc prior to adding yeast (144 ppm the test said!). Anyone have experience with using food grade 35% food grade Hydrogen Peroxide to blow off the sulfites? I realize I have to be really careful, but would welcome any experiences y’all have had. Thanks!

  7. Fantastic site, thank-you. I have just got back into wine making after a 25 year break and two demijohns of blackcurrant and grape wine (bumper stock from the allotment this year) are bubbling away in the kitchen. A third demijohn has the leftover pulp washed with apple juice.

    I am attempting to make wine with as little sulfite as possible as a family member has a strong allergic reaction to wines that contain too much of it. We’ve been buying Sainsbury Organic Cabernet Sauvignon, which is one of the few affordable and readily available commercial wines that have no sulfites. (But it’s not that good.)

    I pasteurised the fruit before starting instead of adding campden tablets.

    I was told years ago by my school chemistry teacher that the alcohol level, if high enough, in the wine could kill off the yeast. Reading up on this, it would take a level of 15% to kill off Saccharomyces yeast, which is quite high.

    I don’t really want to pasteurise my wine before bottling. I don’t have a filtration system that will remove the yeast completely, which I understand is how it is done commercially.

    So, I am proposing to try to completely finish fermentation in the demijohn by adding small amounts of sugar when the fermentation seems stop, rack it off, add sugar to taste, store for another few months in a demijohn and monitor it and then bottle it, maybe in Champaign-type bottles to be on the safe side.

    Have you tried this? Is it doomed to failure?

    If we go back a couple of hundred years and more wine was made and there was no such thing as a campden tablet! There must be alternatives to stopping fermentation.

    • Ivor, Actually, I think there might be a little confusion as to why you add campden tablets at bottling time. It is not to kill the yeast to stop or prevent fermentation, it is actually to prevent the wine from spoiling. While it is true that Campden Tablets can bring a fermentation to its knees for a period of time, it is also true that these fermentations will usually gather themselves back up and eventually overcome the effects of the tablets. The result is a continued fermentation — sometimes after the wine has been bottled. You want the fermentation to be complete before bottling the wine, this means the final specific gravity reading will be .998 or less. If you bottle any wine before it completes fermentation, you run the risk of exploding bottles or popping corks. http://www.eckraus.com/blog/making-wine-without-sulfites Please take a look at the article provided for more information.

  8. I find that the sulfites give the wine an odor. Is there any way to avoid this from happening? Is the dosage too high possibly or what? once you do have the odor what can you do?

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