Making Muscadine Wine: On The Skins Or Just The Juice?

Muscadines For Making WineDo I need to leave on the skins with my gold muscadine must, as I do when I make purple scuppernong must? Or do I need to ferment without as most white wine recipes do when making muscadine wine. Love the advice we receive here. Always great. Thanks for your time and knowledge.

Frank V. – TX
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Hello Frank,

Thanks for the kind words and a great question about making muscadine wine.

It is possible to make a white homemade muscadine wine with or without the pulp and skins. It is mostly a matter of personal taste, but it is also an important decision because the resulting wine will be very different in each case.

If you use nothing but the juice from the muscadine grapes to make the wine you will produce a wine that is lighter-bodied, crisp, and refreshing. It will have a straw color. The wine will mature fairly quickly, meaning it will usually be drinkable in a matter of weeks.

One important consideration when making muscadine wine from juice only is that the white muscadines will need to be crush and then pressed with an actual wine press, otherwise you will be leaving a lot of grape juice behind in the pulp. The juice will need to be squeezed from the pulp to avoid this significant waste.

Shop Wine PressIf you leave the pulp in the fermentation, the body of the wine will be much fuller and heavier. The color of the muscadine wine will be more intense and closer to a gold color than a straw color. It will be less refreshing, but more rich and earthy. It will have wider array of flavors, adding complexity to the wine. Leaving the skins in the fermentation can make a considerable difference.

If making a white muscadine wine with the skin and pulp, there may be more care required to get the wine to clear. It will also take longer to age into something you’d want to drink. I could take the better part of a year for the wine to come around.

Once the pulp and skins are removed from the fermentation, it would be advisable to press them to maximize your output of wine. However, in this case it is not not as critical a before because the fermentation will have broken down the pulp to a point where a significant portion of the juice will have be extracted.

My personal opinion is that when you are making muscadine wine at home you should take a middle-of-the-road approach.

Most red wines are fermented on the pulp for around 5 to 7 days. The more days the pulp is in the fermentation, the fuller the body. Wineries use the numbers of days to partially control the body of the wine they are producing. In a sense, they are sculpting the character of the wine.

This sculpting is used occasionally when making white wines, too. One that comes to mind is Sauvignon Blanc. It is not unusual for the skins and pulp to be in with the juice for the first day, just to extract more of the grape’s body.

Shop Wine Making KitsThis approach can be used when making muscadine wine at home, only I would leave the pulp in for 2 or 3 days and then remove the skins and pulp and then press. Make it a short primary fermentation. By doing this you should end up with a white muscadine wine that won’t take a year or more to maturate, but will still have some nice flavor and body that will make the wine enjoyable and interesting.

Having said this, it is your wine. If you are look for a crisp and refreshing muscadine wine, leave the pulp and skins out of the equation altogether. If you’re looking for a big, full muscadine wine with lots of flavor, but may take a year or better to age out, keep the skins and pulp in the fermentation for 7 days.

Frank, I hope this is the information you was looking for. We also have a recipe for making muscadine wine, if you need one. It also has directions on how to make the muscadine wine. If you’re not sure what you want to do, just do something. You’ll end up with a wine regardless. And, you’ll have the experience of making a muscadine wine.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed 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.

So Tell Me, Why Is My Mead Still Cloudy?

Mead Still CloudyI started a batch of mead one year ago. It has stopped working but, it has not cleared. What can or should I do?

Name: Bruce T.
State: Iowa
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Hello Bruce,

Before you can know what to do you have to answer the question: why is the mead still cloudy? There are three things that instantly come to mind as a possibility.

 

Your Mead Could Still Be Cloudy Because It Is Still Fermenting:
Even though it has been a year, it is still possible for a fermentation to kick back up again. All it takes is some leftover sugar from the original fermentation. There is still yeast in the mead. It is just dormant. The slightest amount of fermentation could be the cause of your mead still being cloudy.

You can determine if the cloudiness is being caused by fermentation by taking a hydrometer reading. If you are getting a reading of .998 or higher on the Specific Gravity scale, then the mead is more than likely fermenting. You need to figure out how to get the fermentation to finish. Then the mead will clear on it’s own once the fermentation is done.

If this is the case, I would suggest going to the article on our website, Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure and see if you can figure our why your are having the long, drawn-out fermentation.

 

Your Mead Could Still Be Cloudy Because It Has Spoiled:Shop Grape Concentrate
Wine, mead and even beer can become spoiled from time to time. Bacteria is the main cause, but I have seen many cases where mold spores have taken over a batch. Both bacteria and mold can be airborne and land into a defenseless batch of mead. It can also come from being unsanitary with the equipment the mead comes in contact with. Either way, this could be why your mead is still cloudy.

If the spoilage is so progressed as to cause a cloudiness, you should be able to identify it simply by its odor. A sulfur odor is okay, but if you smell things like sauerkraut, rubber, fingernail polish, any of these would indicate that your mead is possibly infected and has been spoiled. There is nothing you can do to reverse this. It will simply need to be discarded.

 

Your Mead Could Still Be Cloudy Because It Has A Pectin Haze:
I saved this for last because it is the least likely. If you did not put any fruit in the mead, it is not likely at all, but if you did use fruit, there is a possibility that your mead could be experiencing a pectin haze from the pectin that was in the fruit.

Shop FermentersTo determine if this is what’s going one, take a quart sample of the mead and add to it a teaspoon of pectic enzyme. Let the mead set for a few days. If the mead clears and creates no sediment in the process, this means you have a pectin haze was the reason your mead was still cloudy. If the mead does not clear at all, or clears, but creates sediment, then you do not have a pectin haze problem.

I do not know which one it is, but I’m fairly certain that one of the above is the answer as to the question: why is my mead still cloudy?

Hope this helps you out.

Best Wishes,
Ed 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.

Essential! Learn About Wine Making Using A Hydrometer!

Wine Making Using A HydrometerOne of the most important pieces of winemaking equipment is the wine hydrometer.  Without this, you’re making wine blindly, and risk making a wine that’s not very palatable.  If you don’t have one already, I recommend purchasing a wine hydrometer right now. It will be a piece of winemaking equipment that will pay for itself over and over again. Here’s some information on wine making using a hydrometer.

 

What is a wine hydrometer?

The quick and dirty description of what a wine hydrometer looks like is that it’s similar in structure to a thermometer.  It’s often made of glass, and has a bulb-like bottom and a long stem.  There are gradations marked on the side of the glass stem which when in use indicates to the user how much sugar is in a sample of wine.

 

How does a wine hydrometer work?

In scientific speak, a wine hydrometer measures the specific gravity of a fluid by displacing the liquid in which it is floating in proportion to the relative mass or “weight” of the solution.  Yet another scientific way to define specific gravity is the ratio of the density of a solution compared with the density of a reference solution.  In the case of liquid measurements, water is used as the reference solution to compare against wine.Shop Hydrometers

How does this relate to sugar concentration?  Well, water has no sugar in it, and has a specific gravity of 1.000.  As sugar is added to water, the specific gravity increases.  Thus, the amount that the specific gravity increases by is proportional to the concentration of sugar therein.  The more sugar in the wine, the greater the specific gravity.  As wine yeast consume sugar during fermentation, the specific gravity of your wine will drop.  How much sugar is in your must or wine is proportional to the specific gravity of the solution.  The amount of sugar will also help you determine what the alcohol level of your finished wine will be.

 

Why should I care about specific gravity?

Knowing the specific gravity that you determine with a wine hydrometer is important to the success of your fermentations and winemaking in general.  Without a wine hydrometer, it’s much more difficult to determine the sugar level in your wine must or your wine, thus making it even more difficult toShop Wine Making Kit know how your fermentation is progressing and if there are any unexpected adjustments you need to make.  Wine making using a hydrometer; monitoring the specific gravity of your must, you’ll be ready when an unexpected change occurs requiring your attention and adjustments, and you’ll be able to determine how much potential alcohol the wine you are creating will be and you can adjust accordingly if need be.
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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.

When To Start The Secondary Fermentation

Starting Secondary FermentationHow long can I let the wine ferment before racking into a carboy and starting the secondary fermentation? My wine has been working vigorously for almost three weeks now.

Russ — NY
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Hello Russ,

When to start the secondary fermentation is a question we get from time to time. The quick answer is, “it depends”.

 

If you are fermenting on fruit pulp, you will want to move the wine into a secondary fermenter around the 4th to 7th day. Whether you rack on the 4th day or on the 7th day will make a noticeable difference in the body and color of the wine. The longer the pulp is in the primary fermentation, the more tannin and color pigmentation will be extracted from the fruit. So timing is important when there is fresh fruit involved.

 

If you are fermenting from a juice concentrate, where there is no pulp involved, when to start the secondary fermentation is still important but not nearly as critical. If you are fermenting an actual wine juice kit, then I strongly suggest that you follow the directions that came with it. It will specify a number of days before your first racking.

If you do not have an actual wine juice kit but are freestyling it with some juice concentrate you have, then I would take the following into consideration when determining when to start the secondary fermentation:

 

  • Shop CarboysYou will want the primary fermentation to be long enough to allow the yeast colony to grow into healthy numbers. The primary fermentation should be exposed to air. Don’t use an air-lock on it. Just cover it with a thin towel. Oxygen is what allows that little packet of wine yeast you added to flourish to about 100 to 200 times itself. If all goes well, this will happen in about 3 days.
  • The fermentation needs to have settled down enough so that it doesn’t foam out of the secondary fermenter. You do not want the secondary fermenter to have a lot of head-space, so there will be little room for foaming. Yes, you could employ a blow-off tube into a jug of water, but it is completely unnecessary to go through such measures when simply waiting longer will do. This is not an issue that will affect the wine. It’s more of a practicality issue.
  • You do not want the wine to be sitting on dead yeast cells for extended periods of time. You want to get the wine off the sediment in a timely manner. Not doing so can cause a condition known as autolysis. This is when the live yeast cells start feeding on dead yeast cells. This mostly happens the wine yeast run out of sugars to consume. This result is an off-taste in the wine that ranges from bitter-nut to metallic. For this reason the primary fermentation should last no longer than 2 weeks, and less than this if the fermentation has already stopped.

 

Shop Wine Making KitsRuss, all these things need to be considered when trying to figure out when to start the secondary fermentation. If you are making your wine from fresh fruit, the timing is fairly narrow 4 to 7 days. If you are making your wine from a wine juice kit, the answer’s simple: follow the directions. But if you on your own with some concentrate consider the three bullet-points above.

Happy Wine Making,
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.

Are You Sweetening A Wine Before Bottling? Then Read This…

Man Sweetening A Wine Before BottlingThis is my first time making apple wine. So far it is racked into it’s secondary. Once ready to bottle, do I add a campden tablet to kill any remaining yeast and then add some sugar to make a sweeter apple wine? I have tried to do some research, but have found myself more confused.

Name: Matt
State: Virginia
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Hello Matt,

First, thank you for such the great question. Sweetening a wine before bottling is a subject that causes great confusion among many novice winemakers.

Most of the confusion surrounds the thought that Campden tablets will kill yeast. For the most part this is true. Campden tablets will kill yeast… so long as it’s a wild yeast! But, if you use a domesticated wine yeast to make your wine – just like everybody does in this century – it’s a completely different story.

Domesticated wine yeast, such as that produced by Lalvin or Red Star, have been acclimated to the active ingredient in Campden tablets, sulfite. In other words, these domesticate yeast strains have been bred to become somewhat immune to effects of sulfite.

This does not mean that using Campden tablets will not kill some of the wine yeast. In fact, it will kill some or even a significant part of the yeast colony, depending on how many tablets you use, but it will not kill all of the wine yeast. This is where the problem comes in for the home winemaker sweetening a wine before bottling.

Shop Campden TabletsIf you are sweetening a wine before bottling it is essential that the wine yeast be dealt with so that it cannot start re-growing a colony again. Campden tablets will not do this. It may put a momentary dent in the yeasts’ ability to ferment, but it does not take away their ability to propagate and grow back into numbers that can cause a winemaker some grief in the form of a rejuvenated fermentation.

If only Campden tablets are used when sweetening a wine before bottling, then there is a decent chance that a fermentation will occur in the wine bottle. The result is a buildup of pressure from the CO2 gas, and eventually one of two things will happen: either the corks will start popping out, or the wine bottles will fail. Neither one is a good thing.

So Matt, I imagine by this time you are wondering, what are you supposed to do when sweetening a wine before bottling? It’s really pretty straight forward. And, you almost had the right idea.

 

Sweeten The wine To Taste:
Most home winemakers will use cane sugar as a sweetener, but you can try sweetening the wine with honey, corn sugar, beet sugar, etc. There is room for experimentation. Just realize that regardless of whatever you use, it needs to be completely dissolved and evenly blended into the wine. Don’t skimp on the stirring.

 

Add Campden Tablets To The Wine:
For sure, you want to add sulfites such as Campden tablets. You can also use potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite, instead. Both of these work in the same way as Campden tablets. The only difference is that they are in a granulated form. If using Campden tablets, add one per gallon. If you are using either potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite, add 1/16 of a teaspoon per gallon.Shop Potassium Bisulfite

 

Add Potassium Sorbate To The Wine:
Up to now I have not mentioned potassium sorbate, (aka, wine stabilizer) but it is the real key to sweetening a wine before bottling. Potassium sorbate does not kill or destroy yeast, wild or domestic, but instead, it stops them from reproducing.

Any yeast fermentation thrives on the fact that a single yeast cell can reproduce itself several times before it dies. It does so through a process called budding. A little bud will emerge from the yeast’s cell wall. The bud will eventually separate and become its own yeast cell. This is how a yeast colony propagates throughout a fermentation. If the yeast cannot reproduce, then the fermentation cannot sustain itself.

This is where potassium sorbate comes in. Potassium sorbate interrupts the reproductive process by coating the yeasts’ outer cell outer wall, making budding impossible. If the yeast cannot bud, the colony will not flourish.

The recommended dosage for potassium sorbate is 1/2 teaspoon per gallons.

 

Additional Thoughts:
One thing you can do to insure the success when sweetening a wine before bottling is to give the wine plenty of time so that it is can drop out as much yeast as possible. Yeast will fall to the bottom when they run out of sugar to feed on, but it takes time for these very fine particles to fall completely out through gravity. To help speed up the process you can treat the wine with bentonite then follow it up with a polish fining agent such as isinglass or Kitosol 40.Shop Potassium Sorbate

Also realize that Campden tablets and potassium sorbate will have little if any effect on an active fermentation, so do not try to use these ingredients to stop a fermentation in progress. Domesticated wine yeast are too immune to sulfites, and the amount of potassium sorbate it would take to coat such a large number of active yeast cells makes the dosage required unreasonable.

That’s pretty much the ins-and-outs of sweetening a wine before bottling. To summarize quickly, you give the wine plenty of wine to drop out the the excessive yeast cells. Even use a wine clarifier. Then sweeten the wine to taste, and then add the Campden tablets, then the potassium sorbate.
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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.

How Much Wine Conditioner To Add

Wine Conditioner…I bought your wine conditioner for a light sweet taste. For a 3 gallon batch of red wine how much of the 16oz bottle would you use. I don’t want it as sweet as the store bought Manischewitz.

Byron J.— FL
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Hello Byron,

Thank you for your question. How much wine conditioner to add to a wine is a question that comes up often, so I’m glad to be able to clear things up.

There is no way anyone could answer this question with accuracy. This is because you can take two different dry wines and add the same amount of wine conditioner to each and come up with different intensities of sweetness.

This is because different wines handle sweetness differently. Some of it is due to the structure of the wine: body, tannin, acidity… Some of it has to do with how much residual sweetness is in the wine, already. So, it is almost impossible for anyone to tell you how much wine conditioner to add to your wine.

Tasting wine is a subjective venture, as well. This complicates matters even further. What one person might perceive as a sweet wine, another might perceive as not being sweet at all. This is why I think it is so important for the home winemaker to learn how to make any flavor adjustments based on their own taste. It is much more valuable and practical for you to add wine conditioner based on what you think is good, than me throwing some kind of number at you. How much wine conditioner to add should be dependent upon you, not anybody else.Shop Potassium Sorbate

For this reason, I never make recommendations on how much sweetening to add anyone’s wine. Instead, I recommend that you experiment a bit. You can do this by taking a one gallon sample of the wine and adding measured amounts of wine conditioner until you arrive at a sweetness you like best. This will establish a dosage that can then be use on your other two gallons. The best part is, if you accidentally add too much wine conditioner to the gallon sample, you can blend it with the other two, and start all over. This is by far the safest and best way to add wine conditioner to a wine. It also gives you a chance to discover the amount of sweetness you think is right, for you personally.

Just so you don’t think that I’m completely blowing-off you question, I will give you some general numbers. It’s not unusual for a winemaker to use the whole pint wine conditioner to 5 gallons. I’ve also seen winemakers use 2 pints to 5 gallons, and I’ve seen many winemakers only use 1/2 a pint to 5 gallons. As you can see, how much wine conditioner one adds can vary greatly.

Also, just as a reminder, if you add any wine conditioner at all, it needs to be at least 2 oz. per gallon. Potassium sorbate is blended into the wine conditioner as a stabilizer. This helps to eliminate a chance of a re-fermentation. If you use less than the 2 ozs. of wine conditioner per gallon there will not be enough potassium sorbate in the wine to guarantee that a re-fermentation does not occur with the newly added conditioner.Shop Wine Bottles

In your case with 3 gallons, that means you will need to add at least 6 ozs. or none at all. If you want to add less than 2 ounce per gallon, you can do so, but you will also need to add a separate dose of potassium sorbate along with it.

Hopefully, this has given you a little better idea of how much wine conditioner to add. I’d start out by adding 6 ounce of wine conditioner to the whole batch, then do same taste on a gallon of if from there.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed 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.

My Wine Stopped Fermenting Too Early!

Wine That Stopped FermentingI am making a strawberry wine. I mixed everything together and the fermentation started the next day. But now my wine has stopped fermenting too early. It has only been fermenting for about 5 days. What should I do?

Name: Kelly F.
State: GA
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Hello Kelly,

It may very well be that you have a stuck fermentation, and need to figure out how to get it going again. But, more than likely the reason your wine is not fermenting is because the fermentation is simply done. Once all the available sugars have been turned into alcohol by the wine yeast, there is nothing else to do. No reason to add more yeast, etc.

While most fermentations will last anywhere from 7 days to 14 days, I have personally seen wine fermentations be completely done in less than 3 days. It’s all just a matter of how happy you make the wine yeast.

To determine if your wine stopped fermenting too early or if you have a stuck fermentation, you will need to test the wine with a hydrometer. If you do not have a hydrometer, I would strongly urge you to get one. A wine hydrometer is the single most valuable tool any winemaker can have, and it is quick and easy to use.Shop Hydrometer

 

  • If your wine has a specific gravity reading less than .998, then your fermentation is done. All that you need to do is to continue on with any wine recipe directions you are following. This would typically be to rack the wine into a secondary fermenter and allow it time to clear.
  • If your wine has a specific gravity reading more than .998, then you have a stuck fermentation on your hands and will need to figure out how to get the wine fermenting again.

 

There are a number of reasons why a wine might stop fermenting too early – too many to go over here – but fortunately you can go to our Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure. There you will find the mostly likely reasons why you have a stuck fermentation. The reasons are in order from the most to least likely reason. This list was culminated from our years and years of experience with helping home winemakers. Go over them and see if any of the top 10 reasons apply to this batch of wine.Shop Yeast Energizer

In short, if you have a wine that stopped fermenting too early, it does not necessarily mean you have a problem. In fact, it could mean the opposite – that you had a very good fermentation and it is done sooner than expected.

Happy Wine Making,
Ed 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.

3 Reasons Why You Should Be Making Wine!

why-you-should-be-making-wine2What motivates you to make your own homemade wine?  Is it for that feeling of knowing you’re participating in an ancient art that has been practiced for thousands of years?  Is it so you can control the aromas and flavors of your wine and not worry about whether or not you’ll like the wine when you pop that cork?  Or maybe you’re just trying to save a little money by making it yourself?  Whatever your motivation, making your own homemade wine is a time-honored hobby that is beneficial on so many levels!

Here’s three reasons why you should be making your own wine. These are the reasons that seem to stand out to most people.

 

  1. First, it’s cheaper to make your own wine than to continually have to restock your wine cellar through regular visits to the wine shop.  You can find inexpensive bottles of wine in the store, but their quality is hit or miss, and by making your own wine, you’ll know it’s good once you’ve got your rhythm down.  On average, actually good bottles of wine in the store are going to cost you between $15 and $30.  Again, you can get good wine for less than that, but it’s not as common and you really have to know your brands at that point.

    If you add up the cost of the wine making ingredients for your homemade wine and divide it up by the number of wine bottles it produces, you’re paying significantly less per bottle and per sip than you are the majority of the inexpensive good bottles of wine at the store. So, you should be making your own wine from a standpoint of cost, alone.

  1. The second reason as to why you should be making wine, you have total control over what the finished product becomes.  You have carte blanche over what your finished wine will taste like and over the style of wine it will become.

    And realize, commercial wines are not immune to possessing faults, so even if you make a mistake, be comforted in the fact that it is very possible you could have just as easily purchased a bad bottle from the store.  Once you get your winemaking technique down and you have all the right wine making ingredients, you can create a wine that you know you’ll enjoy every time you pop that cork.

  1. Shop Wine Making KitsFinally, making homemade wine can be really easy!  Sure, it’s scary to think about it if you’ve never done it before, but there are many great resources available to you for free.

    One great starting place is our How To Make Wine page. This page puts the whole wine making process in a nutshell. There’s also some great wine making recipes available to you. And, as if one couldn’t make it even easier, taking advantage of all the great winemaking kits out there will help making your own homemade wine a piece of cake! Currently, there are over 160 grape juice to choose from, collected from all over the world.

 

So as you can see there are many great reasons why you should be making wine. Not to mentions that your own homemade wine is a great thing to share with family and friends.

Do you make wine already? Share with others why you make wine in the comment section below!
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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.

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.

Can I Use Potassium Sorbate To Stop A Fermentation?

Wine Fermentation That Needs To Be StoppedAs the yeast eats the sugars, the sweet taste disappears as the sugar is eaten. I have heard you can’t stop the yeast from doing their job. But if I want a sweeter wine and my reading has reached an SG of 1.010, can I put potassium sorbate in the fermentation to stop it there for some sweetness instead of letting it ferment to the end at .998 and having to try and back sweeten a dry wine?

Byron J. — FL
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Hello Byron,

This is a great question because it covers a two wine making topics that often trip up home winemakers: using potassium sorbate and sweetening a wine.

Let me start off by saying that it is possible to stop a fermentation in progress, but it is much more difficult than just using potassium sorbate to stop a fermentation and/or sulfites such as Campden tablets and sodium metabisulfite. These wine making ingredients will give the fermentation a blow to the gut, but vary rarely will they permanently stop a fermentation. Not good enough for a homemade wine that is destined to be bottled. The last thing any winemaker wants is fermenting bottles of wine.

The potassium sorbate does not stop or inhibit the fermenting in any way. What it does do is stop the yeast from reproducing themselves. During a typical fermentation the wine yeast will go through several re-generations. By adding potassium sorbate to a wine you are making sure that the current generation of yeast is the last generation of yeast. Eventually, the wine yeast will begin to die, but not all at once. Some yeast will live longer than others always leaving a possibility of a re-fermentation occurring, even months down the road.

Shop Potassium SorbateSulfites, like the Campden tablets and sodium metabisulfite, will destroy some of the yeast cells but not all of them. Domesticated wine yeast are somewhat immune to the effects of sulfite. They are acclimated to the sulfites when they are being produced. This is done on purpose so that a fermentation can exist with some of the protective benefits of sulfites.

Since potassium sorbate won’t stop a fermentation, here is what a commercial winery does when they want to stop an active fermentation:

 

  1. Chill the fermentation tanks down to about 45°F. This causes the wine yeast to stop their activity and drop to the bottom. This can be done in a matter of 3 or 4 days depending on how fast the tanks chill. As a home winemaker, refrigeration should be done for at least a week.
  1. Rack the wine off the sediment. The sediment is mostly yeast cells at this stage of the winemaking process, so by racking or siphoning the wine, you are leaving most of the yeast behind.
  1. Filter the wine. It is vital that the wine be finely filtered at this point. While almost all of the wine yeast is gone, if some is left in the wine they can propagate themselves into larger numbers, regenerating a new colony of yeast that can ferment the wine after it has been bottled. Not a good thing. A winery will typically filter a wine down to .5 micron. This will require filtration under pressure with an actual wine filter system.

 

Shop Potassium MetabisulfiteThis is how a winery controls the sweetness of a wine, but there is a much, much easier way available to the home winemaker. It doesn’t involve using potassium sorbate to stop a fermentation, and it doesn’t involve going through all the steps laid out above.

 

  1. Allow the fermentation to finish. All the sugars will be gone and the wine yeast will start dropping out.
  1. Rack the wine off the sediment. Again, this will leave most of the yeast behind – well over 90%.
  1. Add sugar syrup to taste. The sugar syrup can be made by taking equal parts water and sugar and heating them in a sauce pan until completely clear. You may want to take a measured portion of the wine and add measured portions of the sugar syrup to establish a dosage, first, before committing the entire batch.
  1. Add potassium sorbate and sulfite to the wine. The dosage should be listed on the containers they come in, but you want to use 1/2 teaspoon of potassium sorbate per gallon and 1/16 teaspoon per gallon of either: potassium metabisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, or 1 Campden tablet per gallon of wine.
  1. Bottle the wine right away. If the wine is allowed to sit, some of the sulfite will dissipate, so you will want to bottle the wine on the same day.

 

By allowing the wine to finish, you will have much greater control on the sweetness of the wine. Instead of saying I want the wine to finish at a specific gravity 1.010, as you have suggested, you can actually sweeten the wine to taste. This is important because some wines require more sugar than others to get the same effect of sweetness than others. Every wine is different.Shop Mini Jet Wine Filter

By operating in this way you can also bulk age the wine first. This is a great advantage, because it allows you to sweeten the wine after the harshness has been aged out. Often times when sweetening a young, too much sugar will be added. This is because the winemaker tries to cover up the harshness with sweetness — a harshness that won’t be there later.

Byron, I hope this information helps you out. Again, I’m glad you asked about using potassium sorbate to stop a fermentation for the simple fact that it’s answer will help to clear up a lot of confusion among new winemakers.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed 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.