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Campden Tablets: What They Can And Can't Do.

Campden TabletsOne of the most commonly used ingredients in home wine making are Campden Tablets. You will find them in almost any of the wine making recipes you will use; talked about in almost any of the wine making books you will read; and called into action by just about any of the homemade wine instructions you will follow.

What Do Campden Tablets Do?
The original reason these tablets were used in wine making was to keep the wine from spoiling after it had been bottled. By adding these tablets at bottling time, you could virtually eliminate any chance of your wine falling victim to mold, bacteria and other foreign enemies.

Since their introduction into wine making, they have also become routinely used for sterilizing the juice prior to fermentation. By adding Campden Tablets a day before adding your wine yeast, you can start your fermentation with a clean slate, so to speak. All the unwanted micro organisms will be gone.

Some home winemakers also use Campden Tablets with water to create a sanitizing solution. This solution will safely sanitize fermenters, air-lock, stirring spoons, hoses and all the other pieces of equipment that may come into contact with the wine must.

What Campden Tablets Don't Do?
Many beginning winemakers believe that Campden Tablets are a magic pill of sorts. One that can instantaneously stop a wine fermentation dead in its tracks. 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 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.

Truth is, Campden Tablets are not designed to stop a fermentation and never have been. Using them for that purpose can get you into all kinds of trouble. There is really no ingredient that can be safely used by itself to assuredly stop a fermentation.

What Are Campden Tablets?
Simply put, a Campden Tablet is sulfite. When you add a tablet to the wine you are adding sulfites to the wine. Most Campden Tablets consist of potassium metabisulfite, but some are made with sodium metabisulfite.

How Are Campden Tablets Used?
Their use is fairly straight-forward. You add one tablet to each gallon of wine must 24 hour prior to adding the wine yeast -- before the fermentation. Then you add one table per gallon just before bottling.

The Campden Tablets must first be crushed and dissolved in a small amount of the wine or water. This mix is then stirred thoroughly into the rest of the batch.

You can use the Campden Tablets to create a sanitizing solution by crushing up 4 tablets into a quart of water. This can be used as a sanitizing rinse, or you can pour it into a fermentation container and allow the fumes to sanitize the entire insides.

As An Alternative To The Campden Tablet...
You can use Potassium Metabisulfite or Sodium Metabisulfite in the form of a granulated powder. The advantages are: you don't have to crush it up; and it is cheaper. The disadvantage is you have to measure out the dosage, which is 1/16 teaspoon per tablet.
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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.

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Comments (40)

Name: thomas
Time: Friday, March 9, 2012

i am making blackberry wine and rinsed my gallon jug out with hot water added the juice then sugar used hydrometer was9.4 is that allright for red wine its fermenting steady

Name: Customer Service
Time: Friday, March 9, 2012

I assume you are ask is it going to be okay because you did not use Campden Tablets. The good news is you have a fermentation successfully started. This is important in protecting the wine. So you are okay... so far. However, I would strongly recommend you get some Campden Tablets to add to the wine right before bottling and to use with future batches.

Name: John Maule
Time: Friday, April 13, 2012

I drop one campden tablet into to one gallon of wine and it dissolves it self, is there any need to crush it

Name: Gene Loehrer
Time: Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sure do enjoy your tips on wine making...U R giving me the "itch" to get back at it again Thanks Gene

Name: elmer
Time: Wednesday, May 30, 2012

If Campden Tablets are so essential to add just prior to bottling, why doesn't the manufacturers of high end wine kits (RJ Spagnol. Vineco Showcase etc.) specify that in their instructions?

Name: Customer Service
Time: Thursday, May 31, 2012

Elmer, Thanks for the great question. I can't speak RJ Spagnol because we do not carry that brand, but all the juice kits we do carry have you add packet #3 of potassium metabisulfite after degassing the wine. In addition to this, they state that if you plan on storing your wine for longer than 6 months to add another 1/4 teaspoon of your own potassium metabisulfite before bottling. This last part is not listed within the steps themselves, but as additional information on the directions sheet. This is true for all the juice kits we offer. Personally we always recommend to our customers that they add the sulfites before bottling. There's just no reason not to.

Name: Julia
Time: Friday, July 6, 2012

HELP!! We bottled our homemade grape wine 3 months ago. Opened a bottle and it foamed in the glass. We can't remember if we added potassium metabisulfite before bottling. Can I empty bottles in primary fermenter stir back and forth and rebottle. Should I add a camden tablet or potassium metabisulfite. Thanks

Name: Customer Service
Time: Friday, July 6, 2012

Julia, at this point you need to put the wine back into a fermenter and let it finish fermenting. Once the fermentation has completed (you can verify this with a hydrometer), then you can add potassium metabisulfite to the wine and bottle. It is important that you understand that sulfites of any kind will not consistently stop a fermentation. For this reason we do not recommend that you rely on it to do so.

Name: Bert SALISBURY
Time: Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My home made grape wine was ruby red and beautifully clear. Just before leaving on vacation I noticed a very small amount of mold. As a precaution, I added 5 crushed and dissolved camden tablets to the 5 galllon carboy. That was in February and to date it is still cloudy. Will it clear by itself or is there something else I can do?

Name: Customer Service
Time: Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bert, I do not believe the addition of the Campden Tablets and cloudiness are related. There is nothing about Campden Tablets that cause cloudiness. It is more likely that the wine has started to ferment again as warmer weather came upon us. I would suggest that you take a hydrometer reading to confirm all the all the sugars have fermented and your fermentation is complete. If you find that renewed fermentation is the cause, your only choice is to be patient.

Name: jojo
Time: Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I have read on other wine making sites that you should add camden tablets before fermentation and again on the first, third and fifth racking, and so on and again just before bottling. Is this necessary? I have been making wine for a year and have always done this.

Name: Customer Service
Time: Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Jojo, if you are making wine from fresh fruits you want to add Campden tablets before fermentation. You will want to add Campden tablets, again, after the fermentation. And then finally, once more, right before bottling.

Name: ttobin
Time: Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What if sulfites are a problem? I find I am sensitive to lots of things and sulfites are one of them. Is there an option for sulfite free homemade wines?

Name: Customer Service
Time: Tuesday, December 11, 2012

ttobin, unfortunately sulfites play a significant role in keeping the wine from spoiling. While it is possible to make wine without any sulfites added, your risk for spoilage is dramatically increased. So much so, that it would be best stored under refrigeration. It is important to note that the fermentation, itself, produces significant sulfites... up to 25% of what is required to keep a wine stable. Because of this a truely "sulfite free" wine is impossible.

Name: JL
Time: Sunday, January 6, 2013

My wine (Red) comes in a 6 gal pail. I run a small hose through a 1/4 hole in the top of the pail to a glass jug of water. It's not long and the water starts bubbling. After a month of this bubbling (burpping), I rack the wine into a glass car boy. It continues to burp for as much as a year, is this normal? When should I add campden tablets, how many for 5 gal and do I crush and mix with the wine to make a solution and then pour it into the wine? What does adding the tablets do for my wine? Thanks, John

Name: Customer Service
Time: Sunday, January 6, 2013

JL, the time table of your wine making process is somewhat off. The bulk of the fermentation should be done in about 5 to 7 days. This is also when your first racking should be done in to the carboy. If the fermentation was healthy it should be complete in two week or less. Once the fermentation has completed it is time to rack again then add Campden Tablets — one per gallon. This will help to protect the wine from oxidation and spoilage. Once the wine has had plenty of time to clear, usually 1 to 2 months, the wine should be racked again. Another dose of Campden Tablets should be added and you can bottle the wine. The fact that your fermentations are going on for months indicates that the environment is not correct for the wine yeast to perform the fermentation. I would suggest that you take a look at the article, "The Top Ten Reasons For Fermenation Failure" that is listed on our website: http://www.eckraus.com/wine-making-failure/

Name: Amy
Time: Sunday, January 13, 2013

I am a first time wine maker and really appreciate your site! I started my first attempt last night with a blackberry fruit wine base and followed the wine making process on the can. One of the steps is to add 1 Campden Tablet for each gallon of water which I did to later re-read to see I was supposed to wait until week 3 or 4. I have read on some sites the high level of sodium will stop the fermentation process. I have not added my yeast yet. Is there something I can do to save my wine and make sure it ferments?

Name: Customer Service
Time: Monday, January 14, 2013

Amy, the amount of sodium that are in the Campden Tablets is not of any concern to the fermentation. The amount is much too small the affect a fermentation in any way. The issue at hand is the sulfite, the active ingredient of the Campden Tablet. One tablet per gallon will kill a portion of the wine yeast and hinder the fermentation if action is not taken. Fortunately, the solution is simple. All you need to do is allow the sulfite to dissipate from the wine. Simply leave the fermenter uncovered for a 24 hour period. After this, it will be safe to add the wine yeast. You will still want to add more Campden Tablets in the future as directed.

Name: Rita Effler
Time: Thursday, February 7, 2013

I want to "preserve" fresh squeezed orange, grapefruit and lemon juice without freezing and was told campden tablets would act as a preservative without refrigeration. However, the person who told me this said her orange juice turned to wine but she thought it was because her bottles were plastic. Can I preserve fresh juice by simply adding campden tablets or is that a myth?

Name: Customer Service
Time: Friday, February 8, 2013

Rita, yes you can use Campden tablets to preserve your juices. Add one crushed Campden tablet per gallon of juice. Then seal the container up in a timely manner. The suflite from the Campden tablets will dissipate into the air if given enough time. Secondly, make sure the containers are full, with no head-space. And third, if you do not plan on making wine with the juice, you can also add Potassium Sorbate. This will keep any microbes that the Campden misses from multiplying and causing spoilage.

Name: Stephen Gutner
Time: Tuesday, February 12, 2013

All of this hold true for mead, I wonder?

Name: Customer Service
Time: Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Stephen, everything you've read above does apply to Mead as well.

Name: Diego
Time: Sunday, March 17, 2013

If you use 1 Campden tablet per gallon how much potassium sorbate would be required to mix with the Campden per gallon.

Name: Customer Service
Time: Monday, March 18, 2013

Diego, it is important to understand that Campden tablets are completely independent of potassium sorbate, so regardless if you Campden tablets or not, you will want to add 1/4 teaspoon of potassium sorbate to each gallon of wine. If you add sugar at bottling time to sweeten the wine, then you will want to use 1/2 teaspoon of potassium sorbate per gallon.

Name: jimmy D
Time: Saturday, March 23, 2013

how long ? can you leave wine in a carboy after fermentation .

Name: Customer Service
Time: Monday, March 25, 2013

Jimmy, I would not leave the wine more than two or three days after the fermentation completes. You usually want to get the wine off the sediment reasonably quick. This is because the wine can develop off-flavors if left on the sediment for longer periods of time.

Name: Ed
Time: Monday, August 19, 2013

I have been making homemade wine for more than 50 years, and I have not yet used Campden tablets or any other form of sulfite.
My wine does not spoil for at least 2 years - in y own opinion most of my wines have best taste when about 2 years old. My blackberry wine is still good up to 5 years. Why does everyone think that one MUST use sulfites to make good wine?

Name: Fee
Time: Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hi.....I've made a batch of cider....its now in a large sealed bucket and is fermenting away BUT everywhere I've read it says you should add a campden tablet 24 hours before you add your yeast which I didn't do this time or the previous time - I added it at the end after I'd strained the cider and 24 hours before the cider was bottled - will my cider still be safe to drink? I left it 4 weeks to ferment and settle last time then I strained off the sediment 2/3 times before adding the tablet and bottling......the cider was then kept in the fridge.

Name: Customer Service
Time: Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fee, the fact that you had a successful fermentation would indicate that everything is fine with the cider. A healthy fermentation will keep down any molds or bacteria from growing. You add Campden tablets after the fermentation and before bottling so it is being protected after the fermentation just fine.

Name: Leanna
Time: Sunday, September 15, 2013

I am making my first ever batch of wine. I used a red muscadine grape added water and sugar as the recipe indicated. It then said to add 1 crushed campden tablet per gallon and yeast nutrient to the must. Befor I added the campden I had beautiful color to my juices after the campden was added the juice became clear. Is this normal?

Name: Customer Service
Time: Monday, September 16, 2013

Leanna, the true color of the wine is not going to become apparent until after the fermentation. The skin of the grapes is were the color lies. The color is extracted from the skins during the first 3 to 5 days of fermentation. If you noticed a drop out of color before the fermentation, it was not because of the Campden tablets — they have no ability to do such a thing — but rather from the loose tannins from the grapes dropping out. They and other sources of color pigmentation will be saturated into the wine once the fermentation gets started.

Name: Dave
Time: Friday, September 20, 2013

I racked a grape wine after the first fermentation and let it set for a three weeks. I noticed a thin white film forming on top of the wine so I added two crushed campden tablets, it is a one gallon carboy. the top half of the wine in the carboy turned hazy. I have waited 24 hours and it has not cleared. What could be the problem.

Name: Customer Service
Time: Saturday, September 21, 2013

Dave, I am fearful that the white film (bacteria) is what's causing the haze in the wine. It would have been better to rack the wine away from the film before adding the Campden tablets. At this point, your best option is to wait. My guess is that the haziness will rise to the top again, and then you can rack the wine into a clean jug.

Name: April
Time: Saturday, October 12, 2013

Just started my first ever batch of wine. Muscadine wine. It has just finished sitting for 24 hours. I went to add the yeast and there is brownish jelly looking floaties in it. I added pectic enzyme, yeast nutrient, and 5 camden tablets crushed before placing it in my wine making spot. 5 gallons of wine is what I am making. The smell of it is leaning towards sour grapes. I did sterilize all equipment prior to mixing. Is that brown jelly stuff normal?

Name: Customer Service
Time: Saturday, October 12, 2013

April, I would examine the jelly looking stuff more closely, but my guess is it is some of the inner flesh portion of the grapes. But, I can't rule out some foreign matter either that came with the grapes. It is up to you to investigate further because what you are saying is not normal.

Name: Molly
Time: Saturday, November 9, 2013

I'd like to use campden to sterilize a small amount of juice for topping up. I doubt that I will be able to accurately divide a tablet smaller than into quarters. Is it harmful to use a higher concentration than the usual one tab per gallon, for this purpose? Thanks!

Name: Customer Service
Time: Monday, November 11, 2013

Molly, for the portion of the entire batch we are talking about, it would not matter if you added a little more than what is standard. Just do the best you can.

Name: Tamra
Time: Friday, December 27, 2013

I am the owner of a small tea company,I make fruit tea and am searching for ways to preserve my product's shelf life for commercial purposes. Assuming that if camden is good for juices, it should also be good to use in tea as well, shouldn't it? If I choose to just use a combination of potassium sorbate and potassium
metabisulfite, would that increase the shelf life. How much of each to use per gallon of tea and would there be a need to add more of each before bottling as you would with wine? How long will the tea last? In consuming these sulfites, are there any dangers or health risk? Are these sulfites considered one of the 7 or 8 allergens?

Name: rajat sharma
Time: Saturday, January 11, 2014

I have not added campden. Fermentation started 2 days ago. and I have around 40 days in my hand to add campden tablets. But I am not getting campden tablets , any alternatives of it? If i get it how much quantity should i add in 2 gallons

Name: Customer Service
Time: Saturday, January 11, 2014

Rajat, if you do not have Campden tablets the only things you could use would be either potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite. I you can not get either of these, the only thing I would suggest is to be very clean with all of your winemaking equipment and wait the 40 days before bottling so that you can add Campden tablets right before bottling. You only need to add 1 tablet per gallon of wine.

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