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How Can I Tell If My Wine Yeast Is Working?

Wine YeastHello Kraus,

How do you know if the wine yeast is working, I prepared the yeast per the homemade wine instructions that were on the packet and when set to ferment the air-lock is not popping. Did I do something wrong, What would cause this to happen?

Thank you for your help,
Albert the beginner


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Good Morning Albert (the beginner),

Let's see if we can't figure out what's going on...

First, it's important to understand that it can take a wine yeast up to 36 hours to start showing signs of fermentation. On average, it takes a yeast about 18 hours, so if it hasn't been this long, you may need to wait.

You will notice the first signs of fermentation activity as little patches of fine bubbles on the surface of the wine must. These patches will eventually grown into a thin layer of fine bubbles across the entire surface. You are likely to notice this before you will see any activity in the air-lock.

Here are a couple of issues I would like to bring up briefly that are indirectly related to your question:

Yeast Preparation
The directions on a typical packet of wine yeast will state to put the wine yeast in water that is at such-and-such temperature for so-many minutes before adding to the wine must. This is fine to do if you actually follow the directions, but if you do not monitor the temperature of the water or track the amount of time, carefully, you can destroy the yeast before it even makes it to the wine must.

For this reason, we recommend that you simply sprinkle the yeast on top of the wine must and skip the warm water. 

Using The Air-Lock
You stated that you are watching the air-lock for signs of activity. In spite of what many homemade wine instructions say to do, we do not recommend using an air-lock during the first few days of fermentation (primary fermentation).

Yeast needs air to successfully multiply into a larger colony. By using an air-lock, the air is being kept away from the yeast.

For this reason, we recommend that you do not use an air-lock during the primary fermentation. Instead, take the lid off and cover the fermenter with a thin cloth towel or something similar.

If you are concerned about leaving a fermentation exposed to the elements, rest assured that as long as you have an active fermentation starting up as scheduled, your wine must will be safe from any airborne contaminants.

Another Wine Making Tip...
Here's another one of my wine making tips. I like to put the air-lock on the fermenter for just the first few hours--just long enough to determine that the yeast is going to start. Once I see the first signs of fermentation, I then take the lid and air-lock off and cover with a thin cloth towel.

Happy Wine Making
Customer Service
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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 (13)

Name: Mr. Rogers
Time: Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I use White Lab liquid yeast 720 Wine / Sweet Mead Yeast is it better to leave the airlock off of this as well, or is just when you are using dry yeast? Thanks!
Mr. Rogers

Name: Customer Service
Time: Wednesday, March 16, 2011

This goes for any form of yeast, however with White Lab yeast it is not "quite" as important simply because you are starting with a higher yeast cell count from them than you do with active dried yeast packets.

Name: Jenny
Time: Tuesday, August 16, 2011

We are beginners in the homemade wine hobby and we only have one wine under our belt (banana- which turned out great). We started a blueberry/peach combo wine on Saturday night. We don't use any sulfur tablets because we want it preservative-free, so what we did after tons of research is heat the fruit (not boil) for about 30-40 minutes- we had about 2.5 gallons of crushed fruit. We waited 24 hours and added some heated water with 10 cups of melted sugar to take it up to 4 gallons. We barely made at this point a SG of 1.070. Right after adding the sugar water, we added liquid White Labs Champagne yeast (1vial). 12 hours later, nothing is happening except oddly enough some of the water in our air-lock has dissappeared. ??? Did it get sucked inside? The air tempterature was steady the whole time at around 72 degrees. We added no nutrients or anything else. A lot of pieces of crushed fruit, so its a little hard getting just liquid for our SG readings. Does thicker fluid affect the SG reading?
Thank you for any help you can give us.....
Jenny

Name: Customer Service
Time: Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hello Jenny,
It sounds like the wine must was still too warm when you added the yeast. This won't necessarily kill all the yeast, but enough of it to get little action by way of fermentation. The wine must being warm is also what caused the water to suck out of your air-lock. As the must cools off, it contracts, causing the water to be sucked out of the air-lock and into the must. I would suggest adding more yeast and it should start up fine. You may also want to take a look at the article, "Top Ten Reasons For Fermentation Failure", listed under articles on our website.
Happy Wine Making

Name: Paul doesn't know what he's doing
Time: Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I'm only half way done with my first batch of raspberry wine and I'm having a ball. So much that I got 5 gallons of Delaware juice and starting to get that ball rolling. I used Lalvin 1122 and I believe I followed the directions on the recipe to the T. Its been a little over 24 hours and no signs of the yeast working. My question is, if nothing happens, do I need to scrap the juice or can I put in another packet of yeast. (Yes, I'm that new to this)

Thanks

Paul

Name: Custoemer Service
Time: Thursday, September 29, 2011

There is absolutely no reason to throw this batch out, but you do need to determine why it is not fermenting and remedy the issue. The article, "Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure", covers over 95% of the issues we run accross.

Name: Sam the starter
Time: Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hi, I've read your fermentation failure article, but I still have a question. I'm on my second 5 gallon batch, which is a red grape wine from concentrate. I added the yeast 24 hours after the campden. It's been over 24 hours now since I added the yeast, and I have no action. I understand that it could take up to 36 hours, but if it doesn't start, can I simply add more yeast and hope it was just bad yeast? Additionally, if I do add more yeast and it still doesn't work, is there hope for the must, or do I scrap it and start again? Thank you in advance.

Name: Frank & Kathy
Time: Tuesday, February 26, 2013

We put in extra yeast in the wine. How.
do we get rid of the yeasty taste?

Name: Customer Service
Time: Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Frank & Kathy, putting in extra yeast would not have anything to do with a yeast taste in the wine. Whether you but in one or two or even three packets of wine yeast, it will multiply to 100 to 200 times what you put in. This is assuming you used an actual wine yeast. To answer your question, the best way to get it out is to add bentonite to the wine. It will collect yeast and other protein particles and drop them to the bottom of your fermenter:

Speedy Bentonite
http://www.eckraus.com/6-oz-speedy-bentonite.html

Name: Denise
Time: Monday, May 27, 2013

I felt the need to re-inoculate my chardonnay. My question is do I have to follow up with sterilizers, kerosal and citosane again?

Name: Customer Service
Time: Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Denise, the kieselsol and chitosan are not sterilizers. These are clarifiers. They are designed to clear out any thing that's floating in the wine. This may explain why you need to add more wine yeast. Go ahead and add the yeast, but do not add the kieselsol or the chitosan again.

Name: VALERIE
Time: Thursday, July 31, 2014

my air lock has two sides. it has water in both sides fulled to the line. i put it in a few days ago but i don,t see any bubbles.

Name: Customer Service
Time: Thursday, July 31, 2014

Valerie, if you see no bubbles then either your must is not fermenting. I would suggest that you take a look at the following article to try to see what might going on:

Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure
http://www.eckraus.com/wine-making-failure/

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