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Temperature And Fermentation

Wine Making Too ColdHi,

I am a newbie to wine making. I believe the primary fermentation temp should be 65-75? How about the secondary fermentation and subsequent processes? I am wanting to make my wine in my basement but it might be too cool.

Thanks.
Todd

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Good Afternoon Todd,

This is a great question. The answer to it is quite often what trips up many beginning home winemakers.

The effect that temperature has on a fermentation is enormous and greatly underestimated by many. This is particularly true for those new to wine making. As an example to the enormity of its effect, consider the 65 degrees F. you mentioned above. This might allow a fermentation that is barely noticeable to occur, whereas the 75 degrees F. you mentioned might end up producing a fermentation that results in a spewing volcano of foam. That's how critical temperature is to fermentation.

The type of wine yeast you use, along with what you are fermenting and a whole host of other variables also factor into how dramatic this comparison plays out, but without a doubt its always dramatic enough to make your question an important one.

Whether or not your wine must is in a primary fermenter or secondary fermenter is not what is critical to the temperature you maintain. What is critical is the readings you are getting with your gravity hydrometer.

You will eventually want to keep your wine in a little cooler temperatures than what you previously mentioned, but you also want the fermentation to be complete before moving to these cooler temperatures. You determine if a fermentation is finished by taking a gravity hydrometer reading, not by whether or not it is in a primary or secondary fermenter.

You can read more about checking the fermentation with a hydrometer in the article, Getting To Know Your Hydrometer, listed on our website.

Sometimes the fermentation finishes while it is still in the primary fermenter. Sometimes the fermentation carries on for a great deal of time while it is in the secondary fermenter. The reason for this inconsistency is because of all the variables mentioned before: yeast strain, type of wine, etc.

Even though you suggested temperatures between 65 F. and 75 F. for fermentation, we recommend between 70 F. and 75 F. Once you get below 70 F. you can run into issues of the fermentation dragging on and on.

Once there fermentation has completed, and this has been verified with a gravity hydrometer, you can then maintain a lower temperature. An optimal temperature for storage would be 55 F., but it is not extremely critical. Just do the best you can to keep it out of warm temperatures once the fermentation has completed.

I hope this information helps you out.

Best Wishes,
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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