10 “More” Random Wine Making Tips And Tricks

Wine Pouring Into Glass With NotesLast month I posted 10 wine making tips and tricks. It received such a great response that I decided to post 10 more of them. These are quick, little tips that I have used over the years and have always been useful. I hope you find them useful as well…

 

  1. Try using glycerine in your air-locks instead of water. Glycerine does not evaporate like water, and it is perfectly safe if it accidentally gets drawn into your wine. In fact, any way already has some glycerine in it, naturally!
  1. Add one can of our County Fair Fruit Base to any SunCal Concentrate wine recipe to make your own boutique wines. For example make a Raspberry-Zinfandel or a Blackberry-Merlot. Of all the wine making tips, this one is my favorite. I love getting creative with these juices!
  1. Using a fermentation bag is a great way to keep pulp under control during a primary fermentation. Just pour your crush fruit into the bag and suspend it in the wine must during the primary fermentation. When it’s time to rack the wine, simply pull the bag out; allow to drain; and then discard pulp. This wine making tip is primarily for making fruit wine, but it will save you a lot of time.
  1. When Campden tablets are called for in a wine recipe, you can use potassium metabisulfite instead. Potassium metabisulfite has the same active ingredients as Campden tablets, but comes in a much-easier-to-manage, granulated form. You can also use our Campden tablet measurer which is a little spoon that measures out one Campden tablets worth of potassium metabisulfite at a time.
  1. IfShop Potassium Bisulfite you’ve ever made wine from fresh elderberries, then you know that it can leave a sticky, gooey mess in your fermenter – one that is next to impossible to get out. This tacky mess seems to defy even the strongest cleaners available. Well, we have ran across a product that seems to be able to cut through this mess and take it right off. It’s called Goo Gone ™. It’s a citrus based cleaner that has the right mojo to take off the elderberry resin. You can find it in any full line grocery store, in the household cleaning section. I have no affiliation with this product or its manufacturer. I just think it’s great stuff.
  1. Sometimes it’s hard to tell just how clear your wine is when it’s still in bulk. Trying to determine if it is clear enough for bottling can be a difficult task. Heavier, darker wines often need to have a sample drawn off and put into a glass before you can really begin to determine anything. The same goes for any wine that is in a vessel which is not made of a clear material. One simple wine making tip that has worked well for me in the past, is to turn off all the lights in the room, and shine a strong flashlight through the side-wall of the vessel. What you are looking for is to see how clearly the beam of light illuminates through the wine. Some diffusing will occur with darker wines because of its color pigmentation. But, you do not want to see a murky or milky appearance to the light.
  1. If Shop Wine Making Kitsyou’ve never made wine before and don’t know where to begin, I recommend starting with one of our wine making starter kits. They have all the equipment and ingredients you need to get started. But more importantly, they come with very complete directions that apply to specifically what’s in front of you – no guesswork. We have one kit for making wine with your own fruit. There’s an economy wine making kit that includes a can of SunCal Vinyards concentrate. Then there’s the starter wine making kit that can be used with any wine ingredient kits.
  1. The number one reason that a wine fails to clear up after fermentation is that it is still fermenting. A very slight fermentation can keep a lot of sediment stirred up. If your wine is not clearing, the first thing I recommend you do is check the wine with a hydrometer to see if residual sugar is the problem.
  1. Use our Senior air-lock during the more active period of a secondary fermentation to keep up with the higher volumes of CO2 gas that is being released. As the fermentation slows down, switch to an S-shaped airlock like our triple ripple airlock, to help detect slighter amounts of fermentation. The triple ripple airlock is great for displaying even the slightest amount of activity.
  1. When making elderberry wine, plan on it tasting horrible when it’s first done. But, also plan on it tasting incredible once it has had time to age. Elderberry wine is very high in tannic acid which makes it taste very harsh in the beginning. But, it is this same tannic acid that also allows this wine to take extreme advantage of the aging process. The net result is a wine of stellar quality. All you need is the patience to let it sit for a year or so.Shop Airlocks

 

Bonus Wine Making Tip: Not sure what size cork, screw cap or plastic stopper you need for your odd-size jugs and bottles? Get a a sample pack of closures. It contains one sample of each of the various sizes and types of bottle closures that we carry. Each is clearly labeled for easy identification when you order.
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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.

Controlling Alcohol With A Wine Hydrometer

Close Up Of Wine Making HydrometerA wine hydrometer plays many different roles in home wine making. It can track a fermentation’s progress. It can tell you if your fermentation has completed and not just stuck…  but one of its more interesting uses is controlling your wine’s alcohol level.

By using the wine hydrometer to help you adjust your beginning reading – before fermentation – you can control how much alcohol your wine will have when the fermentation has completed.

One of the scales you will find on a wine hydrometer is the potential alcohol scale. This hydrometer scale is only useful before the fermentation starts. What it is telling you is how much potential for alcohol your juice currently possesses.

As you add more sugar to the wine must the reading on the potential alcohol scale will rise. What this means is as the sugar rises you have a potential for more alcohol. The reason it is potential is because it hasn’t happened yet, and the alcohol is dependent on the fermentation fermenting all the sugars in the wine must.

As an example, if you have a beginning reading on the potential alcohol scale of 11% this means that your wine will have 11% alcohol when the fermentation is finished –Shop Wine Making Hydrometers provided the fermentation was allow to run its full course. Basically, the wine making hydrometer is telling you how much alcohol that sugar can make.

As another example, if your wine hydrometer had a starting reading of 13% potential alcohol and after the fermentation the reading was 1%, that means your wine currently has 12% alcohol.

If you want the fermentation to potentially make more alcohol, just add more sugar to the wine must until the potential alcohol scale on the hydrometer reads the alcohol level you want the wine to end up with.

As a final note, we do not recommend shooting for alcohol levels higher than 14%. If more sugar is added than the wine yeast can handle you may end up with an extremely sweet wine or, worse yet, a stuck fermentation.

So, while the wine hydrometer has many functions, one of its most useful is it allows the home winemaker to control the level of alcohol their finished wine will have. If you are still unsure, we have more information about using a wine making hydrometer and it’s functions in the wine making process on our website.

Happy Wine Making,Shop Wine Making Kits
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.

Springtime Is A Great Time For A Cherry Wine Recipe!

Cherries for making cherry wine.One of the most rewarding wines I’ve ever made was a sweet cherry wine. In general, cherry wine tends to be rich and robust in its overall character. The tartness is mellow from the malic acid that dominates the cherry family. The tannins are firm giving the wines made with it a wonderful structure and body.

The one I made a couple of years ago from the sweet cherry wine recipe below turned out exceptional. It took a few months to age, but once it came around, turns out, it was well worth the wait.

The cherry flavor came through nice and fruity and lingered into a rich, earthy aftertaste. It had layers of flavor that you do not always expect in a fruit wine. Some of this I attribute to the brown sugar called for in this wine recipe. Some of it I attribute to the fruit acids. The Lalvin RC-212 that was used in this cherry wine recipe could have helped out in this department, as well.

Since spring is here it won’t be long before cherries will be in full-swing, so I thought this would be a great time to share it on the blog. The cherries you use can make a difference. As its name implies, you want to be sure to use sweet cherries as opposed to sour cherries. According to my notes, I used a mix of Bing and Lambert cherries, but there are many other varieties of cherries that I’m sure would work.Shop Fruit Wine Bases

 

Sweet Cherry Wine Recipe
(Makes 5 Gallons)

18 lbs. Sweet Cherries (pitted)
9 lbs. Cane Sugar
3 lbs. Brown Sugar
1 tbsp. Yeast Energizer
Pectic Enzyme (as directed on the package)
2-1/2 tsp. Tartaric Acid
2-1/2 tsp. Citric Acid
1 Packet Lalvin RC-212 Wine Yeast
10 Campden Tablets (5 before fermentation, 5 before bottling)Shop Campden Tablets

 

This is a fairly straightforward sweet cherry wine recipe, so for the most part all you need to do is following the basic 7 wine making steps on our website. The only thing different that you should take note of is that the cherries need to be pitted. You do not want the pits in with the fermentation. Also, you do not want to over process the cherries. This can cause the wine to be too bitter. Cutting the cherries in half as you pit them is sufficient. If you are using a cherry pitter, all you need to do is lightly crush the cherries after they are pitted.

I also like to pre-dissolve the brown sugar whenever it’s called for in any wine recipe. This can easily be done by taking 2-parts water and 1-part brown sugar and heating it on the stove until liquid. You will need to stir continuously at first so that the sugar does not burn on the bottom of the pan.

Even if you only make 2 or 3 batches of wine each year, I would urge you to give the sweet cherry wine recipe a go. It makes a remarkable wine that it hard not to like. It’s also pretty easy to make. And as always, you can make it as sweet or as dry as you like, by back-sweetening the wine to taste.

Happy Wine Making,
Ed KrausShop Wine Making Kits
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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.

Darn It! My Mead Won’t Ferment!

This is my mead the won't finish fermenting.I seem to have a problem making mead. It starts off with an SG [specific gravity] of 1.100 and over a period of 3 days, during primary fermentation it drops to 1.060 and seems to stop. I think that the fermentation has just slowed down and rack it into a secondary fermenter and install an air lock. I rack it a month later and the SG is 1.040. Now it has been three months and the SG is 1.030. Is this normal? Why is it my mead will not ferment?

Thanks Sam
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Hello Sam,

Turning honey into alcohol can sometimes be a difficult task for a wine yeast. This is due mostly to the complexity of some of the sugars contained within the honey, but some of it is also due to the set of nutrients that the honey provides to the wine yeast. Both are issues as to why your mead will not ferment, and both need to be addressed.

Honey has simple sugars as well as complex sugars and everything in between. This is true with all fruits as well, but typically not to the degree as with honey. Simple sugars are easily metabolized by the yeast into alcohol, but complex sugars are not so easily fermented. A complex sugar is a chain of simple sugars that are bound together on a molecular level. These long chains must first be broken apart before they can be metabolized into alcohol by the wine yeast.

Enzymes are produced by the yeast during a fermentation that will help to break down the complex sugars, but often in the case of honey, it is not enough enzyme to keep the fermentation going in a timely manner.

Shop Yeast EnergizerHoney has all different lengths (complexities) of sugar chains. So what happens as the fermentation begins, the wine yeast start off by consuming the simplest sugars first — the lowest hanging fruit — so to speak. As the simple sugars are depleted the yeast move on to the next easiest sugars and so on until there is nothing left but the most complex, longest chains of sugars.

This is what has happened with your fermentation. It started off just fine as it began its way metabolizing the simplest sugars, but when the remaining sugars became nothing but the most complex it became too much of a burden for the wine yeast. The enzymes that the yeast were able to produce were not enough to keep the fermentation going at a reasonable rate. All the yeast was able to do was nibble at the remaining long chains of sugar as it slowly produced the enzymes.

So what can you do? Your only defense is to make sure your yeast stays as healthy as possible by providing it with all the nutrients it needs. This will help the yeast to more readily produce enzymes. Many mead recipes will call for nutrients at the beginning of the fermentation. The trouble is that these nutrients will have long been consumed by the time the yeast get to the difficult part of the fermentation.Shop Magnesium Sulfate

At this point, I would recommend adding 1/2 teaspoon of Yeast Energizer for each gallon of mead. This should give the yeast a kick-start. If magnesium sulfate was not called for by the mead recipe, then I would recommend adding it as well at the rate of 1/4 teaspoon per 5 gallons.

Sam, in the future I would make sure that you add both of these at the beginning of the fermentation – regardless of what the recipes says. And if the fermentation starts to slow down at some point, be prepared to add a second dose of yeast energizer.

I hope this have given you some insight as to why sometimes a mead will not ferment. If you would like more information about making mead, you may want to take a look at the article, Making Wine With Honey that is listed on our website. It has some more insights to fermenting honey along with a few mead recipes.

Best Wishes,
Ed KrausShop Wine Making Kits
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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 Fermentation Smells Like Burnt Matches

Burnt Match With Sulfur SmellMy homemade wine has started producing a burnt match smell after about 1 week of fermentation. No sulfur has been used in sterilization etc, can you advise? chuck out?? cry???

Thanks Carrie
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Hello Carrie,

What you are more than likely smelling is hydrogen sulfide that is being produced by the yeast. It is also often compared to a rotten egg or burning rubber smell, as well as the burnt matches, as you have suggest. All wine making yeast produce this gas to some degree, but if you are experiencing an smell that is stronger than normal, it could be that one of the following is occurring:

 

  1. Wild yeast is doing the fermenting.
    Even if domesticated wine yeast was added, there is still a possibility of wild yeast fermenting along side it. This is something that can play out when making wine from fresh fruit. Wild forms of yeast will produce all kinds of off odors, including the burnt match odor your are describing.
  1. You are fermenting at too warm of temperature.
    Shop Wine YeastFermenting at higher temperatures will entice the wine making yeast to produce higher levels of hydrogen sulfide. This, in turn, can cause your fermentation to smell like burnt matches. Fermentation temperatures as low as 78°F. can even potentially produce excessive hydrogen sulfide.
  1. The yeast does not have enough nutrients available.
    You may want to consider adding yeast nutrient or yeast energizer, particularly if you have not done so already.

 

All three of the above reasons relate to putting the yeast under stress. Wild yeast hasn’t been bred to do such a big job, so it is stressed; too warm of a temperature will add stress to any living organism; and being short on nutrition would obviously be stressful, as well.

Usually the hydrogen sulfide will reduce to an acceptable level on its own by the time you are ready to bottle the wine. It will simply release into the air and go away throughout the wine making process. However, if you get down to bottling the wine and the odor is still prevalent, there are still some things you can do to reduce it:

 

  • Shop Yeast EnergizerYou can rack the wine several times in a splashing manner. This will give opportunity for the burnt match odor to leave the wine.
  • You can also pour the wine over sanitized copper. The reaction of the wine to the copper will help the gas to release more easily. Copper wool stuffed into a funnel works well for this process.

 

It is important to remember that if you do either of these treatments, that you also add sulfites such as Campden tablets or potassium metabisulfite. Either one of these should be added to the wine afterwards. This will help to drive out the oxygen that that was saturated into the wine during the process. Too much oxygen saturated in a wine will promote oxidation. Coincidentally, sulfites help do drive out the hydrogen sulfide, as well.

The real solution to making sure your fermentation does not smell like burnt matches is to keep the yeast happy. Use the right kind of yeast, keep it at a comfortable temperature, and make sure it has all the nutrition it needs.

Happy Winemaking,Shop Potassium Metabisulfite
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.

Dandelion Wine Recipe: Take Back Your Yard!

Dandelion petals for dandelion wine recipe.How about making some dandelion wine with the dandelion wine recipe below?

Most of the changes that spring brings are well received, like: warmth, sunshine, longer days, but there are a few changes that are not as welcomed. For most, the dreaded dandelion falls into this latter category. That’s why for some, making a bit of dandelion wine might strangely feel like a bit of revenge. Below is a dandelion wine recipe to help exact your revenge.

Dandelion wine is one of those traditional wines that has long served as a symbol of country winemaking – that classic wine creation that comes from the little ol’ winemaker everybody knows. Even though dandelion wine has a deep-rooted past in American culture, there are plenty of home winemakers still making it today and enjoying every bit of it.

So, what does dandelion wine taste like, you ask? This dandelion wine recipe makes a light-bodied wine with a beautiful yellow color. It’s flavors are herbal and muddled with an incredible bouquet that is bright and full of herbs and flowers.

The trick to making a good dandelion wine is to use the dandelion petals, only. Stay away from any of the green. The greens will add a vegetable-like character to the wine that will seem foreign and out of place.Shop Fermenter

Spring is the perfect time to make some dandelion wine, so here’s a 5 gallon dandelion wine recipe to get you going. It’s not that different from other country wine recipes. The types of ingredients are basically the same. A double-shot of nutrient is needed to make up for the lack of nutrients that you would normal get when making a wine from fruit. Plenty of acid blend is need as well for the same reason. Dandelions are not high in nutrients or acid.

You can vary the amount of dandelion petals quite a bit without affecting the rest of the dandelion wine recipe, but as a warning, adding to many petals could give you a wine the has a very hard time aging out into something you’d really want to drink. More petals is not necessarily better. While the wine recipe asks for 6 quarts, you could reasonably go up to 10 quarts.

 

Dandelion Wine Recipe
(Makes 5 Gallons)

 

Making this dandelion wine is pretty straight-forward. You will want to be sure that the dandelions are herbicide and pesticide free. For this reason it is best to pick them from an area you are familiar with. Once you have petals together, you will want to wash them in cold water – remove any ants or other insects – then blanch them by pouring boiling water over them and letting them steep in the water for 5 minutes. Don’t use any more boiling water then necessary. Be sure to use all the water from the blanching in the dandelion wine recipe, itself, as part of the 5 gallons.

Once you’ve gotten this far you can use the 7 Easy Steps To Making Wine as the instructions for making this dandelion wine recipe.

Shop Wine Making KitsAnyone else have a dandelion wine recipe they’d like to share? Just leave it in the comments 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.

How Much Wine Yeast To Use?

Packet Of Wine YeastI completed a wine recipe for 1 gal of Dandelion Wine. My Question is: The packet of wine yeast I received was enough for 5 gals of wine. In my logic I decided to just use on 1/5 of the yeast. I poured all the yeast out on a dish and divided it into 5 equal portions. Then I used just 1/5 of the yeast for my 1 gal of wine. Was this correct? I don’t know how much wine yeast to use.

Thanks,
Bill
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Dear Bill,

Thank you for this great question on how much wine yeast to use. You’ve done what many home winemakers have done. It make perfect sense and is very logical. However, the amount of wine yeast you should use is one whole packet, even if you are just making 1 gallon of wine. There are a couple of reasons for this:

What you are adding to the wine is not an amount of wine yeast as much as you are adding a starting colony of yeast. The wine yeast in the packet represents the minimum number of yeast cells recommend to start a viable, active fermentation, regardless of batch size. When adding a packet of yeast to 5 or 6 gallons of wine, the yeast will typically multiply to around 100 to 150 times what you start with.

In the case of a one gallon batch of wine, the yeast will multiply to many times its original size, but not quite as many times as it does when pitched into a larger batch. The yeast will reproduce itself into great enough numbers to complete the job at hand.

Shop Wine YeastSo, when you add a whole packet of wine yeast to 1 gallon of wine, you are not adding too much yeast. You are simply adding the minimum amount required to support a healthy, active fermentation. Adding less then a packet could result in a slow starting fermentation that will take extra time to finish the job. It may also over-work the yeast which can result in off-flavors.

There is also the issue of what to do with the rest of the wine yeast anyway. These packets of yeast are packaged under sterile – not food-grade – conditions. They are sealed with nitrogen gas to maintain this sterile level of freshness while in the package.

Once they are opened, they are no longer sterile. The seal has been compromised. So, storing an opened package of wine yeast for any length of time is really not a good idea, particularly when you weigh it against how much a packet of wine yeast costs.

So the answer to the question: “how much wine yeast to use?”, is very simple. Always use the whole packet up to 5 or 6 gallons. If you are making more wine than this, add a second packet.

Happy Wine Making,Shop Wine Making Kits
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.

Sweet Idea! Adding Fruit To Wine Kits

Adding Fruit To Wine KitsWe did a Chardonnay wine kit recently. The results were very good, by all accounts. What is your position on mixing peach, apricot or even persimmon into a batch of that? Wondering. Thanks in advance for your time.

Jeff
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Hello Jeff,

Adding fruit to wine kits is a great way to enhance any attractive characteristics that a particular grape may possess. For example: raspberries with Merlot grapes, strawberries with Zinfandel, pears with Pinot Grigio… The options are endless and there is always room for experimentation. It’s a great way to have even more fun while making these wines.

Usually when a home winemaker wants to make a wine in this style, they will mix the wine kit and fruits together in the fermenter and proceed with the fermentation from there. After the primary fermentation has completed, the fruit is then removed as the wine goes into a secondary fermenter. However there is another – more professional – way for adding fruit to wine kits. One that will give you much better control over the end product. In other words, less chance of messing up.

Shop Niagara Mist Wine KitsInstead of mixing the grape concentrate and fruit together at the beginning of fermentation, make the chosen fruit into its own wine, separately.

In the case of your Chardonnay, you could make some peach wine – one or two gallons of it. When it is time to bottle, you can experiment with blending some or all of the peach wine with it.

How much peach flavor you add is a matter of personal taste. You can add a little or a lot. You could do sample taste-testings with varying ratios of the two wines. This is the real power of making the two wines separately. You have complete control over the outcome. If you had added some fruit like peaches at the beginning of fermentation, all you could do is guess as to how much peach to add and hope for the best.

By adding fruit to wine kits in this way, you will have total control over how much fruit flavor is in the wine. This method will also allow you to safely mix blending samples together without risking your entire batch.

We have more information about blending wines together in an article on our website that you may want to take a look at: Blending To Improve Homemade Wines. This article should give you some better insights as to what you are look for when putting two wines together.

As far as whether to try peach, apricot or persimmon, all I can say is that I have seen the most success using peach verses apricot and I have never tasted persimmon added to a Chardonnay. But having said this, I would never tell you not to try any combination. There are no wrong answer when adding fruit to wine kits. Home wine making is about being creative, experimenting and seeing what you can come up.Shop Fruit Wine Bases

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.

My Favorite Strawberry Wine Recipe

Wine made from strawberry wine recipe.If you could take springtime and put it into a bottle you would most likely end up with something close to a strawberry wine. For me, strawberry wine is the very essence of spring. Its flavor is bright and fresh. Its aroma is floral and sweet. As far as I’m concerned strawberry wine represents all things spring quite well.

If fresh strawberries are not already available in your area, they will be soon. With that in mind here is a strawberry wine recipe that you can use to get your springtime groove on. It’s a wine recipe I have used several times with great results. I couldn’t think of a better time to share it than right now!

 

Strawberry Wine Recipe
(5 Gallons)

19 lbs. Strawberries
10 lbs. Cane Sugar (1.090)
4 Tsp. Acid Blend  Shop Niagara Mist Fruit Blend Wine Kits
5 Tsp. Yeast Nutrient
1/2 Tsp. Wine Tannin
Pectic Enzyme (as directed on package)
1/4 Tsp. Potassium Metabisulfite (or 5 Campden Tablets)
Wine Yeast (recommend Lalvin 71B-1122)
10 Campden Tablets (5 before fermentation, 5 before bottling)

 

You can use the basic wine making directions that are on our website for making this strawberry wine recipe. Just be sure to remove any stem or green parts of the strawberry before using. You do not need to crush the strawberries. Just give them a coarse chopping. The strawberries will breakdown and release all their goodness during the fermentation.

Shop Fruit Wine BasesOne variation I have done a couple of time when making this is to exchange 2 pounds of the sugar for 3 pounds of raspberry spun honey. This exchange will keep your starting specific gravity about the same. The raspberry honey will intensify the sweet, perfume-y bouquet this wine likes to give. Essentially, it’s giving you more of one of the features that makes strawberry wine so great.

Another great thing about making this strawberry wine recipe is that it does not need much aging. So many wines are consumed before they reach their best simply because they need so much aging. Fortunately, that’s not the case with making strawberry wine.

I would not attempt to bulk-age the wine for any length of time, at all. Give it plenty of time to clear, but after that go straight into the wine bottles. Once in the bottles, give your strawberry wine at least one month to develop its bouquet. It will taste its best at around 4 to 6 months. Don’t let it sit around for any more than 1 year. Drink up!

Do you have a strawberry wine recipe you’d like to share with other home winemakers? Just leave it in the comments below. We’d love to see what you’ve got cookin’!

Happy Wine Making, Shop Wine Making Kits
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.

Using A Hydrometer To Adjust Wine Sweetness

Adjusting Wine Sweetness With HydrometerMost wine recipes give a SG [specific gravity] for starting fermentation and at the completion of fermentation. My wine usually ends up dry, so when I bottle it I usually stabilize it and back-sweeten most of it. I’ve been just adding sweetener a little at a time and tasting until I think it is about right, but that’s a little hard to hit and very unscientific.

What about using a hydrometer to adjust wine sweetness and is there an approximate hydrometer reading for what they call dry, semi-dry and sweet?

What about white table wines, red table wines, sweet table wines, dessert wines etc do all of these different wines fall under the same category of dry, semi-dry or sweet?

Thanks
Glen L. – IA
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Hello Glen,

While there are certain ranges on the specific gravity scale that one could consider sweet verses dry, these ranges are so narrow on the typical wine hydrometer that it would be very hard to accurately apply them to sweetening a wine. In fact, I could not really tell you what the ranges would be because I have never paid that much attention to them.

 

There are also a couple of other reasons why using a hydrometer to adjust wine sweetness is not all that practical:

  • Shop Wine ConditionerYou could have two different wines sweetened to the same specific gravity reading and they could have very different impression of sweetness. What is coming into play is how the other flavor components of the wine work with the sugar to form the wine’s character. As an example, if the wine is rich and earthy as opposed to crisp and fruity, then more sugar may be needed in the former case than in the later wine to achieve the same impression of sweetness. This is all subjective, of course, but the principle rings true.
  • A wine’s body or lack of body could cause two wines that taste equally dry to have two different readings on the wine hydrometer. Body raises the specific gravity without raising sweetness. In this case, if you have a full-bodied wine and a thin, crisp wine and you sweeten them both to the same reading on the specific gravity scale the hydrometer, the full-bodied will have less residual sugar than the thin crisp wine. Part of the SG reading is being made up with body, not sugar.

 

So as you can start to see, depending on hydrometer readings to adjust your wine’s sweetness may not be as accurate as just tasting the wine. After all it is how the wine tastes to us humans – and more specifically, you – that matters most, not what the hydrometer says.

The wine industry does use a sweetness scale to give customers a clue as to how sweet a wine might be before they purchase it. The scale goes from 1-9 with 1 being the driest, and it is based on percentage of sugar by weight in the wine. While this scale may be used as a marketing tool, I find it hard to imagine any commercial winemaker setting out to target a particular number, rather they would do just as you are doing – going by how the wine tastes and how sweetness is working in concert with the wine’ other characters.Shop Hydrometers

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.