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
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
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 Original Gravity Is Too Low. What Should I Do?

Homebrewer Adjusting Original Gravity That Is Too LowA common issue among beginning extract and partial mash homebrewers is that they undershoot their beer recipe’s anticipated original gravity. The original gravity is too low. This can happen for a number of reasons when beer brewing, but largely because many homebrew kits call for topping off with water to get five gallons of wort, without taking into account how the brew day went. (What if you spilled some wort or didn’t get all the extract out of the can?) This can throw off alcohol content, mouthfeel, IBUs – in short, turning the beer into something it wasn’t supposed to be. That’s not to say that it won’t be completely drinkable – it may well be. But some of us, for better or worse, are perfectionists.

The best time for extract brewers to correct for gravity is right after the boil. Take a hydrometer reading before pitching the beer yeast to get your bearings. Plug your numbers into a dilution calculator to see if topping up to five gallons will get you to your target OG. If you think you’ll end up with the original gravity too low, read the tips below:


  1. Double-check your OG (original gravity) reading. Did you take the reading at the calibrated temperature for your hydrometer (usually 60˚F or 68˚F)? If not, did you correct for temperature using a hydrometer temperature correction calculator? Taking a reading out of the temperature range or failing to correct for temperature can throw off your reading by several points.
  1. Decide how you want to move forward. You have a few options here. Do you want to just go with what you’ve got? Do you want a full five gallon batch of beer? If you top off the wort to a full five gallons, you’ll have a lower alcohol beer than what you expected. If you only top off with enough water to hit your target original gravity, you’ll end up with less beer, but at least have the correct original gravity and alcohol content. Alternatively, you can mix in more fermentables in order to meet both your original gravity and your target batch volume.Buy Temp Controller
  1. To hit your target volume, top off to five gallons. You’ll have a slightly weaker beer than intended, but this might be a worthwhile sacrifice for the sake of more beer. Trust me, I understand.
  1. To hit your target original gravity, top off to less than five gallons. Use a dilution calculator to figure out how much water to add so that you can hit your target gravity. You can also do the math by hand pretty easily. For example, if your three gallons of wort is 1.060 and your intended gravity is 1.040, plug in the numbers and solve for the volume of water (A2):

A1*B1 + A2*B2 = (A1+A2)*(target gravity)

(3 gallons at 60 gravity points) + (A2 gallons at 0 gravity points [water]) = (3 + A2) gallons at 40 gravity points

A2 = 1.5 gallons

  1. To hit your target volume and your target gravity, you can mix in more fermentables. Some may consider this the ultimate way to go when the original gravity is too low. Using the blending formula above, you can figure out how much additional fermentable ingredients you need. Mix up a small batch (about one-half to one gallon) of concentrated wort using DME (dried malt extract), sugar, honey, or molasses. Your fermentable ingredient will depend on your beer recipe and what you have on hand. DME will be the most beer-like, while excessive sugars may cause your beer to over attenuate. Dark DME or molasses may alter the color of your beer, so choose wisely. If you can, boil enough hops in the mini batch to maintain your level of IBUs.

Let’s work through an example.

My target OG was 1.052. Instead, I ended up with 4.5 gallons at 1.044. This is a much lower than expected original gravity. My measured IBUs (after dilution with water) was 30. First let’s figure out how much additional fermentable I need in a half-gallon mini-batch to hit my target OG:

(4.5 gallons * 44) + (0.5 gallons * X) = 5 gallons * 52

X = 124

To get a gravity of 1.124, my half-gallon batch needs about 1.48 lbs. of DME, 1.35 lbs. of cane sugar, or 1.48 lbs. of honey. (A beer recipe calculator can help you figure this out.)

About .3 ounces of a 5% alpha acid hop boiled for thirty minutes will yield about 30 IBUs in the mini-batch. You don’t necessarily have to add hops to the mini-batch, but it will keep you from diluting the bitterness of your beer.Shop Steam Freak Kits


Sure, it gets a little complicated. Most of the time when your original gravity is too low, you may just want to roll with whatever gravity you get. Here’s some tips for hitting your original gravity. But in the event that you need to make some adjustments, learning how to execute the above procedures is crucial for dealing with a lower than expected original gravity.
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

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
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
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.

Express Your Mad Scientist: Experimenting With Homebrew

Man Experimenting With HomebrewTo the chagrin of some, I like to experiment in the kitchen. Rather than follow set recipes or guidelines, I like to let the whimsy of the moment guide me, allowing sauces, herbs, and spices to point me in the direction of a dish, not necessarily knowing if the destination of my journey will end up good or bad.

It may be an undisciplined way to cook, but it is fun. Occasionally, it also turns out to be the way I want to brew. I like to go off the beaten path and experimenting with homebrew. While it’s important to hone your skills with the basics, what great chef – or brewer – wouldn’t want to venture off the commonly taken path from time to time?

The best part? Experimenting with homebrew is not hard. Here are a few tips for doing your own beer brewing experiments and creating beers that are specific to your unique tastes:


1. Use a Solid Base Recipe

One of the first homebrews I made was a jalapeno blonde ale. I started with an easy extract recipe as a blonde ale base:

7 lbs. Light Malt Extract 
1 oz. Cascade hops at :60
1 oz. Willamette hops at :5
Fermentis Beer Yeast: Safale US-05

By starting with a good beer recipe – one I was familiar with – I knew what to expect from the base beer. From there, I wanted to play with getting the right combination of spice and heat from peppers while also imparting some vegetative pepper flavor. It was all trial and error and an opportunity to play. I sliced and gently roasted the peppers, then “dry-peppered” the beer in secondary.Shop Beer Flavorings

Because I knew what flavor I would get from the base beer, it gave me flexibility to experiment with peppers to adjust the brew to my taste. You can do the same thing using extra ingredients in the secondary fermentation process and pulling tastes from the carboy or bucket to make sure it’s right for you. Try fruits, vegetables, or even herbs and spices when doing a beer brewing experiment!


2. Split Up Batches

When experimenting with  homebrew many homebrewers may start with standard six and five-gallon carboys for fermentation, but if you go a step smaller, you can increase the options for experimentation you have with each batch you brew.

For example, if you split a batch and use two three-gallon fermenters instead of one five-gallon carboy, you increase your options to try out different dry-hopping ingredients and even different yeast strains. Why is this beneficial? It can help you hone your beer recipe and figure out what kind of tastes and aromas you like best, getting two different beers from one brew day.

For example, if you take the same base-level recipe for the blonde ale above, but use a different yeast option, you’ll get a beer with completely different flavors than with Safale US-05. Use a Belgian Wheat 3942, and you’ll end up witShop Steam Freak Kitsh fruity characteristics. Or maybe go a little more out there and try Weihenstephen Weizen 3068 and see if banana and clove flavors shows up in your final product. This is a great way to quickly increase your knowledge of different ingredients by expanding your beer brewing experiments.


3. Tailor to Your Tastes

An important thing to remember when experimenting with homebrew is that you’re simply making beer for you to enjoy. Don’t be afraid to work from tastes or smells you like.

I love watermelon, so a couple years ago I made a watermelon wheat beer by hand-squeezing juice from watermelons sanitized with Star-San and added the juice to the secondary fermentation of an American wheat ale.

My wife loves apples and hard cider, so I’ve also tried combining apples with homebrewing. I started with a pretty simple base beer:

3.3 lbs. Light Malt Extract  
1 lb. honey malt
2 oz. Cluster hops at :60Shop 3 Gallon Carboy

But, instead of topping off the wort with water, I used apple juice. I fermented with Wyeast 1056 for a clean yeast flavor and with some patience, ended up with a “beer” that smelled like a cider, but had a unique sweet and bitter taste combination thanks to the cider and hops.

When homebrewing, it’s important to remember that it’s OK to play around. Many chefs only become great once they move beyond their comfort zones. By experimenting with homebrew based on what you love and by thinking outside the box, you’ll find more ways to enjoy the hobby of homebrewing – and may even stumble on your next favorite beer!
Bryan Roth is a beer nerd and homebrewer living in Durham, North Carolina. You can read his thoughts on beer and the beer industry on his blog, This Is Why I’m Drunk, and send him suggestions on how to get his wife to drink craft beer via Twitter at @bryandroth.

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.
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.

Insanely Simple Lesson On How to Measure Beer Color

Beer color is often the first thing you notice when drinking a brew. It has a huge effect on your expectation of the beer, and beers that don’t fit the drinker’s expectations can be confusing or considered out of style. Imagine going to a bar and ordering stout and the beer comes back pale. Or you ask for a Pilsner and the beer you get is brown. You’d certainly send the beer back and ask for something else!

If you like to compete in homebrew competitions, it’s essential to present a beer within the color parameters for a particular beer style. There are a good number of beer calculators out there which will help you approximate a beer’s color as you’re developing a beer recipe, but after you brew the beer, you may want to measure your beer’s color to see how close you got to your estimate. While it’s possible to conduct a lab test with a light spectrometer and achieve a very specific result, for most of us, we can do the test with the naked eye and get reasonably accurate results.

SRM Beer Color ChartThe Beer Judge Certification Program has developed a method for measuring beer color. It involves taking a sample of beer and placing it in a glass that is five centimeters in diameter. Via


How To Measure Beer Color

  1. Measure a sample of beer in a clear glass or hard plastic cup with a path of 5cm (use the bottom edge of the guide as a measure). If the glass is not 5cm wide, pour a depth of 5cm and look down through the beer.
  1. Use a pure white sheet of paper or white tablecloth as a background.
  1. Use a natural light source or artificial light approximating sunlight. Do not use a flashlight to provide extra light. The color chart guide and the beer must be viewed using the same light source. Avoid casting shadows with your body or the beer glass.
  1. Look through the beer at the white background.
  1. Place the BJCP color chart guide next to the beer so that the beer (as viewed with the white background) and the guide can be seen together. Compare the color palettes and find the closest match. An exact match is unlikely, so look for the closest lightness/darkness match rather than attempting to match hue. If the sample is in between two color patches, interpolate.


Shop Home Brew Starter KitUsing the BJCP color chart guide, you can easily get an approximation of your beer color in SRM (Standard Reference Method) units. To convert your measurement into Lovibond or EBC, try this Brewtoad Color Converter.

And that’s how to measure beer color in your brews. Pretty simple? Be sure to record the color of your homebrew beer in your homebrew notes!
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

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
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
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.

Centennial Blonde Ale Recipe (All-Grain and Extract)

Cenntenial Blonde AleIf you’ve ever found yourself looking for a light, refreshing blonde ale recipe with a well-rounded American hop profile, this could be the one for you!

Homebrewer Kevin Mattie’s Centennial Blonde Ale recipe is a pale, sessionable beer at just 4.2% ABV. The grain bill includes US two-row pale malt as the base, using Carapils for head retention and a combination of light crystal and Vienna malts for flavor and color.

On the hops side of the equation, a mix of Cascade and Centennial hops provide enough bitterness to set it apart from lifeless macro beers, but not nearly as much as an American pale ale or IPA. The choice of hops provides a touch of that piney, citrusy American hop flavor and aroma we all know and love.

For yeast, Mattie uses Danstar Nottingham Ale Yeast, a versatile dry ale yeast that’s clean fermenting, easy to use, and affordable.

Between its balance, sessionability, and simplicity, this sounds like a great brew to have on hand for summer!


Centennial Blonde Ale
(5.5-gallon batch, all-grain)

OG: 1.040
FG: 1.008
ABV: 4.2%
IBUs: 21.5
SRM: 3.9Shop Steam Freak Kits

7 lbs. Two-row pale malt
.75 lb. Carapils/Dextrine malt
.5 lb. Caramel/Crystal 10L malt
.5 lb. Vienna malt
.25 oz. Centennial hops at :55 (2.4 AAUs)
.25 oz. Centennial hops at :35 (2.4 AAUs)
.25 oz. Cascade hops at :20 (2 AAUs)
.25 oz. Cascade hops at :5 (2 AAUs)
1 packet Danstar Nottingham Ale Yeast

All Grain Directions: Mash crushed grains in 11 qts. of clean water at 150˚F. Hold mash for 60 minutes. Sparge with enough water at 175˚F to collect about 6.5 gallons of wort. Boil for 60 minutes, adding hops according to schedule. Whirlpool and chill wort to 68˚F. Pitch yeast and ferment at 68˚F for 10 days.

Shop Conical FermenterExtract Option: Replace the grain bill with 5 lbs. light DME and 1 lb. Carapils/Dextrine malt. Steep the crushed grains for 1 hr. at 155˚F then strain out. Add DME and enough water to make a 6.5-gallon boil. (For a 5-gallon kettle, a 3.5-gallon boil is fine.) Bring wort to a boil and boil for 60 minutes, adding hops according to schedule. Whirlpool and chill wort to 68˚F. If needed, mix in enough clean, bottled water to make 5.5 gallons. Pitch yeast and ferment at 68˚F for 10 days.

More Beer Recipes:

David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

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
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.
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.

Master The Art Of Lagering Beer At Home

Home Brewed Lager BeerLagering beer is a process that is necessary to actually produce the characteristic of a lager beer. The word “lager” comes from the German word for stockroom or warehouse, and to lager your beer is to lay it down in storage at cold temperatures. To develop the smooth, clean flavors required of lagers, it’s essential to practice good lagering techniques, whether you are lagering beer at a brewer or lagering beer at home.

The practice of lagering beer was developed by Bavarians who placed their beer in cold caves to improve the beer’s stability – essentially so that it would keep through the warmer seasons. Over time, this practice isolated bottom-fermenting yeast strains that preferred those cooler temperatures. The lager yeasts we use today in homebrewing are derived from those strains.

One of the main characteristics of lager yeasts – and one of the reasons lagers are fermented at lower temperatures – is that they produce fewer esters and other aromatic components than ale yeasts. A good example of this is the difference between the fruity, spicy characteristics of a Belgian ale against a clean German lager. Depending on the style you’re making, you may or may not want those prominent yeast characteristics. With the possible exception of some high gravity lagers (like bocks), most lagers should not have prominent fruity esters.

One thing to look out for when lagering beer at home is diacetyl. Diacetyl is a natural byproduct of fermentation. In high concentrations, it smells and tastes just like movie theater popcorn. In most lagers, diacetyl should not be detectable, though some lager styles permit a small amount of it. Luckily, yeast consumes the precursors of diacetyl. A diacetyl rest – a small increase in temperature between primary and secondary fermentation – is sometimes used when fermenting a lager.

So how does one go about lagering beer at home? Follow the procedures below for a standard lager fermentation:Buy Temp Controller


  1. Pitching: Lagers require 2-3 times as much yeast as ales. For an average gravity lager, two liquid yeast packets should be sufficient. For a high gravity lager, you may need three. You can also make a yeast starter to grow your yeast colony to the appropriate size. Check out Mr. Malty’s Yeast Pitch Calculator to figure out exactly how much yeast you should pitch into your lager.
  1. Primary fermentation: Ferment your Lager beer within the temperature range specified by the yeast strain you’re using, usually between about 48°-52°F, though it can vary by as much as 5°-10° on either side depending on the particular beer yeast you’re using. Try to keep the temperature consistent. If you have a cool basement, you may be able to try lagering your homebrew beer during the winter (or even year round depending on your location) without a fridge or freezer.
  1. Diacetyl rest (optional): For 1-3 days at the end of primary fermentation, allow the fermentation temperature to increase to about 60°-65°F. During this time, the lager yeast will reduce diacetyl in the beer.Shop Brew Kettles
  1. Lagering/cold storage: Transfer the beer to a secondary fermenter and store for 1-2 months at 32°-40°F. Most homebrew lager recipes call for a 1-2 month lagering period, though the occasional strong lager may be kept in cold storage for three months or longer. During this time the beer will condition and flavor will improve over time.


Have you every tried lagering beer at home? What’s your favorite lager style? Share in the comments below!
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.