Table Grapes Vs. Wine Grapes For Wine Making

Table Grapes vs Wine GrapesHello Kraus,

Please explain to me what is the difference between wine grapes and table grapes.

Thank you,
Mert B.
_____
Hello Mert,

This is a great question and one that gets down to the basics of learning how to make your own wine.

There are many significant differences between wine making grapes and table grapes – eating grapes as you called them:

Table grapes are crunchy-er with a stronger skin and firmer pulp than wine grapes. This not only makes them more pleasant and appealing to eat, but it also makes them hold up to the rigors of being transported long distances to your local market. As a consequence, grape you buy at the store tend to have less juice in relation to the amount of pulp.

The juice you get from the eating grapes is also not as sweet as the juice from wine grapes. A typical brix reading for table grapes is 17 to 19, whereas wine grapes are around 24 to 26 brix. This is important because it is the sugar that gets turned into alcohol during a fermentation — less sugar, less alcohol.

*Brix is a scale that represents the amount of sugar in a liquid as a percentage. It is the standard scale used by refractometers which are used to take these readings in the vineyard.

Another significant difference is that the acidity level of table grapes tend to be slightly lower that the average wine grape. This is to increase the grapes impression of sweetness while on the market.

Having said all this, you can learn how to make your own wine using grapes you buy from the grocery store. You can run them through grape presses to get all the pulp out of the way. You can add extra sugar to bring the brix level up to that of a wine grape juice. And, you can adjust the acidity of the juice by adding acid blend to raise the acid level to what’s need for wine.Shop Grape Concentrate

But all of this will not change the leading factor that makes a table grape far different from a wine grape… and that is flavor. While table grapes taste fine for popping into your mouth as a snack, once fermented, the flavor of the resulting wine is fairly uneventful and could also be described as non-existent.

While table grapes could be used for learning how to make your own wine – as a practice run, so to speak – do not expect this wine to bring any enthusiastic raves from family, friends and neighbors. The wine will be drinkable and may even be pleasant, but it will not be stellar.

Mert, I hope this answers your question about table grapes and wine grapes. It is a question that we get fairly often, so I plan on posting it on our wine making blog.  If you have anymore questions, just let us know. We want to do everything we can to help you become a successful home winemaker.

Happy Wine Making
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.

When to Aerate A Wine

Primary FermentersAt what point do you aerate your fruit wine?
—–
Jason,

Aeration should only be done during the primary fermentation. This is the first 3 to 5 days of when the wine is in a primary fermenter and most active.

The only reason aeration is done is to give the wine yeast more ability to multiply and establish a solid colony. When a packet of wine yeast is put into a 5 or 6 gallon batch of wine, it has the monumental task of growing itself 100 to 200 times that little packet. That’s what causes all the beige-colored sediment you at the bottom of a fermenter. To readily do this the wine yeast need air. Without the air the colony size may suffer resulting in a sluggish fermentation.

Ironically, after the yeast colony is well established and the fermentation is starting to slow down, air is the enemy. For the rest of the wine’s life you want to keep air exposure time short and splashing to a minimum. The major concern here being oxidation of the wine.

What all this means for the home winemaker who is making 5 or 10 gallons is that the primary fermenter should be left exposed to air. This can mean doing something as simple as leaving the lid completely off a bucket fermenter. Cover it with a thin tea towel, nothing more. Or for a winery dealing with 500 gallon vats, this could mean continuously pumping and recirculating the wine back out on top the fermentation surface, much like a fountain.

There is a second element to this as well. Regardless of how much you are fermenting, you will always want to make an effort to keep a dried cap from forming on the surface of the fermentation. The pulp will want to rise during a primary fermentation. If left undisturbed it can dry and form a solid cap, choking the wine yeast off from the much needed air.

To prevent this from happening you will want to punch the cap back down into the wine. For most home winemakers with their 5 and 10 gallon batches, once a day is plenty. You can use something as simple as a potato masher for this purpose or you can stir it until the cap is dispersed. For larger batches you may need to punch down the cap several times a day.

Hope this information helps you out.

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.

When To Add Oak Chips To Homemade Wine

Toasted Oak ChipsHowdy Ed,
…To balance the tannins, we French oak chipped the must at the start of fermentation [Petite Sirah] and at the half way point applied the Aussie method of Rack and Return to decrease the seeds in the must. Sieving out the seeds also removed the oak chips. My question is, at what stage should we re-oak the juice?

Jamie O. — CA
—–
Hello Jamie,

I would not automatically assume that you will need to add more oak chips to your homemade wine. In fact, I would not consider adding more French toasted oak chips to the wine until it has cleared and maturated to some degree while in bulk. See what tannins and other proteins drop out on their own, first.

There is nothing wrong with adding toasted oak chips during the fermentation, but you want to use a moderate dosage. Don’t go to overboard. It is possible to add to much. If you want to add oak to the wine during the fermentation, you may also want to consider using oak powder instead of oak chips. Oak powder does not strain out like the oak chips. Having said that, I do prefer using toasted oak chips after the fermentation.

If it is only protein stability that you are concerned about, you also have the option of treating the wine with bentonite, instead of more oak chips. Among other things, bentonite will collect and drop out excessive tannins. This will help to make the wine more heat stable while aging in bottles.

If it is the flavor effects of toasted oak chips you are primarily looking for, it would be best to wait until the wine has aged in bulk for a month or so after the fermentation has completed. This is when I would add oak chips to your homemade wine. I don’t know how many gallons you have, but you can store it in carboys or vats. At this point, you want the wine to be off any yeast sediment and the head-space should be eliminated, as well.

Shop Toasted Oak ChipsBuy waiting you are allowing the wine to get to a point where you can start to distinguish its developing flavor profile. Adding oak chips at this point will not only help you to stabilize the wine further, it will allow you to monitor the oak balance of the wine. Since the wine is already maturating, you can do this with a little clearer perception of the final outcome.

Monitor the wine by sampling along the way. Depending on the dosage you will want to sample every 1 to 4 weeks.

I recommend 1/4 pound of toasted oak chips for every 10 gallons of wine. At this dosage a typical amount of time for oaking is about 30 to 90 days. Sample the wine every 2 weeks. Here is some more information on how much and how long to use oak chips.

What you are looking for is balance. You want the reduced harshness of oak aging to be in line with woody character the oak is adding.

Best Wishes,
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.

Can I Add Liqueurs To Homemade Wine?

Blueberry Liqueur To Be Added To Homemade WineCan I add liqueur to my wines? I have added brandy to some, blackberry, peach. Will it change the taste?

Tino — NY
—–
Hello Tino,

Absolutely, you can add liqueurs to your homemade wine. I always like to encourage experimentation. Without it, nothing moves forward.

Adding a brandy or liqueur to a homemade wine puts it in the category of a fortified wine. Brandy is added to wines to produce Ports, Sherrys, Maderas and others. They typically will run around 18% to 21% alcohol. This is not uncommon at all. On a commercial level, adding liqueurs is not commonly done, but certainly has some great potential. Why couldn’t you add peach schnapps or peach brandy to a peach wine? It would raise the alcohol and intensify the flavor.

Obviously, you have to use some common sense in your combinations. The flavors needs to be complimentary to one another. For example you wouldn’t want to use orange brandy with a blueberry wine. You want to stay within reason.

I would also suggest that you take baby-steps. Do a bench-testing, first. Add the chosen liqueur to a sample of the wine. This does two things: 1) it allows you to establish a dosage ahead of time that can later be applied to the entire batch; 2) it acts as a safety-net; it you accidentally add too much to the wine sample, you can put the sample back with the rest of the batch and start all over.

Shop Liqueur FlavoringsAs a side note, we sell liqueur flavorings for transforming vodka, brandy and the likes into various liqueurs. They come in tiny bottles for making a quart or two at a time. You just add them to the alcohol base, sometimes with sugar, to create an array of liqueurs.

Home winemakers will use liqueur flavorings to enhance the flavors of their wine. For example, you can use the pear brandy liqueur flavoring directly to a pear wine to increase the wine’s fruitiness. It will not raise the alcohol level of the, but it will add a noticeable amount of flavor.

Also realize, that it is possible to have too much alcohol in a wine. A wine can go out of flavor balance if it becomes too hot or alcoholic. When this happens the wine will start to taste more watery, less flavorful, less fruity. This is because of the numbing effects that alcohol can have on the senses, both taste and smell. This is one good reason to look at liqueur flavorings instead of liqueurs. You get the flavor without the heat.

Regardless, I think adding liqueurs to homemade wines is a fantastic way of playing around with the flavors in your wine. I can be valuable. Not only can you come up with something spectacular, you get to exercise your senses in a way that will only help you with future batches of homemade wine. Just remember to take careful steps, and do sample tests before moving forward with the whole batch of 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.

When Should I Filter My Wine?

Wine FiltersWhen should I filter my wine? I have a wine that is about 4 months old and I’m wondering if it is to early to filter it.

Don
—–
Hello Don,

When first learning how to make your own wine it is important that you don’t become too impatient, however since the wine has been bulk-aging for 4 months, I would say you’ve been patient enough. It would be fine to filter your wine at this time.

One of the more common wine making tips I share with beginning winemakers is:

“Never filter a cloudy wine. The wine should be done fermenting and look clear before filtering”.

You can verify that the wine is done fermenting by testing it with a wine hydrometer. You should be getting a test reading of .998 or less. For more information about this you may want to take a look at the article, “Getting To Know Your Hydrometer” listed on our website.

A wine filter is not designed to remove visible particles from a wine. A wine filter is designed to take out very fine particles, smaller than the human eye can see. This gives the wine a beautiful, polished appearance. It brightens the wine.

With this in mind, it is important to make sure that all the sediment that can fall out of the wine on its own has done so, otherwise the extremely fine filter pads that are used in the wine filter will clog up very quickly.

Shop BentoniteIf you are making wine from wine concentrates, the sediment will fall out fairly easily on its own in a week or two, but if you are making wine from fresh grapes or some other fruit, getting all the sediment to drop out can sometimes be challenging. For this reason, it is suggest that you treat the wine with bentonite before filtering.

Speedy bentonite is a fining agent that will help speed up the natural falling-out of the sediment so you can filter your wine sooner and more efficiently. To learn more about fining agents you may want to reading the article, “Using Finings To Improve Your Wine“.

You will also want to rack the wine off the sediment before filtering the wine. This will eliminate the chance of drawing sediment into the wine filter.

There is another, more simple, way to answer the question: When should I filter my wine? Filter the wine when it is ready to be bottled. Make it the last step the wine goes through before it is put to rest in the bottle. There is no advantage to filter the wine before that time.

Happy Wine Making,
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.

Is There Something To Add To Stop A Fermentation?

Mad Scientist With Something To Add To Stop A Wine FermentationHello,

At times my plum wine will appear to have stopped fermentation, and then after bottling it will start up again causing a big mess. Is there something I can add to the wine that will ensure that fermentation has stopped?

Albert W.
———-

Dear Albert,

It sounds like you are experiencing a stuck fermentation. There are several wine making books that cover this topic in fair detail. One that I might suggest is First Steps In Winemaking.

A stuck fermentation is when the yeast stop consuming the sugars before the sugars are all gone. There are several reasons why this could be happening: lack of nutrient, lack of oxygen, too cool of temperature… For more information about these reasons you can read the following article, Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure.

A stuck fermentation can start up again if the conditions change. In your case, just the simple exposure to air that inadvertently happens during the bottling process could be enough to start the wine fermenting again.

Unfortunately, there are no wine making products that guarantee a complete stop of a fermentation or a re-fermentation. What has to happen, is the fermentation needs to fully complete before bottling. The big question is, “How do you know when the wine’s done fermenting”?

Shop HydrometersOne simple way is to take a reading with a wine hydrometer. The hydrometer is a simple glass instrument that can instantly tell you how much sugar, if any, is in your wine or must. Using the hydrometer is simple. You take a reading by observing how high or low the hydrometer floats in the wine. By taking a reading before bottling and confirming no sugars are present, you can bottle your wine knowing that it will not ferment later on in the wine bottles.

As a side note, once you have verified that the fermentation has completed and the wine has had plenty of time for the yeast to settle out, you can add sugar for sweetening, but you must also add potassium sorbate at the same time. Potassium sorbate can keep a fermentation in check, but only if all of the yeast as been settled and removed from the wine first, and the wine looks visibly clear.

Happy Wine Making,
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.

Why Does My Wine Taste Better The Next Day?

Wine Poured From A CarafeI really enjoy the wine making information in your newsletters. I bottled my first wine, a California Merlot, last May. It aged in 6.5 L carboys and had 8 months of French oak chips. I racked it twice. It is still a bit young, but interestingly, if I decant the wine and drink it 24 hours later, it is a much better wine. Can you speculate as to why does my wine taste better the next day?

James — MI
—–
Hello James,

The wine taste better the next day because you are allowing time for it to breathe. What is really going on when a wine breathes is it is being introduced to fresh air again, something that it hasn’t had contact with for quite some time. By pulling the cork and simply letting the wine bottle stand or by pouring the wine into a carafe, the air will start a mild oxidative process that will soften the rough edges of the wine’s tannins.

It also allows time for any odd gasses to escape that may have developed during the aging or maturation process. Allowing a wine to breathe has also been known to intensify both the flavor and bouquet of a wine — something that can be a problem for wines that have not been fully aged, however this is not true in every case.

While allowing time for the wine to breathe can be a benefit for some, for most it will have no benefit at all, and for others it may even bring damage, particularly with older wines whose flavor structure has been known to collapse very shortly after decanting. The wines that are most likely to benefit from breathing are younger, heavy reds that have not yet had time to take complete advantage of the aging process. And, it just so happens that young, red wines is whats readily available to the home winemaker.

How long you should let the wine breath is another issue. Usually we are talking minutes not hours. More than likely 60 minutes would have been just as good as waiting for the next day to drink your homemade Merlot. As a general rule-of-thumb the younger the wine the more time it may need to take full advantage of breathing, but to say a wine needs until the next day to breathe is excessive from any perspective. Think in terms of a few minutes with a probability of improvement on up to an hour.shop_wine_making_kits

With all this being said, unless you have previous experience with decanting a specific wine, giving it time to breath can be a bit of a crap shoot. In the case of your Merlot, you have specific experience with it, so I would not hesitate to let it breathe for 30 minutes and see what you think.

In the case of an unfamiliar wine: if it is white, allowing time for it to breathe is pointless; if it has been aged more than 4 years, not recommended; and if it has been aged 8 or more years, it could be risky in the sense that the wine’s structure could collapse altogether giving the wine a flabby character. Stick with the red wines that are heavy in tannins and short on aging.

James, I hope this answers your question as to why your wine tastes better the next day. You are not the first to bring this up, and I have even experience myself. Just look at allowing wine time to breathe as once more tool that can help you get better enjoyment out of the wines you’ve made.

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.

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
—–
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
—————
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 Homemade Wine Is Too Dry. Is There Anything I Can Do?

Zach Galifianakis who's homemade wine is too dry.I have a mustang grape wine that has been aging in a carboy. Last night I tried and it has a hydrometer reading of .992. When I tasted the wine, it was too dry for me. How can I sweeten up this wine to a semi sweet?

John
_____
Hello John,

One of the great things about making your own wine is that you get to drink it the way you want to – even if you want to drink it like our buddy Zach Galifianakis does. For me personally, this is the fun part of making homemade wine. Adjust it until you get the wine just the way you like it. This is something that can’t practically be done unless you are making the wine yourself. This is what makes this hobby so valuable.

In your case, you are not particularly happy with one of the basic features of the wine: the dryness or sweetness of the wine. You are saying that your homemade wine is too dry for your own personal taste. Fortunately, the solution is very simple. All you need to do is add sugar to the wine until it is at the sweetness you desire – custom made for you!Shop Wine Conditioner

It is important to remember that you do not want to adjust the sweetness of a wine until it has completely cleared up and is ready to bottle, so make sure the wine is ready to be bottled before adding the sugar.

At bottling time you can make the wine sweeter tasting. One of the easiest ways of doing this is to use Wine Conditioner. This is basically a sweetener and stabilizer combined together into a syrup. The stabilizer (potassium sorbate) makes sure that your wine does not start fermenting the new sugars while in the wine bottle.

You can also use your own sugar, honey, etc. to sweeten your wine, but you will also need to add potassium sorbate separately to eliminate any chance of the wine re-fermentating. So, as I think you can start to see, if your homemade wine is too dry, it’s not that big of a deal to fix.

If the sugar you are using is granulated, I would also suggest that you pre-dissolve the sugar into a syrup before adding it to the wine. This will help to eliminate the need for excessive stirring when adding the sugar.Shop Potassium Sorbate

When actually sweetening your wine it is best to sweeten a portion of the batch, first. For example, take a measured sample of the wine – say, one gallon – and add measured amounts of sweetener to it to establish a dosage to your liking. Once the dosage is determined you can then do the same thing to the rest of the wine. This insures that you do not get the entire batch too sweet.

If you do accidentally add too much sugar to the measured sample, just blend it back into the rest of the batch and start all over with a new gallon sample.

We also have an article on our website, Making Sweet Wines, that will have more information about what to do if your homemade wine is too dry. You may want to take a look at it as well.

Happy Wine Making,
Ed KrausShop Hydrometers

—————
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.

What Size Rubber Stopper Fits What?

Rubber Stopper That Is The Right SizeOne of things that almost every home winemaker uses is a rubber stopper. It’s used to attach an airlock to a plastic fermenter or wine carboy. The rubber stopper is tapered in shape, has a whole in it for the airlock, and comes in various sizes.

Knowing what size of rubber stopper to purchase can be of some issue. Whether you are using a gallon glass carboy or plastic fermenter makes a difference as to the size rubber stopper you need. I thought it would be nice to go over, “what size rubber stopper fits what”, since we offer 25 different sizes to choose from.

I should start of by saying that any bucket fermenter we offer takes a size #2 rubber stopper. This may not be the case with a fermenter purchased elsewhere. It depends on the size of whole the supplier decides to put into the plastic fermenter.

Glass carboys come in an array of sizes and take a different sized rubber stopper as the size changes. There are 6.5 , 6 , 5 and 3 gallon sizes. The rubber stopper size for each is as follows:

6.5 Gal. Glass Carboys (Size #6.5) Shop Carboys
6.0 Gal. Glass Carboys (Size #6.5)
5.0 Gal. Glass Carboys (Size #7)
3.0 Gal. Glass Carboys (Size #7)

7.0 Gal. Fermonster Large-Mouth (Size #10)
6.0 Gal. Fermonster Large-Mouth (Size #10)

You may need to size a plastic wine carboy with a rubber stopper as these have become more popular over time. A plastic carboy takes a size #10.0 rubber stopper regardless of its size.

Other sizes of rubber stopper you may need to know is are:

Wine Bottle Opening (Size #2.0)
Beer Bottle Opening (Size #2.0)
Large-Mouth Gallon Glass Jugs, Quick Quarter Turn Lid (Size #8.0)
Small-Mouth Gallon Glass Jugs, Thread-Down Lid (Size #6.0) Shop Wine Airlocks

Visit our website. It lists all of these rubber stoppers and more along with their dimensions.
———————————–
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.