Do Wine Kits Need More Ingredients?

I’ve been making wine using wine kits such as KenRidge for several years. These kits seem quite complete with all the ingredients needed – but reading many of the posts on your site causes me to wonder. Should I, could I, must I supplement the ingredients provided in these wine kits with other ingredient such as Yeast Nutrients, Acids, Tannins, Potassium Sorbate, Wine Conditioner? Should I add Campden tablets between bottling?

Name: Paul
State: New Jersey
Hello Paul,

One of the great things about using one of these wine kits is that the all of these wine making ingredients have already been taken care of for you. This has either been done directly by including the ingredient in the grape juice, or indirectly by eliminating the need for the ingredient, all together.

As an example, you mentioned acid blend. This is typically included in a wine recipe to bring the wine’s acid up to the proper level. If a wine’s acid level is too low, it will taste flat and flabby. With one of these wine kits, however, the grape juice has already been adjusted to the correct acidity level.

Not only is it been adjusted to a proper range for wine, it is adjusted to the optimum level for each specific type of wine. This is done by bench-testing a batch-sample of the juice with an actual fermentation beforehand, then test-tasting the resulting wine for balance and overall character. The optimal amount of acid is determined, then applied to the all of the grape juice. And, all of this is done before the grape juice goes through any packaging into one of the wine kits.

The same can be said about the yeast nutrient and the wine tannin. Each are already in the grape juice at a level that will result in the best possible wine for that wine kit.

Another aspect to this is the speed at which the wine progresses through the fermentation, then the clearing, and then the bottling. The wine kits on the market today are set up to get in the wine bottle so quickly, that they do not have a need for sulfites such as Campden tablets to be addedShop Conical Fermenter along the way. It should be pointed out that most wine kits do include a packet of potassium metabisulfite. This is the same thing as Campden tablets, but they only recommend adding it if you plan on storing your wine for longer than 6 months in the bottle.

The last item I will mention is the Wine Conditioner. This is essentially a sweetener designed specifically for wine. It is something that can be added to taste before bottling, but only if you desire to change the wine kit manufacturer’s intended favor. If you decide to do so, proceed cautiously. You can always add more, but you can’t take it out.

If you would like to read more whether or not your wine kits need more ingredients, here is another blog post that continues on with this subject, Do Your Wine Juice Kits Need Adjusting? It has some additional info on this.

With that being said, don’t’ feel left out because you are not concerning yourself with all these wine making ingredients. Feel fortunate. Wine kits have come a long way toward making the process simple, and the results outstanding.

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.

Using Pasteurized Juice For Making Wine

Pasturized JuiceI have decided to get in to the mysterious world of wine making. I have gotten my hands on carboys, yeast, corks, airlocks, etc. My only problem is that I can’t find any preservative free, unpasteurized apple juice, or any juice, to use in my first batch. Is using pasteurized juice for making wine OK? I’ve been told that the pasteurization process takes away from the final flavor. How much of an impact does it actually make? Thanks for the help!

Name: Steve G.
State: North Carolina
Hello Steve,

I’m glad you’ve decided to make some wine. Using a pasteurized juice for making your wine, is a pretty good place to start for a beginning winemaker. The process is fairly straightforward and representative of the winemaking process in general.

You are correct in your assumption that you need to read the label and see what’s in the juice before actually buying it and using it to make wine. You need to look for preservatives that could sabotage your fermentation.

For example, you want to make sure that the juice does not have sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate. These specific preservatives will interfere with wine yeast ability to multiply and start a fermentation. However, things like potassium metabisulfite or ascorbic acid are just fine and will not give you any troubles whatsoever.

Shop Grape ConcentrateAbout the pasteurization, it is perfectly fine to make wine from a juice that has been pasteurized. It does not effect the flavor in any way and is a good thing for the juice to go through. While this process does have a big fancy name — named after Prof. Louis Pasteur, the creator of process —  it is really a very innocent and simple process. Pasteurization is simply performing a flash heating and cooling of the juice.

These days, the juice is heated and cooled so fast that it does not even have a chance to oxidize the juice. But it is being heated long and hot enough to kill any microbes that would have eventually caused the juice to spoil. This process has no chemistry to it and is nothing more than what I have described. So as far as affecting flavor, it does not.

The bottom line is that using pasteurized juice for making wine is perfectly fine. What you want to be on the look-out for is things like sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate.

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.

Dealing With A Cloudy Peach Wine

Cloudy-Peach-WineI have tried to make fresh Peach wine, it has been six weeks and it still is not clear, I followed all the basis steps in wine making, even put a clearing agent in it. Do I need just to weight longer.

Thanks Tbone
Hello Tbone,

What your wine may be experiencing is what’s called a pectin haze. Peach wines are notorious for having this kind of fault.

Certain fruits have a lot more pectin in them than others. Pectin is the thick, gelatinous stuff that holds the fruit’s fiber together. Peaches, strawberries and certain other fruits have an abundance of it. Normally, pectin is broken down by the yeast during the fermentation and does not cause any issues. The yeast actually produce enzymes that help to break-down the pectin resulting in a clear wine. But when there is more pectin than the yeast can handle, the result is a pectin haze.

A pectin haze cannot be settled out by a fining agent such a bentonite, isinglass or other clarifier designed to settle out particles. That’s because a pectin haze is not made up of particles. It’s made up of an organic structure that is bound to the wine itself. The only way to rid yourself of it is to break down its molecular structure.

This is where pectic enzyme comes in. If you did not add pectic enzyme to this batch, or used pectic enzyme that was too old, a pectin haze is most likely what you are dealing with. Pectic enzyme is additional enzyme that can be added to the fermentation to help the yeast break down the pectin cells. The yeast produce it naturally during the fermentation, but with some fruit – such as your peaches – it’s just not enough. More pectic enzyme needs to be added.Buy Pectic Enzyme

At this point, I would go ahead and add a double-dose of pectic enzyme to this batch. The amount will vary depending on the type of pectic enzyme you are using. Just double the recommend dosage that is stated on the container it came in.

If you purchased the pectic enzyme from us, that would be a 1/4 teaspoon per gallon – a standard dose is 1/8 teaspoon. Be sure to rack the wine into a clean fermenter first so that you do not stir up any sediment when mixing in the pectic enzyme.

The results will not be immediate. It takes pectic enzyme longer to work once the activity of the fermentation has gone. But if a pectin haze is what you are dealing with, you should start to see improvements in the wine’s clarity within a couple of weeks.
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 Do I Add Campden Tablets To My Homemade Wine?

Campden Tablets For WinemakingHelp!

I was wondering if you can straighten me out on something. I have heard that you should add campden tablets before you add the wine yeast. I should also add campden tablets after every time I rack the wine. Then add them before I bottle the wine. That seems like a lot to me.

Hi Gary,

Thanks for such an interesting question.

You do need to use Campden tablets or some other form of sulfite such as sodium metabisulfite, or the wine could eventually spoil or turn to vinegar. But how much you should add is another issue all together.

If you’re making wine from fresh fruit, we recommend that you add one Campden tablet per gallon before the fermentation. This is the standard dose. If you are making wine from a packaged juice, this step is not necessary. Continue reading

Does Wine Conditioner Stop A Fermentation?

Wine Conditioner Stopping FermentationIs there a wine product that you sell that sweetens the wine in the end and also stops the fermentation process.  I thought it was the wine conditioner, but I don’t see where it says it stops the fermentation process.

Hello Jen,

One of the most difficult things a home winemaker can try to do is stop an active fermentation. It’s not practical, nor can it be done with any guaranteed success. This holds true for wine conditioner, as well.

There are several wine making products you can use that may inhibit or temporarily slow-down a fermentation, such a Campden tablets or sodium metabisulfite, but these wine making products will not normally bring an active fermentation to a full stop. Their primary purpose is to destroy wild molds and bacteria. Their effect on the domesticated wine yeast doing the fermenting is only minor.

The most important thing to understand about a wine making conditioner is that it should not be added to the wine must while it is still fermenting. It is a wine sweetener that should only be added once the fermentation has completed and the wine has had plenty of time to clear. If the wine conditioner is added during the fermentation or while the wine is still cloudy with yeast, all the sugars that are in the wine conditioner could potentially start a renewed fermentation and turn the sugars from the wine conditioner into alcohol.Shop Wine Conditioner

With that being said, the best time to add wine conditioner to a wine is right before you are ready to bottle the wine – add to taste, then bottle.

Wine conditioner does have a wine stabilizer (potassium sorbate) in it that, will help to eliminate the chance of a re-fermenting occurring. It does this by inhibiting the residual yeast cells are still left in the wine from multiplying into a larger colony that can sustain a fermentation.

But again, the stabilizer in the wine conditioner will not stop a fermentation. There are no wine making products you can use that will safely do so. The wine stabilizer in the wine conditioner will only stop a fermentation from re-occurring.

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.

Making Wine With Bread Yeast… Not!

Every so often we run across someone who is making wine with bread yeast. Yes, I’m talking about the plain ole’ yeast you pick up in the baking section of your local grocery store. And every time I hear of someone using bread yeast, the question that always screams in my head is, “why?”

There are so many advantages to using wine yeast and so many disadvantages to using bread yeast that I can’t imagine why anyone would want to use it. The only conclusion I can come up with is that there is a strong misunderstanding about what yeast really are and what they do.

Yeast is what turns sugar into alcohol. Yeast cells are living organisms that consume and digest the sugars. As a result, they excrete alcohol and CO2 gas. Along with these two compounds also comes various trace amounts of enzymes, oils, acid, etc. These are the things that give different alcohols their different characters.

The point is all yeast are not the same. How one strain responds to the sugars varies from the next. There are literally thousands of different strains that have been identified or developed as hybrids, all with varying characteristics that make them suitable or not-so-suitable for performing a particular task, whether it be fermenting wine or raising bread.

This brings us back to the bread yeast. Most bread yeast will ferment alcohol up to about 8% with ease, but when trying to produce alcohol beyond this level, the bread yeast begin to struggle, very often stopping around 9% or 10%. This is short of what we’d like to obtain for almost any wine.

Shop Wine YeastAnother reason making wine with bread yeast is not a good idea is that bread yeast do not clear out very readily or settle very firmly, either. They typically will form a low layer of hazy wine in the bottom of the fermenter that will never completely clear out.

Even more importantly, bread yeast produce alcohol that is plagued with a lot of off-flavors. The bread yeast becomes so stressed and has to work so hard that off-flavored enzymes and fatty acids are produced along with the alcohol.

There are several other issues with using bread yeast to make your wine, but these are the big ones: the alcohol, the clearing, and the flavor.

There are many, many different strains of wine yeast. These yeasts are bred over time to produce something of a ‘super’ wine yeast. Each one becoming the ultimate choice for tackling the particular type or style of wine.

Some wine yeast ferment to total dryness better than others. Some have better alcohol tolerance than others. Some put off fruitier aromas than others. Some pack more firmly to the bottom of the fermenter than others. Some wine yeast even have flavor qualities that make them ideal for fermenting one type of fruit over another. The list goes on and on. And it goes without say, they all do it better than bread yeast.

On our website, we have a wine yeast profile charts listed for each line of wine yeast we carry: Red Star, Lalvin and Vintner’s Harvest Wine Yeast. You can view these profile charts from a link on the product page for each of these wine yeasts.

The last thing I’d like to point out is that buying actual wine yeast to make your wine is not expensive. Currently, you can purchase wine yeast for as little as $2.00. I haven’t priced bread yeast recently, but there can’t be that much difference in price. So if you value your time and effort at all go with the wine yeast. Don’t try making your wine with bread yeast.
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 Long Before Wine Yeast Starts Working?

Wine Yeast Held By Home WinemakerI bought your wine making starter kit and am up to the point where you add the wine yeast. I added the yeast about 12 hours ago and nothing has happened yet at all. Is this normal? The reason I ask is because I have made wine before in just a gallon milk jugs and added brewers yeast and instantly it foams. Can you please let me know…

Hello Harley,

The short answer is that you should expect to see activity of some kind within 36 hours, but usually within 24 hours. The fact that you are not seeing your wine working within 12 hours is not all that unusual. Just how long before your wine yeast starts working depends on numerous factors.

In regards to your previous batches, when making wine in a gallon glass carboy or something similar, it is expected that the fermentation will take off sooner. This is because you are using the same amount of yeast in a single gallon that you would be using in the typical five or six gallons of a wine making kit. The higher concentration of yeast cells, means your yeast will start fermenting sooner.

That’s the short answer to your question. The long answer is I don’t think there is a thing wrong with your wine must or wine yeast, but if you are still concerned I can go over some things that may put you more at ease.

  • The #1 reason a wine yeast fails to ferment is temperature.
    The wine must is either too hot or too cold. Temperature plays a major role in how fast or slow a wine yeast starts to ferment. The temperature should be between 70 and 75°F. The further you get from this fermentation temperature, the harder it is for the wine yeast to start fermenting. If you are not sure what temperature your wine must is at, you may want to consider getting a wine thermometer.
  • The #2 reason a wine yeast fails is improper re-hydration.Shop Thermometers
    The direction on most packets of wine yeast will tell you to re-hydrate the yeast in warm water before adding it to the wine must. The directions will specify a certain temperature for specific length of time. Normally, it’s something like 105°F. for 10 minutes. If you followed these direction, exactly, you will not have a problem whatsoever. But, if the temperature was hotter than the directions say, or if you left the wine yeast in the warm water for a longer length time than you were supposed to, you could have killed all or a significant portion of the yeast. If most of the yeast was killed it will take much longer for the fermentation to start. The fermentation may also be slow or sluggish once it does start.

In either of the above cases the solution is simple. Depending on the issue, either get the wine must to the proper temperature, or add another pack of wine yeast. Problem solved!

Just how long before your wine yeast starts working can depend on a number of different factors. The above two are by far the most common we run across, but if neither of these sound right, you may want to take a look at, “Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure” that is listed on our website.

After have said all of this, it’s still only been 12 hours since you added the yeast. The most likely scenario is that it will have already started bubbling by the time you read this. While many fermentation will start before this, taking longer than 12 hours is not all that unusual.

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.

Do Wine Concentrates Need Sulfites Added?

Sulfites for making wine.I started a batch of the SunCal California red [grape concentrate]. This is first time I have used a kit like this. I noticed it does not call for Campden tablets to be used. Is this correct, or does this wine concentrate need sulfites?

David J.
Hello David,

When making wine from fresh fruits it is important to treat the wine must with a sulfite of some kind before starting the fermentation. You could use the Campden tablets you mentioned. You could also use potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite. Any of these will release sulfites into the wine. The dosage is right on the container they come in.

The reason for adding sulfites to a wine must is to destroy any wild molds, bacteria and other unwanted, microbial nasties that could eventually grow and ruin your wine. The sulfites release into the juice killing these wild elements. After that, they leave the wine, dissipating into the air as a gas. Once the wine must has sat for 24 hours, with the cover off the fermenter, you can then add wine yeast and start the wine making process as you normally would.

However, when making wine from wine concentrates you do not need to add sulfite. Any of the SunCal concentrates or other packaged wine making juices have already been treated and are ready to go when you get them. All you need to do is mix in the wine yeast and other ingredients, and let it ferment.

Shop Wine ConcentrateAs an additional note, it is important to remember that even thought wine concentrates do not need sulfites added before fermentation, they do need them before bottling. By adding sulfites to any wine before bottling, you are are dramatically reducing the chance of the wine spoiling. You are also dramatically increasing the wine’s ability to retain its freshness for an extended period of time.

There is no reason to wait 24 hours after adding the sulfites. Just blend it in and bottle immediately. You can find more info on when to add sulfite to a wine on our website.

David, I hope this information helps you out. Now you know that wine concentrates don’t need sulfites added before fermentation It was a great question, and I’m glad you asked it.

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.

Add Some Honey To Your Wine!

Dripping HoneySomewhere on your website you suggest sweetening wine with honey rather than with cane sugar.  This raised my interest and I was curious if there was a “proper” way for doing this.  Since the honey is quite thick, should it be “thinned down” before adding?  Mixed with wine (or small amount of water) prior to adding to the batch?  Or even heated slightly to make it thinner?  Is there anything in honey that could cause some instability or cloudiness in the wine?  By this point in the process I will already have added potassium sorbate.  Can I bottle the wine immediately following the sweetening?

Thank you for your assistance.
Carl S.
Hello Carl S.,

Thank you for your curiosity and your questions.

I think adding honey is an excellent way to back-sweeten a wine. It is a powerful weapon in the home winemakers’ arsenal and one that is too often ignored. Many times over the years I’ve used honey to make some remarkable wines. Two that come to mind: a raspberry wine that I sweetened with wild flower honey and a blush Zinfandel that I sweetened with raspberry honey. Both were very memorable wines.

There are a couple of basic guidelines that need to be followed when using honey to sweeten a wine, but all-in-all it is a very simple process.

  1. As is the case with sweetening any wine you need to add potassium sorbate as a wine stabilizer, otherwise the new sugars from the honey will start fermenting again. Not only with this delay bottling the wine, it will remove all the sweetness you’ve just added.
  2. You also need to make sure that the honey has been pasteurized. Adding honey to a wine that is still wild or raw is a no-no. These impurities will have an environment to grow in once added to the wine. The eventual result is a spoiled wine. If you are not sure if the honey is pasteurized. You will need to pasteurize it yourself. This can easily be done by mixing the honey with equal parts of water. Then slowly heat the mix to 145°F and hold at that temperature for 30 minutes.

Shop Wine Bottle CorkersAs far as incorporating the honey into the wine, there are no surprises. Honey blends very easily with wine, even at room temperature. If you wish, you can blend the honey in a gallon of the wine first, then blend that mix in with the entire batch of wine, but it’s not really necessary.

Using honey to sweeten a wine is one of my favorite wine making tricks and one you should explore if you are wanting to learn how to make the best wine you can. The herbal characters of the honey can add greater depth and complexity to a wine.

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.

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.