Campden Tablets: What They Can And Can’t Do.

Campden Tablets In JarOne of the most commonly used ingredients in home wine making are Campden tablets. You will find them in almost any of the wine making recipes you will use; talked about in almost any of the wine making books you will read; and called into action by just about any of the homemade wine instructions you will follow.

 

What Do Campden Tablets Do?
The original reason Campden tablets were used in wine making was to keep the wine from spoiling after it had been bottled. By adding these tablets at bottling time, you could virtually eliminate any chance of your wine falling victim to mold, bacteria and other foreign enemies.

Since their introduction into wine making, Campden tablets have also become routinely used for sterilizing the juice prior to fermentation. By adding Campden tablets a day before adding your wine yeast, you can start your fermentation with a clean slate, so to speak. All the unwanted micro organisms will be gone.

Some home winemakers also use Campden tablets with water to create a sanitizing solution. This solution will safely sanitize fermenters, air-lock, stirring spoons, hoses and all the other pieces of equipment that may come into contact with the wine must.

 

What Campden Tablets Don’t Do? Shop Wine Yeast
Many beginning winemakers believe that Campden tablets are a magic pill of sorts. One that can instantaneously stop a wine fermentation dead in its tracks. While it is true that Campden tablets can bring a fermentation to its knees for a period of time, it is also true that these fermentations will usually gather themselves back up and eventually overcome the effects of the tablets. The result is a continued fermentation – sometimes after the wine has been bottled.

Truth is, Campden tablets are not designed to stop a fermentation and never have been. Using them for that purpose can get you into all kinds of trouble. There is really no ingredient that can be safely used by itself to assuredly stop a fermentation.

 

What Are Campden Tablets?
Simply put, Campden tablets are metabisulfite. When you add a tablet to the wine you are adding sulfites to the wine. Most Campden tablets consist of potassium metabisulfite, but some are made with sodium metabisulfite.

 

Shop Winemaking For DummiesHow Are Campden Tablets Used?
Their use is fairly straight-forward. You add one tablet to each gallon of wine must 24 hour prior to adding the wine yeast – before the fermentation. Then you add one table per gallon just before bottling.

The Campden tablets must first be crushed and dissolved in a small amount of the wine or water. This mix is then stirred thoroughly into the rest of the batch.

You can use the Campden tablets to create a sanitizing solution by crushing up 4 tablets into a quart of water. This can be used as a sanitizing rinse, or you can pour it into a fermentation container and allow the fumes to sanitize the entire insides.

 

As An Alternative To The Campden Tablet…
Shop Potassium BisulfiteYou can use potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite in the form of a granulated powder. The advantages are: you don’t have to crush it up; and it is cheaper. The disadvantage is you have to measure out the dosage, which is 1/16 teaspoon per tablet.
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Careful! Using Reverse Osmosis Water For Wine Making Can Be A Problem

Using Reverse Osmosis In Wine MakingYour newsletter states that using distilled water for making wine is not recommended but what about tap water filtered via reverse osmosis? Can I use reverse osmosis water for wine making?

Thank You
John
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Hello John,

You are correct. We do not recommend using distilled water. Not only does the distilling process remove valuable, free oxygen from the water, but it also removes all the minerals. Both are much-needed commodities for the yeast during a fermentation. If either are missing, it can lead to a sluggish or stuck fermentation.

Likewise, we do not recommend using reverse osmosis water for wine making, either. While the free oxygen does remain in the water through osmosis filtering process, critical minerals are still being removed. Magnesium sulfate can be added back to the water in an attempt to restore it for fermentation, but this is more or less putting a band-aid on the issue.

Shop Magnesium SulfateYour better option would be to purchase bottled drinking water. These bottled drinking water typically will either have the original, natural minerals in them, or the water has been completely purified and then had an optimal blend of minerals added back. Either way, this would be a better option than using distilled or reverse osmosis water in wine making.

It is also important to note that while free oxygen in the water is good for the fermentation, it is bad for the wine once the fermentation has completed. Having free oxygen in the wine after the fermentation can lead to oxidation or browning of the wine.

Fortunately, most all of the oxygen that is in the must before fermentation is either consumed by the yeast or quickly driven out by the CO2 gas from the fermentation. So, while we do recommend using water that is saturated in oxygen before the fermentation, after the fermentation, we recommend using distilled water for making any necessary adjustments or for topping-up after the fermentation.

To sum it up, using reverse osmosis water for wine making is really not ideal, essentially because of that lack of trace minerals that are removed in the process. You would be better served in most cases by using tap water over reverse osmosis or maybe even bottle drinking water, if you are so inclined. Shop Aeration System

Happy Wine Making,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

My Wine Recipe Doesn’t Call For Yeast

Man Fermenting Wine Without YeastI have an old wine recipe that came from Germany, through the family, but the wine recipe doesn’t call for yeast of any kind… What does the yeast do and is it essential in home wine making?

Thanks Connee
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Hello Connee,

Simply put, yeast is where the rubber meets the road. Without wine yeast you’ll have no fermentation, and with no fermentation you’ll have no alcohol! That’s why it is imperative that the starting wine must has yeast of some kind, even if the wine recipe doesn’t call for yeast.

 

What’s Going On?…

What’s happening when you make wine is sugar is being turned into alcohol through a process called fermentation. Yeast is what performs the fermentation. Each yeast is a single-celled, living organism that literally eats the sugars that are in the wine must and turns it into alcohol and CO2 gas. This is what wine making is all about.

 

Where Does The Yeast Come From?

Shop Wine YeastSome older wine recipes – like the one you have – will have no yeast of any kind in the recipe. This is because the yeast are expected to be provided by the fruit, naturally. Fruit, whether it be grapes, peaches, or strawberries, already have wild yeast on them so there will be a fermentation of some kind; it will just be fermenting wine without yeast you’ve added.

Using the yeast that Mother Nature provided was an acceptable practice way-back-when because wine yeast was not readily available. And, if your wine recipe is really, really old, they may not have even known that yeast doing the job. The connection between yeast and fermentation was not put together until as recently as 1857. So as you can start to see, this may be why your wine recipe doesn’t call for yeast of any kind.

 

Is The Wild Yeast Good Enough?

Homemade wines made from wild yeasts are marginal at best. Typically, the yeast found out in the wild have trouble fermenting to an acceptable alcohol level. The flavor and aromas they put off can be objectionable. Wild yeast wines also have a harder time clearing up. This is primarily because the yeast do not collect and clump together like domesticated wine yeast do (flocculation). The clumping helps the yeast to drop out cleanly and quickly. Domesticated wine yeast are bred to do this.Shop Grape Concentrate

The only exception to this are some Old World wineries that rely on feral yeast from the vineyard. Feral yeast is maintained but out in nature. Great care is taken to keep the yeast strain maintained in the fields. Spent pulp from the fermentation is put back into the soils along the fines so that the yeast within the pulp can cover next year’s crops.

 

Yeast Today

Today things are different. Wine making yeast are readily available from wine making shops like us. These are the same strains of wine yeast used by professional wineries. They are able to ferment to an acceptable alcohol level and produce a much cleaner flavored wine. And, their cost is not that much different than buying a pack of baker’s yeast.Shop Wine Press

There is an entire array of wine yeast strains from which to choose. Each one has slightly different flavor characteristics or different qualities that make it well suited for a certain style of wine. You can find an example of some of these characteristic in this wine profile chart.

 

Here’s My Recommendations

My advice to you – without seeing the wine recipe – is to go ahead and follow it, but I would also add a packet of wine making yeast for every 5 or 6 gallons of must. You may also want to take a look at the article, Why Should I Use Wine Yeast that is listed on our website. This will give you a little deeper explanation about yeast and its role in wine making.

Shop Wine Making KitsYou may want to give up on using the wine recipe all together. While using a wine recipe that doesn’t call for any yeast can be done. Why risk your time an effort when there are so many more modern wine recipe available.

Happy Wine Making,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Having Fun Using Honey In Your Wine Making

Using Honey In Wine MakingI want to start using honey instead of sugar in my wine making so I have a few questions: do i put the honey in the must to start with, or, to sweeten after the wine is done fermenting? Also one pound of sugar equals how much honey?

Tom – NC
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Hello Tom,

Using honey in wine making is something you can have a lot of fun with. One of the favorite wines I made was a Raspberry Honey Zinfandel. Nobody could keep their hands off of it, and it was soon gone.

There are different ways honey can be used in wine making. You can add it to the wine must, before fermentation, and have its sugars ferment into alcohol, or you can add the honey after the fermentation and have its sugars contribute to the sweetness of the wine.

 

Using Honey Instead Of Sugar Before The Fermentation

When you add honey before a fermentation, what will be left when the fermentation is complete is the herbal character of the honey. No sweetness will remain. For example, if the honey was spun off of wild flowers then a wild flower character will be added to the wine during the wine making process. If the honey was spun off of strawberry blossoms then you will have a note of herbal-strawberry character in the wine, and so forth.Shop Hydrometers

What this means is you can alter any fruit wine making recipe you find by replacing some or all of the sugar called for with honey. Using honey in your wine making in this way will add a layer of depth to the wine’s over all character. You can compliment the wine’s character, such as adding raspberry-blossom honey to a raspberry wine recipe, or you can contrast the wine’s character, such as adding apple-blossom honey to a cherry wine recipe.

When using honey in wine making before the fermentation, you want to use it in-place-of or instead-of the sugar called for in the wine recipe you are using. As a general rule-of-thumb you can replace 1 pound of sugar with 1.2 to 1.3 pounds of honey. You can also use a wine hydrometer to determine how much honey to add. Keep adding the honey until you get to the appropriate reading on the wine hydrometer’s specific gravity scale – usually between 1.070 and 1.090.

 

Using Honey Instead Of Sugar After The Fermentation

If you add the honey at bottling time or anytime after the fermentation, you are contributing to the sweetness of the wine instead of the alcohol. The herbal characters of the honey are still being added but along with its sweetness. It is important to note that any time you add a sugar to a wine at bottling time – whether it be honey, cane sugar or grape concentrate – you must also add potassium sorbate (wine stabilizer) to eliminate any chance of re-fermentation Shop Potassium Sorbatelater on in the wine bottle. The is in addition to the Campden tablets that we recommend at bottling time for any wine. Here’s more information on sweetening a wine with honey.

 

Should I Use Raw Or Pasteurized Honey?

I recommend using pasteurized, filtered honey – the kind you typically find on the grocery shelf. This type of honey has been cleared of wild microbes and various solids that you do not want in your wine. If you do plan on using raw honey in your wine recipe, you will need to heat it up to 170°F. for a full 30 minutes along with some water. During this time you will also want to skim off the top whatever rises.

 

More Information On Using Honey In Wine Making

You can find more information on our website in the article, Wine Making With Honey. It gives a basic run-down of how honey has been used in wine over the years along with some basic honey recipes.Shop Campden Tablets

Using honey instead of sugar in your wine making is a fun way to add more interest depth, not only to your wines, but your wine making. It’s one more way to be creative in the enjoyable and rewarding hobby.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Get More Potential Alcohol From Sugar

Get More Potential AlcoholHow do I get more potential alcohol alcohol on my wine hydrometer. I want to get the level up to 10 or 11% when making a dry wine without adding sugar?

Name: Jay K.
State: Arkansas
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Hello Jay,

Thanks for the great questions about how to get more potential alcohol. This question covers some areas of confusion for many home winemakers. Let’s see if we can clear it up a little.

Let me start off by making something clear. The only way to raise the potential alcohol reading of a wine is to add more sugar to it. The potential alcohol scale on your wine hydrometer is directly related to the concentration of sugar within it. Add more sugar to the wine must, the potential alcohol reading goes up. The potential alcohol reading on your wine hydrometer comes from sugar, nothing else, so you add more sugar to get more potential alcohol.

The reason for this is very simple. When a wine is fermenting what’s happening? The wine yeast are consuming the sugars and converting them into both CO2 gas (carbon dioxide) and alcohol. Almost exactly half the sugar turn into CO2 the other half turns in alcohol. The more sugar that is available to the wine yeast the more alcohol you will end up with. So if you put add 2 pounds of sugar and the wine yeast ferment it, you will have added 1 pound of alcohol to the wine.

Shop HydrometersThe above is true until the wine yeast have reached their limits of alcohol tolerance. Wine yeast can only ferment so much alcohol. Once the fermentation reaches a high enough level of alcohol, the wine yeast will have difficulty fermenting any further. What this levels “is” depends on several factors: including the strain of wine yeast and the environmental conditions of the fermentation such as temperature, nutrients, etc.

The sugar we are talking about to get more potential alcohol does not have to be cane sugar. It doesn’t even have to be a granulated or powdered sugar. It could come in the form of grape concentrate, honey, apple juice… the list is endless. The sugars from all these things will also raise the potential alcohol level on your wine hydrometer when added to a wine must. Just remember potential alcohol comes from sugar.

So to sum up what you should do to get more potential alcohol:

  1. Pick out some form of sugar (nothing wrong with using cane sugar);
  2. Dissolve the sugar into the wine must until the potential alcohol scale on your wine hydrometer reads a  reasonable level. (11% to 13% will work fine);Shop Wine Yeast
  3. Let it ferment with an actual domesticated wine yeast.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Oaking Wine With Oak Chips

Man Oaking Wine With Oak ChipsHow do you go about oaking wine with oak chips? What type of oak chip would you recommend using on muscadine wine? I’d like to do a little experimenting. My wine is a combination of red and white muscadine grapes yielding a blush/rose type wine. What type of oak chip, quantity per 6 gallon carboy and length of time to soak would you recommend? Thanks much!

Name: Ed P.
State: Illinois
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Hello Ed,

Nothing wrong with a little experimenting. For me that’s part of what makes wine making so enormously fun.

One thing about oaking wine with oak chips, not all wines will benefit from it. Normally, the wines you would like to add oak chips to are wines with a lot of body. The tannins in the oak will help any excessive proteins in these full-bodied wines to clear out. This will give your wine a little more brilliant color.

The oak chips will also add their own smoothing affect to the wine’s character. A rounding-off of the rough corners, so to speak. Heavier wines tend to be harsher than lighter wine. Oak chips will also add some wood flavors to the wine. Some regard this as giving the wine more complexity. These heavy wines are the ones that you should be thinking about considering what wines to oak.

Looking at this from an experimental standpoint, your best option would be to take off a gallon of the wine and strongly oak it. This could be done by adding about 4 to 8 ounces of oak chips to the gallon for a two or three months. Once this is done you can blend a little/some/or all back into the other 5 gallons based on taste.

Shop Toasted Oak ChipsUsing this method for oaking your wine with oak chips would give you the most control over the final outcome. The downfall is that you would not want to store 5 gallons of wine in a 6 gallon carboy, so you would need to move the 5 gallons of wine to a 5 gallon carboy during this time. The same holds true for the one gallon sample you will be oaking. Also, you are risking loosing whatever portion of the gallon you do not wish to add back to the wine.

The other method for oaking a wine with oak chips would be add it to the entire 6 gallons of wine, and then taste it along the way to see how it’s doing. Usually, once every 3 or 4 weeks. While this is an easier method, you do run a better risk of ending up with a wine you might not care too much for.

How much of the oak chips you would want to add to the wine can vary. I personally like to use 2 ounces to 5 gallons and let it age out for many months. But others like adding 4 or 6 ounces and age the wine for a shorter period of time.

Without question, I would recommend using toasted oak ships. Plain oak chips are rarely used but still have their place. Whether you use Toasted French oak chips or Toasted American oak chips would not make an incredible difference. Either can produce great results. The main difference between the two is that American oak will add sort of a coconut smoothness to the wine, whereas French oak chips will add more of a vanilla richness. One is not better than the other, it’s more of a matter of which one will work best with the wine at hand. Without tasting your wine, I would suspect you would want to use the American oak chips–just a guess.Shop Oak Powder

Ed, I hope this information about oaking wine with oak chips is what you were looking for. Just realize that oaking a homemade wine with oak chips is something that does not happen overnight, so you will have time to sample the wine and make careful judgments as to when enough is enough.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Can I Use Potassium Sorbate To Stop A Fermentation?

Wine Fermentation That Needs To Be StoppedAs the yeast eats the sugars, the sweet taste disappears as the sugar is eaten. I have heard you can’t stop the yeast from doing their job. But if I want a sweeter wine and my reading has reached an SG of 1.010, can I put potassium sorbate in the fermentation to stop it there for some sweetness instead of letting it ferment to the end at .998 and having to try and back sweeten a dry wine?

Byron J. — FL
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Hello Byron,

This is a great question because it covers a two wine making topics that often trip up home winemakers: using potassium sorbate and sweetening a wine.

Let me start off by saying that it is possible to stop a fermentation in progress, but it is much more difficult than just using potassium sorbate to stop a fermentation and/or sulfites such as Campden tablets and sodium metabisulfite. These wine making ingredients will give the fermentation a blow to the gut, but will only permanently stop a fermentation some of the time. Not good enough for a homemade wine that is destined to be bottled. The last thing any winemaker wants is fermenting bottles of wine.

The potassium sorbate does not stop or inhibit the fermenting in any way. What it does do is stop the yeast from reproducing themselves. During a typical fermentation the wine yeast will go through several re-generations. By adding potassium sorbate to a wine you are making sure that the current generation of yeast is the last generation of yeast. Eventually, the wine yeast will begin to die, but not all at once. Some yeast will live longer than others always leaving a possibility of a re-fermentation occurring, even months down the road.

Shop Potassium SorbateSulfites, like the Campden tablets and sodium metabisulfite, will destroy some of the yeast cells but not all of them. Domesticated wine yeast are somewhat immune to the effects of sulfite. They are acclimated to the sulfites when they are being produced. This is done on purpose so that a fermentation can exist with some of the protective benefits of sulfites.

Since using potassium sorbate won’t stop a fermentation, here is what a commercial winery does when they want to stop an active fermentation:

 

  1. Chill the fermentation tanks down to about 45°F causing the wine yeast to stop their activity and drop to the bottom. This can be done in a matter of 3 or 4 days depending on how fast the tanks chill. As a home winemaker, refrigeration should be done for at least a week.
  1. Rack the wine off the sediment. The sediment is mostly yeast cells at this stage of the winemaking process, so by racking or siphoning the wine, you are leaving most of the yeast behind.
  1. Filter the wine. It is vital that the wine be finely filtered at this point. While almost all of the wine yeast is gone, if some is left in the wine they can propagate themselves into larger numbers, regenerating a new colony of yeast that can ferment the wine after it has been bottled. Not a good thing. A winery will typically filter a wine down to .5 micron. This will require filtration under pressure with an actual wine filter system.

 

Shop Potassium MetabisulfiteThis is how a winery controls the sweetness of a wine, but there is a much, much easier way available to the home winemaker. It doesn’t involve using potassium sorbate to stop a fermentation, and it doesn’t involve going through all the steps laid out above.

 

  1. Allow the fermentation to finish. All the sugars will be gone and the wine yeast will start dropping out.
  1. Rack the wine off the sediment. Again, this will leave most of the yeast behind – well over 90%.
  1. Add sugar syrup to taste. The sugar syrup can be made by taking equal parts water and sugar and heating them in a sauce pan until completely clear. You may want to take a measured portion of the wine and add measured portions of the sugar syrup to establish a dosage, first, before committing the entire batch.
  1. Add potassium sorbate and sulfite to the wine. The dosage should be listed on the containers they come in, but you want to use 1/2 teaspoon of potassium sorbate per gallon and 1/16 teaspoon per gallon of either: potassium metabisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, or 1 Campden tablet per gallon of wine.
  1. Bottle the wine right away. If the wine is allowed to sit, some of the sulfite will dissipate, so you will want to bottle the wine on the same day.

 

By allowing the wine to finish, you will have much greater control on the sweetness of the wine. Instead of saying I want the wine to finish at a specific gravity 1.010, as you have suggested, you can actually sweeten the wine to taste. This is important because some wines require more sugar than others to get the same effect of sweetness than others. Every wine is different.Shop Mini Jet Wine Filter

By operating in this way you can also bulk age the wine first. This is a great advantage, because it allows you to sweeten the wine after the harshness has been aged out. Often times when sweetening a young, too much sugar will be added. This is because the winemaker tries to cover up the harshness with sweetness — a harshness that won’t be there later.

Byron, I hope this information helps you out. Again, I’m glad you asked about using potassium sorbate to stop a fermentation for the simple fact that it’s answer will help to clear up a lot of confusion among new winemakers.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Adding Sulfites To Homemade Wine

Adding Sulfites To WineI started fruit wine making in May. Yesterday I came across reading something on your blog which caught my attention. Something that I haven’t read or was told before. That is to add Campden tablets and sorbate after each racking. Do I need to do this after each racking or is it OK with every other racking?… By me not adding any since I started and going on my 3 and 4th rackings am I in jeopardy of losing my wine?…

Eric — LA
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Hello Eric,

The fact that you haven’t been adding sulfites [Campden tablets] to your homemade wine doesn’t mean you have ruined it by any means. There are winemakers that never use sulfite and turn out good wines. But having said this, I would urge you to start adding sulfites to homemade wine.

Sulfites such as Campden tablets and sodium metabisulfite make sure your wine does not spoil during the wine making process. After the wine has been made, sulfites help to insure that your wine will keep for many years and not just weeks or months in the wine bottle. Sulfites also help your wine to be free from the effects of oxidation. This is when the color of the wine darkens and the flavor taken on a little bitterness. Adding sulfites to homemade wine is not an absolute necessity, but it only makes sense to do so.

Potassium sorbate on the other hand is a different beast. It should only be used before bottling the wine – if at all. It is required if you are planning on back-sweetening your wine at bottling time. If it is not added along with the sweetening sugar, you stand a very strong chance of experiencing a re-fermentation of your wine while in the bottle. This can eventually result in popping corks and fizzy wine.

Shop Campden TabletsThere is no reason to add potassium sorbate at any other time than at bottling. In fact, if it is added before the fermentation has completed it will most likely result in a sluggish or stuck fermentation. I would not recommend adding it at bottling time if you are not making a sweet wine. It is not necessary.

If you are making wine from fresh fruit, I always recommend adding sulfite to homemade wine about 24 hours before adding the yeast. Leave the wine must uncovered during this 24 hours so that the sulfite gas may dissipate. Then add the wine yeast as you normally would. Doing this will easily destroy any wild molds, bacteria, etc. that may be coming along with the fruit.

I always recommend that sulfite be added before bottling, as well. This is the dose that keeps the wine fresh and free of oxidation while in the wine bottle. Before fermentation and before bottling are the two times I would never forgo.

I also suggest adding sulfites to wine after the fermentation has completed. This is with the understanding that the wine is going to sit for a while before clearing up. This will keep any airborne contaminants from growing on your wine while clearing.

Shop Potassium BisulfiteOnce the wine is clear and you have racked it off the sediment, I would also recommend adding a 1/2 dose of sulfites if you plan on bulk-aging the wine. If you plan on bottling within a few days don’t worry about it.

Eric, at this point I would add a dose of Campden tablets. Just on per gallon. If you are on your 3rd or 4th racking you shouldn’t need to rack your wine any more other than to bottle it, at which point I would add another dose of Campden tablets. No potassium sorbate should be added unless you are sweetening your wine.

Adding sulfites to homemade wine is important and highly recommended. It’s like buying insurance for making a wine that doesn’t spoil or oxidize. If you do not add sulfites you can make wine successfully, but most will find it hard for the wine to keep over extended periods of time without refrigeration.

Happy Winemaking,
Customer Service at E. C. Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

There’s Too Much Sugar In The Primary Fermentation!

Sugar For Wine MakingI have 6 gallons of red wine must which failed to start fermenting even after 3 days since I added Lalvin 71B-1122 yeast. I may have added too much sugar to the primary fermentation. The Brix No. was 27 and Sp Gr 1.110. What can I do to get the wine must fermenting before it gets spoiled? Thank you for your help. Ulysses A.

Name: Ulysses A.
State: TN
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Hello Ulysses,

It may very well be that you have too much sugar in the primary fermentation, and that is what’s causing you to have a stuck fermentation. But I would also suggest going over the Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure to make sure that it is not something else.

Putting too much sugar for the yeast to ferment is one of the 10 reasons listed, but by making sure the other 9 couldn’t possibly be the reason, your can then comfortably narrow your focus on the cause.

What I would do if I were in your shoes is take a quart jar – like a Mason jar – fill it half way with the wine. Then add water until the jar is 2/3 full. Mix in a quarter teaspoon of either Yeast Nutrient or Yeast Energizer. Then sprinkle directly into the jar another packet of wine yeast. This is simply to create a yeast starter for the wine yeast by using a diluted wine must. Do not rehydrate the wine yeast in warm water first. Add the packet directly to the yeast starter.

The yeast starter should start fermenting within hours. Once you see the level of foaming peak, that will be the optimal time to pitch the yeast starter in with the rest of the wine must. This is typically at around 18 hours, but can vary from 6 hours to 3 days.Shop Yeast Nutrients

I am fairly confident that this will overcome your stuck fermentation and get your wine fermenting. A specific gravity of 1.110 is not all that ridiculous, it’s just high enough to cause some difficulties. With future batches you will want to use your wine hydrometer to make sure that you do not add too much sugar for the primary fermentation.

Other things you can do to help the yeast starter be successful is add an additional half dose of Yeast Nutrient to the entire batch. And as mentioned before, use the other 9 reasons for fermentation failure as a guide to improve your fermentation’s situation.

If the yeast starter fails to get things going then there are two other things you can do:

  1. Dilute the wine with water until the sugar level is brought down to a more suitable level. The fermentation should start on it’s own after doing this.
  2. Switch to a wine yeast that has a better tolerance of higher sugar levels. I would suggest Red Star: Pasteur Champagne for this purpose.Shop Wine Yeast

Putting too much sugar in the primary fermentation is something that can happen from time to time. Just realize that there are things you can do to resolve the issue without any sacrifice to the wine, whatsoever.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

My Malolactic Fermentation Won’t Start

Malolactic FermentationI added malolactic culture to two carboys of wine approximately 30 days ago. One of them showed sign of good fermentation, but in the second one the malolactic fermentation won’t start. What can I do with the carboy that is not fermenting?

Thank James
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Hello James,

There are a few reasons why a malolactic fermentation won’t start or complete in a wine. Before adding the malolactic culture to the wine it is best to make sure that you have some things in order. The environment that the wine is providing for the culture needs to one that promotes a malolactic fermentation. Here or some thing to consider:

 

  • Temperature: Make sure the malolactic fermentation temperature is between 70°F. – 75°F. If the temperature is too cool the malolactic culture will not ferment as hardily as it should, if at all. Also, beware of malolactic fermentation temperatures above this range. These temperatures could promote the growth of unwanted organisms that may produce off-flavors in the wine. If you are currently experiencing MLF temperatures that are cooler than this, we have a heating belt that is designed specifically for such a situation. I doubt that this is the reason why your malolactic fermentation won’t start since both carboys are side-by-side, but I’ve included here for completeness, just the same.
  • Acidity: Just like temperature, the wine’s acidity level needs to be tested to make sure it is in a decent range. If the acidity is too high, it will inhibit the malolactic culture’s activity. You also need to be concerned about having too low of an acid level. This will promote the growth of unwanted bacteria. A simple pH reading will do. You can use pH Strips (litmus papers) or a digital pH meter. YouShop Digital pH Meter would like to have the pH be between 3.2 and 3.6. Remember, the scale works backwards. The lower the number the higher the acid. If your acidity is too high, then treat the wine with acid reducing crystals. This will drop out some if the acid as crystals. If the acidity is too low then add some acid blend.
  • Alcohol: If the wine’s alcohol level is too high this can by why your malolactic fermentation won’t start. This type of problem can be experienced with wines that are 13% or higher. It may be necessary to dilute the wine with water to bring the alcohol concentration down. Always use distilled water for this purpose.
  • Sulfite (SO2): A malolactic fermentation is very sensitive to sulfite. It is much more sensitive than a yeast fermentation. Sulfite is the main ingredient you are adding when you use Campden tablets, potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite. It is also produced naturally by the yeast during a fermentation. You would like the amount of free SO2 in the wine to be no higher than 10 ppm. You can get away with 15 ppm, but it is not preferable. You can use a Titret test kit to determine how much sulfite is in your wine. If there is too much, you can lower it by racking the wine into another vessel. Do so in a splashing manner. This activity will cause some of the SO2 to dissipate as a gas.

 

Ironically, if you cannot get the malolactic fermentation to start in your wine after making these adjustments, it is in the wine’s best interest to pull-the-plug on the project and bring the sulfite level up to a normal level – somewhere around 35 ppm to 55 ppm – and bottle the wine. This reason for this is that if the SO2 level is low in preparation for a malolactic fermentation, you don’t want the wine to stay still too long in this situation. You want to either bring the SO2 level up to a protective level, or have an active MLF. Having neither for a stretch of time is jeopardizing the wine.Shop Heating Belt

That’s how to get a malolactic fermentation going in your wine. Get the temperature and these other things set and your MLF starter should take off just fine. There may be other reasons why a malolactic fermentation won’t start, but I’m confident that the above covers 99% of the issues.

If you’d like to read more about this we have another blog post about the reasons for doing a malolactic fermentation.

Best Wishes,
Ed Kraus

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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.