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
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 Shop Hydrometersturn 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.

The 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:Shop Wine Yeast

  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);
  3. Let it ferment with an actual domesticated wine yeast.

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.

5 Easy Beer Recipes for Beginners

Making Beer Recipes For BeginnersSo you’ve just started homebrewing. Congrats! Now, what should you brew? With a seemingly endless list of possible beers to brew, where do you start? What homebrewing ingredients should you get?

Here are some easy beer recipes for beginners. These are some of the best, basic homebrewing recipes:


  1. HefeweizenThe German-style wheat beer is often a “gateway beer” for beginning brewers. The traditional weizen yeast strain produces flavors of banana and clove. Want more clove? Keep the fermentation on the cool side. More banana? Let the fermentation temperature push to the upper end of the acceptable range, about 64-75˚F. Either way, this is a beer style that’s a great companion to warm weather, goat cheese, and citrus-flavored foods.
  1. Brown AleBrown ale can be a great middle-of-the-road homebrew to enjoy year-round. It’s a malty brew, but the hop character can Shop Steam Freak Kitsvary depending on your taste. American brown ales tend to have more hop flavor and aroma than English brown ales. Try a nut brown ale to highlight the nutty flavors of some specialty malts. Of these beer recipes for beginners, this one is my favorite.
  1. StoutStout may be the most forgiving of beer styles, due in part to the roasty malt flavors and dark color that come the use of from chocolate malt, black malt, and roasted barley. This means most stouts are easy beer recipes for beginners. These attributes can also come from dark liquid malt extract or dark dry malt extract. Depending on your tastes, you can brew a dry stout, sweet stout, imperial stout, tropical stout, or even a chocolate milk stout. Whatever you do, be sure to have some Irish stout on hand for St. Patty’s Day!
  1. KölschKölsch is a great option for the homebrewer who enjoys a lighter, more delicate beer. It’s about the closest thing to a light lager while still being an ale, featuring a clear, golden color, a respectably prominent hop flavor, and a crisp, dry finish.  When brewing a German Kölsch, just make sure you can maintain control of fermentation temperatures from about 60˚F on down to about 40˚F for an authentic character. Here’s some more tips on brewing a Kölsch.
  1. Chipotle PorterAll beginning brewers reach a point Shop Home Brew Starter Kitwhere they want to branch out and experiment. If you like spicy foods, then this beer recipe is a great option. Just take a smoked porter recipe kit and add a small can of rinsed chipotle peppers to the boil. If the beer turns out too hot, just give it some time to age.


If you’re still not sure what to make, on our website we have a list of some of the best basic beer recipes for beginners. They list all the homebrewing ingredients.

Do you have an easy beer recipe that would be good for first-timers? Please share it below.
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Why Your Homemade Wine Smells Like Acetone

Winemakers Wine Smells LIke AcetoneI have a 2017 Chamborcin that has a smell like acetone is their a way to remove this taste. Will oak aging help? If I let it oxygenate for several hours it is palatable. What can I do? I feel I have done every step correctly and my Vidal Blanc taste great a very light dry. Why does this wine smell like acetone?

Charlie C. — GA
Hello Charlie,

When you say your wine smells like acetone, two things instantly come to mind:


  • It could be from fermenting the wine at too warm of a temperature. If a fermentation becomes too hot the yeast become stressed causing all types of funny chemical-like aromas. This is the reason we recommend that a wine fermentation never go over 75°F. and to take some sort of action to cool the fermentation if it does.
  • It could be that your wine is turning to vinegar. This typically happens when your wine has been contaminated with acetobacter (vinegar bacteria). The acetobacter could have come from anywhere. It could have been on the grapes, your equipment… If you’re making wine in a root cellar it could be floating around in the air and on the walls. The tell-tale sign of a vinegar fermentation going on in your wine is the smell of finger nail polish remover (ethyl acetate), which as a smell very similar to acetone.


Either situation is not a good one to be in, but it would be helpful to know the specific reason why your wine smells like acetone before moving forward:


  • If you noticed the acetone smell in your wine during the fermentation, then most likely it is from a hot fermentation. The odor will become noticeable along with all the other smells of a fermentation. Then as time goes on, and the wine is racked a couple of times, sulfited, etc. you will notice the chemical smell start to become less noticeable.Shop Potassium Metabisulfite
  • If you did not notice it during the fermentation, but noticed the acetone smell later on and getting worse with time, then it is most like that your wine has caught the vinegar bug. Even if you did smell it during the fermentation, but it has gotten worse since then, I would lean towards acetobacter as being the cause – the overriding factor is: it’s getting worse, not better.


What To Do Now

  • If you feel that that your wine smells like acetone because it was fermented too hot, then I would do nothing other than go through your normal winemaking procedures. The strategy is to hope that the smell is volatile enough to dissipate on its own accord. If it becomes time to bottle the wine and the aroma of acetone is still noticeable, about the only thing you can do is rack the wine in a splashing manner and then sulfite. The type of sulfite you use does not matter. It can be Campden tablets, potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite. Use the dosage that is recommend on the contain it came in. The splashing will encourage the acetone smell to dissipate. The sulfites will help to drive out the odor as well as any oxygen that may have saturated into the wine during the process. Excessive oxygen in the wine can lead to oxidation.
  • If it seems as though your wine smells like acetone because of acetobacter, then there is something you can do now to stop it from getting any worse: that is to sulfite the wine. Any of the sulfites mentioned above will easily destroy the vinegar bacteria that is growing in your wine and producing this odor. This will stop things from getting any worse, however it will not reverse the damage that has already been done.To rid the wine of the smell that is already there, you will have to do as recommended before. That is to splash the wine and treat with sulfites. Unfortunately, in many cases of acetobacter contamination, this is not enough and the wine is lost.Shop Thermometers


What To Do With Future Batches
There are things you can do to make sure your future batches of wine do not smell like acetone:

  • Keep the fermentation temperatures from rising too high: Do the best you can to keep your fermentation around 70° to 75°F. Fermentations create their own heat, so it might be advisable for you to get a liquid thermometer of some type to track the fermentation temperature.
  • Use sulfites at the appropriate times: The wine should be treated with sulfites 24 hours before the yeast is added, then again before aging, then once more before bottling.
  • Keep air exposure to a minimum: Not only does air promote oxidation, it also promotes of growth of an acetobacter. Getting a few cells of vinegar bacteria in your wine is not a problem. It’s when those few cells are given the opportunity to reproduce and grow into a full-blown colony. That’s’ when your wine can start to smell like acetone. This is what excess air exposure does.
  • Shop Temp ControllerMake sure your wine making area is sanitary: If you are making wine in a basement or cellar, you may need to sanitize your entire wine making area. This can be done with spray bottle filled with a mixture of 1/4 cup of Clorox bleach to 1 gallon of water. Do not spray your equipment with this mixture, but rather counter-tops, exposed floor joists, etc.


Charlie, I hope this information helps you out. Having a wine smell like acetone is a good reason for concern. Hopefully, everything will work at fine and you will finish with a wine that will be well beyond your expectations.

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

Exploring the Maillard Reaction in Beer Brewing

Beer After Maillard ReactionI recently brewed a Munich Dunkel lager. Everything about the brew day went smoothly, but a mysterious flavor presented itself later on. What happened?

My theory: I had an excessive Maillard reaction in my beer while brewing, resulting in an attack of melanoidins. I know these may be some strange words for some of you, but please hear me out.

First let me share how my brew day went.

I was determined to brew a full five gallons of an all-grain batch, despite the fact that my brew kettle only holds five gallons. (A five-gallon batch of all-grain homebrew ought to have a kettle 7.5-gallons or larger.) The plan: mash enough grain for the five-gallon batch, collect 6+ gallons worth of wort by taking the first runnings, condensing, then the second runnings, condensing, and so on until I had enough sugars in the wort to eventually cut the batch with water and still reach my intended gravity. The brew day was long, but everything went pretty smoothly. I cut the batch with pre-boiled, pre-chilled water just before kegging to make my beer 5.6% ABV.

When I tasted the beer after secondary fermentation, I was excited by the depth and intensity of flavor. After packaging the beer, however, I was a little surprised to find a lingering sweet toffee flavor. Was it something in the beer recipe? The ingredients? That didn’t seem likely since some Munich Dunkles are made with as much as 100% Munich malt. Was the beer under attenuated? No. 71% attenuation is on par for Bavarian lager yeast. Was the beer under hopped? That couldn’t be it either. Even after diluting, my calculated bitterness was 25 IBUs. There must be something else at play.

Some online research led me to a new hypothesis: melanoidins.


What are melanoidins?

Shop All Grain SystemMelanoidins are formed when sugars and amino acids react together while heated in the presence of moisture. This reaction is called the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction is responsible for browning and flavor development in a variety of cooking applications. It’s often confused with caramelization, but in the context of boiling wort, what we usually encounter is the Maillard reaction in beer or home brewing.

Melanoidins, which contribute flavors of toffee, nuts, and bread crusts, are present in some degree in a variety of malts, but can also be developed during the boil. The chemistry gets complicated pretty quickly:

“…reducing sugars interact with amino compounds (e.g., amino acids, simple peptides) to initially yield Schiff bases. These give rise to aldosamines and ketosamines by Amadori rearrangements. The latter may condense with another sugar molecule to form diketosamines, which are unstable and break down to give a range of products including hydroxymethylfurfural and reductones, and some of these products interact and polymerize to melanoidins.” – from “Melanoidins”, by Hornsey, Ian. The Oxford Companion to Beer. Oliver, Garrett; Colicchio, Tom (2011-09-09).

Makes complete sense now, right? Ha!

Let’s try the graphic approach.

Maillard Reaction Graphic



My theory is that the prolonged boil in this particular brew day resulted in an excess of melanoidin formation. The Munich Dunkel is supposed to have some melanoidin flavor, so it’s not a tragic fault, just a little out of balance. Luckily, I found that by increasing the carbonation on the keg, I could reduce the impact of the toffee-like after taste caused by the Maillard reaction in my beer.

Two lessons here:

  1. Pay attention to your boil time. Don’t go lengthening your boil time willy-nilly. While an extended boil may be beneficial for a Scotch ale, bock, or stout, it wouldn’t be appropriate for a lighter beer like a Kölsch or a pilsner.
  1. Shop Brew KettlesBrew within your limits. If I had been content with a three-gallon batch, I probably could have avoided the excessive melanoidins. Alternatively, I could have brewed two smaller batches, or done a partial mash brew using Munich malt extract instead of working so hard to condense the wort.


Well, lesson learned. But that’s one of the fun things about brewing, right?
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

Oak Wine Barrel Preparation And Maintenance For Longer Life!

Using Oak Wine BarrelI have a Shriaz that I want to age in a an oak wine barrel. It will be a new barrel. Do I need to do something to prepare the new barrel? How about for each follow up use of that same barrel? Is there some type of maintenance on the oak barrel that needs to be done? When will I know can no longer be used anymore? As always, thank you.

Name: Rick R.
State: Colorado
Hello Rick,

Oak wine barrel preparation is very important. The last thing you want to do is get a new wine barrel and dump your wine directly into it. The barrel needs to be treated first. There will also be some maintenance that will need to be done between uses.


Oak Wine Barrel Preparation
The first thing you will want to do to prepare a new wine barrel for wine is to swell the wood. This is done by filling the barrel with water. As the wine barrel sits, the wood will swell, tightening all the joints.The barrel could actually leak for a day or two during this process, so be prepared for the potential of water leaking onto the floor. Also, be aware that you may have to add more water along the way as it soaks into the wood and possibly leaks out.

A secondary reason to soak the wine barrel with water is to remove the harshest of tannins. Some tannin is good for the wine. These are sort of over-the-top tannins in the oak wood that are too extreme in their effect on the wine to be of benefit.

Shop Wine BarrelsOnce you are done treating the oak wine barrel and its wood is saturated, there is a second part to oak wine barrel preparation. Now it’s time to sanitize it. To do this you will want to dump the tannic water out and refill the barrel with fresh water. To actually sanitize the wine barrel you will want to treat it with sodium metabisulfite and citric acid.

As for the dosage, you will want to use about 1/4 cup of sodium metabisulfite and 3 or 4 tablespoons of citric acid for every 10 gallons of the wine barrel’s volume. Dissolve the dosage in a gallon of water first. Then add to a half full barrel; agitate to mix everything well. Add the rest of the water and allow to sit for at least a few hours. Overnight or 24 hours would be much better. Dump the sanitizing water out of the barrel. And, that’s how you prepare a new oak wine barrel for wine.


Oak Wine Barrel Maintenance
After you are done aging the wine in the barrel, you will want to treat it with BarrolKleen as directed on its package. BarrolKleen is a blend of alkalies that will neutralize leftover acid deposits from the wine as well as help sanitize it.

Shop Sodium MetabisulfiteAs for storage between uses, you will want to keep a mixture of water / sodium metabisulfite / citric acid in the wine barrel as before. You will want to keep the oak wine barrel this way until it is ready for its next use. Sodium metabisulfite will need to be replenished every six month, along with some topping-up water for evaporation.


How Many Uses Can You Get From An Oak Wine Barrel?
In theory a wine barrel can be used for generations – as long as it will hold wine – but I believe your question was referring to its usefulness for actually aging a wine.

Most wineries will employ a wine barrel somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 uses. In a typical ongoing operation what this means is that every year the oldest 10% of the barrels are replaced. The winery then blend all the wine from all oak wine barrels before bottling. This is done to even the qualities of the wine across the entire season’s batch.

What this means for you as a home winemaker is that you can realistically get 10 or 15 uses from the wine barrel, but the effects of the barrel will take longer to come into fruition with each successive use. Your first batch may need to be in the barrel for only 3 months, while your 15 batch may need to be in the barrel for 3 years. Shop Citric AcidBut beyond this, the barrel should last you for decades in terms of storage. And lets face it. Barrels are really a cool looking item to have sitting around!

So, there you have it. That’s all there is to oak wine barrel preparation and maintenance. These are fairly simple treatments. Follow these steps above an you’ll have a oak wine barrel that will last you a lifetime.

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.

How to Harvest Yeast from Commercial Beer

Harvested Commercial Beer YeastWhen brewing homebrew clone recipes, yeast selection can often determine how accurately the clone represents the original beer. Luckily, many breweries are happy to share information about what strain of yeast they use, and these yeasts are often the same as the yeast strains currently available to homebrewers. Occasionally however, a brewery will use a proprietary strain of beer yeast that is not available on the market. So how does a homebrew get their hands on that coveted yeast? These are the times when a homebrewer may need to harvest yeast from commercial beer.

Many commercial breweries filter their beer, but once in a while you will come across a bottle or can that’s been re-fermented in the bottle – just like bottling on the homebrew level. A thin layer off yeast can be found at the bottom of the bottle or can. (Belgian brewers are famous for this; Sierra Nevada and the Alchemist’s Heady Topper are other examples.) With proper technique and impeccable sanitation, a homebrewer can actually harvest the beer yeast from the commercial beer, grow it into a pitch-able yeast culture, and use it to create an accurate clone of a commercial beer.
Let me reiterate:

When you harvest yeast from commercial beer, sanitation is crucial! Wild yeasts and bacteria will leap at the opportunity to grow in your yeast starter, so don’t give them the chance. Take care in every step to avoid contaminating your yeast culture.

I recently attempted to harvest yeast from a can of Bell’s Oberon Wheat Ale. The culture is waiting for my next batch. Follow the instructions below to harvest yeast from commercial beer:Shop Stir Plate


  1. Wash your hands and thoroughly clean and sanitize your workspace.
  1. Before opening the bottle or can, submerge it or spray it with your sanitizer of choice and allow to dry. This will sanitize the outside of the bottle or can.
  1. Prepare a sterilized mason jar, glass bottle, or flask. A drilled bung with an airlock is ideal, but at this phase, you can also just use a lid or bottle cap. Either soak the jar and its lid in sanitizer or boil in water for 20 minutes to kill off any rogue yeast or bacteria. Allow to cool to room/pitching temperature.
  1. Prepare a starter wort for the yeast using 1 cup of water and 100 grams of light dried malt extract or yeast food starter. Boil them together for 20 minutes to sterilize, then pour into your jar and cool to pitching temperature.
  1. Open the commercial beer and pour 90% of it into a glass. This is for you to drink and enjoy!
  1. Swirl the remaining beer and yeast and pitch into your starter container. Seal and allow to ferment. If you have a magnetic stir plate, use it, otherwise occasionally swirl the starter to give the yeast oxygen so they can reproduce.
  1. In a few days, you will have grown the yeast Shop Liquid Beer Yeastconsiderably, though it may be hard to detect with the naked eye. The yeast sample can be kept in the refrigerator until you’re ready to step it up. Use it as soon as possible, as it will lose viability over time. Follow the instructions for preparing a yeast starter to pitch your yeast culture into a five-gallon batch of homebrew!


Have you ever harvested yeast from commercial beer? What was the beer? How did it go? How did you culture the yeast? How did you prepare the yeast starter? Give any details you like in the comments section below.
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

Own A Napa Vineyard

Yes, that’s right! You can own your own vineyard (2 vines) in California’s coveted Napa Valley for one year. Then have the crushed grapes sent to you so you can make your own Napa wine. This is a spectacular offer at a spectacular price. Quality, Napa-grown grapes sent to your door.

Here’s How It Works!
Carneros Della Notte vineyard in Napa valley is leasing their vines for one year. They will send you a certificate of ownership and mark your 2 vines by tagging them with whatever vineyard name you choose. Once the grapes (Pinot Noir) are harvested (in September), you have the option of having them sent to you so your can make your own private estate wine. Carneros Della Notte will contact you about how to do this shortly before the harvest. The crushed grapes will come to you directly from the vineyard in a 5 gallon package, crushed, and ready for fermentation. Just pay shipping.

Here’s What You Get:

  • A vineyard lease for one year (2 vines)
  • Certificate of ownership of your Napa vineyard, suitable for framing.
  • If you like, the opportunity to come visit your vines anytime. Please call ahead.
  • 2 invitations to the estate’s Annual Night Harvest Party.
  • The option of having the 5 gallons of crushed, Napa-grown, Pinot Noir grapes sent to you.
  • And as a bonus, 50% all Carneros Della Notte wine during the year.

More Info >>>

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.

Essential List Of British Beer Styles

Row Of British BeersAlong with Germany and Belgium, England is one of the epicenters of old world brewing. It’s the birthplace of such British beer styles as India pale ale, milk stout, and barley wine, to name a few styles.

From brown ales and bitters to porters and IPAs, many of the beer styles we know and love here in the US have their roots in England. Here is a list of British beer styles that put England on the world brewing map. This list is basic list with descriptions:


  • Mild – A mild ale is an English session beer, usually below 4% ABV. It’s dark in color, typically copper or brown. Milds tend to be malt forward with an emphasis on caramel, toast, and nutty flavors, often due to the use of mild ale malt. English ales such as these are often served from a cask, giving them a low carbonation and excellent drinkability – perfect for a long afternoon at the pub!
  • Bitter – Bitters refer to a group of English pale ales. Not surprisingly, this British beer style is more strongly hopped than Milds, though not usually as hoppy as American pale ales. It’s common to see some classic English hops featured in bitters, such as Challenger, North Down, Fuggles, and Kent Goldings. Like Scottish ales, bitters are named based on their alcoholic strength, with bitters being the most sessionable (about 3.5% ABV), special bitters containing a bit more of a punch (4-4.5%), and extra special bitters or ESBs packing the biggest wallop (about 5-6%). Brew your own English Bitter with the Brewer’s Best English Bitter recipe kit.
  • India Pale Ale – Though American brewers have adopted the IPA as their own, India Pale Ale is a British creation. India Pale Ales were brewed using more malt and more hops to help the ale survive the trip to India in the 19th century. The extra malt increased alcohol content, while the extra hops increased their preservative effect. An English IPA will be marked by the use of English ingredients, especially English hops like Northern Brewer, Challenger, Brewer’s Gold, Fuggles, and Kent Goldings.Shop Beer Recipe Kits
  • English Brown Ale – There are two distinct styles of English Brown Ale: Northern and Southern. The Northern Brown tends to be higher in gravity, slightly more bitter, and drier in the finish than the Southern version. The flavor of the Northern Brown Ale tends to be more nutty that caramel. Southern English Brown Ales are sessionable (usually under 4% ABV) with an emphasis on sweet malt flavor. There may be some flavors of dark fruit.
  • Porter – Porter was reportedly born in London and named after the porters who loved it so. This English beer style is a dark, brown ale, somewhat lighter in body than a stout. You can brew a clone of a popular English porter with our Steam Freak S. S. Tadcaster Porter recipe kit.
  • Milk Stout – Stout came about as a stronger version of porter. (Learn about some of the differences between stout and porter.) Stouts generally use more specialty malts like caramel malt, chocolate malt, and black malt than porter, and also more roasted barley. A milk stout, or cream stout, was invented in London. In addition to the ingredients above, it uses lactose sugar to sweeten it and give it extra body. Brewer’s Best offers a delicious Milk Stout recipe kit.
  • Shop Home Brew Starter KitBarley Wine – Barley wine is a strong ale brewed to the strength of wine, but using barley as the fermentable. It typically ranges from 7-12% ABV. Learn some tips for how to craft your own barley wine recipe on the E. C. Kraus Homebrewing Blog!


What are some of your favorite British beer styles? Did we miss something in our basic list of beer styles? Share in the comments below!
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

My Wine’s Fermenting Without Adding Any Yeast

Wild Yeast On GrapesWhy is my grape juice bubbling and I have not added my yeast yet.

Name: Jerry R.
State: PA
Hello Jerry,

The simple answer is your juice is naturally fermenting because of wild yeast. This is why a wine will ferment without adding yeast, at all.

Yeast is everywhere: floating in the air, landing on plants and animals. It is ubiquitous to the nature in which we live. Your grape juice either picked up some wild yeast somewhere, or it started naturally fermenting from yeast that were on the grapes themselves.

Most of the time, vineyards selling fresh grape juice to home winemakers will treat it with sulfites such as potassium metabisulfite to destroy any of the wild yeast and to temporarily protect if from fermentation and spoilage. This would eliminate any chance of a wine fermentation occurring from the natural yeast that was on the grapes.

But there is still the issue of the wild yeast that is floating around. From the oranges sitting on the kitchen counter to the cat who just came inside for a little nap, the sources of yeast are many and unstoppable.

Once a few cells of the wild yeast make it to your wine juice, then it becomes party time. A wine fermentation will ignite with the natural yeast. Slowly, the yeast will start to consume the sugars and use that for energy to multiply themselves into a larger colony. As the colony becomes larger the growth will slow down and the focus will turn to the productions of alcohol. This is how a wine ferments without adding yeast.Shop Wine Yeast

What is described above is no different than what happens when you add a domesticated wine yeast. This begs the question, “why add yeast at all?” The answer is simple, with wild or natural yeast you never know what you are getting. Yeast is not just yeast. There are thousands of yeast strains, and with each strain are an endless number of varying mutations.

With a domesticated wine yeast: 1) you know what you are getting, 2) the strain is kept consistent, and 3) the strain has been bred for a specific characteristic, such as alcohol tolerance, flavor profile and such. Domesticated wine yeast pack more firmly on the bottom of the fermentation vessel as sediment so you can more easily rack the wine off of it. You may want to take a look at a wonderful article we have on the reasons you should use a domesticated wine yeast.

Now that you know your wine fermentation is from natural yeast. What should you do?

Fortunately, there is a simple remedy for such a situation. Wild or natural yeast are not very resilient to sulfites, and sulfite is the active ingredient in Campden tablets, potassium metabisulfite and sodium metabisulfite. All you need to do is add a dose of any one of the above, and the wild yeast will easily be destroyed and no more natural fermentation. Wait 24 hours, then add a domesticated wine yeast to the juice. During this 24 hour period you should leave the grape juice uncovered, or at most, covered with no more than a thin towel. Shop Potassium BisulfiteThis will allow the sulfur to release as a gas and dissipate. Once the domesticated wine yeast has been added, you should see a renewed fermentation start within 24 to 36 hours.

Having a wine ferment from natural yeast is not a horrible thing but it is something you’d prefer not to have. It’s like rolling the dice with Mother Nature. The important thing to understand is that a wine fermentation can occur without adding yeast, but there is something you can easily do about it.

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.

A Quick Look At The Different Types Of Specialty Malts Used To Make Beer

Specialty Malt For All Grain BrewingWe recently covered a number of popular base malts, which form the majority, or foundation, of a given all-grain beer recipe. Most homebrew recipes will incorporate a small to moderate amount of specialty malts to give the beer additional character, color, and flavor. Every specialty malt has its own unique characteristics that it adds to a beer, which may be used alone or combined with other specialty malts to create a certain malt profile.

So what are some of the most popular specialty malts used in beer? Here’s a rundown of the descriptions of the different types of specialty malts you might use for partial-mash or all-grain brewing.


Most specialty malts are made from barley grain, but these first two are made from wheat and rye.

  • Wheat malt – Wheat malt is an adjunct grain that provides bready wheat flavor, body, head stability, and diastatic power, with little impact on color. A little may be added to ales and lagers, or a larger portion may be the backbone of a German weizen. If using a substantial amount of wheat, rice hulls are recommended to prevent a stuck mash.
  • Rye malt – Rye malt can be used in many of the same ways as wheat malt, but provides a distinctly different flavor, often described as spicy. Think of the flavor difference between wheat bread and rye bread. Rye also contributes body, and sometimes a mouthfeel described as oily or slick. Most rye pale ales will only use about 10-20% rye malt, while a German roggenbier may use as much as 100%.


All of the descriptions below are for the different types of specialty malts used in beer that are made from barley grain:

  • Carapils® malt – Carapils®, or dextrin malt, is a very lightly colored malt used to increase body and head retention without affecting color. This is accomplished due to the higher level of unfermentable dextrins in this malt. Generally only 5% or less is used in a grain bill.Shop Barley Grains
  • Munich malt– Munich malt can be used as either a base malt or a specialty malt. It is commonly added in smaller amount (1-2 lbs.) to add a malty or bready depth of flavor to the grain bill, though beers may be made with up to 100% Munich malt. Munich malt contains enough diastatic power to self-convert.
  • Aromatic malt – Aromatic malt is a Belgian-style Munch malt contributing, rich, sweet, toasted, and malty flavors to a beer. Commonly used in brown ales and darker Belgian styles such as dubbels.
  • Victory® malt – Victory® malt is a trademarked specialty malt made by Briess. As a lightly roasted malt, it has a nutty, biscuit-flavor characteristic. A small amount (~5%) may add a slight biscuit flavor to a lighter ale or lager. Use more in a darker beer to bring out those same flavors. No diastatic power.
  • Special B – Special B is another darker Belgian-style malt. At 118˚L, it is only appropriate for use in darker beer styles. For example, a pound in a Belgian dubbel or barleywine will contribute strong flavors of raisin or toffee.
  • Caramel malt – Of all the different types of specialty malts, this category is the broadest. A wide range of caramel and crystal malts provide color, body, and flavor to a number of beer styles. They’re rated by color, from 10 to 120 degrees Lovibond. At the lower end of the spectrum, they may offer flavors of caramel, biscuit, or honey. Sweet malt flavors become more rich into the 60 to 80 range. Caramel 90 and 120 offer darker color and flavors of raisins, dates, and burnt sugar. All caramel malts will contribute some unfermentable dextrins to your beer, increasing body and head retention.
  • Carafa malt – This type of specialty malt is a very dark, de-bittered roasted malt. Use it when aiming for a beer with color, but no astringent, roasted bitterness. Commonly used in swarzbier, dunkel, and black IPA, but also works in less roasty stouts and porters. Very dark at 500˚L.Shop Barley Crusher
  • Chocolate malt – A dark roasted malt offering chocolate flavor. A pound is plenty in a five-gallon porter or stout, though as much as two pounds may be used. A very small amount can be used to adjust color in amber or red ales.
  • Black patent – A very dark, very bitter specialty malt. Too much may make your beer taste burnt. Generally, 1-4 oz. of black patent in a stout will contribute plenty of dark roasted flavor and color.


This is just a brief list of the more common different types of specialty malts along with a description of their basic characteristics. There are many other specialty grains available that can used in beer as well. What are some of your favorite specialty malts?
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.