A Simple Guide To Metabisulfites & Wine Making

Sodium Metabisulfite, Potassium Metabisulfite and Campden TabletsI have a quick question that I can’t find the answer to. I’m hoping you can help me out. Which is better, campden tablets, sodium metabisulfite or potassium metabisulfite? I’ve looked in several places but don’t understand why you need all 3 to make wine.

Hello Shaun,

Thanks for the great question. This is an issue that perplexes many wine making hobbyist, so I’m glad you brought it up. To answer it, I have put together a simple guide to metabisulfites below.

The first thing to understand is that all three of these wine making ingredients do the same thing: Campden tablets, sodium metabisulfite and potassium metabisulfite, they all add sulfites to a solution. Whether it be wine or water the result is the same. Regardless of which of the three you use, the result is the same. Sulfites are being added to the liquid.

So what’s the difference? Honestly, not much. The main difference between sodium metabisulfite and potassium metabisulfite is that one will leave residual amounts of sodium in the wine and the other will leave some potassium.

Many home winemakers will lean towards using potassium metabisulfite instead of sodium metabisulfite in their wines as a means of avoiding more sodium intake in their diet. But in reality, this is somewhat futile.

If the normal recommended dose of sodium metabisulfite is used—1/16 teaspoon per gallon—the residual sodium being added is equivalent to one slice of pickle per case of wine. Not enough to affect the flavor and certainly not enough to affect your diet.

Potassium metabisulfite is slightly stronger than sodium metabisulfite by volume—17% stronger—but this is not enough to be taken into account if you are only making 5 or 10 gallons of wine at a time. With either we recommend the same dosage.Shop Sulfite Tester

Now that we have cleared that up, what makes Campden tablets different from potassium and sodium metabisulfite? Again, not much. Campden tablets are nothing more than potassium metabisulfite in tablet form. The tablets are measured in a dose for one gallon of wine. You simply use one tablet per gallon.

So in the case of tablets, it’s a matter of convenience. If a home winemaker is only making a gallon or two of wine at a time, they may want to use Campden tablets instead of having to measure out a 1/16 teaspoon dose for each gallon. They are just a way to keep things simple.

As to your question as to which one is best to use, in reality, it just doesn’t matter. I say, ‘pick one and go with it’. Many home wine makers will use sodium metabisulfite for sanitizing their equipment and wine bottles and then use the potassium metabisulfite to go directly into the wine for preservation. But in reality, if you don’t want to buy both… not a big deal.

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.

49 thoughts on “A Simple Guide To Metabisulfites & Wine Making

  1. I have been using potassium metabisulfite for years as a preservative. However, in my last Cab Sav I beleive I put more that the 1/16 teaspoon per gallon. I am getting an aftertaste in my wire that I associate with the potassium metabisulfite.
    Question, will time in the bottle help to remove this taste ?

    • No. Unfortunately, sulfite can be tasted when it reaches a certain concentration. You need to account for all sulfite added during the wines life. It does not go away but becomes bound. Only free sulfite can protect the wine but total sulfite (bound plus free) is what you can eventually taste. The goal is to add as little as possible but enough to protect. The best bet is to test the wine for free sulfite and add only what is absolutely needed.

  2. We have been using the commerical fruit steamer for juce extraction.Do you have any comments relevant to this procedure. Thank you– we enjoy your news letters very much. Herb

  3. Dick, if the aftertaste if coming from excessive potassium metabisulfite, it will not diminish too much over time. Your best bet would be to let the wine breath in a carafe or similar for an hour or so before consuming to allow the sulfites to escape from the wine.

  4. A steam juicer is great for extracting juice, particularly when you are dealing with your harder fruits. You can find more information about using a steam juicer on this blog by typing "steam juicer" (in quotes) in the search field above and to the left on this page.

  5. Hi, I made a 5 gal. batch of blackberry and apple wine. they are still in 5 gal. containers. they are crystal clear but were supposed to be bottled 6 mo. ago. Did I ruin them or can I bottle them?

  6. I have talked to people who are allergic or maybe sulfite intolerant…not sure. I’m wondering if there is a way around using sulfites or some alternative. I’d like to make wine that they could enjoy as well. Well, can ya’ help me?

  7. Is there anyother way to sanitize the wine than using any of the sulfites. My Mom used to make tropical fruit wine just by adding the sugar and the yeast and allowing it to ferment without any sulfites. I am afraid that my mom did not know anything by the name of sulfites. What say you

  8. James, there is no reason that your wine is bad because it has not been bottle yet. The wine is aging in bulk, just as it would in the bottle. The only thing I ask is that you do not disturb the wine until you are actually ready to bottle. Just let it be.

  9. Holger, you can make wine without sulfites. The problem is with the wine keeping. The clock is always ticking with this wines. So if you plan on making wines without sulfites, plan on drinking them quickly–a few months–and keep them in a cool place.

  10. Denfield, you can sanitize the equipment with all kinds of materials, but there is not anything other than sulfites that works to sanitize the juice itself. See previous post as well.

  11. We "simmer" all our fruit for 15-20 minutes, this "kills "all bacteria. A person in a wine supply store told us this. and do not use anysulfits—-we have been making wine for over 10 years and have not had a "failure",

  12. I am slightly confused with gallon and tea spoonful measures. Can you explain it in terms of grams of metabisulphite and liters of fruit juice?

  13. Shishir, the amount you use is very small. I’ve converted teaspoons and gallons to grams and liters for you. It converts to .08524 grams per liter, or 85.24 milligrams per liter.

  14. The questions and the answers are very interesting and helpful.My wine seems to always come out cloudy at first. It finally clears ofter setting for some time.My friend who taught me how to make wine , has wine that always comes out almost cristal clear. What am I doing wrong ?

  15. Walter, most wine’s will clear up nicely on their own when given enough time. Some more so than others depending on what kind of wine it is. If you are not satisfied with the clarity of your wine I would suggest taking a look at the clarifiers listed on our website. If you wine already looks clear but not clear enough, I would in particular recommend using the Kitosol 40.

  16. Been making wine since ’77 and do not use any of the sulfites. Have not had a problem with spoilage, even after 8 years of ageing.

  17. opened wine after two days to add yeast & noticed some mold in one of the pulp bags , is this a problem. I used campden tablets to start. thanks

  18. Garry, yes this is a problem. Your best course of action would be to remove the visual mold. This add another dose of sulfites. You will need to add another pack of wine yeast, but wait 24 hours before you do so.

  19. In my first winemaking effort I bought a kit and followed the directions very carefully. The wine is very good except when you inhale the vapors it seems to go through your sinuses and nasal passages very quickly. I’ve been told it may have too much metabisulfites. Is this harmful and how can I neutralize it?

  20. Kevin, it is more likely to be CO2 gas from the fermentation that is still trapped in your wine. Usually in the directions there will be a step to degas the wine. This is done by agitating it. I would suggest stirring your wine vigorously but without splashing, so as to not introduce oxygen into the wine. You should see bubbles rise out of the wine. Do so until the vapors are gone.

  21. This is the first year we used wine conditioner we used a 1/2 bottel in each 5 gal carboid and then added simple syrup to sweeten more. We bottled and then in about a week the corks started to pop. Is there anything we can do to stop this cork poping?

  22. I have read that Sod/ Pot mtabisulphite solution can be stored and reused for sanitizing the carboys and bottles etc. How long can the solution be stored and ow often can it be used?

  23. Paul, the only choices you have is store the wine in a refrigerator or put the wine back into a fermenter and allow the fermentation activity to complete then rebottle.

  24. Shishir, you can keep this solution for very long periods of time. It is very stable. The only exception to this is if you add an acid to the water along with the sulfite. Then it will not store more than a day or so.

  25. how imperative is degassing as it relates to the finished product? If, indeed imperative, when is the best time. My wine is in the secondary fermentation stage and is slowly approaching the end of fermentation.

  26. Mike, you do not have to degas a wine at all, however the expected results is a wine with some bubbles rising in the glass, and a touch of carbonation on the tongue. You may want this for some wines: Lambrusco… Zinfandel, maybe. Degassing should be done after the wine has cleared, but before you add the last dose of sulfites before bottling.

  27. I completely overestimated the amount of Sodium Metabisulphite after pressing grapes and cannot get the yeast to take. Can I remove the excess in any way?

  28. Alf, your only hope of getting your fermentation going is to splash the wine must around in a way that allows the sulfites to dissipate. You did not say how much you added, so I’m not sure how far off your are. It is possible that you add so much that the flavor will affected even if the fermentation starts, so watch out for that as well. Here’s some information that should help you out.

    How To Save A Wine With Too Much Sulfite

    • Shane, regardless is it was sodium-based or potassium-based bisulfite, you added more than you should have. Either would have been fine, however the dosage should be 1/16 teaspoon per gallon. For 6 gallons, that comes out to 3/8 of a teaspoon. The wine will not ferment with that heavy of a dosage of sulfite. There is something you can do to remedy this. Sulfite wants to release from the wine as a gas if given an opportunity to do so. By agitating and splashing the wine, you should be able to get the sulfite level low enough to allow a fermentation. Here is more on this subject:

      How To Save A Wine With Too Much Sulfite

  29. Great questions and even better answers, but I have one more. Potassium Metabisulphite seems to have a shelf life of one year or less and after that I only use it for sanitizing.
    My question is do Campden tablets have a similar shelf life issue?

    • Tim, our recommendation is to use the campden tablets, sodium metabisulfite and the potassium metabisulfite within two years.

  30. I am making a wine kit. It came with packets of metabisulfite and
    potassium sorbate to add after fermentation. I mistakenly used
    the metabisulfite packet to sanitize my equipment, so now only
    have the potassium sorbate to add after I rack the wine into the carboy.
    My question is, should I add sodium metabisulfite (1/16 tsp per gallon)
    along with the potassium sorbate at this time? I measured the packet of
    potassium sorbate and it measured 2.5 teaspoons of powder.

    • Karen, yes at bottling time we would recommend adding 1/16 teaspoon of either sodium or potassium metabisulfite for each gallon of wine to protect from spoilage.

  31. I have made wine from kits quite a few times. It’s time to try without the kit. I ordered (and will be picking up this evening) 6 gallons of Chilean Merlot Grape Juice from a local Wine and Hop shop. I understand adding K or Na metabisuphite at 1/16 tsp per gallon and then wait 24 hours before adding yeast. Do I need to add more when it comes time to bottle? It is a merlot so it will be in secondary for a while and in bottles for about a year. I certainly don’t want to add too much. Also, what are your feelings on adding oak?

    Thanks in advance,

  32. So It has been a while since I have made any wine. I made 2 batches after doing some reading when I was younger I made wine with bread yeast and they killed them selves off at about 10% alcohol or so, but now i did 2 batches just to see the difference in bread yeast and wine yeast i read wine yeast should taste better but i think it just cost more to no real difference. Anyways my questions come in where I just added my meta and sorbate but the wine is very dry so i wanted to re-sweeten it. I realized after trying it that you shouldn’t really use cheery in wine it seems to resemble the taste of cough syrup without the sugar. So i though why not just use another type of juice to sweeten it. Would this be ok I haven’t tried this before? The original blend was strawberry, cherry and blueberry and it has a very strong alcohol taste after having fermented for 5 months so im not worried about deluding it . I just want to get rid of the cherry taste without ruining the wine.

  33. I mistakenly added the potassium metabisulfite and the yeast at the same time. Do I wait 24 hrs and put another yeast pack in to start fermentation?

  34. I have an allergy to sodium sulfate. Added 4 Campden tablets in primary fermentation and left him a 24-hour ventilation .. Is sodium sulfate evaporate completely after 24 hours but no longer be its subsequent impact

  35. I just started a batch of blueberry wine last night. Previously we used campden tablets (sodium metabisulfite), We put 1 tablet per 2 & 1/4 gallons of water. I was only able to buy powder this time and put one tsp per 2 & 1/4 gallon. The wine has not started fermenting overnight. Did I put to much of the chemical, can it be saved?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *