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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Is Feeding Sugar During The Fermentation Necessary?

Feeding Sugar To FermentationI am making two recipes of Peach wine now and want to know why they call for feeding sugar during the fermentation instead of adding it all at once? Adding the initial amount I get a reading of 1.055. What is the reason for adding of the sugar this way?…

Mark M. – GA
Hello Mark,

It is the thinking of some home winemakers that by feeding sugar during the fermentation you are making it easier for the wine yeast to ferment. If you add the sugar incrementally, you are less likely to have a stuck fermentation.

The reason for this is because you are not ever letting the sugar concentration of the wine must get too high with this method: you put some sugar in the wine must; the yeast ferments it into alcohol; and then you add some more.

There is some valid reasoning behind this, but it sounds like the wine recipe you are looking at is taking it a little too far.

Too much sugar in any liquid can act as a preservative. As the sugar concentration goes higher, yeast, bacteria, molds, all have a more difficult time fermenting. The is why sugar syrups do not spoil at all. The sugar concentration is so extreme that nothing can touch it.

This is true for a wine must, as well. Sugar acts as a preservative on the wine must. As the sugar concentration goes up in a wine must, it becomes increasingly difficult for the wine yeast to ferment. However, if you are targeting an alcohol level of 14% or lower, you should not have any issues in this regard. The yeast can easily ferment the amount of sugar required to make 14% or less all at once. In these situations feeding the sugar to the fermentation is nothing but needless, extra work. You can go ahead and put all the sugar in at the same time.Shop Hydrometers

The winemakers that like feeding sugar during the fermentation are typically the winemakers who are trying to drive the alcohol up as much as they can in their homemade wine. The process of feeding sugar during the fermentation becomes necessary if you are trying to produce all the alcohol you can with the wine yeast.

The winemaker would start out by adding enough sugar to ferment 13% – 14% alcohol. As the fermentation began to run out of sugar and slow down, they would then add a little more to extend the fermentation. They would continue to add sugar in increasingly smaller amounts until the wine yeast couldn’t ferment anymore.

In this situation you are fighting two elements: the preservative effects of sugar and the preservative effects of alcohol. Just like when the sugar levels go up, the yeast have a harder time fermenting, the wine yeast have a harder time fermenting when the alcohol level goes up. This means that later in the fermentation things keep getting tougher and tougher to accomplish. The increased alcohol starts to preserve the wine, making the fermentation all that more sensitive to the sugar concentration levels.

I for one do not recommend driving the alcohol up with sugar for the simple reason that the wine will taste watery and out of balance. This is because of the numbing effects of alcohol on the tongue. We can no longer taste the fruit of the wine, only the hot of the alcohol.Shop Wine Making Kits

Mark, if I were in your shoes, I would forget about feeding sugar during the fermentation regardless of what the wine recipe directions say. Instead, I would simply use my hydrometer to determine how much sugar to add to end up with a wine that’s 12% or 13%. Just keep adding sugar until the potential alcohol scale on the hydrometer reads somewhere in this area.

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.

Sanitizing Wine Making Equipment May Be Easier Than You Think!

Wine Bottles After Sanitizing Wine Making EquipmentI am filling up my shopping cart with everything I need to start making wine in one large order. I see there are several products for sanitizing wine making equipment. What’ the best sanitizer for wine making? Can you explain how to sanitize the wine making equipment? Should certain cleaners and sanitizers be used for certain materials (glass vs plastic vs stainless steel)? Are there also different recommendations for wine types? I have read on some forums that Campden tablets can add sodium to the wine is should never be used, and others say there is no difference. What are your thoughts?

Joe – CO
Hello Joe,

Thanks for your great questions about sanitizing wine making equipment. And, thanks for the order you are sending our way. It is truly appreciated!

Before you use any sanitizers, the wine making equipment should be soapy-clean. None of these sanitizers have any detergent quality to them that will help you with the grime. The wine making equipment needs to be visibly clean, first. Once you have your equipment soapy-clean then any of these sanitizers will work equally well. Any of them will be adequate for sanitizing wine making equipment to the level needed to keep your wines from spoiling.

With that being said, some are easier to use than others; some work better in certain situations than others. There are some debates as to which product is the best sanitizer for wine making. In general, I try to stick with sanitizers that don’t require any rinsing when sanitizing my wine making equipment. This is simply for the mere fact that they require less work.

The two sanitizers I personally like are Basic A and One-Step. Either of these are great for large surface areas such as fermenters. Neither require rinsing, and in fact, work better if you don’t rinse them. They are oxygenating cleansers, which means that they do their sanitizing as they air-dry on the surface of the wine making equipment. You just wet the surface and allow to air-dry.Shop Basic A

Either of these sanitizers will work for smaller items such as air-locks and rubber stoppers, but for these types of items I prefer to use sodium metabisulfite. It works a little differently than an oxygenating cleanser in that when the sodium metabisulfite is mixed with water, the vapor that comes off of the solution is what does the actual sanitizing of the wine making equipment.

One simple thing I like to do is put a few inches of this solution in the bottom of a bucket fermenter; put in all my hoses, utensils, air-locks an anything else the will fit; and then seal it up air-tight for 30 or 40 minutes. Afterword, all you need to do is dump the solution out. No rinsing is necessary.

Sodium metabisulfite is also what I prefer to use for sanitizing wine bottles. All you need to do is put an inch of the solution in the bottom of each wine bottle for 30 minutes. Dump the solution out right before filling with the wine. No rinsing is necessary.

As for the using Campden tablets you mentioned, they could be used as well for sanitizing wine making equipment, but it is much easier to use sodium metabisulfite. They are essentially the same thing only the sodium metabisulfite is in powder form, not in tablets that need to be crushed up into a powder.

Shop Sodium MetabisulfiteYou mentioned Campden tablets adding sodium to the wine. There is very little truth to this at all. Most Campden tablets are made from potassium metabisulfite, not sodium metabisulfite. From a sanitation standpoint they work the same way, only one leaves behind residual potassium, not sodium.

When sodium metabisulfite is used as a sanitizer, the amount of sodium left behind is so small as to be undetectable. When sodium metabisulfite is added directly to the wine throughout the normal course of the wine making process, the amount of sodium added to the wine is less than one slice of pickle to 2 cases of wine – no way noticeable of or any significance.

Joe, I hope this answers your questions. Sanitizing wine making equipment is an important process. It’s shouldn’t be taken lightly or glossed over.

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 Do I Make More Alcohol In The Wine?

I make wine at home, I do want the wine with more alcohol. But I don’t know how to get this done.

Name: Ketherina D.
State: NY

When it comes to controlling the alcohol level of your wines — regardless of how high or how low — it’s all about the sugar.

Alcohol is made when wine yeast ferments the sugars that are in the wine must. The sugars are converted into both alcohol and carbon dioxide or CO2 gas. (That’s the stuff that makes your soda pop fizzy.) The more sugar the wine yeast has available, the more alcohol it can potentially make.

This concept is all pretty simple up to this point — more sugar, more alcohol — but there are some limits. Wine yeast can only ferment so much alcohol before is slows down and stops completely. Once the alcohol level gets so high, it starts to act as a preservative, inhibiting the fermentation.

Some wine yeast can generally ferment to higher levels of alcohol than others, and vice versa. They are more tolerant of the alcohol, but just as important is the environment that the yeast is thrown into. Things like: temperature, nutrients, oxygen availability, or lack of, all act as variables to the equation of how much alcohol you can end up with with that yeast. It would be safe to say that these variables tend to be more important than the strain of wine yeast you are using.

The reason I’m telling you this is that it is important to understand that when you are trying to drive your alcohol up with more sugar, you can never accurately predict how far the yeast will be able to go. This is a result of all these variables. Usually, you can safely obtain 12% or maybe 13%, but anything beyond this is always in question.

This leads us to your question: how do I make more alcohol? The short answer is, very carefully.

Buy HydrometersYou can start off your fermentation with enough sugars to ferment your customary 12%. The amount of sugar needed for this can be easily determined by a hydrometer. (see: Hydrometer Scales And What They Mean) But the sugars need to get the alcohol level beyond this need to be feed in a little at a time. This is done towards the end of fermentation.

As you see the original sugars begin to run out, you add a little more sugar. As you see that deplete you add more sugar, again. You keep doing it over and over until the fermentation can go no more. Knowing how much sugar is left in the wine must is something that can be done with a hydrometer, so you will need to make sure you have a handle on its use.

I would suggest taking a look at the article, Making High Alcohol Wines. It goes over this process in greater detail. Another article that may be helpful is How Much Alcohol Do You Really Want. I goes into how alcohol effects the character of a wine. So does the blog post, Keeping Fruit Wines In Fruity Balance.

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.

Adding Wine Clarifiers Before The Fermentation

Bentonite and Super Kleer Fining AgentsI purchased three cans of Alexander’s Pinot Noir concentrate and the recipe on the label calls for 4 tsp. Bentonite and the other ingredients to be put in the fermenter before the wine yeast. The people at our local brewing store said to use Super Kleer instead and that it was better than Bentonite. I understood that both Bentonite and Super Kleer to be for clarifying before you bottle and not to be put in prior to the yeast? Am I confused?

Name: Debbie C.
State: Missouri
Hello Debbie,

You are right to have some concern.

Bentonite is a fining agent (clarifier) that can either be added in moderate amounts before the fermentation or in larger amounts after the fermentation. It is a clay that is very unique because of the fact that it has a static charge that is stronger than usual. It is this property that makes Bentonite valuable as a fining agent.

Bentonite is able to collect dead yeast cells and drag them to the bottom of the fermentation vessel, leaving a clear wine. Being continually suspended throughout the wine is one of the key factors of how well the Bentonite will work. If it is added and just sits at the bottom of the fermenter, it will do very little in the way of clearing a wine.

When added before the fermentation, not as much Bentonite is needed because it is relying on the fermentation activity to keep it stirred up. It is constantly being churned up by the rise of CO2 gas bubbles that are being created by the wine yeast. This is why your wine recipe only calls for 4 teaspoons. If added after the fermentation, more is needed to be effective, and several periodic stirring sessions are required by the wine maker, as well.Buy Mini Jet Wine Filter

Super Kleer is actually a combination of two different fining agents. Both are liquids: Chitosan and Kiesolsol. We sell something just like it called Kitosol 40. The Chitosan has a positive charge and the Kiesolsol has a negative charge. Each come in their own little pouch, and each are stirred into the wine separately.

I have never added Super Kleer or Kitosol 40 to a wine before the fermentation, so I can’t tell you what it will do to the fermentation with any certainty, but my best guess is that it would slow the fermentation down to a painful crawl. This is because the amounts that are prepared in these pouches are dosed for a finished wine — way more than you would ever want to add to a fermentation.

The presumed effect is that Super Kleer would interfere with the majority of the active wine yeast by continuously trying to collect them and drag them to the bottom in small clumps. This clumping would severely affect the wine yeasts’ ability to ferment.

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 Oak Chips To Barrel Age Your Wines

Toasted Oak ChipsI’ve started my first batch of wine using the toasted oak chips, added after the primary fermentation. I am wondering if during the racking process about to be done after the secondary fermentation, do I transfer the oak chips too?

Name: Debra M.
State: Tennessee

Hello Debra,

Using oak directly to the wine has long been one of the tricks up the home winemaker’s sleeve. It allows you to enjoy all the advantages of barrel-aging your wine without the cost or work of using and actual wine barrel.

These toasted oak chips are made from white oak that has been kilned to sap clear and then toasted to raise the woods sweetness to the outer surface of the chip. This toasting is no different than what is done to the inside of a wine barrel.

Typically, we recommend adding oak chips after the fermentation has completed and the wine has cleared. The wine is bulk-aged in something like a carboy along with the oak chips for a matter of weeks to months. You can sample the wine along the way to determine when you would like to take the chips out.

Adding the oak chips during the primary fermentation is okay, however you do not have as much control over the flavor when using this method. It’s hard to know if the wine needs more time on the chips or not. This is because you do not know what the wine is going to taste like at that point in the process.

The only exception to this argument is when you are making wine with a wine ingredient kit. Normally, these kits will instruct you to put the oak chips in the primary fermentation, just as you have done, and then remove them when racking the wine into a secondary fermenter. This method is okay in thisBuy Oak Powder situation because the producers of these wine ingredient kits already know exactly how much oak chip is needed in the primary fermenation to end up with a wine in good balance. They have already determined this by bench-testing several batches with varying quantities of oak.

If you are not making a wine from a wine ingredient kit, then I would suggest taking the toasted oak chips out of the wine must at this point. You may already have more oak impression in the wine than you like. You have no way of knowing with a wine in progress. Once the fermentation has completed and the wine has cleared, then you can revisit the possibility of adding toasted oak chips at that time for further aging.

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.