What Causes A Nutty Flavor In Wine?

Nutty Flavor In WineMy red wine harvested this year is currently going through a malolactic fermentation, but it has a nutty flavor that has persisted for a month or so. I have never tasted this particular flavor in a wine undergoing malolactic fermentation before. What causes a nutty flavor in wine?

Jack W. – TX
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Hello Jack,

A malolactic fermentation can have a light, nutty influence on a wine, but it is typically not noticeable in reds. It is more likely to be a characteristic experienced in whites, more specifically, Chardonnay.

If the your homemade wine has a nutty flavor or taste that is more like hazelnut, I would not be concerned about it too much. It is most likely coming from the malolactic culture. But, if your homemade wine has more of a bitter nut flavor, giving almost a metallic impression, then it could be something called autolysis.

Autolysis is a process that can happen as a fermentation runs out of sugars. The active yeast cell – still looking for food – will begin to consume the dead and inactive yeast cells that lay at the bottom of the fermenter. In doing so, the yeast produce an enzyme that puts off a bitter-nut to metallic flavor. This is the more common reason for having a nutty flavor in wine – particularly, such a young wine.

Shop Potassium BisulfiteThe one sure way to keep autolysis from occurring in any wine is by not allowing it to sit on any dead yeast cells for extended periods of time. A few days, or even a couple of weeks is fine in some cases, but neglecting the wine further than this can result in the autolysis process occurring enough to put a nutty flavor in wine.

If you have been keeping up with your rackings, then I doubt autolysis is something that should have even brought up here. In this situation the nutty taste is most likely to be all caused by the malolactic fermentation, but if you still have the wine on the sediment from the primary fermentation, then autolysis is a very real possibility.

If after reading this you feel that the nutty flavor or taste in your homemade wine is coming from the MLF, you have a choice. You can allow the MLF to continue, or if you do not like the flavor, you can permanently stop the MLF by adding a dose of sulfite to the wine. A teaspoon of potassium metabisulfite for every 16 gallons will be sufficient. This will keep it from getting any more intense. If you feel the nutty flavor is coming from autolysis, then you will need to rack the wine into a clean vessel, away from the sediment.

Regardless of why there’s a nutty flavor in wine, it is irreversible. I have seen situations where the nuttiness has reduced or mellowed with aging, Shop Malolactic Culturebut I would not count on it happening. As a benefit, the nuttiness could end up working out to compliment other characters that develop as the wine ages. This would help by promoting the wine’s complexity.

Jack, I hope this clears up what’s happening to your wine for you. If it is a light hazelnut type flavor I would not consider it a defect at all. Consider embracing it. But if it’s a flavor you just can’t stand, hit the wine with sulfites and see what develops with a little aging.

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.

How Do You Make Brandy?

Still For Making BrandyMy name Charles, I live in NC, I have been making wine for about 7 years and have made all kinds, by the way you all got a great website, what I would like to know is how do you make brandy. I looked for a brandy recipe but can’t find one. Can you help me?

Thank you
Charles
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Hi Charles,

Making brandy is more of a process than following a recipe, and it is certainly more involved than wine making, but if you’d really like to know how to make brandy…

Brandy is essentially a wine that has gone through a distillation process. Distilling is when the alcohol and certain essences are steamed off the wine and collected into a separate container. Alcohol will steam off at a lower temperature than water so by controlling the temperature it is possible to leave water behind. What you end up with is a liquid that has a much higher alcohol concentration.

This is obviously an over-simplification, but essentially this is the answer to your question: how do you make brandy? It is an additional step beyond making the wine.

The term brandy is normally related to a distilled grape wine. Cognac, for example, is a distilled grape wine. But you can also distill other types of wines to make other types of brandys. Common examples of this would be apple wine being distilled into apple brandy or peach wine being distilled into peach brandy.

Answers, how do you make brandy.Most people are surprised to know that the brandy is a clear liquid at this point. It taste a little harsh and can give off somewhat of an oily impression in the mouth. To bring the brandy to a form that you and I would recognize as brandy, it needs to be aged to some degree.

Depending on the quality and style of the brandy being made, it will need to be aged anywhere from 1 to 50 years in barrels. The toasting of the inner wall of the barrel is where the brandy will get its familiar color.

So as you can see making brandy takes some serious dedication, maybe even more so than wine making. I personally leave it to the Hennessy’s and Martell’s to bring brandy to my world.

It is important to note here that – unlike making wine – distilling an alcohol is illegal in the United States unless you have registered with the ATF. This means bringing your operation up to their rigorous code. It also involves a tremendous cash bond that basically makes it impossible to impractical for any individual to set up a operation for personal use. If you choose not follow the laws of the land then you are considered to be a moonshiner making moonshine.

If you would like to read more about distilling, including distilling brandy, we do have a book on the subject. The “Lore Of Still Building” has a lot of information about distilling principals as well as how to build various styles of stills.

Charles, I hope this answers your questions. You’re not the only person to ask, “how do you make brandy?” So, I thought this would be a good time to post this to the blog, as well.

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.

The Benefits Of Wine Kits vs Fresh Grapes

Wine Kits vs Fresh GrapesWhat is the going opinion of making wine with fresh grapes and crushing them, as opposed to using a wine kit? Is one better than the other by default, or would you say either method can produce excellent or horrible results?

Phil B. – TN
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Hello Phil,

Thanks for bringing up this great question about wine kits vs fresh grapes. It’s a question we get from time to time, so I’ll be more than happy to answer it here…

Whether you are making wine from grapes or making wine from kits the quality of the wine starts with the quality of the grapes. There is an adage in the wine making industry that says:

“You can never make a wine that is
better than the grapes used to make it.”

 

What this means is that you’ll never make great wine out of poor wine grapes. The quality of the wine always starts with the quality of the grapes.

When making wine from fresh grapes the individual winemaker usually has a limited selection of grapes to choose from. Quality can suffer when dealing in the take-it-or-leave-it type of market that often arises for the home winemaker.

The quality of grapes that you will find in wine kits varies from good to outstanding. It is not in the interest of these kit producers to spend their time preparing and packaging poor wine grapes. It doesn’t make economic sense, so great care is taken to locate and acquire grapes that are above average quality.Shop Wine Kits

This is one of the major advantages to using a wine kit vs fresh grapes. You are able to rely on the wine kit producer’s expertise in selecting quality grapes. So on the whole you’ll be starting with a better quality grape when using a wine kit than when obtaining grapes on your own. Of coarse, there are always exceptions. Living near a grape growing mecca such as Napa can turn this point on its head, but for most home winemakers, this is a consideration that should be given some weight.

We offer an array of different brands of wine kits. As you go up the ladder in price, the finer your selection of grape – starting with our California Connoisseur wine kits which produces fine, everyday drinking wines on up to our Cellar Craft Showcase wine kits which features specially selected grapes from specific wine regions around the world. Currently, there are over 150 grape juices, and they’re available all throughout the year.

How much you spend depends on the level of taste. Some people are completely happy with the California Connoisseur wine kits and could not tell a difference even if they did choose a more expensive kit. For others, the California Connoisseur simply would not do. How far up the ladder one goes is very much a personal choice.

Shop FermenterUnfortunately, quality grapes do not guarantee a stellar wine, it’s just the first requirement necessary to get there. Between the grapes and the wine bottle is a whole host of other factors such as: acidity, alcohol, sweetness, etc.

Making wine from a wine kit alleviates you from these variables. This is because all these factors have already been taken care of for you by the wine kit producers. They balance the acidity, sugar content and many other features such as clarification and oak treatment to match the typical character of the wine you are making. By eliminating as many variables as possible they are helping to insure that you will make a remarkable wine every time. This is a very valuable benefit of using wine kits vs fresh grapes – especially for the beginner.

Now having said this, I understand completely that we are talking about a hobby, and for some, part of the hobby is the passion that goes into the picking, the crushing, the pressing, and so forth. I get that. And if this is you, I completely support your efforts to make wine from the dirt to the wine bottle. I’m just trying to bring total objectivity to the consideration of using wine kits vs fresh grapes.

Shop Wine Making KitsSo while both wine kits and fresh grapes holds their own rewards, by starting with a wine you are virtually eliminating any chance of producing a bad wine. Add to that the incredible selection that is now available to the home winemaker and it starts to become apparent that a wine kit is the way to go for the beginner.

I hope this covers all your questions and curiosities about wine kits vs fresh grapes. Please realize that regardless of which path you decide to take, we will be more than happy to help you in any way you need.

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.

The Power of Blending Homemade Wines

Person Blending WinesI have been following your blog for some time and find it very helpful. I have a question about blending wines. I am an amateur winemaker starting with grapes and moving on to fruit wines. I recently made about 3 gallons of semi-dry red raspberry wine from frozen raspberries that came out very nice but intensely full of flavor. My wife describes it as “almost wanting to pick the seeds out of your teeth”. Although it has a very nice finished wine I am thinking of blending a portion with other wines. I have a young peach that I will experiment with in a small batch but not sure about peaches and raspberry. What I am wondering is if you have any suggestions in blending this with a commercial wine such as a Riesling or a chardonnay.

Name: Ray S.
State: Connecticut
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Hello Ray,

Blending homemade wines is a very subjective endeavor, but one that can improve a wine that is out of balance in some way. In a nutshell, you need to find a wine that is on the opposite end of the scale of the fault you are trying to fix, and then figure out how much of that wine you need to add to fix your wine’s fault. This is what blending wine at home is all about. It’s a technique for making 1 + 1 = 3.

In the case of your raspberry wine, it sounds like the flavor is too intense in some way. This usually means that the wine is too acidic. That would be my guess, but don’t let me tell you what is at issue. Think it through.

Citric acid is the primary acid in raspberries and would make the wine too sharp or tart tasting, particularly if the fruit used to make the wine happened to be too tart, or if too much raspberry was used.

Shop Grape ConcentrateIf the wine is too puckering or has a dry bitterness or astringency as opposed to sharp or tart flavor, this is usually from too much tannin in the wine. This can happen when the fruit is over processed or left in the fermentation too long. The tannin is in the fibers of the fruit. When the fruit is over macerated – like when using a blender – too much tannin releases causing the wine to be puckering or bitter.

When blending homemade wines it’s up to you to make the determination of what really is the fault, and then after doing so, choosing a wine to blend that has the opposite characteristics.

From what you have said, I would venture a guess that you should blend your wine with something along the lines of an apple or pear wine. These wines do not have a lot of flavor and are not all that tart or astringent. This is because the primary acid in these wines is malic as opposed to citric. This is a fruit acid that is not nearly as sharp on the tongue. These wine’s also tend to have lower levels of tannin than most. The resulting effect would be that the intensity of the raspberry flavor would be knocked down and and tartness or puckering taste would be marginally neutralized, as well. But having said this you could try any wine that has a light flavor profile.

Regardless of the wine you choose to try, when blending homemade wines the one Shop Fermenterthing I strongly urge you to do is to do test blends first. Don’t pour a whole bottle of wine into your 3 gallons of raspberry and see what you think, but rather, take a measured sample of the raspberry wine and added to it a measured sample of the wine you have chosen to blend. You can even go so far as to have a series of different blending ratios and have someone else do a blind tasting to determine which on is best.

The point here is to be methodical and not whimsical when blending homemade wine. By doing so you increase you chances considerably of ending up with a wine that you can’t wait to drink instead of a wine that you can just tolerate.

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.

How To Fix Homemade Wine That Is Too Sweet

Homemade Wine Is Too SweetI need some help. My homemade wine is too sweet. I made 2 batches of wine one of Blackberry/Raspberry and the other Blueberry/Raspberry/Cranberry. Although they have a great flavor they are way to sweet, can I add some more yeast to get them to ferment some more of the sugar out?

Karey C. – OR
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Hello Karey,

Both of your wines sound like great fruit combinations. So sorry to hear they are causing you a little problem. Keep reading to learn how to fix homemade wine that is too sweet.

 

There are 2 possible reasons why a homemade wine is too sweet:

  1. Too Much Sugar Was Added To The Wine Recipe
    There is a limit to how much alcohol a yeast can tolerate. Once a fermentation produces alcohol to this level, the yeast will simply slow to a stop. If you know that your fermentation has already produced 13-14% alcohol, but the wine is still too sweet, then you’ve added too much sugar to the wine must. You can determine the wine’s alcohol level by taking beginning and current alcohol readings with a wine hydrometer and comparing the two. If this is the reason your homemade wine is too sweet, there is not a whole lot you can do to reduce the sweetness, or make it more dry, other than blend it with a dry wine. Shop HydrometersFor example, you can make blackberry/raspberry wine next year that comes out dry, and then blend this years wine with that. This year’s wine will store just fine in bulk. Just remember to add sulfite to the wine and to eliminate any head-space that may be in with the wine. Hopefully, this will help make your sweet wine taste better.
  1. The Fermentation Did Not Complete
    It very well could be that you added an appropriate amount of sugar to produce a reasonable amount of alcohol. It’s just that the fermentation did not fully ferment the sugar into alcohol as it should have. This is known as a stuck fermentation. This could happen for a number of reason. The most common one is temperature. The fermentation got to cool. Yeast are very sensitive to temperature. There are many other reasons as to why your fermentation may have stopped short of its full potential – too many to go over here. I would suggest going through the Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure. This will help you to ferret out the exact cause of such a predicament. Once you know the reason, you can take corrective action to get the fermentation active, again.

 

Again, the key to knowing why your homemade wine is too sweet is the wine hydrometer. If you did not take a beginning hydrometer reading, you will not be able to tell whether you have 7% alcohol and a fermentation that needs fixing, or if you have 15% alcohol and have simply added too much sugar to your wine.

Shop Grape ConcentrateAs to your suggestion of adding more wine yeast, this is rarely a solution to a problem. This is because there is still yeast in the wine. It’s just that it has gone dormant. It is more likely to be an issue of getting the wine yeast in a situation to where it will start fermenting again.

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.

Sparkolloid: When Do You Add It To Wine?

Sparkolloid Fining Powder Was Used On This WineAt what point do I add the Sparkolloid to my wine?

Jerre M. — TN
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Hello Jerre,

Thank you for the great question about when to add Sparkolloid to a wine.

Technically, Sparkolloid fining can be added anytime after the wine has stopped fermenting. However, normally it is added after the wine has been treated with bentonite fining. Sparkolloid powder is kind of the left-hook to the bentonite’s right-jab. One works to take out what the other can’t. You will find all the instructions for its use on the side of the container we offer.

Bentonite takes the most particulate out of the wine, so it is typically used first. Once the fermentation stops, a winery will add a dose of bentonite to drop out the the bulk of the proteins. This is mostly made up of yeast cells and tannin. Most would drop out on its own, but the bentonite helps it drop out more quickly.

While bentonite is the best at dropping out large amounts, what it is not particularly the best at is adding a polish to the wine, or getting out that final, last bit of particles. While the wine will look somewhat clear after a bentonite treatment, there are fining agents that can add more polish to the wine. This is where Sparkolloid finings come in. Sparkolloid powder is able to take out finerShop Sparkolloid particles by neutralizing their electrical charge and allowing them to collect and drop out. This increases the luster or brilliance of the wine. For this reason, after a bentonite treatment is when to add Sparkolloid finings to a wine.

Sparkolloid powder is not good at taking out large volumes of particulate matter. For this reason, if you are only using Sparkolloid to fine your wine, then I would wait a month or two after the fermentation, to make sure that what can drop out on its own does so. Once the wine quits improving in clarity on its own, rack it off the sediment and add the Sparkolloid finings.

So, when to add Sparkolloid powder to a wine really depends on whether or not bentonite is being used beforehand. If so, wait about a week and then add it. If you are not using bentonite, then you may need to wait several weeks before the wine has cleared enough for Sparkolloid to be effective.

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.

What’s The Skins Got To Do With It?

Grape Juice Going Into Wine GlassI enjoyed reading your article on making wine from grapes. I  hope you can answer my question about wine to press the grapes. Why is it important to ferment the must with the grape skins prior to pressing? Your article says that white wine grapes can be pressed right away, whereas, red wine grapes is fermented prior to pressing. Please explain because I want to lean how to make white wine later this year.

Thank you,
Gabriel
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Hello Gabriel,

This is a great question, and an area of wine making that causes some confusion for many beginning winemakers. When to press the grapes and when to have the grape pulp in the fermentation are fundamentals that need to be understood.

One thing that needs to be pointed out is that if you are making wine from concentrated juices or wine ingredient kits, the skins have nothing to do with your wine making at all. The juice producers have taken care of everything for you when it comes to handling the grape skin or pulp. So just relax.

If you take the darkest or reddest grapes you can find and run them through a grape crusher. Then press the grapes with a press. You will not have a red juice. What you will have is a pink or blush juice. If you ferment that juice you will have a pink or blush wine, not a red wine. There is nothing in the fermentation process that will make it turn more red than it was at pressing.

The color in a red wine comes from the grape skin not the juice. This is the reason that the skins are left in the must during the fermentation: so that the color can be extracted from the pulp into the juice. There are also body and aroma elements that are extracted as well making the wine more structured and complex.

With white wines it now starts to become clear why the grapes are pressed right away. Contact with the skin has very little value when making a white wine. You are no Buy Wine Pressnecessarily looking for color.

Some wineries do live the pulp and skins in with the juice for a very short period of time to add depth and structure to the wine, but it is usually a matter of hours not days. For example, this might be done with a Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc grape where significant body is expected.

I hope this answers your question sufficiently and gives you a better idea of when to press the grapes and when to leave the pulp in with the fermentation when making your wine.

Happy Wine Making,
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 A Sulfur Smell In My Wine!

Wine With A Sulfur SmellI’m making a Sauvignon Blanc from a 6 gallon bucket of refrigerated fresh juice that was inoculated with a wine yeast by the producer. Instructions on bucket: bring must to 76 degrees stir 2x daily, recover with bucket lid and rack to secondary fermenter at 1.020. My starting SG 1.090 and I racked last night after two weeks to secondary at 1.020 and noticed the must smells like a hard boiled egg. Any suggestions, or will this smell work its way out during future rackings?

Name: Michael N.
State: Pennsylvania
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Hello Michael,

So sorry you are having such an issue with this batch.

The hard-boiled egg smell you are referring to is obviously a sulfur odor. This sulfur smell in your homemade wine comes from hydrogen sulfide.

Hydrogen sulfide is a compound that is naturally produced during a wine fermentation. All wine fermentations will produce some hydrogen sulfide, however there are some scenarios that can cause more of it to be produced than others. Apparently, your wine falls into one or more of these situations:

 

  • It could be that your wine is fermenting with a wild yeast strain. Some wild yeast are not that good at fermenting a wine must. They have to work harder causing an over-production of hydrogen sulfide. However, if the wine must was sulfited before your received it, this situation is not very likely. Wild yeast are very sensitive to sulfites. They would have easily been destroyed by it.
  • A nutrient deficient wine must can cause a sulfur smell in a fermenting wine. Whether the yeast is wild or domesticated, it will have to work harder to get the job done when they are malnourished, again, causing excessive hydrogen sulfide production. Your wine must does not fit this scenario very well. If you are using 100% grape juice, there is a significant amount of nutrients available. Only on a rare occasion will a grape juice fermentation produce an abundance of sulfur odor because of a lack of nutrients.Shop Yeast Nutrients
  • Having a fermentation that is too warm can cause a sulfur smell in fermenting wine. If the fermentation was over 80°F., this can put the wine yeast under additional strain and increase the likelihood of too much hydrogen sulfide being produced.
  • Having too little yeast trying to do too much work can cause a sulfur smell in a fermenting wine. If for some reason the wine yeast added did not have enough viable cells (old yeast), or if some of the wine yeast was destroyed during storage or shipping of the wine must, this can cause an over-production of hydrogen sulfide.
  • Using a domesticated wine yeast that naturally has a higher likelihood of producing hydrogen sulfide could be why you have a sulfur smell in your fermenting wine. Not all wine yeast are the same. Each one has it’s own unique set of qualities. Some wine yeast have a higher propensity towards producing higher levels of hydrogen sulfide. These wine yeast are more sensitive to the above situations.

 

Finally, it could be any combination of the above. Quite often things are not so cut-and-dry in wine making. It could be an orchestration of two or three of the above situations coming together to put your wine in the mess it is currently in.

The good news is that almost all of the time this particular fault in a wine is correctable. Quite often, time is all that is needed. Doing a racking after the fermentation can significantly help to release the sulfur odor. So does adding sulfites such as: Campden tablets, potassium  metabisulfite and sodium metabisulfite. Any of these will help to drive the hydrogen sulfide out of the wine.

Shop Potassium BisulfiteMichael, my suggestion to you is to do nothing right now. In fact there is nothing that you can do at this stage that would help the situation. Continue on as you normally would with any wine. When you get the wine to a point that it is ready to bottle, that is when an evaluation needs to be done. Simply smell and make a determination: is there still a sulfur smell in the wine? If so, there are additional steps that can be taken.

 

Removing Sulfur Smell In Wine

Most of the time the sulfur smell of hydrogen sulfide will go away with normal rackings of the wine. The addition of Campden tablets or potassium metabisulfite as normally prescribed in a wine recipe will help to drive out the sulfur smell, as well. So, it is very likely that the sulfur-y smell will go away in due time.

But, there are times when racking the wine is not enough. In these situations, removing the sulfur smell from the wine may require you to treat the wine in a splashing manner. Let the wine run down the side-wall of the fermenter as it comes out of the siphon hose when racking. Or, you can try pouring the wine from one open fermenter to the next. In many instances I’ve seen this work successfully.

Be sure to treat the wine with potassium metabisulfite after doing this to drive the oxygen out of the wine, reducing the risk of oxidation, in your wine and, as mentioned before, it will help to drive out some of the hydrogen sulfide.

In almost all cases, removing the sulfur smell from the wine will be accomplished with the above treatments, but there are some rare instances when the above treatments just are not enough. In these more drastic situations you will want to treat the wine with copper. Yes, I said copper! When the wine comes into contact with copper, a reaction will occur that causes the hydrogen sulfide to release more freely, removing the sulfur smell from the wine.

Shop Wine KitsThe easiest way I have found to do this is to purchase copper brillo pads. Place a brillo pad in a funnel and pour the wine through it. You will notice that the brillo pad will start to corrode very quickly. This is from the reaction we are seeking. If the brillo pad starts to look spent, then feel free to put another one in its place. Again, you will want to treat the wine with potassium metabisulfite after performing the treatment to drive out oxygen that was introduced into the wine.

Michael, I am confident that removing the sulfur smell from your wine will be no problem at all for you. Be patient. Do your rackings and potassium metabisulfite additions as you normally would. When it comes time to bottle the wine, if still have a sulfur smell in the wine, then you can consider treating the wine with splashing, and so forth, but I would not do anything before then.

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 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
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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
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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.