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.

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.

When To Start The Secondary Fermentation

Starting Secondary FermentationHow long can I let the wine ferment before racking into a carboy and starting the secondary fermentation? My wine has been working vigorously for almost three weeks now.

Russ — NY
—–
Hello Russ,

When to start the secondary fermentation is a question we get from time to time. The quick answer is, “it depends”.

 

If you are fermenting on fruit pulp, you will want to move the wine into a secondary fermenter around the 4th to 7th day. Whether you rack on the 4th day or on the 7th day will make a noticeable difference in the body and color of the wine. The longer the pulp is in the primary fermentation, the more tannin and color pigmentation will be extracted from the fruit. So timing is important when there is fresh fruit involved.

 

If you are fermenting from a juice concentrate, where there is no pulp involved, when to start the secondary fermentation is still important but not nearly as critical. If you are fermenting an actual wine juice kit, then I strongly suggest that you follow the directions that came with it. It will specify a number of days before your first racking.

If you do not have an actual wine juice kit but are freestyling it with some juice concentrate you have, then I would take the following into consideration when determining when to start the secondary fermentation:

 

  • Shop CarboysYou will want the primary fermentation to be long enough to allow the yeast colony to grow into healthy numbers. The primary fermentation should be exposed to air. Don’t use an air-lock on it. Just cover it with a thin towel. Oxygen is what allows that little packet of wine yeast you added to flourish to about 100 to 200 times itself. If all goes well, this will happen in about 3 days.
  • The fermentation needs to have settled down enough so that it doesn’t foam out of the secondary fermenter. You do not want the secondary fermenter to have a lot of head-space, so there will be little room for foaming. Yes, you could employ a blow-off tube into a jug of water, but it is completely unnecessary to go through such measures when simply waiting longer will do. This is not an issue that will affect the wine. It’s more of a practicality issue.
  • You do not want the wine to be sitting on dead yeast cells for extended periods of time. You want to get the wine off the sediment in a timely manner. Not doing so can cause a condition known as autolysis. This is when the live yeast cells start feeding on dead yeast cells. This mostly happens the wine yeast run out of sugars to consume. This result is an off-taste in the wine that ranges from bitter-nut to metallic. For this reason the primary fermentation should last no longer than 2 weeks, and less than this if the fermentation has already stopped.

 

Shop Wine Making KitsRuss, all these things need to be considered when trying to figure out when to start the secondary fermentation. If you are making your wine from fresh fruit, the timing is fairly narrow 4 to 7 days. If you are making your wine from a wine juice kit, the answer’s simple: follow the directions. But if you on your own with some concentrate consider the three bullet-points above.

Happy Wine Making,
Customer Service at E. C. 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.

Controlling Wine Sweetness With Wine Yeast Attenuation

Observing Wine Yeast AttenuationI want to make a sweeter wine without adding wine conditioner. Can i use a “Montrachet” ( red /white) yeast and increase the sugar per gallon to get a controlled “stuck ” fermentation with predictable results? How would I go about that to accomplish my goal?

Name: Bob B.
State: NY
—–
Hello Bob,

It is true that different wine yeast will ferment a wine down to varying levels of residual sweetness. The ability of a wine yeast to ferment all the sugars is referred to as wine yeast attenuation. Wine yeast that can ferment a wine to complete dryness is said to be a high attenuation yeast. Wine yeast that leave the wine with some sweetness are said to be a low attenuation yeast.

While attenuation has to do with a wine yeast’s ability to ferment that last bit of sugar, there is also alcohol tolerance. This is the ability of a wine yeast to ferment to higher levels of alcohol. Both attenuation and tolerance are closely correlated in the sense that as the target alcohol level of a fermentation goes up by adding more sugar, the ability of a wine yeast to attenuate becomes less. But, depending on the wine yeast’s alcohol tolerance the attenuation may be affect a lot or just a little.

You can see the differences between wine yeast in this wine yeast chart we have on our website which list alcohol tolerance and attenuation (described as “Secondary Fermentation”) listed for each wine yeast.

My reason for explaining this is that while the wine yeast you select will play a major role in how dry or off-dry your wine ends up being, there are many other factors that come into play as well. Not only is their the alcohol level you are shooting for affecting the wine’s outcome, there is also:

  • The amount of nutrients available to the yeast
  • The temperature of the fermentation
  • The amount of saturated oxygen in the water you added
  • The acidity level of the wine must
  • The amount of residual sulfite in the wine must.

This list goes on and on with each factor effecting the wine yeast’s ability to ferment — or not ferment — to some marginal degree.

Shop Wine YeastWith all this taken into consideration, it starts to become clear that controlling the ending sweetness of a wine can be very difficult, if not impossible. No two fermentation ever go exactly the same. While you could have some level of consistency if you fermented the same type of wine over and over and were careful to replicate identical conditions with each fermentation, for the average home winemaker who likes to ferment different wines, using different fruits and different concentrates, this is not a very realistic goal.

Something else that needs to be pointed out is that while different wine yeast ferment differently, the amount they vary is not all that great. While a wine yeast with high attenuation can produce a wine that is puckering dry, wine yeasts with the lowest attenuation will not make a wine seem sweet — just less dry — under typical fermenting conditions.

You can try driving up the sugar level in the wine must with the hopes of the yeast stopping because of high level of alcohol being produced, but this is a very imprecise method that could just a easily result in a wine that is disgustingly sweet.

You can try stopping the fermentation when the sweetness is to your liking, but there are a couple of difficulties with this:

 

  • The first difficulty is that it is hard to judge the sweetness you will like when the wine is still fermenting. It taste completely different during a fermentation then it will after it clears and ages a little. The level of sweetness you like may be compensating for a bitterness in the wine that will not be there later on.
  • The second difficulty is that it is not easy to stop a fermentation with any consistency. You can try adding sulfites such a Campden tablets or potassium metabisulfite, however either of these are just as likely not work as they are to work. They are not dependable in a fermenting situation. As a side note, potassium sorbate will have little to no effect on a active fermentation.

 

Shop Wine ConditionerThis leaves you with using the method most wineries would use to stop a fermentation. That is to chill the wine down, then filter. Chilling the wine down will make the wine yeast dormant. It needs to be held at 30° to 40°F. for about 3 days. Then the wine is siphoned (racked) of the settled yeast and filter with sterile filter pads in a wine filter. These filters are so fine that they will take out over 99% of any of the wine yeast that still remains.

Having said all of this, if you are actually wanting a sweet wine, the easiest and most controllable way for the home winemaker to make a sweet wine is to back-sweeten it. If you are just looking to take the dry edge off of a wine you can do this by choosing a wine yeast that has low attenuation. Good candidates for this would be: Red Star Cotes de Blanc for whites and Lalvin RC 212 for reds.

—–
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 Do Some Wine Recipes Call For Pectic Enzyme?

Fermentation Using Pectic EnzymeThis is Greg again with another question.  I have been making wine with your concentrated homemade wine kits for several years and have had a lot of fun for sure.  I would like to make apple wine…  saw the apple recipe you have on your website.  It looks a lot like making wine from concentrate.  The only thing I do not understand is the pectic enzyme. What is the purpose of adding pectic enzyme to a wine?

Greg
—–
Dear Greg,

Pectic enzyme is called for in almost all wine recipes that use fresh fruit. The recipes you see in books like The First Steps In Wine Making and the wine recipes on our website will all call for pectic enzymes. However, you do not need to add it to wines made from concentrated homemade wine kits, like the ones you have been making wine with. This is because the necessary pectic enzyme has already been added to the concentrate by the wine kit producer.

The purpose of using pectic enzyme in wine making is twofold:

  • First and foremost, pectic enzyme helps to break down the fruit’s fiber or pulp. This allows more flavor and color to be extracted from whatever fruit is being used during the fermentation.
  • Shop Pectic EnzymeSecondly, it helps to make sure the wine has a clearer, more translucent, appearance after the fermentation has completed and the wine has had ample time to clear up.

Pectic enzyme accomplishes both of these tasks by breaking down the pectin cells in the fruit. Pectin is the gelatinous material that holds together the strands of fiber found within fruits such as strawberry or grape. It is also the “stuff” that makes apple sauce thick and cloudy.

By breaking down these pectin cells, the fruit’s pulp becomes less thick. This allows more of the fruit’s character to be released during fermentation or even when running the pulp through the grape presses. Because pectin is somewhat opaque, if it isn’t sufficiently broken down during the fermentation, the resulting wine will have a pectin haze. For the most part, this type of defect is not correctable once the fermentation is complete.

When making wine from concentrated homemade wine kits, the flavor and color extraction has already been taken care of for you. No pulp is involved and Pectic enzyme is not necessary. It’s one more variable that these kits take out of the equation so that you can be a successful home wine maker.

shop_wine_pressSo as you can start to see there is a reason for adding pectic enzyme to a wine. Pectic enzyme has a purpose. It helps to extract more color and flavor from the fruit, and it helps to insure that the resulting wine is clear.

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.

Is It Necessary To Filter Wine Before Bottling?

Reflection Of Gallon Jug Of WineDo you have to filter wine before bottling it?

Name: Nancy
State: MN
—–
Hello Nancy,

Filtering a wine before bottling is not necessary. A wine will clear on its own so long as the fermentation did not go afoul, and acid and pH are in good balance.

Fining agents can even be added to the wine to help the settling process to happen more quickly and thoroughly. For example, if you are making wine from a wine juice kit, normally it will come with bentonite. This will aid in clearing process. The wine will look very clear!

So if this is the case, why do wine filters even exist?
The one thing that needs to be understood about filtering wine with a wine filter is that it is not designed to take the visual cloudiness out of the wine. The filter pads are much too fine for this. They will clog up – usually within the first gallon. Time, gravity and fining agents will take care of the cloudiness. Filtering wine before bottling is done to add a polish to the wine – to add luster and brilliance. It is done to make the wine more beautiful, not less cloudy.

When you filter a wine before bottling you also are taking the last bit of wine yeast out of the wine. This amount of yeast is completely invisible to the naked eye. Doing this helps the wine to be more stable. If the wine is filtered with the finest filter (1/2 micron), it will be considered fermentation stable. Shop Mini Jet Wine FilterBy the way, a micron is very small. There’s about 400 of them across a period you find at the end of a sentence in a typical newspaper.

If you are on the fence as to whether or not to filter your wine before bottling, I would suggest comparing your wine side-by-side with a commercially made wine of a similar color. Almost all commercially made wines are filtered. See for yourself the difference then decide if filtering is something you would like to do to your wines.

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.

Tips for Brewing A Lambic Beer Recipe At Home

Lambic BeerI love lambics. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth for anything except alcohol, but a good lambic seems out of my reach if for no other reason than I don’t have a building with louvred vents like they do in Belgium to capture wild yeasts. I’ve done a little searching online for lambics, but the process seems to be: “make a good ale, then add a bushel or two of apples and let ferment for another 2 years and bottle.” There has to be more to it than that. What do you recommend?

Name: Justin V.
State: Pennsylvania
—–
Hi Justin, thanks for your great question!

I can tell you right now that brewing a lambic beer recipe at home will be a labor of love. First, let me cover some of the elements that make a traditional lambic a lambic, and then I’ll share a couple lambic beer recipes.

As you probably know, lambics were developed around Belgium, specifically in the area of Brussels and the nearby town of Lembeek. Lambic can be traced back hundreds of years and is a very distinctive brew.

One of the main characteristics of lambic is that it is fermented with a variety of wild yeasts, particularly Brettanomyces. These wild yeasts and bacteria gave the beer a dry, unique flavor profile, a combination of tart, earthy, leather, fruity, and even “horse blanket.” As you mentioned, Belgian brewers would traditionally move their wort to a “cool ship,” a large, rectangular vessel with an open top, then leave the wort in the open to collect wild yeasts and bacteria through windows or vents. Some brewers would even refuse to clean those rooms for fear of disturbing the precious microbes!

Lambics can be characterized as pale and moderate in gravity. It’s traditional to have about 30% unmalted wheat in the grain bill. You might try using torrified wheat.

It’s also traditional to use aged hops when brewing a lambic beer recipe, which were used for their preservative value more than their bittering, flavoring, or aroma characteristics. The aged hops would produce a negligible bitterness that wouldn’t interfere with the sour, earthy, and complex wine-like flavors of the lambic. If you don’t have any aged hops on hand, try asking around your homebrewer friends – someone will likely have some lying around.

After the mash and boil, the beer would be moved to the cool ship, and then fermented in barrels. Sometimes fruit was added, especially cherries and raspberries, for added flavor and fermentability. Here is where the tough part comes in – lambic is usually aged one to three years or longer!

Liquid Beer Yeast For Lambic Beer RecipeAs a beginning lambic brewer, I would recommend using a premixed lambic culture, such as the one offered by Wyeast . This blend contains the appropriate combination of yeast and bacteria to make a lambic. Some brewers will recommend that you use a dedicated set of equipment for your lambic and other “funky” beers so as to avoid cross contamination with your other brews.

With all the information above, I believe you have some good hints as to what to do when you brew a lambic beer recipe at home. Below are two beer recipes. The first is for a lambic-esque beer, made sour with cranberries rather than funky microbes. The second beer lambic recipe is for a more traditional lambic, and comes from the book Brewing Classic Styles by Jamil Zainasheff.

Good luck!

Cranberry “Lambic”, from A Year of Beer 
(5-gallon batch, all-grain recipe)

Specs
OG: 1.053
FG: 1.018
ABV: 4.6%

Ingredients
6 lbs. Wheat malt
3.5 lbs. Pilsner malt
1 oz. Hallertau hops at :60 (2.8 AAUs)
.25 oz. Hallertau hops at :15 (.7 AAUs)
.5 oz. orange peel (5 minutes)
5/8 cup priming sugar
1 can cranberry juice concentrate added to secondary
Bavarian Wheat ale yeast

Directions 
Mash crushed grains at 124˚F for 30 minutes, then raise temperature to 153˚F for 60 minutes. Raise to 168˚F for mash out. Boil wort for 75 minutes, adding hops according to schedule above. Ferment at 65˚F for 10 days, then move to secondary for 14 days. Glass carboys are recommended for fermentation.

 

Lambicus Piatzii, from Brewing Classic Styles
(5-gallon batch, extract recipe)

Specs
OG: 1.053
FG: 1.006
ABV: 6.2%
IBUs: 5
SRM: 4

Ingredients 
5 lbs. Wheat LME
4.1 lbs. Pilsner LME
3 oz. aged hops (any European low-alpha variety) at :90 minutes
Safale US-05

Directions
Mix LME with enough hot water to make 7.7 gallons and bring to a boil. Add hops and boil for 90 minutes. Chill wort to 68˚F and pitch ale yeast (use half a packet of dry yeast or a full packet of liquid yeast without a starter). After a week, add the lambic blend. Ferment at 68˚F for six months to a year. A layer will form on the top of the beer called a pellicle. This is caused by the lambic culure and it is normal. The pellicle will often fall to the bottom of the fermenter when the beer is ready to be bottled. Bottle for 1 to 1.5 vols CO2.

Justin, this should be enough information to get you on your way to brewing a lambic beer. There are two beer recipes that you can brew at home and some insight and tips on how to get either of them brewed.
—–
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.

Do Your SunCal Concentrates Make Sweet Wines?

SunCal Wine ConcentrateI was looking at your homemade wine kits and was wondering about using the SunCal concentrates to make a Chianti. I saw in the directions that for all the SunCal kits call for 6.5 pounds of sugar. Does this mean that these wine recipes are going to make a sweet wine? I have made wines in the past from buckets of juice and other wine making materials from a local supplier and never had to add sugar.

Barry H.
———-
Hello Barry,

This is a great question about an area of wine making that seems to cause a lot of confusion for some winemakers.

Alcohol is made when yeast consume sugar and turn it into alcohol. If the fermentation is successful there be no more than a residual amount of sugar left in the resulting wine – nothing that would make the wine sweet. All the sugar you add in the beginning is meant to be turned into alcohol leaving the wine dry.

With most homemade wine kits all the original sugars that the grapes provide are still in the concentrate. You are simply adding water to bring the concentrate back to a juice so that you can make wine with it. With the buckets of juice you got locally, all the original sugars were in them, as well, so no additional sugar was needed to achieve a reasonable alcohol level.

But in the case of SunCal Concentrates, not only is water taken out during the concentration process but some of the sugar is removed as well. This is why you need to add the 6-1/2 pounds of sugar. Without doing so you will not get enough alcohol from the fermentation.

Shop Grape ConcentrateBut what if you want a sweet wine, you say. This is something that is controlled after the fermentation has completed. It has nothing to do with the sugar added in the beginning; it as to do with the sugar added after the fermentation. If the fermentation goes as planned, you wine should always turn out dry.

If you want to sweeten your wine, the time to do it is right before you bottle. Just sweeten it to taste and then add a wine stabilizer (potassium sorbate) to eliminate any chance of re-fermentation, or you can use Wine Conditioner which has sweetener and wine stabilizer mixed together.

With this basic understanding of the role sugar plays in a wine you can make any of our wine recipes or homemade wine kits as sweet or as dry as you like. Make the wine the way you like!

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.