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
—–
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
—–
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
—–
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
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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
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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
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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.