My Top 10 Favorite Winemaking Posts…

Top 10Another year has passed, and the rear-view mirror is full! I always use this time as an opportunity to reflect on what’s happened. In doing so I have come up with a list of my top 10 favorite wine making posts.

These are wine making post that I feel have been helpful, entertaining and interesting. They are listed in no particular order. You might want to give them a once-over and see if there’s anything that piques your interest:

  1. Keeping Fruit Wines In Fruity Balance
    Learn how: sugar, fruit and alcohol level all come together to create balance in a homemade wine.
  1. 7 Random Winemaking Facts…
    A listing of winemaking trivia that my surprise you. Take a look and see how many of the 7 you already know.
  1. In Plain English: The Difference Between pH And Titratable Acidity In Wine
    Understanding pH and titratable acid is the key to having a wine that tastes great and is stable. This post takes a complicated topic and distilled it down to something that’s easy to understand.
  1. A Simple Guide To Metabisulfites
    Covers the differences among Sodium Metabisulfite, Potassium Metabisulfite and Campden Tablets and how much this difference really matters.
  1. What’s The Difference Between Crushing And Pressing Grapes?
    The blog post clears up some of the confusion surround crushing and pressing. How are they different, and what are their purposes.
  1. How To Handle That Last Bit Of Sediment
    A handy little article the gives some quick pointers about racking your wine — how to do it more efficiently so as to lose less wine with less work.
  1. Is Oxygen Good Or Bad For Wine?Shop Wine Making Kits
    Knowing how to leverage air exposure to your advantage can go a long ways in producing a healthy, stable wine. See how easy it is.
  1. Picking When To Pick
    This is actually a 4 part series of posts that contain some solid information on how to determine the optimal time to harvest your grapes.
  1. What On Earth Is Bottle Shock?
    Learn how bottle shock affect both commercial and homemade wines, particularly after bottling, and how manage this phenomenon.
  1. 5 Myths About Homemade Wine
    Here are the top 5 myths that many non-home-winemakers believe. These are misconceptions that keep many from enjoying this rewarding hobby.

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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.

Christmas Punch Recipe With A Holiday Wish

Santa’s got his sleigh loaded! It’s a time of celebration and cheer.

As families come together, old stories will be retold once again. Presents will be passed among us, as we reflect about how the nieces, nephews and cousins have all grown since we’ve last seen them.

We sincerely wish that your Christmas holiday is full of joy and excitement, and that the New Year brings you the brightest of days and provides you with all for which you strive.

And with that, we would like to share with you a special recipe in the hopes that it may add even more cheer to your holidays…

 

Christmas Punch Recipe

  • 750 ml of dark rum
  • 750 ml of dry red wine (homemade of course)
  • 3 cups strongly brewed tea
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of orange juice
  • 1/2 cup of lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Mix all the ingredient in a large sauce pan.
  2. Bring to a simmer until all the sugar is completely dissolved. Do not boil.
  3. Serve in a heat resistant bowl, warm.
  4. Add fruit garnishment such as orange slices and cranberries.

 

From everyone at E. C. Kraus,
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

We sincerely hope that your Christmas holiday is full of joy and excitement, and that the New Year brings you the brightest of days and provides you with all for which you strive. – See more at: http://blog.eckraus.com/wine-making-tricks-and-tips/a-simple-recipe-and-a-holiday-wish#sthash.yXRHFevz.dpuf

We sincerely hope that your Christmas holiday is full of joy and excitement, and that the New Year brings you the brightest of days and provides you with all for which you strive. – See more at: http://blog.eckraus.com/wine-making-tricks-and-tips/a-simple-recipe-and-a-holiday-wish#sthash.yXRHFevz.dpuf
We sincerely hope that your Christmas holiday is full of joy and excitement, and that the New Year brings you the brightest of days and provides you with all for which you strive. – See more at: http://blog.eckraus.com/wine-making-tricks-and-tips/a-simple-recipe-and-a-holiday-wish#sthash.yXRHFevz.dpuf

Making Your Own Toasted Oak For Wine

Toasted Oak For WineI have tried oaking wine to my satisfaction with oak chips. Now I want to make my own toasted oak strips. I purchased some white oak that I sawed into yard stick width and thickness.  I noticed in the wine supplies different types of flavors for oaking. I was told it was like flavored coffee. What should I do to the oak strips so as I can oak wine?

Thanks,
Marvin F.
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Hello Marvin,

First, I want to commend you on your DIY spirit. It’s fun hearing about people tryin’ to get it done on their own.

This is a project that is a little more involved than one might first suspect. Toasting oak to be used in wine is a very delicate process. I for one would suggest that you are probably better off by leaving this one to the experts. But I understand your drive to try doing this yourself.

Shop Toasted Oak ChipsFirst, it is important that you use a white oak as opposed to red oak. You seem to be okay in that department based on you question, above. Red oak is a completely different family of wood. The only thing they have in common is the word “oak”.

The oak then needs to be dried to what cooperages refer to as sap clear. They typically do this by letting the slats or staves of wood dry cross-stacked in the sun for 1 to 3 years. The oak strips are rotated and rearranged periodically to allow for even drying. Someone trying this at home could get around this if they happen to have a kiln of some sort to dry the slats out, or maybe thay have a source of white oak that has already been sitting around for a few years.

Once the white oak is sap clear it then needs to be toasted. This is typically done over a flame of burning white oak wood. Oak is used for the fire for toasting as opposed to another wood or fuel to keep foreign residues to a minimum. Try not to let the smoke from the fire directly hit the wood. Rely more on the fire’s radiating heat by keeping the wood adjacent to the fire instead of over the fire.Shop Oak Powder

There is some art and some science to toasting oak for wine. Not only do you need to be concerned about how toasted the oak wood is becoming, you also need to be concerned about the temperature being used to do the toasting. Both how much you toast the oak and how fast it toasts plays into the flavor the wood will contribute to the wine.

Toasting Oak For WineIf the wood is toasted too fast there is not enough time for all the caramelized sugars in the wood to raise to the surface. The heat doesn’t penetrate the wood deep enough. Toast the wood too long and you will raise too much tannin with the sugar which will bring too much bitterness to the wine. The right temperature a length of time is beyond my experience and most cooperages keep this info as a trade secret, but you can get a sense of what to do by seeing how a wine barrel (not whiskey barrel) is toasted.

Shop Oak Wood ExtractiveBecause of the complexity involved, I would suggest that you do not try this yourself and purchase some oak that has been professionally prepared. It is not something I would try, especially when an entire batch of wine may be on the line, and the toasted oak is relatively inexpensive.

Happy Wine Making,
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.

There’s A Yeasty Smell In My Wine. Should I Dump It!?

Noticing Yeasty Smell In WineI’m still learning this process but haven’t had this happen. Got 3 gallons of Muscadine wine I was gonna bottle up. When opened up it has a very strong “yeasty” smell in the wine. Made this a couple times and never had this happen. Only thing I did different was use a different wine yeast. (Montrachet instead of lavlin 71b 1122.) I may have forgotten to rack the wine after it had been placed in the secondary fermenter. Either forgot to write it in log or didn’t do it. Seems I read somewhere that could cause this issue. Anyway, should I bottle this or dump it and start a new batch when the Muscadines ripen this summer. Thanks for the advice……..

Name: Bill B
State: SC
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Hello Bill,

There is absolutely no reason to dump any wine because it has a yeasty smell. This is an issue that comes about from time to time that is easily overcome.Shop Wine Yeast

It is true that different wine yeast have different amounts of yeast odors, but the yeast smell also increases the more the yeast become stressed. If the fermentation is done in an environment that does not make the wine yeast happy, you will get more of this odor.

Examples causing stress are:

  • Fermenting at too warm of a temperature
  • Fermenting with not enough nutrients in the wine must
  • Fermenting with too little yeast to perform the job at hand

The last one typically happens with old wine yeast is used, or a significant portion of the yeast cells are killed in the rehydration process.

Most of the time this odor will go away on it’s own throughout the natural course of the winemaking process. Racking the wine is one of the times that this odor is able to release from the wine and dissipate. You stated that you are not sure if you racked the wine, so this could be all that’s wrong with the wine.

Shop Potassium BisulfiteAnother normal activity in the winemaking process that releases this odor is adding sulfites. This would either be Campden tablets, potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite. If you do not ever add any of these then this can contribute to the yeasty smell in the wine.

A sulfite should always be added to a wine anyway to protect it from spoilage and oxidation, but doing so also drives out unwanted volatile gases that are in the wine from the fermentation – such as the ones you are smelling. If you haven’t done so already, the simple task of adding a standard dose of sulfites and waiting a few days may be all that is needed.

Since you are not sure if you racked your wine or not, I’m guess that all you need to do is rack the wine and add sulfites. Hope this should get rid of the yeasty smell in your wine. In not, repeat the process. Rack the wine in a splashing manner and then add sulfites again.

If you find that the yeast smell in the wine is not leaving that you may want to take a look at what to do about treating wine with a hydrogen sulfite issue.Shop Mini Jet Wine Filter

Just remember next time to keep your wine yeast happy, regardless of the type used; rack your wine sufficiently; and always use sulfites in your wine. Do these things and you should not have this problem again.

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.

What Size Corks Should I Get For Bottling My Wine?

Different Size Corks For Bottling WineIf you’re getting ready to buy corks to bottle your wine you may be wondering which size corks you should get. We offer four different sizes of wine cork stopper. They are sizes: #7, #8, #9 and #10. These numbers refer to the diameter of the cork. The higher the number, the larger the diameter of the cork.

The opening of a standard, 750 ml wine bottle is 3/4 of an inch. If you have a wine bottle corker you will want to purchase either the size #8 or size #9 corks. The diameter of these corks are 7/8″ and 15/16″, respectively. Size #9 corks is what the commercial wineries use. Either will require a wine bottle corker to press them into the bottle.

Which size cork you get depends on the type of wine bottle corker you have. Any wine bottle corker on the market can put in the size #8 wine cork, however some wine bottle corkers have trouble putting in a full-size #9 cork.Shop Wine Corks

If the corker was purchased from E. C. Kraus, you will be able to put in a size #9 or #8 cork just fine. If your corker was purchased from somewhere else then some caution will be required.

Some wine bottle corks on the market use a funnel-design to compress the cork. The wine cork is shoved through a funnel into the opening of the wine bottle. For the most part, this design of corker will work okay for a size #8 cork, but if you want to put in a full-size #9 wine cork and get a tighter seal, using a funnel-style corker can be a problem. The larger cork can get pinched and frayed as it goes through the funnel.

All the wine bottle corkers we offer compresses the cork evenly, from Shop Wine Bottle Corkersall sides then plunges the cork into the barrel opening of the wine bottle. With this method of corking no damage will come to the cork, as it is not be contorted through a funnel opening.

We do not recommend using size #7 cork, but we do offer them for individuals who want to put their corks in by hand. This size wine cork is small enough in diameter to be put in without a wine bottle corker. The downside is that they do not seal the wine bottle very well. In fact, if you lay the wine bottle on its side, there is a fair change that the #7 wine cork will seep some wine. For this reason you should store wine bottle upright if using this size of wine cork.

Size #10 corks are for larger size bottles. While many larger bottle still have the same 3/4 inch opening that the 750 ml have, some larger size wine bottles have larger openings that will require this larger size cork.
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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.

Making Sulfite-Free Wine To Reduce Headaches

Making Sulfite Free WineThis is a subject I get about at least once a week. People are desperately interested in making sulfite free wine.  Usually it is because they are suffering from headaches that they are attributing to sulfite allergies. For this reason they want to make their homemade wine without sulfites.

The major foil to making sulfite free wine is that sulfites are a natural byproduct of fermentation. In winemaking we talk about sulfites in terms of ppm (parts per million). Wine fermentations will naturally produce sulfites somewhere on the order of 10 to 20 ppm.

This amount may seem small, but compare it against the fact that the average bottle of wine on the market only contains about 65 ppm or the fact that any wine in the U.S. that has more than 10 ppm must have on its label, “Contains Sulfites,” then it starts to become clear that the amount of sulfites made by a fermentation is, in fact, significant to the wine’s total content.Shop Campden Tablets

So the answer is, “no.” You can not make sulfite free wine. There will always be some sulfite in your homemade wine. Now lets move on to the next logical question…

 

Can I make wines without adding sulfites?

The answer is: certainly you can. But, you should also be asking the question: do you want too? Sulfites such as Campden tablets or potassium metabisulfite are added to a wine for a reason: to keep the color and flavor fresh over time, and to keep it from spoiling. If the level of sulfites are too low, then it is susceptible to being overcome with bacteria, mold and other detrimental spoilers. Making sulfite free wine does not come without its own risk.

Because wine has alcohol, and alcohol is a preservative, the amount of sulfites needed to keep it from spoiling is very small as compared to amounts we find in the foods we eat everyday. Fruit juices, for example, can have on the order of 200 to 300 ppm; dehydrated fruits, conservatively around 1,000 ppm; and salsa around 1,000 to 2,000 ppm. These are much higher amounts than the 45 to 85 ppm you will typically find in wine.

With this in mind, to me it doesn’t make sense to short your wine the minuscule amount of sulfites it needs to help protect it from spoilage. And, it doesn’t make sense to blame such small amounts of sulfites on headaches when so much of it is in the foods we consume everyday. That brings us to the next logical question…

 

So Why Do Some People Get Headaches From Wine?

There are a certain number of people who do get headaches from drinking wine – even as little as one glass – but as explained above, blaming this on sulfites is not reasonable.

Besides the fact that there is not that much sulfite in wine to begin with, there are a couple of other reasons why this doesn’t add up, as well:Shop Wine Filters

 

  • Sulfite allergies are much more rare than there are people having headaches from wine. According to medical industry reports, there are somewhere between 500 thousand to 1 million sulfite allergy sufferers in the U.S. This equals only about 1 in 300 to 600 people.
  • A headache is not the primary symptom of a sulfite allergy. Asthma or having trouble breathing is the very first problem to show up.

 

A great article on this subject is titled, Red Wine Headaches. It covers in fair detail other possible reasons why someone might get a headache from drinking wine, such as histamines.

 

So, What Should I do?

If you are still not convinced that sulfites are completely innocent of all charges, then you might want to consider taking better control of the sulfites. Don’t completely eliminate additions of sulfite to the wine, but lower the level of sulfites. Don’t worry about making sulfite free wine but maybe try adding less sulfites, instead.Shop Sulfite Tester

For example, right before bottling the wine, instead of targeting a sulfite level of 55 ppm for red and 70 ppm for whites, maybe shoot for 35 ppm in reds and 50 ppm for whites. Reduce the amount of sulfites in your homemade wines. Don’t necessarily eliminate additions to your wine.

You can take readings with a Titrettor Hand Tool and Titret Test Vials. By taking control of your sulfite levels in this way, you can be certain that no more sulfites are in the wine than absolutely necessary to keep it fresh.
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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.

My Peach Wine Will Not Clear

Wine Will Not ClearI have a peach wine that has a haze to it. The wine will not clear. It has been chilled for 2 weeks after fermentation, racked 4 times and I have added fining agents. It cleared to this fine haze but will not clear any further. Is this a wine that is not going to completely clear and I just need to live with it? Oh yea, there was pectic enzyme added at the start. What are your thoughts? Thanks

Name: Echota
State: TN
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Hello Echota,

Base on information you have given, it sounds like the reason your homemade wine will not clear is because you have a pectin haze, even though pectic enzyme was added at the beginning.

Fining agents will take out the particles in a wine that can cause it to be cloudy, but a pectin haze is different. It is not caused by particles. It is caused by the actual make up of the liquid itself. The pectin chemically bonds to the wine, making it impossible to clear with just fining agents such as bentonite or isinglass.

The standard dose of pectic enzyme called for in most wine recipes is enough to breakdown and drop out a usual amount of pectin from the fruit, but in some instances the amount of pectin in a wine must can be unexpectedly large. This leads to the situation you are describing where your homemade wine will not clear, completely.

One way to know for sure if your wine is experiencing a pectin haze is to take aShop Pectic Enzyme sample of the wine, say a half-full quart mason jar, and add a ridiculous amount of pectic enzyme to it. If the wine clears without leaving any sediment, then you know that a pectin haze is the reason for you wine being cloudy.

If the wine clears, but leaves sediment behind, then you know it is a particle haze – not a pectin haze – and more time, gravity and fining agents is the answer to resolving this issue.

Clearing up a stubborn pectin haze in a wine after the fermentation has stopped is somewhat difficult, but it can be done. It’s simply a matter of adding more pectic enzyme to the wine.

The problem really lies with the fact that the fermentation is no longer fermenting. This causes the pectic enzyme to take longer to do it’s thing, so some patience will be needed. It could take as long as a month or two for the pectic enzyme to clear up the wine completely.

If you are using our liquid pectic enzyme the standard dose is 1/8 teaspoon for each gallon of wine. However, in this situation you want to add a double dose of 1/4 teaspoon per gallon of wine. This is in addition to any pectic enzyme you addedshop Bentonite at the beginning of fermentation. If you are using a powdered pectic enzyme the story is the same. Add double the recommended dosage listed on the package and give it time.

When ever a homemade wine will not clear you always want to look towards protein particles such as yeast cells, tannin, etc to be the cause. These are things that can be easily dropped out with fining agents and wine clarifiers. But whenever you get into a situation where that last little bit will not clear out of the wine, no matter what you try, then it’s time to start suspecting a pectin haze to the reason your wine will not clear.

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.

Is Wine Yeast And Baking Yeast The Same?

Wine Yeast Not Baking YeastI need you to help me settle a bet with a friend who also makes wine.  He says that wine yeast is no different than what you can get in the store to make bread with.  His quote “yeast is yeast”.  I say that it is different, although I can’t explain how.  Please help settle this and let us know who has to pay up, plus if there is a difference between wine yeast and baking yeast can you explain it to me.

Thanks,
Jamie
———-
Hello Jamie,

I’m going to be brutally honest, here. I hope this doesn’t break-up a good friendship.

To say that yeast is yeast is like saying a dog is a dog. Over the centuries dogs have been bred for various, specific tasks: hunting, herding, personal protection, attacking, protecting herds, companionship, etc. The same can be said for yeast. They have been bred over the decades to perform specific tasks: rising bread, making alcohol, bio-degrading oils, pharmaceutical production, etc.

So to bring this analogy full circle, when you’re making wine with a baking yeast, you’re hunting grizzlies with a chihuahua. Sorry friend, but wine yeast and baking yeast are not the same. In fact, they are very different. I would never recommend making wine with bread or baking yeast.Shop Yeast Nutrient

Wine yeast in particular is bred to obtain higher alcohol levels than baking yeast. On average, bread yeast will get you 9 or 10%. Anything higher than that is possible, but the baking yeast will have to struggle considerably.

Wine yeast are bred to thrive very well with the set of nutrients fruits naturally provide. Baking yeast, on the other hand, prefers the balance of nutrients found in grains or bread doughs.

Wine yeast clears more quickly from the wine than baking yeast. Wine yeast is bred to clump together as the fermentation activity slows – a process known as flocculation. The clumping allows the wine yeast to drop out and settle to the bottom more quickly. Baking yeast does not clump or flocculate. Instead, it slowly settles to the bottle as a fine haze. This process can take weeks instead of days.

Wine yeast foams less than baking yeast. This is because wine yeast are bred to produce less surface tension in the liquid than baking yeast.Shop Wine Making Kits

Wine yeast is also more tolerant to sulfites than baking yeast. The wine yeast has actually been acclimated to coexist with some residual sulfites such as Campden tablets in the wine. This means that wine yeast can ferment just fine with some sulfites in the wine must. Baking yeast is not as fortunate. Even small amounts of sulfites can stop a wine fermentation dead in its tracks.

Another issue is that bread yeast is only packaged under food-grade conditions. This is certainly suitable for baking. The yeast is only being utilized for a few hours, not days, so the perpetuation of any contaminating organisms do not have enough time to do any damage.

On the other hand, with wine yeast we are talking days if not weeks that the yeast is in play. This is plenty of time for stray organisms riding on the yeast to potentially breed into a full-fledged infestation spoiling the wine. For this reason, wine yeast is package under sterile conditions. This is far more stringent than food-grade packaging.Shop Wine Yeast

To sum all this up, you can certainly make wine with a baking yeast, but you will be sacrificing flavor and potentially alcohol. You are also increasing the likelihood of having a stuck fermentation. This is because of issues with nutrients and the use of sodium metabisulfite.

So, as I think you can see, wine yeast and baking yeast are not the same. In fact, there are many differences between the two. That combined with the fact that wine yeast is not all that expensive to buy, why wouldn’t you use it in your winemaking?

Happy Wine Making
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.

 

Careful! Using Reverse Osmosis Water For Wine Making Can Be A Problem

Using Reverse Osmosis In Wine MakingYour newsletter states that using distilled water for making wine is not recommended but what about tap water filtered via reverse osmosis? Can I use reverse osmosis water for wine making?

Thank You
John
____
Hello John,

You are correct. We do not recommend using distilled water. Not only does the distilling process remove valuable, free oxygen from the water, but it also removes all the minerals. Both are much-needed commodities for the yeast during a fermentation. If either are missing, it can lead to a sluggish or stuck fermentation.

Likewise, we do not recommend using reverse osmosis water for wine making, either. While the free oxygen does remain in the water through osmosis filtering process, critical minerals are still being removed. Magnesium sulfate can be added back to the water in an attempt to restore it for fermentation, but this is more or less putting a band-aid on the issue.Shop Magnesium Sulfate

Your better option would be to purchase bottled drinking water. These bottled drinking water typically will either have the original, natural minerals in them, or the water has been completely purified and then had an optimal blend of minerals added back. Either way, this would be a better option than using distilled or reverse osmosis water in wine making.

It is also important to note that while free oxygen in the water is good for the fermentation, it is bad for the wine once the fermentation has completed. Having free oxygen in the wine after the fermentation can lead to oxidation or browning of the wine.

Fortunately, most all of the oxygen that is in the must before fermentation is either consumed by the yeast or quickly driven out by the CO2 gas from the fermentation. So, while we do recommend using water that isShop Aeration System saturated in oxygen before the fermentation, after the fermentation, we recommend using distilled water for making any necessary adjustments or for topping-up after the fermentation.

To sum it up, using reverse osmosis water for wine making is really not ideal, essentially because of that lack of trace minerals that are removed in the process. You would be better served in most cases by using tap water over reverse osmosis or maybe even bottle drinking water, if you are so inclined.

Happy Wine Making,
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.

3 Reasons Why Your Starting Hydrometer Reading Is Wrong

His Starting Hydrometer Reading Is WrongTaking a starting hydrometer reading is one of the most important things you can do when making homemade wine. This is a reading that is taken with a wine hydrometer before the fermentation has started. It is usually taken at the same time the yeast is added to the wine must.

Having an accurate starting hydrometer reading will not only help you verify that you have an acceptable level of sugar in the wine must, it will allow you to determine the finished wine’s alcohol content. This can be done when the starting reading is compared to the finished reading.

The reading is taken on the Specific Gravity scale. This is a scale based on the weight of water. The weight of the wine is being compared to the weight of water. The more sugar in the wine must the heavier it will be. The more sugar in the wine, the more alcohol the yeast can make.

Keeping in mind its importance, here are the 3 reasons why your starting hydrometer reading is wrong. These are scenarios that I have run across more than once while helping beginning winemakers. In each of these 3 situations the hydrometer reading can be thrown off dramatically.

 

  1. Shop HydrometersToo Much Water Was Added: This mostly applies to individuals that are making wine from a wine ingredient kit. These kits typically include around 2 to 4 gallons of concentrate to make 6 gallons. The idea is for the winemaker to add water to make up the difference of the 6 gallons. But on rare occasions a beginning winemaker will add a total 6 gallons of water by mistake giving them an 8, 9, 10… gallon batch of wine. This in turn will give them a very low starting sugar reading on their hydrometer.
    1. Sugars Are Not Mixing Evenly: Before taking a starting hydrometer reading it is important to have the sugars completely dissolved and evenly dispersed throughout the wine must. This is regardless if it is from a concentrate or granulated cane sugar. Not doing so can cause your hydrometer sample to be non-representative of the entire batch. The result is an erroneous reading. For example, if the sugars are not completely dissolved and still hanging towards the bottom of the fermenter, the reading you get from a sample take from the top will be very different from the reading you get when taking a sample through a spigot at the bottom of the fermenter.
  1. Hydrometer Jar Not Being Used: One of the requirements for taking a starting hydrometer reading, is the hydrometer needs to be able to float. If the container being used to hold the sample isn’t tall enough, the hydrometer will sit on the bottom. Again, this will give you a wrong reading. This normally happens when the winemaker is trying to use the plastic tube the hydrometer came in to take the reading. This is something I strongly urge against for the simple fact it is not always tall enough to float the hydrometer. Instead, you should be using a hydrometer jar that is designed specifically for this purpose. It is more than tall enough and has a sturdy base so you can keep the wine sample steady and vertical while taking the reading.Shop Hydrometer Jars

 

These are by far the 3 most common reasons. If you think you have a starting hydrometer reading that is wrong, it is probably because of one of these three. There are other reasons as to why a hydrometer reading might not be completely accurate, such as not having your eye-level even with the surface of the wine, but these are the 3 “big ones”. Avoid doing them and you’ll be sure to have dependable readings.
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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.