Clearing A Cloudy Wine…

Winemaker Clear A Cloudy WineWhat can I use to remove the cloudiness in my wine. Can you help? I’ve strained the wine 2 times and it is still cloudy.

Thanks John
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Hello John,

What needs to be determined is, “why is the wine cloudy“? Is it from pectin cells in the fruit? Is it from suspended yeast cells? Is it from starches in the fruit? Or, is it because the wine simply needs more time to clear up?

In any case, the cause of the cloudiness needs to be determined before you can take any action. Anything less is just taking a stab at the issue. Determine why the wine is cloudy then take appropriate actions.

The first thing that should be done is a specific gravity reading should be taken with a wine hydrometer. This will tell you if the wine has completed its fermentation. If the specific gravity is .996 or less, this would indicate that the wine fermentation has finished. If the specific gravity is above .996 but not fermenting then you have a stuck fermentation and you need to determine why it is stuck.

Shop BentoniteIf the wine is still fermenting, even slightly, this would most likely be the cause of the cloudiness. In this case, just let the wine finish fermenting. Be a little patient and the wine will most likely clear in due time.

If the wine hydrometer has indicated that the wine has completed its fermentation, you will want to see if the top half of the batch is more clear than the bottom half. If so, this would indicate that the wine just needs a few more days to clear up. After a wine has completed fermenting it usually needs a week or two to clear up. Most homemade wine instructions will indicate this time period.

If you’re sure it’s been more than two weeks since the wine has completed fermenting, and it’s still cloudy, then it may be time to start using wine making products such as fining or clearing agents.

Treating the wine with bentonite would be the first step I would suggest. It’s an effective fining agent that most likely will solve your problem completely. But, if you see only marginal improvement, you should switch to Sparkolloid for a second treatment. In general, Sparkolloid will take out what bentonite doesn’t and vice versa.Shop Sparkolloid

If the bentonite clears the wine almost completely, but there’s still a slight murkiness, then you should switch to a polishing clarifier such as our Kitosol 40. You might want to check out the article, Using Finings To Improve Your Wine. It will give you more detail about fining agents and other wine making products you can use to clear your wine.

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.

What Does Potassium Sorbate Do To Wine?

Wine With Potassium SorbateI have an issue with your description of potassium sorbate that uses the word “inhibit”. I have looked this word up in the Merrian-Webster dictionary. The first listing says that ‘inhibit’ means to stop. The second says that ‘inhibit’ means to hold in check. Holding in check in my mind is not a guarantee of much. Does anyone really know the story? What does potassium sorbate do to wine?

Tom
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Hi Tom,

Potassium sorbate is not used to stop a fermentation. In fact, it is not very effective at stopping a fermentation, if effective at all. Your second definition of inhibit is the most accurate, to hold in check, but let’s forget about the definitions for now and let me try to explain what potassium sorbate is actually doing to a wine.

When it becomes time to bottle your wine, no matter how may times the wine has been racked or how crystal clear the wine may look, there are still some yeast cells in the wine. It’s not the billions of cells that are associated with a full-fledged fermentation – almost all of the yeast cells are now gone through racking – but none the less, there are a few cells, just too few to see with the naked-eye.

Shop Potassium SorbateUsually, these wine yeast cells just lay dormant, but if there are sugars available in the wine, it is very possible that the yeast can start to become active and begin to reproduce themselves. Over time, they can rebuild the yeast colony to a size that can become problematic for a bottled wine. The wine will become sparkled and worse yet, the bottles could start popping corks or popping bottles from the pressure built up from a fermentation! But, this is all based on the premise that the yeast are able to grow in numbers and have sugar available to ferment.

This is where potassium sorbate comes into play. It stops the yeast cells from reproducing themselves so that a fermentation does not occur within the wine bottles. It does this by putting a coating the individual yeast cells. This coating interrupts the budding or reproduction process, keeping the yeast cell count at bay.

The only problem is that the yeast that are currently living in your wine will continue to do so until they decide to die of natural causes – old age. The colony will slowly die. How long it takes varies. It is dependent on the size of the remaining colony, the type of wine yeast, and the conditions they are in – temperature, etc. In most cases it takes days, but it can take weeks and sometimes months.Shop Potassium Bisulfite

It is not until the current generation dies that the chance of re-fermentation can be completely gone. This is why it is good to get your wine as clear as conveniently possible. Using fining agents such as bentonite is not a bad idea to help drop out the wine yeast. And most importantly use sulfites. This is one of the reasons sulfites are recommended at bottling time – to speed up the death of the wine yeast.

So what does potassium sorbate do to wine? It keeps the yeast from growing out of control. It keeps what little, insignificant yeast cell count at bay, and stops them from reproducing and growing into problematic numbers.

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.

Campden Tablets: What They Can And Can’t Do.

Campden Tablets In JarOne of the most commonly used ingredients in home wine making are Campden tablets. You will find them in almost any of the wine making recipes you will use; talked about in almost any of the wine making books you will read; and called into action by just about any of the homemade wine instructions you will follow.

 

What Do Campden Tablets Do?
The original reason Campden tablets were used in wine making was to keep the wine from spoiling after it had been bottled. By adding these tablets at bottling time, you could virtually eliminate any chance of your wine falling victim to mold,

bacteria and other foreign enemies.

 

Since their introduction into wine making, Campden tablets have also become routinely used for sterilizing the juice prior to fermentation. By adding Campden tablets a day before adding your wine yeast, you can start your fermentation with a clean slate, so to speak. All the unwanted micro organisms will be gone.

Some home winemakers also use Campden tablets with water to create a sanitizing solution. This solution will safely sanitize fermenters, air-lock, stirring spoons, hoses and all the other pieces of equipment that may come into contact with the wine must.Shop Wine Yeast

 

What Campden Tablets Don’t Do?
Many beginning winemakers believe that Campden tablets are a magic pill of sorts. One that can instantaneously stop a wine fermentation dead in its tracks. While it is true that Campden tablets can bring a fermentation to its knees for a period of time, it is also true that these fermentations will usually gather themselves back up and eventually overcome the effects of the tablets. The result is a continued fermentation – sometimes after the wine has been bottled.

Truth is, Campden tablets are not designed to stop a fermentation and never have been. Using them for that purpose can get you into all kinds of trouble. There is really no ingredient that can be safely used by itself to assuredly stop a fermentation.

 

What Are Campden Tablets?
Simply put, Campden tablets are metabisulfite. When you add a tablet to the wine you are adding sulfites to the wine. Most CampdenShop Winemaking For Dummies tablets consist of potassium metabisulfite, but some are made with sodium metabisulfite.

 

How Are Campden Tablets Used?
Their use is fairly straight-forward. You add one tablet to each gallon of wine must 24 hour prior to adding the wine yeast – before the fermentation. Then you add one table per gallon just before bottling.

The Campden tablets must first be crushed and dissolved in a small amount of the wine or water. This mix is then stirred thoroughly into the rest of the batch.

You can use the Campden tablets to create a sanitizing solution by crushing up 4 tablets into a quart of water. This can be used as a sanitizing rinse, or you can pour it into a fermentation container and allow the fumes to sanitize the entire insides.Shop Potassium Bisulfite

 

As An Alternative To The Campden Tablet…
You can use potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite in the form of a granulated powder. The advantages are: you don’t have to crush it up; and it is cheaper. The disadvantage is you have to measure out the dosage, which is 1/16 teaspoon per tablet.

 

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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 Wine Recipe Doesn’t Call For Yeast

Man Fermenting Wine Without YeastI have an old wine recipe that came from Germany, through the family, but the wine recipe doesn’t call for yeast of any kind… What does the yeast do and is it essential in home wine making?

Thanks Connee
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Hello Connee,

Simply put, yeast is where the rubber meets the road. Without wine yeast you’ll have no fermentation, and with no fermentation you’ll have no alcohol! That’s why it is imperative that the starting wine must has yeast of some kind, even if the wine recipe doesn’t call for yeast.

 

What’s Going On?…

What’s happening when you make wine is sugar is being turned into alcohol through a process called fermentation. Yeast is what performs the fermentation. Each yeast is a single-celled, living organism that literally eats the sugars that are in the wine must and turns it into alcohol and CO2 gas. This is what wine making is all about.

 

Where Does The Yeast Come From?

Shop Wine YeastSome older wine recipes – like the one you have – will have no yeast of any kind in the recipe. This is because the yeast are expected to be provided by the fruit, naturally. Fruit, whether it be grapes, peaches, or strawberries, already have wild yeast on them so there will be a fermentation of some kind; it will just be fermenting wine without yeast you’ve added.

Using the yeast that Mother Nature provided was an acceptable practice way-back-when because wine yeast was not readily available. And, if your wine recipe is really, really old, they may not have even known that yeast doing the job. The connection between yeast and fermentation was not put together until as recently as 1857. So as you can start to see, this may be why your wine recipe doesn’t call for yeast of any kind.

 

Is The Wild Yeast Good Enough?

Homemade wines made from wild yeasts are marginal at best. Typically, the yeast found out in the wild have trouble fermenting to an acceptable alcohol level. The flavor and aromas they put off can be objectionable. Wild yeast wines also have a harder time clearing up. This is primarily because the yeast do not collect and clump Shop Grape Concentratetogether like domesticated wine yeast do (flocculation). The clumping helps the yeast to drop out cleanly and quickly. Domesticated wine yeast are bred to do this.

The only exception to this are some Old World wineries that rely on feral yeast from the vineyard. Feral yeast is maintained but out in nature. Great care is taken to keep the yeast strain maintained in the fields. Spent pulp from the fermentation is put back into the soils along the fines so that the yeast within the pulp can cover next year’s crops.

 

Yeast Today

Today things are different. Wine making yeast are readily available from wine making shops like us. These are the same strains of wine yeast used by professional Shop Wine Presswineries. They are able to ferment to an acceptable alcohol level and produce a much cleaner flavored wine. And, their cost is not that much different than buying a pack of baker’s yeast.

There is an entire array of wine yeast strains from which to choose. Each one has slightly different flavor characteristics or different qualities that make it well suited for a certain style of wine. You can find an example of some of these characteristic in this wine profile chart.

 

Here’s My Recommendations

My advice to you – without seeing the wine recipe – is to go ahead and follow it, but I would also add a packet of wine making yeast for every 5 or 6 gallons of must. You may also want to take a look at the article, Why Should I Use Wine Yeast that Shop Wine Making Kitsis listed on our website. This will give you a little deeper explanation about yeast and its role in wine making.

You may want to give up on using the wine recipe all together. While using a wine recipe that doesn’t call for any yeast can be done. Why risk your time an effort when there are so many more modern wine recipe available.

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.

Having Fun Using Honey In Your Wine Making

Using Honey In Wine MakingI want to start using honey instead of sugar in my wine making so I have a few questions: do i put the honey in the must to start with, or, to sweeten after the wine is done fermenting? Also one pound of sugar equals how much honey?

Tom – NC
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Hello Tom,

Using honey in wine making is something you can have a lot of fun with. One of the favorite wines I made was a Raspberry Honey Zinfandel. Nobody could keep their hands off of it, and it was soon gone.

There are different ways honey can be used in wine making. You can add it to the wine must, before fermentation, and have its sugars ferment into alcohol, or you can add the honey after the fermentation and have its sugars contribute to the sweetness of the wine.

 

Using Honey Instead Of Sugar Before The Fermentation

When you add honey before a fermentation, what will be left when the fermentation is complete is the herbal character of the honey. No sweetness will remain. For example, if the honey was spun off of wild flowers then a wild flower character will be added to the wine during the wine making process. If the honey was spun off of strawberry blossoms then you will have a note of herbal-strawberry character in the wine, and so forth.Shop Hydrometers

What this means is you can alter any fruit wine making recipe you find by replacing some or all of the sugar called for with honey. Using honey in your wine making in this way will add a layer of depth to the wine’s over all character. You can compliment the wine’s character, such as adding raspberry-blossom honey to a raspberry wine recipe, or you can contrast the wine’s character, such as adding apple-blossom honey to a cherry wine recipe.

When using honey in wine making before the fermentation, you want to use it in-place-of or instead-of the sugar called for in the wine recipe you are using. As a general rule-of-thumb you can replace 1 pound of sugar with 1.2 to 1.3 pounds of honey. You can also use a wine hydrometer to determine how much honey to add. Keep adding the honey until you get to the appropriate reading on the wine hydrometer’s specific gravity scale – usually between 1.070 and 1.090.

 

Using Honey Instead Of Sugar After The Fermentation

If you add the honey at bottling time or anytime after the fermentation, you are contributing to the sweetness of the wine instead of the alcohol. Shop Potassium SorbateThe herbal characters of the honey are still being added but along with its sweetness. It is important to note that any time you add a sugar to a wine at bottling time – whether it be honey, cane sugar or grape concentrate – you must also add potassium sorbate (wine stabilizer) to eliminate any chance of re-fermentation later on in the wine bottle. The is in addition to the Campden tablets that we recommend at bottling time for any wine. Here’s more information on sweetening a wine with honey.

 

Should I Use Raw Or Pasteurized Honey?

I recommend using pasteurized, filtered honey – the kind you typically find on the grocery shelf. This type of honey has been cleared of wild microbes and various solids that you do not want in your wine. If you do plan on using raw honey in your wine recipe, you will need to heat it up to 170°F. for a full 30 minutes along with some water. During this time you will also want to skim off the top whatever rises.

 

More Information On Using Honey In Wine MakingShop Campden Tablets

You can find more information on our website in the article, Wine Making With Honey. It gives a basic run-down of how honey has been used in wine over the years along with some basic honey recipes.

Using honey instead of sugar in your wine making is a fun way to add more interest depth, not only to your wines, but your wine making. It’s one more way to be creative in the enjoyable and rewarding hobby.

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.

Oaking Wine With Oak Chips

Man Oaking Wine With Oak ChipsHow do you go about oaking wine with oak chips? What type of oak chip would you recommend using on muscadine wine? I’d like to do a little experimenting. My wine is a combination of red and white muscadine grapes yielding a blush/rose type wine. What type of oak chip, quantity per 6 gallon carboy and length of time to soak would you recommend? Thanks much!

Name: Ed P.
State: Illinois
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Hello Ed,

Nothing wrong with a little experimenting. For me that’s part of what makes wine making so enormously fun.

One thing about oaking wine with oak chips, not all wines will benefit from it. Normally, the wines you would like to add oak chips to are wines with a lot of body. The tannins in the oak will help any excessive proteins in these full-bodied wines to clear out. This will give your wine a little more brilliant color.

The oak chips will also add their own smoothing affect to the wine’s character. A rounding-off of the rough corners, so to speak. Heavier wines tend to be harsher than lighter wine. Oak chips will also add some wood flavors to the wine. Some regard this as giving the wine more complexity. These heavy wines are the ones that you should be thinking about considering what wines to oak.

Looking at this from an experimental standpoint, your best option would be to take off a gallon of the wine and strongly oak it. This could be done by adding about 4 to 8 ounces of oak chips to the gallon for a two or three months. Once this is done you can blend a little/some/or all back into the other 5 gallons based on taste.Shop Toasted Oak Chips

Using this method for oaking your wine with oak chips would give you the most control over the final outcome. The downfall is that you would not want to store 5 gallons of wine in a 6 gallon carboy, so you would need to move the 5 gallons of wine to a 5 gallon carboy during this time. The same holds true for the one gallon sample you will be oaking. Also, you are risking loosing whatever portion of the gallon you do not wish to add back to the wine.

The other method for oaking a wine with oak chips would be add it to the entire 6 gallons of wine, and then taste it along the way to see how it’s doing. Usually, once every 3 or 4 weeks. While this is an easier method, you do run a better risk of ending up with a wine you might not care too much for.

How much of the oak chips you would want to add to the wine can vary. I personally like to use 2 ounces to 5 gallons and let it age out for many months. But others like adding 4 or 6 ounces and age the wine for a shorter period of time.

Without question, I would recommend using toasted oak ships. Plain oak chips are rarely used but still have their place. Whether you use Toasted French oak chips or Toasted American oak chips would not make an incredible difference. Shop Oak PowderEither can produce great results. The main difference between the two is that American oak will add sort of a coconut smoothness to the wine, whereas French oak chips will add more of a vanilla richness. One is not better than the other, it’s more of a matter of which one will work best with the wine at hand. Without tasting your wine, I would suspect you would want to use the American oak chips–just a guess.

Ed, I hope this information about oaking wine with oak chips is what you were looking for. Just realize that oaking a homemade wine with oak chips is something that does not happen overnight, so you will have time to sample the wine and make careful judgments as to when enough is enough.

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.

There’s Too Much Tannin In My Homemade Wine!

Wine With Too Much TanninI have 3 five-gallon carboys of zinfandel with a low pH of 3.00, and what I identify as too much tannin. The wine has been “aging” for 18 mos. now and still unacceptable by my taste. Is it too late to doctor it to lower the tannin? It has been stored cool (I’m in N. California) and I can’t heat it. Too late for treating with egg whites or bentonite?

Name: Tony S.
State: CA
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Hello Tony,

I see your wine is still a beautiful, young color, even after 18 months. That is probably partially due to the fact that it has such a low pH. This can help to keep a color fresh looking as well as keep any potential spoilage in check. The bad part is as you have stated, it doesn’t taste good. That is the primary issue when you have to much tannin in any wine.

You said that you tested the pH of your wine and thought it was too low because of too much tannin being in the wine as opposed to the other typical reason, which is having too much tartaric acid in the wine. This could be easily verified by testing the wine with an acid test kit. This would tell you very precisely if there was too much tartaric acid in the wine or not.

If you do not want to do this you can go by taste and experience, but this can only tell you what direction to take in solving this problem, not necessarily how sever it is. If there is too much tannin in this wine you would expect it to taste bitter and dry-puckering. If it is a tartaric acid problem you would expect a tart and sharp flavor.Shop Bentonite

If you do have too much tannin in the wine, just as you implied, bringing the temperature up would most likely drop some of it out. I would not hesitate to use artificial means of heat on the wine to heat stabilize the wine. Bring the wine up to about 80°F. for about a 3 days. Because the wine’s pH is so low oxidation will not be an issue.

You can use something as simple as an electric blanket it to warm it up. We also have a heating belt that can warm five gallons by about 20°F. Just be sure to use a thermometer of some type to monitor just how hot the wine is getting.

Once the wine has reach 80°F. (this could take a day or two) treat is with bentonite and let the wine sit for the rest of the week.

If you are dealing with  too much tannin in your wine, you will notice a remarkable change in the wine after doing this. You may want to test the pH again. If you do not notice any change, then I doubt you are dealing with a tannin problem and urge you to test the wine again with an acid testing kit. More than likely you will need to use acid reducing crystals on the wine.Shop Acid Reducing Crystals

Beyond this, if you do see improvement in the pH, it is possible to treat the wine a second time with bentonite, if you deem it necessary, but I would not heat it a second time. Once the pH rises above 3.2, you do need to be a little more cautions about oxidation. You will typically receive marginal improvement from a second treatment in such a potentially severe case.

Hope this information helps you out.

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.

My Malolactic Fermentation Won’t Start

Malolactic FermentationI added malolactic culture to two carboys of wine approximately 30 days ago. One of them showed sign of good fermentation, but in the second one the malolactic fermentation won’t start. What can I do with the carboy that is not fermenting?

Thank James
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Hello James,

There are a few reasons why a malolactic fermentation won’t start or complete in a wine. Before adding the malolactic culture to the wine it is best to make sure that you have some things in order. The environment that the wine is providing for the culture needs to one that promotes a malolactic fermentation. Here or some thing to consider:

 

  • Temperature: Make sure the malolactic fermentation temperature is between 70°F. – 75°F. If the temperature is too cool the malolactic culture will not ferment as hardily as it should, if at all. Also, beware of malolactic fermentation temperatures above this range. These temperatures could promote the growth of unwanted organisms that may produce off-flavors in the wine. If you are currently experiencing MLF temperatures that are cooler than this, we have a heating belt that is designed specifically for such a situation. I doubt that this is the reason why your malolactic fermentation won’t start since both carboys are side-by-side, but I’ve included here for completeness, just the same.
  • Acidity: Just like temperature, the wine’s acidity level needs to be tested to make sure it is in a decent range. If the acidity is too high, it will inhibit the malolactic culture’s activity. You also need to be concerned about having too low of an acid level. This will promote the growth of unwanted bacteria. A simple pH reading will do. You can use pH Strips (litmus papers) or a digital pH meter. YouShop Digital pH Meter would like to have the pH be between 3.2 and 3.6. Remember, the scale works backwards. The lower the number the higher the acid. If your acidity is too high, then treat the wine with acid reducing crystals. This will drop out some if the acid as crystals. If the acidity is too low then add some acid blend.
  • Alcohol: If the wine’s alcohol level is too high this can by why your malolactic fermentation won’t start. This type of problem can be experienced with wines that are 13% or higher. It may be necessary to dilute the wine with water to bring the alcohol concentration down. Always use distilled water for this purpose.
  • Sulfite (SO2): A malolactic fermentation is very sensitive to sulfite. It is much more sensitive than a yeast fermentation. Sulfite is the main ingredient you are adding when you use Campden tablets, potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite. It is also produced naturally by the yeast during a fermentation. You would like the amount of free SO2 in the wine to be no higher than 10 ppm. You can get away with 15 ppm, but it is not preferable. You can use a Titret test kit to determine how much sulfite is in your wine. If there is too much, you can lower it by racking the wine into another vessel. Do so in a splashing manner. This activity will cause some of the SO2 to dissipate as a gas.

 

Ironically, if you cannot get the malolactic fermentation to start in your wine after making these adjustments, it is in the wine’s best interest to pull-the-plug on the project and bring the sulfite level up to a normal level – somewhere around 35 ppm to 55 ppm – and bottle the wine. This reason for this is that if the SO2 level is low in preparation for a malolactic fermentation, you don’t want the wine to stay still too long in this situation. You want to either bring the SO2 level up to a protective level, or have an active MLF. Having neither for a stretch of time is jeopardizing the wine.Shop Heating Belt

That’s how to get a malolactic fermentation going in your wine. Get the temperature and these other things set and your MLF starter should take off just fine. There may be other reasons why a malolactic fermentation won’t start, but I’m confident that the above covers 99% of the issues.

If you’d like to read more about this we have another blog post about the reasons for doing a malolactic fermentation.

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.

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.

My Wine’s Fermenting Without Adding Any Yeast

Wild Yeast On GrapesWhy is my grape juice bubbling and I have not added my yeast yet.

Name: Jerry R.
State: PA
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Hello Jerry,

The simple answer is your juice is naturally fermenting because of wild yeast. This is why a wine will ferment without adding yeast, at all.

Yeast is everywhere: floating in the air, landing on plants and animals. It is ubiquitous to the nature in which we live. Your grape juice either picked up some wild yeast somewhere, or it started naturally fermenting from yeast that were on the grapes themselves.

Most of the time, vineyards selling fresh grape juice to home winemakers will treat it with sulfites such as potassium metabisulfite to destroy any of the wild yeast and to temporarily protect if from fermentation and spoilage. This would eliminate any chance of a wine fermentation occurring from the natural yeast that was on the grapes.

But there is still the issue of the wild yeast that is floating around. From the oranges sitting on the kitchen counter to the cat who just came inside for a little nap, the sources of yeast are many and unstoppable.

Once a few cells of the wild yeast make it to your wine juice, then it becomes party time. A wine fermentation will ignite with the natural yeast. Slowly, the yeast will start to consume the sugars and use that for energy to multiply themselves into a larger colony. As the colony becomes larger the growth will slow down and the focus will turn to the productions of alcohol. This is how a wine ferments without adding yeast.Shop Wine Yeast

What is described above is no different than what happens when you add a domesticated wine yeast. This begs the question, “why add yeast at all?” The answer is simple, with wild or natural yeast you never know what you are getting. Yeast is not just yeast. There are thousands of yeast strains, and with each strain are an endless number of varying mutations.

With a domesticated wine yeast: 1) you know what you are getting, 2) the strain is kept consistent, and 3) the strain has been bred for a specific characteristic, such as alcohol tolerance, flavor profile and such. Domesticated wine yeast pack more firmly on the bottom of the fermentation vessel as sediment so you can more easily rack the wine off of it. You may want to take a look at a wonderful article we have on the reasons you should use a domesticated wine yeast.

Now that you know your wine fermentation is from natural yeast. What should you do?

Fortunately, there is a simple remedy for such a situation. Wild or natural yeast are not very resilient to sulfites, and sulfite is the active ingredient in Campden tablets, potassium metabisulfite and sodium metabisulfite. All you need to do is add a dose of any one of the above, and the wild yeast will easily be destroyed and no more natural fermentation. Wait 24 hours, then add a domesticated wine yeast to the juice. During this 24 hour period you should leave the grape juice uncovered, or at most, covered with no more than a thin towel. Shop Potassium BisulfiteThis will allow the sulfur to release as a gas and dissipate. Once the domesticated wine yeast has been added, you should see a renewed fermentation start within 24 to 36 hours.

Having a wine ferment from natural yeast is not a horrible thing but it is something you’d prefer not to have. It’s like rolling the dice with Mother Nature. The important thing to understand is that a wine fermentation can occur without adding yeast, but there is something you can easily do about it.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus

 

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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.