Wine Making Tips

Having trouble removing the cap on the bag of concentrate?  Use a beer cap remover and gently but firmly work around the cap.

Ascorbic acid can be added to a “too sweet” wine to make it dryer. Stir in a maximum of 4 teaspoons per 23 liter batch. It is important to not add too much though.  Start with a small amount and add more ascorbic acid as required up to the maximum recommended amount.

Make certain that all equipment and utensils are thoroughly cleaned and sterilized before you start your wine kit.  Wash everything that comes in contact with your wine with either a chlorinated cleaner or an Oxy cleaner such as Aseptox or PBW first.  Then rinse thoroughly with clear water.  Then rinse with the sterilizing solution and then rinse quickly with clear water.  It may take a couple of minutes, but do not skip this step. Failure to clean everything thoroughly could ruin your wine.

A recommended sterilizing solution is made by mixing 50 grams of sodium metabisulpite in 4 litres of water. Kept tightly sealed, this solution can be reused for a number of kits. Once the strong sulphite smell dissipates do not use and mix up a fresh batch. Other sterilizing agents include Star San, Iodophor, and Oxy San which are available at Brew Craft.  This sterilizing solution can be kept in a 4 litre container which will allow easy use of the solution and you will not have to fool around with funnels, or the like, pouring the solution from one vessel to another.

When filling your primary fermenter/bucket, when starting a wine kit, be sure to stop filling at about the 19 litre level in order to check your temperature. This will give you a chance to adjust the temperature so that it ends up being 22 – 25 degrees celsius at the 23 liter level. If the temperature goes much over these values at the 23 litre level, allow the mixture to stand until it cools down or place the bucket in a sink of cold water until it cools down. Remember, if the temperature is too high, it can kill your yeast.

Do not leave your wine in the primary fermenter/bucket past the end of the fermentation. Any extended time in the primary fermenter will cause your wine to start to oxidize which will end up with bad tasting wine.

It is essential to transfer your wine from the primary to the secondary (carboy) at 1.020 or below. I prefer to transfer just as the fermentation is completing.

During the second stage of your wine fermentation be sure to leave your wine in the carboy for at least the full 10 – 12 days specified, even though the fermentation may have stopped after a couple of days and the proper specific gravity has been reached. This extra time will insure that all of the flavours and aromas have ample time to develop in your wine earlier. Make certain that your carboy is topped up at all times, and that your airlock is always attached.

When it is time to rack (siphon) your wine, very gently tip your bucket or carboy up on one edge and slip a book or small block of wood under the raised edge. If there is sediment in the container, rack from the lower edge with the sediment tip attached to the racking tube. This process will allow you to get all the wine possible from the container and leave all of the sediment behind. When the container is almost empty, keep a close eye on the sediment and stop the racking as soon as sediment starts up the racking tube.

When racking, always rack directly to the bottom of whatever you are racking into (bottle, carboy, bucket, etc.). By doing this, it will eliminate any splashing of your wine and help prevent any oxidation. If you use a racking tube at either end of your siphon hose, or a racking tube and a bottle filler when bottling, the process will be much easier.

A good fermentation temperature is 22 – 25 degrees celsius. A warmer temperature will accelerate the fermentation process and possibly cause a lack of flavour in your wine. A lower temperature will slow down the fermentation process but can enhance flavours. Also remember that temperatures that are too warm or too cool can cause your yeast to die or go dormant.

If You find that the completion of your fermentation is hard to achieve (SG about 1.005) try increasing the temperature of your must. Use a brew belt to raise the temperature (it may take a day or two to raise the temperature of your carboy) and the fermentation should speed up. Always make sure the fermentation has fully completed and the SG is stable before you continue.

When de-gassing your wine, degassing rods are an invaluable tool as they make he stirring a little easier.  These degassing rods attach to a drill and are able to stir your wine at a quicker rate.

If the potassium sorbate is introduced into the wine before the fermentation process is fully completed and a yeast cell has already started to bud, the sorbate will not kill the cell, but only slow down the fermentation, which is a major cause of re-fermentation in the bottles. Using a wine hydrometer and correctly reading the specific gravity can help prevent this from happening.

The complete removal of the residual carbon dioxide gas from your wine is very important when making wine from kits. Failure to completely remove the gas will result in the fining (clarifying agent) being held in suspension or floating to the surface which renders it ineffective. Always make certain that the sodium metabisulphite was added prior to de-gassing to prevent oxidation.

If you encounter problems getting the fermentation started, or it stops for no apparent reason, there are usually two possible causes. First, check the temperature.  If it is too cool, the yeast may have gone dormant.  Raise the temperature to the acceptable limits and the fermentation should continue. If the temperature is too hot, your yeast may have died, get the temperature down and re-hydrate a 1118 yeast and stir into the wine must.

If the temperature is OK and the specific gravity is not at the lower limit, try stirring the wine must. The fermentation may be oxygen starved and stirring will replenish the oxygen. Oxygen is required for fermentation that is why stirring is so important when starting your kit.

If, after bottling, you find bottles exploding or corks popping, or your wine is ‘fizzy’ when opened, the cause is most likely an incomplete fermentation prior to bottling. It is important to always check the specific gravity throughout the fermentation process and that the limits for the style of wine you are making are reached.

When clearing your wine, a good rule to live by is “the cooler the better”. Placing your carboy on a cold floor or in a cool room will assist the finings as they clear your wine. Bear in mind, though, that you should not move your carboy before the next racking.

It is a good idea (and saves a lot of time and work later), to wash out your wine bottles immediately after emptying the bottle and let them air dry. This will eliminate the possibility of mold and bacteria forming and leaves you with an easy job of washing and sterilizing the bottles at the next bottling.

Always be mindful of what you are trying to do when you are filtering. Filtering your wine will remove small fragments of fruit and yeast cells. It will polish your wine and give you a little more sparkle to your wine. Always remember that you cannot filter a cloudy wine. The ‘cloud’ in the wine contains particles of such a small size that the filter probably will not remove them all and the ones that are stopped by the filter will only be successful in plugging it and causing leaks and wine wastage. The single most mistake that home vintners make when filtering is to attempt to get every last ounce of wine out of the carboy. Doing this will make your wine cloudy and plug the filters. The filtering process will be much more successful and you will end up with a much better final product if you only filter the clear wine and leave all sediment in the carboy, still undisturbed. Do not attempt to pick up any sediment at all!

You should ensure that your wine is properly sulphited before it is filtered. The pump in the filter can introduce Oxygen into your wine. Having the correct level of sulphite will prevent the oxygen from damaging the flavour and colour of your wine. You should have 50 ppm of potassium sulphite in your wine before filtering. 1/4 teaspoon in a 23 liter batch should be sufficient.

Use sulphite solution in your air-lock instead of plain water. This will help prevent outside contamination from entering through the air-lock. If you are bulk-aging your wine, use glycerine in the air-lock as it will not evaporate.

Be sure to use the free wine log that you get at Brew Craft with the purchase of each wine kit. Carefully record all information and steps followed. This batch might be the best you ever made, and by keeping the log you will be able to repeat the process.

It is important that you take the Specific Gravity of your wine at the start of the fermentation and at racking time. The Specific Gravity reading will tell you the alcohol level of your kit and at what stage the fermentation is, or whether it is finished.

The alcohol level is calculated by taking the initial and final Specific gravity, converting these readings into Potential Alcohol by directly reading the corresponding values on the hydrometer and then subtracting the initial and final potential alcohol readings.

Proper preparation of your corks is very important. Mix together ¼ cup of sulphite (a sterilizing solution) and two cups of warm tap water. This will give you a very weak sterilizing solution. Place your corks in this solution but do not soak them for longer than 15 minutes. Insert immediately.  The purpose of this bath is to sterilize the corks only and not for moistening or softening.

While your wine is in the clearing process, you will notice a small amount of sediment sticking to the side of the Carboy. To release this sediment simply rotate the Carboy quickly to dislodge the sediment from the sides. This only requires a small turn.  Do this about three to four days into the clearing process.

If you plan on storing your wine for a long period of time (and we mean years, not months) we recommend putting about 5 grams (1/4 teaspoon) of potassium metabisulphite in your 23 liter batch just prior to bottling. The reason for this is that sulphites dissipate over time , thereby lessening its ability to protect the wine from oxidation. Please remember that if you follow this procedure the wine will smell of sulphides for the first 4-6 months. If you must open a bottle early allow it to breathe for a short time after opening.

Check out our other channels
No comments yet.

Leave a Reply