How to Back Sweeten a Wine Kit

How to Back Sweeten a Wine Kit

So you’ve made a wine kit and it turned out all right but maybe it needs a bit more sugar to suit your palate. Recently Sam wrote in with this exact dilema. He had made a wine kit per the instructions and everything turned out as it should have but the wine just wasn’t sweet enough for him and his wife. Is It Possible to Back Sweeten a Wine Kit? Yes, it is possible and it’s not all that difficult to do either. Some wine kits include an “F-Pack” or unfermented juice with is used as a back sweetener. However, if your kit did not include this you can still sweeten things up a bit. Before any sweetener is added you’re going to need to stabilize your wine, otherwise you risk starting a second fermentation. This can be quite dangerous if said fermentation takes place after the wine has been bottled (boom). To stabilize your wine you’ll need either potassium sorbate or a sterile filtration system. Sorbate is the lease expensive way to go but it is another additive and, in some wines after a couple years in the bottle, it can result in off flavors. However, if you plan on consuming this wine within two years or so it probably won’t make a huge difference. Sterile filtration systems are what the pros use and even though there are amateur units available they can be quite pricey when new. However, if you happen to have access to one you’ll want to filter the finished wine with a 0.45 micron filter pad. This is what’s known as a sterile filter pad because it is fine enough to remove single celled organisms such as yeast and spoilage micro-organisms. You should only ever run a wine through a sterile filter pad after it is perfectly clear. Otherwise your pads will clog immediately. Commercial wineries often filter their wines once or twice with coarser pads before passing it through a sterile filter. Now that we’ve covered that here’s… How to Back Sweeten a Wine Kit Step 1: Ferment your wine all the way to completion. It should be ready to bottle before back sweetening. This means it is still, degassed, and clear. Step 2: Clean and sanitize your primary fermenter or another carboy. Step 3: Measure out the required amount of potassium sorbate and toss it into the clean container from step 2. I use L.D. Carlson Potassium Sorbate (affiliate link) and it calls for 1/2 teaspoon per gallon of wine. Be sure to check what your bottle says in case different manufacturers sell different sorbate concentrations. To ensure that we don’t add too much or too little sorbate I would leave out any sorbate that the wine kit comes with and instead use only a sorbate that you purchase. Because we can’t be sure what the concentration of sorbate is and how much is included in the packet it is best to use a measured amount that has the correct dosage information printed on it. By adding the sorbate before racking you are letting the flow of the wine mix it in. You’ll...

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How to Detect a Stuck Fermentation

How to Detect a Stuck Fermentation

Recently Barbara wrote in with this question on a possible stuck fermentation: How can I tell if my wine is stuck and not fermenting in the secondary fermenter? Should the airlock be bubbling? -Barbara Matt’s Answer: Hi Barbara, Thank you for reaching out with your question! Being able to identify a stuck fermentation is an important skill to have and can keep you from taking drastic measures when you might not need to. The latter days of a fermentation are going to be much slow.er than primary fermentation. It is certainly possible to get a stuck fermentation at this late stage of the process given that sugar supplies are running out and alcohol levels are getting higher. This makes life hard for the yeast. As such you may only see a bubbles in your airlock every few minutes as things wind down. Using your airlock to gauge fermentation activity is a good idea but you need to check on it periodically to make sure it is still seated properly and that the water levels are correct. If either of these is off the carbon dioxide being produced may be essentially going around the airlock. This brings us to determining whether or not you have a stuck fermentation on your hands or not.   How to Tell if You Have a Stuck Fermentation The easiest way to tell if a wine is stuck is to first taste the wine. If the wine tastes even a little bit sweet you know that there’s sugar left in your wine. As this is what the yeast convert into alcohol, fermentation should not end until all the sugar is gone. If your wine is not sweet then fermentation is likely over. You can also look at your current specific gravity reading. A reading of 0.998 or less indicates the wine is likely dry as well. So by tasting and testing you can get a good idea of where you are in the fermentation process. If your wine is sweet then grab your hydrometer, take a specific gravity reading, and record your results. Then wait one week and take another specific gravity reading. If: the second reading is lower than the first reading fermentation is still going (sugar is being consumed). the two readings are the same (and the wine tasted sweet) then you probably have a stuck fermentation (sugar is not being consumed). the second reading is higher than the first reading then something went wrong (sugar is being created? that’s not possible). Double check your current reading and wait another week to take the next reading. Disregard the first one. It can be quite difficult to recover from a stuck fermentation, especially if it gets stuck with very little sugar left in the wine. This is a topic we’ll cover soon here at the Academy. Cheers Barbara! -Matt Williams Additional Information Yeast Life Cycle Protecting Your Wine With Airlocks How to Use a Wine Making Hydrometer Photography by: Tim...

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Why, How, and When to Degas Wine – WMA019

Why, How, and When to Degas Wine – WMA019

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma019.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSWhy How and When To Degas Wine Degassing is one of those wine making tasks that can be quite frustrating if you don’t have the right tools or know the best conditions under which you should degas. If not done correctly degassing can take hours if it is successful at all. In this episode we explore the three main ways to degas, how best to prepare your wine for degassing, as well as why it is so important in the first place. Products and Resources Mentioned Here’s a list of products and resources mentioned in the show as well as some links that you might find informative. Fermtech Wine Whip Long Handled Brewer’s Spoon Gas Getter Foodsaver Vacuum How to Degas Wine. (written article) How to Use a Degassing Tool. (video) Degassing & Clarifying a Kit Wine. (video) How to Reduce Tannins by Finning with Egg Whites (Winemaker Magazine article) Listener & Reader Questions Answered I’ve heard you say not to back sweeten a wine that has undergon malolactic fermentation. Why is that? Am I damaging my wine by not racking it off the lees? Are you supposed to sanitize oak chips or cubes? Can I split a 30 bottle wine making and ferment it in two different containers? Questions or comments for the show? Contact Matt directly. Photograph by: Lindsey...

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A Wine Making Timeline

A Wine Making Timeline

Knowing when to do what when making a wine is critical to producing a quality wine. When you make wine from a kit each and every step is spelled out for you but when you go to make wine from fresh fruit it’s up to you to decide / determine when to perform each of the necessary steps. What follows is a guide that you can use as a starting place to for outlining your own wine making timeline. Your mileage will certainly vary but this should be a good starting place. Remember to experiment and refine your process. Eventually you’ll dial in your own timeline that works for you. Day 1: Prepare the must On the first day of wine making you need to prepare your fruit, add in your additives such as sugar, water, sulfites, yeast nutrients, tannins, acid blend, pectic enzymes, and bentonite. You don’t necessarily need to use all of these additives but these are the most common ones called for in wine recipes and if you are going to use them now is the time to get them added. Fruit wines tend to call for more additives to shape the must into something that will be palatable once fermented. Grape wines require much less in the way of additives and the highest quality grapes will only need sulfites for protection against oxidation and spoilage organisms. Give your must 24 hours before pitching the yeast. This gives the must time to extract the flavor, aroma, and color compounds from the fruit. You can certainly go longer but be mindful of the sulfite levels and watch for wild yeast or microbial fermentation. Day 2: Pitch the Yeast After a day of maceration it’s time to get this show going. You’ll start by hydrating your yeast. This is done to help them get off to a strong start and to ensure fermentation is dominated by the wine making yeast of your choice. You may optionally let the wild yeast on the fruit ferment the wine but I recommend leaving this to experienced wine makers. Be absolutely sure that the temperature difference between your hydrated yeast and the must is 10 degrees F (6 degrees C) or less. You don’t want to send the yeast into thermal shock. They may not come out of it and you’ll need to try again with another pack of yeast. Days 3-9: Stir, Test, Stir For the next seven days you’ll want to open up the fermenter and give the fruit a bit of a squish or punch down to help mix up the fruit and fermenting wine. While the container is open go ahead and take a specific gravity reading. Do this every day until it is time to rack. How do you know when to rack? I recommend racking after the wine has been on the fruit for seven days or when the specific gravity drops to between 1.030 and 1.010. Whichever happens first. Leaving the wine on the fruit longer than seven days is tricky to pull off and you’re risking picking up off flavors as the fruit decays....

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Stabilizing Wine for Back Sweetening – WMA016

Stabilizing Wine for Back Sweetening – WMA016

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma016.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSStabilizing Wine for Back Sweetening Back sweetening can be a tricky process. If the yeast is not either removed or incapacitated in some way they will happily ferment any sugars you add to your wine to back sweeten it. So how do you stabilize a wine so that you can sweeten a wine without risking fermentation, or worse, exploding bottles? That is the main topics for this episode of the Winemaker’s Academy Podcast. During the show I explore the three main ways of stabilizing a wine so you can add sugars and end up with a sweet wine instead of a fermenting wine. Listener & Reader Questions I bottled my wine clear and now there are particles in the bottle. What happened? Do I have to let my winemaking equipment completely dry off after sanitizing it before I use it? My wine has been aging for seven months now but still has carbonation in it. Why is that? Does wine age better in bulk rather than in a 750ml bottles? Articles, Resources, and Products Mentioned Interview with John Garlich and Holly Wells, Episode 15 Mini Episode with Holly Wells Using Potassium Sorbate Wine Centrifuges Photograph by:...

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Interview with Winemaker Jason Phelps – WMA014

Interview with Winemaker Jason Phelps – WMA014

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma014.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSInterview with Winemaker Jason Phelps The best way to improve upon a skill, winemaking included, is through personal experience. The second best way is by learning through others experiences. In this episode I’ve got a great interview with winemaker Jason Phelps where he shares many lessons learned through his ten years of wine making experience. You’ll hear about wines that went well and won medals, wines that didn’t go so well and had to be poured out, and what he learned by competing and judging winemaking competitions. So grab a notebook and a glass of wine for this episode. You’ll learn a lot but you’ll also be challenged to consider how you view your wine and how you make it. I know I came away from this interview needing to reflect on some of my own views and reconsider what direction to take my own wines. If you’d like to learn more about Jason check out his website, Ancient Fire Wine. Listener Questions Jason was kind enough to weigh in on several questions that came in from members of the Winemaker’s Academy Facebook group (email me for more information on that). How would you go about doing wine making bench trials? How do you recommend making wine without sulfites? Do you have any methods for reducing sulfur smells in a finished wine? Please let Jason and I know what you thought of the episode in the comments...

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