How Long Do Primary and Secondary Fermentations Last?

How Long Do Primary and Secondary Fermentations Last?

Nearly every wine kit and wine making recipe has a different recommendation on how long primary and secondary fermentations are supposed to last. It turns out that there are a lot of variables that can affect how long each of these last. This means that there’s a good chance your wine will behave differently than what the instructions or recipe you’re following say should happen. Primary fermentation is the more vigorous portion of the fermentation process during which time approximately 70% of your total amount of alcohol is produced. It will generally go by much more quickly than secondary fermentation. For more information on the differences between these two check out Primary Vs Secondary Fermentation. So how long should each of these take? Let’s find out. Primary Fermentation Primary fermentation usually takes between three to seven days to complete. It goes by much more quickly than secondary fermentation because wine must is a much more fertile environment for the yeast. Sugar and oxygen levels are high during primary fermentation and there are plenty of nutrients. A happy and healthy yeast population can really consume some sugar at a rapid rate in an environment like this. As fermentation progresses though the oxygen runs out, the sugar and nutrient levels drop, and alcohol starts to build up. This slows fermentation down. Listen this for more information on the yeast life cycle. There is no definite sign or event that separates primary and secondary fermentation. So how long primary fermentation lasts has more to do with when you rack to a secondary fermenter than it does with some specific event taking place. In general prmary fermentation is said to be over once your specific gravity has dropped to below 1.030. This is just a rule of thumb though. I consider my wine to be in secondary fermentation when it is ready to be racked to the secondary fermenter. This might be after three days or after two weeks, it depends on how fermentation is going. If you make wine with fresh fruit, be it grapes or something else, you don’t want your wine to sit on that fruit any longer than five to seven days unless you really know what you’re doing with extended macerations. So regardless of where your specific gravity is you want to be off of that fruit lees before your wine begins picking up off flavors. Suppose you’re making wine from a concentrate or from honey and you don’t have that fruit lees to worry about. At this point you can use the general rule of racking into a secondary fermenter when your specific gravity has dropped below 1.030. Secondary Fermentation How long secondary fermentation lasts depends on a handful of things. Not only does it depend on when you rack to a secondary container, it also depends on how agressive your yeast strain is as well as the wine’s temperature. An aggressive yeast will power through a fermentation pretty steadily to the very end. This is especially true if you are making a dry wine. If, on the other hand you are using a yeast strain that...

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Bottling Wine at a Small Winery

Bottling Wine at a Small Winery

Recently I volunteered at two different Colorado wineries to give them a hand bottling wine. It was a great experience and one that I learned a lot from. While I did expect the two different wineries to have different bottling procedures I was struck by just how different they were. On the one hand was a simple, no frills bottling process much like any amateur wine maker does on their own. On the other hand was a more complex process that required some specialized equipment. Here is a synopsis of each bottling process. A Simple Bottling Line At Winery A they employed a simple and straight forward bottling process. The wine was pumped from the tank through a filter with an impeller pump into the bottle filler. The filler had an six bottle capacity. Empty bottles were taken from their cases and put onto the bottle filler. Once full the bottles were removed and set down where the person running the corker could reach the bottles. The corker was responsible for ensuring that the bottle was filled to the appropriate level. Not too much and not less than what’s supposed to be in the bottle. Wineries can get into legal trouble if this is off on a consistent basis. If the bottle was filled to the correct level they inserted it into a mechanical corker. By pressing a pedal on the floor the corker was set in motion. It would push the cork in by force and then load up a cork for the next bottle. The entire operation took only 1 to 2 seconds to complete. After the corks were inserted the full bottles were placed back into cardboard cases. As the cases filled up they were stacked in a specific way to ensure that they did not fall over when the pallet was moved. This process is very much like the amateur wine maker’s set up. Instead of a pump often times we’ll use a siphon and we’ll also use a bottle filler that handles one bottle at a time instead of six. Our corkers are also mechanical but not quite as automated.     A More Complex Bottling Line Winery B’s process was a bit more involved. First the wine was pumped from the tank to the bottle filler using a double diaphragm pump. These pumps offer much more control over the flow rate of the wine and require an air compressor in order to function. The wine fed into a reservoir on the top of the bottle filler which also had the capacity to fill eight bottles at a time. In addition to wine in the reservoir there was a gas line that delivered nitrogen. The nitrogen exited the gas line below the surface of the wine so there was a constant bubbling noise coming from filler. With the reservoir cover securely in place the nitrogen served two purposes. Most importantly it protected the wine from oxygen exposure as nitrogen was undoubtedly flowing out of the reservoir. At the same time the bubbling action of the nitrogen in the wine can help degas the wine...

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How to Control Your Wine Fermentation Temperature – WMA009

How to Control Your Wine Fermentation Temperature – WMA009

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma009.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSControlling Your Wine Fermentation Temperatures The temperature of your wine fermentation plays a big rol in how your final product will turn out. If it gets too hot or too cold things you can end up with flavor issues, or worse, a stuck fermentation. In this podcast you’ll discover a few different ways of heating and cooling a fermenting wine to ensure that you maintain the proper temperature. There are simple and inexpensive methods and then, of course, there are most costly methods that can sometimes offer better temperature control. Listener Questions Here is the lineup of listener questions addressed in this show: How do you use inert gases to sparge a carboy? I accidentally added too much potassium metabisulfite. What do I do now? How many days do you keep the grape skins on the must during fermentation? Can oak cubes or spirals be used more than once? I won’t be home to rack my wine to the secondary fermenter. Is this a problem? Resources and Products Mentioned The following articles and products were mentioned throughout the podcast. Brew Belt Carboy insulative wrap Johnson Digital Temperature Controller (for freezers and refrigerators) Glycol chillers Chilling coil* Private Preserve inert gasses Potassium Metabisulfite Calculator Oak Products Explained Winemaker’s Answer Book by Alison Crowe *DO NOT use copper coils as the pH of wine is strong enough to cause more copper to disburse into your wine which can become a health...

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Matt’s Strawberry Melomel

Matt’s Strawberry Melomel

A strawberry mead recipe by Matt Williams. This was my first fruit wine that I ever made. I used frozen strawberries from the grocery store and a local Colorado honey. It took about 3 weeks to fully ferment and I recommend giving it a full six months or more to clear. I opted not to degas the mead as the tiny amount of carbonation added a nice touch to the finished product. The final alcohol content was 14.25% prior to back sweetening (optional). Ingredients   4lbs frozen strawberries 48 oz Raw, Unfiltered Honey Water (enough to total 1.25 gallons of total liquids) 1 tsp Acid Blend ¼ tsp Tannin ½ tsp Pectic Enzyme 1 tsp Yeast Nutrients 1 pkg Premier Cuvee Yeast Potassium Metabisulfite / campden tablets (measure per manufacturers recommendation) Optional if back sweetening Additional honey to taste Potassium sorbate (measure per manufacturers recommendation) Always refer to the additive manufacturers instructions on how much to add as concentrations may vary. Making Strawberry Melomel Starting Fermentation Begin by setting out the frozen strawberries to thaw in the packaging they came in. Once the fruit has thawed sanitize your wine making equipment including: a hydrometer, test jar, a mixing bowl, primary fermenter, and a stirring spoon. Line the mixing bowl with a sanitized nylon bag (like this one). Open the bag of strawberries and empty the contents into the lined bowl. Lift up on the bag and allow the juice to drain into the bowl. Place the bag of strawberries into the primary fermenter. Pour the honey and enough water into the mixing bowl so that you have a total of 1.25 gallons of must. It can be helpful to heat the honey slightly so that it is easier to pour and mix in. There’s no need to boil the honey though, it is naturally anti-microbial. Once all the liquids have been thoroughly mixed in measure the specific gravity and temperature of the must and calculate the temperature corrected specific gravity. Record this in your wine making log. Here’s a free wine making log you can print if you need it. Next measure the appropriate amount of acid blend, tannins, pectic enzyme, and yeast nutrients for the 1.25 gallons of must you have. Different additive manufacturers make additives of different concentrations so be sure to go by what your specific container has labeled on it. The potassium metabisulfite is added after fermentation, not now. The last thing to do at this stage is hydrate your yeast and add it to the must. I recommend hydrating over adding the yeast in a dry form in order to help it get going. Honey is already hard for yeast to ferment and hydrating helps them get started. During the first five days squeeze the mesh bag of fruit daily to help extract flavor, color, and aroma compounds. Check the specific gravity every other day. Rack your mead to the secondary fermenter and discard the fruit once the mead reaches a specific gravity of 1.030. Secondary Fermentation Allow your strawberry melomel to continue fermenting for six weeks. Check the specific gravity and record your...

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How to Ameliorate Wine

How to Ameliorate Wine

The dictionary definition of amelioration is “to make better”. In wine making this is exactly our aim when we ameliorate our wine must, however, as wine makers we have a much more specific definition of the term. Ameliorating wine is simply adding water to unfermented must with the purpose of making the finished wine better. Some wine makers use the term ameliorate to describe the addition of water or sugar to a must, however, this can get confusing so we’ll use the term ameliorate to describe the addition of water to must. Why Ameliorate Wine Must at All? There are two reasons you might want to add water to a wine must, either you need to dilute the acid or dilute the sugar. Of course you can’t dilute just one or the other, you will actually be reducing both the acid and sugar in as well as the flavor, aroma, and color. Amelioration can come in handy when grapes are harvested early and the acids are high. You would add an amount of water to reduce the acid to a more reasonable level. Under ripe grapes already have low sugar and the water used to cut the acid further reduces the sugar content. Thus you would want to add sugar to your wine as at the same time, a process known as chaptalization. Amelioration is also used in a similar fashion with grapes that have been harvested late. Late harvest grapes are high in sugar and low in acid. Thus you would add water to cut the sugar and then use an acid blend to bring the acid levels up. These methods can largely be avoided by harvesting at the ideal ripeness. However, there are circumstances which can arise that would force you to work with fruit harvested early or late. While there are chemical means to reduce a wine’s acid many winemakers will avoid this if at all possible in order to cut down on the chemical additives they’re throwing in. There is not a chemical way to reduce sugar content though, adding water is your only option. The following grape varietals can benefit from amelioration in order to reduce acidity: Concord, Delaware, Steuben, and Catawba. Traditional Napa and old world wine making grape varietals do not often need amelioration except, however, in circumstances such as a early or late harvest or in cooler climates How to Ameliorate Your Wine If you find that you must ameliorate your wine it is best to go slowly. There’s not a lot you can do if you add too much water. Your flavor, aroma, color, and wine chemistry will suffer. The best time to ameliorate is prior to fermentation. This is true with any adjustments you may make to your wine. You want to get your must all set before pitching the yeast because the during the fermentation process your yeast serve to integrate everything into a cohesive finished wine. Adding water during or after fermentation can lead to watered down flavors and a lack of body. To ameliorate with the intent of reducing acid I recommend making a sugar-water mixture...

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How to Chaptalize Wine

How to Chaptalize Wine

What Does it Mean to Chaptalize Wine? Chaptalizing is the act of adding sugar to a grape must in order to increase the alcohol content of the finished wine. Since yeast consumes sugars to produce alcohol, if you add sugar to grape juice before or during fermentation the yeast will have more sugar to convert thus yielding higher alcohol levels. This process is widely regulated in commercial wine making depending upon where in the world you are located. The US has federal regulations (available here) and some states enact their own regulations to go on top of the federal ones. An Interesting History of Chaptilizing Wine Chaptalization was widely done in France for many years until 1907 when the industry began a protest. At the height of the protest 900,000 people rallied against the practice of adding sugar to grapes to make higher alcohol wines. The cause of the unrest was a flood of cheap wines that had hit the market and driven the price of all wines down. These cheap wines were made from sub-par fruit that was doctored with additional sugar to produce a wine with higher alcohol content. To keep the protesters in check the French Army was called out (this never turns out well in any country). Mayhem ensued and five people wound up dead. The very next day the protest continued with a local government building being burned to the gruond. As a result of the protest the French government put into place restrictions on how much the final alcohol content may be influence as well as when it is even legal to chaptalize wine. In France the final alcohol content cannot be raised more than 2% by volume. The US has similar standards, however, the US also limits the maximum percent alcohol that the final wine can be. The Process of Chaptilizing Wine Chaptalizing wine is simple. You merely add sugar to your must prior to starting fermentation. It is easiest to add it before fermentation begins so that you can get an accurate specific gravity reading. However, you can also add the sugar during fermentation but you’ll have to do your own calculations to determine the final alcohol content. Sugar may be added in the form of granular sugar or grape juice concentrate for most commercial wineries. Amateur wine makers, of course, are free to use whatever they like including honey, powdered fructose, and dried fruit. With your sweetener of choice in hand you merely mix it in completely, take your chemistry readings, and then inoculate your yeast to begin fermentation. How Much Sugar Do I Add? The quantity of sugar you add is a more complex subject. As with most decisions you make regarding your wine it is best to begin with the end in mind. How much alcohol do you want your finished wine to have? Here’s a simple relationship to help you figure it out: 1.5 oz of sugar will raise one gallon of wine by 1 Brix. Let’s work through a quick example. Say I have some Pinot Noir grapes and I know that I want my finished wine to be...

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