Airlocks are your first line of defense against both oxygen and undesireable micro-organisms that can ruin your wine. Be sure to keep a close eye on yours.It’s inexpensive, easy to use, and easy to neglect. The cost of neglecting it, however, is all the wine your making. So what is this little savior of wine? The airlock.

Why Are Airlocks So Critical?

First, they keep out all of the undesirable micro-organisms that seek to ruin your wine. Vinegar bacteria, lactic bacteria, and weak wild yeasts are all kept at bay with a properly maintained airlock.

Second, airlocks prevent oxygen from entering your wine. Not only does this prevent oxidation it makes the production of alcohol possible.

As I mentioned in my post about the yeast fermentation process, yeasts only produce alcohol when it consumes sugar. This is only possible once they’ve run out of oxygen. Thus it is critical that a properly set up airlock is used to starve the yeast of oxygen so they’ll produce alcohol.

Now that I’ve shown you how important it is to properly setting up an airlock let’s get into how to set one up.

Why do Winemakers Neglect Airlocks?

Airlocks are put in place when the wine needs to sit for a while. Generally they’ll be in place for as little as a couple of weeks or up to a few months or more. Many winemakers will “set it and forget it”.

The hard part is done and now it’s time to give our wine a little time to itself to ferment or age. Many will just walk away and trust that it’s functioning properly and nothing will happen to it.

However there airlocks can fail. All it takes is an overly active fermentation, an improperly seated plug, or a cat to make unseat an airlock and let int oxygen and some nasty micro-organisms. When that happens all that wine will have to go down the drain.

How To Use an Airlock

In the following four minute video I’ll walk you through the entire process of setting up your three piece airlock. These are not the only type of airlock on the market, however, they’re the ones with the most moving parts.

Watch this video to make sure you set up your airlock properly. If you follow these steps you’ll be well on your way to making the best possible wine with whatever raw materials you started with. The price for not following these steps so is just too high.

Pretty easy right? Yes, BUT, don’t take these little devices for granted! They may be simple but they’re our guardians against spoiled grape juice.

Remember These Tips

  • Clean and sanitize every part of the airlock and plug.
  • Fill airlocks with only clean water.
  • Check on your airlock every day!

Here’s a link to the same three piece airlock I use to make my wine. This is an affiliate link so if you use it you will be helping to support Winemaker’s Academy.



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  • Cindy Kelly

    What happens when wine comes into the airlock

    • http://WinemakersAcademy.com/ Matt Williams

      Hi Cindy!

      Great question. Usually it is the foam from fermentation that gets up into the airlock. When that happens all the bubbles can force the water up and out of your airlock leaving your wine unprotected.

      This is only an issue when your wine is in primary fermentation and things are really happening fast in there. After five days or so you should be in the clear from this issue. You should still keep an eye on the airlock though in case the plug wiggles out or evaporation of the water becomes an issue.

      I hope this helps! Please do fire away with any other questions you have.

      Cheers!

      Matt

  • Michelle

    Why do we put water in the air lock? I was told to keep an eye on it and make sure I always have water in the air lock, but I may have forgotten the why of it when I was on information overload.

    • http://WinemakersAcademy.com/ Matt Williams

      Hi Michelle!

      The water in an airlock serves as the barrier between your wine and the outside world. An airlock without water in it doesn’t provide any protection.

      During fermentation the pressure inside your fermenter will build up until the carbon dioxide is pushed through the water and escapes. Oxygen is prevented from entering your fermenter because the pressure outside will always be less than the pressure inside during fermentation.

      I hope this helps!

      Matt Williams