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Stopping a Wine Fermentation – WMA028

- Feb 4, 2015

Stopping a Wine Fermentation – WMA028

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma028.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSStopping a Wine Fermentation Is it possible to stop a fermentation by adding sorbate or sulfites or both? This is a common question I get from wine makers. While it is possible to do it can be tough. Even commercial wineries sometimes struggle to stop it right where they want it. Home winemakers have it even tougher without the fancy equipment wineries use. In this episode of the podcast I’ll address how fermentations can be stopped as well as some common misconceptions concerning the use of sorbate and potassium metabisulfite to stop a fermentation. Questions Answered My wines keep developing mold even though I’m using sulfites. What’s going on here? I started my wine 5 days ago and now the airlock is bubbling very slowly, is it okay? Is there a way to salvage the wine at the bottom of the carboy with the sediment in it? Resources & Products Mentioned Stabilizing Wine for Back Sweetening How To Backsweeten a Wine How to Back Sweeten a Wine Kit The Difference Between Primary and Secondary Fermentation How Long do Primary and Secondary Fermentations Last? Photograph by: Tim Patterson...

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Controlling Wine Fermentation Speeds

- Jan 21, 2015

Controlling Wine Fermentation Speeds

The speed of a fermentation is a function of many different variables. Once you understand these variables you can manipulate them to slow down or speed up a fermentation. Most wine makers agree that a slow fermentation is better. The thinking goes that the wine will hold on to more of the varietal characteristics as well as any delicate flavors and aromas created during fermentation. More aggressive fermentations tend to blow all varietal character out the airlock, so to speak. Despite the stated benefits of a slow fermentation, there may be times when you need to speed things up. For instance, if your fermentation has been slowing down and you’re affraid it may become stuck, this would be a good time to get things moving again. Another possibility is some constraint on the winemaker’s time such as a trip or something. With all of this in mind let’s explore the major factors that affect how fast wine ferments. Fermentation Temperature This is a pretty obvious driver of fermentation activity. As you know heat is a catalyst and when applied to a fermentation the yeast will ferment must more quickly. Cool the wine down and the rate of fermentation will also slow down. There are, of course, limits to how far you can go both on the warmer and cooler sides of the spectrum. Temperature is something we’ve often discussed here at Winemaker’s Academy. Here are a couple related articles: The Effects of Fermentation Temperature on Wine How to Control Your Wine Fermentation Temperature – WMA009 Raising fermentation temperatures is decidedly easier than lowering it. Kurt recently shared a great method for controling fermentation temperatures you should probably check out. To cool a wine you either need an ice bath or some sort of chiller (check out the podcast above for more information). Your best bet is to ferment your wine in a cool room (60-65 F / 15-18 C) and use a heating system as needed. Nutrient Levels Yeast nutrients is an additive which provides nitrogen and ammonium phosphate. These help the yeast stay healthy and active. Much like you and I do better when we’re getting all the right vitamins and minerals so too does yeast do better with nitrogen and ammonium phosphate. Nutrients are required for the yeast to do their job but they don’t make for a good catalyst for speeding up or slowing down a fermentation. I recommend using the amount specified in your wine making recipe, or if you’re not following a recipe 1 teaspoon of yeast nutrients (affiliate link) per gallon of must is what LD Carlson suggests. According to professional winemaker John Garlich, yeast nutrients are like candy to yeast. They focus on eating that while it’s in abundance because it’s easier to process than sugar. However, when it runs out they can have trouble switching gears into consuming sugar. Listen to this interview with John for more information Wine Making Chemistry with Bookcliff Vineyards – WMA015. I don’t recommend adding extra nutrients to speed up a fermentation nor should you reduce the nutrients to slow things down. I recommend adding an appropriate amount to ensure that the yeast is happy and healthy. If nutrient levels are too low the yeast will struggle and the fermentation may become stuck. So get the nutrient...

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Basic Wine Chemistry – WMA027

- Jan 15, 2015

Basic Wine Chemistry – WMA027

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma027.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSBasic Wine Chemistry In this episode of the Winemaker’s Academy Podcast I go through the recommended values for various chemistry related aspects of wine such as: pH Titratable Acidity Alcohol Residual Sugar Sulfites For each of these I share the recommended values you can shoot for when making wine to help produce a more balanced wine. As you’ll hear in the show I don’t recommend making wine by the numbers and you certainly shouldn’t see these ranges as hard and fast rules. There may certainly be great wines with chemistry outside of these ranges but it is helpful to know where most balanced wines fall on the various scales. Aside from starting with great fruit and keeping your wine safe from spoilage getting the chemistry right is just as important to making a better bottle of wine. Questions Answered How can I lower my final specific gravity? When is wine technically start aging? Is it okay to use a sanitizer comprised of hydrogen peroxide and acetic acid? Resources & Products Mentioned Winemaker’s Answer Book by Alison Crowe Wine Alcohol Content Calculator Winemaker Magazine Measuring Residual Sugar Calculating Correct Sulfite Levels Kurt’s Temperature Control System Star San 3 Ways You Can Support the Podcast (as mentioned in the show) Become a Patreon Supporter Submit a wine making recipe Leave a review in iTunes or Stitcher Photograph by: CaptMikey9...

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Help My Wine Smells Like Bananas

- Jan 9, 2015

Help My Wine Smells Like Bananas

There is an incredible amount of aromas one can detect in a wine. Some are fruity some aren’t. As you can well imagine some smells are okay and other signify that something has gone awry. Recently Emmett, a Winemaker’s Academy member, wrote in with the following problem: During degassing of my kit, I noticed my wine smelt like bananas. Its a Cabernet Sauvignon so needless to say, banana isn’t in that wines sent profile. Any ideas on where this may be coming from? I know that wines like Beaujolais Nouveau will sometimes have Banana like aromas, but I’ve never heard of it connected with a Caberney Sauvignon. Causes of Banana Odors in Wine It is certainly possible to pick up banana flavors from the fermentation process. As Emmet points out, Beaujolais is known to have banana aroma and flavors as a result of carbonic maceration. Other wines may also exhibit these aromas if they contain Isomyl Acetate or Ethyl Octanoate, both of which are naturally occuring biproducts of the fermentation process (read more here). As long as these chemicals are in small enough concentrations the wines will be fine to drink and the banana may even add a bit of a pleasing twist to the flavor profile. In higher concentrations, however, these wines may be undrinkable. There are two main causes of banana odors in wine outside of what can occur naturally. The first cause is cool fermentation temperatures and the second is spoilage. Let’s look at each in a little more depth. Cool Fermentation Temperatures According to Master of Wine Debra Meilburg, “Banana-like aromas appear in wine when grapes are fermented at excessively cool temperatures.” (read the entire article here) So if your fermentation dipped below the recommended temperature range for your yeast, banana aromas may ensue. As you know, when yeast digest the sugars and nutrients in a wine must they alter them. Chemical compounds in grapes called stereoisomers are taken in by the yeast where they are subjected to enzymes used to digest sugars. This interaction changes the stereoisomers and makes them take on flavor and aroma characteristics of other fruits. When yeast is under stress, such as when temperatures get too hot or cold, the yeast will produce off flavors. Just like you and I can’t do our best work if we’re not comfortable, yeast will struggle with an extreme environment. Banana odors are one example of an odor that can be produced by stressed yeast. Spoilage The other possibility is that your wine is contaminated with a spoilage micro-organism. When acetobacter contaminates a wine it converts the alcohol into acetic acid (vinegar). In the presence of 1-pentatol (a rather unpleasant form of alcohol) the acetic acid will mix with it and produce amyl acetate which smells like artificial banana flavoring. Unfortunately for our friend Emmet, this was the case. What started out as a mild banana odor gradually gave way to vinegar odors. Somehow his wine was exposed to acetobacter and, perhaps due to stress on the yeast, 1-pentanol was likely present. The two combined to give the banana odors. Over time, however, the acetobacter converted more and more of the alcohol to vinegar and it just overwhelmed the wine. A wine with acetic acid may be treated though you have to catch it early and...

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Evaluating Your Own Wines – WMA026

- Jan 1, 2015

Evaluating Your Own Wines – WMA026

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma026.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSEvaluating Your Own Wines In this podcast you’ll discover why it is so important to take a systematic approach to evaluating your own wines. This is, I believe, an essential part of learning to make a better bottle of wine. Whether you’re an amateur winemaker or professional you will benefit from this as will your wines. Here are just a few of the different systems used by wine professionals to evaluate wines. Take a look at each and see which one feels right to you. If these are too involved you could always write out a list of questions to answer when tasting your own wines to see where you can improve. UC Davis 20 Point Wine Scoring System Guild of Sommeliers Tasting Grid Wine and Spirits Education Trust Tasting Grid As I mentioned in the podcast the point of evaluating your wine is not to assign it a numeric score. The point is to take a structured approach to tasting and evaluating your wine. Questions Answered How long can you age kit wines? Can I add extra tannins to my kit wine? How does that affect aging? Can I age my kit wine in a 5 liter barrel? Resources & Products Mentioned Winemaker’s Academy Podcast Episode 23: Tasting Wine with the Wine Curmudgeon Matt’s Strawberry Melomel Nomacorc #9 Premium Corks Private Preserve Solid Cork Closures Overrun corks from wineries If you enjoy the podcast and would like to become a supporter click here to learn...

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Kurt’s Fermentation Temperature Control System

- Dec 17, 2014

Kurt’s Fermentation Temperature Control System

Recently a Winemaker’s Academy member shared this amazing system, that he developed, for controlling the temperature of a wine fermentation. In this post Kurt shares all of the equipment necessary to build this system. I (Matt Williams) have done some minor editing to convert it from an email to an article but by in large this entire article is in Kurt’s words. Please feel free to ask any questions that you may have in the comments below. Also if you decide to build this system for yourself please share your results in the comments. The original email included links to equipment available on ebay, however, given the frequency at which items turn over on that site maintaining those links proved to be too difficult. So you’ll have to do some hunting for these components but they should be easy enough to find given the amount of information Kurt has provided. And now for Kurt’s Temperature Control System: I have been using this system over a year now and have found it to be exceptionally effective in controlling the temperature. I tried a brew belt, but found it impossible to reliably control the temperature (probably because I was using it in an extremely cold winter [for us in England] in an unheated building, and then in a building that was unheated overnight in winter). Of course this only works if the ambient temperature is less than 25° C (77° F), which is not a problem for us in England almost every day of the year (or century). I remember reading in C.J.J. Berry’s book, First Steps in Winemaking, that the yeast likes a very stable temperature. With this system, there is still a small fluctuation in temperature, because the fermenter is not completely submersed, but it is typically very small, within a degree or so. (I have my tubs in a building that is not heated overnight, so there is often a very considerable drop in ambient temperature overnight in the winter, so I have given it a very good test.) Here is a description of the components and comments about the various equipment and prices. I have only included them to complete the list of potential equipment. Many of these items are not strictly necessary, but are nice to have. See the discussion for each item. Aquarium Fish Tank 2 Way Air Flow Distributor Splitter Control Lever Pump Valve These are simply more sophisticated versions of a cheaper plastic T valve. Often individual air-stones have different air resistance, so these allow you to easily adjust the air pressure for each stone, so that they produce an even amount of bubbles on each side of the tub. I only use these. PVC Tube Clear Flexible Plastic Hose Pipe – Fish, Pond, Car, Aquariums, Air Line I ordered a 10cm sample size (cut it to 2.5cm length) and found that it fitted perfectly around the thermometer to then fit in the airlock grommet with an airtight seal. Silverline Flat Bit 13mm 128573 Hand Tools Drill Power Holes Wood Drilling Brace Essential for drilling gromet holes in the lids of 23L fermentation buckets. After much trial and error, I have 2 kinds of lids. No hole for while stabilizing, clarifying or keeping a sanitizing solution. Two holes while fermenting; one fermentation hole is...

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Interview with Winemaker Paul Bonacquisti – WMA025

- Dec 10, 2014

Interview with Winemaker Paul Bonacquisti – WMA025

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma025.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSFrom Hobby Winemaker to Pro with Paul Bonacquisti Paul Bonacquisti, formerly a radio DJ, made the jump from a hobby wine maker to a professional winemaker when he opened Bonacquisti Wine Company, a very popular Colorado winery. Paul joins Matt on the podcast to share his story of how he became a professional wine maker as well as advice on how others can do the same. We also talk about synthetic closures, selling wine in growlers, and even kegging wine. This was a really fun interview to record and there’s also a lot to learn. If you’re interested in learning more about Paul and to see what he’s up to check out his website: Bonacquisti Wine Company Resources & Products Mentioned International Wine Guild Nomacorc Wine Closures DOW...

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How to Back Sweeten a Wine Kit

- Dec 4, 2014

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 still want to stir it well but this can help get things mixing from the start. Step 4: Rack your wine into the clean container with the sorbate. This helps...

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How Sparkling Wine is Made – WMA024

- Nov 20, 2014

How Sparkling Wine is Made – WMA024

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma024.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSHow Sparkling Wine is Made Sparkling wines are an amazing product of fermentation. They must be made with utmost care not only for the sake of the wine but also for the well being of the wine maker. Taking a still wine in the bottle and then adding sugar, then yeast, and then capping can lead to some significant pressures building up in those glass bottles. Pressurized glass is a recipe for danger if you don’t have the hang of how sparkling winemaking is done. This podcast episode will show you how sparkling wines are made and we’ll also discuss how to stay safe should you decide to give it a try. Questions Answered I was supposed to have racked already. Should I wait until fermentation is over? My watermelon wines smell like rotting watermelon fields. What’s going on? Should I not have degassed my right before bottling? Resources & Products Mentioned Wikipedia Article on Sparkling Wine Production Montrachet Yeast Champagne Bottles (by the case) Sparkling Wine Corks Plastic Sparkling Wine Stoppers Winemaker’s Answer Book by Alison Crowe Photo of riddling rack by Manikom (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons Photo of sparkling wine by Andrea Parrish – Geyer...

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My Airlock Needs Water?

- Nov 13, 2014

My Airlock Needs Water?

Recently I’ve heard from more than one confused beginning winemaker asking if their wine was ruined because they never put water in their airlock. It’s not all that surprising as a beginner has a lot to figure out with all the steps, additives, and equipment. I’m sure there are wine making shops that forget to mention that the airlock needs water. For a seasoned wine maker it’s just how things work. An Academy member by the name of Robert recently wrote in with just this problem. He purchased everything he needed to make a kit wine but didn’t know that the airlock needed water in order to protect his wine. At the time he wrote in his wine had been fermenting for two weeks and was well past the vigorous fermentation stage. So let’s take a look at which airlocks require water, which don’t, and how they work in the first place. Which Airlocks Require Water? Some airlocks require water and others don’t. The most common styles do require water and those are the “S” shaped and three piece airlocks as shown here. The water forms a barrier between you and your wine. Because of the shape of the airlock the carbon dioxide being released by the yeast is forced to go through the airlock, through the water, and then exit the airlock. As the yeast produce carbon dioxide they cause pressure to build within the fermenter. When the pressure is great enough a bubble will go through the water barrier. This difference in pressure between the fermenter and the air outside the fermenter oxygen will not be able to flow through backwards through the airlock and interact with your wine. Waterless Airlocks There are several varieties of airlocks available, such as silicone stoppers, that do not require any water yet still allow carbon dioxide to safely exit the fermenter. The most common waterless airlocks are made of silicon and have many holes that run from the bottom of the stopper to the top. On the top of the airlock is a silicon flap that is pressed open by the escaping carbon dioxide. These waterless airlocks function much the same as the traditional styles. As the pressure builds in the fermenter the silicon compresses and the carbon dioxide goes out of the tiny openings in the stopper. Because there is already a gas leaving the airlock oxygen cannot get in. When fermentation slows down and is not releasing as much carbon dioxide the tiny holes will close up and keep oxygen from getting in. These are great because you don’t have to worry about the water being blown out the top or drying up over time. Water filled airlocks can flow backwards and dump the water in your wine if fermentation has ended and there is a temperature drop in the wine. What Can Robert Do Now? Here’s my advice to Robert. Regardless of how long your wine has been unprotected it’s best to get it under a properly filled airlock as soon as possible. Once your wine is protected we can discuss what to do next. Next, visually inpsect the wine. Are there any strange looking blobs of material floating in your wine? Spoilage organisms often cause black, brown, or white blobs to form that can get quite...

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