Wine Making & Grape Growing Forum > Wine Making > Beginners Wine Making Forum > Can you spend too long at primary fermentation ?

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Old 07-21-2010, 06:45 AM   #1
jontallon
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Default Can you spend too long at primary fermentation ?

I'm starting my third wine kit now. In the first two kits I did, the primary fermentation has been very agressive - the wine has been almost done fermenting before going into the secondary. I have the primary in a relatively warm area of the basement, wrapped in a blanket, so the temp stays at about 72 degrees - so the fermentation goes quickly. The first batch I did was in the primary for 10 days, the second for 8, and the result was the same with both.

I'm just curious - is it really a BAD thing to do too much fermentation in the primary ? Should I be checking the SG daily and moving it to the secondary as soon as it gets to the recommended point for the kit, or is it ok to let it sit 7 to 10 days and then move it, even if the SG has moved closer to the 'finished' SG for the wine...

Hope that makes sense. I'm just wondering if I am being TOO patient with the primary fermentation - if I need to catch it earlier...

Thanks !

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Old 07-21-2010, 06:54 AM   #2
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The basic premise of primary-to secondary is that as the fermentation slows, there is less of a co2 blanket to protect the must from oxidation. The kits I have done use an sg of 1.000 as a target point for transfer.
I think it's important to try and stay in that area, but practically speaking, unless you are able to be checking it every hour, you may find that it could be past the target point somewhat.
No worries, just do what they tell you and get it moved when sg is at or below 1.000.

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Old 07-21-2010, 06:59 AM   #3
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It depends on what you mean "long time in primary".
A week or 2 shouldnt hurt. Now if left in primary for months then thats another story.
I know people that leave it till it goes dry (.990) before racking to secondary.

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Old 07-21-2010, 08:07 AM   #4
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The two things you really need to be concerned with have already been mentioned. Moving from primary to secondary container is to get the wine off the gross lees so no off flavors occur (this takes quite some time for the dead yeast cells to actually decay), and get your wine out of the primary which provides a very large surface area to contact air. Depending on how your primary is sealed, you could go a few weeks in there before transfering. Of course different kits have different directions, so you may be told to transfer the gross lees over as well, but my point is there's really nothing to worry about...you have plenty of wiggle room.

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Old 07-21-2010, 03:08 PM   #5
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This is a little late on the response, but...

The first stage of fermentation requires oxygen. The second stage requires that exposure to oxygen be as close to fully eliminated as is possible.

Typically per instructions, when the fermentation is taking place in the primary, it is meant to be exposed to air (for oxygen). At about the time the fermentation is to be moved to secondary, it is time to eliminate exposure to air.

If you have a fully sealable fermentor, which also can take an air lock, you can do both stages in the same fermentor container. You seal the fermentor and add the air lock when the SG gets to the SG mentioned in the instructions, where the wine would normally be transferred to secondary.

However, what was said above about over access to gross lees and to skins is still an issue, if fully fermented in the primary fermentor. Some wines can stay on the lees and on skins longer than others. Just do your research for the particular wine you are fermenting at the time.

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