Wine Making & Grape Growing Forum > Wine Making > Beginners Wine Making Forum > Use an Airlock During Primary Fermentation?

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Old 10-06-2010, 02:45 PM   #1
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Default Use an Airlock During Primary Fermentation?

I'm just about to start making my first batch, and saw very different opinions on whether to use an airlock during the primary fermentation phase. My grandfather and father always used an airlock, but i see online that others say that it should remain exposed to air as the yeast needs air to ferment. I have an airlock on it now, but wanted to get everyone's opinion.

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Old 10-06-2010, 02:50 PM   #2
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1st Welcome.
Our "leader" lives near you
If in a bucket lat the lid on top till gravity is 1.030 then snap it shut w/ airlock
The yeast like O2 to multiply

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Old 10-06-2010, 03:47 PM   #3
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As Tom says, you're probably better off doing the primary phase of fermentation under a loose lid. Any wine you make that has something floating in it at this phase ( grapes, fruit, berries, grapepack, oak, etc.) should be punched down daily to keep them wet and increase exposure to the wine. This activity also introduces oxygen which is needed as Tom notes. A loose lid also allows you easy access to monitor your fermentation.
If you make kits only and there are no floatables ( that has a nasty ring to it!) then you can put it under a tight lid and airlock but make sure you mix the must very well at the beginning to get lots of oxygen in there.
The secondary phase of fermentation can be done either in the bucket under an airlock or transferred to a carboy under airlock, depending on your personal protocol or your kit instructions.
Good luck with your first batch - what is it?

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Old 10-06-2010, 03:50 PM   #4
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Hi stolen,

Welcome to winemakingtalk and like Tom said leave the lid loose for awhile. Maybe "Our Leader" will be in to comment he does live in CT not sure how close he is to you but he should know.

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Old 10-06-2010, 04:09 PM   #5
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No matter what is said, there are two distinct phases to fermentation.
1) Aerobic phase:
Oxygen is required for healthy yeast. This phase lasts until the SG is about 1.010 to 1.020. If you get the rotten egg smell during this first phase, it is likely because the yeast are either starved for oxygen or they need a nutrient. Most (but not all) wine kits do not require a nutrient to be added.
2) Anaerobic phase:
Oxygen should be kept away from the wine, as the yeast no longer need oxygen and the wine surely doesn't need it, either. This phase starts at about SG 1.010 to 1.020, right after the previous stage.

Some kit instructions say to seal the wine during both phases. This is more because they are concerned the wine will get oxidized, since a wine, such as a weak mist kit, can survive the aerobic phase sealed. (Better to starve the yeast than have oxidation, I guess.) This, however, is not the best for your wine. Learn to protect your wine from oxygen without having to starve your yeast of oxygen during that first phase.

During the first stage, very little oxygen can get to the wine, anyway. The CO2 is bubbling out very strongly and is heavier than oxygen, so it protects the wine by pushing out almost all the oxygen. During the second stage there is much less CO2 to displace the oxygen. Hence, you seal the carboy with an air lock that lets out the excess CO2 and won't let air in.

Kits with grape packs can usually survive being sealed during the first phase, because you have to open the lid at least twice a day to push down the grape pack cap. This generally lets in enough oxygen to "get by".

If you want a good fermentation, don't seal the lid down during aerobic fermentation. put the lid on in such a way as to keep flies out. Place a cloth over the air lock's hole and maybe even place a towel over the top of the lid to protect it.

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Old 10-06-2010, 04:24 PM   #6
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All good advice, i think ill let it breathe. Gnats here are sneaky little buggers, so rather than setting the lid on top or putting a cloth over the hole, ill put a little piece of tissue in the hole I'm using for the airlock. My fermentation seems to be much slower than I remember my grandfathers being, maybe because the yeast needs to multiply.

I wanted to do a cab this year, but i didnt like the sample at the home brew place i went to. So, going for an old vine zin instead.

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Old 10-06-2010, 04:27 PM   #7
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Hey Stolen, welcome to our forum. As the others said the leader (master) is also from CT. Wade will be the first to tell you though this is not his forum, it is the members. He along with the Moderators are just here to facilitate. Keep the questions coming because as you have noticed there are a ton of folks that love to give guidance. We all shoot for the same end result just have different ways to get there. You will have to decide what works best for you.

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Old 10-06-2010, 04:32 PM   #8
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The towel over the top will help with those gnats. They can sneak in under the lid sometimes. If you don't want to leave the lid loose, open the lid about once a day and stir in some ait into the wine. (I call it wine because once the yeast has been pitched, legally, it is wine.)

If you didn't like the cab you sampled, try another, bigger kit someplace else.
By the way, from what kit was that cab sample made and how long ago was it made? New wine can be very VERY tart.

When I started making kit wine, I was concerned how tasty the kit wines would turn out to be. I joined a local wine club. There were at least 10 bottles of different kit wines at each meeting. They were good enough to convince me to start making my on.

Good luck and enjoy!

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Old 10-06-2010, 04:54 PM   #9
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The juice is from Valley Beauty, and the cab was 2 years old, which should surely be long enough to taste better than it did. The old vine zin tasted much better, and is still good in my book, so i went with that. I'll probably do a malbec in the spring as well.

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Old 10-06-2010, 05:03 PM   #10
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Our fearless leader will get on here soon. Since he lives nearer to you, he can give you some ideas about where to by and what to buy.

One of this forum's sponsors is The Wine Maker's Toy Store. They are a long ways from you, but lots of us, near and far, order from them. When you read about "George", we are likely talking about the owner of this store.

My advice is to order the best kit you can get - the so called Ultra-premium kits. In the long run, they make the best wine. (Others WILL disagree, but, hey, that's OK. Having more than one opinion is really nice.)

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