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1st attempt at “orthodox” winemaking

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Sipsey

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Hello and greetings from the sunny South

I had a good crop of muscadines on my pool fense this year. I made a good bit of jelly and ordered a 6 gal. winemaking kit. I read a great deal, looked around on this site and figured out enough vocabulary to follow along. Question 1- I’ve kept the muscadines in big ziplock bags in fridge for a few days till my kit arrived (today). Should I take them out of fridge in advance of crushing/mashing? Was wondering if it might effect initial fermentation.

Thanks
 
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Sipsey

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Question 2- just placed 36lbs. crushed muscadines (in a nylon bag) with tannin, yeast nutrient, peptic enzyme, 6 crushed Camden tablets and 11 lbs. sugar dissolved in distilled water in a brew bucket at the 6 gal. mark. should I stir now? Or wait the 24 hr. mark when I add the yeast?

Also, I have 2 yeasts, Red Star Premier Blanc and Red Star Premier Classic. Which would be the better choice for my muscadines?

I’m learning as I go, and now I’m wondering how much liquid I needed to start with to achieve 6 gallons for my carboy? It suddenly dawned on me that 6 gallons in my bucket wont fill my 6 gallon carboy up. Maybe start another small batch and add it a day later to fill?
 
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Scooter68

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1) No need to use distilled water in the wine must - in fact the minerals in regular tap or 'spring' water are good for the wine. If you are concerned about the chlorine in tap water let it sit overnight or a day before using.
2) Not good on grape wines for yeast selection someone else can help you or look a yeast chart - that should give you some suggestions. Also check out the "Recipes" section on this forum.
3) Volume required varies with the fruit. Thankfully most grapes break down very well I believe. Normally if you lift out the bag with the pulp/skins in them you can get an rough idea about the potential lost volume. Of course when you do pull that bag out you will be letting it drain or wringing out the excess liquid. For a 6 gallon batch you might have to allow up to 1/2 gallon for loss but that should be on the high end for a grape wine. (Take a grape squash it down in your hand or a paper towel and compare the remains after the juice is gone and the pulp well 'wrung out.') With fruits like peaches, apples and fiberous fruit there's a lot left over. Grapes not so much.
 

Sipsey

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Thank you. This will be an interesting experiment, or become a hobby. Time will tell.

I think I might not have an issue with winding up with less than 6 gal. of wine for my carboy. I just figured out that my fermentation bucket has a red “start” line” up from the bottom of the bucket. Not sure how much extra this will amount to but it’s looking more promising.

I’ve made a couple of gallon batches of wine in the past where all I did was add sugar and water to my muscadines and they were quite drinkable, but this is a whole new world of chemistry and equipment. I enjoy learning new things and this fits the bill.

Thanks for the encouragement!
 
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Sipsey

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This is my very first attempt at winemaking with the proper equipment. I’ve made 2 different gallon batches in the past with just warm water and sugar, and the results were interesting.

Ok, so I crushed 38 lbs. of washed & cleaned muscadines and placed in a large fine mesh bag in my clean 8.9 gal bucket and filled to 6 gal. mark. I used a recipe from a wine site that seemed appropriate- 1 tsp. tannin, 7/8 tsp. pectin enzyme, 6 tsp. yeast nutrient and 6 crushed Camden tablets along with 11 lbs. of sugar. 24 hours later I added champagne yeast for 6 gallons.

I didn’t take a hydrometer reading at the beginning. It seemed to me a big waste of liquid. I’ve read do and don’t add it back to the must and I was already worried about being short the volume for the 6 gal. carboy. So I had forgot that I had ordered a refractor and got it out, calibrated and tested the must on day 2 of fermentation. I thought this was was a much better way of testing Brix, then I read that the alcohol will throw the readings off. The Brix read 16

After more research I came across an article that states that the refractometer readings can be converted to very accurately reflect the hydrometer readings with an algorithm.

So, after pulling enough liquid to test with the hydrometer is it better to toss it or add it carefully back to the batch. Does anyone use the refractometer during the fermentation process instead of the hydrometer, and if so how do you correct the readings?

It would seem preferable to pull 3 drops than a vile full every time.

Thanks
 

peterseng

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Hi Sipsey. I had not heard of an algorithm that could adjust the readings of a refractometer once fermentation begins. I can tell you, however, that in roughly a decade of making wine I have never had a problem with pouring the hydrometer sample back into the batch. You just needs to be sure to clean and sanitize your test jar before you draw the sample.
 

mainshipfred

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There is nothing wrong with putting the hydrometer sample back into the wine as long as you have sanitize the tube and hydrometer. Refractometers can be used but the hydrometer is much easier. I know you wanted to make 6 gallons but adding water to grapes is not the best idea and will make for a thin wine. I'm guessing you added about 2 gallons of water. When kits call for water it is because they are a concentrate. Using FermCalc and an initial brix of 12 which is supposedly mid range for Muscadine with 11.5 lbs of sugar your original brix would have been 28 adding 2 gallons of water would have brought you down to 19 brix. 19 brix will give you about 11% potential alcohol so make sure you sulfite it properly when complete.
 

Sipsey

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Thanks for your responses. I’ve been using Camden dissolved tablets in distilled water for sterilization cause the star san I ordered is delayed in shipping (coming tomorrow). I read that mixing it and putting in a spray bottle is a good method. How long will the star San be effective mixed in the bottle?

Thanks for the info. and calculations, I’ll sanitize properly and add it back. Next time ought to be a little less stressful.
 

jgmillr1

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Does anyone use the refractometer during the fermentation process instead of the hydrometer, and if so how do you correct the readings?
I monitor the fermentation progress using the refractometer rather than a hydrometer. Although the alcohol will offset the baseline reading, I find that the reading is much less susceptible to error compared to obtaining a hydrometer measurement due to no CO2 bubble issues, no suspended pieces of fruit in the sample, and no temperature adjustments are needed. A dry wine will read 5-6 brix on the refractometer, depending on the alcohol and acid levels.

Knowing what the expected final value should be gives you the information you need to "correct" the reading if you desire. I'm less concerned about the absolute brix reading of the refractometer than its trend. It is easy to tell if the fermentation begins to stick or when it completes, which is the sole reason I'm monitoring anyway.
 

Scooter68

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If you use distilled water for mixing the starsan solution it should last at least a month. If you use tap water it can turn cloudy quickly and normally that's a sign that its no longer effective.

BUT the real test is the acidity of the starsan solution. Check their web site for the data sheet / instructions that will tell you the pH point at which it ceases to be effective. Mine has lasted over a month easily, just keep it capped when not using.
 

Scooter68

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I find it interesting that people are consumed about tempurature corrections for a hydrometer. Fact is a hydrometer calibrated at 60 degrees (f) is only off by .001 if the must measured is at 75 degrees. (Using a must at 1.020 and 75 degrees - correction of .001 is the result using "Brewer's Friend" online correction calculator.)

As for suspended fruit and CO2 bubbles, that's easy to fix by 1) Quickly doing a rough filter of your sample through small strainer (never felt the need to do that really) 2) For CO2 I give the hydrometer a spin as I drop it in and ready it as it slows down. I've rarely had a problem with that.

Finally readings during fermentation are just a quick snapshot of the progress ANY measurement is going to change in a few hours anyway. Much easier than doing the calculations for correct a refractometer reading.
 

mainshipfred

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I find it interesting that people are consumed about tempurature corrections for a hydrometer. Fact is a hydrometer calibrated at 60 degrees (f) is only off by .001 if the must measured is at 75 degrees. (Using a must at 1.020 and 75 degrees - correction of .001 is the result using "Brewer's Friend" online correction calculator.)

As for suspended fruit and CO2 bubbles, that's easy to fix by 1) Quickly doing a rough filter of your sample through small strainer (never felt the need to do that really) 2) For CO2 I give the hydrometer a spin as I drop it in and ready it as it slows down. I've rarely had a problem with that.

Finally readings during fermentation are just a quick snapshot of the progress ANY measurement is going to change in a few hours anyway. Much easier than doing the calculations for correct a refractometer reading.
All good points, couldn't agree more.
 

Scooter68

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Good example of the fleeting viability of an SG reading on an active fermentation. My latest blueberry wine had an initial SG of 1.096 then not quited 3 days after pitching the yeast it checked in at:
1.046 on Friday August 30,
1.018 on Sunday, September 1
1.005 on Monday September 2 and I opted to step feed it to get the ABV into the 17% range. That boost took it back up to 1.030
1.012 on Tuesday Today.
If those measurements are off a little even .004, that's fine the trend and progress is quite clear. I expect by Thursday I'll be racking to a carboy.
 

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