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A Couple Beginner Questions

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justsipn

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Hello, I'm new to wine making and am enjoying it so far. Haven't been able to try my first batch, so that might change. :)

I have a couple quick questions. Just a little back ground. I'm making rhubarb wine. I'm starting with that basically because it's what I have and it sounded fun. I found a recipe and video of it on line. I purchased a fairly nice starter kit and got a few pointers from the place I bought the kit from.

My quick description of my process so far was, cutting up 10 lbs of rhubarb last summer and freezing it. Three weeks ago, I sterilized everything and put the rhubarb, sugar and some raspberries in the bucket and left over night. 24 hours later, I squeezed the juice out of the rhubarb and berries while adding some distilled water. I ended up with about 5 gallons of juice in the carboy. I then added the potassium metabisulfite. About 30 minutes later, I added the yeast and put the airlock on.

Over the next 1.5-2 weeks it percolated like crazy. It has since slowed way down. So, I'm assuming that first 1.5-2 weeks was the first fermentation and now I'm in the second fermentation. So, question:

a) when I squeezed the juice of of the fruit, I got some of the fruit in the carboy. So....when should I rack it to get rid of that?

b) How do I know it's fermenting the way it should? Is there some way of counting the bubbles in the airlock per minute...etc?

This is a little like when your wife is pregnant. You have one heck of a lot of fun causing it, then it's sit back and wait and wondering if everything is going OK.

Thanks in advance for any help you can give. I'm sure I'll have more questions as time goes on.
 

justsipn

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Yes, sorry I meant to include that. When first put the juice in the carboy and added the yeast (April 4th), SG was at 1.092. I have not tested it since.
 

justsipn

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OK, I'll test it tonight. It's supposed to get to 1.050, correct? If it's there, I hope I can rack it into my bucket, clean the carboy and then siphon right back into the carboy. Is that basically what's done?
 

Chuck E

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OK, I'll test it tonight. It's supposed to get to 1.050, correct? If it's there, I hope I can rack it into my bucket, clean the carboy and then siphon right back into the carboy. Is that basically what's done?
Most of us do the fermentation in the bucket, then transfer to the carboy. if you ferment in the carboy, a lot of foam & froth can occur. It makes quite a mess to clean up every day.
 

salcoco

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a finished fermentation should be a specific gravity of 1.00 or less. rack if you have achieved this level. I would recommend the following procedure rack again in three days off of gross lees, add potassium metabisulphite at dosage of 1/4 tsp for 5 gallons. rack again ion three weeks off of fine lees, rack again in three months. wine should clear between three weeks and three months.
 

justsipn

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I understand my process ended up being different than what I'll probably do next time. But, I already added potassium metabisulphite three weeks ago. You're saying add more?
 

gsf77

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I wouldn’t make a practice of fermenting in a carboy. Particles can clog up the air lock and exciting things will happen.., ask me how I know :)
 

Chuck E

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I understand my process ended up being different than what I'll probably do next time. But, I already added potassium metabisulphite three weeks ago. You're saying add more?
Your process is VERY unusual. I can't help you fix it. I suggest you use a better recipe next time. The one you are using now doesn't make sense.
 

NorCal

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A few things on potassium metabilsufite (SO2). It is an anti-microbial and an anti-oxidant, so it's purpose is to kill microbes and to help prevent browning and aging of wine due to excessive dissolved oxygen in the wine.

The first dose, before fermentation is to kill any wild yeast or bacteria on the fruit. The standard protocol is to add 50 parts per million (1/4 tsp or 1.5 grams per 5 gallons) and then wait 24 hours before adding yeast, to give the SO2 time to kill microbes as well as dissipate to a level that your chosen yeast can survive in. Fortunate for you, you used a yeast with a pretty high tolerance for SO2, because you only waited 30 minutes.

SO2 additions after this are your preservative used to keep your wine from spoiling. As others said, after fermentation, rack off off the lees (ferment in a bucket next time, it’s much easier to clean) into a carboy and add your first dose of SO2. How much SO2 is dictated by your pH, but 50ppm is a good rule of thumb. Wait 3 months, rack and SO2. Wait another 3 months and only rack if needed, but add SO2. Do a final dosage a day or two before you do your final racking and bottle.

These are general rules and the wine will dictate what it needs and why. If your fermentation struggled (surprised it didn’t) you can get off putting smells. This would require some additional splash racking as well.
 

justsipn

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Correct, I found the recipe last summer when I froze the rhubarb. One thing I've noticed is that rhubarb wine recipes I've found on line differ from recipes for grapes. Don't know if that's the problem.

Next time, I'm definitely going to ferment in the bucket. I can already see the carboy is going to be a mess to clean. However, I don't think I had a problem with fermentation because it went crazy for about 1-1.5 weeks and I don't have any bad smells. I'm not just talking about bubbles in the airlock (I've learned that's no big deal) but, the juice itself was constantly churning and bubbling on top.

So, since I'm ad libbing her a little since what I've already done is different than normal, I'm going to do the following unless you see a problem:

1) Tonight, check SG. If it's below 1.0, I'm going to rack it into the bucket and clean the carboy. (if it's higher than that, I'll wait a couple days to check again) I will then put it back into the carboy, add SO2 and cap with airlock. This would be racking it off the gross lees, correct?

2) In 3 weeks rack it again off the fine lees.

3) Wait 3 months and rack again adding more SO2

4) Possibly rack again in another 3 months if needed.

Does that pretty much sum it up?

Thanks, I'm trying to summarize what several people are saying.
 

justsipn

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I think you got it. Just make sure the carboy is completely full with wine up the neck. Oxygen is not your friend from now on.
It's filled up till it starts to narrow towards the neck.
 

sour_grapes

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That wouldn't be your best bet, as it will water down the wine. We usually say fill it with "a like wine." Obviously, it will be tough to come by a rhubarb wine to top it. If it were my wine, I would top it with a crisp white wine.
 

justsipn

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Well, that was fun.

SG was just below 1.000.

Racked it into a very sterile bucket, cleaned and sterilized the carboy and returned the wine to the carboy. Returned air lock. It looks like I need to add some white wine to top it off. I’ll get that tomorrow, dissolve the SO2 in some and add it.

Wife is skeptical but I’m bound and determined to make this work.

Thanks for the help.

Ps...carboy wasn’t bad to clean.
 

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