Airlock issues

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Hey guys, I’m new to home brewing and anything involving wine making. I recently started out with a Welch’s wine brew as a beginning point to get into the hobby. I recently bought all of the necessary gear to begin and am having issues with my airlock. In the picture attached you can see the main issue, the airlock is basically filling up with liquid from the must which i can only assume isn’t correct. What problem have I got going on here?Thanks!
 

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sour_grapes

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The basic problem here is that you are using an airlock!

You should do you initial fermentation in a vessel that has plenty of room at the top. I would use a bucket. You do not need to use an airlock at this stage. You can just throw a towel over the bucket to keep dust/critters/dogs out of the bucket.

If you use a carboy, don't fill it too high!
 

rustbucket

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The issue you have is not unusual. Most of the people on this forum have probably experienced this at some point in their winemaking endeavors. It is caused by the a rapidly fermenting wine. There are some yeast strains that produce a lot of foam whereas most of the yeast strains developed for winemaking are low foaming types like Lalvin EC-1118. Let us know what kind of yeast you're using.

The best way to deal with this is to clean out the airlock and put it back on and then repeat if necessary. You can also just put a towel over the carboy mouth. You needn't worry about oxidation at this point because the fermentation of the wine is producing plenty of CO2 thus displacing oxygen. As fermentation slows down, the foam production will lessen and your issue will cease to be.
 
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The basic problem here is that you are using an airlock!


You should do you initial fermentation in a vessel that has plenty of room at the top. I would use a bucket. You do not need to use an airlock at this stage. You can just throw a towel over the bucket to keep dust/critters/dogs out of the bucket.

If you use a carboy, don't fill it too high!

Thanks for the reply! I’ll replace the airlock with a towel now. Any recommendations for how long to let the fermentation run? I’ve ready anywhere from 3 days to 2 months. I’ve also read that playing it by ear, watching bubbles, can be a method. I’m using lalvin ec-1118 wine yeast, 2 64 oz 100% Welch’s grape juice and 2 cups of sugar.
 
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The issue you have is not unusual. Most of the people on this forum have probably experienced this at some
point in their winemaking endeavors. It is caused by the a rapidly fermenting wine. There are some yeast strains that produce a lot of foam whereas most of the yeast strains developed for winemaking are low foaming types like Lalvin EC-1118. Let us know what kind of yeast you're using.

The best way to deal with this is to clean out the airlock and put it back on and then repeat if necessary. You can also just put a towel over the carboy mouth. You needn't worry about oxidation at this point because the fermentation of the wine is producing plenty of CO2 thus displacing oxygen. As fermentation slows down, the foam production will lessen and your issue will cease to be.
Thanks for the reply! I am indeed using lalvin ec-1118 wine yeast. 2 cups sugar, 2 64 oz Welch’s 100% grape juice. Upon the end of fermentation and after racking to a secondary would I then replace the airlock?
 

sour_grapes

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Thanks for the reply! I’ll replace the airlock with a towel now. Any recommendations for how long to let the fermentation run? I’ve ready anywhere from 3 days to 2 months. I’ve also read that playing it by ear, watching bubbles, can be a method. I’m using lalvin ec-1118 wine yeast, 2 64 oz 100% Welch’s grape juice and 2 cups of sugar.
Visual indications can be useful, but you really need to use a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity (SG) to tell when it is finished fermenting. Usually, the SG will finish about 0.995 give or take. If it is in that range and does not change for ~3 days, your fermentation is finished.
 

Scooter68

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Airlocks do NOT provide a confirmation of fermentation activity. It only indicates that for some reason the pressure inside the container is greater than that outside. CO2 gas is released from a wine must well after fermentation has ended albeit at a slower volume.

Bucket lids are notorious for not providing an airtight seal (so no airlock movement) and
Fermenting in a carboy is a great way to create a foam fountain - as you experienced. The wine needs more surface area for the gas to be released or else it generates a lot of foam - the fountain.

Cloth cover over a bucket or lid loosely fitted - Just something to keep out dust bugs and animals and let the gas out. The fermentation will generate enough CO2 gas to provide a protective blanket under the cover.
 
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Visual indications can be useful, but you really need to use a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity (SG) to tell when it is finished fermenting. Usually, the SG will finish about 0.995 give or take. If it is in that range and does not change for ~3 days, your fermentation is finished.
If I read my hydrometer correctly I believe I started out at 1.100 sg, was I’m hoping that sounds right based off of the sugar to juice ration used? I’m not sure
 

sour_grapes

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If I read my hydrometer correctly I believe I started out at 1.100 sg, was I’m hoping that sounds right based off of the sugar to juice ration used? I’m not sure
Sounds about right. Are you following a recipe?
 

winojoe

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There is a lot of CO2 generated during the hard fermentation. So, imagine all that CO2 trying to get out of that tiny hole of the airlock. This is why you get the big blow-out. As suggested earlier, perform the hard fermentation in a food-grade bucket. Some like to place a towel over the bucket. I place the bucket lid on top without sealing it and let the fermentation go. As long as there is a good fermentation, air will not be able to infiltrate due to the positive pressure of CO2 coming off the must's surface.

Check the fermentation with a hydrometer. A general "rule of thumb" is to transfer the must into a secondary fermentation vessel (carboy, demijon, etc.) when specific gravity is 1.010 to 1.020 on the hydrometer. Now you can install an airlock and not get the big blow out since fermentation should be slowing down significantly.

As always, make sure everything that comes in contact with the must is sanitized.

Hope this advise helps you make great wine!
 

Scooter68

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I will add a modifier to Winojoes comment on transfer:

Regardless of the SG - if there is alot of foam activity -WAIT. Even if it's only a 1/4" of foam. Stir the top portion of the bucket and watch. If foam increases DON'T rack yet. A seemingly docile fermentation with just a little foam on top can erupt when racked into a carboy. So when you do rack, don't fill the carboy up completely right away. Leave it at a level where the diameter of the carboy just starts to reduce. Let it sit for 10-30 minutes and watch to see if the foaming activity increases from the racking. Then, if no rising foam, go ahead and finish the racking.
Personally I wait until the SG is 1.010 or lower before racking and IF the foam layer has broken down to a few islands of foam on the top.
 
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winemanden

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personally, I wouldn't put towelling or cloth over the top of the carboy if there's that much foam. If it bubbles up too much that cloth will get soaked, with the chance of bacteria growing on it. Use a bucket or have less must in the carboy next time. Even 1 gallon in a 5 gallon carboy should be fine as long as it's making CO2.
Regards to all.
 

DonnyDarko19

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As all of the above have recommended, it's best to use a bucket or large fermenter with extra space when doing primary fermentation. When making wine from grapes, I use a large, 20-gallon fermenter (basically a food grade trash can) that is only filled about half way for my smaller batches. This leaves plenty of space for fermentation activity.

However, when doing a wine kit, I use a big mouth bubbler that provides extra space for fermentation foam. Even then, I have had some pretty active fermentations that have created a lot of foam that has filled all the extra space. In this case, I have used a blow off tube for these situations. Stick one end of 2-3 feet of tubing in the hole of a bung and place the bung in the carboy. Stick the other end of the tube in a bucket or jug of sulfite solution. Make sure the tube stays submerged in the liquid through the entire fermentation.

Even with this set up, it's possible for foam to make it's way into the tubing. But it wont fill the whole tube and it will never expose your must/wine to the air.

As most have stated, this isn't totally necessary as your must/wine should be pretty well protected from the CO2 blanket the fermentation itself creates. However, if you're paranoid like me, this is a good way to go.
 

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