Apple Wine -- First Ever Wine Attempt

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J-Dewey_1980

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HR1.JPG So as near as I can tell, my reading was about where the red line is. Is that to be read as 1.002? If so, what do you recommend? If it stays at this reading for a couple more days, okay to rack to carboy, or...?
 

Jovimaple

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Yes, that's about 1.002.

Since you are fermenting under airlock instead of in a towel-covered bucket, I would probably leave it for another week or so to see if it gets below .995.

I don't typically ferment under airlock, so maybe someone who does it that way has a better process.

I ferment in a towel-covered bucket and I don't put it under airlock until it's closer to done, usually .995 or lower. At that point, the purpose of my racking is twofold:
1) Get it off the gross lees (fruit solids)
2) Protect it from oxidation (although it's still offgassing CO2 at that point so it is somewhat protected)

Others like to get it under airlock sooner, such as when it hits 1.020 or so, and let it finish the fermentation under airlock.

So basically, you can do whatever you want. 🤣

If you rack it now, don't worry if you get a lot of the gross lees in the carboy. You need the yeast that's still in lees to help finish the fermentation process. Check the sg in another week or two, to see if it has gotten closer to .995 or lower, and think about racking again to get it off the gross lees at that point.
 
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Jovimaple

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Yes, that's about 1.002.

Since you are fermenting under airlock instead of in a towel-covered bucket, I would probably leave it for another week or so to see if it gets below .995.

I don't typically ferment under airlock, so maybe someone who does it that way has a better process.

I ferment in a towel-covered bucket and I don't put it under airlock until it's closer to done, usually .995 or lower. At that point, the purpose of my racking is twofold:
1) Get it off the gross lees (fruit solids)
2) Protect it from oxidation (although it's still offgassing CO2 at that point so it is somewhat protected)

Others like to get it under airlock sooner, such as when it hits 1.020 or so, and let it finish the fermentation under airlock.

So basically, you can do whatever you want. 🤣

If you rack it now, don't worry about getting the gross lees in the carboy. You need the yeast that's still in lees to help finish the fermentation process. Check the sg in another week or two, to see if it has gotten closer to .995 or lower, and think about racking again to get it off the gross lees at that point.
All of that being said, I had a batch of key lime skeeter pee that got stuck and would NOT finish. I tried stirring, adding more yeast (4 packs total), and even heating the must by putting the bucket on a heating pad. Finally, I figured I should get it under airlock and at first I left lots of headspace (about 4 gallons in a 5 gallon carboy), hoping that just the act of racking would jump start the yeast again. After another week or so, I ended up racking it to a 3 gallon carboy to eliminate the headspace. It eventually got down to 1.015 (starting sg was 1.090) so it was between 9 and 10% ABV. My friends asked for more, so I guess it turned out the way they liked it. 😁
 

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I’ve got a small orchard and have made a few batches of apple wine. I think the group provided all the advice you need, but I have one thing to add.

I found that the finished product while high in alcohol content lacked flavor and robustness. Our wine maker at the winery I work at suggested adding some frozen apple concentrate and then stabilizing it with potassium sorbate just before bottling. I just tried it to a batch I made last year and am happy with the results.
 
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At this stage, if I use a wine thief to grab a sample for a gravity test, is it okay to put that sample back in (using santized equipment, of course) or do you typically discard that sample? Or consume it?
I agree, don't toss it.

However, keep in mind that you are responsible for quality control, so taste testing is a required duty.

If you notice the carboy is half empty, you may want to reduce the sample size. ;)
 

J-Dewey_1980

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I’ve got a small orchard and have made a few batches of apple wine. I think the group provided all the advice you need, but I have one thing to add.

I found that the finished product while high in alcohol content lacked flavor and robustness. Our wine maker at the winery I work at suggested adding some frozen apple concentrate and then stabilizing it with potassium sorbate just before bottling. I just tried it to a batch I made last year and am happy with the results.

Do you happen to have any starting suggestions? Like a can per gallon or something like that? And I assume the potassium sorbate kills any yeast so fermentation doesn't start up again, or...? Thank you!
 
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Do you happen to have any starting suggestions? Like a can per gallon or something like that? And I assume the potassium sorbate kills any yeast so fermentation doesn't start up again, or...? Thank you!
Sorbate does NOT kill yeast nor will it stop an active fermentation. Sorbate in conjunction with K-meta prevents a renewed fermentation, e.g., it's birth control for yeast. A common tactic for home winemakers is to ferment dry, stabilize with sorbate + K-meta, then backsweeten to taste.
 

J-Dewey_1980

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For 6 gallons, can you tell me how much of each (Sorbate and K-meta) to stabilize? Do I want to do that now (before my first racking), or just before bottling?

I guess the same questions for back-sweetening...not now, but after racking and before bottling?
 
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For 6 gallons, can you tell me how much of each (Sorbate and K-meta) to stabilize? Do I want to do that now (before my first racking), or just before bottling?

I guess the same questions for back-sweetening...not now, but after racking and before bottling?
Follow the package directions for sorbate. The one available at my LHBS calls for 1/2 tsp per 1 US gallon. Do not overdose, e.g., add the indicated amount and never add more, as it can produce a geranium smell and flavor.

K-meta dosage is 1/4 tsp per 5 to 6 US gallons of wine.

I add K-meta every time I rack, post-fermentation. Sorbate is not necessary until you backsweeten, so add that just before doing so.

When to backsweeten? Any time after fermentation is complete and the wine has cleared. I usually backsweeten just prior to bottling, while some folks do it earlier. It doesn't matter.

Note -- if you bulk age at least 9 months, the yeast will be dead, so you can backsweeten without sorbate. Always add K-meta, as it is a preservative and antioxidant.
 

J-Dewey_1980

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Thank you so much for all the great advice! Two more questions, if you don't mind, as I am getting ready to rack the first time in the next day or two.

First, I have heard that once fermentation is under 1.000 there is no need to stir the must each day. Would you agree with that? I hope that is the case as the lees really clouds up the wine each time I stir, and I'd prefer it to settle out some before I siphon it out.

Second, can I just add the K Meta powder directly to the carboy, then siphon the wine on top and that will mix in okay? Same situation--I'd prefer not to add K Meta to my primary bucket, stir into a cloudy mess, then siphon into the carboy. Or can I dissolve it first in a bit of the wine and then add to the carboy?

Sorry if my questions seem overly trivial--just really gnashing my teeth this first time through and really appreciate all the help on here.
 

Jovimaple

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I believe stirring during fermentation is to get oxygen to the yeast. Yeast need oxygen to grow the colony, but not to do the work. So to answer your question, you can stop stirring and let the lees settle some before you rack.

As far as adding kmeta, I usually add it to the carboy and let the racking process mix it up.
 
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@J-Dewey_1980, I agree with Joni -- put the K-meta into the receiving container. I usually start the siphon (or pump), then add the K-meta to the receiving container.

Given how poorly things sometime mix, I usually stir with a paddle immediately after adding K-meta, half way through, and again at the end.
 

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Counting days is extremely variable so not a good measure.
Update on my batch--just completed day 8 of primary. At the peak, I was getting a bubble every 1-2 seconds. A few days ago, it slowed to 8-10 seconds, then 15, then 30, and so on. Today there is not noticeable movement in the airlock. I know that doesn’t necessarily mean primary fermentation is done, but is that a good indicator to test the gravity again? What am I looking for, and how many days do I leave it now before racking to secondary?
Testing my first wild ferment on oct 28 it started at 1.076 (garage ~50F); was at 1.047 on Nov 7 when the second Fermaid went in; and at 1.012 Nov 25 when it came inside and was put in glass with airlock. Today it has small bubbles rising on the neck of the carboy.

A cyser before that was at 1.089 (garage ~60F) on October 3; 1.060 Oct 9; 1.032 Oct 22; 1.010 Nov 9 when put in a carboy (65F basement temp); 1.006 Nov 28 when I debated stealing a half gallon to test with sorbate (bubble gum flavor); it is still actively bubbling on the neck of the carboy but with a silicone burner I can’t count bubbles; and will not be opened again till outgassing stops ~ Christmas? maybe.

All the batches have 100% juice which in early season/ September starts at about 1.050/ pH 3.32 and late season (Nov 15 was the last pressing) was at 1.060/ pH 3.78/ TA 0.49%. ,,,, if you hold at garage temp apples continue to ripen with a drop in acid/ increase in pH.
 

J-Dewey_1980

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UPDATE: with several days in a row of .996 readings, I decided to rack to a 6 gallon carboy. Pretty cloudy, as expected, and had JUST ENOUGH to avoid a boatload of thick sediment at the bottom. Attached pic below is how full I got it...is this acceptable? To high or low? I did add 1/4 teaspoon of k meta halway through the fill and swirled the jug vigoursly then siponed in the rest. Should I use a mix-stir to agitate it further?

I added an airlock with fresh sanitizer. How often do I change the sanitizer or do I just keep it topped off?

My basement temp is going to hover around 60-65. The carboy is on a piece of cardboard on the floor, no exposure to UV light, and in a storage room that is dark the majority of the time. All good there?

Now that I have reached this step, I have reached the end of my very limited knowledge. Do I need to de-gas at certain intervals? Wait for clearing? What's next? Thank you, all!

View attachment Carboy-Neck.jpg
 
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Attached pic below is how full I got it...is this acceptable?
I usually go within a couple inches of the stopper. Wine will expand and contract as the temperature and barometric pressure change, so too close to the stopper may cause an overflow into the airlock.

For now it's fine, but you will lose more volume to sediment, so plan for topup. You can use a dry white wine, anything that's not too strongly flavored.

You can let the wine rest for 2 to 3 weeks, then rack. Topup and bulk age for at least 3 months to ensure the wine is clear (6 months is better). Any sediment that drops during bulk aging is fine lees, which is yeast hulls. It's harmless to the wine and you can ignore it until you rack prior to bottling.

I added an airlock with fresh sanitizer. How often do I change the sanitizer or do I just keep it topped off?
Check the airlock weekly, adding more liquid as needed. If you see any evidence of growth, e.g., black specks or mold, remove the stopper and airlock, wash them well, sanitize, and replace. I'm in the habit of replacing airlocks monthly. I have a drawer full -- new stopper and airlock goes on the secondary, the old ones get washed and dried, and back in the drawer for next time.

Do I need to de-gas at certain intervals? Wait for clearing? What's next? Thank you, all!
Unless you're planning to bottle quickly, degassing is optional. Most of the time wines degas on their own over a 4 to 8 month period.

I got in the habit of degassing as without CO2 in suspension, the wine clears faster. This is a one time thing -- post-fermentation I stir for 1 minute with a drill-mounted stirring rod, changing direction half way through. This does NOT completely degas the wine -- it jump starts the process, which completes over the next few weeks.
 

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Do you happen to have any starting suggestions? Like a can per gallon or something like that? And I assume the potassium sorbate kills any yeast so fermentation doesn't start up again, or...? Thank you!
Yes, I did a sample test on a quart until I liked it as I didn‘t what it too sweet. I ended up using 2 cans for 3g gallons. All depends on your taste as it does sweeten it up. Like everyone says, you have to taste it often!
 

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My experience is that a winter/60F rack at your height will still look good in summer with 70F. If I run high as an inch of ullage in winter the wine pushes into the airlock in summer.

CO2, my look at it is that it is a preservative/ delays oxidation flavors so I keep it till about a week before bottling. Practically speaking cold 60F winter temps will hang onto CO2, degassing happens naturally/ easily in summer at 70F. ,,,,if I hold nine months in a carboy, winter degassing isn’t worth the effort.
 
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J-Dewey_1980

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I have my apple wine in a 6-gallon carboy currently after racking it over from primary about 3 weeks ago. It’s starting to clear nicely, but I see about an inch of fine lees has now formed. Thinking about racking it into a 5 gallon. If I go that route, how can I store the excess for purpose of topping off the 5-gallon carboy? I assume I’ll have less than a gallon, so I don’t think an airlock on a 1-gallon carboy makes sense since it would have so much air on top…? Can I just put it in a screw cap wine bottle at room temp, or what is everyone’s process at this point?
 
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I have my apple wine in a 6-gallon carboy currently after racking it over from primary about 3 weeks ago. It’s starting to clear nicely, but I see about an inch of fine lees has now formed. Thinking about racking it into a 5 gallon. If I go that route, how can I store the excess for purpose of topping off the 5-gallon carboy? I assume I’ll have less than a gallon, so I don’t think an airlock on a 1-gallon carboy makes sense since it would have so much air on top…? Can I just put it in a screw cap wine bottle at room temp, or what is everyone’s process at this point?
You have several options, one of which is to top the apple wine with a light tasting white wine. Keeping the wine in a 23 liter carboy has the advantage that you only have 1 container to mess with. After many years of messing with a plethora of small containers, I got lazy and just top up the carboy with a compatible wine.

That said, I keep a large selection of bottles from 125 ml and up, and when necessary subdivide the wine into smaller containers. A #3 drilled stopper fits most wine bottles, and I normally airlock them.

If you are 101% positive the wine is degassed, you can use screwcap bottles for short term storage. Screw them down tight and turn upside down to look for leaks.

However, if you racked out of primary 3 weeks ago, it's very unlikely to be degassed. If the pressure exceeds the glass' tolerance, the bottle can explode (literally). If the tolerance is not exceeded, when you unscrew the cap, you may paint the ceiling with wine as you'll have an apple flavored mini-volcano. Put the wine in a container than can vent gas.
 
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