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Beginner question, getting tied in knots!

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Martin1986

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Ok, I've done my research, sat many a night reading, got my 1st Apple wines and elderberry wines going. I have 3 1st ferment going well and 1 clearing that seems to taste ok but I've realised I'm still not 100% why my recipes ask for

1. So much sugar (I will explain more in a moment)
2. 2 stages of adding sugar (ditto)

So, I have a recipe which says 2kg apples, 1.3kg sugar. In the recipe it instructs 2kg apples chopped up, adding 1 litre of near boiler water. Then pectolase 1 hour, no dramas yet....
Now 400g sugar and your yeast/nutrient. Leave wort to ferment a week. Then add another litre of water and remaining sugar (so in this case 900g).

1st attempt worked, finishing wine was sweet but I then on second attempt bought a hydrometre and tried to be more scientific. If following same recipes but now for elderberry (same approach but this one 800g sugar) the hydrometre was off the scale bobbing super high out surface.

So my question (sorry took so long!) 1. Why is this recipe asking for such off scale amount or am I missing something?

2. If I do it in two stages how on earth can I calculat starting and finishing gravity as I'm changing it halfway through? I appreciate this is to allow yeast to ferment without too much sugar stalling it but how do I calculate % and 'correct amount' of sugar??

3. Last note, I did the 400g and it read 70points on my scale which on my hydrometre is around 12% so surely it doesn't need the extra 400g of sugar? Again I did 2nd batch Apple today added 500g and measured at 17% around 106 which again on my hydrometre says too high to start fermentation.

Sorry I'm such a beginner but really enjoying educating myself and trying but I figured I'd join your wonderful community and beg for clarification and assistance! Please help!
 

Johnd

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Ok, I've done my research, sat many a night reading, got my 1st Apple wines and elderberry wines going. I have 3 1st ferment going well and 1 clearing that seems to taste ok but I've realised I'm still not 100% why my recipes ask for

1. So much sugar (I will explain more in a moment)
2. 2 stages of adding sugar (ditto)

So, I have a recipe which says 2kg apples, 1.3kg sugar. In the recipe it instructs 2kg apples chopped up, adding 1 litre of near boiler water. Then pectolase 1 hour, no dramas yet....
Now 400g sugar and your yeast/nutrient. Leave wort to ferment a week. Then add another litre of water and remaining sugar (so in this case 900g).

1st attempt worked, finishing wine was sweet but I then on second attempt bought a hydrometre and tried to be more scientific. If following same recipes but now for elderberry (same approach but this one 800g sugar) the hydrometre was off the scale bobbing super high out surface.

So my question (sorry took so long!) 1. Why is this recipe asking for such off scale amount or am I missing something?

2. If I do it in two stages how on earth can I calculat starting and finishing gravity as I'm changing it halfway through? I appreciate this is to allow yeast to ferment without too much sugar stalling it but how do I calculate % and 'correct amount' of sugar??

3. Last note, I did the 400g and it read 70points on my scale which on my hydrometre is around 12% so surely it doesn't need the extra 400g of sugar? Again I did 2nd batch Apple today added 500g and measured at 17% around 106 which again on my hydrometre says too high to start fermentation.

Sorry I'm such a beginner but really enjoying educating myself and trying but I figured I'd join your wonderful community and beg for clarification and assistance! Please help!
Being very general in response to your questions, consider the following the process that most winemakers follow. We typically mix up our must with a specific plan in mind, evaluating the taste strength of the fruit(s) (grapes or other fruits alike) we are using to decide how much of a particular fruit or combination to use, and how much wine we are endeavoring to produce. Granted, this takes some experience, trial and error, and using recipes from others can prove useful here as well.

Once the must is created based upon the above factors, we must consider how much alcohol we wish to produce. Basic considerations regarding the power and body of the fruit(s) are taken into account when planning your final ABV. A weak tasting fruit like watermelon wouldn't be well served with 15% ABV, the alcohol would likely overpower the fruit, a better goal there would be in the 11% ABV range. A more powerful fruits, with less added water, will produce a bigger tasting wine, and will handle higher ABV. That said, when you decide what ABV you ultimately want, THEN you can add your sugar to the desired SG on your hydrometer. If you have a triple scale hydrometer, it has three different scales, BRIX, Specific Gravity, and Potential Alcohol %. Reading the ABV% scale, you can add sugar slowly, stirring well as you go, until you get it floating right at 12%. That mix will produce roughly 12% ABV. Adding liquid and sugar incrementally after that point makes it very difficult to manage your ABV, I suggest you stick to the above method for now.

Once fermented and all of the sugar is gone, and alcohol created, your hydrometer should read below 1.0000 SG, or below 0 BRIX, or below 0% Potential Alcohol. If you desire a sweet wine, sugar is usually added to taste after your wine has been sulfited, racked a few times to get rid of the sediment, and is clear. It's important when adding sugar to sweeten your wine, to use potassium sorbate, which will prevent the yeast from reproducing and converting the newly added sugar to alcohol, which can also create bottle bombs.

Does that help add some clarity to your questions?
 

GreginND

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John provides some great information for you.

Regarding your specific questions,

1. Many home recipes did not measure gravity and by the cup measurements are not very accurate depending on variation of sugar in the fruit, etc. Often those home recipes were made to produce sweet wine with high alcohol so that it would be stable.

2. You can't really know for sure unless you use your hydrometer from the beginning, which is what I would recommend. Again. the two stage addition is a relic of home recipes where they were not measuring the percent sugar and were going for a wine where sugar was added until the alcohol reached a point it would no longer ferment leaving sweetness behind. The wine is quite stable this way, but not balanced. Adding all the sugar up front for a high alcohol sweet finished product would overwhelm the yeast with sugar, so recipes often added sugar in stages.

3. Yes, most recipes use too much sugar. Please follow your hydrometer. I tend to do most of my wines around SG 1.090 giving about 12.5% alcohol.
 

BernardSmith

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Hi Martin 1986 and welcome. A couple of quick thoughts to add to those already provided
1. Most recipes you find on line are garbage, a few are excellent, but in wine making recipes are - for the most part unnecessary. What you want to do is learn principles and methods and recipes become self evident.
2. When you ferment fruit make like a vintner. Those who make wines from grapes do not dilute their juice with water . Why would you? Diluted apple juice tastes like water. You are simply removing the flavor , adding more flavorless sugars and then fermenting the sugars. Great if you are into distilling (illegal in the USA unless with license) but wine making is all about extracting flavors from fruit.
3. With flowers and the like water is necessary but here you are using the water to extract essential oils and flavors from the leaves and stems etc..
4. If you want to use recipes (and you may need to for a while) I would look for certifiably good recipes - prize winning recipes, recipes published in well-received books rather than in self published youtube videos..
Good luck! This is a great hobby.
 

Scooter68

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Hi Martin 1986 and welcome. A couple of quick thoughts to add to those already provided
1. Most recipes you find on line are garbage, a few are excellent, but in wine making recipes are - for the most part unnecessary. What you want to do is learn principles and methods and recipes become self evident.
2. When you ferment fruit make like a vintner. Those who make wines from grapes do not dilute their juice with water . Why would you? Diluted apple juice tastes like water. You are simply removing the flavor , adding more flavorless sugars and then fermenting the sugars. Great if you are into distilling (illegal in the USA unless with license) but wine making is all about extracting flavors from fruit.
3. With flowers and the like water is necessary but here you are using the water to extract essential oils and flavors from the leaves and stems etc..
4. If you want to use recipes (and you may need to for a while) I would look for certifiably good recipes - prize winning recipes, recipes published in well-received books rather than in self published youtube videos..
Good luck! This is a great hobby.

I agree - it doesn't take too long to figure out the basic additions.

Yeast Nutrient 1 tsp/gallon
Pectic Enzyme 1 tsp /gallon (more with some fruits)
Tannin (With some types of fruit)
Acid Blend / Calcium Carbonate
Sugar (If needed)

A little reading on the fruit/juice you are going to use to determine things like naturally occuring tannin, and pectin and you area ready to go.
The other qualities (Acidity and Sugar content) have to be measured anyway.

So basically any fruit is going to need the same basic additives with some variation to balance the strengths and weaknesses of that fruit.
 
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