beginner with a question

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Sep 30, 2008
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My name is Keith and I live in North Carolina. I just made my first little batch of wine on Sunday night. I was shopping at a specialty beer shop and got into a conversation with one of the guys that works there that led me to purchase some bare essentials to make some wine.

So I have a question. The instructions I got from the guy didn't mention letting it sit in a primary container for a few days first. I mixed everything but the yeast and let it sit for an hour or so, then added the yeast and capped it up with the airating valve. I had a bunch of work I've been wrapped up in since then and I'm just now looking at other recipes and they all seem to call for a few days of natural fermentation before capping it up.

Should I remove the caps and let it go for a few days? Did I just spoil my first batch by capping it up too soon?

Also, there is a light odor coming from the bottles that kind of smells like rotten eggs. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that's a bad thing...
You haven't given enough information to get any advice!

Are you making wine from fresh fruit or from a kit or from a recipe or what!

What kind of yeast did you use?

What is the recipe?

Have you followed it to the letter, or have you modified it a little bit, or a lot?

Do you have a hydrometer? If not, why not?

C'mon, share a little bit!


BTW - Welcome to the forum!
I got my instructions from the guy at the shop. I wanted to make watermelon wine and this is what he told me to do.


- One gallon of watermelon juice
- 2.5lbs of sugar
- One teaspoon of pectic enzyme
- Two crushed campden tablets

I sterilized the pot that I used to collect the watermelon juice as well as the jug that i am using as the primary. After squeezing and straining the juice I added the sugar and and pectic enzyme and mixed it up. I let it sit in the fridge for an hour while I cleaned up, then added the yeast and the crushed campden tablets and mixed it up again. I immediately stuck the airaition cork in the top and it's been sitting on my counter ever since.

As I mentioned, I didn't let the yeast sit for a few days and capped it up with the airation valves right away. Is it too late to let the yeast get air again and do their thing? I've read several other recipes and they all call for letting the mix sit for a few days to allow some fermentation before capping it.
Here is my suggestion. Visit Jack Keller's website and search for watermelon wine. Watermelon wine is difficult to make because it spoils very fast. I have not made watermelon wine but have red that it can begin to spoil and turn brown within a day. Jack recently posted on another forum that he had a big success with watermelon wine.

Here's is a link to a few of his recipes.
If this spoils I'll definately use that recipe for the next batch. So far there's no brown color.

I still am not sure if I should take the airlocks out to let it breathe and ferment some????
What size is the jug/bucket/etc. that your gallon of juice is in, and is it glass, plastic, or metal?

How much headspace (air) is between the top of the juice and the bottom of the drilled stopper (bung) holding the airlock?

What kind of yeast did you pitch?

What temperature is the room the batch is in?

What was the OG of the juice before you pitched the yeast?

Did you put water/vodka in your airlock?

Do you have activity (bubbles) in your airlock?

Since oxidation seems to be a problem with watermelon juice, DO NOT expose the juice to air!


BTW - Your should have waited 24 hours after adding the Campden tablet (1 per gallon) to pitch your yeast!

If you don't have airlock activity in another 24 hours, re-pitch the yeast!
Thank you very much for the help! To answer your questions...

-It's in a gallon jug with not very much air in it, not even an inch below the cap.

- It's a champagne yeast, EC-1118 (saccharomyces bayanus)

-The room is abour 75 degrees +/- 2

-No way to measure the OG

-Added about 1 cup of water to top off the juice and make it a full gallon. No vodka

-It's been 48 hours and I've had consistant bubbles coming through the airlock.

I realize now that I moved way to fast with adding the airlock. I should have looked online for a recipe, but instead I just made it based off the intructions from the guy at the shop... Based on the current info should i adjust the amount of time before I rack or bottle (assuming it doesn't spoil)?
I just noticed there is also a layer of white stuff at the bottom of the jug. Yeast and sugar maybe? I had mixed it all up and it had dissolved though, kind of weird.
I don't think you put the air lock on too early. The air lock is designed to let the co2 gas out while keeping oxygen out. Many wine makers when fermenting juice in pails put an air lock on through the lid during fermentation. I prefer to keep a loose lid on without an air lock. Oxygen during fermentation is not a bad thing which is why when you are making wine from fresh fruit you want to push down the cap frequently to keep the cap wet and incorporate some oxygen into the fermentation.

Sorry for the delay in responding.

You did exactly right by airlocking the juice ASAP!

You are going to need to do some reading...more than just recipes.

Every wine maker needs a good understanding of the basics. The reason your original recipe conflicts with other recipes is because of the difference between making wine with fruit, the traditional (Old World) method, and making wine with juice, kits, etc., the modern method.

Minimum head space is desired when ferminting wine, because it helps prevent oxidation.

If your jug is plastic, use vodka/wiskey instead of water in your airlock. Plastic fermentors flex when you touch them, and may suck the contents of the airlock into your wine, contaminating it, if it's water.

Some yeast generate a rotten egg smell for the first few days, then it disappears, if it stays it could be a sign of problems.

The white stuff falling to the bottom are called 'lees', it is dead yeast cells, and minute particle of fruit, watermelon, in this case. if it reaches a depth of 1/4 inch, rack the must off of it, into a secondary fermentor (another jug).

Everything else, the yeast, temperature, airlock activity, looks OK.

Take a wiff of the airlock, hopefully the rotten egg smell is gone.

Read, read, read!

Oh, yeah, if this experience, so far, hasn't turned you against making your own wine...get yourself a hydrometer!

Once again, thanks for all the help. I think everything is going alright now.

I bought a hydrometer this afternoon as well as a hose to siphon the primary into a secondary. I wish I had been able to read the specific gravity when I started so I'd have an idea of the alcohol content, but I've learned something and will do that next time.

I have one minor concern, which is that the airlock activity has either stopped or slowed down to a crawl since the transfer. The specific gravity at this point is about 1.00

I'm going to just forget about it for several weeks and hope for the best. If it doesn't work out I'll try again with the use of better directions and with lots more research.

Thanks everyone!
If the SG is near 1.000 then the wine is starting to finish fermentation.
Therefore fermentation will indeed be very slow.

It will slow down even to 1 blub per 2 minutes and less.

Patience is the key.

Wait a few more weeks and the SG will have dropped lower and the wine will be finished fermenting.

If you have bubbles in the airlock, then fermentation has begun and you should be fine. My suggestion would be to read up at this forum and others about basic winemaking procedures, so you get a better idea of WHY you do things and why some things are bad.

The white stuff on the bottom may be undesolved sugar or it may be dead yeast that has dropped out (which will continue to happen by the way so don't worry about it). If it's undesolved sugar than your wine may not turn out how the recipe intended. But don't's your first one and the best education is through experience.

You've got bubbles so're a winemaker!:)