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Blackberry Wine - no hydrometer reading

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Bladedancer

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Dear all, any advice would be good at this point.

Have made wines years ago using kits, but always wanted to make some using fruits and now that I live in the countryside thought I would give it a go.

Got a recipe for the Ultimate blackberry wine from a home brew website and followed using the ingredients that were listed, i.e. brewer sugar yeast nutrient etc, gathered the fruit but found that after a day or two of popping the lid off the bucket, there was no fermenting going on, transferred to PET demi johns and still nothing, so after reading that brewers sugar contained more water, made up a syrup of sugar (Tate & Lyle) in some hot water and when cooled added to must. Ferment started.

Now the ferment has stopped after about 7-10 days and tried to take a reading using a hydrometer, but it just sinks to the bottom and does not show a reading.... tasted the must and although there is a hint of a dry red about it, it is very weak.

Worried that the recipe may be a dud, but do not have the knowledge to bring this around.

Do I need to add grape juice, more sugar and more yeast at this point to try and bring it up to a reading, or is it past the point when I should throw away and wait for the next crop.

Wish I had followed my dads old book by H E Bravery now.

All help gratefully recieved.
 

Scooter68

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1) When a hydrometer sinks as you describe that suggests that all available sugar has been converted. You may not be reading it OR it's remotely possible that for some reason the hydrometer is defective but this us unlikely if it is not cracked/broken and there is no liquid inside of it. From your description it sounds like you could have a reading of .990 - BUT is the hydrometer touching the bottom of the container?

2) Without an initial hydrometer reading (At least not posted) it's impossible to suggest what sort tastes you should be expecting.

3) We need to know how many pounds of blackberries were used and what your starting volume was.

Basically what was the recipe you followed and what were the quantities used and initial measurements (Primarily SG, pH, total Volume, Weight of fruit used, how much sugar was added. Without that information there's not a lot help that we can provide.
 

Bladedancer

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Hi

I used 3kg blackberries
1.5kg brewing sugar
6lt boiling water
1sachet red wine yeast
20g nutrient
tsp pectolase
This didn’t give a reading a reading on hydrometer but had read that unless a certain quantity hasn’t been used then a hydrometer may not give accurate readings.

after the fermentation only lasted a couple of days I went back to my old book and added another 500g of sugar and 10g of nutrient.

Hydrometer is new and not cracked.
Bigger than my dads old one though.
 

sour_grapes

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Hi

I used 3kg blackberries
1.5kg brewing sugar
6lt boiling water
1sachet red wine yeast
20g nutrient
tsp pectolase
This didn’t give a reading a reading on hydrometer but had read that unless a certain quantity hasn’t been used then a hydrometer may not give accurate readings.

after the fermentation only lasted a couple of days I went back to my old book and added another 500g of sugar and 10g of nutrient.

Hydrometer is new and not cracked.
Bigger than my dads old one though.
We need to help you figure out how to take a hydrometer reading. I suspect that your hydrometer may not be the typical one we are thinking of. I am beginning to suspect you bought one meant to measure distilled spirits. Can you either post a picture of it, or perhaps tell us what the numbers on it read?

We are all assuming you are using something like this: (Triple Scale Wine and Beer Hydrometer)



Second, take a look at this and see if it helps:

 

sour_grapes

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Yes, and that corresponds to a SG of about 0.990. Watch the video!

This means your fermentation has finished (if it does not change for a few days) or is close to it.
 

Bladedancer

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I have just watched the video. So that means the alcoholic content is therefore-4.5%?
Which is not enough for preserving and maturing from what I remember, unless I fortify, which I am not thinking is good...
 

Scooter68

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You Don't have to 'fortify' the batch.
As long as you haven't added K-Meta and Potassium Sorbate you should be able to restart the fermentation.

First step is to figure out where you are now. How did you figure out that you are at 4.5% ABV?

But let's assume that is correct and that your current SG reading is .990
If you add sufficient Sugar to raise the SG from .990 to 1.030 and restart the fermentation - the end result should put at about 10.5% assuming that it then ferments back down to .990. If you want a higher alcohol content then add more sugar but don't overdo it - at this time any new yeast you add it going into a less than perfect environment for firing up fermentation. If you want to go higher than 10-11% you might look into 'step-feeding' but for now just getting it to 10% or so is a good goal to shoot for. Wine can keep well at 9% but that's starting limit any long term storage.

Another factor is the pH level of the wine. Right now it's not possible to get a good pH reading because there is some residual CO2 in the new wine so since you don't mention adding any at any time nor does your recipe mention it. You would do well to add 1.2 tsp of acid blend for two reasons: First wine needs to have a certain degree of acidity to keep well and secondly, the yeast will do better in that environment. Even though you have acidity from the initial fermentation, it, like the alcohol level is probably too low to keep the wine well and to complement the taste of the wine.

By the way to take SG readings in a carboy is tricky so you should look into getting a testing tube from a wine supply store/site. It's especially useful when you are making wine with fruit and have a lot of pulp. Straining out juice and putting it into a testing tube allows a more accurate SG reading.

I'd sure there are plenty of other options other might suggest but this is one path to getting that wine into a safer state before bottling and without adding/fortifying it.
 

sour_grapes

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I don't fully agree with @Scooter68 . I think he may have misinterpreted some of your steps.

It would have been very helpful to measure the SG at the beginning of the process.

However, we can get a crude estimate from your recipe. By my estimation, about 2150 grams of sugar went into this must (2 kg from you, 150g from the blackberries). The volume of liquid is about 9 liters (6 from the water, 3 from the berries).

Fermcalc indicates that this should result in a starting SG of 1.080. If fermented to dry, that is about 12% alcohol. (Fermcalc: FermCalc Winemaking Calculator )

Where are you getting the 4.5% figure from?
 

Scooter68

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Really still a lot of unknowns at this point.

A fully fermented wine, may well have less flavor because it needs a little sweetening.
 

eddie sanders

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You Don't have to 'fortify' the batch.
As long as you haven't added K-Meta and Potassium Sorbate you should be able to restart the fermentation.

First step is to figure out where you are now. How did you figure out that you are at 4.5% ABV?

But let's assume that is correct and that your current SG reading is .990
If you add sufficient Sugar to raise the SG from .990 to 1.030 and restart the fermentation - the end result should put at about 10.5% assuming that it then ferments back down to .990. If you want a higher alcohol content then add more sugar but don't overdo it - at this time any new yeast you add it going into a less than perfect environment for firing up fermentation. If you want to go higher than 10-11% you might look into 'step-feeding' but for now just getting it to 10% or so is a good goal to shoot for. Wine can keep well at 9% but that's starting limit any long term storage.

Another factor is the pH level of the wine. Right now it's not possible to get a good pH reading because there is some residual CO2 in the new wine so since you don't mention adding any at any time nor does your recipe mention it. You would do well to add 1.2 tsp of acid blend for two reasons: First wine needs to have a certain degree of acidity to keep well and secondly, the yeast will do better in that environment. Even though you have acidity from the initial fermentation, it, like the alcohol level is probably too low to keep the wine well and to complement the taste of the wine.

By the way to take SG readings in a carboy is tricky so you should look into getting a testing tube from a wine supply store/site. It's especially useful when you are making wine with fruit and have a lot of pulp. Straining out juice and putting it into a testing tube allows a more accurate SG reading.

I'd sure there are plenty of other options other might suggest but this is one path to getting that wine into a safer state before bottling and without adding/fortifying it.
Why the prefrence for K meta over sodium metabisufpate?
 

Bladedancer

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Thanks for all the information chaps.

When I looked on the little chart that cane with the hydrometer, 0.90 reads -4.5 % and —79 sugar per litre.
which is where I came from with the -4.5% level.

when I took the first reading before fermentation started The hydrometer reached the bottom of bucket so did my read.
Which is why I am thinking the alcohol content is not enough.

thnking the only way to get alcohol content up is to add another amount of sugar with possibly some grape concentrate to help.
 

NoQuarter

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I don't fully agree with @Scooter68 . I think he may have misinterpreted some of your steps.

It would have been very helpful to measure the SG at the beginning of the process.

However, we can get a crude estimate from your recipe. By my estimation, about 2150 grams of sugar went into this must (2 kg from you, 150g from the blackberries). The volume of liquid is about 9 liters (6 from the water, 3 from the berries).

Fermcalc indicates that this should result in a starting SG of 1.080. If fermented to dry, that is about 12% alcohol. (Fermcalc: FermCalc Winemaking Calculator )

Where are you getting the 4.5% figure from?
Thanks for all the information chaps.

When I looked on the little chart that cane with the hydrometer, 0.90 reads -4.5 % and —79 sugar per litre.
which is where I came from with the -4.5% level.

when I took the first reading before fermentation started The hydrometer reached the bottom of bucket so did my read.
Which is why I am thinking the alcohol content is not enough.

thnking the only way to get alcohol content up is to add another amount of sugar with possibly some grape concentrate to help.
I agree with sour grapes... i use about 20 lbs blackberries and maybe 9-10 lbs of sugar for my 5 gallon batches every year. If my calculations are right, you have made a good 11-13 ABV wine. I do grow my own and they are sweet but I don't thing it would be too far off. maybe let someone else taste it and see what they think about the alcohol strength.... Also sounds like it has fermented about dry.
 

sour_grapes

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Thanks for all the information chaps.

When I looked on the little chart that cane with the hydrometer, 0.90 reads -4.5 % and —79 sugar per litre.
which is where I came from with the -4.5% level.

when I took the first reading before fermentation started The hydrometer reached the bottom of bucket so did my read.
Which is why I am thinking the alcohol content is not enough.

thnking the only way to get alcohol content up is to add another amount of sugar with possibly some grape concentrate to help.
First of all, your hydrometer does NOT read 0.90. It reads 0.990. These are very different.

Second, you need to understand what the "Potential Alcohol" scale means. (I have a question for you: What do you think it could mean to have a negative amount of alcohol in your wine?) The "P.A." scale is only used before fermentation starts. It just says, "If I have this much sugar in my starting liquid, and if it ferments, then I will wind up with a certain ABV percentage." In particular, a reading of the P.A. scale does NOT TELL YOU how much alcohol there is in your wine at that moment. It is just a guide for knowing how much sugar to add before fermentation.
 

Scooter68

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RE: Sodium Metabisulfite vs Potasium Metabisulfite - SODIUM = Think Salt - Never add salt to wine.

I would not use any additive that has Sodium if there was a different version that had Potassium.

Two examples:
Potassium Metabisulfite instead of Sodium Metabisulfite
Potassium Bentonite instead of Sodium Bentonite
 

NoQuarter

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RE: Sodium Metabisulfite vs Potasium Metabisulfite - SODIUM = Think Salt - Never add salt to wine.

I would not use any additive that has Sodium if there was a different version that had Potassium.

Two examples:
Potassium Metabisulfite instead of Sodium Metabisulfite
Potassium Bentonite instead of Sodium Bentonite
I have used both many times and have found absolutely no difference at all. at 1/16th a teaspoon per gallon, it is not enough salt to affect my diet or my taste buds. I am an old country boy and am by no means an expert, but to me its like the argument on weather to use a glass carboy or a PET plastic one for secondary....
Don't wish to sound argumentative, everyone has their own experience as well as their own opinion.
 

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