Cap Punching Technique

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cgallamo

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So I think I may have learned something that I thought I would bring up. And I have a follow on question. I have always thought that aggressive punching down and stirring of the must was desirable to get oxygen to the yeast, release CO2, release heat, and aid extraction. But now I see this can add bitterness?

From the executive winemaker at Duckhorn Vineyards:

For a vat, thoroughly submerse the "cap" (the skins and grape particles that float on the must) three times a day for about five to ten minutes. Keep it covered with cloth or wood to avoid bugs, and to protect the carbon dioxide blanket on the surface. It is crucial to avoid bitterness by gentle treatment, but thoroughly and frequently wet the cap at this time.

So the question - if three times a day is good. If you punched down 6 or even 12 times a day would that be better? I punch down alot, maybe 10 times or more a day. What would the drawback be?

Thanks!
Chris
 

Johnd

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So I think I may have learned something that I thought I would bring up. And I have a follow on question. I have always thought that aggressive punching down and stirring of the must was desirable to get oxygen to the yeast, release CO2, release heat, and aid extraction. But now I see this can add bitterness?

From the executive winemaker at Duckhorn Vineyards:

For a vat, thoroughly submerse the "cap" (the skins and grape particles that float on the must) three times a day for about five to ten minutes. Keep it covered with cloth or wood to avoid bugs, and to protect the carbon dioxide blanket on the surface. It is crucial to avoid bitterness by gentle treatment, but thoroughly and frequently wet the cap at this time.

So the question - if three times a day is good. If you punched down 6 or even 12 times a day would that be better? I punch down alot, maybe 10 times or more a day. What would the drawback be?

Thanks!
Chris
The more you punch, the more body, flavor, tannins, etc will be extracted. Problem is, with vigorous activity, if you start popping seeds open, you expose the seed innards and the bitter tannins contained within. Punching gently and frequently is ok, just take it easy.......
 

Rocky

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Chris, there is a practical limitation to punching down the cap and that is the time it takes for the cap to form.

I had to chuckle when I saw the title of this post. "Punching down the cap" was one of my first jobs as a 'winemaker' at age 8 or 9. Adults were unavailable due to jobs and other obligations so it fell to me to go down to the basement a couple time a day and punch down the cap (we called it 'break up the cap'). When we referred to the 'cap' it was more than just grapes skins floating on top of the wine. It was a crust of grape skins drying and floating above and out of the wine. My special 'tool' for doing this was a 4' length of 2" x 4" which I am sure was never sanitized or even washed between uses. I seem to recall that I just wiped it with a rag. Over the years it took on a beautiful purple hue at one end. It is a wonder that we succeeded in making a good wine but we did!
 

cgallamo

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John - "take it easy". I'll remember that. I have been pretty aggressive with my punch downs, but I can't imagine I ever broke any seeds. Seems like the cap forms in just a few minutes after punchdown.

Rocky - great story! Childhood experiences like that are precious and stick with you don't they?
 

Johnd

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John - "take it easy". I'll remember that. I have been pretty aggressive with my punch downs, but I can't imagine I ever broke any seeds. Seems like the cap forms in just a few minutes after punchdown.

Rocky - great story! Childhood experiences like that are precious and stick with you don't they?
I got a new punchdown tool last year, 4' stainless handle with an 8" diameter disc with holes to push down with. When I first used it, I pushed all of the way down to the bottom of the brute and heard a seed crunch, so I'm super careful not to do that. Just need to get the floating cap integrated back into the must and in contact with the fermenting wine. I punch 5 or so times a day if it's a work day, more like 10 on the weekends.
 

Johny99

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I try to "press" down. My goal is to break up and submerge the cap but not thrash the wine. I'm cheap so my tool is a piece of pvc pipe with a small, 6x9 plastic cutting board attached. I try for 3-4 punchdowns a day depending on how much extraction I'm looking for. My punchdowns start out real gentle when there is mostly must and get more vigorous as the fermentation proceeds and the skins separate. I continue punchdowns during extended maceration on my cabs, but drop to once a day, largely due to the added step of needing to gas and that the cap isn't as solid.
 

Boatboy24

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2-3 times a day for me. I'm probably 'average' on the aggressive scale. I get in there after I break up the cap and stir things up, but I try not to get to the bottom so I don't crack/break any seeds.

I use one of these from MoreWine:
 

Johnd

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Here's pic of mine, like Jim's it's metal and will break seeds without care...............

9220.jpg
 

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