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Clearing in a fermenter?

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earlobes

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Hi, I'm a little new to the whole wine making scene (having only made a kit wine so far), although recently I came accross 30lbs of fresh plums, and so have decided to make a plum wine. I bought a small book on the basics of making fruit wines, and one point caused me a little confusion.

The book says that when fermentation in the carboy or demijohn slows and the wine starts to clear, you should rack it into a sterile fermenter and add a campden tablet, and wait for fermentation to cease. The impression I get is that you want a minimum exposure to oxygen at this time, and I figure that throwing it all in a fermenter (with all that air space) would cause oxidation. Is this likely to be a problem?

Cheers
 

smurfe

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Sounds like they got it backwards to me.
 

slh

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Sounds like they got it backwards to me.
I'm just a beginner myself but feel like I'm getting a decent understanding of things. (I've made one batch of cranberry and have a batch of rhubarb and merlot clearing at present). I read over your inquiry a couple of times to see if I was getting your drift. The initial (and major) fermentation happens when the wine is in the Primary fermenter (usually a big plastic sanitized bucket). At this time the yeast needs the oxygen to process the sugars into alcohol. Once that is complete (per SG), you rack to the secondary (which is your carboy). Fermentation will slow to a crawl. At this time you restrict oxygen via topping off and using an airlock to avoid contamination. Check the SG to see when it stays the same over a few days and then stabilize with campden or potassium sorbate per recipe instructions. Aging can continue (using airlock and topping off) "at will" here. Rack every few weeks or so to clear. I've read it's really good to age in the carboy because it keeps the temperature nice and even over time, versus bottling.

FYI: My merlot I'm doing is per a kit. The instructions are quite different from the fruit wines I'm making. In particular, the fruit wines require a 24 hour "decontamination" period where you add 1 campden tablet per gallon of must in order to kill off any bacteria or wild yeast that may be lingering in the fruit. After that, you add the yeast. Next, I noticed the kit did not call for topping off when adding the wine to the secondary (rather, it requires it in the third racking. I thought this was kind of odd but my carboy didn't allow much air space anyway so I figured following the recipe was best). This is different than the fruit wine recipes I've been working with. I assume the kit grape wines are a whole different approach.

Comments or corrections, anyone? :)
 

Minnesotamaker

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It could just be that the directions were written a bit sloppily. In wine making, you'll usually have two fermenters, the PRIMARY and the SECONDARY. The primary is usually a larger vessel with a large exposed surface area, often a bucket. The secondary fermenter is your carboy. When they say to move the wine to a sterile fermenter, I'd think they mean that you should rack the wine from your carboy to a clean fresh carboy. If you don't have a spare carboy, you can rack it to your bucket, clean the carboy out and then rack it back into the carboy. Hope this helps.
 

Rocky

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Next, I noticed the kit did not call for topping off when adding the wine to the secondary (rather, it requires it in the third racking. I thought this was kind of odd but my carboy didn't allow much air space anyway so I figured following the recipe was best).

SLH, It probably did not call for topping off in the secondary because there is still some significant fermentation going on and CO2 is still flowing outward at a good pace. In the second racking, presumably when the SG is well under 1.000, there is less CO2 being produced so want less air space at the neck.
 
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