Quantcast

Distilled water in wine making

Wine Making Talk

Help Support Wine Making Talk:

Rocky

Chronologically Gifted Member
WMT Supporter
Joined
Jan 29, 2011
Messages
6,336
Reaction score
2,718
Location
Columbus, OH
Bear with me folks. I would like to have a discussion of why distilled water is not to be used in making wine. I realize that the current thinking is that this is tantamount to a sacrilege but I don't understand why.

Full disclosure: I mostly use distilled water in making wine from kits and juice buckets (although I must confess to using Spring Water on occasion and even tap water in an emergency). I and most all I know like my end product so it does not seem that the distilled water is harming the wine.

Further, when wine juice is "concentrated" for kit wines, water is removed by some process (I would guess boiling). In this process, H2 and O2 are given off (and possibly S2 and N2). The "minerals" in the juice that are considered so important would have to remain in the concentrate. When I add back distilled water (H20) I am only adding back that which has been removed.

Let me look at the other side of the argument. It is believed that Spring Water and even drinkable Tap Water are superior to Distilled Water because they contain vital minerals that benefit the wine. Even if I accept this premise, how does one know that the Spring Water or Tap Water contains these "vital" minerals, and in the same variety and concentrations?

Fuller disclosure: I majored in Math and minored in Physics. I slipped through General Chemistry with two B's, which I was thankful to attain. My Chemistry is weak and I am more than willing to be enlightened.

Thank you.
 

ibglowin

Moderator
Staff member
Administrator
Joined
Jul 7, 2009
Messages
22,204
Reaction score
14,503
Location
Northern Nuevo Mexico
I have always used R/O water from the machine in the store and now I make my own using my Zero water filter system. I can't taste the difference and don't believe it makes any difference whatsoever. As others have said if your water smells good and taste good your water out of the tap should be just fine. Everything the yeast need to be happy is in that kit concentrate once you add the correct amount of water back to it.

As for how they remove the water, its a patented process of course so they don't give out lots of specifics but basically vacuum concentrators lower the pressure inside the juice tank to enable water to evaporate at very low temperatures, preventing browning and caremlization of the juices. A fractional distillation apparatus on the concentrator recovers evaporated water to prevent any aromatic compounds or essences from escaping and returns them to the concentrate after processing.

Thats my $0.02 on the subject anyways. YMMV.
 

stickman

Veteran Winemaker
Joined
Jun 16, 2014
Messages
1,698
Reaction score
1,639
I agree with Mike, I have used distilled water in the past for watering back a high brix must, but now all of my water is from my in-house RO machine. I think the main argument against distilled water is when re-hydrating yeast when not using some type of re-hydration nutrient/protection.
 

joeswine

joeswine
Joined
Nov 15, 2007
Messages
7,409
Reaction score
1,446
Filtered water

Either way filtered which I always use or distilled not that big a difference on the other hand straight water from the tap may ( content):h not be good for the over all taste of the finished product ,some places in NJ have heavy iron even after coming out of the city systems and if you have a well ,WELL get my drift, I have a well and the water:db is pleasant enough but I still use filtered water as you can see from my pics all the time ,JUST ME.:ib
 

garymc

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 12, 2011
Messages
958
Reaction score
214
It's the chlorine in tapwater that is objectionable. My municipal tapwater is heavily chlorinated, so if I use it, I heat it on the stove for a few minutes or let it stand for a while to let the chlorine dissipate (no, I don't use hot water in the wine.) The other thing is the minerals that are absent in distilled and may or may not be in other water sources. If yeast won't grow in distilled water, then rainwater won't cause mildew. The minerals are probably helpful, but it's not going to "ruin" your wine to use distilled water.
 

Rocky

Chronologically Gifted Member
WMT Supporter
Joined
Jan 29, 2011
Messages
6,336
Reaction score
2,718
Location
Columbus, OH
Great discussion, folks. Thank you.

MIKE I was wondering about that Zero Water filtering system. I will have to look into that. I also figured that they used some type of high pressure process to reduce the boiling point. I was not aware that the process included returning the aromatic compounds and essences to the concentrate. Interesting, and it supports what I believed, i.e. that these components were in the concentrate and all that was removed was water (H20).

Stickman I don't re-hydrate my yeast so that is not an issue with me.

Joe Yes, water does vary from municipality to municipality. Our water here in Columbus, Ohio is fairly good. When I lived in Dayton, it was horrible (had to soften it) but I did not make wine there. In New York, it was fine but I made my wine there from grapes and did not need to add water.

Garymc Yes, I have seen where if you do use chlorinated city water, you should let it sit for a period to dissipate the chlorine. I never thought about it and I can't argue whether or not yeast can prosper in distilled water. When I bake, I use tap water, sugar and yeast to get the yeast "started."
 

Tnuscan

Tnuscan=Tennesseean
Joined
Mar 25, 2012
Messages
975
Reaction score
328
@Rocky
How Wine Kits Are Made

"Wine kits contain concentrate, juice, and other staples like acid and sulfite. The process that brings these together to make a kit is fascinating.
First, manufacturers contract to purchase grapes from growers specifying conditions at harvest (acid, pH, sugar cotent and color) and organoleptic qualities (flavor and aroma). When the grapes are ripe they are harvested and taken to a winery, where they are sulfited and crushed.
White grapes are pressed and the juice is pumped into a settling tank. Enzymes are added to break down the pectin and gums, which would make clearing difficult after fermentation. Th en bentonite is added to the juice and re-circulated. After several hours the circulation is shut off and the tank is crashed-chilled below freezing. This helps precipitate grape solids, and prevent spoilage. When the tank is settled and the juice almost clear it is roughly filtered, the sulfite is adjusted, and it is either pumped into tankard trucks for shipment to the kit facility or into a vacuum concentrator.
Red grapes are crushed, sulfited and pumped through a chiller to a maceration tank, where special pectinoglycolytic enzymes are added. These break down the cellulose membrane of the grape skins, extracting color, aroma and flavor. The tank is chilled to near freezing to prevent the must from fermenting. After two to three days the red must is pumped off, pressed and settled. The pressed grape skins then undergo secondary processing to extract further skin components, which can then be added back to the juice.
Vacuum concentrators work like the reverse of a pressure cooker. By lowering the pressure inside the tank, water can be made to boil at less than 50 C (120 F). At temperatures this low, browning and caramelization are prevented and water comes off as vapor, leaving behind concentrated grape juice. Because some aromatic compounds can be carried away in this vapor, there is a fractional distillization apparatus on the concentrator to recover these essences, which are returned to the concentrate after processing.
The juices and concentrates are then shipped to the kit facility. They are pumped into nitrogen purged tanks, tested for quality and stability, and held at very low temperatures. This both speeds up the formation of wine diamonds and (crystals of potassium bitartrate from the tartaric acid naturally occurring in the wine) and perserves the liquids.
After the quality controls checks are passed, the juices and concentrates are blended in giant tanks. When the formulation is approved, the must is pumped through the pasteurizer. The pasteurizer is a heat exchanger that rapidly heats and then cools the must, killing yeast and spoilage organisms, but not caramelizing the must. From there it goes into the bag filler, which purges the sterile bags with a double flush of nitrogen and then fills each bag.
The bags are then capped and loaded into the kit boxes, after which the additives are placed on top. The boxes are shrink-wrapped and packed on a skid for a quality-assurance microbiological hold. This hold can last from three days to a week, while the product is examined for bacterial or yeast activity. If it passes, it is shipped to the warehouse, and from there to dealers, and finally, into the hands of the customer."
By Tim Vandergrift
Techniques in Home Wine Making, Daniel Pambianchi
 

Floandgary

Bottle at a time
Joined
Dec 24, 2012
Messages
910
Reaction score
322
Not positive on the chemistry, but I've always been of the notion that distilled water contains little O2 or minerals thus quite neutral (I use mine from the dehumidifier). I use it mostly in preparing sanitizer with K-meta. For making up headspace, I still prefer like wine or a smaller vessel. And as I do mostly juice buckets, Rarely ever need any quantity as in a kit.
 

Johnd

Senior Member
WMT Supporter
Joined
Jun 10, 2015
Messages
6,654
Reaction score
6,613
Location
South Louisiana
Having used several different waters, never noticed any difference, distilled, spring, artesian waters. The only thing on the "don't use" list for me is my tap water, which is municipal, and contains water softeners and chlorine, and is too far on the alkaline side of the scale.
 

dcbrown73

Clueless Winemaker
Joined
Mar 28, 2016
Messages
1,219
Reaction score
902
Distilled water not only removes impurities, it also removes the minerals from the water. This is why distilled water does not taste very good and why I choose not to use distilled water when adding water to the must.

I do on the other hand use distilled water to rinse sanitized carboys where the wine I'm adding to the carboy is already of a high SO2 level. (hence, not wanting to raise the SO2 levels even further) Though spring or filtered water would work just as well.

I will use tap in an emergency, but filtered / spring water is so cheap that avoiding any risk of the unfiltered tap watch is easily worth it. ($1.50 to $2.50 per six gallons (even less if you have a home filter) of wine is dirt cheap)
 

ceeaton

Fifth year
Joined
Feb 15, 2015
Messages
5,101
Reaction score
5,257
Location
Southern PA
I use RO water that I make at home to top off my fish tanks and more importantly use to mash grains to make beer. Our water is extremely hard and it is hard to get the pH of the mash low enough and it affects what I get for a yield out of the grain. So I figured I always have 5 or 10 gallons hanging around, might as well use it on my wine kits. I do boil and cool all my water, whether RO or tap water or bought spring water, which is a habit from my beer making addiction. I also use the RO water to mix up batches of StarSan, as RO water has little if any buffering capacity and the StarSan is effective only below a certain pH, which is 4? or 3?, not sure.
 

Boatboy24

No longer a newbie, but still clueless.
Joined
Mar 18, 2012
Messages
14,190
Reaction score
11,366
Location
DC Suburbs
I use mostly spring water and never had an issue. The little bit of hot water that many kit instructions call for in the 'add your bentonite' step I usually obtain from the tap. Our water is chlorinated, but I've never had an issue. By the time I'm done stirring in that bentonite, I figure I've blown off much of the chlorine.
 

Tnuscan

Tnuscan=Tennesseean
Joined
Mar 25, 2012
Messages
975
Reaction score
328
There was a short time I used distlled, and then I purchased a R/O system. I read a article said it wasn't wise to use them, so I never hooked up the R/O. I figured rain water had minerals and spring water is supposed to, so I've stuck with sping water.
 

ceeaton

Fifth year
Joined
Feb 15, 2015
Messages
5,101
Reaction score
5,257
Location
Southern PA
I read a article said it wasn't wise to use them, so I never hooked up the R/O.
Depending on the RO unit you get, there are still some minerals left in the resultant water, depending on the type of RO membrane the unit has. The old style units (late 1990s) used to be based on the gallons per day you got of RO water, the higher the gallonage, the higher the minerals left in the water. Not sure how they work today since there might have been improvement in the technology. My unit is an old one, which I will probably have issues when I need a new membrane, I usually get 20 ppm hardness once the unit has been up and running for 10 minutes or so. My source water is in the 200 ppm range (very very hard).
 

Latest posts

Top