Extra gallons

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Johnny A

Oct 13, 2008
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This is my first venture into wine making on my own. I used equipment handed down from my grandparents. I had some basic know how and I bought 7 cases of merlot grapes. It yielded approximately 18.5 gallons. I used 3 5 gallon carboys and the rest (3.5 gallons) is in single gallon bottles. I have air locks on the 5 gallon carboys and everything appears to be OK there. My question is should I air lock the individual gallon bottles as well, or simply top them off to eliminate air inside the gallon bottles? The second fermentation process is still going on and the gallons are bubbling so I can't seal them yet without an air lock. Do you think I need air locks for the single gallons as well? Thanks.
As long as fermentation is on its way on any
bottle an air lock should be attached.

If you do not put an airlock on pressure will build
up and blow away the stopper or worse.......

Thanks Luc. I already tried capping one of the gallons for a few days and when I opened it it was like a volcano. Luckily I only lost a few ounces. I will place the air lock on right of way. Your advice is truly appreciated.
Definetetly put air locks on the single bottles otherwise 1) the wine will most certainly oxidize, or 2) if you have caps on the bottles you will get a build up of pressure if the fermentation is not finished thereby resulting in cracked or exploding bottles. You can buy rubber stoppers with the hole in them for 750 ml bottles and use a regular air lock. It seems to be a slight hassle ending with a full carboy and a single bottle but it's worth it because you can use it for topping. I also have some 375 lm bottles I use with the same stopped and air lock.
Thanks for the tips guys. Here is where I'm at. The 5 gallon carboys are fine. The gallon bottles had the air locks placed on them recently (yesterday 10-15-2008) I had the must in the gallon bottles for about 1 1/2 wks without the airlock. Today I checked and there are no air bubbles coming through the air lock. I'm kind of at a loss. Are the gallon bottles OK? What would be my next step if the air is completely out of the gallon bottles? I was under the assumption that it would take months before I began the racking process. Any tips would be appreciated. Thanks.
If you are not seeing any air bubbles on the one gallon jugs then the fermentation is completed. Do you have more than say an 1/8 on an inch of sediment in the one gals? If so, I would rack the wine, sulfite it, top it off and put either a rubber or silicone bung on the jugs.
Sorry I jumped the gun. Bubbles are still coming out. Regarding sulfites, my grandparents never used them. But way back then in South Philly, times were different. I understand using them could greatly preserve wine. I may sulfite some of it, but some people in my family are allergic to sulfites. What is the danger of not adding them? I know I can buy them down in Philly at Front and Snyder Ave. Just want your take from a first timer. Thanks.
Rocco thanks for the info. Once the bubbling stops on the air locks and I begin the racking process (and introduce sulfites as you mentioned) there will be a slight reduction in liquid since the residue at the bottom of the carboys/gallon bottles will be eliminated. I know bottles should be topped off. But I don't have any spare wine. I've been reading it's OK to use water to top off. Will this affect the quality of the wine? Also I purchased a hydrometer, I know I should have used it previously but....? Once the fermenting stops, what should the reading on the hydrometer be. What will/should it be after I rack it a few times? Basically, when will this must stop tasting like grape juice and become wine? Is it wine after all is said and done, or after the fermentation process is complete? The purveyor of grapes I purchased from said the bubbling shouldn't stop until January (I placed must into carboys 10-1-2008) Once again, thanks for the wealth of information you provide.
Water can be used for topping off when there is very
few headspace.
Using to much water will dillute your wine too much.
Better is to rack to smaller bottles.....

When fermentation has finished your hydrometer should
read below 1000 even below 998.

Then a secondary fermentation might start depending
on the level of sulphite you have added to the wine.
The secondary fermentation is called a malo-lactic fermentation.
No alcohol is produced but the malic acid in the wine is
metabolised in lactic acid by bacteria. This will give the wine
a more mild character. But Malo will not always occur.
If it does, fermentation may indeed take a long time.

As Luc said, you can top off with water if you are only topping off a few ounces. Remember, at each racking you will lose some wine. For this reason, I like to top off with wine purchased. I use a similar style or varietal, this way I don't have to worry about diluting my alcohol content and can use it to top off if I am down a pint or so at the first racking.

I use the Brix scale rather than Specific Gravity (SG). The wine is completly fermented when the Brix is 0 or or less. When using fresh grapes I press at between -1 and -2 brix.

You have to be patient with wine. While the juice is fermenting it will taste like grape juice but each day during fermentation when you smell the wine the alcohol aroma should be getting stronger. You will notice the flavors of the wine will change over time. A sample tasted when fermentation has just completed will taste very different even after a month. Taste the wine after the second racking (about 2 months after fermentation), it should taste like wine and not grape juice. 9 months and longer of aging only help to improve the taste. I give my wine at least 12 months before I start drinking it.
Luc and Rocco:

Many thanks for your advice. I will be patient and let the wine age as you've indicated. I will also use the brix scale as Rocco mentioned, which I assume is on the hydrometer (I don't have it with me now). Once again, thanks :)