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Gambit

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Howdy all

Brand spanking new to all of this. We made a one gallon batch of mead a few years back, but we put it in a closet and forgot about it for several months. by the time we got back to it the air lock was bone dry and everything inside had a fowl smell. This time, we have a 5 gallon batch of watermelon wine going. We didn't put it in a closet and forget about it. lol. Anywho, it is in the primary fermenter and started out GREAT. With in 3 hours we had slow fermentation and for the next week and a half it was going strong. For the next few days it got steady slower. It is now a little over 2 weeks and it is dead still, no more bubbles in the air lock. Everything I have read said it should take about a month to bring it to full fermentation. I haven't opened it up and taken a look yet, but at 2 and a half weeks could it be ready for the first rack or could something have gone wrong? Thanks for any advice.
 

Scooter68

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Without a hydrometer you are just guessing.

Lack of Airlock activity or visible bubbling is not a good way to determine if fermentation is or is not occuring. You need a hydrometer reading. Fermentation can take 3-4 days to complete or 2-3 weeks. A month is a long ferment and about the only time that will happen is at lower temps. You also should have had an initial reading from a hydrometer to determine your potential Alcohol level or ABV (Alcohol By Volume) Since you didn't do that apparently all you can do at this point is see if fermentation has stopped based on a hydrometer reading.

Go get a hydrometer then take a reading. See the Thread on her for reading and interpreting hydromenters.

http://www.winemakingtalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=16574

HINT: If you followed a recipe or know exactly the quantities you added to your wine - post those here and someone may be able to give you a rough idea of what your potential ABV should be.
 
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Gambit

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original hydrometer reading was 1.161. I'm going to crack it open tomorrow, my next day off, and take a reading to see if it is done. I also used a yeast that would top out at 15%. I was told that the amount of bubbles in the air lock was a good indication of what was going on, but only an indication at best. I didn't know that a month was a long time and that 2 to 3 weeks was sometimes long enough. We keep that house around 70/75 most of the time, so definitely not fermenting at low temps. Thanks for the heads up. I'll get some photos of it once I do a rack into the secondary gals carboy.
 

BernardSmith

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Hi Gambit - and welcome. Watermelon wine is a real tour de force (an uphill battle). You say that you started this at 1.161? What was your recipe? Watermelon is almost without any flavor (sure it can be sweet but absent the sweetness the flavor is paper thin). The starting gravity being so high .. is that because you added sugar or added some concentrated version of water melon? You might want to taste this to see where it's at. You may be very lucky and have scored a hole in one... but that ball may be in a bunker or well into the rough...
 

Gambit

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grabbed a recipe off of a youtube dude. (might not have been the best idea) It was simpl, squeeze enough watermelons to come up with 5 gallons of juice, add sugar to bring it up to 1.150ish (I over shot), add yeast, and let it do it's thing. We had a HUGE harvest of watermelons from our garden this year, so this is why we are trying it out. I love love love me some good mead and that is where I will be focusing my attention, but this seemed like a fun way to use the bounty of our back yard.
 

sour_grapes

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Well, you added enough sugar to raise the ABV to about 21 or 22% (if the yeast could have handled that). Since yeast cannot really go that high, you more than likely will have a sweet wine with ~15% (plus or minus) ABV. Who knows, this might even be pleasant to drink!
 

Scooter68

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So you never stirred it once you added the yeast? That could have helped the process somewhat but...\

As mentioned, your SG starting point was so high that no yeast could finish that ferment but what yeast did you use?
 

Gambit

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So about that yeast... Since stating this I have gone and gotten a note pad to keep better records. The most I did was to fill out the info in the spots on the side of the primary fermentation bucket. I asked the gentleman at the local brew it yourself shop for a yeast that would top out at 15% and I also asked for one that helped to retain color. Both recommended by said YouTube dude. I have also since found a book on making fruit wines with recipes that are more detailed than said YouTube dude. To be honest, this started out as just a fun summer activity for my kiddo and I since we had so many watermelons, I didn't know I was going to have so much fun with it. Nor did I realize there was so much into it. On the subject of stirring it up, nope didn't do that either. I thought I was supposed to cap it and let it sit so that the sediment can clear out of it. Or am I getting that confused with secondary?
 

Scooter68

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Yup, For the first few days of fermentation it's a good idea to stir for two reasons - incorporate some oxygen to help the yeast get started, secondly to keep pulp wet so that it can break down and release the sugars and flavor. The process can work without stirring but in general stirring once a day during until you transfer into a secondary fermentation container, normally a glass carboy.
Most folks don't worry a great deal about clearing the wine until fermentation is over. There are additives you can add at the start of fermentation to help the wine clear but until the fermentation stops the wine will turn over on it's own keeping a lot of the lees suspended.
 

Gambit

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Popped the top today after running up to the local brew shop. WOW was that a smell. Gravity reading is 1.000. I removed the fruit filled bag and racked over to the carboy. I took a little sip. It still has some fizz to it and tasted like over ripe watermelon. The watermelon flavor is STRONG. Think plugged watermelon from your collage years. lol. I put the carboy back in its fermenting spot and it started bubbling in the air lock again. Now comes the fun part, watching it clarify.

20170725_120736.jpg
 

Gambit

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Side note, the TV never gets turned on in that room so it doesn't affect the temp.
 

Scooter68

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That's going to be way too much air space in that carboy. If that's a five gallon carboy you need to transfer it into smaller carboys like a 3 gallon and a 1 gallon or 4 one gallon carboys. Whatever it takes to fill the carboys up about the middle of the neck.

Failing to do that can ruin the wines look and flavor.
 

Gambit

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Is there another option? I have, exactly, 1-one gallon and 1-five gallon carboy. I just got the 5 gallon carboy, and a few other things, today and the wife will lay a golden egg if I run up there and spend more money.
 

Gambit

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ok, talked it over with the old ball and chain. 1 gallon glass carboy are less than $4. I'm going to go grab 2 more as soon as my local store opens in the morning. I hope it can last that long without doing a lot of damage.
 

Scooter68

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Check your local recycling center - I don't buy them they are free there. Of course in this situation there might not be enough for what you need. Look for Carlo Rossi bottles they are actually 4 liter but they work great and free!
 

Johnd

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While you still have active fermentation, don't sweat it, your wine already has some measure of protection, just keep it airlocked. Headspace gets concerning after fermentation is complete and no CO2 is being produced.
 

Scooter68

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Based on his starting SG and the yeast he used, he's not likely to see it go all the way dry. He has enough sugar for 21-22 % ABV and a yeast good to about 15%. So at 1.000 his fermentation is about finished, and he looks to have at least a gallon of volume in headspace. Even if it's not critical today, he will need smaller carboys for aging very soon.
 

Gambit

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Problem solved. Ran up to the local brew shop this morning and got a 3 gallon carboy. This way I am set up to do almost any size I need, or at least that's what I told the wife. Racked into the 3 gallon and the 1 gallon I already had. is that going to be too much head space in the 1 gallon? Time to leave it alone for a few months while I decide what I'm going to try next.

20170726_145113.jpg
 

Johnd

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It's OK for a short period of time, but when you finish your fermenting and add sulfite / clearing agents, it's a good time to eliminate that headspace, there is no sense risking oxidation.

When it clears and the sediment settles out, you'll be losing some volume when you rack, so be prepared. Pick up a 1/2 gallon jug and have a few bottles laying around and you'll be just fine.
 

Ajmassa

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Your at 21% alcohol right now. You sure that 1.161 was correct? I didn't think most yeasts were able to go that high. If 1.061 it'd be 8%. But judging by your taste description it sounds like its strong.
And yes, That 1 gal is a little low but nothing to lose sleep over. If you have an easy way to remove a small amount from the 3 gal (which can spare a couple inches) and into the 1 I'd do it. A small syringe used for testing, a "wine thief", or even a racking cane with your thumb on the end a few times. And then a small amount of water if needed never hurt anybody. It would only be like
.25/100th of the batch.

Edit: I don't wanna complicate this with conflicting responses. Just note that topping that jug up higher was recommended assuming your fermentation was complete and no more co2 was being produced to protect it.
 
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