First timer with grapes

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Paulie vino

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Hey guys, this is my first year making some with grapes. In the past few years, I made 3 batches of juice buckets which were just ok. I was gifted a wine press and now am looking to do better with real grapes.

I was hoping to get them a few weeks ago but due a vacation I had planned, I couldn't start any sooner. I picked up 3 lugs of cab franc this past Monday. They seemed to be a little past their prime, a little squishy to the touch and some mold in one case, with some raisins scattered throughout. The grapes were delivered so I was not able to examine the lugs prior to purchasing. I'm assuming this is what happens when they travel from the west coast to east coast and then sat around for a while probably. Anyway, I sorted them and got rid of much moldy ones as possible. I was a little less strict with the raisins with a lot of them going in (not sure how that will effect the whole process).

After crushing, I hand picked most of the stems and was left witb what looked like around 11 gallons (how do you guys properly measure the amount of must volume in your fermenters? Do you eyeball or have markings in the side?). I measured the brix to be 27.3 and the SG to be 1.117, which gave me some cause for concern. I checked again to make sure and my numbers were right. I even checked the next morning prior to yeast pitching and the numbers were the same. I don't have any tools to measure the acid but I would assume since it was such a high brix the acid would be low, but I have no way to know. I thought about watering down but don't have any tartaric acid. What would you guys have done in this case? based on those numbers it's on track to be around 15 or 16 %


Next, I took out a digital kitchen scale to measure the appropriate amount for SO2 and quickly realized the scale would not read such little amounts of grams, so I did the best I could. I bought a new scale which just arrived today do fix this problem. Anyway, I also added lallzyme ex at the same time. I only had 8g which was less than the dosage needed for this volume but since it was all I had I used it.

The next morning I threw in some ft rouge tannin and rehydrated d254 yeast with go ferm. I had 2 8g packs and instead of trying to weight out exact amounts I used both for a total of 16g. I figured since the must was high brix I'd rather be safe than sorry. The yeast rehydrated well and I pitched it in yesterday morning. By yesterday night a very light cap had started to form so I gave it a punch down. By this morning the cap was back and fermentation appeared to be going so I added a first dose of Fermaid o to keep the yeast happy. I should mention that in my experience and rush to go to work I threw in the powder without mixing it in water first. I realized my error as it started to clump up in the must so I didy best to mix it in. I will plan on adding another dose at 1/3 sugar depletion (18 brix).

The temperature of the must at pitch was around 58 degrees since it's been a little cold in my attached garage here in NY. It's now up in the low to mid 60s in the garage now which should be a good enough environment to ferment.

So far it's been fun but I am worried about the high brix and getting a stuck fermentation. The yeast can handle up to 16% so I'm hoping it doesn't pass that.

If you guys have any tips or suggestions to my process so far I would much appreciate it. This forum is a gold mine of information.

The post wouldn't be complete without some pics, so here they are
 

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Ohio Bob

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Sounds good so far except for the high S.G. and probably high pH. I would run out and get some tartaric acid and maybe a few packets of EC1118, the wine has has a chance of getting stuck. I don’t know that there’s anything to be done now until the SG bottoms out.
 

Paulie vino

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When would you add the tartaric acid? Is it too late to do it now that fermentation is underway? I don't have any way to measure pH, are there any cheap ways(trying to be cost effective here). I will pick up some ec1118 just to be ready
 

Ohio Bob

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When would you add the tartaric acid? Is it too late to do it now that fermentation is underway? I don't have any way to measure pH, are there any cheap ways(trying to be cost effective here). I will pick up some ec1118 just to be ready
I would say it’s probably never too late to add. Without a measurement you might just take a taste and see what you think.
 

Paulie vino

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Let's say assuming I get tartaric acid before the alcohol levels rise very much, is it ok to dilute the must with acidulated water since fermentation has already begun? Would that have any effect on the yeast activity? I assume the diluted water would be close to the pH of the must, so the yeast shouldn't be affected but that's just my theory. I found this website Water dilution that calculates how much water to dilute with, does that seem accurate? The more wine manuals say the ratio of acid to water should be 23grams per gallon, so I was use around 1.7 gallons and 39 grams of tartaric acid?
 

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Let's say assuming I get tartaric acid before the alcohol levels rise very much, is it ok to dilute the must with acidulated water since fermentation has already begun? Would that have any effect on the yeast activity? I assume the diluted water would be close to the pH of the must, so the yeast shouldn't be affected but that's just my theory. I found this website Water dilution that calculates how much water to dilute with, does that seem accurate? The more wine manuals say the ratio of acid to water should be 23grams per gallon, so I was use around 1.7 gallons and 39 grams of tartaric acid?
Ayo Paulie V! Lol. love it.
Gonna just dive right in here.

-No biggie about directly adding goferm. I’ve done that as well. All good.

-You‘re cool adding water now w/o harm.

-For online calculator should check out fermcalc It’s the gold standard. I have it bookmarked to my homescreen. Its legit for anything you could ever need.

-when plugging in your #’s for dilution you should account for the skins. Usually must is ~30% grapeskins. So assume 7.7gal of liquid to dilute. Not 11

-FermCalc says 1.25gal of water to drop 27.5 to 24 Brix° You could add that right now and the acid later in the day or tomorrow if ya grab any. DB23DD07-9059-43B3-8DD5-6B3F9BFFBE9B.jpeg


-Acid won’t hurt the ferment but its tricky w/o testing. I might just add a small amount or even nothing. Tho the less needed post ferment the better. We can talk dosage later if ya decide to pick some up.

-there’s cheap meters on Amazon. My 1st one was about $15 (plus the buffer solutions to calibrate). And if I had just basic ph meter knowledge prior I wouldn’t have broken it or bought the wrong buffers.

-with dilution you’re yielding almost 9 gal finished wine. A funky size. hope ya got some 1gal jugs on hand!

Rushing around under the gun w/ all the first time lab stuff can be overwhelming. I wouldnt get too hung up on it tho. Whenever in doubt about abolutely anything at all just keep utilizing the forum. People are always willing to help and are a massive benefit.
-WMT and my wine bible =my 2 main crutches.

And finally-
congrats on your 1st grape batch. Nice pics too. Sounds like you prepped well and did your homework. I know you made juice pails for few years but all-grape is a whole new ballgame. And so damn fun. I’m kinda jealous tbh. Good luck man
 
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Actually, it's easily stored in 6 + 3 gallon carboys or a 34L demijohn. Not too bad. This is about how much I get from 4 lugs of grapes.
agree. In a perfect world. Assuming you can fill that 3 gal. If not your left with a 6 and maybe 2.5gal
or a 5gal and 3.5gal

all I’m saying is it’s convenient to accumulate different sized smaller vessels. 1/2 gal 1gal 5L etc. the odd sized remainders are one of the most frustrating things in small scale winemaking
 

Paulie vino

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I'm thinking about adding water because the last thing I want is a stuck fermentation for my first time. I will have acid by tomorrow so I can add that as well. My question now is what effect will adding that much water have on the taste of the finished wine. 1.25 gallons is 16% of the liquid volume (7.7). That seems like a large percentage
 

Flufnagel

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it’s convenient to accumulate different sized smaller vessels.
Most definitely. I save all kinds of glass containers from the random products my family consumes. I have sub-one gallon bottles down to the 200 mL size. One of the most oddly enjoyable parts of winemaking for me is figuring out how to perfectly contain any arbitrary volume. :)
 
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I'm thinking about adding water because the last thing I want is a stuck fermentation for my first time. I will have acid by tomorrow so I can add that as well. My question now is what effect will adding that much water have on the taste of the finished wine. 1.25 gallons is 16% of the liquid volume (7.7). That seems drop it below the tolerance with 3/4 gal
Not sure how much of impact it would have tbh. but you do have options.
1. you can dial it back under the 16%abv threshold with 3/4 gal of water. Would be less than 9% of 8.5 total gallons.
OR
throw caution to the wind
drop in some EC118, pray it takes over and make some jet fuel! (I like this one)
OR
get more grapes and blend them

i know you’re on the clock as fermentation is probably cookin by now. But I’d give it the day and see what some people with more experience would advise before taking any action.
 

Neb Farmer

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I wouldn't be too concerned about the 27 brix level as long as you have a yeast that will ferment it. ( assuming you are going to let it ferment to 'dry' ) Some of my favorite wines are made with brix levels higher than the textbook level of 24 brix.
 
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I wouldn't be too concerned about the 27 brix level as long as you have a yeast that will ferment it. ( assuming you are going to let it ferment to 'dry' ) Some of my favorite wines are made with brix levels higher than the textbook level of 24 brix.
That is kinda the issue. He’s starting at 27.5% brix° To run dry abv would be around 16.5% but his yeast D254 maxes out at 16%.

So Do you dilute with water to play it safe but will thin the wine?
Or do you add a stronger yeast mid ferment?

I think you add the EC118. Thin wine with high abv could be way too outta balance. Hes getting a high abv regardless. Might as well try to match that abv punch with as much body, tannin and flavor as possible.
 

Paulie vino

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Thanks for all the replies. Very interesting discussion. I punched down about an hour ago and took some more readings. The temp of the must went up about 10 degrees and is now around 77 (garage temp is 67, today was warm a humid compared to the last few days). Yesterday morning the must was 65 degree. Fermentation is definitely going strong. Brix this morning was 22.5, now it's at 17. This is about 1/3 sugar depletion so I added about 17g of Fermaid o, which I based on a must volume of 11.5 gallons. So far everything appears to be going well, but I'm still worried about the high initial brix. I'm tempted to water down but I'm holding off for now based on dither discussion from you guys. My window to water down is closing, talk about pressure lol. If I do water down, I'll probably do the minimum needed to make sure the yeast finishes, so I'd bring it down to 16 brix.
 

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Paulie welcome to the wonderful world of wine making with grapes - and yes it is a different ball game
I'm not going to comment on your numbers, etc... -there's enough said in the comments above
- but this i do have to say - - i don't want to sound like a debbie downer - but
as a home wine maker for many years i believe and stress the importance of being clean - i sometimes over sanitize my equipment that was taught to me by my father - the smallest neglect can ruin your batch of wine
#1 - get your pooch out of there - dogs and grapes - oil and water - don't mix well - can be deadly - i personally know of 3 dogs got very very sick from eating grapes - the other reason it's not very cleanliness / hygienic - not good idea to have your dog sniffing around your work area -i have 3 dogs they never enter my wine area while work is being done
#2 the pic in the back ground - is that press u will be using? - if so u may want to consider a very very good cleaning and a maybe a shot of tremclad to bring it back to life -looks a little rusty
#3 if u decide to continue with grapes - get a destemmer - saves u a lot of time going trough a picking out the stems after crushing
my 2 cents
 

TurkeyHollow

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I think, since it's already fermenting, I'd just let it rip. In the mean time, I'd try to get some good numbers as to where you are as far as pH. If you plan on adjusting, you need to be measuring (a pH meter will be a valuable tool). When you rack to secondary, you will probably be topping off. If you know where your pH is, you can then top off with a calculated amount of acidulated water. After clearing for a little while, take a TA reading and start to "tweak" that into your taste. Use the TA numbers to get you in the ballpark then your taste buds to finish the job. Document everything so you have a reference for next time.
 

Paulie vino

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Paulie welcome to the wonderful world of wine making with grapes - and yes it is a different ball game
I'm not going to comment on your numbers, etc... -there's enough said in the comments above
- but this i do have to say - - i don't want to sound like a debbie downer - but
as a home wine maker for many years i believe and stress the importance of being clean - i sometimes over sanitize my equipment that was taught to me by my father - the smallest neglect can ruin your batch of wine
#1 - get your pooch out of there - dogs and grapes - oil and water - don't mix well - can be deadly - i personally know of 3 dogs got very very sick from eating grapes - the other reason it's not very cleanliness / hygienic - not good idea to have your dog sniffing around your work area -i have 3 dogs they never enter my wine area while work is being done
#2 the pic in the back ground - is that press u will be using? - if so u may want to consider a very very good cleaning and a maybe a shot of tremclad to bring it back to life -looks a little rusty
#3 if u decide to continue with grapes - get a destemmer - saves u a lot of time going trough a picking out the stems after crushing
my 2 cents
Thanks, your right about the sanitary aspect with having the dog in there. I'll keep that in mind next time. Luckily he is very picky and wouldn't eat a grape if we forced it on him, so not to worry there.

About the press, I posted some more photos in this thread Lead paint in old press? it looks more rusty in the photos than in real life.

A destemmer would be nice but as this is my first time I'm trying to keep costs down, could be a nice investment for the future though.
 

Paulie vino

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I think, since it's already fermenting, I'd just let it rip. In the mean time, I'd try to get some good numbers as to where you are as far as pH. If you plan on adjusting, you need to be measuring (a pH meter will be a valuable tool). When you rack to secondary, you will probably be topping off. If you know where your pH is, you can then top off with a calculated amount of acidulated water. After clearing for a little while, take a TA reading and start to "tweak" that into your taste. Use the TA numbers to get you in the ballpark then your taste buds to finish the job. Document everything so you have a reference for next time.
Can you recommend a basic pH meter? I don't want to sound cheap but all this equipment starts to add up🤔
 

TurkeyHollow

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There are many out there. I'll bet there are 50 different models owned by the 30 people watching this thread. I have a Hanna (pH and Temperature Meter - pHep 5 - HI98128 | Hanna Instruments) that I like. I wanted something accurate but not delicate and it fit the bill (besides the fact they're located down the street from me and I like to patronize local business).
 
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That is kinda the issue. He’s starting at 27.5% brix° To run dry abv would be around 16.5% but his yeast D254 maxes out at 16%.

So Do you dilute with water to play it safe but will thin the wine?
Or do you add a stronger yeast mid ferment?

I think you add the EC118. Thin wine with high abv could be way too outta balance. Hes getting a high abv regardless. Might as well try to match that abv punch with as much body, tannin and flavor as possible.
The D254 may be an over-achiever and handle it, but I'd had EC-1118 on hand, just in case.

My 2019 Merlot and Zinfandel came in at ~15.7% ABV, and both are out of balance. Both have aged into more balance, but I'm still not happy with either. If I could do it over, I'd have added 8-10% water to reduce the ABV.

Both are medium bodied -- if heavier bodied the ABV would be less of a problem, so yeah, go for the heaviest red possible.
 
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