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Good starting SG for cranberry wine?

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sremick

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So for all sorts of reasons, I'm motivated to have my second wine ever be a cranberry wine. My research has already revealed that there are some unique challenges here, but I'm ready and willing!

One head scratcher I'm up against is radical variation for starting specific gravity (and hence, the final alcohol level). I've seen recipes range from a starting SG (pre-yeast) of anywhere from 1.090 to 1.120, via adding anywhere from 1.5 cups of sugar to 10 lbs! And this is just for 5 gallons. Yikes.

Can anyone help me sort through this and provide insight/guidance? I intend to use pure juice concentrate reconstituted to 5-gal, along with some frozen (thawed) crushed cranberries in a mesh bag for good measure. Maybe someday in the future I'll attempt 100% from actual cranberries (fresh?) but not this first round since they're not really available.
 

Johnd

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So for all sorts of reasons, I'm motivated to have my second wine ever be a cranberry wine. My research has already revealed that there are some unique challenges here, but I'm ready and willing!

One head scratcher I'm up against is radical variation for starting specific gravity (and hence, the final alcohol level). I've seen recipes range from a starting SG (pre-yeast) of anywhere from 1.090 to 1.120, via adding anywhere from 1.5 cups of sugar to 10 lbs! And this is just for 5 gallons. Yikes.

Can anyone help me sort through this and provide insight/guidance? I intend to use pure juice concentrate reconstituted to 5-gal, along with some frozen (thawed) crushed cranberries in a mesh bag for good measure. Maybe someday in the future I'll attempt 100% from actual cranberries (fresh?) but not this first round since they're not really available.
The key to planning your alcohol content is for it to be balanced with the body of the wine. The bigger the body, the more alcohol it can handle while still being well balanced. In the grape world, bigger bodied grapes like cabs and petite sirah can handle ABV's above 14% and 15% pretty handily, while a lighter wine like pinot noir wouldn't fare as well and would taste "hot".

A good rule of thumb for standard fruit wines (not port-style fortified) with decent body would be around 11% or 12%, provided that you are doing what it sounds like you intend, using full strength juice and adding substantial fruit to the ferment, both of these things will improve the body and the ABV handling ability of your wine. Additionally, a little back sweetening can also help the balance, as it tends to bring out the fruit flavors and increase the sense of body of the wine.
 

sremick

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Ok, thanks for that good info. So by my math, I should target a starting SG of about 1.090. Is the normal practice to put your juice together, then just add sugar to adjust the SG up to where you want to start?
 

Johnd

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Ok, thanks for that good info. So by my math, I should target a starting SG of about 1.090. Is the normal practice to put your juice together, then just add sugar to adjust the SG up to where you want to start?
Yes, it is. Be mindful that sometimes fruit doesn’t give up its sugar easily, and a little pectic enzyme helps convince it to do so, but it takes time. Give it a little time to integrate before adding your sugar, it’ll help you avoid surprises.
 

tradowsk

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If you are planning to backsweeten your wine the ABV can be a bit higher. I had a cranberry wine recently at a local winery that was 11.5% ABV and it was pretty good! One thing was that there was a slight bitterness to the finish, so depending on how yours turns out you may need a bit of aging.
 

sremick

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depending on how yours turns out you may need a bit of aging.
Yeah I intend on aging most of it until next fall, but I might steal an early bottle for this fall.

Does cranberry wine put together this way tend to need acid adjustments at all?
 

BernardSmith

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You might find with cranberries that the tartness of the fruit is a real challenge. I have made cranberry wine only a few times and in my limited experience this is one fruit that may need to be somewhat diluted for the acid levels to be acceptable in terms of flavor though I guess you could balance the acidity by making the wine very sweet (alcohol level, tartness and sweetness are three elements that demand to be "balanced"
 

Rice_Guy

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You might find with cranberries that the tartness of the fruit is a real challenge. I have made cranberry wine only a few times and in my limited experience this is one fruit that may need to be somewhat diluted for the acid levels to be acceptable in terms of flavor though I guess you could balance the acidity by making the wine very sweet (alcohol level, tartness and sweetness are three elements that demand to be "balanced"
A view from cranberry country;
# ask what is the titratable acidity of the cranberry ingredient? At high TA the acid requires an excessive level of sugar for balance and may still overpower your taste buds by the time you finish 200 ml of wine (wine will target a TA of .7 to maybe 1.0). , , , All the folks that I know in the local vinters club dilute cranberry juice with water or other low TA juice.
At low pH the yeast have a hard time getting started so adding juice gradually to active yeast would get you started. The pH of last years cranberry sample was 2.5 which is similar to drinking lemon juice. Langers frozen 100% cranberry with added sugar is pH 2.87/ SpGrav 1.220. Your initial question was SpGrav, my target is to produce 11 to 12% alcohol, therefore if I want to stop the fermentation with residual sweetness I might run higher. Technically it is easier to just ferment to dry and back sweeten the finished wine where you like it
# tradowsk notes bitter flavors. When sugar is fermented out the residual flavors are more obvious. That said think of what makes balance? My favorite is cranberry apple wine. Table apple is high sugar, low bitter, moderate titratable acidity. The balance which I look for is moderate bitter, pH at 3.2 to 3.5 (like white wines) and enough sweetness to come across like a rhurbarb pie. Blending apple/ cranberry fruits produces enough flavor/ body to win in contest.
# before I tie up a carboy for a few months I try the proposed country fruit blend in a pie to see how the flavors mesh. I would rather eat pie for a week while I rethink the balance.
# good luck, the open bottle of cranberry in my kitchen is a nice wine.
 
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HillPeople

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For the batch I did last fall, the pH was 2.9 after crushing.
I treated 1/4 of it with calcium carbonate, mixed it back in, and brought the pH up to 3.5.
Fermented on the skins with pectic enzyme, water and sugar, starting SG- 1.085 and Fermaid K added at 1.050.
Racked at 1.010 a month later. Racked again two months later.
Ending ABV of 11.5%.
Racked, degassed and bottled two days ago.
I like it.
 

wpt-me

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I plan on doing a 3 gal. one using Vintner Harvest 96 oz. Thoughts on additions -- frozen, canned or jellied ??
in the primary ??

Bill
 

sremick

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For the batch I did last fall, the pH was 2.9 after crushing.
I treated 1/4 of it with calcium carbonate, mixed it back in, and brought the pH up to 3.5.
Is there a reason to use calcium carbonate vs. potassium bicarbonate?
Also, the instructions for things like potassium bicarbonate say to use it after fermentation. But that doesn't help if you need to reduce the acidity in order to get fermentation to even occur. Perhaps this is the reason to use calcium carbonate instead?

Thoughts on things like Sihadex and Neoanticid? (Acidex seems no longer available, but I'm not seeing the other 2 either).

Lots of questions, sorry. But I want to make sure I have my ducks in order before I begin. Thanks.
 

HillPeople

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Personally, I'd never do pH/TA adjustments after fermentation. Better to nail those and SG down before you ever pitch your yeast. We grow cold hardy grape varieties as well and it's not uncommon to have a pH of 2.8-3.0 must- no matter how long you let them hang on the vines. I have only ever used calcium carbonate to adjust pre-ferment. Perhaps others can comment on potassium bicarbonate.
 

tradowsk

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My view is that if you need drastic changes in pH/TA, do it before fermentation. After fermentation and bulk aging (and backsweetening), I make minor adjustments to taste. But at that point it should be to enhance or balance the flavor profile and not change it if that makes sense. I use calcium carbonate and a standard acid blend for my adjustments.
 

sremick

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I use calcium carbonate and a standard acid blend for my adjustments.
Why calcium carbonate to raise pH over the generally more-recommended (for grape wine) potassium bicarbonate? Is it something unique about cranberry?
 

tradowsk

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Honestly, it's what my LHBS guy told me to use when I first started out. Haven't really used much of it as I'm typically lowering the pH of the wine/mead I make, so I never really looked into it.
 

sremick

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Ok mixing things up today. I have 5 gallons reconstituted 1:1 then 20oz of crushed berries added. I'm getting a SG right now of 1.012. By my calculator, to get to 1.090 I'm going to need to add almost 10 lbs of sugar (!!!). Does that seem correct? SG was read at calibration temp of 60'F.
 

Johnd

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Ok mixing things up today. I have 5 gallons reconstituted 1:1 then 20oz of crushed berries added. I'm getting a SG right now of 1.012. By my calculator, to get to 1.090 I'm going to need to add almost 10 lbs of sugar (!!!). Does that seem correct? SG was read at calibration temp of 60'F.
Yup, let it roll!!
 

sremick

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Yup, let it roll!!
Oh boy. I doubt that much sugar will dissolve easily directly in the juice. Which means I'll have to dissolve it in warm water first. Which means more sugar since I'll be diluting. I only have 10 lbs of white sugar on hand... Most of my sugar is organic and so is light tan. Would using that sugar affect the color of the wine? Should I wait until tomorrow when I can buy more white refined sugar? If I dissolve on a gallon of additional water, I'll need 3+ lbs more sugar to compensate.
 

Scooter68

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you could warm up some of your wine must instead of adding water. Don't boil it just get it very warm and stir.
 

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