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Mikekp

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Hello! I have never made wine before, so basically assume complete gnorance...

My grandpa wanted to show me how to make wine. He used to do it years ago, but he's now 90. He was going off of memory, and I'm not totally confident we did it correctly...

So this is watermelon wine. No recipe, just did what he said. Took about 20 lbs watermelon. Cubed and smashed, put it in a bucket, added water and sugar until hydrometer read at 1.3, then let it sit 2 days. Today we squeezed through nylon bag to get just the juice, added yeast and yeast nutrient and put into carboys. Put airlocks on, and apparently now going to wait about 30 days to first rack off.

Reading up online, I'm reading that there is primary and secondary fermentation stages and it seems like maybe the yeast should have been in there days ago and left open to air. I'm wondering if grandpa forgot a step...

Any input is appreciated. I'm thinking this may be time sensitive. At the moment I took the airlocks off just in case, figuring they've only been on like an hour so far anyway and u can out back on if needed.

Thanks!
 

balatonwine

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There are many different recipes for wine. Some put the airlock on immediately, some do not. If you do not put on the airlock, put a wad of cotton in the opening to keep out fruit flies. And you will have to monitor the fermentation and put the air lock on (with some sterile water or vodka in it) as soon as the fermentation starts to slow down (or hydrometer shows 2/3 of the sugar is gone). This is all by eye and feel "country wine making".
 
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Julie

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Was your hydrometer reading 1.30 or was it 1.030? If is was 1.30 you might end up with a stuck fermentation and if is was 1.030 you need to add more sugar. Your starting hydrometer reading should be between 1.080 and 1.090. Also, there really isn't a primary and secondary fermentation it is all one fermentation. You would have a secondary fermentation if you are doing MLF but you will not be doing that with a watermelon. Did you taste it? I am wondering if you should not have added any water.
 

Mikekp

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Thanks folks for your input. For now I've put the airlocks back on after being off (wine still in carboys) overnight. They are bubbling, which they weren't before.

As to the hydrometer reading, I'm not sure how to read it (again, total first timer just following verbal instructions) but we took the measurement in the fruity sugary muck (must?) on Sunday, 2.5 days before squeezing through the bag and adding yeast, and he said it should be at "130" but said that was represented by just a 30 (I found this hard to understand since there wasnt much explaining. I'll attach a picture showing where the was.
That was the only reading that was taken, and the gist I got was it's the only one he would have me do. I read online about people taking readings at different points in the process, but what he claimed was it will ferment until it's about 17% alcohol, and then the yeast will die.
I'd say we added about 1.5-2lbs of sugar to a total final volume of ~7 gallons including added water. I only tasted a little bit on accident while trying to siphon it, but don't know what to taste for so early in the process.

Thanks again for the help!
 

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Mikekp

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Hmm. So based on what I saw in video on reading hydrometer, it seems the reading would have been 1.03. Based on what Julie said, sounds like I need more sugar.

Can I add it straight into the carboy and take a measurement there to get to the proper level?

Will adding it at this point (already yeasted) cause a problem?

What is the proper reading at this point if I'm trying to make it medium sweet?
 

mainshipfred

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Was your hydrometer reading 1.30 or was it 1.030? If is was 1.30 you might end up with a stuck fermentation and if is was 1.030 you need to add more sugar. Your starting hydrometer reading should be between 1.080 and 1.090. Also, there really isn't a primary and secondary fermentation it is all one fermentation. You would have a secondary fermentation if you are doing MLF but you will not be doing that with a watermelon. Did you taste it? I am wondering if you should not have added any water.
You're exactly right Julie. Unfortunately kit instructions do call racking to glass "secondary" as does talking to any company that sells kits. Just makes it confusing for the beginner winemaker.
 

Scooter68

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On a strictly Technical basis - I agree that there is only one fermentation process in wine making outside of those who do an Malolactic Fementation (MLF). HOWEVER in practical terms and practices the idea of referring to a Primary and Secondary Fermentation has some sound basis for use. I would not dismiss the use of those terms or consider them of no value or even confusing - IF the person is educated as to their meaning and the reason for the terms.

Unfortunately anyone can buy a kit with zero knowledge and unless they take the time to learn some basics they can find themselves confused and make some errors that may or may not determine how good their wine turns out.

From my somewhat brief time in wine making (3+ Years and about 25 batches)
First - The term Primary Fermentation I have repeatedly read and heard discussed is from the start of the fermentation until the activity slows significantly - somewhere between 1.020 and 1.010. At that time the amount of gases given off drops and the presence of a 'protective blanket' of gases fades significantly. One way I make that change over decision (To go from a bucket to a Carboy) is when I stir the wine and there is little to no layer of foam created immediately. That of course will vary from batch to batch and with different yeasts as well. One reason to hold off on that racking is the infamous and messy foam fountains that can occur when an actively fermenting wine is transferred (Disturbed/stirred) in a carboy with that small opening. After having to stand by a carboy for a hour or two and from cleaning up one small foam fountain. I typically find that safe point somewhere between an SG of 1.010 and 1.000.

Secondly - The separation of the Gross Lees from the wine is also a solid reason for the racking and naming of a second phase of the fermentation. Other than an providing and extended maceration period, leaving gross lees in a batch of wine until the wine has completely fermented "dry" can have some significant detrimental effect on the wine. So a racking to a secondary vessel is a sound decision at some point in the fermentation process. The WHEN part is somewhat subjective depending on both the type of wine and the source of the juice for the wine. Wine from crushed/pressed fruit is going to produce more gross lees and present a greater risk of off flavors if left in too long. Wine from a juice with no significant pulp present could conceivably be left in the same fermentation vessel until finished fermenting IF there is adequate protection for oxidation.
 

sour_grapes

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Hmm. So based on what I saw in video on reading hydrometer, it seems the reading would have been 1.03. Based on what Julie said, sounds like I need more sugar.

Can I add it straight into the carboy and take a measurement there to get to the proper level?

Will adding it at this point (already yeasted) cause a problem?

What is the proper reading at this point if I'm trying to make it medium sweet?
Yes, you do need more sugar. Watermelon does not have a lot of sugar to begin with. If you add 2 lbs of sugar to 7 gallons of water, you get a SG of 1.013.

You can add sugar now, no problem.

I am not sure what you mean by making it "medium sweet." The best course of action would be to add enough sugar to bring it up to, say, 1.080 (so, another 8 lbs or so) for ~11% wine, or more for higher ABV. Then let it ferment to dry (SG ~ 0.995 or less). Then, to sweeten it, you would rack it off the lees, add potassium sorbate and k-meta, then add sugar to sweeten to taste.

It sounds like you have gotten advice to add enough sugar to make the ABV higher than the yeast can handle, and hope they die, leaving you with the right amount of sweetness. This can be done, but is far riskier.
 

Scooter68

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...It sounds like you have gotten advice to add enough sugar to make the ABV higher than the yeast can handle, and hope they die, leaving you with the right amount of sweetness. This can be done, but is far riskier.
The problem/risk lies in that you don't know that some other bacteria or yeast with unknown characteristics could take over when your selected yeast dies. The results would be.... just that unknown. As suggested far better that to work within the limits of your yeast's Alcohol tolerance and once that is finished, age the wine and then back-sweeten to the point you want. Remember that a yeast's tolerance level is identified under a specific set of conditions and it's very unlikely that your conditions will match the test conditions. So it's not uncommon for a yeast to give out before reaching it's stated limits or it could surprise you and go beyond expected limits and give you a 'hot wine' that has an ABV that make the wine less enjoyable.
 

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