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Homemade vs. Commercial and what I am doing to close the gap

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BI81

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One of the major limitations noted for the home winemaker is the ability to cost effectively and accurately control fermentation temperature. One of the major benefits to me is that the lower temperature extends the fermentation time, providing more time on skin for better color and flavor extraction, and maintaining as much fruit flavor as possible. My typical red fermentation:

Day 0 25 brix, GoFerm, innoculate yeast
Day 1 22 brix, sign of fermentation, add FermK
Day 2 15 brix usually 1/3 done late in day, add FermK
Day 3 7 brix,
Day 4 4 brix
Day 5 <1 brix
Day 6 Press

One of the workarounds I have tried in extending the fermentation time is reducing the amount of starting yeast. I can say this has been successful in extending fermentation by 2-4 days. I've been adding 65% -70% of the recommended grams of yeast.

This time, I may have pushed my luck or found the limit of what I should do. I added around 50% of what I would normally add (.6 grams of yeast / gallon of must) This is a fermentation that I am doing for a Bordeaux blend, that is for the heavily weighted to Merlot. Here are my notes thus far.

Day 0 26 brix, GoFerm, innoculate yeast
Day 1 23 brix, sign of fermentation, add 50% FermK
Day 2 20 brix
Day 3 15 brix add 50% FermK
Day 4 14.5 brix
Day 5 11.5 brix
Day 6 9.6 brix
Day 7 7.8 brix
Day 8 6.2 brix
Day 9 4.8 brix (added a 25% dose of FermK)
Day 10 3.7 brix
Day 11 2.8 brix (where we are now, will updated this post)
Day 12 1.2 brix
Day 13 .8 brix
Day 14 .2 brix. Success!

Cab Franc fermentation temps have stayed between 78-84 degrees, using Avante yeast. While looking at my numbers as I type, I would say they look good. However, I've been sweating this one quite a bit. I have been taking brix measurements with precision hydrometers and there have been a few instances where the brix level did not changed in a 12 hour span. I thought for sure the ferment was stuck more than once. I'm hoping to press on day 13, which will be my longest ever ferment for a red by 3 days.

While the recommendation of how much yeast/gallon of must varies some, most recommend 1.2 grams of yeast per gallon of must (brix >24.5). Avante has a recommended range. I did speak with a Fermentation Specialist at Scott's lab on what is happening biologically and she thinks that the ferment isn't reaching a "critical biomass" and that because it is taking this long that there are other organisms competing for the available nutrients. She saw this as a risky way to achieve my objectives, with the risks being a stuck fermentation, oxidation, off flavors from non-sacc yeast, acetic acid spoilage. She recommended looking into enzymes, EXV and sticking to an efficient fermentation schedule.

Will I do it again? Probably not, but hopefully this wine will finish out and be nice bold and flavorful wine.

Note how dark this wine is for a Cab Franc!
View attachment 66671
@NorCal what ambient temp is your cold room during fermentation? This is my first year fermenting in a similar set up in the garage “micro winery” vs the dining room. I’ve got a half ton of Cab Franc fermenting with Avante. Ambient temps have been in the 68-70F range through fermentation with must temps peaking at 80F. Today is day 6 and the must is down only down to 11.5 Brix (25Brix initial), by far the slowest fermentation I’ve ever had, and despite it being intentional it is extremely nerve racking!!
 

BI81

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On a side note this is the first year I’ve attempted multiple fermentation temperatures (not must temps, only ambient) and I’ve been amazed at the impact temperature has on fermentation kinetics.

Some unexpected Pinot Noir came available within a days notice and I had to use Avante (it was all I had on hand) and fermented in the dining room at 72-75 ambient, the Avante ate through all of the sugar and finished fermentation in 3 days (the fastest I’ve ever experienced).

The Cab Franc mentioned earlier is on day 6 and only a bit over half way (11.5 Brix) fermenting at 68-70 ambient.

And a rose pulled from a saignee of the same grapes is fermenting at 59-60F and it is only down to 22 Brix (this was inoculated with Rhône 4600 which may also have an impact).

So...depending on your risk tolerance dropping ambient temp seems to have a significant impact on fermentation time even when controlling must temps directly though jacketed tanks isn’t an option.
 

NorCal

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On a side note this is the first year I’ve attempted multiple fermentation temperatures (not must temps, only ambient) and I’ve been amazed at the impact temperature has on fermentation kinetics.

Some unexpected Pinot Noir came available within a days notice and I had to use Avante (it was all I had on hand) and fermented in the dining room at 72-75 ambient, the Avante ate through all of the sugar and finished fermentation in 3 days (the fastest I’ve ever experienced).

The Cab Franc mentioned earlier is on day 6 and only a bit over half way (11.5 Brix) fermenting at 68-70 ambient.

And a rose pulled from a saignee of the same grapes is fermenting at 59-60F and it is only down to 22 Brix (this was inoculated with Rhône 4600 which may also have an impact).

So...depending on your risk tolerance dropping ambient temp seems to have a significant impact on fermentation time even when controlling must temps directly though jacketed tanks isn’t an option.
Interesting. I went and looked at my records and this was my 20th ferment with Avante yeast, ranging from 100-2000 pounds Of grapes. The cab franc this year was 14 days to ferment dry. The longest ferment regardless of temperature or how much yeast added (even in 67 degree ambient) had been 10 days, most all 7 days or less.
 

heatherd

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The other interesting thing I read was homeworkers rack to often. I have sort of been thinking that same thing and am considering cutting back to every 6 or maybe even 9 months while bulk aging for longer.

And go long on MLF, the rush to get it under sulfite isn't a good thing.
I've been doing one after fermentation and one before bottling, adding 1/4 teaspoon kmeta every three months.
 

heatherd

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200 ppm isn't that high for me when trying to baby-sit 4.0 pH wine for > 18 months. We've been adjusting to 3.6 -3.7, but need to take our foot of the SO2 pedal a bit. 50 ppm was a common add. Going to aim for 20-30 going forward.
That makes sense - I'm going to reduce mine as well. Thinking 1/8 tsp every three months.
 

heatherd

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There are so many schools of thought on a lot of these topics, except fruit flies, and I'm afraid I'll never be able to understand most of them either through reading or practice. I truly believe in @stickman's comment on the desired wine style. That along with our belief in a theory, successful past experiences or just the fear of changing will lead us in different directions with our decision making.
1. During fermentation both primary and secondary (MLF) I have no issue with the S shaped air locks. Once the wine has off gassed substantially I always use solid bungs, especially in barrels.
2 and 11. I also don't rack very often during bulk and I have been filtering my reds with a 5 um for the same reason as you, a clearer wine. You do introduce O2 while filtering but I just run argon through a sparging stone prior to bottling. Sometimes I take DO readings and sometimes not. Whites I filter with a 1 um.
3. This one is borderline for me, I recently took a 4.2 pH Viognier down to a 3.57 pre fermentation and it's pretty good and ready to bottle. But taking it down more then .4 kind of scares me.
4. I've not played much with cold soak or EM so I can't comment on that. I do however try to maintain 75-85 must temps for reds and 50-60 on whites.
5. I do as soft a punch down as I can for the tannin reason and feel 3 times a day is adequate.
6. No comment and the CD is not perfect. I just remove the visible stems as I punch down.
7. As much as I can find no reason not to I still do a post fermentation MLF. The carboys are filled to within a half inch and I let them sit 3 months to complete. I won't do the first test for 2 months. It then gets sulfited and waits it's turn in glass or goes in a barrel.
8. Same as you with regard to finishing in primary. I'm a big fan of multiple yeasts whether non H2S or not and will more than likely never change this. Just call me stubborn!
9. Never had much of a problem with this although I can't say any of my additives ever get that old except maybe yeast.

My add to the list is waiting for the wine to become somewhat finished prior to blending and almost always provide some type of blending. My thought is blending adds to the complexity and if blending wines that have just finished secondary or close to it you just don't know what qualities they will bring in 10-12 months.
@mainshipfred Which yeasts are you using for which wines?
 
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heatherd

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I would think that technique would just extend the lag phase—not slow down the entire thing. That would bother me as well. Hopefully not too stressed and all works out. Extremely useful info you shared.

I have been rehydrating my yeast with GoFerm and mixing into the must since starting grape wines. But for the 1st time w/ grapes I just sprinkled the yeast on top and left it be. This extended my lag phase by a full day I believe. Will do this again in a couple weeks. and also going for a cold soak to try and get 10+ total days on skins. Sounds like 70% yeast could help too (NOT 50%!). Thanks for sharing all that
I've always been sprinkling the yeast, hadn't thought to add 70% of it.
 

heatherd

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I don’t know that I’d be comfortable slacking on yeast nutrition with out YAN numbers, the last thing you want is volatile sulfur compounds in your wine. But, if you’ve got good grapes the results could be an amazing wine with added complexity, just a gamble and another risk/reward decision to be made.
To me, it would be interesting to compare, even on a small scale, using 100% of the yeast with no nutrients, versus 70% of the yeast with nutrients, versus 50% with nutrients to get a sense of the impacts on the ferment.
 

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Great post! Lots of ground to cover. Good fruit, without question is #1. It really should have been the first on my list, but I didn’t even mention it. I did however mention in a few post later:
Sorry for delayed reply. World's been crazy, hence myself. Thx for appreciating my post!

I admit you're correct and I'm wrong. There is no reason a home winemaker can't hit that $25 mark. Think about the beginning of commercial wine making. Those early commercial wineries were asking the opposite question: How do I get my bulk, big volume commercial wine to taste like my Nonno's home cellared stuff? From that viewpoint, I admit I was in err. You can absolutely reach the best pinnacle of wine with very little capital, at home. Such is the history of wine and the grape. And so we come back to the genesis of this culinary project. The starting fruit - which involves either scouting an exceptional grower or taking the leap of being a grower yourself, which is a whole new path of discovery to learn. It's known the starting fruit is the essence, but it should be noted that it is only as good as the practice and art that the wine maker employs. That I suppose is the balance. The fruit and the knowledge and art. It makes no sense to argue which is more important.

I hope you have had good luck with your crew of fellow winemakers. I have no doubt with your dedication, which is evident, you will surely reach that level of exceptionalism you desire. When you do. Treasure that moment, and perhaps don't even share it. Just keep it to yourself and your closest friends and family. Such is the rhythms of life, and there is a special truth and authenticity to your creation that is shared privately, in humility. I love this idea of winemaking. It is both social and creative. It is an artistic symbiosis with the earth and the vine.
 
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jsbeckton

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I know that it’s not practical to control temp on a large scale but have you tried to isolate this variable on a small scale to see what difference it makes?

For example, on a 100gal batch take 5g and ferment that in a controlled setting like a chest freezer. Once these fermentation’s have completed you can compare the two to see if this is the variable that is making the biggest difference.

Just a thought, and sorry if it’s already been discussed.
 

NorCal

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I know that it’s not practical to control temp on a large scale but have you tried to isolate this variable on a small scale to see what difference it makes?

For example, on a 100gal batch take 5g and ferment that in a controlled setting like a chest freezer. Once these fermentation’s have completed you can compare the two to see if this is the variable that is making the biggest difference.

Just a thought, and sorry if it’s already been discussed.
I haven’t, but I’ve tried the same wine that was vs wasn’t cold soak, slow fermented, made by @4score. The cold/slow ferment had more fruit and flavor, which is what I’m pursuing in my wines.
 

heatherd

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All this talk of measuring and adjusting pH pre-ferment made me remember I need new solutions for my meter...

Great news! Hannah now offers individual packets, like yeast or MLB, of both of the calibration solutions and the cleaning solution. Each one is the right amount for the task. The calibration ones now have expiration dates, too:
"HI77400P is a set of premium quality pH 4.01 and 7.01 calibration buffer solutions. Each sachet has the lot number and expiration date stamped on it and is made of light block foil ensuring freshness each time one is opened. Hanna's line of calibration buffers have been specially formulated to have an expiration of 5 years from the date of manufacture for an unopened sachet. The HI77400P is for 5 sachets of pH 4.01 and 5 sachets of pH 7.01 with each containing 20 mL of buffer."
 

Ajmassa

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All this talk of measuring and adjusting pH pre-ferment made me remember I need new solutions for my meter...

Great news! Hannah now offers individual packets, like yeast or MLB, of both of the calibration solutions and the cleaning solution. Each one is the right amount for the task. The calibration ones now have expiration dates, too:
"HI77400P is a set of premium quality pH 4.01 and 7.01 calibration buffer solutions. Each sachet has the lot number and expiration date stamped on it and is made of light block foil ensuring freshness each time one is opened. Hanna's line of calibration buffers have been specially formulated to have an expiration of 5 years from the date of manufacture for an unopened sachet. The HI77400P is for 5 sachets of pH 4.01 and 5 sachets of pH 7.01 with each containing 20 mL of buffer."
When I first started testing for ph I used these exclusively. They were the only buffers sold at my LHBS and I loaded up. I think they were around x2 packets for a buck. I loved them. I barely make a dent in the 16oz bottles before they expire. I still have some packets and use them occasionally. I would fold them over and tape shut getting more than just a one-time use out of it.
 

heatherd

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When I first started testing for ph I used these exclusively. They were the only buffers sold at my LHBS and I loaded up. I think they were around x2 packets for a buck. I loved them. I barely make a dent in the 16oz bottles before they expire. I still have some packets and use them occasionally. I would fold them over and tape shut getting more than just a one-time use out of it.
I could only find the big bottles around here, so end up throwing all of it away for fear my tests would be tainted by bad chems.
 

mainshipfred

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@mainshipfred Which yeasts are you using for which wines?
I really don't have a set yeast for any certain wines and it sometimes depends on what the grapes have to offer. For whites though I like to get as much pineapple, grapefruit or as much fruit as I can and per a personal preference I stay away from yeast that promote floral notes. For Bordeaux's varietals and even though they are not grown in France I tend to use the "D"s, D254, D80, D47 and D21 but also use BDX and Syrah. I also like a spicy wine especially in a Zin so a yeast that brings out these notes are always a consideration. But my favorite yeast of all is Vintner's Harvest R56 especially in big reds. I'm by no means an expert but I truly believe splitting batches and using multiple yeasts really enhances the complexity of the wine.
 

heatherd

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I really don't have a set yeast for any certain wines and it sometimes depends on what the grapes have to offer. For whites though I like to get as much pineapple, grapefruit or as much fruit as I can and per a personal preference I stay away from yeast that promote floral notes. For Bordeaux's varietals and even though they are not grown in France I tend to use the "D"s, D254, D80, D47 and D21 but also use BDX and Syrah. I also like a spicy wine especially in a Zin so a yeast that brings out these notes are always a consideration. But my favorite yeast of all is Vintner's Harvest R56 especially in big reds. I'm by no means an expert but I truly believe splitting batches and using multiple yeasts really enhances the complexity of the wine.
Got it, I have used the "D"s as well. Haven't tried R56 yet but will add to my list.
 

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Well, I’m going on day 14 on my Lanza Cab split batch with D80 a d D254 (3 of those days cold soak). First time using either yeast and the ferment has been pretty slow and steady never getting above about 72F. Currently one is at 1.030 and the other is at 1.012.

It’s still dropping by about 5-10 points a day. Not sure if I should be happy about the long contact time or nervous it will get stuck! Anyone have experience with these yeasts? They were both fed with yeast nutrient at day 5.
 

NorCal

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Well, I’m going on day 14 on my Lanza Cab split batch with D80 a d D254 (3 of those days cold soak). First time using either yeast and the ferment has been pretty slow and steady never getting above about 72F. Currently one is at 1.030 and the other is at 1.012.

It’s still dropping by about 5-10 points a day. Not sure if I should be happy about the long contact time or nervous it will get stuck! Anyone have experience with these yeasts? They were both fed with yeast nutrient at day 5.
Great combination of yeasts, have done these a few times. I’ve tasted individually, but the blend of the two have always tasted the best.
 
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