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How long to do secondary fermentation?

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MattM

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I'm making my first 6 gallon wine kit, and I had a few questions (pinot grigio). I accidentally let the primary fermentation go 9 days instead of the suggested 7. In both cases these were too much, and by the end of 9 days I had already reached the target specific gravity. Secondary has been going for 3 days but looks done (by eye and SG).

With that in mind, should I still do a long secondary fermentation or just cut it off now, degas and stabilize? Any downsides?
 

Johnd

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First post too, welcome aboard!

With a white kit, I really see no benefit to let it sit, unless you have specifically determined to do so, like sur lie aging of a Chardonnay, for example. If the SG is below .998, and has been unchanged for three consecutive days, moving it along is appropriate. It about SG, not time, too many factors influence the time, trust your hydrometer, it is your guide through the fermentation process.
 

MattM

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Thanks for the advice! I have some sediment at the bottom of the carboy, should I rack it a second time before degassing, or proceed with the secondary container - degas and clarify it?
 

Johnd

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You should proceed per your kit instructions. If they want you to rack before than you should, if they don’t, follow suit.
 

Doug’s wines

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Agree with everything @Johnd said, however I would also add that you should take sg readings for a couple of days and make sure it isn’t still going down. You didn’t say what your reading is right now only that it was finished by sg so maybe you’ve been doing this? Some kits say target <.998 and they will go all the way to .990. You don’t want a restart later and you want to let the yeast finish. It’s not about the “target sg” or about time in so much as it is about when the yeast is finished.

Also there is little risk in leaving it in secondary a little longer.
 

Donatelo

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With kit wines, it is good to follow the instructions, but while the instructions will allow you to make wine very quickly, it is best to take your time. Yes, you can bottle after a month, but waiting a longer time will allow you to make a surprisingly good balanced wine. Trust the hydrometer to tell you when the yeast is finished. The number of days does not matter.
Doug's wines won't steer you wrong. Time is your friend! Relax and try not to get in a rush. The hardest thing about this hobby is waiting. After it is finished, if the wine is too dry, you can always back sweeten a LITTLE. Aging in the carboy allows you to make good choices later.
 

Johnd

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Agree with everything @Johnd said, however I would also add that you should take sg readings for a couple of days and make sure it isn’t still going down. You didn’t say what your reading is right now only that it was finished by sg so maybe you’ve been doing this? Some kits say target <.998 and they will go all the way to .990.
I did say in my post: "If the SG is below .998, and has been unchanged for three consecutive days, moving it along is appropriate." You may have just missed that.
 

MattM

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Thanks all. The SG was low to start, 1.076 and at this point is actually at about 0.992. so the % alcohol is pretty much what the kit called for. If it goes any lower it will go off the scale of my hydrometer. The kit did call for racking before stirring and clarifying, which I did today, so hopefully it goes ok.

I tried a bit today, and it has a slight medicinal taste to it, my wife thought it smelled like rubbing alcohol. What chemicals might we be smelling, is this a result of the wine just being not done? I'm hoping it softens and mellows, although as a pinot grigio it doesn't 'require' aging.
 

sour_grapes

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Yes, it will soften and mellow as it ages. Even a PG needs to age for a while (~6 mos to a year).
 

Doug’s wines

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As @sour_grapes says it will likely soften mellow out no problem. It’s got a lot of co2 in it right now probably which will make it taste acidic although that shouldn’t cause a rubbing alcohol smell... Fermentation does smell, usually of alcohol, fruit, sulfur, etc. Out of curiosity, what temp did you ferment at and what kind of yeast did you use?
 

MattM

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I unfortunately didn't keep the packet of yeast that it came with so I can't be sure. I also think I learned my lesson and will take better note of the temperature. Despite the freezing cold in the north east, it has probably been around 75/76 F, which was on the high end. I think primary fermentation finished much quicker than I was expecting - next time I'm going to note the temperature and check the SG earlier.
 

Doug’s wines

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The heat may be the cause of the odor as well depending on the yeast. A hot fermentation can result in “off odors”. Usually they will disappear with degassing, or a few splash rackings might be needed (be sure to kmeta after). Also the higher heat will result in a lower sg Reading if you weren’t temperature correcting. (Only .001 on a 68 degree calibrated hydrometer so not much). In the future, I would focus less on the sg reading and more on if it’s changing to detemine when finished. You have a higher risk of a later issue by progressing too early than by waiting a few more days.

Good luck and let us know how it progresses.
 

Kiazer

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First post too, welcome aboard!

With a white kit, I really see no benefit to let it sit, unless you have specifically determined to do so, like sur lie aging of a Chardonnay, for example. If the SG is below .998, and has been unchanged for three consecutive days, moving it along is appropriate. It about SG, not time, too many factors influence the time, trust your hydrometer, it is your guide through the fermentation process.
I agree....if it say 10 days and youve hit the SG at 5 you wont be hurt by waiting 10 days as it clears and most of the yeast will be starved before you rack and clear. but as John said either way you wont go wrong.
 
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