I want to halt this weird ferment

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Dannit

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Hi all, I made over 6 gallons of wild berry wine, which fermented quick all the way until 1.006 SG and now--although it keeps fermenting and bubbling plenty--the sugar level does not change. Day after day it stays the same (or perhaps there is no sugar left but the hydrometer sits at 1.006 for some other reason? The hydrometer itself seems fine.). I have read up on all the diagnoses of stuck and sluggish ferments, given it plenty of yeast nutrient and energizer and new yeast starter. It had enough sugar to go to about 12.5-13%abv. Temperature is at 72F. But the hydrometer continues to read the same. A little rotten egg is threatening to develop. I am fatigued over caring about this laat percent and all the diagnosing. The yeast probably stressed because my original batch (before combining with a lower alcohol second batch) had enough sugars to go to 15.5-16%abv. Now perhaps, as a result, there are toxins which keep the yeast from absorbing the last sugars. Lesson learned. Maybe I could try Reskue by Scottlabs and then add yet another starter, the protocol of which also calls for even MORE nutrient. I don't want to go adding yet more nutrient to a wine which I already worry has too much nutrient in it. Much rather skip all this.


Anyway, I like where it's at as far as sugars and taste and would rather just be done with this headache over that last fraction of a percent, rack it off the sediment, add some sulfite and bentonite and stick it in a cold fridge for a few weeks. Then I'd rack it again a time or three, using the cold fridge to get all the yeast possible to settle out. Then add more sulfites as well as potassium sorbate and bottle. Everything I have read in the land of beer says this is ok to do--in fact it was also the advice of the guy who works at my local brew supply store. But he only brews beer. I don't get it. Why is ending a ferment with cold temperature combined with sulfites and racking acceptable protocol with beer but not wine? Wouldn't the risk of referment and bottle bombs be the same? It seems like there are just different traditions in wine and beer, based not necessarily on logic but tradition only. But then I guess I am missing something, which is why I'm writing this.

Also what I don't understand is why it is ok to backsweeten wine and add sorbate without filtering (I dont own a filter) after a ferment has finished on its own, but in the case of an arrested ferment (like I wish to do, and at such a low gravity) they all say to filter? If the ferment is not active in both cases what's the difference? In both cases there is a small amount of yeast and some sugar, whether by backsweetening or because of the residual sugar. But in the case of backsweetening they seem to say it's ok to skip filtering as long as you add sorbate. So why is it not the same when it is residual sugar?

I have read and understand that sulfites dont kill all the yeast, so we can skip that. I have also read and understand that sorbate doesn't kill yeast or stop a ferment, so we can skip that. I am talking about a multipronged approach using cold, sulfites, bentonite, sorbate and lots of racking--just like they say is okay with beer.

Also, I am going to bottle with flip-top bottles. According to a cider recipe I was reading, I understand that people add enough sugar to carbonate in the bottle at an SG of 1.005. Well my wine is at 1.006. If I follow all the above protocol am I really at risk of having a bottle bomb? Especially if it ends up fermenting a fraction more--to 1.005--before I do all this?
 
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First -- beer making principals DO NOT apply to wine making, and the reverse are equally true. The one thing beer and wine have in common is they are both fermented beverages. Everything else is different.

Anyone who makes only beer is not qualified to offer advice on winemaking, and the reverse is equally true. Others on this forum, who like myself make both, will agree.

==

How long has the SG been 1.006?

What was the original SG and what yeast did you use? How long has the wine been fermenting? Since you combined 2 batches, what are the details of both?

It's very likely the fermentation is done OR stuck, and the activity is normal degassing of the wine.

I'd rack off the sediment, then stir the heck out of the wine. If you have H2S (rotten egg odor), the first treatment is to stir well in a ventilated area (H2S is flammable), and hit the wine with a double-dose of K-meta. Normal dosage is 1/4 tsp K-meta per 5 to 6 gallons.

Until you answer the above questions, I can't advise farther.

==

You can cold stabilize the wine by refrigerating to 40 F or less and holding it there for at least a week. Rack the wine before it warms up, and stabilize with sorbate and K-meta.

Filtration is not necessary. If the fermentation is stopped by cold, the sorbate/K-meta will prevent a renewed fermentation.

IF you stabilize the wine, you will not carbonate it. If the wine does not ferment dry on its own, it is not a candidate for carbonation unless you use injection carbonation.

No offense, but you have too many issues in your post to diagnose at once. First, we need to figure out why your wine is stuck at 1.006, and once that is done (if it can be determined), we'll move on to other topics.
 

BernardSmith

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The thing about brewing beer is that wort has a significant amount of unfermentable sugars so beer NEVER finishes anywhere near as low as wine. You might find that your beer will finish at about 1.015 - which is another reason that hops are added to balance the residual sweetness of the beer. Cold crashing a beer does NOT stop fermentation. It simply allows the yeast to better flocculate and settle out so that the beer is cleared more quickly. With wine, we tend to age our liquids - speed not being viewed as a goal for the wine maker given that with beer, an aged brew can taste crap not least because of lacto bacterial souring, and problems with hops and the effects of light on skunk flavors,. Beer is drunk young and fresh. Not so with wine: with wine, a yong wine is viewed as "green" and the flavors and aromas have not had the chance to combine and modify. An aged wine tends to improve when measured in years - although that happens only when oxidation is controlled
 

Dannit

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First -- beer making principals DO NOT apply to wine making, and the reverse are equally true. The one thing beer and wine have in common is they are both fermented beverages. Everything else is different.

Anyone who makes only beer is not qualified to offer advice on winemaking, and the reverse is equally true. Others on this forum, who like myself make both, will agree.

==

How long has the SG been 1.006?


What was the original SG and what yeast did you use? How long has the wine been fermenting? Since you combined 2 batches, what are the details of both?

It's very likely the fermentation is done OR stuck, and the activity is normal degassing of the wine.

I'd rack off the sediment, then stir the heck out of the wine. If you have H2S (rotten egg odor), the first treatment is to stir well in a ventilated area (H2S is flammable), and hit the wine with a double-dose of K-meta. Normal dosage is 1/4 tsp K-meta per 5 to 6 gallons.

Until you answer the above questions, I can't advise farther.

==

You can cold stabilize the wine by refrigerating to 40 F or less and holding it there for at least a week. Rack the wine before it warms up, and stabilize with sorbate and K-meta.

Filtration is not necessary. If the fermentation is stopped by cold, the sorbate/K-meta will prevent a renewed fermentation.

IF you stabilize the wine, you will not carbonate it. If the wine does not ferment dry on its own, it is not a candidate for carbonation unless you use injection carbonation.

No offense, but you have too many issues in your post to diagnose at once. First, we need to figure out why your wine is stuck at 1.006, and once that is done (if it can be determined), we'll move on to other topics.
First -- beer making principals DO NOT apply to wine making, and the reverse are equally true. The one thing beer and wine have in common is they are both fermented beverages. Everything else is different.

Anyone who makes only beer is not qualified to offer advice on winemaking, and the reverse is equally true. Others on this forum, who like myself make both, will agree.

==

How long has the SG been 1.006?

What was the original SG and what yeast did you use? How long has the wine been fermenting? Since you combined 2 batches, what are the details of both?

It's very likely the fermentation is done OR stuck, and the activity is normal degassing of the wine.

I'd rack off the sediment, then stir the heck out of the wine. If you have H2S (rotten egg odor), the first treatment is to stir well in a ventilated area (H2S is flammable), and hit the wine with a double-dose of K-meta. Normal dosage is 1/4 tsp K-meta per 5 to 6 gallons.

Until you answer the above questions, I can't advise farther.

==

You can cold stabilize the wine by refrigerating to 40 F or less and holding it there for at least a week. Rack the wine before it warms up, and stabilize with sorbate and K-meta.

Filtration is not necessary. If the fermentation is stopped by cold, the sorbate/K-meta will prevent a renewed fermentation.

IF you stabilize the wine, you will not carbonate it. If the wine does not ferment dry on its own, it is not a candidate for carbonation unless you use injection carbonation.

No offense, but you have too many issues in your post to diagnose at once. First, we need to figure out why your wine is stuck at 1.006, and once that is done (if it can be determined), we'll move on to other topics.
.....................
Thanks for the reply and advice. Though I asked many questions, I really was driving at only one issue, which was the advisability of cold and chemical stabilizing at this point, without filtration. And you answered that question, thank you. But see below where I have written out more details in case you have any more advice regarding the diagnosis.

I never intended to carbonate my wine--I mentioned the flip top bottles in the context of mitigating any risk of that possible last bit of sugar possibly fermenting a bottle bomb.

Before getting to the details, I also wanted to see if I could get clear on a couple things. First, when I rack off the sediment (which I hope to do today), add Kmeta and put in the fridge, should I go ahead and add the bentonite at this point? Or should I wait til the next racking? Also I'm confused about when to add the sorbate. After cold stabilizing and clarifying, I want to let it age a few more weeks on some toasted Aspen wood chips before a last racking and bottling. I figured I'd keep it in the fridge during this time on the Aspen chips. Would I add the sorbate before or after this?

Here are the details:
Original SG on the first batch was 1.116. It went down in five days (aug 10-15) to 1.013 then slowed down abruptly. That was with a wild yeast I had harvested from a plum tree in the backyard and had propagated into a starter leading up to inoculation. The ability of the wild yeast to reach over 13%ABV was pleasantly surprising. Once it slowed down and I had pressed and racked into secondary, I added a starter of Lalvin EC-1118 to finish it off. I now understand it was reckless to start with the sugars this high (though my original intent was to add the commercial starter to take over). Also a couple more details that may be relevant: Most of those sugars were from the wildberries themselves (mostly thimbleberry and serviceberry [a kind of blueberry], but also red and black raspberry, some chokecherry and black currant--all from the Wasatch Mtns here in Utah) and dark brown sugar, but I also added into that about a cup of local made honey which someone gifted me on the same day I prepared my must. Maybe the honey was not a good idea. Perhaps the yeast are nibbling away at the remaining complex sugars at this point? Also, when I prepared my must I made a tea of different wild leaves I had gathered (thimbleberry [and bark], black currant, wild strawberry, and lots of yarrow [and flowers]) as well as rose hips and seeds and added that to the must. Perhaps it is also relevant to mention that my ratio of berries to water was very dense--instead of the typical 3-5lbs of berries per gallon of water, I added only 1.2 gallons of water to 23.4lbs of berries, for a total of 3.8 gallons of must. Seems that would result in a more dense wine with lots of body, as well as giving the yeast plenty to feed on.

Meanwhile, I brewed a second batch because I came to fear that the yarrow and leaves tea on the first batch was going to taste too strong, as well as the high alcohol. This second batch started on Aug. 14 at SG 1.087, also with the wild yeast. This wine was simply the wild blueberries and thimbleberries, sweetened with the brown sugar, and with enough water to bring 10.8lbs of berries to 2.9 gallons. ( I should also mention that to both of these batches, before pitching, I added the standard dose of kMeta, which my already active wild yeast starter had no trouble with. I also added Fermaid O at the start and around 1/3 sugar depletion.) The second batch went down in three days to SG 1.011 which is when I pressed and racked. I did not add commercial yeast at this time, confident from earlier experience that the wild yeast would be able to finish. In four more days it was at SG 1.007.

Realizing that I would like to have enough wine to top off a 6 gal carboy, I decided to make a small third batch: enough brown sugar and water to bring 3.8lbs chokecherry and black raspberry to 1.9 gallons of must, with an SG of 1.087. Also added recommended Kmeta and, after 24 hours, the wild yeast. After 3 days, at SG 1.017, I pressed and racked, combining it with the second batch. After another couple days, the SG of the combined second and third batch was 1.004. But at that point I also added the Lalvin starter, just to be sure.

But back to the first batch, after a week in secondary (aug 16-23) it had gone down from SG 1.010 only to 1.009, hardly any difference. It also was beginning to hint of rotten egg, though not too strong. At that point I combined the three batches because I figured the yeast were having a hard time with the high alcohol of the first batch. I calculated that the combined batches should result between a total of 12-13%abv.

After another 6 days (Aug 28) the SG of the combined wine (6.75 gallons) was staying still at 1.006. I added a bit more Ferm O and yeast energizer and another Lalvin starter. I could see a definite increase in the bubbling after this--hinting that it is indeed fermentation and not mere offgassing.

Today, Sept. 6, it is still at SG 1.006.

Anyway, it tastes and smells great at this point. The small amount of hydrogen sulfide smell goes away quickly after removing the airlock. I think stirring as you recommend will take care of any that is lingering.

It would be interesting to ever know what is going on (The honey? Toxins produced when the yeast in the original batch hit a high alcohol brick wall? Something in the tea? Perhaps MLF has started and I just don't know about it?) but I'm content to just get on with the cold and chemical stabilizing, remember not to aim for such a high gravity next time, and avoid the honey.

Thanks for reading all this convolution and for any advice.
 
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As @BernardSmith pointed out, wine and patience go hand-in-hand.

Overall, you did nothing wrong. The SG on batch #1 was higher than I'd recommend, but it wasn't crazy high.

Honey is not a problem, nor is the brown sugar. I'd not normally recommend brown sugar as it contains impurities, and when adding sugar I am just increasing the SG. However, in itself, there is nothing wrong with brown sugar.

I recommend against cold stabilizing at this point as fermentation is probably not done. I'd not add bentonite either at this point, but if it's not going to hurt if you do.

Patience (time) is your friend. Fill the 6 gallon carboy, put the remainder in smaller bottles so all are full, and let them rest some place warm (70+ F). Check the SG in the carboy monthly; it's likely they'll ferment out, just a question of when.

Regarding H2S, I'd sniff test the carboy weekly for H2S. If you don't smell anything after a month, you should be good.

IMO, bulk age at least 3 months before bottling. Some folks here bulk age 2 years ... nope, I'm not THAT gung-ho! But 3 to 6 months is good.

Fruit wines normally benefit from backsweetening. Before bottling, add sorbate and K-meta, then sweeten to taste. This is nothing to worry about now.
 

Scooter68

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If putting it into the fridge - Don't add Bentonite just yet. Wait until you have it out and warmed up.

As to fermentation restarting - Once you have added K-Meta and sorbate and chilled it, it's not likely to start back up fermenting. Typically unless you make some significant chemical/additive change to the wine, a ferment stalled or quitting at 1.006 is not likely to restart a fermentation.

The biggest concern you should focus on right now sit he HS2 issue. That;'s an issue that could render your wine undrinkable. The other issues are less concerning. The ferment stopped and unless you introduce something that would aid a fermentation it's very unlikely to re-start.

Clearing normally happens over time if you used a proper amount of pectic enzyme. Some folks just jump right into fining additions but I have found that most of my fruit wines will clear on their own given enough time.

As to why the ferment stopped, remember the yeast tolerance for alcohol is under specific lab type conditions. As that old line goes. "Your results may vary" So probably something wasn't just to the liking of that yeast. There was also as you mentioned, a wild yeast present and that may have produced some toxin (Toxin for your commercial yeast) that stopped the ferment. Again if with a starting point of 1.116 you would have hit 16% plus ABV and that's pretty high for a fruit wine, but; certainly not impossible to get to.

Finally, remember you have a lot of variables in your wine mix from standard wine batch and each one adds a significant complexity to what will or can happen with the ferment and post ferment process. The number of issues or potential problems is WAY high and makes any standard answer iffy at best.

By the way what day is it there? Here it's till Sept 3 2021. ;)
 
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Dannit

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Thanks for these replies! I like the possibilities of both approaches (wait it out vs. cold-and-chemical stabilizing) but, in the interest of time and not wanting to deal with the possibility of more rotten egg, I'm going ahead with the cold-and-chemical stabilizing. I usually leave Utah for Florida by October-November, so I really don't want to wait this out any longer. At this point I'll have a chance to bulk age for a month or two before bottling and heading for Florida. I'll have to invest in a 12v mini cooler for my van so I can take a few bottles to friends in Florida. I know I know, I should probably brew beer instead of wine given my lack of patience. Oh well. What matters is I like how it tastes and learned some things to be able to finish dry next year, next time.
 

Dannit

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Well I'm glad I racked it off the lees. They smelled pretty foul (rotten egg with a tinge of burnt popcorn) I splash racked, stirred lots and added 50ppm k meta before putting in fridge. I think the smell is still there though. I also ended up with too much of the sediment in the new carboy when I racked, and so I'll have to do it again in a couple days after things have settled again. Besides racking over copper flashing and stirring with a copper rod, I was thinking of dropping some pieces of dry ice in the carboy for the evaporating gas to carry off more of the offensive compounds. I know the idea is to be going in the direction of LESS CO2, but I could degas later, like normal. This seems better than aeration as I want to keep oxygen exposure down. Is this a crazy idea?

Also, should I expect the sediment to compact more now that the temperature will be in the low 30s? The sediment was 3-4" deep, and that seemed like a lot of wine to waste. I kept most of the lower band of sediment out of the new carboy, but a lot of that wider band of sediment on top did end up in there. Most of it went into a half-gallon bottle though, so I can try and get every last drop, but if the off-odor doesn't go away I'll refrain from adding it to the main batch.
 
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hounddawg

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Well I'm glad I racked it off the lees. They smelled pretty foul (rotten egg with a tinge of burnt popcorn) I splash racked, stirred lots and added 50ppm k meta before putting in fridge. I think the smell is still there though. I also ended up with too much of the sediment in the new carboy when I racked, and so I'll have to do it again in a couple days after things have settled again. Besides racking over copper flashing and stirring with a copper rod, I was thinking of dropping some pieces of dry ice in the carboy for the evaporating gas to carry off more of the offensive compounds. I know the idea is to be going in the direction of LESS CO2, but I could degas later, like normal. This seems better than aeration as I want to keep oxygen exposure down. Is this a crazy idea?

Also, should I expect the sediment to compact more now that the temperature will be in the low 30s? The sediment was 3-4" deep, and that seemed like a lot of wine to waste. I kept most of the lower band of sediment out of the new carboy, but a lot of that wider band of sediment on top did end up in there. Most of it went into a half-gallon bottle though, so I can try and get every last drop, but if the off-odor doesn't go away I'll refrain from adding it to the main batch.
I'd ask @sour_grapes , he can explain, as can @Rice_Guy , and there are many grey matter peoples on here,,
Dawg

BTW distilling willl get you booted real fast, no distilling ans no polotics at all
 

sour_grapes

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I don't think the dry-ice idea is crazy. Some people sparge with an inert gas (nitrogen or argon), and that idea seems to be of a similar ilk.

Most of us here on WMT frown on uncontrolled copper dosage. (Wine is acidic, and leaches copper.) There is a product called "Reduless" that can introduce a specific, controlled copper dose for H2S elimination.
 
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@Dannit, if you're still smelling rotten eggs, yeah, rack again in a few days. And 50 PPM SO2 is not enough, I'd add it again. SO2 works by binding to contaminants, so it will get used up rapidly.

Keep in mind the sediment is NOT wine, it's fruit solids. You are not tossing wine away. The sediment should compact a bit during cold stabilization, but there's no telling how much.

I used Reduless last fall at @sour_grapes's suggestion , and it was effective.
 

Scooter68

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Remember when buying it that Reduless has an expiration date and while it might still work past that date.... I would not stock up on it. Buy the least amount you need for the job. I've used but waited too long and while it helped, it did not cure the problem in my case.
 

Dannit

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Thanks again for the replies and advice. I'll look into Reduless. Wasn't planning on distilling anything, but now that you mention it, I imagine a concentrated version of this berry wine would taste excellent! I once had access to a $80,000 rotary vaporizer for a job--I bet that would do it.

In a few days I'll rack the 6-gallon again, add more sulfites (and perhaps dry ice), and stir like mad. If it doesnt improve, then I'll start thinking of more drastic measures including Reduless. If I could go back in time, I would have added enough sugar to go only to 11%abv, waited until after fermentation to add untested leafy tea concoctions (though the yarrow was partly to discourage bacterial growth while the wild yeast got ahead). I know it would have gone so smoothly, and I wouldn't have even needed to add a commercial yeast. Oh the headache now!

Here's irony: The way I propagated my wild yeast was with store-bought pineapple juice which I originally sweetened to a potential of over 16%abv, added yarrow to discourage bacteria, and some citric acid down to pH3.5. I wanted to see how high it could go before deciding how strong to make my berry wine, and also set it up to take a long time fermenting as I prepared my other batches. Whenever each of my three berry wine batches was ready to ferment, I would rack off the pineapple wine and use the yeast at the bottom to inoculate the berry wine. Then I would top off the pineapple wine, give it some energizer and it would pick up fermenting again (the most vigorous of them all) overnight. I figure after all the top-offs it probably has enough sugar to end up between 12-14%abv. With almost no attention to it, it is the stellar winner and is still chugging away, (was at 1.004 yesterday) and will probably be done within the week. With almost no attention. And no commercial yeast. The pineapple, yarrow and sweet-dairy-cream aroma of the wild yeast go very well together! How funny if this turns out to be the better wine. (But having said that, the berry wine tastes great! I just hope to eliminate that odor.) The yeast seems to really like pineapple. Or the constant racking kept things healthy. I probably should have racked the berry wine a week or two ago.

As for the sediment, there was a good 3 or 4 inches in the bottom of each 3-gal carboy (when I combined the batches, I did not yet have the 6-gal carboy, so they got mixed and put back in two 3-gal carboys). That's a couple gallons worth! The one time I made wine before this (red wine), there was not nearly as much sediment--or it compacted better. Both then and now I added the recommended pectic enzyme. Perhaps this time I should have added more because of my very dense must?

In any case, there is probably going to be 2-3 inches of suspended sediment in the bottom of my 6-gal, and, after being in the mid 30sF overnight, the 1/2-gal overflow jug full of suspended sediment has not settled at all. At this rate I'm definitely going to have some headspace and maybe 5 gallons by the end. I'd really like to figure out how to make it settle more before racking again. Should I not just add bentonite now--at least to the 1/2 gal, to see how much I can get out of it? If it ends up too smelly, I just won't combine it.
 

Dannit

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Well the Reduless should arrive tomorrow. Is there any problem with applying it while the wine is still at 28 degreesF?
 

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