Intro + Question on Headspace

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BrandonT

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Hello All,

I'm new to winemaking and have found this forum helpful in the learning process. I live in San Diego and have made a few batches of Cab and Petite the past few years. I pick grapes from local vineyards and de-stem/crush/press at home. I've picked ~150lbs of grapes each time so end up with about ~8.5 gallons of wine of which has turned out decent enough. I do my primary ferment in 5 gallon food grade buckets and give MLF a try in glass carboys.

Question on Headspace
I recently picked Cab grapes and was only able to pick ~100lbs, so having to resort to a single 5 gallon glass carboy. I made the mistake of not saving the small amount of juice over the 5 gallon carboy to fill up after racking. Starting Brix ~24 with primary ferment lasting 7 days. Brix before press ~1 (normally have got it <0). I racked after 2 days and inoculated with Viniflora CH16, but i'm worried the headspace is too much. I use Argon to blanket the top, but i've never had this much headspace in my previous batches.

Any thoughts or advice on this is much appreciated. See picture for reference.

1661375518221.jpeg
 

Ohio Bob

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As I see it there are some options, last of all is blanketing with argon, as I have never tried it and don’t know all the pitfalls that approach brings.

First choice, run out and buy a 3g and several 1, and 1/2g jugs. Rack your <5 carboy into a 3g, and use the smaller jugs for any leftover.

Second choice, add store bought or whatever is in your inventory that would be similar. As long as it’s a relatively “small” amount it won’t affect the MLF. What that limit is I have no idea.
 

sour_grapes

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If it were mine, I would simply add (once I was sure it was finished) a number of bottles of cheapish wine to top it off.
 

BrandonT

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Thank you for the responses. I have a Petite that's been sitting for almost a year now (7.5g carboy + 1g jug). I was thinking of using some of the 1g Petite to top off the 5g Cab carboy I just started, but I don't know if this will interfere will MLF. Also, is the headspace "okay" while it's undergoing MLF vs. just needing to ensure no headspace during post fermentation aging?

@sour_grapes your response is leading me to think that adding the Petite now will interfere with the secondary ferment.

Thanks again for the help.
 

crushday

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When did you add the CH16? MLF is likely producing enough CO2 to protect the wine. After MLF, rack and blend the very complimentary petite to the cab. In this way you’ll also top off and have a little to spare. The volume of space from the pic is only a half gallon ~. Drink the remaining petite immediately! Sulfite and check every two months. Make sure to add 2 French oak spirals.
 

TechAdmin

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Hello Brandon, welcome to WMT. Enjoy!
 
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I made the mistake of not saving the small amount of juice over the 5 gallon carboy to fill up after racking.
Save every drop! As already mentioned, you want a collection of bottles of many sizes. I have bottles from 125 ml to 1.5 liter, plus a collection of 4 liter jugs. A #3 drilled stopper fits a standard wine bottle, so having a bunch of airlocks is good.

Definitely top with the 1 gallon Petite Sirah, bottle the remainder, and drink whatever is left over after that.
 

Rice_Guy

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first, welcome to Wine Making Talk

As long as the wine is actively producing CO2 it is protected from oxidation. ie as long as you see bubble production in MLF, oxidation isn’t a major risk.
I am on the same page as others above suggesting top off with a similar wine. The winery rules are that 15% of a tank can be another variety before it has to be labeled as a mixture if varieties, ,,, blending/ topping off is normal procedure in the winery.
For purists (country wine makers), ,, there are tools like glass marbles or Amazon plastic top off balls or I picked up some one inch LDPE rod which got cut into approx six inch length to fill head space.
 

mikewatkins727

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@BrandonT: First off, welcome to Wine Making Talk. A few comments and observations. You want the head space to be about where that blue handle is in your picture. Do not try to lift or move the carboy by the blue handle. The neck is not strong enough. There is on the market a nylon sling with handles that encompasses the carboy. I believe the name is Brew Hauler. Amazon has it for about $15, some I've it seen advertised for an obscene $65.

I've collected fruit juice bottles of various sizes plus half and full gallon jugs for excess wine. For the juice bottles with plastic lids, drill a half inch hole using a forstner bit and drill press if you can. Using a half inch split grommet with a 3/8 hole, insert it in the hole. A water trap will fit the grommet.

Looking for cheap gallon carboys? Look no further than the local W***art store. The Super stores will have Carlo Rossi? in 4 liter jugs (about 1 gallon). Not into Carlo Rossi? Well now you cooking wine or top up wine.
 
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Do not try to lift or move the carboy by the blue handle. The neck is not strong enough.
This is worth repeating. The handle is ok for moving empty carboys, but I don't even do that.

The Super stores will have Carlo Rossi? in 4 liter jugs (about 1 gallon). Not into Carlo Rossi? Well now you cooking wine or top up wine.
Carlo Rossi Burgundy and Chablis are generic wines -- there is absolutely nothing wrong with them, but there is absolutely nothing exceptional about them. I like 'em for marinades and cooking in general. They're ok to sip but will not impress you. I buy a jug and decant into five 750 ml screwcap + one 375 ml screwcap bottles, then the jug gets washed and the label soaked, and it goes into the winery.
 

ChuckD

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Do not try to lift or move the carboy by the blue handle. The neck is not strong enough.
😮. This is the first I have heard of this! I have a few used carboys that came with them and I was lifting the full three gallon ones with them. I think I’ll be taking them off now. I have a few nylon web slings and like those.
 

Earldw

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Hello All,

I'm new to winemaking and have found this forum helpful in the learning process. I live in San Diego and have made a few batches of Cab and Petite the past few years. I pick grapes from local vineyards and de-stem/crush/press at home. I've picked ~150lbs of grapes each time so end up with about ~8.5 gallons of wine of which has turned out decent enough. I do my primary ferment in 5 gallon food grade buckets and give MLF a try in glass carboys.

Question on Headspace
I recently picked Cab grapes and was only able to pick ~100lbs, so having to resort to a single 5 gallon glass carboy. I made the mistake of not saving the small amount of juice over the 5 gallon carboy to fill up after racking. Starting Brix ~24 with primary ferment lasting 7 days. Brix before press ~1 (normally have got it <0). I racked after 2 days and inoculated with Viniflora CH16, but i'm worried the headspace is too much. I use Argon to blanket the top, but i've never had this much headspace in my previous batches.

Any thoughts or advice on this is much appreciated. See picture for reference.

View attachment 92087
Hi Brando, welcome! I can’t really imagine a downside to Argon as it is both completely inert and heavier than air. It’s solubility in water is about the same as oxygen so any that gets dissolved would probably just displace CO2 and O2.
 

Earldw

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@BrandonT:
Looking for cheap gallon carboys? Look no further than the local W***art store. The Super stores will have Carlo Rossi? in 4 liter jugs (about 1 gallon). Not into Carlo Rossi? Well now you cooking wine or top up wine.
Man, I wish I had thought of that! It’s like buying a gallon carboy cheaper than on Amazon and getting a gallon of wine for free,
 

sremick

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I've tried adding similar wines, glass marbles... even looked into inflatable bags/balloons. I finally settled on a combo of blanketing/expunging with argon then pulling a vacuum. Now I don't worry about how much headspace I have.
 

Derrald

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@BrandonT: First off, welcome to Wine Making Talk. A few comments and observations. You want the head space to be about where that blue handle is in your picture. Do not try to lift or move the carboy by the blue handle. The neck is not strong enough. There is on the market a nylon sling with handles that encompasses the carboy. I believe the name is Brew Hauler. Amazon has it for about $15, some I've it seen advertised for an obscene $65.

I've collected fruit juice bottles of various sizes plus half and full gallon jugs for excess wine. For the juice bottles with plastic lids, drill a half inch hole using a forstner bit and drill press if you can. Using a half inch split grommet with a 3/8 hole, insert it in the hole. A water trap will fit the grommet.

Looking for cheap gallon carboys? Look no further than the local W***art store. The Super stores will have Carlo Rossi? in 4 liter jugs (about 1 gallon). Not into Carlo Rossi? Well now you cooking wine or top up wine.
I agree with mike about the handle, i lost 5 gallons of peppermint wine when it broke and smashed on the floor. As for extra secondary's, i have gone as far as using 2ltr and 20oz bottles with balloons as my air lock. Lol
 

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