Is my wine fermenting? And is this floating stuff a problem?

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Trishatk

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Hi there!

Bear with me, this is my first try at making wine, and I have tried following my instructions as close as I can, but I checked my must after I added the rehydrated yeast about 20 hours ago, and there were no bubbles in the airlock, and something has formed at the top. There are a few bubbles in the formation, but I’m wondering if I’ve screwed this up already. Can anyone tell me if this is normal, and if not, is it fixable?

Thanks!
 

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M38A1

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That looks reasonably normal to me...

A lot depends on the temperature and what type of yeast you are using in how quickly/forcefully the bubbles and fermentation process is. Most of my stuff takes about 12-24 hours to get rolling, and it usually starts like what I see in your pics. Then it sort of does it's thing and takes off. The fact you aren't seeing bubbles in the airlock is simply because the fermentation hasn't really taken off yet and it takes a lot to push out the existing air in the top of the PF/airlock mechanism. Even when it's rolling along, mine only bubble about every six to 10 seconds.

One thing I do is daily give it a stir to introduce oxygen to the must and drive off some CO2 in the process.

Just relax and let it do it's thing. If it's not rolling in another couple days, report back...
 

Trishatk

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M38A1:

Thanks so much for taking the time to give some input. That makes me feel much better, I just wanted to make sure I’m not completely off base here. Thanks again!!
 

Scooter68

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Just one recommendation - Skip the Lid and airlock.
The plastic lids on most fermentation containers are a real pain to put on and take off and really don't seal all that well. (That's why the airlock doesn't seem to show much activity. )

Many folks just put a towel or thin cloth (Like a single layer of muslin cloth over the top and tie it down (to keep out Fruit Flies, bugs, dust and family pets)

If you want to check this out Wet down the lid seal ring well before snapping it back on and watch the airlock then. It will show activity quite nicely.....until seal dries out again.
So you can save some time and effort just using a cloth and tie it down.

The smell will tell you all you need to know - that and the bubbling foam. (Normally when I stir my batches the foam bubbles up nicely and then settles down after covering up the bucket.) The amount of foam depends on the yeast type to a large degree.
 

Trishatk

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Thanks Scooter68! Good to know, I may just try that because the lid is a huge pain. Thanks for taking the time to respond. I appreciate it!
 

Scooter68

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Oh and welcome to the forum. There's lots of information in the various sections and threads. If you don't find the answers you need there - just do what you did this time. There is whole lotta experience in both home wine making and actual winery experience in the members on here. Just beware of 'instructional' You Tube videos when it comes to wine making.
 

M38A1

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I'll second what Scooter said - skip the lid on your primary fermenter vessel. I learned that trick here and in all my batches simply put a large towel over the top during fermentation. Just be careful to not let the towel drop into the top of the contents if there's little headspace. Been there - Done that. lol.
 

jgmann67

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I'll second what Scooter said - skip the lid on your primary fermenter vessel. I learned that trick here and in all my batches simply put a large towel over the top during fermentation. Just be careful to not let the towel drop into the top of the contents if there's little headspace. Been there - Done that. lol.
I can third what Scooter said. I will usually just lay the lid on top without snapping it down for the first week. Then, if I’m feeling froggy, I’ll snap the lid down and place an airlock on it till the fermentation is done.
 

Jal5

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I use the towel too and get a bunch of paperclips the “bulldog”
Kind to hold the towel just above the must by clipping towel to the ridge on the sides of the pail.
Joe
 

Trishatk

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Thanks everyone! I really appreciate it! Good news, you were all right and it’s really taken off now. I put the airlock back on tonight just for fun and it’s busy with bubbles. The bag with the skins and pulp is full of bubbles and trying to float to the top too. I’ve been giving it a stir and poking it back down a couple times a day so far. Thanks again for the help, I hope this first go at making wine turns out okay!
 

Scooter68

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That's the way -keep pushing that bag of of skins and pulp back in.

By the way what variety of grapes or fruit is that?
 

Trishatk

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That's the way -keep pushing that bag of of skins and pulp back in.

By the way what variety of grapes or fruit is that?
Ha, good question! I’m pretty certain they are Concord grapes, from the googling I’ve done. We just moved to this new house and it had a mess of grapes in the back yard. They are purple and smaller with lots of seeds, the skin is pretty tough and the pulp is a very strange texture, like almost chewy or gelatinous. The pulp doesn’t crush or break down much. They are so delicious though, they taste just like Welch’s grape juice, but it’s a shame they don’t make good table grapes.

I know from what I’ve read concords are not the best wine grapes, but it seemed like my best option. I hope by the time I can get the acidity taken care of, maybe it will still be good wine. I’m anxiously awaiting getting the first taste!
 

Scooter68

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You have them so.... you make use of them. Concords as I remember are an interesting flavor. Just under the skin is a very sweet layer then the majority of the pulp is not so sweet and yes... lots of seeds. But It's been awhile since I've had fresh Concords so perhaps someone else can help identify.

In any case hope that batch turns out well for you. Keep us posted on progress.
 

M38A1

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Any updates for us?
 

Trishatk

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Actually, I’ve been meaning to follow up! Primary fermentation went well, rolled along for about a week, I transferred to a couple carboys, but I ended up racking it already last weekend because there was about 1/2”-1” of the brown yeast sludge at the bottom of both carboys. It’s really clearing up well, but I’m a little unsure what to do now. I was hardly seeing any bubbles in airlock before I racked it, and now I’m not seeing any. Is that okay? I have them on a dark ledge that leads to the basement, so it’s probably about 70 degrees there, but I thought that was okay for whites and blushes? Any suggestions?
 

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CDrew

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Good job! You got through fermentation and into carboys. It's already a win. I'd let it sit awhile 3-4 weeks and rack again and sulfite. I don't have specific Concord grape knowledge though. But you eliminated head space and sounds like your fermentation went well, so good to go! 70F sounds fine, and it will be colder this winter-also fine.
 

Scooter68

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When you racked either time did you add and Potassium metabisulfite to the wine? At the end of the fermentation you need to add it to help protect the wine.
 

Trishatk

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Good job! You got through fermentation and into carboys. It's already a win. I'd let it sit awhile 3-4 weeks and rack again and sulfite. I don't have specific Concord grape knowledge though. But you eliminated head space and sounds like your fermentation went well, so good to go! 70F sounds fine, and it will be colder this winter-also fine.
Thanks! Good to know I still haven’t ruined it it yet (which is still shocking to me!). Thanks for your response!
 

Trishatk

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When you racked either time did you add and Potassium metabisulfite to the wine? At the end of the fermentation you need to add it to help protect the wine.
Hi Scooter!
I did add a campden tablet and potassium bicarbonate to help with acid when I racked the first time, and the 2nd racking, I split one campden tablet between the 4 gallons. I’ve heard contradicting things with using campden tablets/potassium metabisulfite when racking, but overall most people seem to recommend it. What do you do?

On the bright side, I tried a bit when I racked it, and it tastes great! Just like dry wine, but it does have a good flavor. And it smells great, too.
 
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