Just tried this for the first time

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steveh1155

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Hi all! I took a stab at trying to make wine for the first time at home...not sure how it'll turn out! I started off with a quart of cherry juice, added a few tbsp. of sugar and a little bread yeast and after a few hours it was bubbling away. I didn't have a hydrometer yet so I have no idea what the SG was at first. I added an airlock (just a balloon with pin holes) after about a week. I bought a hydrometer and checked it and it's just a little above 1.000 now which I interpret as meaning the fermentation is pretty much finished. I did transfer this to a clean container after primary fermentation was done - there was quite a bit of sediment at the bottom. It's been about a month now and it's beginning to clear up some. Tried to taste some last night and still a little nasty tasting, sort of a yeasty paint thinner finish!

For my second attempt, I used a bottle of strawberry juice (quart) and added a cup of sugar, mixed it up and check the SG which I read as 1.140 (way too high?). I added a little Red Star Premier Cote des Blancs yeast and for 4 days now it seems to be fermenting well. I have a feeling I added too much sugar in the beginning. From reading the scale on my hydrometer, at this specific gravity, the potential alcohol would be about 18.5%. This yeast, from what I've read is tolerant to about 14% alcohol at the high end so I assume it just dies when it reaches that. I'm just beginning and well, you have to start somewhere!

Thanks,
Steve
 

sour_grapes

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Yeah, 1.140 is a bit high. Keep us posted on the progress. Those little yeasties may just get the job done! (Although it may be better if they don't, and leave a slightly sweet, high-alcohol wine.)
 

steveh1155

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I checked the SG yesterday at day 5 and it was 1.111. I checked it again today and it's 1.104. It seems to be fermenting slowly but steadily. I tasted a few drops and it's still a bit sweet but not at all yeasty like the first batch I attempted. At what SG should I get an airlock on it? This is rather fun!

Thanks,
Steve
 

sour_grapes

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At 1.104, it should be very, very sweet.

You can go without airlock until the wine either slows down dramatically, or is less than about 1.010 or so (rough estimate).
 

BernardSmith

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Hi steveh1155 - and welcome.
The thing about bread yeast is that it has not been developed to flocculate in the way that lab cultured wine yeasts have been developed. That means that the yeast tends to remain in solution and does not fall to the bottom of the fermenter. When you bake bread there is no need for flocculation, but in wine making you tend to want things like yeast to be left behind when you rack (transfer) the wine from one container to the next (the primary fermenter to the secondary) and when you rack from the secondary to the bottling bucket and bottle. That is one reason why a wine might taste "yeasty". Another reason - and this one is not really intuitive - is that if you add (pitch) too few yeast cells, the yeast have to work much harder and a) they become stressed and as part of their stress they produce alcohols other than ethanol (the alcohol we want) and those alcohols are more volatile and taste like nail polish remover and the like. Moreover, when too few cells are added the flavor of yeast tends to also predominate. Compared to the price of fruit, yeast is inexpensive and if you live in a society where wine yeast can be purchased you might want to use wine yeast AND if you use wine yeast I would pitch (add) a whole packet of yeast even if you are making only a gallon.
 

winemaker81

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@steveh1155, welcome to the winemaker's club!

Your cherry wine may -- or may not -- clear. If it doesn't clear and/or remains yeasty tasting, add fresh fruit like oranges, lemons, and limes, and make punch. It's only a quart and it will go fast.

The OG on the strawberry was very high. It's unlikely the wine will ferment out, as most wine yeasts quit before 18% ABV. The Red Star Premier Cote des Blancs is rated for 14% ABV according to WineMakerMag, but your yeast might be over achievers -- you won't know until it's done. Non-grape fruit wines usually benefit from backsweetening, so this may be fine.

In general, target between 1.075 and 1.100 for an OG. I aim for 1.080 to 1.090, which is a nice middle ground, while some of our members prefer high alcohol wines and target 18% ABV, and others target 10% ABV.

I assume you are using commercial drinking juices? Most contain preservatives, including sorbate. Sorbate is used by home winemakers to prevent a renewed fermentation when backsweetening wine. If a juice contains sorbate you can get it to ferment, but it's usually very difficult. Best to use juices without sorbate.



EDIT: my first draft had 1.000 as a target SG ... which is a bit low. Note to self -- proofread before sending ....
 
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steveh1155

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@steveh1155, welcome to the winemaker's club!

Your cherry wine may -- or may not -- clear. If it doesn't clear and/or remains yeasty tasting, add fresh fruit like oranges, lemons, and limes, and make punch. It's only a quart and it will go fast.

The OG on the strawberry was very high. It's unlikely the wine will ferment out, as most wine yeasts quit before 18% ABV. The Red Star Premier Cote des Blancs is rated for 14% ABV according to WineMakerMag, but your yeast might be over achievers -- you won't know until it's done. Non-grape fruit wines usually benefit from backsweetening, so this may be fine.

In general, target between 1.075 and 1.100 for an OG. I aim for 1.080 to 1.090, which is a nice middle ground, while some of our members prefer high alcohol wines and target 18% ABV, and others target 10% ABV.

I assume you are using commercial drinking juices? Most contain preservatives, including sorbate. Sorbate is used by home winemakers to prevent a renewed fermentation when backsweetening wine. If a juice contains sorbate you can get it to ferment, but it's usually very difficult. Best to use juices without sorbate.



EDIT: my first draft had 1.000 as a target SG ... which is a bit low. Note to self -- proofread before sending ....
Thanks for that information! The strawberry juice, which was labeled as strawberry cider, was purchased at a farm market and according to the ingredients list contained only citric acid as an added ingredient, so I think it should ferment ok. I think my first mistake was not checking SG before I added ANY sugar, but anyway, if it'll ferment to 14% and be sweet still that is probably how my wife prefers it! There's a warning on this bottle to leave the lid loose after it's opened because it could start fermenting on it's own! I haven't taken a SG reading in the past couple of days, have to remember to do that later today and see where it's at.
 

steveh1155

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I was looking through things from my late fathers estate and noticed this fruit press in the barn. I think this is what my grandfather had used to crush and press the grapes he grew when he produced his own wine but I could be wrong. I was wondering if this would be useful if I decide to grow grapes in the future? It has a wooden square shaped funnel on top (behind the plastic) that I assume was used for crushing the fruit and then dumping it in the basket below.

Cider Press (barn).jpg
 

winemaker81

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That is a grape and/or fruit press. If it's in good shape, then yes, it will be useful to you.

I have a very old grape crusher. While I haven't used it in 20 years, it's quite functional, although crushing 500 lbs of grapes would be a fair amount of work.

If the funnel at the top has teeth and a crank handle like in the first photo, then it's a crusher.

Note -- Red grapes are crushed, fermented, then pressed, so if the part at the top is a crusher, it's not typically for red wine production. White grapes are typically crushed and pressed, then the juice is fermented. You can do this with reds, but it produces a white wine, unless the juice is left on the skins long enough to pull color from the skins.

Post more pictures with the plastic off.

grape-crusher-01.jpg

grape-crusher-02.jpg
 

winemaker81

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There's a warning on this bottle to leave the lid loose after it's opened because it could start fermenting on it's own!
This is a great indication the juice is natural. If this one comes out good, I'd make it again. It sounds interesting.

BTW, citric acid is a mild preservative and in no way interferes with fermentation. Some use it to up the acid level, instead of or in addition to tartaric and malic acids.
 

steveh1155

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Day 16 now on the strawberry wine. Still fermenting slowly but steadily and SG is now 1.060 which is about 10.3% ABV thus far. I tasted it and still sweet and sparkling right now...about another week of fermentation to go...I think it'll finish sweet.

The quart of cherry wine has been at 0.996 for about a week now so I'm thinking it's done. There still seems to be a fair amount of co2 in it so I need to let it outgas for a bit yet before it's bottled and maybe a 1/4 campden tablet? Taste has improved but still a little bitter and yeasty.
 
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steveh1155

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The cherry juice wine has been bottled now. The cloudiness cleared up nicely after a couple day when I added some bentonite and racked it again. I'll let it set for a few months...hopefully the taste will improve.
The strawberry cider juice fermentation seems to have stopped at about 1.050 =~12%ABV. I'm thinking that the yeast just reached their limit and decided to call it quits. I tasted it and still a little too sweet for my taste. I don't think you can really un-sweeten wine so I tried pitching some different yeast with a higher alcohol tolerance - Red Star Premier Cuvee that's supposed to work up to 18% alcohol. I know this probably isn't recommended but frankly, I didn't know what else to do.

This is addicting! My new project is a 2 gallon batch of strawberry wine using 8 lbs. of frozen strawberries. I went to Home Depot and got a food grade 5 gallon bucket and lid to use as my primary fermentation container. I crushed the strawberries by hand added 2 gallons of distilled water and a couple of crushed campden tablets to sit for 24 hours. Next day I added 5 lbs. of sugar (slowly worked up to that having learned my lesson!), pectin enzyme, yeast nutrient and pitched about half a packet of Red Star Premier Cote des Blancs. My initial gravity was 1.115. I was surprised how quickly the pectin enzyme broke down the strawberry pulp. Looks like it removed most of the color out of them. It's fermenting quite nicely now. The only thing I've noticed is that there's a mat of strawberry pulp on the surface I keep having to break up with my wife's potato masher.
 

BernardSmith

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It could be that the fermentation has stalled for a reason in which case simply pitching another yeast may not solve the problem. The best way to add new yeast is to upend your process and create a starter with the new yeast adding the same volume of the problem batch to the starter and so doubling the starter each time you add from the problem batch. You only add from the problem batch when you KNOW that the starter is still very active. In this way you dilute and mitigate any systemic issues that may be in the problem batch.
But one other option you have is to add the stalled batch to a larger very dry batch (say 1 gallon of your batch at 1.050 to 4 gallons of a very dry wine (at say 1.000, the result will be a 5 gallon blend at just shy of 1.013...
 

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Another option is to start another batch of strawberry juice with OG 1.040, using a potent yeast like EC-1118. When the SG gets down to 1.020, start feeding it a cup of the first batch each day. If the batches are of equal size, the averaged OG will be 1.085, which produces a reasonable ABV.

Regarding the new batch, most fruit winemakers may suggest using more fruit, typically 5 to 8 lbs per gallon. More fruit will produce a stronger flavor.

Keep punching the cap down. This stirs the wine and prevents mold from growing on the cap as it dries out.
 

heatherd

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The cherry juice wine has been bottled now. The cloudiness cleared up nicely after a couple day when I added some bentonite and racked it again. I'll let it set for a few months...hopefully the taste will improve.
The strawberry cider juice fermentation seems to have stopped at about 1.050 =~12%ABV. I'm thinking that the yeast just reached their limit and decided to call it quits. I tasted it and still a little too sweet for my taste. I don't think you can really un-sweeten wine so I tried pitching some different yeast with a higher alcohol tolerance - Red Star Premier Cuvee that's supposed to work up to 18% alcohol. I know this probably isn't recommended but frankly, I didn't know what else to do.

This is addicting! My new project is a 2 gallon batch of strawberry wine using 8 lbs. of frozen strawberries. I went to Home Depot and got a food grade 5 gallon bucket and lid to use as my primary fermentation container. I crushed the strawberries by hand added 2 gallons of distilled water and a couple of crushed campden tablets to sit for 24 hours. Next day I added 5 lbs. of sugar (slowly worked up to that having learned my lesson!), pectin enzyme, yeast nutrient and pitched about half a packet of Red Star Premier Cote des Blancs. My initial gravity was 1.115. I was surprised how quickly the pectin enzyme broke down the strawberry pulp. Looks like it removed most of the color out of them. It's fermenting quite nicely now. The only thing I've noticed is that there's a mat of strawberry pulp on the surface I keep having to break up with my wife's potato masher.
If you can get EC 1118 that will likely help you get further fermentation.
 

steveh1155

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The strawberry cider wine has managed to get to 1.034 (13.6%) and seems stuck there so, since this is only a quart, and still too sweet, I think my best option is just to blend it into the 2 gallon strawberry batch that's fermenting on the pulp. I've been punching the cap down a couple times a day and still pretty frothy under that mat of strawberry pulp. It's currently at 1.008 (13%) so would straining out the pulp, blending and racking to a couple of 1 gallon carboys under airlocks be the thing to do now? Thanks!
 

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