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Multiple stuck fruit wine/cider fermentations

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First time wine maker, first time poster. Please be kind :)

I have three stuck ferments. I can't believe all three are stuck as I'm pretty thorough with following instructions and trying to avoid the main causes of stuck ferments. Individual details are below. All are in basement which holds steady at 69 degrees (I know, a little cool but that's the space I have). All primaries were in a bucket with lid resting on it but unsealed. All secondary's are in glass carboys with airlock. Sanitation is done via iodophor, star-san, and/or k-meta. I normally rinse after sanitizing just to be sure to not include residual sanitizer in the must. I know that's unnecessary but I'm crazy.

Bottom line - I'm sure it could be a million things causing the stuck ferments. My main question is how to restart. I've read a bunch of blogs on making a starter but I still have questions...
1. Is it too late to try and restart a ferment that has been stuck for over a month (the blackberry)?
2. If I'm trying to add a starter, shouldn't I aerate the wine somehow? But wouldn't that be really risky at this point?
3. Is simply adding Nutrient or Energizer a good option? I basically followed recipes from EC Kraus which presumably already had enough Nutrient or Energizer added off the bat.

Blackberry Wine 6 gal
6 campden tablets
20 lbs blackberries
11 lbs sugar
2 tbsp Nutrient
1 tsp pectic
2 tbsp acid blend
Waited 24 hours, then Vintners Harvest SN9 yeast
Starting SG 1.11
Stuck at 1.025
It was in primary going strong for six days with pulp. Removed pulp bag and racked to secondary five weeks ago. It's been doing nothing for the last four weeks. SG hasn't moved.

Plum Wine
6 campden tablets
20 lbs plums, pits removed
8 lbs sugar
1 tbsp Nutrient
1 tsp pectic
1 tbs acid blend
1/2 tsp tannin
Waited 24 hours, then Vintners Harvest VR21 yeast
Starting SG 1.095
Stuck at 1.025 (same as blackberry)
Spent seven days in primary going strong. This time I added 4lbs of sugar in the original must and then the other 4lbs after three days. Seemed to work well as the ferment was strong in primary. Removed pulp bag and racked into secondary after 7 total days in primary. Continued in secondary with noticable bubbling for a week or so. SG has been stuck since then at 1.025. Stuck now for two weeks.

Cider
3 gallons fresh cider from local mill
3 campden tablets
a little acid blend
Waited 24 hours, then EC1118 yeast
Starting SG 1.05
Stuck at 1.02
Six days in primary, racked to secondary. Basically stuck as soon as it went in secondary. That was a week ago.
 

salcoco

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have you checked that your hydrometer is reading correctly? one method to restart is to develop a yeast starter with EC1118 once bubbling along add one cup of stuck ferment once it starts add two cups once it starts continue doubling volume addition each time previous addition begins fermenting.
 
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@sour_grapes ...I think I love you. Maybe I'll throw the refractometer in the trash. As you predicted, I was using a refractometer and all of the fermentations are finished.

Being a novice, I know nothing about anything... and while I do feel like a dummy, I can't even begin to describe how happy I am to know that I didn't mess up three consecutive batches. I suppose I'll need to do some googling to understand when and how to use a refractometer... since obviously I wasn't using it as intended. Maybe I'm missing a conversion, or maybe it's best suited for determining OG. I have no idea. But I bet somebody does...
 
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have you checked that your hydrometer is reading correctly? one method to restart is to develop a yeast starter with EC1118 once bubbling along add one cup of stuck ferment once it starts add two cups once it starts continue doubling volume addition each time previous addition begins fermenting.
Thank you! This is the method I'll use if/when I do end up with a stuck fermentation for real!
 

sour_grapes

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@sour_grapes ...I think I love you. Maybe I'll throw the refractometer in the trash. As you predicted, I was using a refractometer and all of the fermentations are finished.

Being a novice, I know nothing about anything... and while I do feel like a dummy, I can't even begin to describe how happy I am to know that I didn't mess up three consecutive batches. I suppose I'll need to do some googling to understand when and how to use a refractometer... since obviously I wasn't using it as intended. Maybe I'm missing a conversion, or maybe it's best suited for determining OG. I have no idea. But I bet somebody does...
You can use a refractometer to monitor fermentation, but it is not simple. Hydrometer is much easier. Here is some info if you wish to use the refractometer: - ValleyVintner Main Page
 

CDrew

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A refractometer is a good instrument...in the Vineyard, when you're deciding when to pick. Otherwise is is not an effective instrument to monitor fermentation. But Hydrometers are inexpensive and highly effective. Get several. The triscale ones are perfectly good, just hard to see the numbers. The more precise ones cost a bit more, but in the end, are more satisfactory. But a hydrometer won't lie, and a refractometer will.
 

BernardSmith

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A refractometer is a good instrument...in the Vineyard, when you're deciding when to pick. Otherwise is is not an effective instrument to monitor fermentation. But Hydrometers are inexpensive and highly effective. Get several. The triscale ones are perfectly good, just hard to see the numbers. The more precise ones cost a bit more, but in the end, are more satisfactory. But a hydrometer won't lie, and a refractometer will.
But sometimes using a refractometer may appear to be the "only" useful method. Here's one case in point. A few weeks ago I obtained my first lugs of fresh grapes and after crushing and fermenting I wanted to know if what I had was ready for pressing but there was so much fruit in the cap and the cap was so thick (and yes, I was punching down three times a day) that I felt I would spend a half a day just to obtain enough of a sample from which I could measure the gravity reading, so I used my refractometer and took a reading and then applied an online calculator to the reading and it suggested that my wine was dry enough for me to strain the wine and press the grapes. Well, that reading was way off! and so it turned out that I had removed the skins and pits from the wine several days before I needed to. Obviously, these are early days and too soon to know how the wine will turn out but by color and taste at this time no serious "damage" was done. In fact, I added more water, sugar and tartaric to the grapes after (hand) pressing - and obtained a second batch of wine that is also nicely doing its thing. First batch is now undergoing MLF and the second batch might be ready for MLF bacteria in another week or two...
 

salcoco

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I am sorry but I have more confidence in using a refractometer than most . first it is a useful tool in measuring brix if growing grapes and certainly in measuring starting gravity. just one drop does the job. for monitoring I use the correction spreadsheet which I have verified more than once to be accurate until you reach the ending sg. at that time if necessary measure with a hydrometer. overtime with experience you will find that you know when fermentation is complete when using a refractometer. the ease of measurement as far as I am concerned certainly out weighs any other complaint
 
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I am sorry but I have more confidence in using a refractometer than most . first it is a useful tool in measuring brix if growing grapes and certainly in measuring starting gravity. just one drop does the job. for monitoring I use the correction spreadsheet which I have verified more than once to be accurate until you reach the ending sg. at that time if necessary measure with a hydrometer. overtime with experience you will find that you know when fermentation is complete when using a refractometer. the ease of measurement as far as I am concerned certainly out weighs any other complaint
I do love the ease of the refractometer. I'll likely keep taking readings with it at the same time as I use the hydrometer. Over time I'm sure I'll get the feel for how the corrections work and when/how to make use of the tool.

Thank you to everyone for the awesome replies. I'm really glad I joined the forum.
 

Rice_Guy

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Knotty, For where you are in the wine process what you want is a rate of change day by day to tell if you are finished, and an error in actual chemical concentration doesn’t really matter. . . .it is an easy tool for taking readings
I am sorry but I have more confidence in using a refractometer than most . first it is a useful tool in measuring brix if growing grapes and certainly in measuring starting gravity. just one drop does the job. for monitoring I use the correction spreadsheet which I have verified more than once to be accurate until you reach the ending sg. at that time if necessary measure with a hydrometer. overtime with experience you will find that you know when fermentation is complete when using a refractometer. the ease of measurement as far as I am concerned certainly out weighs any other complaint
 

Raptor99

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+1 for using a refractometer. When I first started using it, I would test with both the hydrometer and the refractometer. My measurements with both were very similar.

When using a refractometer once fermentation has already started, you need to use the original and current Brix to calculate the SG using a calculator like this: Homebrew Refractometer Calculator That's because the presence of alcohol changes the Brix reading.

I was curious, so I used another calculator (Brix Conversion Calculator - Brewer's Friend) to convert your SG readings to Brix. Asusming that you took those readings with a Refractometer, the final SG needs to be corrected using the first calculator. Here are the results:

Blackberry
SG 1.11 = Brix 25.9 = potential ABV 15.8%
SG 1.025 = Brix 6.3 = corrected SG 0.973

Plum
SG 1.095 = Brix 22.7 = potential ABV 13.4%
SG 1.025 = Brix 6.3 = corrected SG 0.982

Cider
SG 1.05 = Brix 12.4 = potential ABV 6.6%
SG 1.02 = Brix 5.1 = corrected SG 1.002

The Blackberry and Plum look like there are right where they should be. The cider final SG seems a little high, or perhaps your measurement was a little off.

I suggest that when you use the refractometer that you record your reading in Brix rather than SG. Then you can use the calculator to calculate the corrected final SG.
 
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