Newbie brewing Strawberry Wine

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Hello!

I'm a uk based first timer :D We are at peak strawberry season here and I got my hands on several kilos of magnificent british strawberries for jam and wine making.

I've done about as much research as I can and it seems like everyone does it a little differently. This morning after sanitizing everything I hulled and mashed the strawberries, added the sugar and let it macerate for a couple hours, then added the boiling water. After it cooled down a smidgen, I added two crushed campden tablets (1 per gallon) and am going to let it sit for 24 hrs. Tomorrow I will add my yeast / nutrient / tannin / citric acid, pop the airlock on and let it do its thing.

Theres a few things though that my recipe and the youtube videos I've watched have been vague about and I was kind of hoping you guys could help me.

With regards to the airlock, some people have said to fill it with water, others said sanitizer. I'm using a sanitizer that comes in powder form, can I dissolve some in water and use that or do I need something else?

And, once my fruit is out tomorrow and the next stage begins, how long does it last, usually? Everyone is super vague on this, do I just let it sit until there are no bubbles in the airlock? And when it's ready to go into demijohns, do I dissolve and add another campden tablet? If so does it have to sit at all before I transfer it to the demijohns?

So many questions, I'm sorry :p I just really really need this to turn out gorgeous and nothing whatsoever to go wrong or my partner is going to be very cross about all this money I've spent on brewing supplies 😂

I really appreciate any advice you can give me as well, or things to watch out for!

Cheers!
 

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salcoco

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I assume the sanitizer in powder form is potassium metabisulphite. if so I find a affective potion is 3 grams of powder with 11 grams of tartaric acid in one gallon of water. this can be placed in the air lock as well as in a spray bottle. I use the spray bottle to spray any tool that comes in contact with the wine or must. I suggest the best method during fermentation is to cover the pail and stir at least once a day. CO2 will still protect the fermentation. monitor with your hydrometer until wine achieves at least an sg =1020 then siphon into another carboy or demijohn then add airlock . monitor wine until it achieves a sg=to 1.000 or less. wait three days post sg=1.00 and rack off of gross lees. add powdered sanitizer , 1/4 tsp for 5 gallons. rack again in three weeks off of fine lees. let wine clear make take a few months. add powdered sanitizer at three months. do taste test and if preferred bench trials to back sweeten . if back sweetening find the desire level then add potassium sorbate and the sanitizer., then bottle. Good Luck
 

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Hi Cherry Puffling - and welcome.

There is really no need to fill an airlock with anything other than water. Just be sure to sanitize the airlock. If your airlock has lines that suggest the maximum volume of liquid no change in air-pressure is going to suck the water back so that it drips into your wine and as I say if the airlock was properly sanitized any water that might drip from the water trap as you insert it won't have any bacteria that will affect your must or wine.

You used boiling water so you are setting pectins in the fruit. You want then to add pectic enzyme BEFORE you pitch (add) the yeast. Pectic enzyme will break down the pectins and prevent the wine from having a cloudy haze finish. The enzyme will also help extract more juice from the fruit.

One of the problems that people often find when making strawberry wine is that while the wine starts off very red it can drop all color and become a strawberry blonde. The wine needs acidity to help fix the color (by "fix" I mean to prevent the color from dropping out). I think you need a pH of around 3.2 to keep the wine from becoming orange in color. And the addition of tannins can help prevent color degradation too. A wine that has too much ethanol (too high an ABV is also likely to degrade the color pigments provided by the fruit.

You could crush a Campden tablet for every gallon of wine you rack from the primary bucket into a carboy or demijohn. They provide about 50 ppm free SO2 and that is a good amount to inhibit oxidation but the lower the pH (the more acidic the wine) the less free SO2 it will need. Note that pH itself does not really affect the taste. pH is a measure of the strength of the acids in solution. Taste is affected not by the strength of the acids but the amount of the acids and that is measured by TA. You want by measurement a TA of about 6g/L but your tongue is a good tool. If a wine tastes bright and fresh then the TA is about where it needs to be. If it tastes dull and blah then the TA is too low (TA moves in the opposite direction of pH). If the wine tastes like lemon juice then the TA is too high.
 
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Hi! Yes I was going to add pectolase before I pitch the yeast tomorrow ...I had planned to add the citric acid, tannin and yeast/yeast nutrients directly after-- do I need to let the pectolase do its job for a bit first? With the airlocks, there is no line that I can detect :-/ I was just going to fill it half way the way I've seen folks on youtube do it.

I planned to wrap the demijohns in brown paper and will use finings later on to try and keep the colour and clarity as bright and clear as possible.

Er...how does one go about testing the PH precisely? (Edit: scrap that, I just ordered test strips haha) And indeed, how does one adjust it if needed? I've purchased a hydrometer of course, and am aiming for 14% abv. I still need to learn how to sweeten it later if necessary but that can come later.

Thank you both for taking the time to respond, I appreciate it hugely and am trying to absorb all I can.
 
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BernardSmith

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If you haven't added all the sugar yet I would aim for a lower ABV wine. In the first place wine is all about balance and strawberries are not as rich in flavors as wine grapes. When you ferment strawberries the flavors need to balance with the flavors from the fruit. At 14% ABV you may find that the alcohol will overpower the fruit and give you more burn for your money than flavor. Balance is also about balancing the (perceived) sweetness, acidity and tannin and again, wine grapes are tannin rich. Not sure how tannin rich strawberries are and that is what gives a wine spine. A weak spined high ABV wine (14% is quite high given that many, if not most commercial wines are about 12%) may not be as wonderful to drink as a similar wine made at a lower ABV. All that said, if I were you, I would aim for a starting gravity of about 1.090 (about 12% ABV).

To change pH you add more acids if the pH is too high and more base (calcium chloride - food grade) if too low. You want the pH to be about 3.5 - 3.2 when you pitch the yeast. (a pH of 7 is the pH of distilled water). You are planning adding citric acid and citric is ONE of the dominant acids found in strawberries. The other is malic and your local home brew store will have small bags of malic acid if you wanted to add a blend of acids that more replicated the notes they create in strawberries.

I don't know that you need to wrap your carboys in paper to keep out the light. Sure standing the carboys in direct sunlight will degrade the wine color but wine is not hopped beer. Just keep the carboy away from the windows and in a room without bright lights. (A cupboard or closet is perfect.

Filling you airlock half way is perfect.

Adding pectolase say 6 -12 hours before you add the yeast is the only restriction I would suggest. The enzyme tends to break down in alcohol so you want to give the enzyme an opportunity to do its work in water. Also, if you have not yet begun to make this wine yet, you might freeze the fruit. When you freeze fruit like strawberries the ice crystals that form inside the fruit tear and rip the cell walls and the fruit expels a far greater volume of juice when it thaws. Freezing soft fruit is a well established method of extracting juice. You let the process itself extract the juice rather than any effort on your part.

One last thought, if you can I would add the fruit before you begin, to a muslin cheese cloth "bag" you make or to a nylon painters filter bag. This makes pressing the fruit before you rack (transfer) it to a second carboy for aging after active fermentation has ended. Alternatively, you can , after racking, pour the fruit into a bag and then press it to extract much of the juice. You don't want to press too hard but between your hands or by squeezing the bag you will extract the juice and not a great deal of fruit.
 
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Hi, sorry for the delayed reply, it's been a busy time!

I had already added all my sugar, just following the recipe, I didn't know I should hold some back. I also did use a fruit bag :) Sadly I could not freeze the fruit beforehand, no room in my tiny freezer.

I let the pectolase do its job for 24hrs before I added the citric acid and tannin. I tested the ph, which came back 3.4 ...hopefully that's not too high...and then pitched my rehydrated yeast and nutrients. I took a sample and the hydrometer reads 1.100 precisely. I half filled the airlock, made sure there's was nothing that could drip and have put it in. Now I wait for the bubbles I guess! I am slightly concerned about the yeast. I've used lalvin 71B and I was a little surprised it didn't foam while rehydrating, though I did it at the temps stated on the pack. Hopefully it's ok. I've read wine yeast doesn't always foam like bread yeast does. If there are no bubbles in the airlock within 48 hrs I shall panic and add another pack, I have more coming tomorrow!

I do hope I can keep most of the colour, it's a rather gorgeous pinkish red in the fermenter and a beautiful blushing rose in the hydrometer's test beaker. It's okay if this wine is not perfect, I am learning so much as I go, as long as it's fruity and pleasant to drink, I'm happy. For now. Perfection is a journey!

Thank you so much for the great advice! I know where to come for help moving forward, you guys are fab!

Cheers!
 

Scooter68

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For your strawberry wine, test strips for pH measurement may work, but; for darker wines reading a test strip becomes rather like reading a small print book by moonlight at new moon time. So if you are going to do more wine making, consider investing in a digital pH meter. They do require calibration (Regardless of how much you spend on one) but the accuracy is so much better and no moonlight required.
 

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I do hope I can keep most of the colour,
. It's okay if this wine is not perfect, I am learning so much as I go, as long as it's fruity and pleasant to drink, I'm happy. For now. Perfection is a journey!
My point of view is a food product developer so I/we cheat. We formulate products with several ingredients to build traits as colour. My favorite red color is black or red raspberry juice, it is intense and fifty ml. in a four liter batch will fix a pink without changing flavor. A number of other foods also give soluble stable colour, ex red sumach, cranberry, red cabbage extract, mulberry (10 ml not a lot of juice), blackberry juice (also gives astringent notes), red fleshed crab apple (some also are tannin sources). You are actively fermenting and can safely add a few ml of intense colour fresh juice for a few weeks.
I like that perfection is a journey :dbhow many times has the new years crop changed and a recipe needs to be tweaked to copy what was made last year. If you like cooking (playing with food) you will be a good wine maker.
 
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If you like cooking (playing with food) you will be a good wine maker.
I am a keen culinary enthusiast, baker and food photographer. I'm also autistic and obsessive about achieving perfection even if it takes me 500 tweaks and tries haha.

My wine has been bubbling away in the primary fermenter (bucket) for a couple days now. I must admit I am terrified to open it for anything, is it safe to do so and add things? I thought I had to wait and keep air out until it stopped bubbling, then add campden and syphon it into demijohns,... bleah my brain is total mush, I just got vaccinated yesterday and I got all the dang side effects, imma mess lol. I like the idea though of red or black raspberry to boost the colour, howand when so I safely do that? is that a specific extract or concentrate or juice you press yourself or just like....shop bought juice?
 

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you can safely open and add while it is actively bubbling (gravity over 1.010). You should minimize air after it is at 1.000, that said you are opening the fermentor to rack at a week age so you could use other color as something to help top off/ fill the head space.
My wine has been bubbling away in the primary fermenter (bucket) for a couple days now. I must admit I am terrified to open it for anything, is it safe to do so and add things? I thought I had to wait and keep air out until it stopped bubbling, then add campden and syphon it into demijohns,... bleah my brain is total mush, I just got vaccinated yesterday and I got all the dang side effects, imma mess lol. I like the idea though of red or black raspberry to boost the colour, howand when so I safely do that? is that a specific extract or concentrate or juice you press yourself or just like....shop bought juice?
my favorite tool to make 100 ml of a juice is a potato masher.
4C4A6AF3-2C88-43D2-9D0D-8DC277B92091.jpeg
As a food photographer I bet you have seen that not all cooking is pretty so use a propane torch to correct the colors. My sample of cabbage juice is from a supplier.
 

winemaker81

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My wine has been bubbling away in the primary fermenter (bucket) for a couple days now. I must admit I am terrified to open it for anything, is it safe to do so and add things?
Absolutely! You want to stir the must at least once per day, pushing down any cap that may form. If the cap (fruit solids) dries out, mold can grow.

Most of us put a towel over the primary, to keep stuff out while allowing air flow. During fermentation, the yeast uses O2 for replication, so covering with a towel works well. AFTER fermentation, then you want to eliminate air.

You can add commercial juice -- preferably 100% juice with no preservatives. Pour in a few ounces, stir to blend, add more as needed.

Keep in mind that the recipe is more-or-less just guidelines. You can blend any fruit and/or juice that you want. That may alter the flavor and/or color, but as long as you are satisfied with the result, it's good.
 
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Absolutely! You want to stir the must at least once per day, pushing down any cap that may form. If the cap (fruit solids) dries out, mold can grow.
Yikes!!! I did not realise this. I will give it a good stir every day. How will I know if it's ready to be racked? Should I just do it after a week even if there's still activity?
 

winemaker81

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Yikes!!! I did not realise this. I will give it a good stir every day. How will I know if it's ready to be racked? Should I just do it after a week even if there's still activity?
Especially during fermentation, wine is very forgiving, so you're probably fine.

Do not use time to determine when to rack -- use a hydrometer. Fermentation is a natural process that is affected by many factors, so there is no certain time in which it will complete.

You can rack at any point between 1.020 and "done" (typically < 0.997). Some folks rack closer to 1.020 to help preserve aroma, others nearer to "done" to extract more from the fruit. There is no wrong answer.

I typically rack fruit between 1.000 and 1.010, leaving some activity in the wine. When I move the wine to a carboy, I leave extra headspace (several inches) to avoid a vigorous fermentation blowing chunks through the airlock. At this point I leave the wine for 7-14 days -- fermentation completes and the gross lees (mostly fruit solids) starts dropping. I rack again after the gross lees starts to compact -- the layer builds up, then shrinks as the solids compact. You lose less wine this way.

After this you want minimal headspace, a few inches (3 to 6 cm) from the bottom of the stopper.
 

Rembee

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Maybe this will help.
Day 1 - To a bucket of sufficient size, add juice, smashed up fruit in a brew bag, any water needed as per your recipe, potassium metabisulfite, sugar to obtain the correct starting SG, pectic enzyme and adjust ph. Give a good stir. Cover bucket with a towel or cheese cloth. Let sit for 12 to 24 hours to allow enzymes to work.
Day 2 - recheck SG and ph. Make any adjustments. Add your yeast nutrient and tannins if the recipe calls for them.
Stir bucket and then pitch the yeast. Recover the bucket.
Day 3 - Stir bucket and squeeze fruit in the brew bag with clean hands. Check SG. Recover the bucket.
Repeat this process everyday until SG is between a 1.020 and 1.010. Then squeeze juice from brew bag and remove the bag with fruit. Now you can rack into a glass carboy or demijohn and place under an airlock. Allow fermentation to complete. Once fermentation has completed, you can now add the recommended amount of potassium metabisulfite for the amount of wine you have made.
At this point you have now entered into the clarification stage of wine making. Letting the wine settle and clear. You can also degas the wine which will aid in the clearing process or allow it to degas on its own.
This is basic steps in wine making.
 
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Whoa whoa whoa. This is completely different than the recipe I am following :eek: Have I completely screwed this up?? I just did what the recipe said to.

Day 1 - hulled and chopped 4kg of strawberries, added them to bucket, mashed with a potato masher until it was mostly liquid and pulp, then added 3kg of sugar. Left to macerate for 2 hours, then added 8 Litres of boiling water, and two crushed campden tablets. Covered and let sit for 24hrs.

Day 2 - Strained out the fruit using fruit bag / collander and then added pectolase. covered and let sit for 24 hrs.

Day 3 - Added citric acid and tannin, tested the PH which came back as 3.4. Added the rehydrated yeast and yeast nutrient. Took a sample for the gravity test. It came back 1.100. I sealed the lid and set the airlock in place.

Day 4 - The bubbles started appearing in the airlock around 12 hrs after pitching the yeast

Day 5 - Vigorous bubbles in Airlock.

Today - Still bubbling away. It's not been opened or touched. I am about to go sanitise my spoon and give it a stir. Should I take a reading? How often should I be doing that?? Please tell me I don't need to panic that I've wasted 4kgs of strawberries :oops::eek::eek:
 

winemaker81

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Have I completely screwed this up??
You do NOT need to panic. Your recipe works and your wine is fine.

There are dozens, probably hundreds of recipes for strawberry wine floating around. @Rembee's method is different from what you have started. Ignore his recipe for now, since you are on a different path. [FWIW, I'd use his method in the future since I like to ferment with the fruit, but that doesn't matter today.]

I check SG starting typically on Day 4. There isn't enough activity before that so I don't bother. Starting on Day 4, I stir the wine well, then check the SG. Some folks stir more than once per day, which is fine. Check the SG once, as it's not going to change enough that you should check it twice.

Make sure your spoon, hydrometer, and test jar are clean, then sanitize. I used to use a turkey baster to withdraw samples. As long as whatever tool you are using is clean and sanitized, it's fine.

Take your SG reading, then pour the wine back into the fermenter. As long as everything was clean when you started, and you sanitized, this is perfectly safe.
 
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As long as everything was clean when you started, and you sanitized, this is perfectly safe.
Oh thank goodness. Yeah I will definitely do it different next time. I'm learning so much here, thank you! You guys are fantastic. When I make blackberry wine next I will do it the way he said ^^

I've been super anal about making sure everything that comes into contact with the wine has been properly sanitized, no worries there. Even the stuff that doesn't directly touch it, like my measuring spoons when I was adding in the other stuff, the vessels I dissolved the stuff in etc. I even wear a headcover, apron, gloves and sleeves haha. I know it's not needed but better safe than "whoopsie there's a hair in my wine".
 

winemaker81

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@Cherry Puffling, you're normal for a beginner. It's a new adventure and most are paranoid about their wine.

Personally, making sure EVERYTHING is clean is critical to success. Wine is very forgiving, but IMO it's better to give the wine less things to be forgiven.

Hair in the wine? Ask folks about the things they've found in grapes and other fruit ... hair is trivial. :p

Headcover, etc. are not necessary. But if using them makes you comfortable? Then use 'em.
 

Rembee

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Sorry for any confusion. I wasn't trying to scare you. My method is just a guide line that you may or may not use for your next batch of wine. Stay on track with @winemaker81 as he is directing you with this strawberry batch. As he stated, DO not panic, your wine is fine. I merely was giving an alternative method. This is what makes this forum so awesome in our journey as wine makers. Everyone has a different method and helps one another.
Hope all is well and good luck with your 1st batch.
And by the way, welcome to WMT!
 
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Oh my god....what happened??? The colour, it's....so bad...it's an awful shade or orangey pink, like salmon, it was such a beautiful deep pinkish red and now it's...euuch!! And is it supposed to smell like that? Like an extremely yeasty and pungent strawberry??

I...I didn't expect this. I don't know what it means. I'm not sure how to write the hydrometer reading. It was at 1.100 and now it's at the line marked 50...I think its 1.050? Is that where it should be? Attaching photos for reference

Sorry I sound so panicky, I swear I'm not 😅
 

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