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Cogo

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Hello all, Newbie here, on my first batch of winemaking. So, I have started an RJS Cab Sauv kit. Trying to follow the instructions as best I can. Cleaned, Sanitized everything, did the bentonite, added the juice and filled to the 6 gal mark. Mixed. Kit included oak chips, and wine skins. Added those, mixed, and then sprinkled the yeast. Kit instructions say to not mix for 2 days, but the Oak chips, and grape skins and floating at the surface with a very small amount of foaming. Last night a few hours after sealing, there was some bubbling coming thru the airlock, but today none. My question is, do you think I should l go ahead try to punch down the oak & skins (and thereby the yeast) or wait the full 2 days before doing that? I am being a typical no patience newbie, lol? Thanks in advance for any thoughts.
Mark
 

winemaker81

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Welcome to WMT!

As this is your first wine and you purchased from a reputably good vendor, my general recommendation is to follow the instructions. The instructions are designed for a total beginner, who has no qualified help, to make a good wine on the first try. Following the instructions will help make learning easier.

I have 2 suggestion where you may deviate from the instructions:

Fermentation. The instructions generally use duration, saying to rack after a specific period of time, e.g., 10 or 14 days is common. Experienced winemakers usually rely on the hydrometer reading, and it's common to rack between 1.010 and "done", where "done" is the SG <= 0.998 and remains stable for 3 days. [Yeast are not noted for paying attention to calendars.]

Aging. Kit vendors sell kits based upon the anticipated duration, e.g., "4 week wine". You certainly can bottle according to kit schedule -- it works. However, most folks on this forum recommend longer bulk aging. Treat all post-fermentation durations in the instructions as minimum values, e.g., "2 weeks" means "at least 2 weeks". Some folks age their kits for a year before bottling, although I'd recommend at least 4 months between starting and bottling.

A winemaker's best tool is patience. Once fermentation is done, winemaking is a lot like watching grass grow. Mostly it's really boring, punctuated sporadically by a bit of activity. ;)
 

Old Corker

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@winemaker81 always provides great advise. I would go ahead and punch down/stir now. In the early stages of the fermentation you are producing a lot of CO2 so not much chance of oxygenating the wine. Many of us don’t lock down the lid and put the air lock on until that initial aggressive ferment has slowed down some. Just place the lid loosely or even just cover with a towel. Again, only in those first few days when you need to be punching it down once or twice a day
 

winemaker81

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@Old Corker, thanks!

I used to punch down/stir every day, but am waiting at least 24 hours after inoculation to let the yeast colony build up. The advice from FWK is to create a starter and pour it carefully down the side of the fermenter so it doesn't spread much. The colony supposedly grows faster in higher density. I found a site that said essentially the same thing a few months ago, but didn't think to bookmark it.

The principal appears sound -- I've tried various forms of inoculation, and a starter that is allowed to work overnight is the most effective method. In the 4 FWK I've started, all have a perceptible aroma of fermentation within 6 to 8 hours of inoculation. So I don't punch down for 24 hours.

My guess is the RJS instructions to wait 48 hours is for the same purpose. For that reason I recommend sticking with the kit instructions for this batch.
 

Cogo

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Thanks for your reply’s folks. My concern that there was no bubbling coming thru the airlock was unfounded. Actually the lid to my fermenter was not sealed well and once I discovered that and corrected, there is a lot of bubbling/fermenting happening. That was my biggest concern at this point, thinking the yeast was riding high on the un-submerged oak chips/bag of grape skins and thereby not properly beginning the fermentation process. I think I will wait the full 48 hours before punching down/mixing.
 

winemaker81

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@Cogo, lack of movement in the airlock doesn't mean there is no activity. Some ferments, or parts of ferments, can be very slow.

I ferment in an open container covered by a towel. At this moment I have 3 FWK (Syrah, Petite Sirah, & Merlot) in 32 gallon Rubbermaid Brute, covered by an old beach towel. The wine doesn't go under airlock after after the pressing/first racking. Sealing the container is counter-productive for the first part of fermentation.

Note: carbonic maceration is a fermentation technique used to make Beaujolais Nouveau, but that is a special case.

Fermentation is yeast pigging out, eating sugar, peeing alcohol, and farting CO2. If you have a colony, this will happen regardless of what is on the surface, although punching down produces a better situation. We punch down/stir for numerous reasons:
  • Keep the cap from drying out -- a dry cap is a haven for bacteria and mold to grow
  • Extraction of "goodness" from all of the fruit pulp
  • Ensure the yeast gets O2 for reproduction (better ferment)
  • Ensure the wine is homogeneous
 

Cogo

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Thanks again for your comments. Next question ... my SG reading yesterday was 1.000 which was day 9. Very little CO2 (or bubbling) escaping air lock. Kit instructions say "approximate Day 14 should begin the secondary fermentation" . If my SG gets below 1.000 when I take my reading today, am I OK to go ahead rack to the carboy or should I wait a couple more days to get closer to the day 14 number?
 

winemaker81

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am I OK to go ahead rack to the carboy or should I wait a couple more days to get closer to the day 14 number?
Kit instructions indicate duration, as it is simpler to explain. Yeast is notoriously poor at following a calendar, so trust your hydrometer, which is the real indicator of what state the wine is in. You can rack now.
 

Cogo

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Happy Thanksgiving all!
Ok, so I racked yesterday. Followed kit instructions for all of the additives, etc. My siphoning procedure left a lot to be desired, as I had to continually re-plunge the racking cane. Could not get a continual flow. Anyway, that being said, I am pretty sure I brought a good bit of sediment over into the carboy. If I want to re-rack before bottling, how long would you wait to do so?
 

cmason1957

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Happy Thanksgiving all!
Ok, so I racked yesterday. Followed kit instructions for all of the additives, etc. My siphoning procedure left a lot to be desired, as I had to continually re-plunge the racking cane. Could not get a continual flow. Anyway, that being said, I am pretty sure I brought a good bit of sediment over into the carboy. If I want to re-rack before bottling, how long would you wait to do so?
Don't worry, I generally don't. Let it sit for a month or maybe two. Add some extra kmeta and bottle.
 

Cogo

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Ok, now that the wine has been in the secondary for 3 days, and with many weeks ahead of “watching grass grow”, and a perfectly good primary fermenter siting empty, I am antsy to start another batch. My issue is that I have cooled my “cellar”, otherwise known as my shop, to about 65 degrees to facilitate the aging of my current batch, but I feel sure I need to be in the 72 - 77 degree range for primary fermentation. My question is, what are your thoughts/experiences with the heating mats/ pads or belts? Is this a viable way to accomplish this? Are there downsides to fermenting this way? Thanks in advance for any thoughts or ideas.
 

winemaker81

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My last two batches were fermented in my cellar where the temperature ranged from 62 to 67 F.

Let your starter rest overnight in the same location as the fermenter, and pour it into the fermenter slowly, along the side of the container so it doesn't spread much. Fermentation should start with no problem.
 

Cogo

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Thanks folks! Another example that the instructions and books don’t always give you the full story. You folks are a wealth of knowledge. I will save my money and proceed on!
 

winemaker81

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Another example that the instructions and books don’t always give you the full story
Very true. But it's too complex and there are far too many choices you can make (all reasonable). If you haven't, take a look at MoreWine!'s manuals. The Red and White grape manuals are ~70 pages, and even then they are not "complete".

The instructions provided by the reputable kit vendors do the job, providing instructions so a beginner of average intelligence, who has no qualified help, can make a successful batch of wine on the first try. For everything else, you have us! ;)

 

ChuckD

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Happy Thanksgiving all!
Ok, so I racked yesterday. Followed kit instructions for all of the additives, etc. My siphoning procedure left a lot to be desired, as I had to continually re-plunge the racking cane. Could not get a continual flow. Anyway, that being said, I am pretty sure I brought a good bit of sediment over into the carboy. If I want to re-rack before bottling, how long would you wait to do so?
I have this same problem with my racking cane. It's caused by a loose-fitting rubber seal on the cane and oxygen gets sucked into the wine... in my case it introduces a lot of small foaming bubbles. At first, I would pour some of my topping up wine or juice down into the outer tube of the cane and this would get sucked into the wine. I had to pour it in several times for a five-gallon batch. Last time I cooked up a small batch of syrup and poured a cup of this into the cane and it sealed things up completely... the thickness of the syrup did the trick.
 

Rembee

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For a simple fix for the racking cane hose connection I use a stainless steel worm gear fuel clamp. They do not rust and make for a tight fit.

HongWay 25 Packs Hose Clamp, 304 Stainless Steel Adjustable 6-12mm (1/4-7/16 inch) Worm Gear Hose Clamp for for 3/8in Plumbing, Automotive and Mechanical Application HongWay 25 Packs Hose Clamp, 304 Stainless Steel Adjustable 6-12mm (1/4-7/16 inch) Worm Gear Hose Clamp for for 3/8in Plumbing, Automotive and Mechanical Application: Amazon.com: Industrial & Scientific
 

ChuckD

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For a simple fix for the racking cane hose connection I use a stainless steel worm gear fuel clamp. They do not rust and make for a tight fit.
I don't think it's the hose connection. He appears to have the same problem I have had with two different racking canes. The gasket between the inner tube and the outer housing doesn't seal well and it ends up sucking air into the wine as it flows up and out of the carboy. One of my canes is so bad it will lose suction and the siphon will quit. I have tried pumping it again but then I end up pulling the hose out of the clean carboy... very messy business.
 

Rembee

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Ah ok, I misunderstood. I didn't know that it was a auto siphon racking tube. I think that you can purchase a new gasket for them and if not there cheap enough to replace. 😉
 
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