"Old Sorbate" trope viz bottle bombs

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bobofthenorth

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I've run into this nonsense in a couple of threads and bit my tongue but I'd like to see the subject aired.

I use sorbate that's a minimum of 2 years old now. Its stored in a sealed container and I simply don't worry about it. I don't bottle anything until it has sat under an airlock for a minimum of a month and typically 6 months to a year. I use the S-shaped airlocks so its easy to tell when activity stops completely. There's never any activity after I add the k-met and k-sorb but if there was I simply wouldn't bottle.

So can somebody explain to me how they end up with bottle bombs? It seems to me bottle bombs are confirmation of bad technique, not indictment of the ingredients.
 

hounddawg

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I've run into this nonsense in a couple of threads and bit my tongue but I'd like to see the subject aired.

I use sorbate that's a minimum of 2 years old now. Its stored in a sealed container and I simply don't worry about it. I don't bottle anything until it has sat under an airlock for a minimum of a month and typically 6 months to a year. I use the S-shaped airlocks so its easy to tell when activity stops completely. There's never any activity after I add the k-met and k-sorb but if there was I simply wouldn't bottle.

So can somebody explain to me how they end up with bottle bombs? It seems to me bottle bombs are confirmation of bad technique, not indictment of the ingredients.
bottle bombs tend to be from people that goes by a time table, i go by a what my must then wine is doing, whites under S airlocks about a year, reds under a S airlock get 2 year,
Dawg
 
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Nonsense? A basic web search proves otherwise. I easily found one reference that states K-sorbate is good for a year or more if stored in a tightly sealed container, protected from heat and light. Many retailers say about the same, although I trust vendors far above retailers for factual information.

This doesn't mean that sorbate is suddenly useless at the one year mark -- it means the vendor is limiting their guarantee of viability. At the one year mark the product may have degraded enough that the vendor refuses liability. It may be fine, but without testing there's no way to know for sure.

Usage comes down to the risk tolerance of the winemaker. When I get a package of sorbate I write the month/year on it, and 12-13 months later I bin it. Why? Because I have no idea how long the product sat in a warehouse and/or in a shop, and my risk tolerance for a renewed fermentation in the bottle says to dump it. Your risk tolerance is several years? Cool.

Regarding no activity in the air lock? That means one of three things: 1) fermentation is complete; 2) stopper seal is not tight; or 3) fermentation is stuck. The hydrometer indicates when fermentation is complete.

How do people produce bottle bombs, AKA min-volcanoes? In general, fermentation was not complete or the wine was backsweetened, and either no sorbate was used, insufficient sorbate was used, the sorbate was expired, the fermentation was not stopped when the sorbate was added (sorbate does NOT stop fermentation), and/or sufficient K-meta was not used in conjunction with the sorbate. In short, user error.
 

sour_grapes

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I've run into this nonsense in a couple of threads and bit my tongue but I'd like to see the subject aired.

I use sorbate that's a minimum of 2 years old now. Its stored in a sealed container and I simply don't worry about it. I don't bottle anything until it has sat under an airlock for a minimum of a month and typically 6 months to a year. I use the S-shaped airlocks so its easy to tell when activity stops completely. There's never any activity after I add the k-met and k-sorb but if there was I simply wouldn't bottle.

So can somebody explain to me how they end up with bottle bombs? It seems to me bottle bombs are confirmation of bad technique, not indictment of the ingredients.

Bob, if I am not mistaken, you are speaking of dry wines? That is, I think you are NOT speaking of wines that you backsweetened. Can you confirm if I am understanding correctly?

AFAIK, the bottle-bomb reports are (mostly) from people that backsweetened, using old K-sorb.
 

Jovimaple

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My friend recently had that happen with a dessert wine kit (Winexpert Apres Choc Raspberry dessert wine kit). He followed the instructions and the timeline.

I bought that same kit twice in the last year and they were quite different - the second kit I got required less water to be added and the directions were a little bit different. The box was the same except the second was bigger since there was more concentrate.

All of this leads me to believe I got 2 different years' worth. I suspect the second one (from Amazon, February 2021) was Winexpert's old formulation and the first one (from my LHBS, in December 2020) was produced after Winexpert changed their process to smaller amount of concentrate in the kit and more water added by the kit maker.

I didn't save the boxes so I can't verify. Nor did my friend. However, the kits and additions are formulated to allow for quick bottling. I am not saying my friend didn't screw it up, but he has been making kits for a while and knows what he's doing. He ordered the kit this summer, I believe, so the kit was at least 6 or 7 months old since production if he got the 2020 run. If he got one that was sitting in a warehouse from 2019, the ingredients might have been past their shelf life for effectiveness.

Luckily for him, he just had leakage and a stained floor in his wine storage room, but no actual explosions.
 
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stickman

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I have seen sorbate MFG data sheets indicate at least a 2yr shelf life, but as indicated by @winemaker81 above, much depends on how long it has been sitting around since repackaging, as well as what type of packaging etc. Plastic bags and containers allow moisture and oxygen transmission over time which accelerates degradation. Brown glass bottle with a desiccant pack and metalized cap liner would give a longer shelf life. Most of the potassium sorbate I've seen is the extruded form, like small noodles, so if it's still in that form and free flowing then chances are good that it will function as expected. I wouldn't trust the sorbate if the extruded shape has degraded to powder. Again as indicated above, is it worth the risk?
 
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I suspect the second one (from Amazon, February 2021) was Winexpert's old formulation and the first one (from my LHBS, in December 2020) was produced after Winexpert changed their process to smaller amount of concentrate in the kit and more water added by the kit maker.
That makes sense.

I am not saying my friend didn't screw it up, but he has been making kits for a while and knows what he's doing.
I like to think that I know what I'm doing. Mostly yes, but sometimes ....

I normally bulk age beer for 4 to 6 weeks between fermentation and bottling, to let it clear so there is less sediment in the bottle. For my last batch I racked after fermentation and without thinking, threw in the priming sugar. It took me a moment to realize what I had done. 💩💩💩

Taking sugar out of the beer is rather tough to accomplish. So I turned to my son and said, "well, we're bottling today. Get 2 cases out of the closet ..." 😂

In this case it wasn't a big deal. Although lack of attention can produce a big problem, like when a friend wasn't paying attention and added 2 tsp acid blend to a wine ... from a K-meta package, as he didn't check the label first.

Luckily for him, he just had leakage and a stained floor in his wine storage room, but no actual explosions.
"bottle bomb" is a commonly used term, but unless the bottles are screwcaps (or otherwise sealed), the more accurate term is "volcano". The bottle won't explode, although the cork may be pushed out, possibly forcefully.

I know of one instance where an explosion did occur -- an acquaintance brought a gallon jug of wine up from his cellar and put it on his kitchen counter, then went to bed. In the morning, wine and glass were all over the place. He believes that the change in temperature coupled with residual CO2 exceeded the container's strength and it blew. Since then I never put wine into a sealed container unless I'm 101% positive fermentation is complete and the wine is degassed.
 
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Scrounging through my chemicals drawer, I found a packet of sorbate (left right) in the back. I compared it to a finishing packet (sorbate + K-meta) I just received with a FWK. The color difference is disturbing.

I believe the sorbate package is about 3 years old. This one is not dated, and between that and the color, it's in the garbage.

sorbate.jpg

As @stickman said, these plastic packets are not good long term storage.
 
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hounddawg

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Nonsense? A basic web search proves otherwise. I easily found one reference that states K-sorbate is good for a year or more if stored in a tightly sealed container, protected from heat and light. Many retailers say about the same, although I trust vendors far above retailers for factual information.

This doesn't mean that sorbate is suddenly useless at the one year mark -- it means the vendor is limiting their guarantee of viability. At the one year mark the product may have degraded enough that the vendor refuses liability. It may be fine, but without testing there's no way to know for sure.

Usage comes down to the risk tolerance of the winemaker. When I get a package of sorbate I write the month/year on it, and 12-13 months later I bin it. Why? Because I have no idea how long the product sat in a warehouse and/or in a shop, and my risk tolerance for a renewed fermentation in the bottle says to dump it. Your risk tolerance is several years? Cool.

Regarding no activity in the air lock? That means one of three things: 1) fermentation is complete; 2) stopper seal is not tight; or 3) fermentation is stuck. The hydrometer indicates when fermentation is complete.

How do people produce bottle bombs, AKA min-volcanoes? In general, fermentation was not complete or the wine was backsweetened, and either no sorbate was used, insufficient sorbate was used, the sorbate was expired, the fermentation was not stopped when the sorbate was added (sorbate does NOT stop fermentation), and/or sufficient K-meta was not used in conjunction with the sorbate. In short, user error.
i keep all my dry stuff in ammo containers , from 30 cal- 50 cal to 20 mm, the latter for my filters ,,no air no light,,,,
Dawg
 
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bobofthenorth

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Bob, if I am not mistaken, you are speaking of dry wines? That is, I think you are NOT speaking of wines that you backsweetened. Can you confirm if I am understanding correctly?

Not necessarily. Whatever it is I'm making it sits in a carboy under airlock for long enough for me to ensure there is no activity. Obviously a dry red is going to sit a lot longer than a batch of Skeeter Pee (which I always backsweeten) but if there's no activity there's no activity. I've got a batch of Chocolate Raspberry Apres sitting on the bench right now that's been there for a couple of months. I wouldn't hesitate to bottle it this afternoon but its going to sit there for at least 6 months and likely a year. Its simply not doing anything and that is what motivated my original post - if people are bottling wines that are still active then that's a procedure problem, not an ingredient problem.
 

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Scrounging through my chemicals drawer, I found a packet of sorbate (left) in the back. I compared it to a finishing packet (sorbate + K-meta) I just received with a FWK. The color difference is disturbing.

I believe the sorbate package is about 3 years old. This one is not dated, and between that and the color, it's in the garbage.

View attachment 82347

As @stickman said, these plastic packets are not good long term storage.
Isn't the packet on the LEFT the one that came with the FWK????
 

Noontime

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Not necessarily. Whatever it is I'm making it sits in a carboy under airlock for long enough for me to ensure there is no activity. Obviously a dry red is going to sit a lot longer than a batch of Skeeter Pee (which I always backsweeten) but if there's no activity there's no activity. I've got a batch of Chocolate Raspberry Apres sitting on the bench right now that's been there for a couple of months. I wouldn't hesitate to bottle it this afternoon but its going to sit there for at least 6 months and likely a year. Its simply not doing anything and that is what motivated my original post - if people are bottling wines that are still active then that's a procedure problem, not an ingredient problem.
Wow, I'm compelled to reply to this because I think your post does more harm than good. There are 2 things wrong with your post calling expired sorbate nonsense; 1) you're contradicting established chemistry fact, that sorbates ability to neuter yeast degrades over time, and other people are ingesting that wrong information. 2) People aren't having bottle bombs because they are bottling actively fermenting wines; they take perfectly clear wine that still has some viable yeast cells present, then add sugar and stabilize with ineffective sorbate, and then get refermentation in the bottle.
Yes, multiple rackings properly performed will minimize (and perhaps possibly eliminate) the amount of viable yeast, but there's still a good chance there's still some there. If someone wants to use chemistry to speed things up a bit... one or two rackings before stabilizing and backsweetening, there's nothing wrong with that. The fact that you are using sorbate at all proves that you do not believe your technique alone prevents refermentation. And you're equating your experience with sorbate as the same as everyone else's. Try using that sorbate 5 to 10 years from now on your backsweetened wines and I'm confidant you will no longer think the idea of old sorbate is nonsense.
 

bobofthenorth

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I've seen confident pronouncements that one year old sorbate needs to be chucked. You're saying 10 years. Regardless, if there's no activity in the carboy there's no activity in the bottle. Procedure - not ingredients.
 

JustJoe

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I backsweeten my rhubarb wine and last year I made 3 batches. All three fermented dry with the SG in the .992 to .994 range and stable for several weeks before I racked into bulk storage. After 6 months in bulk, I added sorbate and backsweetened them. I was either tasting too much as I went or someone distracted me, but I missed one batch with the sorbate. After about three months in the bottle, the batch I missed started pushing the corks out. I opened one bottle to taste it and I got a foam volcano.
So, IMHO being fermented dry and remaining stable for months does not guarantee that all yeast is gone or dead.
 

Jovimaple

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My friend recently had that happen with a dessert wine kit (Winexpert Apres Choc Raspberry dessert wine kit). He followed the instructions and the timeline.

I bought that same kit twice in the last year and they were quite different - the second kit I got required less water to be added and the directions were a little bit different. The box was the same except the second was bigger since there was more concentrate.

All of this leads me to believe I got 2 different years' worth. I suspect the second one (from Amazon, February 2021) was Winexpert's old formulation and the first one (from my LHBS, in December 2020) was produced after Winexpert changed their process to smaller amount of concentrate in the kit and more water added by the kit maker.

I found the instruction sheets for my 2 kits and am able to confirm that the 1st kit I purchased and started in December 2020 (from Midwest Supplies) shows a date code of 0276, or the 276th day of 2020, or October 2nd, 2020.

The 2nd kit I purchased and started in February of 2021 (purchased from a vendor selling through Amazon) shows a date code of 9317, or November 13, 2019. So the ingredients in that kit were over a year old before I purchased it.

I am now taking note of the date code on every kit I purchase, just to make sure I am aware of the age of the ingredients. I bought a kit a few months ago that I have yet to make, and I noticed the date on it is from fall 2020, so I will be watching that one closely when I make it, specifically the yeast and the sorbate (since it's a sweet wine kit).
 
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I've made kits as old as 3 years from manufacture, with good results. If the kit is more than 2 years old, I toss the yeast and the sorbate. Unless it's an Island Mist or dessert kit, I won't need the sorbate, anyway.

I am now taking note of the date code on every kit I purchase, just to make sure I am aware of the age of the ingredients. I bought a kit a few months ago that I have yet to make, and I noticed the date on it is from fall 2020, so I will be watching that one closely when I make it, specifically the yeast and the sorbate (since it's a sweet wine kit).
If you make the kit in the next few months, the yeast is probably fine. If the starter doesn't take off, use a different yeast. [this is a huge advantage of testing an older package of yeast -- if the starter doesn't ignite, you're only out a bit of nutrient.]

The sorbate is probably fine as well, depending on storage conditions at your LHBS. But as I said previously, what matters is your tolerance for risk -- if you don't trust it, sorbate is cheaper than the corks to rebottling 30 bottles ...
 

Jovimaple

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@winemaker81 That's good to know. I was wondering about the shelf life of the juice itself. I have other wines on the list before I had intended to make the watermelon, and while I will probably bump it up a little higher on the priority list, it won't be at the top yet.

I suppose my very first priority should be to clean out the basement to find more room to store everything ... 😁
 

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