Possible Issues (requesting advice)

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Feb 16, 2010
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I am currently in the process of making 2 wines. The first batch is an Orange and Banana (very delicious!) and the other is a Grapefruit and Banana (I only made this last one because I felt like experimenting). As for sugar, I used a blend of table sugar, dark brown sugar, and maple syrup.

Here are my 2 issues/potential problems. The 1st is the most important and the 2nd I wouldn't mind throwing out, though I would be interested in how it tastes after it ages (3mths-6mths-1yr).

1# Both wines are 8 days old. The first one is the one that I'm worried about, though they both share the upcoming issue. ISSUE: there are tiny, presumably banana, particles suspended in the wine and on top of the yellow and white foam (cap). The only reason I can tell these particles apart from the rest of the deeply yellow colored mixture (body) is because there are several dark "dots" on the cap, which makes me assume that there might be a few inside, especially since during the primary fermentation I would mix, twice daily, the cap back in with the rest of the body. Anyway, the black specks seem to indicate spoilage, however, the bananas were a few days short of being ripe (still young), and furthermore, the alcohol percentage is set at about 7-8%. I have read somewhere that if the alcohol percentage is lower than 10% then the fruit is in danger of spoilage, but then, the wine is still quite sweet and this in itself acts as a preservative.

I don't have all the numbers. I made my own hydrometer and it indicates that my wine is in between 7-8% alcohol. I hope to get the alcohol level up to 11-15%.

2# The second wine (grapefruit and banana) was made at the last minute and in a large sanitized pickle jar. I don't really care what happens to it but I am interested in why it's not doing as well as the former. The fermentation process is very slow and it does not have a cap on top, only a thin white bubbly ring around the edges. It has a fizz to it which lets me know that the yeast is still active. It started out as strong as the first one, but for some reason it has slowed prematurely (it's still sweet) and it has been like this for several days now. Anyway, I made both at the same time and with the same techniques so I don't really understand why this is happening, although, it may be a problem with the level of acidity. Isn't a grapefruit more acidic than an orange? I suppose, though I an unable to check (the wine) because I don't have a pH measure - though, I could probably make one! Heh.

So, any possible solutions? For 1#, is filtration an option? Should I even worry about it? Thanks!

By the way, I don't have any Campden tablets.
For numer one, did you add pectic enzyme? ?It's not that big of a deal. just stir your must daily and keep an eye on your hydrometer readings. When your wine raches 1.035 or so, rack off the lees and allow the fermentation to finish to about .996. Then be sure to degass, add kmeta and it will start to clear on it's own.
Number two.. wines with a lot of citric acid are tough to start and tough to keep going. as before, stir you wine well and keep it around 70 to 75 degrees F. Take a reading with your hydrometer.
What type of yeast are you using and what amount of wine are you making?
Yes, I was wondering the strain of yeast you're using. That would be useful.

Troy, interesting question on the hydrometer.
Kev, you seem pretty resourceful, making your own hydrometer and all. You say you are worried about spoilage, geez man, too bad you can't make your own campden! LOL. This an important addition to any wine/beer must. Campden is also known as Potassium Metabisulfite or sodium Metabisulfite. it is also what most use to sanitize EVERYTHING that touches your wine. Most of us use the powder, if you can get it. A typical sanitizing solution is 2 TBLS per gallon for cleaning equipment,, for your wine, about a 1/4 teaspoon is good for 5 gallons.

Get some for the next batch, and buy a hydrometer, they can be found for less than ten dollars. Wine making isn't an exact science, but certain steps and procedures need to be followed to assure success. Sanitizing your equipment and your must are two of those steps, and the most important.

It's REALLY easy to make your own hydrometer. Depending on how sophisticated you want to make it, it can cost you anywhere from $0 to ... It can even cost you more to make it than to buy it but in that case you wouldn't have the satisfaction of making it yourself. Go figure.

My hydrometer is the "hooch" of all hydrometers but it does the trick quite nicely!

I have a few more questions....

1. About methanol. I read somewhere that 10ml of methanol can cause blindness. This concerns me. I know how to extract it during distillation but I don't plan on making brandy anytime soon so what are some steps I can take to prevent its production in the first place? How does methanol occur in wine? I suppose a sterilizer would be a deterrent but I've heard that methanol is present in very small doses in almost every alcoholic beverage, however, due to its minute quantities, it poses virtually no risk. I hope so.

2. About temperature during fermentation (secondary, in my case). My room is around 60-65F, at best, so in order to heat my fermenting wine, I used to place it on the heating duct (whatever you call it) wrapped in blankets after having increased the furnace to 25C. My mom didn't like this. So then I took my grandmother's electric blanket. That worked really well but then she found out. Now I use one of those... I forgot what you call it. It's usually used when one has a cold; it's rubber and you pour hot water into it, etc. Now, I do this 1-3 times a day, and so, the wine gets warm (quite warm!) and then it cools down (quite cool!). Is this temperature change throughout the day OK, or am I slowly harming my wine? I ask because I kept seeing, temperature is VERY important, everywhere. By the way, the temperature fluctuates from something like 15C to 30C. I know that this won't kill the yeast, but it will stress it out, which I read somewhere, is also bad for the wine.

The yeast I'm using is Lalvin EC118. Works well under low temperatures and I believe it's a slow fermentation since it is a champagne yeast (I asked for wine and he gave me champagne). Nonetheless, I like to quicken its pace, so that's why I heat it. I really do hope this is OK.

I guess that's it. Thanks for responding. I may have a few extra questions tomorrow. Bye.

I will be purchasing some Campden and more yeast in a few days. Plus, some juice. Is it alright if the juice contains sulphites? Will the yeast still work? Heh. I have a little wine factory under my bed!
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Oh boy, I'll have to take a minute to respond. This should be an interesting thread. This could be as much fun as Mr. Novice.