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Primary fermentation

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OlegCS

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Hi Guys,

Any good way to tell if primary fermentation is completed? Yes, I can get a hydrometer and check the readings for several days and see if the reading is still the same, BUT:

- The process started 16 days ago
- 1 gallon jug is still bubbling every 15 seconds
- I feel if I continue shaking it a couple of times per day it will continue bubbling for a very long time. much longer than most suggest primary fermentation should take.
- All sugar is gone from the bottom.
- I feel that checking SG is a huge hustle. Pour must into another container, remove the berries, check SG, pour everything back to the jug. This will introduce oxygen, more bacteria, messy process.
- Is it really important to wait until primary fermentation is completed?

The recipe:
5.5lb of blueberries
2.5 lb of sugar
3Tbl spoons of dark raisins.
1 cup of water

Yes, I am as new as they get but please do not be afraid to hurt my feelings. Shoot straight!

Thank you.
 
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Arne

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Get the hydrometer. Any other way is just guessing. Things can quit and go still and the ferment still may not be done. Get a test tube when you buy the hydrometer, take a bit of the must out of the jug. Sanitize the tube and hydrometer, spritzing with a k-meta solution will do it. Put the must or wine in the tube and float they hydrometer. You can put the wine back in the fermenter when you are done. Way easier to do than type. Right now are you still fermenting or is the wine degassing? They hydrometer will tell you. Good luck with it, Arne.
 

cgallamo

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- Is it really important to wait until primary fermentation is completed?
This is a big question. In my opinion it is not that critical, but you will have to rack twice, and it will be little lighter because you are off the blueberry skins sooner. It depends on how you want to do your wine, you could probably tell if there was significant sugar remaining by tasting it. How did you fit all that into a one gallon container? Do you have two jugs?
 

Scooter68

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Key tools (Gotta have to do it right.) in winemaking are:

1) A Wine Thief for extracting samples of wine must for tests
2) Testing Tube to hold your hydrometer and wine while testting
3) Hydrometer
4) pH /TA testing equipment/materials. (pH is much easier to test and can be done before returning SG test samples to the container)

All in all cutting these corners will have you guessing where things are at. WITH these things you have a very solid understanding of how the fermentation is progressing and when to take each step.

There will always be another piece of equipment that you really need (??? - Well we think we need it.) but these 4 things will help you keep your wine making on track.

By the way, there should never be any un-desolved sugar sitting at the bottom of a fermentation container. It should always be dissolved and mixed into the must before taking SG readings and before pitching the yeast. Otherwise you will have no idea what the real starting SG was nor will you know what ABV you have or even if you can finish fermentation with the yeast you used.
 

OlegCS

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This is a big question. In my opinion it is not that critical, but you will have to rack twice, and it will be little lighter because you are off the blueberry skins sooner. It depends on how you want to do your wine, you could probably tell if there was significant sugar remaining by tasting it. How did you fit all that into a one gallon container? Do you have two jugs?
Wine is already very dark. Because I am using a lot of sugar and only relying on wild yeast wine remains sweet even when fermentation stopped due to the alcohol level.
Everything fit in one jug. It was 2" short of being full. I had to remove two cups of berries one week into the fermentation process because wine began coming out of airlock.
 

OlegCS

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Key tools (Gotta have to do it right.) in winemaking are:

1) A Wine Thief for extracting samples of wine must for tests
2) Testing Tube to hold your hydrometer and wine while testting
3) Hydrometer
4) pH /TA testing equipment/materials. (pH is much easier to test and can be done before returning SG test samples to the container)

All in all cutting these corners will have you guessing where things are at. WITH these things you have a very solid understanding of how the fermentation is progressing and when to take each step.

There will always be another piece of equipment that you really need (??? - Well we think we need it.) but these 4 things will help you keep your wine making on track.

By the way, there should never be any un-desolved sugar sitting at the bottom of a fermentation container. It should always be dissolved and mixed into the must before taking SG readings and before pitching the yeast. Otherwise you will have no idea what the real starting SG was nor will you know what ABV you have or even if you can finish fermentation with the yeast you used.
Thank you for the list of the toys I need to get. "A Wine Thief for extracting samples of wine" I thought it was me for a moment but then realized that it's something else LOL. Any suggestions on pH/TA equipment? I am also considering a heat mat with a controller to keep must at constant temperature.

As far as undissolved sugar goes - this one is difficult. I was using my grandma recipe that only required one glass of water for 2.5 lb of sugar. There is no way to dissolve it until the juice came out of the berries. I guess recording SG at the beginning if it's important to know the alcohol level of the end product. I only need to know if SG stabilized to know if fermentation is completed.
 

Donatelo

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Those are not "toys". They are tools to let you know how your wine is progressing . The sugar should be dissolved in a pan on top of the stove with the water, then put into the must. Stir every day . You will get a much quicker end to the fermentation process.

A good book to buy is "Winemaking" by Stanley and Dorothy Anderson.
 

DoctorCAD

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Right now, you are not making wine. You are guessing about making wine, which may be perfectly fine. But, if you want to make wine, get the tools.

You don't build a house using a rock instead of a hammer, do you?
 

OlegCS

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Those are not "toys". They are tools to let you know how your wine is progressing . The sugar should be dissolved in a pan on top of the stove with the water, then put into the must. Stir every day . You will get a much quicker end to the fermentation process.

A good book to buy is "Winemaking" by Stanley and Dorothy Anderson.
Thank you Donatelo. I did not mean to hurt anyone's feelings by calling these tools toys. In fact I am a systematic person and keep record of what I am doing. The recipe that I was using only requires 1 cup of water per 2.5lb of sugar. I am afraid if I try to dissolve the sugar it will turn into a syrup.
 

OlegCS

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Right now, you are not making wine. You are guessing about making wine, which may be perfectly fine. But, if you want to make wine, get the tools.

You don't build a house using a rock instead of a hammer, do you?
yes, you are absolutely correct. The reason I decided to join this forum is to get tips from pros like yourself and get better without ruining a lot of good food.
 

wildhair

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Thank you Donatelo. I did not mean to hurt anyone's feelings by calling these tools toys. In fact I am a systematic person and keep record of what I am doing. The recipe that I was using only requires 1 cup of water per 2.5lb of sugar. I am afraid if I try to dissolve the sugar it will turn into a syrup.
I started just about like you are a couple years ago with a baig batch of black raspberries - then I found this forum........
2.5 # of sugar is about 2.5 cups of sugar - added to 1 cup of water it will make a syrup, but that's fine. Sometimes I dissolve sugar before adding, but most of the time I like to use pure juice, so I don't dissolve sugar in water - I just mix it into the must. Like everyone said - get the hydrometer. Get a plastic tube for using the hydrometer - trust me - the glass ones break easy.
Mix up some sanitizer (StarSan is good or the pot meta) and put it in a spray bottle. spritz the tube & hydrometer. I just take a 9oz. paper cup, spritz it inside and out and dip out a cup full & pour it in the tube. Drop in the hydrometer. Pour it back after you get your reading. Easy.
The first stage of fermenting, the must needs oxygen. I put a towel over the primary. Once the vigorous fermentation slows - you need to rack it into another container (secondary fermenter) & use the airlock to finish fermenting.

You might also want to stop shaking it every day so the lees can settle. It will still be very cloudy when you rack it into the secondary, but should begin to settle out.
 

Johnd

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Hi Guys,

Any good way to tell if primary fermentation is completed? Yes, I can get a hydrometer and check the readings for several days and see if the reading is still the same, BUT:

- The process started 16 days ago
- 1 gallon jug is still bubbling every 15 seconds
- I feel if I continue shaking it a couple of times per day it will continue bubbling for a very long time. much longer than most suggest primary fermentation should take.
- All sugar is gone from the bottom.
- I feel that checking SG is a huge hustle. Pour must into another container, remove the berries, check SG, pour everything back to the jug. This will introduce oxygen, more bacteria, messy process.
- Is it really important to wait until primary fermentation is completed?

The recipe:
5.5lb of blueberries
2.5 lb of sugar
3Tbl spoons of dark raisins.
1 cup of water

Yes, I am as new as they get but please do not be afraid to hurt my feelings. Shoot straight!

Thank you.
Starting with one cup of water and 2.5 pounds of sugar (which has a SG of 1.433), even if your blueberries diluted the must down to 1.215 (which it won’t), would yield an alcohol content of 30% if your natural yeast could do it, which it can’t. I’m surprised fermentation even started in this sugary environment. The best of cultured yeast can only take you to 18% or so. You’ll end up with a super sweet solution with some alcohol that I wouldn’t call wine.

Buy a hydrometer, read some books, learn about winemaking, ask the fine folks here all of the questions you like, and give it another try with a must that will give you a final ABV in the 10-15% range when fermentation is complete. You can always sweeten to taste later.
 

OlegCS

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I started just about like you are a couple years ago with a baig batch of black raspberries - then I found this forum........
2.5 # of sugar is about 2.5 cups of sugar - added to 1 cup of water it will make a syrup, but that's fine. Sometimes I dissolve sugar before adding, but most of the time I like to use pure juice, so I don't dissolve sugar in water - I just mix it into the must. Like everyone said - get the hydrometer. Get a plastic tube for using the hydrometer - trust me - the glass ones break easy.
Mix up some sanitizer (StarSan is good or the pot meta) and put it in a spray bottle. spritz the tube & hydrometer. I just take a 9oz. paper cup, spritz it inside and out and dip out a cup full & pour it in the tube. Drop in the hydrometer. Pour it back after you get your reading. Easy.
The first stage of fermenting, the must needs oxygen. I put a towel over the primary. Once the vigorous fermentation slows - you need to rack it into another container (secondary fermenter) & use the airlock to finish fermenting.

You might also want to stop shaking it every day so the lees can settle. It will still be very cloudy when you rack it into the secondary, but should begin to settle out.
Yes! Thank you. I did not know that at some point I should stop shaking the must. I guess I am going to let my current batch that is over two weeks old to sit for a few days (suggestions how many?) and then filter it and begin second fermentation. Now, in your post you said "The first stage of fermenting, the must needs oxygen." Does it mean that the entire first stage I should not use the airlock or just for a few days?
 

OlegCS

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Starting with one cup of water and 2.5 pounds of sugar (which has a SG of 1.433), even if your blueberries diluted the must down to 1.215 (which it won’t), would yield an alcohol content of 30% if your natural yeast could do it, which it can’t. I’m surprised fermentation even started in this sugary environment. The best of cultured yeast can only take you to 18% or so. You’ll end up with a super sweet solution with some alcohol that I wouldn’t call wine.

Buy a hydrometer, read some books, learn about winemaking, ask the fine folks here all of the questions you like, and give it another try with a must that will give you a final ABV in the 10-15% range when fermentation is complete. You can always sweeten to taste later.
Johnd, I understand that sugar might act as a preservative and not allow the fermentation process to begin. In my case a lot of sugar was not dissolved so the fermentation would begin and then sugar slowly dissolving as yeast consume the sugar in the water/juice. You are also absolutely correct, the result that I got was not exactly wine. It was more like a liquor with strong blueberry flavor and very low alcohol level.

I will definitely get a hydrometer. Would you recommend which one is good? Money is important but I usually go for quality.
 

wildhair

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Yes! Thank you. I did not know that at some point I should stop shaking the must. I guess I am going to let my current batch that is over two weeks old to sit for a few days (suggestions how many?) and then filter it and begin second fermentation. Now, in your post you said "The first stage of fermenting, the must needs oxygen." Does it mean that the entire first stage I should not use the airlock or just for a few days?
In my limited experience - the first stage, where the SG begins around 1.090 and goes to 1.020 - 1.010 takes about a week +/- a few days. Depends on temp, yeast, nutrient, etc. During that stage, I keep the primary covered with a towel and stir every day. Once you reach 1.010 on the hydrometer and you rack into the secondary - put in the airlock and no more shaking. At that point - I test the SG once a week instead of every day. Allow the dead yeast to settle out and the wine will begin to clear. When it reaches 1.000 or less for 3 days or more - it's done fermenting and is dry.

You could add more water to lower the sugar level and/or add a yeast energizer IF your fermentation has stopped before getting to the 1.000 on your hydrometer. Which is WHY you need a hydrometer. Good luck!
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B008S0KNZG/?tag=skimlinks_replacement-20
 
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Johnd

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I will definitely get a hydrometer. Would you recommend which one is good? Money is important but I usually go for quality.
You can go to any of the online brew / wine suppliers, FineVineWines, Label Peelers, MoreWine, etc., and look at their products and decide what fits your needs. Prices range anywhere from just a few dollars to upwards of a hundred or more for lab grade equipment. I started out with a mid range one that read the entire range of wine making SG's, with the triple scale (SG, BRIX, %ABV), and it worked just fine. As I progressed, I have acquired two separate hydrometers, one that reads the upper end of the BRIX scale (18-30 IIRC) and one that reads the lower end near completion of AF. Regardless of how much you spend or the ultimate quality, any of them are better than nothing. The hydrometer is your road map, helping you craft your must, before fermentation, with the proper amount of sugar to yield a wine with balanced ABV for the style of wine you've chosen. It is your monitor of fermentation progress during the entire process of AF, and the tool used to determine when AF is complete and how much sugar you may or may not have left in your wine. Invaluable tool.....................
 

Scooter68

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Basic hydrometers are simple tools. Some have colored markings other plain. For a Hydrometer I would spend more than about $20.00 or there abouts. (Oh and buy 2 of them ) - Most folks here have broken one or two and doing that without a spare when you are about to kick off another batch.... well that's one definition frustration to me.

For your pH meter you can find them anywhere from $20.00 Up to hundreds. Again if you are just getting started I'd go with something well under $100.00 - just don't neglect to get a supply of calibration liquid. Regardless of the pH meter price.... they ALL have to have the calibration checked at least every 2-3 months. if you pay less than $40-50 and it dies or you drop and break it in a year or two no big deal. You buy one for Over $100.00 and break or kill it and it might sting your wallet a bit to replace it.
 

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