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Question about topping off

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FABulousWines

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Super newbie here. I plan to do my first batch this weekend and trying to get all my ducks in a row. From what I have learned so far it is hugely important to keep the must away from oxygen, especially after fermentation begins to wane. The usual advice is to top off your carboy with water or other wine. It seems to me that practice would dilute or otherwise change the body of the wine. What other ideas are there to prevent oxidation in the carboy?

For example, I located a LHBS who sells a 5 gal carboy as part of his equipment kit. He advises doing the first racking after secondary fermentation from the 6 gal carboy to the 5 gal. The other bit can be placed in a couple of bottles and allow to settle on their own and can be a source to top off the 5 gal when needed. Probably end up with at least 29 bottles with this approach.

What do you all do when working with a 6 gal carboy? I want to know if I should go ahead and purchase the 5 gal carboy or if there are other methods I should be considering. Thanks in advance.
 

Turock

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You will never go wrong buying carboys. Most new wine makers have too few. Then they resort to bottling too early just to get the carboy available. You should try to buy several carboys--and if you stay with the hobby, buy more from time to time. This gives you the option of blending, letting some wines sit on oak,etc. This how, over 24 years of winemaking, we've ended up with 80 carboys, about 30 gallon and 3 liter jugs, etc. One gallon jugs are necessary too---sometimes you have small batches. Too little for a carboy--so the jugs come in really handy for that.

Always top up the carboy or jug--the liquid level should be up in the neck. We don't like adulterating our wines with other wine or water, so we use marbles or glass spheres to fill the carboy or jug up the whole way. By the way--when you get some of those large wine bottles, save them for use as a jug. An assortment of glassware is a good asset to have.
 

FABulousWines

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Thanks Turock. I expected somebody was going to suggest buying the extra carboy anyway. I will probably do that if there aren't any other unforeseen expenses (kinda blew the budget on this already).

Marbles; what a great idea! You can dial in the right amount with the number of marbles you add. I like that! I expect they will need to be sanitized well; but yeah, that'll work.

I've already instructed the Mrs. not to throw out any more empty bottles. I expect I will have to buy a couple of cases for this first batch, but after that we may do reruns on the wine we keep and use new for those we gift. Thanks for the advice; greatly appreciated.
 

Turock

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Put the marbles in some meta solution for a few minutes, then add to carboy.

If you have a recycle center that you access, look in the glass container for bottles. Also, many wine supply shops will have cases of used bottles for sale. When you start out in this hobby, money goes pretty fast--it takes a while to get your supplies up to par. Has happened to all of us.

Get your wine drinking friends to save bottles for you. I hate spending money on them when so many are tossed out.

Welcome to the hobby(obsession)
 

robie

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Acquire 2 or 3 gallon jugs. They are great for storing cleaners and sanitizers.

I like to have several 3 gallon carboys as well. That's because I sometimes like to split a 6 gallon batch (after fermentation) and do different things to each half.

Remember you don't need to top off until after all alcohol fermentation is completed. That means top off after you rack from secondary.

I always end up with 30 bottles for my 6 gallon kits. At each racking, I save the sediment in a small glass jar, store it in the frig until it settles again. Once it settles in a week or so, I use a sanitized turkey baster to draw the clean wine off the top of the sediment and reclaim it. I still have to top off some, but not nearly as much.
 
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KellyF

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I understand the need for topping off. My question is how to store top off wine and whether you need to process it the same as the main batch. Say you end up with some extra wine after the primary fermentation and you put it in some bottles or a jug. Can you store it sealed in the refrigerator? I assume you need to monitor and add SO2 or else it’ll have its own issues. I’m trying to find an efficient way to manage the wine.
 

sour_grapes

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I understand the need for topping off. My question is how to store top off wine and whether you need to process it the same as the main batch. Say you end up with some extra wine after the primary fermentation and you put it in some bottles or a jug. Can you store it sealed in the refrigerator? I assume you need to monitor and add SO2 or else it’ll have its own issues. I’m trying to find an efficient way to manage the wine.
It may interest you to know that you can fit an airlock to bottles, too. These "universal bungs" are universal because you can turn them upside-down and they will fit a bottle:

 

KellyF

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It may interest you to know that you can fit an airlock to bottles, too. These "universal bungs" are universal because you can turn them upside-down and they will fit a bottle:

I have those, but they do not seem to fit 1 gallon jugs
 

winemaker81

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I have those, but they do not seem to fit 1 gallon jugs
Depending on the mouth size, you may be able to force it.

My son managed to force a vented bung that fits a carboy into a Carlo Rossi 4 liter jug. It's very snug and sealed well.
 

sour_grapes

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I have those, but they do not seem to fit 1 gallon jugs
Funny you should say that. Last night, I attempted to fit a bung onto a 1 gallon jug one way or the other. I failed. I wound up racking down to a 1.5L + 750mL.
 

Rocky

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I am of the "size down" school rather than the "top up" school. Over the years I have amassed all kinds of vessels for fermenting wine, including 6.5, 6, 5, 3 gallon glass and plastic carboys, 1 and 1/2 gallon jugs, 3 liter jugs and 1500, 750 and 375 ml bottles. I also have a couple of flasks (1 liter, 500 ml and 250 ml) that I use to capture the wine. (Any excess that does not fit in this array is miniscule and becomes an "in process QA sample.")

However, this thread got me thinking about plastic carboys and jugs that have a nominal volume base on their essentially cylindrical geometry. I have noticed that when I lift these types of containers with a liquid inside, the level of the liquid changes due to the change in geometry from squeezing the vessel. It got me wondering if some slight reductions in volume could be accomplished by putting a strap, rope or belt around the vessel and tightening it slightly.

NOTE: I have not tried this with wine but I intend to give it a shot with some water in a 6 gallon plastic carboy. I will let the forum know what transpires.
 

DPCellars

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I am of the "size down" school rather than the "top up" school. Over the years I have amassed all kinds of vessels for fermenting wine, including 6.5, 6, 5, 3 gallon glass and plastic carboys, 1 and 1/2 gallon jugs, 3 liter jugs and 1500, 750 and 375 ml bottles. I also have a couple of flasks (1 liter, 500 ml and 250 ml) that I use to capture the wine. (Any excess that does not fit in this array is miniscule and becomes an "in process QA sample.")

However, this thread got me thinking about plastic carboys and jugs that have a nominal volume base on their essentially cylindrical geometry. I have noticed that when I lift these types of containers with a liquid inside, the level of the liquid changes due to the change in geometry from squeezing the vessel. It got me wondering if some slight reductions in volume could be accomplished by putting a strap, rope or belt around the vessel and tightening it slightly.

NOTE: I have not tried this with wine but I intend to give it a shot with some water in a 6 gallon plastic carboy. I will let the forum know what transpires.
Each year I end up buying more. This year, I bought two 7.9 gallon conical fermenters. Those compliment a 7.9g Speidel, two 6.5, two 6, hell if I know how many 5s, and two 3s. lol Winemaking isn't the problem. Its storing all the damn carboys that is driving me crazy.

With regard to your comment on the plastic carboy. I bought my first 3 gallon fermonster. I noticed exactly what you were talking about. Kinda freaked me out. Seems so flimsy. But, I anxiously await your trial on strap displacement!
 

winemaker81

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I am of the "size down" school rather than the "top up" school.
This works well, it's what I do for my topup wine. But if you have a 5 gallon carboy that is down just a bit, it's more trouble than it's worth to move it to a 3 gallon carboy, 4 liter jug, and 3 liter jug. Or if you have a barrel.

I'm leery of plastic carboys in general for longer term storage, although I'm interested in the strap test. My concern is that a limited test may not stress the carboy enough, but over time, the repeated flexing will weaken it. The problem will not exhibit itself until it exhibits itself.
 

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