Stirring must before transferring to secondary....???

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Senior Member
Aug 21, 2019
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South Alabama - The Enchanted Land of Humidity
Newbies, I'm a newbie, too. So, take the below with a grain of salt. I'm just trying to verify/clarify something that I've read.

I've got something that I've been meaning to ask about. It regards the transfer/racking of must from the primary fermenting vessel to the secondary one. I have little experience with making mead/wine but I have thought that when transferring wine from the primary to the secondary that you try to not disturb the lees/pulp during the procedure. It seemed that care should be made to get as clear of a transfer/racking as possible from primary to secondary. But,...

In a section of Jack Keller's website, "WINEMAKING: THE BASIC STEPS - TRANSFER TO SECONDARY" Keller makes a lot of sense (to me) when he talks about stirring the must before transferring it from primary to secondary vessels. The basic idea being that live yeast are at the bottom of the primary resting in the lees and that stirring causes them to be suspended in the must. He goes on to talk about transferring by pouring the must through a funnel into the secondary...even mentions using a fine screen to stop the gross lees, thus only fine lees get transferred. Other tidbits of info included with the article (not a bad read).

It seems to me this might not be such a bad idea. What about stirring the must up a bit without a lot of agitation so as not to introduce a lot of oxygen to the must and then giving the must a bit of time for the heavier stuff to settled back down but still be cloudy from the stirring? Then "transfer" (as Jack states it being, rather than a racking) to the secondary?

Sure, stirring the must up would possibly add an extra racking later on but would it possibly insure a better, more complete fermentation? An extra racking seems worthwhile for a more complete fermentation.

Side Note, Terminology: To me, it seems that this article infers that "racking" is a conscious act of avoiding moving *any* lees (gross or fine) from one vessel to another. Whereas "transferring" isn't overly concerned with avoiding the lees. ???

Is my head all warped out of shape this morning???? :)
Never really had a problem. with a wine not finishing after racking for the final few days. Only time I've had an issue was with a wine batch that already had stalled or quit. Even then I've had that clean racking invigorate the yeast a little and still get a few more points off the SG.

I suppose if the fermentation was totally stalled or practically over that might be true. Normally when I rack my wine the SG is between 1.010 and .992
Many times when I do that - carefully trying NOT to disturb any settled lees, I get a burst of activity for several hours after that racking. If fermentation ongoing and any bubbling is occurring, that gas is carrying up with yeast cells.

Finally, if the fermentation is rolling along well, vs dragging it's feet over two or more weeks, you could just let it finish in the original bucket. I've had ferments surprise men and be finished before I got that last measurement done. (3-4 days along)

Hard fast rules are hard to come by in wine making.

If you don't mind doing an extra racking go ahead. I will say that having to strain the lees out for an entire bucket of wine seems a bit time consuming and potentially exposes your wine to more oxygen that is really good for it at that point. With my more pulpy batches like peaches I do end up straining the last bit of the bucket - but that's normally about 2/3 of a gallon not the entire batch.
Your post makes lots of sense, too!!! The straining part does seem a little extreme. Carrying over live yeast to the secondary sounds good. Following what the hydrometer tells me seems about the best thing to follow. If the fermentation is basically done then no worry about trying to get all the live yeast in the secondary...there should be enough of them to scavenge the remaining bit of sugar. Thanks for the feedback *and* reality check. Seems the further along I get the more I need those checks. :)
Eventually you'll find methods that work for you and refine them as time goes along. I'm still refining mine after 4 1/2 years and 40 batches of wine (well would have been 41 but I literally had to toss one a few months ago. It actually spoiled before I got the ferment going.)

I also try to remember that story about the old farmer that gets visited by the Sharp young State Agricultural Representative. The young guy starts talking about all these way he can improve his yield, reduce time and money spent BUT the old farmer holds up his hand and nicely says. "Son, I don't farm half as good as I know how to already."
Now I'm open to new ideas, but; sometimes I have to weigh those against my values and what's important to me and the time I have to give to this hobby.
I almost always stir before the racking from the primary fermentation bucket to the carboy. I generally rack at about 1.000-1.020. Depends on when I have the free time. I do always shove my fermenting cane down into whatever lees I have, my idea being that it dropped out once, it will drop out again and I might get some more active yeast.

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