Stuck ferment like never before

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reeflections

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Thanks for all the responses.

In my ongoing experiment I started a sugar water starter which took off well and I added a cup of the wine in question and it seems to have halted. Too early to tell for sure so I will continue to watch it.

But honestly, I'm getting tired of dealing with all the possibilities. Since it tastes good, I think I will move on and be sure to sorbate it before bottling.

I have had issues if my yeast is cold when pitching (MLB too) so I'd pitch another EC1118 that's at room temperature.
Thanks!
I did let the packets of EC1118 reach room temp before pitching.

20/20 hindsight here but I would try to make sure that you give any batch an overnight rest before pitching the yeast. In other words, get things where you want them as far as pH, SG, and Volume, then let it sit overnight before pitching the yeast. You may have be doing this already {snip}
Thanks!
I usually wait 24 hours before pitching. In this case, because of the acid issues, I waited 12 hours after adding most acid to be sure it was blending. Then added more acid and waited 24 hrs before testing pH again and pitching the yeast.

@reeflections, heat the wine. A temperature of 68 to 72 F is generally good, but if the yeast is not eating, a boost may help. Put it in a warmer place, around 80 F, or use a heater belt. That may help.

As for why? Sorry, but as the wise old owl said, "The world may never know." Yeast is a living organism and it's going to react to the factors of its environment and do its own thing. We don't necessarily know or understand all those factors.

A commercial winemaker told me (this is a paraphrase): "We don't make wine. It makes itself. We do our best to guide it."

Sometimes we do everything right and the wine doesn't cooperate. In this case, the wine may be sweeter than you want, but if it doesn't ferment further, you will still have a wine that can be enjoyed. Count this as a victory. Positive thinking!
Thanks!

I don't have a heater belt but I did raise the room temp considerably so the wine is next to the heater vent and has been about 75 degrees for a few days.

I like the winemaker's quote. I also have come to the conclusion of your last paragraph. Positive thinking!

Could there be something wrong with your acid blend?
Thanks!

I guess that's a possibility. It was labeled L D Carlson and I bought it 8 months ago from Label Peelers and store it in a cool dry spot in a canning jar. Does it go bad? It was working fine in previous batches up until just 10 days before I started this batch.

I'm getting ready to start a batch of tart cherry. I'll see how it does with it. I don't know any other way to test it.

It makes sense, to me anyway, that tart cherry would be more acidic to start with than the sweet.
 

Michael T

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In post #1 you wrote "Started with pure cherry juice from concentrate (no additives)"
Did you use Coloma Frozen Foods cherry concentrate ?

The reason I ask is I have 4 qts of their peach concentrate in my freezer.
 

reeflections

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In post #1 you wrote "Started with pure cherry juice from concentrate (no additives)"
Did you use Coloma Frozen Foods cherry concentrate ?

The reason I ask is I have 4 qts of their peach concentrate in my freezer.
Yes I did. I love the company but the peach I had was pretty bland. I think I will be adding some peach extract to punch up the peach taste.The two different cherries that I used are excellent.

When you reconstitute your peach, let me know how it taste to you. Maybe it was just the batch I got.
 

BernardSmith

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I'm trying to understand. I've been told that if the initial pH is too low, the ferment could stall and if it is too high, the wine is flabby.
Taste is not affected by pH. pH is a measure of the STRENGTH of the acids. Taste and flavor is affected by the TA (titratable acidity or total acidity) and TA is a measure of the quantity of acids in a solution of known quantity. As TA increases so the amount of acids in solution increase - unlike pH where if the pH increases the strength of the acids decreases and so a pH of 3 is far stronger than a pH of 6, but a TA of 3 will taste dull compared to a TA of 6. pH is important for inhibiting oxidation. You can use the pH to determine how much K-meta to add in order to have enough free SO2 to bind to the oxygen molecules. TA on the other hand is the chemical measure of what your tongue tells you about the brightness of the flavor of a wine. We tend to prefer wines when there is about 6g of acid in every liter of wine (and that acid might be malic (a strong acid that predominates apples, or tartaric, a weaker acid that predominate in grapes.
 

reeflections

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@BernardSmith - please forgive my obtuseness but my brain doesn't work as well as it did when I was younger. For the sake of this discussion, let's forget about taste and TA for the moment (I understand that's important but I'm trying to understand why this batch got stuck). If I start a batch of wine and add 2 Tbs of acid blend bringing the pH to 3.75, should I continue to add acid blend to bring the pH to a range of 3.40-3.60 even if it takes 10 Tbs of acid blend to do it? Or would it be better to pitch the yeast at 3.75?
 

winemaker81

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@reeflections, IMO focusing on one aspect, such as pH, means the true picture is being missed. Winemaking is a complex interaction. As much as we want to apply science and control it, that fails.

I'm an IT guy. 30+ years of experience in controlling things through science and logic.

This doesn't work in wine making, as there are too many variables we not only cannot control, we don't even know what a bunch of 'em are. I've had really poor wines where the numbers were right, and really good wines where the numbers were wrong. The point is -- you can't trust the numbers. They only express part of the story.

As much as we want otherwise, winemaking is an art, not a science.

2 years ago a wine stuck at 1.000. I added EC-1118, nutrient, energizer ... no effect. 2 months later the wine kicked into gear and fermented dry. The only solution I have is the barrel and carboy were in the afternoon sun, and the heat kicked it off. Possibly Dionysus was in the mood and pranked me. I have ideas, but no real answer.

Some things we can control, like reducing the likelihood of H2S. Other things? We can't.
 
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reeflections

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@reeflections, IMO focusing on one aspect, such as pH, means the true picture is being missed. Winemaking is a complex interaction. As much as we want to apply science and control it, that fails.
Thanks @winemaker81. I really like your positive attitude toward wine making.

I'm over the the stuck wine in question. I know I may never understand the reason it stopped. I'm cool with that. The reason I am focused on one thing right now, is that is the thing I'm trying to learn right now.

This was my 3rd batch of cherry wine. The 1st two were done before I had a pH tester so, like rest of the first 140 gallons I brewed, I looked at some Krause recipes and guessed from there about how much acid to add. I never knew what the pH was but most turned out very tasty. A few were just ok. I was happy. In fact, I found cherry to be my favorite so I expected to make it my “House Wine.”

Then I thought I'd start making my own recipes so I decided to get a pH tester. I did twenty gallons of peach and was able to add acid blend to get the juice into the suggested range (3.40-3.60) using 2 Tbls of acid and my new tester. They finished completely dry in about 20 days Another step toward improving my game.

Then I made my 3rd batch of cherry using sweet cherry juice and and frozen sweet cherries. The acid was so low, it took 7 Tbls of acid to get it within the suggested range. But it got to 1.002 and stuck. I didn't worry about it. Figured it would eventually finish and if it didn't by the time I wanted to bottle, I'd just sorbate it.

Then I made my 4th batch of cherry. This was the one that started this thread. Pure sweet cherry juice. I was shocked that it took 20 Tbls of acid to get it within the suggested range. From some of the other comments, it would seem others thought the same. Not only did it stall at 1.020, but the pH went from 3.445 to 3.67. Now I'm beginning to think I don't understand pH or my testing.

So now I am trying another 6 gallons of cherry. This time I'm using 3 gallons of tart, 1 gallon of sweet, and 2.5 lbs of sweet frozen cherries. Since I have read that tart cherry is more acidic than sweet, I expected the starting pH to be lower than my last batch. It wasn't. After adding 2 Tbls of acid blend, the pH was identical.

I've checked the accuracy of my tester as per the instructions. I bought some brand new buffer solutions. The tests seem to be fine.

So all of this has led me to ask these questions. Do I go ahead and add acid until I reach the suggested range - even if it takes 20 tablespoons? Has anyone else ever used that much acid for 6 gallons of anything? While I understand that there is a lot more to wine making than pH, I'm trying to understand why my cherry wines need so much acid, or is this normal?
 

winemaker81

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Do I go ahead and add acid until I reach the suggested range - even if it takes 20 tablespoons?
20 tablespoons is 60 teaspoons, so for a 6 gallon batch, that's 10 tsp per gallon, and each tsp increases the TA by 0.15%, so your change was 1.5%. That number seems insanely huge. Unless cherry juice is a lot less acidic than I expect, that's way too much.

In this case, titratable acid is the better yardstick. But also pay attention to taste.

I'm in a minority, but IMO we rely too much on numbers and not enough on our senses. If a wine tastes good, it doesn't matter what the pH or TA is.
 

cmason1957

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20 tablespoons is 60 teaspoons, so for a 6 gallon batch, that's 10 tsp per gallon, and each tsp increases the TA by 0.15%, so your change was 1.5%. That number seems insanely huge. Unless cherry juice is a lot less acidic than I expect, that's way too much.

In this case, titratable acid is the better yardstick. But also pay attention to taste.

I'm in a minority, but IMO we rely too much on numbers and not enough on our senses. If a wine tastes good, it doesn't matter what the pH or TA is.
A quibbling point - increasing the TA by 0.15% doesn't necessarily increase the Ph by 1.5%. TA and PH are very seldom directly the same.

Although, I do agree taste is important, taste is the TA. You have to get the Ph into an acceptable range for the yeast to be happy.
 

reeflections

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I'm in a minority, but IMO we rely too much on numbers and not enough on our senses. If a wine tastes good, it doesn't matter what the pH or TA is.
I totally agree that in the end, taste is the most important, maybe followed by shelf life. In fact, if you notice on my signature I use "If it tastes good, it is good" which is another form of Duke Ellington's quote about music, "If it sounds good, it is good."

So anyway, I guess I jumped the gun on my worry about the latest batch. While the pH did start out at the same place as the stalled batch, it only took 6 Tbls of acid blend to get it down to 3.43. I have no idea what happened with the previous batch but it didn't happen this time so I am happy. I just now pitched the yeast. Yay!

Thanks to everyone that offered input.
 

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