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Taking the first SG reading in a wine kit.

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Neil F

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Hi, I'm about to make only my second wine kit. The first time I didn't own a hydrometer, so I bought one this time.
I'm looking to take a first reading, but wondered when to do so? I know it's pre-yeast, but the kit states I'm supposed to add the yeast and 3 litres of water, then top it up after the 3 days (primary) to 5 litres.
Should I take the reading with the initial mixture of grape juice, water and sugar? Will topping up 3 days later not affect what the first reading should be?
Thanks in advance.
 

Johnd

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Hi, I'm about to make only my second wine kit. The first time I didn't own a hydrometer, so I bought one this time.
I'm looking to take a first reading, but wondered when to do so? I know it's pre-yeast, but the kit states I'm supposed to add the yeast and 3 litres of water, then top it up after the 3 days (primary) to 5 litres.
Should I take the reading with the initial mixture of grape juice, water and sugar? Will topping up 3 days later not affect what the first reading should be?
Thanks in advance.
Your reading should be taken just before you pitch your yeast, just as you said. I don’t know why your instructions would have you add water after that time. Perhaps you could post a photo of the instructions and we can try to make sense of them. Would also help to know what brand and size kit you are working with.
 

Johnd

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The logic of the second water addition defies me. Were it me, I’d add the can, the Nutrafine sachet (which I’m guessing is bentonite), the sugar, AND the second dose of water, prior to adding the yeast. Then you’ll be able to get a good SG reading and thereby be in control of what your final ABV is.

You could still have a measure of control doing it their way, but you’d need to measure initial SG and volume, as well as the SG and volume before and after the second water addition, as well as your final SG. I prefer simple.
 

sour_grapes

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Those directions don't make a lot of sense to me either, but I am going to hazard a guess. They are assuming you will ferment this in a demijohn. During the first part of the fermentation, there will be a lot of activity and foaming. This would likely overflow the demijohn.

Most of us here would prefer to conduct the fermentation in a bucket to start with, and then transfer to a carboy or demijohn after the fermentation activity slows way down. If you were to do this, you could use all of the desired water at the beginning, and then get an accurate SG reading.
 

Johnd

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Those directions don't make a lot of sense to me either, but I am going to hazard a guess. They are assuming you will ferment this in a demijohn. During the first part of the fermentation, there will be a lot of activity and foaming. This would likely overflow the demijohn.

Most of us here would prefer to conduct the fermentation in a bucket to start with, and then transfer to a carboy or demijohn after the fermentation activity slows way down. If you were to do this, you could use all of the desired water at the beginning, and then get an accurate SG reading.
That makes some sense, but this is only a 6 bottle kit, tad more than a gallon......
 

Neil F

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Yes, I had a foaming problem with my first kit, so your guess is probably spot on. I am starting off in a demijohn. If I had a smaller bucket I would have done it in a bucket to start with.
To avoid any foaming issue this time I was going to top it up gradually after 3 or 4 days.
As you may have guessed, I couldn't get any SG reading at this stage, hydrometer floated to high.
Thanks for all the replies.
 

terrymck

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Niel,
Not to lecture, but for the next time why not go with a standard kit that produces 25 or 30 bottles. It is the same amount of work for more product. You will find that the directions are similar for any brand of kit.
 

Neil F

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Niel,
Not to lecture, but for the next time why not go with a standard kit that produces 25 or 30 bottles. It is the same amount of work for more product. You will find that the directions are similar for any brand of kit.
I will be going bigger next time, looking to learn the art, and from my mistakes beforehand though.
I'd rather screw up 6 bottles just now than 6 gallons.
 

crushday

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Neil, here's my unsolicited two cents - I've made dozens of kits, none of which have instructions like your current kit. Frankly, those instructions are more confusing than you'll find in any WE, RJS, or CC wine kits. When you do take the plunge on a larger kit, be more loose on the timelines. Making wine is more art than exact science. Take time to be an artisan.
 

Scooter68

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Their directions require you to "Trust" all their directions and those directions also make any "initial SG" reading difficult to impossible to use. By using a bucket you don't have to wait to top-off to the final volume they suggest. When you use a bucket, you can add all the water and then, as others stated, take that SG reading just before you pitch the yeast. That way you can figure your expected ABV much more accurately.

No issue here for starting with smaller kits, I too started with 1 gallon batches to avoid more costly mistakes.

BUT do yourself a favor and don't start a ferment in a demi-jon/Carboy. Too many issues to deal with and potential problems. A bucket can be stirred as needed without having to lift and shake ("Agitiate") your wine. Just use a cord to tie a thin cloth/towel cover over a food-grade bucket and you can easily check SG, stir or make other additions when and as needed.
 

Neil F

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*adds a decent bucket to shopping list.
Cheers guys, I did find it a bit strange re the adding more water after 3 days. All the videos and tutes I've watched never referred to this. Obviously it's an issue if we want to check the initial
SG....
 

cmason1957

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This is just a real old style way to start a kit. If you were to read Jack Kellors Webb page for extended kit instructions, it is basically the same, mix it up in a 6 gallon carboy reserve a gallon of, ferment for a week, add the reserved gallon back in to finish. It just leaves room for massive cleaning at the beginning. No big deal.
 

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