Taste test instead of hydrometer?

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mstrick96

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I'm definitely a newbie.and am trying to learn.

Does.anyone.use a taste.test to determine when fermentation is complete?

I'm using a hydrometer but am hesitant to take too many readings since my batches are quite.small at the moment. I'm concerned that the sampling process.might contaminate my wine. That got me to thinking about how this was done 2000 or 3000 years ago. I'm certain that they didn't have hydrometers!

So, on my current batches, I've been taking a sip to try to.determine the degree of dryness. I have some apple wine from organic juice and some.Welch's white grape juice wine going and they are starting to taste pretty good! I'll do a hydrometer test tomorrow to.see.where they stand.

How.was this done before.our industrial.age? Their wines must have been pretty good.
 

Ohio Bob

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I’m sure they also made their fair share of lousy wines too. And vinegar.

You don’t need to rack a small batch each time you want to take a reading. Depending on your vessel you might be able to drop the hydrometer right in and skip taking a sample for the graduated cylinder looking thing. As long as it’s sanitized and doesn’t cause overflow you might try that. Or at least practice on a jug of water to see what would happen. Sometimes it pays to practice, you might find limits to what I’m describing.
 

BigDaveK

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I'm definitely a newbie.and am trying to learn.

Does.anyone.use a taste.test to determine when fermentation is complete?

I'm using a hydrometer but am hesitant to take too many readings since my batches are quite.small at the moment. I'm concerned that the sampling process.might contaminate my wine. That got me to thinking about how this was done 2000 or 3000 years ago. I'm certain that they didn't have hydrometers!

So, on my current batches, I've been taking a sip to try to.determine the degree of dryness. I have some apple wine from organic juice and some.Welch's white grape juice wine going and they are starting to taste pretty good! I'll do a hydrometer test tomorrow to.see.where they stand.

How.was this done before.our industrial.age? Their wines must have been pretty good.
It's always good to ask questions!

A daily SG is more than enough. As long as everything was sanitized first there's no problem with pouring your test sample back. I wouldn't overly worry about contamination, to repeat, as long as everything was sanitized first.

Had to check - the hydrometer has been around a long time. Some scholars think Archimedes invented it around 320 BC. There were a couple other versions until the "official" invention in 1675. I would almost believe the earliest date - war and booze have always spurred technological advances.
 

mstrick96

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@BigDaveK , yes, Archimedes used the principle behind the hydrometer to determine if the King's crown was actually gold. Or so the story goes.

I'm quite comfortable with the hydrometer and have used various forms of them for quite a few decades. It just occurred to me that taste might work too.
 
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So, on my current batches, I've been taking a sip to try to.determine the degree of dryness.
This is excellent training. I trust my taste buds a lot, and rely upon that for final adjustments for acid, since I will be drinking the wine, not a pH meter or TA test kit. I also rely on my taste buds for the few wines I backsweeten. But for determining the ferment is done, I trust my hydrometer. My taste buds can be fooled, but the hydrometer won't be.

For SG measurements, get a FermTech wine thief. It's wide enough to hold a hydrometer, and it provides minimal contact between the wine and air or other sources of contamination. On the negative side, a 4 liter jug is too narrow to let one pass.
 

Jim Welch

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I'm definitely a newbie.and am trying to learn.

Does.anyone.use a taste.test to determine when fermentation is complete?

I'm using a hydrometer but am hesitant to take too many readings since my batches are quite.small at the moment. I'm concerned that the sampling process.might contaminate my wine. That got me to thinking about how this was done 2000 or 3000 years ago. I'm certain that they didn't have hydrometers!

So, on my current batches, I've been taking a sip to try to.determine the degree of dryness. I have some apple wine from organic juice and some.Welch's white grape juice wine going and they are starting to taste pretty good! I'll do a hydrometer test tomorrow to.see.where they stand.

How.was this done before.our industrial.age? Their wines must have been pretty good.
A refractometer along with a correction factor can be used to track fermentation progress. As the alcohol level rises it gets less accurate but it is only a couple points off at a typical wine ABV of 13 to 14%. I've confirmed this enough with a hydrometer to know it is accurate enough to give one a pretty close estimation of fermentation progress. One only need 4 or 5 drops for this reading. I do this all the time but ALWAYS confirm the OG and FG with a hydrometer,
 

Raptor99

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I know that this may horrify some on this forum, but I don't really care about FG. I bulk age my wines for at least 6 months, so I'm sure that the fermentation is finished long before I bottle them. Without an accurate FG, my estimate of ABV might be a tiny bit off, but that doesn't bother me either. I doubt that it could be off by more than 0.25%

I always use my refractometer to get the initial sugar right. With mead I monitor the SG so that I will know when it has reached the 1/3 sugar break.

I also check the SG if a fermentation seems to be stuck. When fermentation gets stuck, in my experience it is usally near the beginning, so there is a noticeable sweet taste. Has anyone had fermentation stuck after 2/3 of the sugar had been fermented? By that point there are millions (or billions?) of yeast cells, so unless it has hit the ABV limit for the yeast, I'm not sure why it would get stuck. (I should add that I usually target my fruit wines at 11-12% ABV, and the yeasts I use can go a lot higher than that. If you are going for a high alcholol wine, then I can see how the yeast might stop before it is fermented dry, in which case you might need to check the SG.)

I think we all come to our own balance between which things we measure and when to rely on our five senses. That is part of the art and science of making wine.
 

Rice_Guy

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* samples should go back in the jug, you could rinse the tools and then dry with new paper towel or grain alcohol ,,,, to speed drying
* @Raptor99 has a good point, basically what is the purpose of doing a gravity reading => to tell if the wine is stable for six months or 24 months. It is easy so we preach take readings
* if you are lucky you can find a small hydrometer(s) at your science supply house. I will just let a hydrometer float in a primary rather than opening and closing the lid all the time.
* taste used to be the test for everything. It wasn’t as good as a number, but that is what there was.
* Red wine was reasonably stable and the others weren’t.
 
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BigDaveK

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I'm quite comfortable with the hydrometer and have used various forms of them for quite a few decades. It just occurred to me that taste might work too.
Sorry, I didn't mean to imply you HAD to use a hydrometer. I have a science background so I automatically want to "know the numbers" behind everything. I think most of us taste at every SG reading and over time the hydrometer just confirms what our taste buds are saying. A VERY useful tool but certainly not vital. I'm sure many wine maker's apprentices centuries ago learned everything from looks, smell, and taste.
 
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winemanden

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You can taste your wine, but you won't know for cetain if it has finished working. If you don't want to be bothered using your hydrometer, let it sit. If it's "fine lees" you don't have to worry about racking it off for a while, it might even help improve your wine.
Relax, it's not rocket science, taste or intuition. It's a bit of each.
 
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I know that this may horrify some on this forum, but I don't really care about FG.
Sheesh!!! Put a "spoilers" or "shocker" or some kind of warning before you post this kind of stuff!!! You freaked people out!!!

horrified woman.jpg

😆

Has anyone had fermentation stuck after 2/3 of the sugar had been fermented?
My 2019 second run stopped at 1.002, then creeped to 1.000 over the next 2.5 weeks. It stuck there, and 4 months later started fermenting again, and went down to 0.992. I figured it out when the bung on the barrel blew 2 days in a row.

The first run wines (from whose pomace this was made) have an ABV > 15.5% using Red Star Premier Rouge, and the 2nd run is 13.8%, so that eliminated high brix or high ABV as explanations. Nearly 3 years later, I have no explanation and simply accept that it happened.

I treat it as a reminder that Mother Nature is in charge, and it reminds me to make a sacrifice to Dionysus. ;)

I think we all come to our own balance between which things we measure and when to rely on our five senses. That is part of the art and science of making wine.
I agree -- we all have to decide our own path. Discussions like this raise good points, so our beginners (and not-so-beginners) can make informed decisions. Contrary positions that work help us avoid being hidebound.

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply you HAD to use a hydrometer. I have a science background so I automatically want to "know the numbers" behind everything. I think most of us taste at every SG reading and over time the hydrometer just confirms what our taste buds are saying. A VERY useful tool but certainly not vital. I'm sure many wine maker's apprentices centuries ago learned everything from looks, smell, and taste.
I agree, wine can be made without a hydrometer, that was done for thousands of years, and is still being done today.

However -- what's the FIRST question that is asked when someone asks help with a problem?

"What is your SG?"

A hydrometer reading, or better yet, a series of readings, enables us to eliminate a lot of invalid answers and focus on the most likely source(s) of a problem. A hydrometer's most important use is when things do not go as expected.
 

Raptor99

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A hydrometer reading is very useful for troubleshooting. And as @BigDaveK implied, it is also useful for training your taste buds so that you know what you are tasting.

hydrometer is a good indicator of WHEN to start tasting

I taste at every stage along the way. When I stir daily in primary, I put a few drops from the spoon onto my hand and taste it. It helps me to determine how the ferment is progressing and whether there are any problems. Recently I have started tasting the gross lees after the first racking. That gives me a good indication of the health of the yeast culture.
 

Sailor323

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I'm definitely a newbie.and am trying to learn.

Does.anyone.use a taste.test to determine when fermentation is complete?

I'm using a hydrometer but am hesitant to take too many readings since my batches are quite.small at the moment. I'm concerned that the sampling process.might contaminate my wine. That got me to thinking about how this was done 2000 or 3000 years ago. I'm certain that they didn't have hydrometers!

So, on my current batches, I've been taking a sip to try to.determine the degree of dryness. I have some apple wine from organic juice and some.Welch's white grape juice wine going and they are starting to taste pretty good! I'll do a hydrometer test tomorrow to.see.where they stand.

How.was this done before.our industrial.age? Their wines must have been pretty good.
2000-3000 years ago wine was no where near as good as it is today; thanks to modern winemaking practices and good sanitation. Also, if you practice good sanitation you won't contaminate your wine. Take your sample, test it and return it to the batch.
 

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