The "Leaky Cauldron" - Cellar Craft Showcase Old Vine Zinfandel

Wine Making Talk

Help Support Wine Making Talk:

ithink2020

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2008
Messages
177
Reaction score
25
Location
Iowa, USA
I'm naming this batch the Leaky Cauldron, as the kit had leaked a little during shipment.

This is my first premium kit. I was very lucky to receive the kit from my in-laws as a father's day gift. I was hoping to start this after I finished a couple of kits I have lined up. But then I noticed a stain on the side of the box. I opened the kit to find the bag had leaked some out from under the yellow cap. The vendor is replacing and told me to keep or dispose of this kit. After referring to the knowledgable minds here, I've decided to start this one and see what happens. Tonight...

The juice looks and smells AMAZING!!!

Everything went pretty smoothly. I'm still a little rusty, but I don't think I made any major mistakes. I took my time, read the instructions careful, and made sure everything was cleaned and sanitized. They only "issue" I have is the kit states the SG should be between 1.080 and 1.100. Mine is at 1.075ish, so about 10.5% abv in the finished wine. I'm thinking this might be due to the lost juice. I didn't think much was lost, but I have no idea.

I do remember reading grape packs can raise the final alcohol by about 3%. So I'm hoping the abv will be more like 12-13% when finished. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Oh, and I'm a little concerned about the headspace... This is a 7.9-gallon primary (see pics).

I followed the instructions and did my best. Now we wait and see!
 

Attachments

cmason1957

CRS Sufferer
WMT Supporter
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Messages
3,781
Reaction score
2,873
Location
O'Fallon, MO - Just NorthWest of St. Louis, MO
You probably want a bigger fermenter, like a 10 gallon bucket. You might get by, but it's marginal. Stir, stir, stir and check your sg again before pitching the yeast. I would probably add some extra sugar, I like 1.100, but 1.095 is good also.
 
Last edited:

ithink2020

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2008
Messages
177
Reaction score
25
Location
Iowa, USA
@cmason1957 I didn't want to add anything more to the fermentor since I'm already concerned about headspace. Before I put the grape pack in, I used a drill whip and stirred it for about 3-4 minutes. After adding the grape pack, I manually stirred for a few more minutes. Tested and stirred some more. Tested and stirred some more... I didn't see any change to the SG after all the stirring.

This morning the grape pack was still at the bottom. I stirred a bit more but the reading was a tad lower than last night. It appeared to be at 1.072 or 1.073. There are some signs of fermentation starting. I'm hoping there will be some hidden sugars in those grapes that will ferment out and raise the alcohol level.

For the next kit, I may add water a little at a time, then stir and check until I get into the SG range. Then again, next time I hope I don't get a leaky kit!
 

KCCam

Always Thirsty
WMT Supporter
Joined
Nov 18, 2018
Messages
133
Reaction score
96
You didn’t add any water, right? Leaking can’t change the density. Only adding a liquid with a different density (like water) or dissolving something in it (like sugar) can change the density. If you want it to turn out as the manufacturer intended, follow the instructions and don’t add sugar. I sometimes add sugar to my cheap kits that come with concentrated juice to bring the SG up to the specified range, but I wouldn’t with a premium kit.
As for headspace in the Primary, there really is no such thing. Yeast needs oxygen at this point, which is why you start in an open container with no air lock for primary fermentation. Once you rack to your secondary (glass carboy), that’s when headspace starts to become an issue. But even during secondary fermentation, unless you have a huge headspace, it should still be producing enough CO2 to blanket the wine and protect it (like the wax from Grandma’s jam), as evidenced by the bubbles in the air lock. Once the fermentation is complete, and the wine is clearing, that’s when you need to be careful with the headspace!
 

KCCam

Always Thirsty
WMT Supporter
Joined
Nov 18, 2018
Messages
133
Reaction score
96
@cmason1957 was actually suggesting you probably need a bigger primary. You may be in danger of the yeast cap overflowing the primary. Make sure it’s somewhere where that won’t ruin a carpet or put it in some kind of tray to catch anything that might spill over.
 

KCCam

Always Thirsty
WMT Supporter
Joined
Nov 18, 2018
Messages
133
Reaction score
96
Also (this is maybe asking an obvious question, like “are you sure you turned your computer on?” LOL), but have you checked your hydrometer in water to make sure the paper scale inside hasn’t slipped? I have a “precision” hydrometer with a slipped scale that reads 0.004 too low. It’s very precise, just not accurate!
 

sour_grapes

Victim of the Invasion of the Avatar Snatchers
Joined
Sep 19, 2013
Messages
10,837
Reaction score
8,546
Location
near Milwaukee
In my experience, a 6-gallon kit with skins fits easily in a 7.9 gallon fermenting bucket. I don't think your cap will get much "worse" than it is.

In my experience, the skins add about 0.015 to the SG when they dissolve fully. I was surprised that your SG is so low; however, this would make sense if you followed directions to "add water to make 6 gallons" when you were starting with a little less juice than you were supposed to. Can you clarify?
 

KCCam

Always Thirsty
WMT Supporter
Joined
Nov 18, 2018
Messages
133
Reaction score
96
I agree with @sour_grapes. I’m just paranoid ever since I had my only attempt at Skeeter Pee “boil over” my primary when I stirred it. I’m dang lucky it wasn’t in a carboy, or I would have a yellow stain on my ceiling!
 

KCCam

Always Thirsty
WMT Supporter
Joined
Nov 18, 2018
Messages
133
Reaction score
96
For the next kit, I may add water a little at a time, then stir and check until I get into the SG range.
I just read your post again and noticed you said next time you would “add water a little at a time.” Does that mean you did add water to this one? That would definitely explain a drop in SG, depending on how much you added. I thought premium kits required no extra water. If you did add water, how much did you add?
 

sour_grapes

Victim of the Invasion of the Avatar Snatchers
Joined
Sep 19, 2013
Messages
10,837
Reaction score
8,546
Location
near Milwaukee
I thought premium kits required no extra water. If you did add water, how much did you add?
Not quite. I cannot tell if this is a new-format kit or an old-format kit. However, under the old format, kits like this generally included 16 L of concentrate, and you need to add 7 liters of water. New-format WineXpert kits are 14L / 9L.
 

ithink2020

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2008
Messages
177
Reaction score
25
Location
Iowa, USA
You didn’t add any water, right?
Yes, the kit instructions have you add water to the 6-gallon mark.

have you checked your hydrometer in water
Yes, I tested it recently when I had a batch stall out on me.

In my experience, a 6-gallon kit with skins fits easily in a 7.9-gallon fermenting bucket.
Thanks! I'm glad to hear this.

In my experience, the skins add about 0.015 to the SG when they dissolve fully. I was surprised that your SG is so low; however, this would make sense if you followed directions to "add water to make 6 gallons" when you were starting with a little less juice than you were supposed to. Can you clarify?
From the looks of the inside of the wine kit box, it didn't seem that I had lost much juice. I figure 2-3 tablespoons worth. However, I guess I lost more enough to really lower the SG.

Update: I emailed VineCo and was told that my SG was actually a good starting point and the wine should be fine. They said that you should actually wait 5-6 hours before you take a reading (which was not stated in the instructions...). They also stated it might read low if I didn't stir long and vigorously enough. However, if I had stirred any more vigorously the juice would be flying out of the primary!
 

Swedeman

Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2018
Messages
98
Reaction score
23
Maybe I missed it, but do you have any idea on how much juice you lost?
 

KCCam

Always Thirsty
WMT Supporter
Joined
Nov 18, 2018
Messages
133
Reaction score
96
However, I guess I lost more enough to really lower the SG.
Not necessarily. VineCo says it’s normal. Instructions can often be from a generic template (I often see “if your kit contains a flavour pack, add it now” for example.) It would take 1.25 cups to change the SG 0.001.
 

ithink2020

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2008
Messages
177
Reaction score
25
Location
Iowa, USA
I cannot tell if this is a new-format kit or an old-format kit.
The box says it is an 18L kit. I believe it is 16L of juice concentrate with a 2L crushed grape pack. I can't find where I saw that, but that is what I think it is.

Maybe I missed it, but do you have any idea on how much juice you lost?
I really don't know. I added photos of what the inside of the kit box looked like. The inside of the shipping box had no signs of leaked juice. So either it didn't leak enough to go outside the Kit box or it had leaked before it was shipped out. My best guess is 2-3 tablespoons.

Not necessarily. VineCo says it’s normal. Instructions can often be from a generic template (I often see “if your kit contains a flavour pack, add it now” for example.) It would take 1.25 cups to change the SG 0.001.
Very true. I've never made a kit using a Grape pack. I do feel better knowing the manufacture confirmed it was a good starting SG. If I go by what @sour_grapes mentioned above and add 0.015 to the 1.074 I got last night, that would be around 1.089 or an est. abv of 12-13% (depending on how dry it goes). Not a huge Zin, but better than the 9.9% I was initially thinking it would be!
 
Last edited:

Boatboy24

No longer a newbie, but still clueless.
Joined
Mar 18, 2012
Messages
13,463
Reaction score
9,406
Location
DC Suburbs
I think you're going to be just fine here.

1) Fermenter: I've done all my kits in a 7.9gal fermenter and even those where I used yeasts known for excessive foam, I was just fine with the space in there.

2) Leak: I've had a few kits like yours where it looked like some juice had escaped, but I couldn't find a clear spot where juice had breached the bag or lid. I'm not exactly sure of the process used to fill the bags but I've often wondered if sometimes a little doesn't get spilled before that bag gets capped. And if the bag's in the box when they fill it, there's your source of the 'leaked juice'. I have a hard time getting my head around a leak that would start, then stop without some kind of intervention.

FWIW, this was the first good kit I did after testing the process with two Uber-cheap kits from Amazon. I had an SG of 1.092, so I think you're right where you need to be. Enjoy the ride! :b
 

ithink2020

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2008
Messages
177
Reaction score
25
Location
Iowa, USA
Fermenter: I've done all my kits in a 7.9gal fermenter and even those where I used yeasts known for excessive foam, I was just fine with the space in there.
This is reassuring, thank you!

Leak: I've had a few kits like yours where it looked like some juice had escaped, but I couldn't find a clear spot where juice had breached the bag or lid.
It appears it did come from under the yellow cap, just not sure when. We were reviewing our front porch camera and the delivery guy was carrying the box up on her shoulder. Unfortunately where he "placed" the box was off camera. However, it sounded like he must have dropped the box from a shoulder height! I'm wondering if it just hit with such force that a little bit squirted out from under the cap.

FWIW, this was the first good kit I did after testing the process with two Uber-cheap kits from Amazon. I had an SG of 1.092, so I think you're right where you need to be. Enjoy the ride!
Thank you! I'm really excited about this kit. I've seen a few people online rave about this kit, it's just going to be a long wait while it ages!
 
Last edited:

ithink2020

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2008
Messages
177
Reaction score
25
Location
Iowa, USA
I just got done stirring the must and decided to check the SG. Surprise! It is at 1.080 right now!

I was reading another brand's kit instructions early. It appears they have you wait 48 hours (after pitching the yeast), to take your first SG reading. I've never heard of this before (maybe I'm just misreading their instructions...). However, I wonder if that is their way of allowing the sugars from the grapes time to break down into the must... Anyone else heard of waiting 48 hours (esp. after pitching yeast) to take an initial SG reading!?!?
 

KCCam

Always Thirsty
WMT Supporter
Joined
Nov 18, 2018
Messages
133
Reaction score
96
I think there would be a very good chance the SG would drop more from fermentation than it would rise from the grape skins after 48 hrs. The Dragon Blood I did last year dropped 0.015 in the first 24 hours, and it had 12 lbs of berries, bananas, and raisins that would have been adding sugar as well. I think you’re just going to have to “guesstimate” it, or use some other method to determine ABV after it’s dry.
 

ithink2020

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2008
Messages
177
Reaction score
25
Location
Iowa, USA
@KCCam Good point. I can see signs of fermentation happening, which means the yeast are already converting sugar. The instructions are written oddly and that may have lead me to read them incorrectly.

For the next time around. Would it be safe to leave the grape pack in with the must for 34 or 48 hours, prior to pitching the yeast? Giving the grapes time to break down / dilute out a bit and for the must to meld together?

Thoughts, everyone?
 
2

Latest posts

Top