To Rack or not to rack....

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Dec 8, 2009
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.... That is my dilemma.

Ok, here's my question. I have a guess from my research, but I am looking for other more expert opinions before I do anything.

I have a Red Zin kit in secondary fermentation in a carboy right now. I'm on about day 7 in secondary, day 15 overall.

The kit calls for degassing and stabilizing to begin on "approximately" day 20 (At SG of 0.998 or lower), but this kit has been a little ahead of schedule all along. I am guessing that is because the temperature in the room might be on the high end of the 68-75 degrees the kit calls for. It might even be 77 or so. I live in Florida, and there is no basement/cellar, so I just don't have an option on doing things a little warmer than called for, unless I want to freeze the family out of of the house and go poor running the AC.

Back to the point. I'm wondering if I should rack at this point? I am about 99% sure the SG is well below 0.998. In fact, it it was below 1.000 about 3 days ago the last time I checked it.

More importantly, should I go ahead and de-gas?

I'm pretty sure fermenting is about done, as there's been no foam or bubbling for a couple of days.

Here's my guess, and then you all can correct me if I am wrong. My guess is that I should go more by SG than by any time schedule. The SG would be the more accurate indicator as to what is going on, whereas the time it takes to get to a certain point is affected by variables, like ambient temperature and such.

That's my guess, which is leaning me toward racking for sure, and then, depending on just how low the SG is, possibly de-gassing and beginning stabilizing.

Anyway, let me know what you think, and I appreciate your time.

I'm not trying to rush the process along, I just have a feeling things are a little ahead of "schedule".

Thanks for your help!!

I'd really suggest waiting. You have nothing to gain and plenty to lose if it's not finished fermenting. Sounds like you have a hydrometer, so you'll want to verify rather than guess when it's done.

It's almost always OK to go a bit longer than the directions, almost never OK to do something quicker than the directions say. Again you have nothing to gain.

What Kit mfg do you have? Check the gravity for 3 days It should be the same abount .990 DO NOT GUESS THATS ITS DONE. Then follow the directions that came with the kit. Some kits say to degas and stabilize in the secondary
Most kits do not ever get down to .990 like Tom state d but his advice is good about checking the sg 3 days in a row. Most kits and wines for that matter will typically stop around .998 or a little lower. A few more days at this point is fine so Id leve it, espcially if this kit is one that has you leave the sediment behind but some require racking almost all sediment over so in those cases it really doesnt matter much.

You are correct, the sg is more important than the time schedule. However, patience is a BIG VIRTUE for winemakers. Personally, I don't even check the sg until the time is up. If the sg is not low enough, then I wait. If the sg is good, then I proceed.

You didn't tell us which Red Zin kit (please always be precise). In my experience, some will finish about 1.000, some around .995, and others around .992. And it doesn't matter what the instructions say, reality can be different. You need to be sure that fermentation has stopped, and not just it's in the range that the instructions mention.

One brand of kit (that I have made many many times) finishes at .992, and the instructions say '<.995'.

Thanks for all the replies. I really appreciate it. So far, I'm getting two main themes. First, patience is a virtue in wine making even more than in everyday life, and second, a bit more information would be helpful for more advice.

I will go check SG in a bit, and will report back shortly, but here are some more specifics on the kit, instructions, etc.

I'm making a RJ Spagnols Gran Cru International series Zinfandel.

I will try to sum up a little more specifically what the directions say, trying simultaneously not leave out important details, and also not to get too wordy.

Kit started off in Primary at SG of 1.098. (Kit instructions indicate a range of 1.080 - 1.100, depending on exact kit).

It started a little slow, but by day 8 SG was reading 1.017, so I racked to Secondary in the carboy (Kit says 1.017 or lower). That was 5 days ago.

I took a reading the day before yesterday, and if I remember correctly, it was at about 0.998.

Directions say to begin Stabilizing and Clearing (Specific Gravity 0.998 or lower) Then, below that, it says "Day 20 (approx.)" As I mentioned, I'm at about day 15 now.

Again, I'm not in a hurry at all. If there is no harm to be done by letting it hang out for 4-5 more days, I'm perfectly cool with that. I do think it is going a little faster than advertised though, as our house is probably about 77.

That's all I can think of for now. I'll grab the hydrometer in a bit and check the SG. I just don't want to keep opening it up either. But I've only opened it once since it went to Secondary, so I guess I'm ok there.

Thanks again,
By all means let us know what the reading is. Like said above 2 things to remember
Read Follow and Understand the directions that come with the kit ( can be different by mfg)
PATIENCE you will be rewarded in the long run
Oh !.. 3rd taste taste taste along the way to see what happens during different stages of wine making.
PLEASE ask before you do anything if you are not sure.
ENJOY ! :dg :dg = :d :d
Hi Tom (and all),

I just checked the SG, and it is hovering just a hair below 1.000, which is where it has been for a few days now.

As long as there is nothing to be risked by doing so, I'm just going to leave it where it is for now, and check the SG for the next few days, and maybe rack later in the week.

Speaking of tasting, I just gave it a taste, and this is the first time where it started to taste... well... like a real red wine. The thing that is throwing me off as a 1st time wine maker, I think, is the C02 that is in it. It makes it taste bitter, but I think that's all I'm tasting, and everything is otherwise ok.

I will say, however, that the taste was less biting this time, and it seems to be less cloudy that it was before. Would it be normal for the CO2 to be settling down at this point even before de-gassing and clearing, as the yeast is starting to die off on its own???

Thanks again,

Quick correction to my post above. I racked to secondary at 1.017, and the kit says 1.020 or lower in the instructions, not 1.017. Mis-typed that....

I haven't made any of the Grand Cru International kits with grape skins yet. Some of the other Spagnols grape skins kits struggle to get below 1.000, perhaps this is true of these kits as well.

Is that a big deal if it only gets a hair below 1.000, or is it just one of those things?

Also, regarding the grape skins... The kit said you could put them in the little sack they gave you, or just toss them in if you wanted more color. I opted for the toss 'em in route, and got rid of them when I racked to the carboy. That sound ok?
Thats fine, its usually a little harder to rack of the skins but you get a little better color and tannin and flavor extraction that way.
yeah, they actually never sank to the bottom during the 8 days in primary, so I just skimmed them off with a santitized slotted spoon and tossed them before I racked.
Thats what I do, I have a very small strainer used just for wine making.
this is what i do, but i don't make kits:

rack into secondary at 1.030~1.010 depending on how fast or slow the yeast is working. if fast, then closer to 1.030 to slow fermentation down some. you can always take the water out of the bubbler on top if too much pressure is building.

second rack at 1.005 or less or if sediment is more than 1/2" thick. repeat until clear and in some cases, we have racked 5 times. if you are lazy and about to do a 3rd, but not clearing, add bentonite as it usually works. worst case, skip the bentonite and use super kleer.

let it sit in 3rd racking for a week or two and check sg's 3 times during that period. when it's totally stopped (usually in the .920~1.002 range), backsweeten to just sweet enough and add sorbate and k meta.

again let it sit for 10 days to a month if you have to. if there's any sediment rack. degas the wine. now you have 2 options.

1. bulk age and add more k meta after 2 1/2 months and every 3-4 months for up to a year and then bottle



this is a real shorthand of "how to rack" if i missed anything please say something!

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