To Stir or Not Stir?

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Cram8

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I’ve started my first wine ever. I pitched yeast on 1 gal of sour cherries. I’ve read that primary fermentation should be complete in 7 days or so. I’ve also read that the fruit should be punched down / stirred 2-3 times daily. I’ve seen direction to stop punch down after 3 days while others have said to keep doing it until racking to prevent bacteria growth on top of the fruit. Which method is best and why? Thanks.
 

VinesnBines

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Punch down and stir as long as you have the fruit in the primary. You may want to strain the fruit out before you complete primary, in that case, you will still want to stir once or twice a day to keep the oxygen feeding the yeast. I assume it is in a bucket? Do you have a hydrometer to measure specific gravity? You want it to get below 1.010 before you put in a carboy.
 

Cram8

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It is in a bucket and having been giving it a good stir twice daily. I do have a hydrometer and took a reading before pitching the yeast. Would you know when primary fermentation can be assessed as finished?
 

VinesnBines

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After three days of consistent readings at 1.000 SG or lower, you can call it finished . If you can get it to .990 that will be about as low as you can go. I've pressed or strained at 1.010; all depends on whether I have time to leave it in the primary to go lower. Also if you have a lot of solids suspended, the hydrometer can be off. I was getting 1.020 with the suspended solids in a dried elderberry. When I strained my sample it was 1.010. I pronounced it done enough and put it in a carboy. I was leaving town and didn't want to haul three gallons of wine along on a road trip.

How long since you pitched the yeast? I'll take a hydrometer reading every day or every other day after the first few days. Fermentation can take anywhere from three days to two weeks.
 
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others have said to keep doing it until racking to prevent bacteria growth on top of the fruit
This is accurate. I have no idea why anyone would suggest stop stirring. In addition to O2 addition (which yeast needs to reproduce), and keeping the cap wet to avoid mold/mildew, stirring helps with extraction of color, flavor, and aroma from the fruit. If the fruit is sitting high, away from the liquid, it's not getting extracted.

Adding to @VinesnBines's advice, you can press any time between 1.020 and "done", which is when the SG <= 0.998 and doesn't change for 3 days. Some folks press around 1.020 to help preserve aroma, while most folks press between 1.000 and 1.010. There is no wrong answer.

Activity in the airlock is NOT evidence of fermentation. Trapped CO2 will be emitted from the wine for weeks or even months after fermentation completes. Trust your hydrometer.

Which method is best and why?
"Why" is the best question you can ask, regardless of topic. Keep doing it!
 

Rice_Guy

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Welcome to wine making talk. Wine is fairly forgiving so you will hear several different methods. Listen for the why and then make a choice.

*mold is a risk on anything that floats, whether fruit or plastic balls to fill the headspace in a carboy, therefore punch down till all floating material is removed.
*I aim for 1.020 to 1.010 for pressing fruit pulp and putting a country wine under air lock. From a yeast point of view they have reproduced all they will at 1.040 so they have no additional need for oxygen. Some white grape recipes do the whole primary under air lock. At 1.020 the yeast is actively producing CO2 so it will recover an anaerobic environment. You might get more flavor if you let the wine on the pulp in till 1.000.
*you didn’t mention if your cherry is pitted. So far I have not pitted cherry. I am seeing off flavors develop at 18 months, next time I do a cherry I am going to pit a couple of gallons and see if off notes don’t develop. (cherry pits have cyanid in them/ my current choke cherry started with astringent notes therefore I wonder if long chain tannins are in all cherry species), ,, anyway pits are another argument to remove pulp sooner rather than later.
 

Cram8

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The cherries are not pitted. I’m concerned about the cyanid, I had no idea! Should I be putting it all in the garbage? Should I be concerned? What should I do? The sour cherries are small so I didn’t want to bother with putting them. It is a trial 1 gal as I have another 40 lbs in the freezer.
 

JustJoe

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The cyanide is in the seed and not in the shell so there will be almost nothing getting into your wine. However, the pits do have a lot of tannin and too much tannin is not a good thing for the taste of your wine. I would suggest removing the skins and pits sooner rather than waiting until fermentation is complete but I wouldn't worry about the cyanide.
 
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I’m concerned about the cyanid
What I've read agrees with @JustJoe's comments, that there is no danger.

The issue is the pits can produce bitterness, which (again agreeing with Joe), it's recommended to remove them early in the fermentation process. Several sources said to do perform mechanical crushing of the fruit, as that's likely to crack the pits and increase the extracted bitterness.
 

Rice_Guy

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I have done cherry to the tune of picking ten gallons > having plenty > so not adding any water. Cherry pits have not killed me and is one of my favorite young wines. , , , @JustJoe gave a good answer. , , , The only stories of food poisoning seem to be the gardener collects seeds > roasts a few pounds > eats the seeds like peanuts or pecans.
! Should I be putting it all in the garbage? What should I do?
,,, first be aware of the risk to flavor, ,,, second if you pick up flavor degradation have a big party. I am not aware of any way to remove it once off notes start.
 
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