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Unfermentable

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Country

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I’m pretty sure “unfermentable” is not a word but I’m having that problem right now.

I decided to make a small batch of elderberry wine before committing to a larger stock. I bought several bottles of Elderberry juice from the local grocery store and proceeded to make a simple fruit wine! Yum! (Maybe).

I will post the detailed log below but the summery is as follows. Organic elderberry juice, simple sugar and water to create the must. EC1118 was pitched and no fermentation started. Strong aroma of sulfite/ammonia the next day so I whipped the must very well in hopes to drive off offender (no preservatives listed in the ingredients). The next day I created a starter with grape juice concentrate. I let this sit out for two days while whipping to drive out the sulfites and pitched another EC1118. The starter was very active, 24 hr later it went from 1.090 to 1.050. I poured it into the elderberry must. Nothing 2 days later. I was mad, I threw caution to the wind and dumped in a fresh slurry from a wine kit that used EC1118. Nothing happened. Two more days and I have a skeeter pee that needs to be racked, yep I dumped the slurry from that and still nothing.

The elderberry must still has that smell of something harsh, burn your nose and hurt you lungs kind of harsh. It has been wiped repeatedly and sits loosely covered now for over a week.

I really want to get to the bottom of this now as a learning opportunity, I have no illusions of turning this into wine at this point!

There has to be a reason this must in “unfermentable”. What in the world???
 

Country

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(4) Juice- Biotta Elderberry Juice
Ingredients- elderberry juice
Elderflower infusion
Agave nectar

Three cups cane sugar and 3tsp lemon juice to make a simple syrup. Commercial Spring Water to OG of 1.090

1tsp Fermex
1/8 tsp DAP
5 tsp acid blend to get PH 3.6 (from 4.2)
EC 1118, hydrated at 105f with Goferm

I think the rest is well presented above. The SG only changed slightly due to additions of the two slurries, no other movement or signs of fermentation. Temp in the brew room is a stable 68f with multiple wines fermenting happily.
 

Country

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I measure the specific gravity with with my hydrometer in the large plastic test tube made for it. I remove about 3 oz of must with a sanitized wine thief and add it to the tube.

This stuff is definitely not fermenting. The bucket is perfectly still, no bubbles, no foam, no nothing- we’ll actually lots of nothing :-(
 

Country

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My biggest fear is that I added too much acid blend and have created a solution that is too acidic for the yeast. I am using a calibrated Hanna PH Checker. But admit that there is a lot I don’t know about wine making.
 

sour_grapes

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Okay, the reason I asked was in case you were using a refractometer. In the presence of alcohol, that device skews high. I don't have an answer for you as to why this is stalled, sadly!
 

Scooter68

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Have you read the fine print on the bottle? Perhaps they put a strong dose of something in there that the wine yeast can't tolerate? Most times that isn't an issue but in this case... Sorta makes me think of the first time I saw cartons of milk stacked in the middle of a German grocery store - no refrigeration. It was radiated and would not spoil unless exposed to air. Just wondering if they came up with some new method of treating that juice.
 

cmason1957

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If you ph is only 3.6 you didn't add so much acid blend to make an inhospitable environment. Do you still have the bottles the juice came in and could you post a picture of the ingredients part of the label, maybe something will stick out.
 

stickman

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Take a look at your lemon juice, if you used bottled, it may contain sodium benzoate.
 

Country

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I checked the lemon juice and it does contain sodium benzoate, as well as sodium bisulfate. Could such a small amount make about 1.5 gallons leathal to yeast?

I really appreciate the help getting to the bottom of this.
 

cmason1957

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I have used probably that same or very similar lemon juice in making skeeter pee and you add two to the bottles of it to 6 gallons, so I don't think that is the problem. Do you have any idea what your TA is? Adding that much acid blend changes the TA by about 0.85 which is a huge change. I wonder????
 

Country

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I don’t yet understand TA, I rely on the PH meter but need to learn. From my basic understanding of how acid blend works to lower PH, I think I used about the right amount although it did seeem like a lot at the time. The meter continues to read 3.6 after a fresh calibration.

I added a teaspoon at a time with lots of stirring and waiting inbetweeen.
 

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I haven’t given up on this yet. I have been wipping several times a day and the harsh smell is fading. I transferred to a carboy and have been using vacuum to try to pull out any gasses in the must. The smell was a lot like that of my sanitizing solution, so maybe a chance that I topped up with the wrong jug. Potassium metabisulfite solution in one jug and natural spring water in the other is probably not a good idea!!!
 

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Update from Biotta:

“Thank you for your interest in Biotta Juices! I cannot say why you have had difficulty fermenting our Elderberry Juice. We had our team try to do the same – they were able to ferment the juice.”

I was quick to put the blame on something wrong with the juice. More like something wrong with the winemaker!!
 

Scooter68

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That make a lot more sense as to why it won't ferment AND the smells. Marking bottles well is a key to avoiding mistakes. That and how you organize. If you keep certain types of chemicals and liquids in one area and always return them to that area you are less likely to make a mistake like that.
 

garymc

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I think the sulfite/ammonia smell you describe sounds more like k-meta than rotten egg. I have used empty spring or distilled water jugs for sanitizing solution also. I used a black magic marker to write on multiple sides in very thick letters what it was. I have since started mixing my sanitizing solution into a quart spray bottle. After I learned that it was the sulfite gas that sanitized things, I no longer needed large amounts of solution. It can be sprayed on things and after a while you can dump out the old solution. I don't even fill the quart bottle when I make it up now. You can wash a carboy or bucket, rinse it, then spray the k-meta solution in it and put a lid on it. The large surface area covered by the spray releases a lot of sulfite gas quickly. I can do my buckets, canes, hoses, and 10 carboys with way less than a quart. Same with the corkador.
 

danr

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If it is an OD of K-meta don't give up.I've done the same.A lot of whipping and it released it.
My wine turned out fine.
 

Country

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The smell has me convinced that I some how over did (really over did) the kmeta. I don’t really remember the details of start day so no way of knowing if I grabbed the wrong gallon jug to top up, or maybe spooned in Kmeta thinking it was acid bled? But moving on. Whipped and whipped this stuff with power drill attachment followed by vacuum pressure to pull out toxins. This over several weeks now. Today I vacuum racked and let the pump pull air through the mix for about :15. Now I’m racking onto a Merlot slurry (RC212). This is it ladies and gentlemen, one final chance for this stuff to prove me wrong. Come on juice, you are not unfermentable!!!!
 
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