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Using stevia leaves in the secondary

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wildhair

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Stevia is one of the plants that I grow and I have a very productive plant that I need to harvest the leaves from. Typically, I dry it, then powder it in a coffee grinder. It keeps for a long, long time when powdered. It can also be made into a liquid sweetener - I have not tried that yet.

I have searched and read any of the old posts here on using stevia, but most dealt with back-sweetening with it and talked about using commercial processed products made from stevia. From what I read, it can breakdown in a couple months and cause fermentation to begin again.

My thinking was that if the wine is fermented dry or nearly dry, I could add the powdered (or liquefied) leaves to the secondary and sweeten it in the secondary. Then if it DID cause fermentation to re-start, no biggie. Any organic parts would settle out with the lees, thus eliminating any cloudiness that come from back-sweetening after the wine had cleared. If it works - this could result in a lower calorie ~ almost zero calorie ~ wine.

My question is - if anyone has tried this? Any adverse effects - off taste, storage issues, clearing issues, etc? I may try it on a small batch of something to see if and how well it works, so if anyone has any suggestions - I'm all ears........
or eyes, I guess.
 

Kraffty

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Wildhair, from everything I've read Stevia will not ferment. I've grown it but not tried to back sweeten with it, maybe try a test batch to see how long the sweetness hold up. Unfortunately it wouldn't effect the calories since they come from the real sugar needed to ferment in the first place. I'd love to hear how it tasted especially in something like a strawberry or fruit wine.
Mike
 

wildhair

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Mike, - that's what I thought,too, but a couple of older posts said it beaks down into a ferment-able form in a couple months. ?? I don't know.
As for the calorie count (not that I really give a hoot) - but isn't the sugar mostly consumed in the fermentation? Do the calories from the sugar remain AFTER the sugar is converted to alcohol? At least, if you don't have to add any sugar to back-sweeten, you'd eliminate those added calories. I am wondering if the sweetness would persist thru the secondary ferment and aging.

I'll give it a shot and let you know how it works in about a year! LOL
 

Scooter68

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1) What is the attraction of Stevia? I've grown it too but I also know that stevia is a plant with varying qualities from plant to plant. After-tastes are the biggest problem. Some folks get it and some don't, it's one of the strange things about the plant and again it varies from plant to plant. Honestly given the vagaries of the stevia effects I would not use it. IF as you said, it could produce fermentation after breaking down, then it has nothing to offer over sugar.

2) Calorie counting is something that very few folks do with wine BUT, yes the alcohol does contribute calories. The conversion effect (Fermentation) may wipe out some of the total calories in the sugar but most still remain in the wine. They do not evaporate. So your initial sugar content calories, pre-fermentation are still there albeit diminished somewhat.

Overall, other than already having stevia on hand, I don't see the attraction of using it other than the novelty of it. It adds complexity of issues to the process that aren't fully know. The industry that produces stevia sweeteners have not convinced me that they truly have done enough research on it to fully understand it. For home users, it remains a difficult sweetener to use even with the methods you describe. Powered Stevia (ground for a LONG time in a coffee grinder) still does not dissolve as sugar does and tends to float.

Not trying to dampen your interest but, realistically I think it injects more potential issues than most folks want to deal with.

Finally - since you posted on the Country Fruit Winemaking area, what sort of fruit wine are you thinking of making with the Stevia?
 

wildhair

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In reverse order......

I posted here because pretty much Country Fruit wine is all I make......and because I wasn't sure what other category a Q like this falls in to. Not sure what fruit I'd use, apple or black raspberries is what I have the most of. Maybe rhubarb?? Maybe an herb or flower wine, like lemon balm or mint?

I wanted realistic input from folks with more experience than I have - positive & negative thoughts. My interest is not dampened........ maybe it should be? ;-)

While the stevia leaves in powdered form do tend to float, they eventually settle to the bottom of the cup, just like lees. Perhaps a liquid tincture would be better........

Yes, the novelty of it is part - mostly I like to use the fruit and herbs I grow, try new things and use the things I have in new ways. That's how I got into this whole wine-making hobby to begin with. So I was looking for a new way to put this plant to use. Call it curiosity or experimentation - a lot of "what if........." questions run thru my little mind.

Calorie info - thanks & good to know. Not that I count calories anyway....... tho..... maybe I should. I learned something new.

Mostly it's just another wildhair idea. :) The stevia plant is going great guns this year & I wondered how using stevia would affect the taste profile of wine. You are correct about an after-taste, tho I don't find it objectionable - but I wonder what happens to that after-taste after it goes thru fermentation? I was hoping maybe someone had already tried it.

I guess the only advantage is that it might eliminate the need to back-sweeten, if the sweetness can hold up during secondary fermentation.
 

Scooter68

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Understand the curiosity aspect (Wildhare too.) And perhaps if you two batches at the same time you could make a good side-buy-side comparison of the results. As to the settling of the stevia, that would mean that when you rack the wine before bottling, you are going to leave that material behind and perhaps it's sweetening characteristics. I grew stevia one season and it did quite well but as you know even well blenderized, the sweeting effect is less than optimal. Converting it to a liquid or tincture might work.
One thing to think about is how important a crystal clear wine is to you. (A question to think about) It may be only aesthetics but if you plan a on sharing it with others... some folks don't get it, they expect all wines to look like store bought wines, with the only acceptable dust being on the outside of the bottle.

Finally as I mentioned, there is so much unknown about the inter-action of things like this that it's hard to know what may happen when the stevia and sulfite interact as well and various elements of the wine essences and the pH. A good experiment to try but I don't know how much hard/concrete info is available about both the short term outcomes.

As to back-sweetening, that, to me, isn't a big issue especially since I started aging my fruit wines longer before bottling. Initially I suffered from serious impatience and that meant bottling wines at 3-4 months of age only to fine out that they might never lose an objectionable characteristic or that they might turn out a bit sweeter than expected. Waiting to bottle for at least 10-12 months makes a big difference especially with some fruit wines.

Keep us posted as this progresses.
 

cmason1957

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You may want to do what a member of the wine club I belong to did to see what the longer term impact was of a few different backsweetened choices. He added Stevia, sugar, honey, sweet n low, and I believe saccharine, to different bottles. Aged the wine about 6 months to a year. Then brought them to wine club for educational purposes. The sugar and honey were as expected. All the others had varying degrees of some aftertaste or odd taste in them. Take that for what it is worth, but my takeaway was don't use them.
 

wildhair

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Thanks, good to know. But I wasn't going to back-sweeten, but sort of "mid-sweeten". Might make a difference? Ya never know unless ya try, eh?
 

Scooter68

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With most fruits they benefit from some degree of back-sweetening. Most of mine taste great at an SG of about 1.005 which is considered "off-dry" by most folks. The Fruits taste seems to return at that point. The only fruits I really sweeten are the ones with something over 14%-15% ABV - I do that to make it into a Dessert wine.
 

Johny99

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Last fall I added various amounts of commercial stevia to my cider to add a bit of sweetness. After fermentation is complete, I charge each bottle like champagne but don’t disgorge, so sterile filtering or sorbate isn’t an option. I bottled in December and so far, the stevia bottles taste sweeter and no aftertaste. Since I have the lees from the second fermentation, I can’t comment if it leaves sediment. I do prefer the touch of sweetness however to the same juice fully dry.
 

wildhair

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Scooter - I agree with the added sweetness bringing out the fruit flavor. My thought was I might be able to attain that desired level of sweetness by adding the stevia after primary fermentation but before the wine had settled and aged. That would allow any organic stevia bits to settle with the lees and clear as usual, but (hopefully) retain the sweetness. By the time it's racked, all of the "sweet" compound in the leaves should have leeched into the wine - probably. Just like adding a cinnamon stick to my apple wine in the secondary - the flavor stays after the stick is removed.

However, since I don't think the sweetness from stevia would show up as an SG reading - it would have to be pre-sweetened based purely on taste-tasting the immature wine. That would make it harder to replicate, if it works.

Good idea making 2 batches to run an actual side-by-side comparison - that would be more scientific-like. :) I may try a 3rd batch using an alcohol based tincture extract.

Just to be clear - my "plan" was -
Ferment fruit as usual to 1.10-ish
Rack into the secondary - set a gallon aside as a control
Add the stevia to taste & airlock
Rack & test & age both as usual.
See what the hell happens. LOL

How well does it clear? Does the sweetness remain? How does it affect the taste and other qualities of the wine compared to the control batch? Is there a funky after-taste - or just a different taste? Maybe a better taste?

Inquiring minds want to know. ;-)
 

Scooter68

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You are likely correct as to the sweetness by taste vs the SG reading. In reality I sweeten based on the taste I am getting as I bench test then once that's done and my wine batch is sweetened I take an SG reading. For the record that's what's interesting is that with no knowledge of the SG the end result of most of my batches is a final, into-the-bottle SG of about 1.005 +/- .002 Your results may vary based on your taste desires but I wonder if you track your wine making over a number of batches, if you will find similar results. Certainly a wine designed to be a dessert wine will be different than a regular fruit wine but again if you make multiple batches of wine over a period of time will the ending/into-the-bottle SG vary...?
 

wildhair

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My wife like wine sweeter than I, so I typically have to split the wine when back-sweetening. I would think the final sweetness would also depend on the fruit. Black raspberry needs to be a bit sweeter than I thought to bring out the berry flavor, where the apple can be pretty dry and I like it. I'll have to start making more notes of the "pre-bottle" SG - so far I've just back-sweetened until it tasted good to me, then aged it and bottled it when I can find the time.
 

Scooter68

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Are you speaking of wild berries or domesticated berries for your wines? There is a huge difference in the two. This past week my granddaughter selected a cake for a celebration and it was decorated on the outside with blueberries and large blackberries. The blueberries were pretty close to what comes off of my bushes, just not as sweet. The blackberries were BLAH. One of our wild blackberries has twice as much flavor in 1/4 the size as those jumbo, water loaded domestic berries. It does make a difference. My one and only batch of Black Raspberry wine was made with just 4 1/4 lbs of wild Black Raspberries but that wine was stout and would blow away your taste buds with flavor.
That's why I ask. From domestic to wild berries there is often a world of difference.

Hope that doesn't sound snobbish but it's the truth, I'll take our smaller wild Arkansas Blackberries and Black Raspberries over ANY domestic berry.
 

wildhair

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They're not "commercial" black raspberries ~ mine is a patch I've had for 30 years. I did buy the original 6 plants from a nursery. The berries are relatively small & very flavorful. Does that make them wild or domestic? Every one of my wines is from my own fruit, flowers & herbs. The only time I've ever bought fruit was to make some Dragon's Blood.

And it sounded like an accurate observation, not "snobbish", to me.
 

Scooter68

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Given the age of those vines and the size you mention, I suspect they predate those offered these days that boast of large berry size. In other words yours are far closer to wild than what may be sold today and in fact perhaps yours were cultivated closely to wild berries.

If you ever tasted one of those huge store bought blackberries I think you know what I mean.

Congrats - Wild and Natural berries - far better than those 'engineered' berries of today. A nephew of mine claims that his blackberry bushes, taken directly from our wild patches, produce large berries but I suspect that's due to more watering, vs the totally natural conditions we allow here. If ours don't get rain then that's the way things go. We don't run water out into our woods, thought that might be an interesting experiment if we want to foot that water bill water one of the nearest patches.

Black Raspberries are the tough ones for us. The small wild berry patches we have seem to migrate around the place lasting perhaps 2-3 years then fading away and they show up in another location.
 

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