when to do first racking?

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wine newbee

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I think I have the terminology right -- I mean, I'm ready to strain the must and put the liquid into a jug for "settling" for a long while.

I've read in various grape-wine recipes that I should stir the must (after pitching the yeast) 7-8 days before straining. I (in the 1st batches I've made the past 1-2 years) have waited until most/all of the bubbling stops in the must before moving to the next step. That could be up to 2 weeks.

But ... I also have a history of producing really, really dry wines (yeah, even with the muscadines I use; I didn't think a dry muscadine was possible). I'd prefer some wines with at least a little sweetness to 'em, w/o having to "back-sweeten".

The yeast I use is a Lalvin 71B. I was told that was what I needed, so .....

Today is Day 11 since I pitched the yeast, and there's still plenty of bubbling.

Should I strain the must now? If I do so, could I expect a sweeter wine? Or ... should I use something to kill the yeast at this point?

Do I have to use the hydrometer before I make a decision?

Thx for any input on this .....

Mitch
 

Rembee

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You should alway make decisions based on a hydrometer reading during fermentation.
More information is needed about your wine in order that we may assist you better.

1. Did you take a hydrometer reading prior to pitching the yeast? If so what was the reading?
2. What type of wine is this? How much are you making?
3. During active fermentation, (AF), the must should be stirred at least twice daily. This will incorporate O2 into the must that the yeast need during primary fermentation.
4. By straining I'm going to assume that you mean racking or squeezing out the pulp from a fermentation brew bag. This should not be done until you have reached a SG of 1.020 or lower. This is where a hydrometer reading is needed.
5. Forget about watching the bubbles and making decisions based on bubble activity.
A fermentation should be considered complete once the SG is .998 or lower.
6. There is no need to kill the yeast. The yeast will become inactive once they have reached their alcohol tolerance. (There are other reasons why folks would want to stop a fermentation that I will not go into now.)
 

wine newbee

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OK, here goes ....
1. I didn't take a reading before pitching. How would I even do that -- since the must is a mess to deal with, I'm guessing, prior to squeezing the pulp --?
2. Muscadine (mixture of grapes). I've filled a 2-gal container with the must.
3. I've only stirred 1X/day. That's what I've heard from various sources I should do.
4. Good idea.
5. OK -- bubbles forgotten.
6. OK -- good.

Re: #4 -- can I decant some of the liquid from the must into a cylinder, and after doing the hydrometer reading, pour the decantate back into the must? The cylinder would be sanitized.

Thx for all the info ....

Mitch
 
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@ChuckD has been on WMT less than a week and he's already proved he's listening! 😂

All jokes aside -- ask a question of 10 winemakers and you'll get at least 11 answers, as there are numerous reasonable answers to most questions. However, I doubt you can find anyone on this forum who will answer anything other than "yes" to the question "should I use a hydrometer".

1. Use a fine straining bag. I have a FermTech Wine Thief, which is large enough to accept a hydrometer. It's always clean and I sanitize before each use. If the must is chunky, wrap it in a fine straining bag to keep the chunks out, withdraw enough wine, and insert the hydrometer. After taking a reading, release the wine back into the container. DO NOT throw out the wine, if you are clean and sanitary, the wine is ok.

3. Stir / punch down the cap at least once per day. I agree with @Rembee that twice (or 3) times per day is better, but life doesn't always cooperate. Do what you can -- morning and night is a good schedule.

4. This one has numerous answers, all of which are valid, so I'll add to Rembee's answer. Some folks rack whites at 1.020 to preserve fruit aromas and flavors. If making a heavy red, press at 1.000 or lower. Kits and juice can be racked any place in between, but my unofficial tally of what folks do is that most do it at 1.010 or lower.

5. A slow fermentation or a container that is not 100% sealed will show little activity. Your hydrometer will never lie to you.

6. Actually, it's impossible to kill the yeast without damaging the wine.

A common question is "how do I stop the fermentation?" For home winemakers, the answer is, "you don't". While it is possible to stop a fermentation, stopping it where you want it to is unlikely, as it doesn't stop quickly. Commercial wineries with dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of barrels can blend barrels to get the residual sugar they want. With 2 gallons of wine? Not likely to happen.

So ... start with an SG that will produce the ABV you want. Let the wine do its thing and ferment dry. Stabilize, and backsweeten to taste.
 

Rembee

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1. You can take a sanitized strainer and press it down into the must and then take a clean sample for the hydrometer. Or use a wine thief with a spring loaded valve.
3. The popular opinion here in the forum is to stir at least twice daily during fermentation until you reach a SG of 1.020 or lower. Also placing a towel or linen sheet over the primary fermenter.
Many of us ferment in a open container with a towel over the top.
Once the SG is below 1.020, then you can rack (siphon) the wine into a carboy fitted with an airlock
Re: #4 Yes, as long as the cylinder was sanitized, the sample can be poured back into the the fermentation container.
 

Rembee

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Just for clarification, I do and recommend waiting until the SG is at or below 1.010 as @winemaker81 suggested. But when it comes to new wine maker(s), I error to caution at a SG of 1.020 to ensure that once you rack into a carboy fitted with an airlock that there will be enough C02 being produced to displace any O2. Once experience is gained, then I agree that one should not rack or press until a SG of 1.010 or lower is met. 😉
 
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