If You Struggle With Acid Testing Your Wines, Then Read This!

Testing Your WineI am making a red wine. I am trying to get the right level of acid. I used a titration kit and got a reading of 15% tartaric. When I used pH papers it had a pH level of 3.8. What do I do follow the tartaric? I am worried that if I do it will be to acidic. It already tastes sharp and sour.
Name: Justin Maddock
State: Missouri
Hello Justin,
We have some conflicting information going on. Your titration reading indicates that your wine if ‘very low’ in acid. Your pH reading indicates that it’s a ‘little low’ in acid. And, your taste buds are indicating that it is ‘too high’ in acid. The only thing I can say with this type of information is that you need to get to the bottom of what’s really going on with your wine before doing anything to it.
Depending on the type of wine, you should be expecting a titration reading between .55% and .75% tartaric. A reading of .15% would not taste anywhere near sharp, in fact it would have an impression closer to flavored water, so I doubt if this reading is correct for whatever reason.
The pH reading is believable. This is because it is not way whacked out and the fact that taking a pH reading is simple, straight-forward and hard too mess up. For most wines you would like a reading between 3.4 and 3.6. Your reading of 3.8 indicates that your wine is a little shy of being within a normal range. Remember that the pH scale works backwards. This means your reading of 3.8 is less in acid than the 3.6.
Then we have your personal taste perception. You stated that it taste a little sharp or sour. In reality your own personal taste is what really matters, so we could forget all about the rest and say that your wine has too much acid — for your own personal tastes — and lower it by whatever means. But I have found that most home winemaker’s would rather rely on technology than on themselves.
With that being said, I would do a titration test on a commercially made wine with your Acid Test Kit and pH papers. If you don’t have one, just go buy the cheapest wine you can find. If you do not get a reading around .60% or .70%, tartaric with the Acid Test Kit, then I would be suspicious of how old the titration solutions are, or your ability to administer the test. Your pH papers or litmus papers could be too old to be accurate as well, but not likely. It takes several years for these to become too old to use. But since you spent the money on the wine, I would test the pH as well to see what your get.
If you don’t get a reasonable reading with either of these methods, then you need to either get them replace with new, or contact one of our very, very nice customer service representatives on the phone and they will step you through the testing process. Another blog post that you might like to take a look at is “Using An Acid Test Kit“. It’s a two-parter that goes into a little more detail about how to use the Acid Test Kit Like I said before, I would not recommend doing anything to the wine until you get readings that make sense.
Happy Wine Making,
Ed Kraus
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.