My kit wine calls to immediately put the contents of the juice, wine yeast, etc. in an air-tight container with an airlock. However all over your site it says NOT to put it in an air-tight container for the first 5-7 days because it will inhibit the growth of the wine yeast. Can you clear this up for me?
State: North Carolina
It is a matter of weighing all the pros and cons differently.
The reason you use a fermentation airlock is to protect the wine from contamination. If you leave the lid and airlock off the primary fermenter and the fermentation begins in a timely manner and ferments vigorously, there is very little chance of the wine becoming compromised in any way. Not only is the CO2 gas rapidly rising off the fermentation, protecting it from fall-out of airborne nasties, but the vigorous activity of the wine yeast themselves are also destroying any contaminants that may make their way to the liquid.
The harder the wine ferments, the more protected the wine will be, and the sooner your wine will have completed its fermenting.
Wine kit manufacturers say to themselves, “we do not know that everyone’s fermentation is going to start as it should. What if it doesn’t and the airlock is not being used? Then there is a possibility of the fermentation being taken over by a mold or bacteria. We would rather be safe, because we are not sure every single fermentation will start-off as intended.”
- Leaving the lid and airlock off will allow the primary fermentation to start sooner and continue more rapidly, but it can also leave the fermentation susceptible to contamination should it not start in a timely fashion.
- Leaving the lid and airlock on will keep the fermentation much more protected, but it will cause their primary fermentation to go more slowly.
I would like to point out that keeping an airlock off the primary fermentation is not something we made up. It is regularly practiced in the wine industry. It is also the typical way a fresh fruit wine is made by home winemakers.
Also, I would like to make it clear that we are only talking about the primary fermentation. As the fermentation starts to slow down, and it becomes time to rack the wine into a secondary fermenter, you should always be using an airlock. The same holds true if the fermentation is not starting out as strong or as quick as it should; put the lid and airlock on until you see the fermentation is going.
As a final point, whether or not you use an airlock during the primary fermentation, the wine will be made. It’s a matter of how fast and vigorous the fermentation proceeds, not a matter of whether or not your wine will turn out, so don’t feel that it is a critical decision because it’s not.
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.