What is the best way to tell when my wine is ready to bottle?
Great question, and an important one too. The last thing anyone wants to do is bottle their wine too soon. This is especially important if you plan on handing any of it out as wine making gifts. A significant amount of sediment could eventually form in the wine bottle, or worse yet, corks could possibly start pushing out and cause a mess.
Fortunately for us home winemakers, it’s very easy to determine if a wine is ready to be bottled. Here is what has to happen before you can bottle your wine:
1. Your wine has to be completely clear. There should be no more sediment that needs to fall out. Most of the sediment you’ll be dealing with is made up of tiny, microscopic yeast cells. These cells are as fine as flour. It is important to understand that even the slightest amount of murkiness in the wine at bottling time could lead to sediment in the wine bottles later. Give the wine plenty of time to clear. If you’re not sure wait, longer.
2. Your wine should read less than .998 on the Specific Gravity scale of your wine hydrometer. This is telling you that the fermentation process has actually finished and hasn’t just stalled out halfway, or still fermenting very slowly as a stuck fermentation. If you do not have a wine hydrometer I would urge you to get one. They are not that expensive and can save you a lot of problems in the long run.
3. The wine should be free of any residual CO2 gas. This is the gas that occurs when the wine ferments. CO2 gas is the same stuff that makes beer foam and soda pop fizzy. Once the wine is taken off the sediment, you can stir the wine to get this gas to release. You may want to consider purchasing a Degassing/Mixing Paddle to help you with this process. It is a paddle that attaches to a hand drill and will fit in the opening of a carboy as well as an opening of a plastic fermenter.
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.
my wine has a yeast smell and taste to it……………………………………………………………
You need to wait longer, there is no way it should smell or taste like yeast when it’s done. Be patient!
How would you recommend keeping the sediment separate from the clear wine when bottling?
Walter. once the wine is clear and ready to bottle, you need to transfer the wine away from the sediment into another sanitized fermenter before bottling. The process of transferring the wine is called racking the wine. The article below will explain the process in more detail.
siphon the wine to avoid the sediment
Mike, a yeast smell or odor would indicate that there is still "some" yeast in the wine. If there is currently some sediment in your container, I would rack the wine of the sediment and let it sit long. I would also consider the degassing mentioned above. This will reduce the odor.
You recommend the wine reach a SG of .998 before bottling but is that true for sweetened wines as well? I am making my first Port from a kit and it recommends bottling at between 1.015 and 1.020.
Hi. If you intend your bottle to go space x station, do it without a doubt. 🙂
Bill, you are just fine following those directions. The .998 comment was based on a dry wine that has fermented all but a tracable amount of the available sugars. Your situation is completely different.
How do you know when your wine it totally degassed??
John, the simplest way to go about it is to agitate the wine until the foaming stops. You should agitate the wine in way that does not allow air to get saturated into it. This means hard, forceful stirring without splashing the wine. If you agitate the wine in this way the only foaming you will see will be caused by CO2 gas. When you see no more foaming, you are done.
Hi, I put my wine in the carboy and left the sediments behind after primary fermentation. I was at an sg of 1 by the time i racked and has stopped fermenting and clear after 2 weeks in the carboy, I have the wine half way up the shoulder and not too the neck. i think i was shorted on my 6 gallons. im told its too much head room and afraid of oxidation. but other say its fine. I do not want to water it down, alter taste with other wines, or add marbles if I can avoid it. When can I bottle? can I bottle it for aging or should I bulk age? I only racked once between the two frementation stages. If I rack once more then let it sit a week then bottle am I hurting anything? If I bottle I wont have the air issue. I can rack it again and leave it for another week and possible even rerack a third time with this much head room, should I be concerned with the air thats in it? air is bad I understand that but theres no way to block out all air so there must be an acceptable amount. is my amount of air ok for a few more weeks or months if i age in bulk? or do you recommened I bottle? pics/blog below if your interested in seeing it.
One way to take up the extra space is to add sanitized glass marbles
Derek, I understand you concerns about oxidation, but you also need to be concerned about ending up with sediment in your wine bottles. A wine needs to be given plenty of time to drop our all the wine yeast. You did not mention if you added sulfites to the wine at all. If not, I would rack the wine off any sediment, add sulfites and top off the carboy with another wine. Any dry, white wine will do.
I’m making fruit wine and i’m wondering how you know when this is ready to be bottled. What hydrometer reading should i have before i attempt this.
Made cranberry wine, followed the directions, bottled after 1 yr and left it age for 1 whole year and still tastes so strong like liquor. Way to strong to drink alone and flavor is not great. Did I do something wrong to produce such a strong wine?
A big problem with strong fruit wines is the directions ask for too much sugar in the initial setup. This gives you a high alcohol finish. When you have a high alcohol it tends to take away from the actual flavours of the fruit base you are using. I prefer to finish my fruit wines with a lower alcohol and enjoy some of the actual fruit flavors. If you use a fruit wines kit their alcohol levels finish off around 6% alcove. levels!
Ben, read #2 in the above post.
Jenelle, the only thing that controls the resulting alcohol level is the amount of sugar in the wine must that ferments. The more sugar that ferments, the more alcohol you will have in the wine. The only thing I could suggest at this point is cutting the wine as you drink it with Cranberry juice.
Dear Customer Service!
I’d like to know when to separate must from wine(after must sediment or immediately after ML fermentation?I worry touching the must with wine makes some problems or leads to decrease the final quality.
Amin, I assume you mean the sediment when you say, "must". You should siphon the wine off the sediment once the yeast fermentation stops, and again, after the wine has cleared.
I am about to embark on my first homebrew wine making kit. It is a Cantina Shiraz 21 Litre kit. My question is simple. In order to identify if there is no more CO2 remaining in my wine, is it purely down to seeing if there is any froth after vigorously stirring?
Dave, that is pretty much it. You will always be able to get some frothing on the surface just from the fact that the wine does has some surface tension. What you don’t want to see is a bunch of bubbles rising as the wine is still being agitated. One thing you may want to consider is getting is a degassing mixer. We have one called "The Whip" it attaches to a hand drill.
Hi… I am a first-time home wine maker… I have a white wine that I have added metabisulfate to to clear the wine before bottling…
The wine has cleared and there are large deposits on the bottom… also when I stirred the carboy a bubbly foam formed on the top… Is this CO2?
Is this wine ready for bottling or do I need to rack it again?
Any help is appreciated.
Hi, I have a 5 gal carboy that is filled to about 6-7 inches below the neck of bottle. It’s plum wine that I have sweetened. (And would like to keep it sweet/semi-sweet) I started it on Sept. 24, and been checking with hydrometer about once/twice a week. Its settling, but still is cloudy and bubbly…tastes good though! Do you recommend racking now, or should iI let it sit awhile longer?? …I want it to have the highest alcohol content as possible without ruining it. Right now the hydrometer reading is 1.020. Do I wait til its closer to .998? Also, if i would like it sweeter, if and when could I add more dissolved sugar?
Joy, first let me say that if you started the wine on 9-24 and have not yet racked the wine, you need to do so now. If you leave the wine on the sediment too long it could develop off flavors. The reason it is cloudy and bubbly is because it is still fermenting and you need to let it complete by reaching a specific gravity reading of .998 or less. Once the fermentation is complete, the wine is clear and ready to bottle, you can back-sweeten to your own taste. Below I have posted the links to a couple of articles that you provide you with a more detailed explanation of sweetening and racking your wine.
Racking Your Wine
Making Sweet Wines
Tass, you need to let the wine sit without stirring for a while to give it time to settle. If more sediment settles than before, then the wine is still clearing. Give it more time. If no new sediment is being created you can then siphon the wine off the sediment into a clean vessel.
The bubbles you are seeing is CO2 gas. You will need to degas the wine after siphoning.
How long should I chill my wine to make sure any tartaric crystals fall to the bottom before I can bottle it
Randy, when cold stabilizing your wine, you normally cool the wine down to 35-45 degrees for 1-2 weeks.
When in the process would you cold stabilize? I racked my white wine after fermentation was completed on October 7.
Thom, cold stabilization is only done in wine making after the fermentation has completed and the wine has been given a day or two for the heavier particles to fall out on their own through gravity. For more information, please see the article link listed below.
Hey there, first time winemaker here. Lots of different opinions and strategies on the internet so i just wanted to run my method by ya and see if you think its pretty solid. Making a cab merlot blend (about 15 gallons in a demijohn). Set in primary fermentation for about 8 days until bubbling greatly reduced. Racked wine off the sediment into another demijohn. Taste test revealed good flavor but obviously bubbly a little cloudy and not finished. Its been in secondary fermentation for like 4 weeks now and bubbling is almost at a standstill maybe once every 2 minutes. (Which i assume is just slight CO2 release). Havent degassed yet, but am ready to. After degassing Is it ready for bottling ya think? Do you reccommend adding a fining agent? Sorbate needed for a dark red? Obviously looking to build upon and develop my own personal technique, but dont want to make 15 gallons!! of cruddy wine on the first go at it. Thanks
Christian, the first thing that I would advise doing is taking a hydrometer reading to verify that the fermentation is in fact complete before proceeding to degassing or adding any fining agents. Once the specific gravity reading reaches .998 or less, the fermentation is complete. Once you have verified that is is complete the wine should start clearing on its own. However, you can add a fining agent to help the process along. Once the wine is clear and degassed it is ready to bottle. Potassium Sorbate is added to prevent re-fermentation of the wine if you decide to back sweeten it before bottling.
Quick question. I have one gallon of wine from grape concentrate that is stuck at sg 1.030 for over a month. It is clear and tastes good but I’m not sure if it can be bottled yet or not.
Morgan, it sounds like you are experiencing a stuck fermentation. You need to get the fermentation to complete before you bottle the wine. The fermentation is not complete until the specific gravity reaches .998 or less. If you bottle the wine before it completes you run the risk of the fermentation starting up again in the bottles. If this occurs, the corks could pop or the bottles could explode. To fix a stuck fermentation you need to find out was is the cause. Please take a look at the article posted below to see which of the most common causes apply to your situation.
I have my first chardonnay wine kit going. I thought I reached a gravity reading of 0.098 but now on bottling day, my gravity reading looks like 1.000. Maybe I was just hoping the reading was on target. I added the Sorbet and the liquigel cause I thought it was ready. Can I still bottle it? It also tastes super boozy. I made two other batches from store bought purple grape juice and they are already at 0.95 after the fist fermentation process. Can I let the Chardonnay sit in a sealed container with no air lock? It sat for a week and did not bubble at all.
Lynn, there is nothing wrong with letting the wine sit a little longer. It can age in bulk as well as in the bottle, so if you are not sure about your hydrometer reading, let is sit a few days. If nothing happens bottle. If something did happen and your hydrometer reading is .998, then bottle. No harm done!
I’ve got my first 6 gallons of wine crystal clear. ..I’ve back sweetened and was ready to bottle today but specific gravity read 1.030. Does this mean I have fermentation going on?? ..should I wait before bottling, or add potassium sorbate to stop fermentation. ..?? Any info would be appreciated.
Brian, hydrometer scales work by the weight of the liquid. If you add sugar then the liquid becomes heavier therefore the specific gravity reading will go up. If you did not add potassium sorbate to stabilize against re-fermentation when you back sweetened it, then the additional sugar that you added will start to ferment. You will need to wait until it finishes fermentation before you can bottle the wine.
I started my first batch of wine Dec 30 .the fg won’t drop it’s stuck at 1020 I’ve tried everything.can you help
Nicole, have you gone over all of the most common causes of fermentation failure as listed in our article posted below to see if any apply to your situation. Have you tried making making a yeast starter to get the fermentation going again.The article posted below will teach you how to do so.
Top Reasons For Fermentation Failure
Hi I have just started the clearing process now how long is the maximum time it can remain in the same vessel? I am away for about 6 weeks now will the wine be OK in the fermentation drum still with original sediment? Thanks in advance richard
Richard, you do not want to leave the wine sitting on the sediment very long as it can cause the wine to spoil. The active yeast will instinctively start producing an enzyme that will break-down the dead yeast cells that lay on the bottom. This is done so that dead yeast’s nutrients can be released and utilized by the still-active yeast. This break-down process is known as “autolysis” and its effects can eventually ruin a wine. If given enough time–weeks, not days–this process can produce off-flavors in a wine that range from bitter, to rubber, to even metallic.
Hi! First time making wine and I’m using blackberries. My instructions said primary fermentation should be done and SG should hit 1.030 in 5-7 days. Checked the SG level on day 5 and its well under 1.000 (I will definitely be checking daily going forward.) Do I do a secondary fermentation now or is it done and need to be bottled? Or is this even something I can salvage that’s going to tasted OK? Thanks in advance!
Courtney, it sounds like you had a very successful fermentation and it finished very quickly. I would go ahead and rack it to the secondary, let it clear, rack it off the sediment and bottle the wine.
Hi , I,m new to wine making and I’ve just made a 7 day kit , I’ve now racked off the wine after 6 days and de gassed and added the stabiliser and stupidly didn’t take a reading ? It now showing 1.015 ?.. Not the 1.000 or below recommend ? I haven’t added any clearing or bottled the wine .. What should I do ?..
Lee, I would recommend waiting to see if the fermentation does go ahead and complete. Normally potassium sorbate will not permanently halt a fermentation that did not complete. The potassium sorbate does not stop or inhibit the fermenting in any way. What it does do is stop the yeast from reproducing themselves. If the fermentation does not progress, you can try adding a yeast starter to help get it to finish. The articles posted below will provide additional information.
Using Potassium Sorbate to Stop Fermentation
Making A Yeast Starter
My muscadine has stopped bubbling after 7 days on the secondary fermentation, it usually bubbles for 14 days!
Debbie, have you checked the hydrometer reading? It is possible for the fermentation to complete that quickly. Another possibility is that it is close to completion and there is not a lot of activity occurring. If neither of these situations do not apply, you might have a stuck fermentation. The article posted below will cover the most common causes for a stuck fermentation.
Top Reasons For Fermentation Failure
can i use frozen blueberrys to make wine?? thank you , you have helped me , thank you,
Darlene, yes you can use frozen blueberries to make wine.
What are my options?
Hi, my red is at secondary fermentation at the moment. The color however is a mild red in comparison to a dark red one usually gets in a commercial bottle. Could you please suggest what I’d need to do? Thanks.
Vignesh, the color of the wine comes from how long the pulp is part of the process which is normally 5-7 days. he article posted below will discuss this in more detail.
Adding More Color To Wine
How full should I get the bottles?
Gail, you want to leave about a 3//4 inch space between the cork and the wine. The article below will discuss bottling your wine in more detail.
How Much Air Should Be In My Wine Bottle
What type of juice can I use to top off my carboy when racking?
If I want to make a bubbly wine, what needs to be added so the cork doesn’t pop or the bottle doesn’t shatter ? I’ve never tried this before.. Also, can I make the wine that I am currently brewing into a bubbly wine or is there something that needs to be added during fermentation?
Linda, unfortunately due to the difficulty and danger involved in the process, we do not provide information about making sparkling wine. I can say that you will need to use bottles that can withstand the pressure such as champagne bottles. You will also need to secure the corks/closures with wire hoods.
I usually make berry wines and they usually stop bubbling aggressively after 5 or 6 days. Current batch of wine is 9 gallons of homegrown Jupiter and Concord grapes. I added sugar until the hygrometer showed Approximate Potential Alcohol by Volume of 13 % and then stopped adding sugar. I had bubbling in the airlock every 5 to 6 seconds for over 18 days and now over a month it is still bubbling every 30 seconds or so. My question : with so much fermentation, should I expect a much higher alcohol content that the 12 % or so I was shooting for? and if so, why such a disparity between the hygrometer and the end result. Thanks much, Kevin.
Kevin, the yeast cannot make any more alcohol than the amount of sugar available for it to consume. It simply sounds like this fermentation is taking a little longer than you are used to experiencing. Just keep monitoring the progress with the hydrometer.
We are using the Catalyst fermentation System, not a bucket for first timers at wine making. We are making a dessert wine as our first try at wine making.
Question is…. the instructions seem to be for bucket wine making, which ours is not a bucket. Our disagreement comes in with …when to drop the yeast into the jar underneath? It is still fermenting, albeit slowing down. Hubby thinks we should drop the yeast to start the clarifying process while the fermentation is in its final stage, however, the instructions seem to say to allow fermenting to complete, then empty the yeast into the mason jar below, then allow the wine to sit and clear.
What would you suggest?
Laura, since we are not familiar with this particular fermenter, we recommend just following the directions for the fermenter as to when to remove the yeast.
I am making red wine for the first time. I want to make it sparkling wine but as I learn more I realize I have a problem. My SG was 1.104 and the yeast (CR51) has an alcohol tolerance of only 14%. I thought this wine would dry to 13.65%, giving me headroom for carbonation. I did not realize FG can go below 1.000. Gravity is now nearing 1.000. Is there a way I can clear the wine and then use carbonation drops or would I have to bottle now?
You can use carbonation drops just fine, however make sure you are using champagne bottles or some other bottle that is designed to hold pressure. Not doing so can lead to bottle exploding.
Sir I started a plum wine with dry yeast. After 4 days the process got low I stirred it a bit. The process started again approximately 15 seconds a bubble in the airlock. After 6th day the process started slow again. Very slow this time. I racked the wine in another jar by siphoning it. Thing is the air lock in the racking container still pops a bubble after 1 minute or so. I don’t have a hydro meter. There are also sediments in racking container at the bottom. When should I bottle it. Please guide me .
Khan, Unfortunately without a hydrometer reading, there is no way to know if the wine has completed fermentation and is ready to bottle. Wine is ready to bottle when the specific gravity reading reaches .998 or less and the wine is clear. Just because you do not see activity in the airlock does not always mean the fermentation is complete. A fermentation can become stuck before it completes for various reasons. If it is not complete and you bottle it, the corks could pop or worse the bottles could explode from the pressure of the fermentation activity.
My partridge berry wine is in the fermenter since June 6 .my fermentation is stuck at 1.000.I tried with a yeast starter but still back to same reading of 1.000.can I rack to carboy for a month or 2 and then back to primary,degass ,add atabelizer, add clear agent ,put back in carbuoy for a month and then bottle of wine is clear?at this stage?
Robert, I would say that if you added a yeast starter and the reading still did not go under 1.000 that it is safe for you to proceed with the clearing and bottling.
Hi I wrote a question yesterday and I thought I should add to the information I gave you.
When I started the fresh Blueberry wine on 7/21 the SG was at the proper level 1.010. On 9/17 I removed the fruit and racked my wine for the 1st time and the SG was 9.90. I racked my wine again on 10/18 and my SG dropped to 1.05. On 11/17 I tasted my wine to see if I needed to sweeten before bottling and I did. I also had to degas as the wine had a tingle on the tongue but I was not seeing any activity in my gas trap.
After sweetening my SG is now at 1.015. I also added my campden and Potassium Sorbate as I thought I was ready to bottle.
There is still a slight tingle on the tongue after all this. Please tell me if I can save this wine and how to get it ready to bottle. Thanks so much.
My cornelian cherry wine still fermenting after 9 months
For us , 19 months .. and 3 wasted large bottles … clear and good!
Our white juice was from chilie we got it April of 2019… we have been taste testing every month but it still really cloudy ,,, we’ve decided nov 1 2021 , to just try and bottle some up… and just thought we were unsuccessful… first bottle … cloudy …second bottle … less cloudy, it wasn’t until the fourth bottle that it started to clear up … we bottled several clear bottles .. but still have half of the glass jug to bottle
Can we just let it keep sitting and just pour from the jug?
19 months and it’s starting to clear up..
We used juice only no yeast or other additives . Taste is a little sweeter than I like but it is pretty good.
Not sure if we can continue to let it sit and just bottle as we go?
Couple of quick questions
1. When should Cabernet and Merlot be bottled? It’s clear and no residual CO2.
2. Should the corks be sanitized, if so….how?