Making A Wine Yeast Starter To Restart A Stuck Fermentation

Yeast Starter To Restart Stuck FermentationThere are times when no matter what you do, a fermentation will not complete the task at hand. The fermentation seemed to be going along fine. The activity was looking good. The temperature was right. Then boom! The fermentation seemingly hits a brick wall and comes to an abrupt stop.

You check the wine with a hydrometer only to discover that there is plenty more sugar that needs to be fermented. What you have here is a stuck fermentation.

In most cases you can remedy a stuck fermentation and get it started again by going over The Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure, however there are times when there seems to be no solution in sight. These are the times when more drastic measures need to be taken. Namely a wine yeast starter. Keep reading to learn the basics of making a wine yeast starter to restart a stuck fermentation.

A wine yeast starter is a very dependable way to restart a stuck fermentation, particularly when you know that all the environmental conditions are correct. A wine yeast starter is different than rehydrating a yeast for a few minutes. It is actually starting a mini-fermentation for a couple of days and then adding it to the stuck fermentation.

The best wine yeast to use in a starter to restart a stuck fermentation is Champagne type yeast. This type of wine yeast is better at fermenting in diverse conditions than most others. If you do not have a Champagne type yeast on hand, you can use whatever is available and still get positive results, but always use Champagne yeast when it is available for restarting a stuck fermentation.

 

How To Make A Wine Yeast Starter

For restarting 5 or 6 gallons, take a quart jar and fill it half way with the wine in question. Add to that, water until the jar is 2/3 full. Put in the mix a 1/4 teaspoon of yeast nutrient, and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Be sure that the sugar becomes completely dissolve. Now you can add a whole packet of the Champagne yeast. Cover the jar with a paper towel and secure with a rubber band.Buy Yeast Nutrient

Put the starter in a cozy spot at 70° to 75°F. You should see some activity within 12 to 18 hours. You will want to pitch the wine starter into the stuck fermentation right after you see the level of foaming in the jar peak. This will usually be around 1-1/2 to 2 days. Be sure to swirl the jar to add all the sediment in the starter to the wine must, as well.

Don’t worry, you won’t end up with anything like in the picture above. That’s just there for fun, but you should see a good layer of foam be produced before it’s ready to add to the stuck fermentation.

It is a bit of work, but making a wine yeast starter to restart a stuck fermentation is the ultimate way to go when you are having a stubborn fermentation. There are more minor things you can try first, based on The Top Ten Reason For Fermentation Failure article, but when push comes to shove, making a yeast starter is the way to go.
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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.

60 thoughts on “Making A Wine Yeast Starter To Restart A Stuck Fermentation

  1. Dear Sir/Mad
    I do not have access to yeast ,do you think I can make it?or make wine without it?or use other alternative as yeast .Thanks to your effort
    I am look forward to hearing from you
    Yours faithfully
    Keyvan

    • Yes you can make your own yeast. What you make is ok to make wine but may not give you a perfect end result. Just wash a handful of grapes and put it in a jar and crush it. Cover it with cloth and leave it on the counter. In a few days you will see bubbles and foam. And you have yeast.

  2. Keyvan, yeast is the key essential ingredient necessary for a fermentation. The fermentation is what is turning sugar into alcohol. So yes, yeast is needed. You can find yeast naturally on fruit, but it also comes along with other things that can spoil the wine, so how the wine will turn out is not quite clear without knowing the condition of the fruit being used.

  3. I have been making wine from wild grapes with success for about 8 years now. I believe you left out an important step in the instructions for starting a stuck fermentation. When I have a stuck fermentation, I use Camden tablets, 1/gal., for 24 hours prior to restarting a wine batch. I do this because usually their is a reason that the yeast is stuck if there is access sugar and the camden tablets will get you back to a good restarting point, and should do no damage to the wine or not cause a delay since you are waiting on the wine starter anyway. Comments???

  4. Keyvan, you do have access to many varieties of wine yeast at the E.C.Kraus website that you are posting on. Just go to the top of the page and click on wine ingredients and select wine yeast, and ship to any address you choose. If you have access to the internet then any item you need is available here.

  5. Hi Ed,

    When I started my Blueberry wine the Specific Gravity 1.110, that was 40 days ago, since then I have tried four times to restart the wine.I have used yeast 4 times, red star premier cuvee yeast, yeast starter and Yeast Nutrient, and now the Specific Gravity 1.052, what else can I do, to have the wine finish fermenting?

    • Mike, there are many reasons that can cause a stuck fermentation. If adding nutrient and a yeast starter did not work, please take a look at the article posted below that covers the most common causes of fermentation failure. The first thing that i would check is the temperature of the juice. Before you can correct the situation, you need to find out what is causing the problem.

      Top Reasons For Fermentation Failure
      http://www.eckraus.com/wine-making-failure

  6. We are about to add the yeast starter into the carboy, should we use the airlock after adding the starter? Or leave open to allow air in? Sealing the yeast the 1st time was our initial mistake.

    We are adding the starter to wine that has already been through secondary fermentation and have already added stabilizing agents to.

    • Jerry, you might want to leave the wine covered with just a towel overnight as you would have in the beginning to let the sulfites leave the wine before adding the yeast starter.

  7. Thanks for the starter recipe. Works well. However, the fermentation is now going at a snail’s pace.I keep the carboy warm, around 26-30C. I’ve measures the specific gravity a few times over the last 3 weeks and it has barely changed, around 1.03. Lots of gas , but no progress towards a finished fermentation. Does a restarted stuck fermentation always take this long?

    • Geof, if the specific gravity has been around the same for a few weeks, there may be something else causing the stuck fermentation. I would take a look at the article posted below that covers the most common causes of a stuck fermentation. One thing I notice is that your temperature might be too high and you will see this addressed in the article.

      Top Reasons For Fermentation Failure
      http://eckraus.com/wine-making-failure/

      • Wow, I thought I was doing the right thing with my temperature settings. Great article and thanks so much. I’ll change the temperatures (I’m getting a temp control unit with a probe that will keep the temp within 0.5C). I’ll let you know how it goes. If it works out I’ll send you a bottle of the final product!!!

  8. Hello, I put my yeast in my wine juice and forgot to add the sulfite in so I put it in after I added the yeast, now what do I do.

    • Helena, adding sulfites after adding yeast would have destroyed the yeast. After waiting 24 hours for the sulfite to dissipate, you need to add more yeast.

  9. Hi , I bottled my blackberry wine about 6 months ago i like sweet wine but i over sweetened this batch is there any thing i can due i have 22 bottles . Thank you

  10. Hi i make a wine last night and failed for fermenting it..so what i do is boil it again and strain it again with cheese cloth and wait till warm and add yeast again..and never ferment again what should i do?should i wait or should i just throw it away? Or they are still fine or no good..

  11. Slow fermentation still going on. Here is the scoop:
    22 lbs Huckleberries placed in a mesh bag, crushed. Added enough water to raise level in must to 4 gallons, Added 12 lbs of sugar dissolved in 2 gallons of boiled water. Added to must after cooled to 80 degrees (made must volume to 6 gallons, added 7 crushed campden tablets, covered with cloth waited 2 days. Added pectic enzyme waited 12 hours, hydrated yeast (K1-V1116) for 15 minutes (around 97 to 100 degrees) added yeast nutrient then hydrated yeast, covered must, temperature is set for 75 degrees. Starting SG was 1.112. It is day 5 and the fermenting activity has and is still slow SG is now at 1.100.
    I started a “super charger” yeast re-entry. Used a must sample, 2 table spoons of sugar, nutrient and yeast. I plan on adding it to the slow must after it “takes off”. Ahh, here is the problem now..After 24 hours the “super charger” show little signs of fermenting activity, just like my must. I am thinking….bad yeast? Expir. date is good. Bought it from reputable wine supplier. Need some help here. I am thinking my wine will start going bad if I cannot get it going soon…. Thanks

    • Bill, yes it is possible that you have old yeast.Your starting gravity reading is a little high and could be a contributing factor. However, there are many reasons that can cause a stuck fermentation. Before you can fix the issue, you need to find out what caused it to become stuck. The article below will go over the most common causes.

      Top Reasons For Fermentation Failure
      https://eckraus.com/wine-making-failure/

  12. I started a Cab. Sov. using fresh juice 16 days ago. On day one I brought the temp up and added Pot. Met. as directed, and waited 24 hours to pitch my yeast. I then put the lid on tightly with an airlock and watched it ferment well for 5 days. Days 6 and 7 the airlock activity was next to none, so I checked it with a hydrometer only to discover the gravity was around 1.002. I gave the wine a stir and the airlock activity picked up a little for a couple of days, but has stopped again with the gravity being around 0.996. Is it finished, or should I give it another stir? It’s my understanding that wine should be finished at around 0.990. The OG was 1.090 but I added enough corn sugar to bring it to 1.095. The yeast was Lalvin RC212, and the temp. has been around 73 deg. Also, I have read your 10 reasons for a stuck ferment, but I don’t think any apply to my situation. Thanks.

      • Thanks for your reply. The gravity never did go any lower than previously mentioned. In fact, it might even be closer to 0.998. My eyes just don’t work as well as they used to. Last night when I checked the wine again only to discover that the gravity was more like 0.998 according to the hydrometer. I decided to float the Hydrometer in pure water only to discover that it was floating at 1.005, thus indicating that my wine might be stopped at 1.003. To me, the wine does have a bit of a sweet taste to it, and I would like it to be as dry as possible. Can I make a yeast starter at this point to save it, or should I accept it for what it is? Thanks

        • Your wine might still actually be done. The temperature of the water does make a difference in the reading. The colder the liquid the higher the reading. The hydrometers we sell are calibrated to 68°F. as are most others. So if the tap water was colder than the wine these would cause a discrepancy. Here’s a link for you to play around with the temperature correction formula: https://www.brewersfriend.com/hydrometer-temp/

          If you come to the conclusion that the wine still has more fermenting to do, I would make sure the wine is at a fermenting temperature first. Make sure the wine is in the 70’s°F., not in the 60’s. If you find you need to warm the wine up, give it a few days to see if the hydrometer reading will come down further. If that does not work, then I would consider adding a starter.

  13. ED This is from Midwest Supplies

    Try the following tips to get that airlock bubbling again:
    Midwest Supplies :

    Add some Yeast Energizer to the wine. Add 1/2 teaspoon per gallon of wine, and stir well. NOTE: While it may seem like a good idea,

    ( Midwest does NOT recommend adding Yeast Nutrient at this point. This may result in leftover vitamins that can stimulate spoilage microbes.) They say DO NOT ADD Yeast Nutrient m yet you say add Yeast Nutrient , which one is correc t? Yeast Nutrient or Yeast Energizer?
    https://www.midwestsupplies.com/stuck-fermentation

  14. Started wild Mustang grape wine on 6/30. Moved it to second fermentation (carboy) 7/6 and airlock bubbled every 2-3 seconds. By 8/5 the airlock was bubbling about every 9-10 seconds and all seemed to be OK except it had 2 inches on sediment on bottom. I was advised to get it the sediment because it could spoil the wine. I racked it to a second carboy and now it stopped fermenting – the airlock does not bubble. Any suggestions, please?

    • Leroy, I would recommend taking a hydrometer reading because the fermentation is probably complete and that is why you are not seeing any airlock activity. If the specific gravity reading is .998 or less, the fermentation is complete. If the fermentation is not complete and has become stuck, please take a look at the article posted below on the most common reasons that cause a stuck fermentation.

      Top Reasons For Fermentation Failure
      https://eckraus.com/wine-making-failure/

  15. I made your blueberry wine recipe and fermentation did not start so at 7 days I took the wine off the berries and it is ready for the yeast starter to hopefully get things going. ( I suspect the temp. 68 was slowing things down) …unless it’s too acidic but I don’t have the supplies to test.
    After I pitch the yeast starter do I put the wine in a primary bucket or secondary fermenter (carboy with airlock)?

  16. I have a stuck fermentation petite Syrah at 8 bridge after 10 days, can I add dap to my musk to restart fermentation or just go ahead and press and live with the results?

    • There’s no reason you have to settle for 8° Brix. I would suggest you try to figure out why it stopped and fix it. The solution to the problem is usually very simple. It’s just figuring out what the problem is that’s hard. Here some information that should help you out:

      Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure
      https://eckraus.com/wine-making-failure/

  17. I have an interesting situation. I started 15 gallons of Italian Prune Plum wine in a primary fermenter, then transferred it to three carboys after a week. Though it was still very pulpy (one of the carboys had pulp nearly half way up it still!), I racked it again three weeks later. Two of the carboys are still chuckling away nicely with a bit of pulp still in after the second racking (about 1/2 inch). but the third carboy that was super clean (no pulp) has quit working (and never really worked vigorously after the racking).

    Now I’m debating whether to borrow a gallon from the two vigorous carboys to get it jump started, or should I just leave them individually isolated and work on this third carboy with other means (maybe trying to re-start with yeast or add a bit of fruit for the existing yeast to jump on). I’m thinking it’d be better to have 10 gallons of good wine versus 15 of mediocre, eh?

    • Xean, you can several batches of wine sitting next to each other and they may ferment at different rates. The one that you do not see much activity could already be finished with fermentation. Have you taken a hydrometer reading? This is the only way to no for sure what is happening with the fermentation progress. If you do find that it is stuck, please take a look at the article link posted below on the most common causes of a stuck fermentation. However, I would recommend getting the pulp out of there as soon as possible. To avoid a bitter wine with too much tannin, the pulp should be removed after 5-7 days.

      Reasons For Stuck Fermentation
      https://eckraus.com/wine-making-failure/

  18. Fermentation on my fruit wine stalled after three days, I think it got too warm. I am only making a 1 gallon batch. Should I make a starter the same size as you describe here or will that be overkill?

  19. I am making a 3 gallon batch of blueberry wine. I think I might have accidentally added too much sugar when I started it. My first specific gravity reading on day 1 was 1.12. Today is day 8 and I just took my fruit out. Then I tested the specific gravity and it is 1.09. It is still in the primary fermenter. I was going to give it a few more days without the fruit before racking it to the secondary fermenter/carboy. It is still bubbling but not as fast as a few days ago. Should I be concerned that the fermenting isn’t going faster?

    • Darcy, you did add too much sugar to your juice and it could be the reason why the fermentation is slow. Even if it is slow, it is still heading in the right direction, it may just take longer to complete. If it does become stuck, you will need to deal with the issue. There are also other reasons that can cause a slow fermentation. Please take a look at the article link listed below.

      Top Reasons For Fermentation Failure
      https://eckraus.com/wine-making-failure/

  20. I have s wild mustang that seems to be stuck at 1.02. The taste seems sweeter than it should, and it doesn’t taste bad, just different. I tried a restart using this method, but achieved zero activity in 48 hours. Any thoughts or recommendations? Stupid me didn’t take an initial reading, choosing instead to follow a recipe that’s worked in the past.

    • BJM, Have you gone over the many reasons that can cause a stuck fermentation, like the temperature? We have posted a link the the article below. Without knowing what your original gravity reading was, there is no way to know if it was too much sugar. Have you actually taken a new reading after adding the yeast starter? It is possible that the fermentation activity is just not visible to you.

      Top Reasons For Fermentation Failure
      https://eckraus.com/wine-making-failure/

  21. Hello, A couple of weeks ago I started nectarine wine. It seemed to be going well in the primary fermenter. At one point I decided that I’d better cover the wine for fear of getting dirt and other stuff mixed in with the wine. To do that, I used an airlock, which I read on your Top 10 Reasons for Fermentation Failure probably stopped the fermentation. Without realizing this I transferred to two secondary bottles and there is no activity even though the SG is well above 1.

    Question: can I simply pour the wine back into the primary fermenter add a starter and start over with the same wine?

    Thanks.

    • Steve, 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. The wine should still ferment, just slower. At this point, because the fermentation has slowed down I would not uncover it. Just keep track of the progress with your hydrometer. If you find that it is in fact stuck, you can try adding some yeast nutrient.

  22. Thanks for the excellent article!
    I made some ume (Japanese plum) wine. I may have added too much sugar – 1kg/4l – the yeast has finished fermenting, but the wine is sweet (and full of alcohol). I believe the yeast have reached their alcohol (and sugar) tolerance. I’d like some or all of that sugar to ferment out, so the wine isn’t sweet – is that possible?

    I am trying what your article above suggested for stuck fermentations: remove some of the wine, dilute, add yeast, sugar and nutrients.

  23. Hello,
    Great content! Thanks

    I’m making (try…) 6 GL of apple wine. I used Lalvin EC-1118. S.G reading was 1.142 (I now know it’s too much sugar). After 3 weeks the liquid is still in the primary fermenter and reading is 1.090. After 2 weeks I install airlock. I know the fermentation is active (I take reading every week and I see activity) but very slow. The question if to let it run its course or try restart it. Also, Is too many yeast may be a problem? Can I try different type of yeast?

    Many Thanks
    Ofer

    • Ofer, The reason it is fermenting slow is because you do have way too much sugar in the juice. With that much sugar, you will probably never get it to ferment to completion. Adding multiple packets of yeast will not cause any problems. However, there is a limit to how much alcohol wine yeast can make. You can try making a yeast starter to get the fermentation moving along quicker. You may end up needing to dilute the juice with water to get the specific gravity in the appropriate range. I would take a look at the article below for more information.

      Making High Alcohol Wines
      https://eckraus.com/wine-making-high-alcohol/

  24. Hello, I started a batch of blueberry mead. I am a beginner at home made fruit wine. I have made wine from kits for years. That being said, I used a recipe that was very vague in direction and have since found your site. My wine has stalled. The beginning SG was 1.160,,,, high I know, but at the time I had no clue how that would effect the fermentation. Current SG is 1.130. I added nutrient in the cooking process and added the yeast when the must was 80 degrees. It was bubbling away until yesterday. I have read the “top 10 mistakes” and feel my sugar content is too high. I do not have any idea how to reduce that now that I am at this point. I have read your blog and plan on adding a 1/2 dose of yeast nutrient as soon as I can ( I have to order it first) I will do a yeast starter as well. I am feeling like it will stall again unless I fix my sugar problem. Can I remedy this simply by adding more water? Can you give me some advise? My batch is in a 6 gallon carboy with 5 gallons of wine. I really want to save this from failure, any help you can give will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
    Jane Van Wormer

  25. Hi I am new at this wine making . I made a 3 gal batch of concord wine and I used bread yeast for my yeast. Now after it is all done to the end I added my stabilizer and 3 1/2 cups sugar for sweeting now I find out with bread yeast my alcohol content will only be 8%! My question is can I added wine yeast to this batch to start over to get the alcohol content higher and how do I do that? Thanks!

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