Using Potassium Sorbate When Wine Making

Potassium Sorbate For Wine MakingThanks again for being there.  You’re greatly helping an amateur wine-maker get by the label “amateur”.

Three part question, all using potassium sorbate when wine making.  This is a question recognizing that potassium sorbate does not stop fermentation, but is used to keep wines from starting to ferment again after the fermentation has been completed.

1).  When should the potassium sorbate be added to the wine — is it sufficient to add to the wine at day of bottling or should it be added earlier (like 7 to 10 days before bottling)?

2).  Will the answer to part 1) change if the wine has a sweetener added?  Is the potassium sorbate ALWAYS added to the wine AFTER the sweetener, or does it not matter as to the sequence?

3).  Does using a wine filter at time of bottling impact any of the above? Or is the filter process just the filter process?

Thanks, Steve S.
Dear Steve,

Thanks for the great questions about using potassium sorbate when wine making. Let me see if I can put a dent in this subject.

First, A Little Background On Potassium Sorbate And Wine:

Potassium sorbate is one of those wine making ingredients that often gets used incorrectly or confused with other ingredients such as sodium metabisulfite.  I’d like to go over exactly what potassium sorbate will do for your wine and maybe that will clear up how it should be used.

Potassium sorbate does not destroy wine yeast. Let me repeat this for more emphasis:

“Potassium Sorbate Does Not Destroy Wine Yeast.”

What potassium sorbate does do is keep wine yeast from increasing in numbers. It stops the wine yeast from reproducing itself into a larger colony.

Shop Wine BottlesAs an example, if you add potassium sorbate to an active fermentation you will see the fermentation become slower and slower, day after day. This is because some of the wine yeast is beginning to naturally die off and new cells are not being produced to take their place. Eventually the yeast colony will either run out of sugars to ferment, or they will all die off from old age.

If you add sugar to a finished wine to sweeten it, and the wine is still laden with residual wine yeast, it does not matter if you add potassium sorbate or not. The wine yeast will ferment in either case. The only difference the potassium sorbate will make is whether the fermentation is going to become a full-blown one or just sputter along, almost unnoticeable, until the aging yeast cells can do no more.

What This Means For The Home Wine Maker:

What this all means for you is that before you add a sugar to a wine to sweeten it, you need to make sure that it is completely done clearing out as much of the wine yeast as possible. You want to give the wine plenty of time to drop out as many of the yeast cells as possible. Then rack the wine off these yeast cells. This is key to eliminating any chance for re-fermentation when sweetening a wine.

Whether or not the sugar is added to the wine before or after the potassium sorbate is immaterial. Just adding them both on the same day is sufficient. And to take this a step further, you can bottle the wine right after adding them. The only requirement is to be doubly sure that both the sugar and potassium sorbate are completely dissolve and evenly disbursed throughout the wine.Shop Wine Filter System

As a side note, you should always add sulfites such as potassium metabisulfite to the wine at bottling time, regardless if you are sweetening it or not.

As to your question about wine filtration… running a wine through a wine filter can only help not hurt during this process. This is simply due to the fact that wine filtration will get more of the yeast cells out of the wine. All three of the pressured wine filter systems we offer have sterile filtrations pads at .50 microns available to them. This will typically get 90% percent of the residual yeast cells that are left.

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.

63 thoughts on “Using Potassium Sorbate When Wine Making

  1. I’ve learned to add the potassium sorbate at least a day ahead of sweetening and bottling – – Just for the sake of complete dispersal. I’ve had a couple of batches begin to re-ferment when adding it on same day.

  2. I had an experience while adding potassium sorbate that I’d like to share. The recipe recommended also adding some acid blend at the same time. I mixed the acid blend and the potassium sorbate in the same cup of water to dissolve them before pouring into the wine. Something about this combo prevented the potassuim sorbate from dissolving and I ended up with little white "pellets" floating in the wine that had to be laboriously strained back out.

  3. Wish I would have known this earlier. Lost a great batch of plum wine due to fruit particles still in the wine at bottling. Now I am using a fining agent and sodium metabisulfite. Maybe I should invest in a filter too. Been making wine now for 4 years and have lost 2 batches due to refermenting. Sure is hard to pour out 20 bottles of wine. Live and learn. Thank you for all your help.

    • I wouldn’t have poured it out I would have put it back in the carboy Let It Go through its process and end the fermentation and then re bottle it

    • I have been making fruit wines for many years and has a period were my wines started to referment in the bottles.
      My advise to you is to be very clean!
      Check your equipment for scratches where bacteria loves to live.

    • i really like sparkaliod for clearing out the lees, i follow the instructions to sparkaliod and then degass and let sit for a week or till the “haze” at the bottom clears down. ill rack over to clean carboy add my metabisulfates. let sit for till clear then run through a filtration machine. this is stil at full drynees for the wine. after that we taste and back sweeten sorbate when happy and rest the wine for 24 hours then bottle. it takes bout a week to 2 depending on gas and clearing time.

  4. My grape wine has a white crystal stuff ,At the bottem I thougth it was sugar,But it didnt tast sweet .At bottling time.

    • The crystals are tartrates. They are a product of not cold stabilizing prior to bottling.

  5. I had the same happen as Kelly described. However, I unbottled the wine and placed it back in a carboy for about 2 weeks to complete any refirmentation. Afterwards, I check the sweetness, added the potassium sorbate and rebottled. It saved my wine.

  6. Griffin, what you are seeing is most likely to be excess fruit acid precipitating out of your wine. It is not harmful in any way, just annoying. If your wine has not yet been bottled, give the wine plenty of bulk aging to allow time for all of the crystals to occur and settle. If you’ve already bottled, there’s not much you can do.

    • John, you would use potassium sorbate for any type of wine that you make and intend to back-sweeten. So the answer is yes you will add potassium sorbate if you plan to sweeten the wine at bottling time.

  7. My wife bought me tetraglycine hydroperiodide instead of campden. Since they serve the same purpose can I use them anyway?

    • Nic, tetraglycine hydroperiodide is iodine based and we would not recommend using it in your wine. It can alter the color of the wine and since we do not have any experience with the product it could also produce off flavors. We recommend staying with campden tablets.

  8. I have filtered my wine twice after racking several times.I used potassium Sorbate before bottling and my wine turned cloudy. Is that normal and will it clear on its own in the bottle?

  9. I am on the third and final rack of my rhubarb wine and I added 1/4 teaspoon potassium metabisulfite to the five gallon batch (the prescribed ammount on the bottle) and my wine went from a nice rosé colour to nearly the color of a Pinot Grigio. I’ve never had my wine change colour after the addition of potassium metabisulfite. Any idea why this might have happened? Also should one wait to taste wine for a period of time after adding PMBS? Thanks- CJ Perron

    • Cj, we have heard on rare occasions that the color could change after adding potassium metabisulfite. However, it is a temporary change.

    • Did you reach out into a different colored carboy? I have a blue carboy that makes my rhubarb must much darker…

  10. I accidentally added potassium sorbate to my must instead of potassium metabisulfite. What will this cause and what should I do now?

  11. I added potassium sorbate accidently instead of yeast nutrients when i started my melon wine must. Still have 24 hours until i pitch yeast. Will i be ok?

  12. I back-sweeten my rice wine with sugar and let it mature for a few more days before bottling. Maturation develops the flavor further and creates light carbonation.

    According to this article, it seems that I should add the potassium sorbate prior to back-sweetening, but I’m afraid it will affect the maturation. What are your thoughts?

  13. I make all my wine dry, ( 996 to 990 ) but sometimes
    my family and friends ask for sweeter wine, after I have bottled
    the wine. If I sweeten it up with a small amount of sugar, for safety
    reasons I would like to add sodium sorbate to stop secondary
    It states 1/2 tsp per gallon.
    What amount would you recommend for standard
    75 cl wine bottle.
    kind regards
    jimmy jones

    • James, there really is not anyway to tell you how much Potassium Sorbate to add to each wine bottle. It would be best to just go ahead and treat the entire batch before bottling.

  14. Help: Like a dummy I added 1 teaspoon of potassium sorbate per gallon of wine to my 4.5 gallon batch of blueberry. I discovered what I did after adding it and back-sweetening. It had a terrible taste to it.
    Did I ruin this batch or is there something I can do to fix this batch? Thanks in advance!

    • Bill, unfortunately, there is no way we know of to remove potassium sorbate from wine. Our suggestion is to let is age and see if the flavor improves.

      • Thanks for the prompt reply! was afraid that would be the case. I have some extra blueberries left and will start another small batch to add to it at a later date and perhaps that’ll help it out.

    • Thomas, unfortunately this is not good for your wine. It will more than likely taste terrible. It will also have a bad overpowering odor. Sorry, wish we had better news for you.

  15. my wine has gone through mlf. it is very bland and i would like to sweeten it using a wine grape concentrate that can be used to make red grape wine. Do i need to add the full amount of pottasium sorbate 1/2 teaspoon per gallon, to my red grape wine 10 prevent refermentation, or can i get by with no potassium sorbate.

    • Rich, because the grape concentrate will more than likely contain sugar, you will need to add the normal dose of potassium sorbate.

  16. Hi, when using potassium sorbate and a fining agent (turbo clear for example), does it matter which order to do it? Do I want to clear it, rack then use the sorbate? Or the other way around? (Sorbate, rack, clear, bottle)


    • Jay, you want to clarify the wine before adding the potassium sorbate so that it does not strip some of it out of the wine.

      • Excellent, thank you very much. I would have made the mistake of doing it the other way. Appreciate your time.

  17. Ed, I added potasium sorbate to my peach wine after fermentation do i need to add it again after back sweetening or is the one time enough

    • Bill, as long as you did not filter the wine after adding potassium sorbate, you do not need to add any additional potassium sorbate.

      • I have always added sorbate in my fruit wines when bottling. I don’t always back sweeten though. After adding sorbate and campden to my strawberry wine thinking I would bottle it, I decided to let it sit longer in a carboy to settle out even more. I wasn’t intending to sweeten it but after a few weeks sitting like that, and then reading how sweetening might increase the fruit flavor, I wonder if it will be okay to sweeten it up a little when I bottle it in a couple more weeks if I do nothing else.

        • Jim, If you added the correct dosage of potassium sorbate which is 1/2 teaspoon for each gallon of wine, you can back sweeten it at anytime. You do not need to add any additional potassium sorbate. We would recommend adding another dose of campden tablets at bottling time.

  18. I am having trouble determining whether my bulk supply of potassium sorbate is “old” or more appropriately, what is the likely risk it will perform poorly in preventing yeast activity post bottling because of its age. Online searches reveal various suppliers recommend discarding potassium sorbate supplies that are 6-9 months old and using a fresh supply to ensure expected results. 6-9 months is not much time especially considering the actual date of manufacture is not known. I have not been able to find online any effective test to easily and effectively determine whether a supply of potassium sorbate is “good”. Can you provide such a test?

    • Daniel, we are not aware of any way to test the potassium sorbate to make sure it is still effective. While it will lose some strength over time, we advise our customers that it will stay effective for about 2 years.

  19. Really enjoy the comments and question have learned a lot. I post sweeten most all of my fruit wines. The dose is listed from 1/4, 1/3 to 1/2 tsp depending on where you read. What is general rule? Also, is it best to filter before or after adding PS?

  20. I bought 100% Apple juice with Vitamin C added, added 1lb sugar plus a 12oz froze white grape concentrate to it plus water to make up 1 gallon must with OSG about 1.112. My must read 7 days later about .996 however there is a sulfur odor to it. What do I do about that? I think some of my wine making chemicals maybe 4+years old.

    • David, the good news is that this smell typically goes away on its own. There are several reasons that can cause this to occur as explained in the article listed below. For example, the fermentation temperature was too warm or it was lacking in nutrients. For more information, please click the article link below.

      Sulfur Smell In Wine

  21. Question?? We’ve been using potassium sorbate for years and just want to clarify how effective it is on how we are using it. So, we back-sweeten and an sorbate the same day then in 3-5 days we filter out wine with .45 micron pads. I don’t see anything on that 3-5 days time line? Does the sorbate get filtered out at .45 microns?? Is it possible to add sorbate and filter in 24 hrs. with .45 micron pads?? Does sulfites get filtered out at .45 microns??

    • I would strongly urge you to filter the wine before back-sweetening and adding potassium sorbate. The filter system will be more effective. Also, you want to get as much yeast out of the wine as possible before adding potassium sorbate. This will make the potassium more effective. The filter system will not filter out sulfites, however the activity of filter, itself, can cause some sulfite to leave the wine as a gas. For this reason do not sulfite the wine before filtering, but rather, after.

  22. I let my strawberry wine sit for 5 months in 1 gallon demijohns and it became crystal clear, so i then added potassium sorbate and back sweetened in preperation to bottling, however this turned the wine slightly hazy to my annoyance. i understand that by leaving for maybe another 4 months in the demijohns before i bottle, it will clear again, but to prevent possible hazing on future batches, (and waiting double the time to clear), can i add potassium sorbate sooner (maybe when racking off a few weeks after initial fermentation has stopped) so the wine is clear when i come to back sweeten, add a campden then finally bottle, or will this cause any issues?. Thanks

    • There is nothing wrong with adding the potassium sorbate sooner. In fact, it would be beneficial to do so. The only concern is you want to be sure the fermentation has completed. Once the potassium sorbate is added there is no hope of ever having a fermentation again in the wine.

      • Brilliant, thanks Ed for the prompt reply, however after doing more searching it appears that it could actually be the starch or other binding agents in the campden tablet that i also added which is causing the hazing, & quite a few people attest to this (i use Youngs). have you come across this problem? & what do you think about using 1/16th teaspoon of Sodium Metabisulphite instead of a campden?. PS i’m pretty sure my fermentation has stopped before i rack off 🙂

      • Ed,
        I prepared my Cru batch of Syrah in the fermenter and thought I finally added the yeast. (5th batch over 6 years)
        Got up this morning and found an empty pack for Potassium Sorbate and the full yeast packet in with the rest of additives. (multitasking dinner etc.)
        Do I dump it or add the yeast and hope?

  23. Ed, I made so strawberry wine , which is coming out ok as far as taste, but wanted it a bit sweeter,, so I diced some strawberry’s and added about a pound of sugar, then took the juice and added it to the wine,, then added campton tablets a day later,, do I need to add potassium sorbate or not?

    • Yes, you will want to add both sorbate and sulfite to you wine before bottling. Any sweetener can start to ferment without the addition of sulfite and sorbate.



  24. Hi,

    Interesting article.

    I had fermented mango wine weeks back. After a week I did my first racking to remove pulp. The Brix value is not moving down so assuming fermentation is over, I’m planning to bottle it. Initially, after a week, it was very sour then sourness got reduced and it was tasting bitter. Now it tastes flat. Can I add sweetened, thinned homemade mango juice to give it a flavour? Also, can I add metabisulfite and sorbate together? I haven’t used any of them yet. If I can use them together how much should I use for approximately 3-3.5 litres of wine with back sweetening?

    It’s approximately

  25. My potassium sorbate is exactly two years past the sell by date 12/19, I’m still noticing a small amount of positive pressure in my fermentors. I picked up a new bag and was wondering if I should add maybe another three half teaspoons to my six gallon batches just to be safe?

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