Leigh Erwin: A Beginner's Wine Making Journey: Part 4

wine in secondary fermenterI get so excited when it’s time to do the next step!  Eeek!  Well, primary fermentation is supposedly complete, and so the next step is for me to siphon the wine from the primary fermentation vessel to the plastic carboy that came with my home winemaking kit.  According to the instructions, I first had to measure the specific gravity using the hydrometer in order to determine if primary fermentation was, in fact, complete, and if I could actually move onto the next step, or if I had to let it sit for a couple more days.
The specific gravity at this stage, according to the instructions, is supposed to be less than 1.010.  So, I sterilized my hydrometer, the cylinder in which to put my wine sample for reading, and also a turkey baster for removing some of the wine sample (I need to buy a wine thief—one that’s not going to spill have the wine like the turkey baster, anyway).  The moment of truth came when I read the specific gravity reading on the hydrometer and it was……..  0.09945!  That’s definitely less than 1.010!
I’m slightly concerned (or just wondering) about that low number, as that’s what it’s supposed to be after secondary fermentation is complete.  Is it OK that it’s that low?  Hmmm, well, better siphon the wine and plug her up to see if there is any yeast activity still.
Siphoning was an interesting process for me.  I don’t yet have an auto-siphon, but after reading some of the home winemaking and home brewing threads, it sounds like it would be a smart investment.  Since I don’t have an auto-siphon, I first attempted the siphon-by-mouth method.  I tried to dry my lips as much as possible, and inhaled through one end of the siphon tubing with the other end was attached to the siphon cane that was placed in the primary fermentation container.  Having failed at this, since I was too afraid to inhale so hard that I would end up drinking it, I went to the message boards again to figure out how I should siphon the wine without using my mouth (and without an auto-siphon).
The advice I found on the home winemaking thread turned out to be great, as I was able to successfully siphon my wine in just one shot.  Basically, I filled up the siphon tubing with the wine, and kept my (sterilized) finger over the end so it didn’t pour right back out.  Once it was full, I put the siphon cane end into the batch of wine and put the other end of the tubing into my new secondary fermentation carboy (which was lower than the original container so gravity could work it’s magic).  The wine flowed and flowed and filled up that carboy pretty quickly!  I tried to minimize the amount of oxygen bubbling into the wine, but I’m sure I couldn’t completely protect against it.
So, now that I had all the wine moved into the new secondary fermentation carboy (which I sterilized with the cleaning solution I got in the kit), I was wondering if secondary fermentation would even happen since the specific gravity level I read at the end of primary fermentation was just as low as the instructions indicate it should be at the end of secondary fermentation.  Did it go so fast that I finished both primary and secondary fermentation?
To convince myself that the wine was still OK, I simply stopped up the carboy with the stopped and secured the air lock in place.  I figured if there was no yeast activity anymore, there wouldn’t be any movement in the air lock.  Lo and behold, however, the yeasts are still kicking!  The air lock almost immediately started slowly releasing CO2 in the airlock, so I’m convinced that everything is still going to plan.  I hope I’m right, anyway…..only time will tell, I suppose.
Here is a short video of the air lock action right after I siphoned the wine and closed it off to all air:

Everything looks pretty good so far (at least I think so), so now I am to wait 12 days until secondary fermentation is complete.  It’s going to be tough waiting that long, but I think I’ll manage.

Leigh ErwinMy name is Leigh Erwin, and I am a brand-spankin’ new home winemaker! E. C. Kraus has asked me to share with you my journey from a first-time dabbler to an accomplished home winemaker. From time to time I’ll be checking in with this blog and reporting my experience with you: the good, bad — and the ugly.

0 thoughts on “Leigh Erwin: A Beginner's Wine Making Journey: Part 4

  1. Why didn’t you just use the drain valve on your primary fermenter to transfer to your carboy, instead of hassling with siphoning at that stage? When the transfer is almost done, you can carefully tip the fermenter to maximize the recovery while leaving the sediment largely behind (or, if you’re impatient like me, you can put some of the last part in a bottle to settle out followed by early consumption!)

  2. Jay, that’s a good question. I was not sure if I should use it or not. The directions did not specify, and I was afraid of drawing sediment off the bottom of the primary fermenter. Next time I think I will use the faucet on the fermenter. It seems like it would be a lot easier.

  3. I attach a sterilized tube to your fermentation container valve and run it through the hole in the top of a second fermentation container. That allows racking to occur with a minimum of air introduced. As Jay suggested, I also tip the primary container to get as much wine as possible without a lot of sediment.