Racking Your Wine The Optimal Way

Winemaker Racking WineI have been making your wine for many years. Every time i make a wine kit I have that air space in the top of the carboy. I use to add wine I already made to the carboy to top it off but it takes 2 bottles and that kills me. I am very conservative with the racking tilting carboy on one side to minimize loss and only rack once. I like to bulk age but I am concerned about the effects of the air so I bottle as soon as possible. Is there an option that makes sense. can the sediment be run through a filter to retain more wine? Name: Joe G.
State: RI
Hello Joe,
The first thing I’d like to say is two bottles seems like a lot. We need to figure out what’s going on.
The first thing to consider is maybe you are not starting out with the full amount. So you might want to double check any level markings that are on your primary fermenter to confirm that they are correct. Make sure you are starting with the full amount intended.
Assuming that you have measurements correct, I suspect that it is the way you rack your wine that is at issue here. You stated that you only rack your wine once. I believe that you can get more wine by doing more rackings. Here’s how:
You should be doing 3 rackings:
  • One on about day 5 of the fermentation
  • Another after the fermentation has completed
  • One more right before bottling.
Some winemakers will even add a fourth racking between the fermentation completing and the one before bottling. This is particularly important if you want bulk age your wine.
Here’s the trick that will get you more wine
When doing the first two rackings, get as much liquid as you can, even if there is sediment coming along with it. Only worry about getting all the liquid at this point.
You are only concerned with getting rid of the bulk of the sediment at this time, not all of it. If you try to leave all the sediment behind at this stage you will be wasting a lot of wine.
It is only when you get down to the very last racking that you need to worry about leaving all the sediment behind. But fortunately for you, by the time you get to this stage there should only be a dusting of sediment left to deal with. By racking your wine in this way you will be surprised to find that you may loose about a half a bottle of wine, at the most.
As to your question about filtering the sediment through a some type of filter, there is no successful way I know of to do this. This issue being that that amount of sediment will clog the filter almost immediately. It is important to understand that the sediment from the yeast itself is as fine as flour, so most filters wouldn’t help anyway. Even a coffee filter would allow all of the yeast sediment to pass through.
I have heard of people putting the sediment in jars or jugs and let it separate while under refrigeration, but it my view it is hardly worth the effort, nor is it necessary if you rack your wine as described above.
There is a blog post you may want to take a look at that covers this as well, Don’t Waste The Wine.
Happy Winemaking,
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.

0 thoughts on “Racking Your Wine The Optimal Way

  1. I also need to top off with 2 bottles of wine but I am not concerned about that because I end up getting that back anyway, so it’s just a loan! I believe the 6 gallon Carboys are more than 6 gallons when they are full to the top. I routinely get 31.5 to 32 bottles of wine out of each carboy when I should only get 30! Happens everytime!

  2. Hey Joe,
    There are different types of 23L carboys out there, made in various countries! If you are using a 23l Italian Carboy(they are the ones with 4 ridges from top to bottom ,horizontally as well as ridges that go vertically)those carboys are actually 24L
    I had the same issue and one day i took a 1L measuring cup and filled up the carboy and it took 24.3L topped up!(don’t take my word for it, try it yourself )
    I like this carboy because its thicker,better quality! I just start my kit a little bit more water(1.5L to be exact ) and add some red grape juice concentrate.
    If you go the route that Ed suggested, racking down several times, make sure that you add some extra sulphites before you bulk age it to prevent oxidation

  3. Instead of adding wine try adding glass marbles. They sink to the bottom and reduce the air space. Add as many as you need to make the space as small as possible.

  4. Regarding Racking: I usually order the kit and wine that comes with 16 liters of juice and concentrate. It mentions it will make 6 gallons of wine. However I use a ferminter that I fill to a little over 5 gallons. When I rack I use 5 gallon carboys. I have plenty wine to fill the carboy. The second racking will be short but only about a pint which I add distilled water to bring it up to the top. I then rack into the ferminter after about 6 weeks in the carboy and use it to filter/bottle. YOu end up adding very little to the wine and have a very good flavor 24-25 bottles of wine.

  5. I always start with about 1.5 liters per 5 gal. or so extra to my original fermentation. This leaves a tiny bit extra that I use to top off at racking. I also keep all the lees (left-over stuff from racking) in a separate bottle. It does settle out over time and I use that wine to top off a bulk carboy as needed. (BTW, I found a glass carboy that is marked 6.5 gallons on the bottom. So, making accurate measures of each carboy is prudent. You just can’t wing it.)