I have 6 gallons of red wine must which failed to start fermenting even after 3 days since I added Lalvin 71B-1122 yeast. I may have added too much sugar to the primary fermentation. The Brix No. was 27 and Sp Gr 1.110. What can I do to get the wine must fermenting before it gets spoiled? Thank you for your help. Ulysses A.
Name: Ulysses A.
It may very well be that you have too much sugar in the primary fermentation, and that is what’s causing you to have a stuck fermentation. But I would also suggest going over the Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure to make sure that it is not something else.
Putting too much sugar for the yeast to ferment is one of the 10 reasons listed, but by making sure the other 9 couldn’t possibly be the reason, your can then comfortably narrow your focus on the cause.
What I would do if I were in your shoes is take a quart jar – like a Mason jar – fill it half way with the wine. Then add water until the jar is 2/3 full. Mix in a quarter teaspoon of either Yeast Nutrient or Yeast Energizer. Then sprinkle directly into the jar another packet of wine yeast. This is simply to create a yeast starter for the wine yeast by using a diluted wine must. Do not rehydrate the wine yeast in warm water first. Add the packet directly to the yeast starter.
The yeast starter should start fermenting within hours. Once you see the level of foaming peak, that will be the optimal time to pitch the yeast starter in with the rest of the wine must. This is typically at around 18 hours, but can vary from 6 hours to 3 days.
I am fairly confident that this will overcome your stuck fermentation and get your wine fermenting. A specific gravity of 1.110 is not all that ridiculous, it’s just high enough to cause some difficulties. With future batches you will want to use your wine hydrometer to make sure that you do not add too much sugar for the primary fermentation.
Other things you can do to help the yeast starter be successful is add an additional half dose of Yeast Nutrient to the entire batch. And as mentioned before, use the other 9 reasons for fermentation failure as a guide to improve your fermentation’s situation.
If the yeast starter fails to get things going then there are two other things you can do:
- Dilute the wine with water until the sugar level is brought down to a more suitable level. The fermentation should start on it’s own after doing this.
- Switch to a wine yeast that has a better tolerance of higher sugar levels. I would suggest Red Star: Pasteur Champagne for this purpose.
Putting too much sugar in the primary fermentation is something that can happen from time to time. Just realize that there are things you can do to resolve the issue without any sacrifice to the wine, whatsoever.
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.
Can I do an acid test between primary and secondary fermentation?
Bob, the simple answer to your question is, no. The CO2 gas from the fermentation that is still saturated into the wine will through off the reading. Secondly, there is nothing you can do to correct the acidity at this point even if it were at a reading you didn’t like. Wait until the wine has finished its fermentation and has had time to clear up and be degassed before addressing the acid. This will get you the most accurate reading. Acidity can both raise and lower during the wine making process.
I have occasionally intentionally added too much sugar, when pushing for a sweet wine with a higher alcohol content. On those occasions, I use a good champagne yeast. Most will start at a higher sugar content and survive to a higher alcohol content. I once forced 15 pounds of sugar into suspension within 5 gallons of water and pushed the fermentation to 27% alcohol, all fermentation. This highly alcoholic water was treated to six weeks of rotation with high quality cinnamon sticks. I called it Fireball. By the way, I specifically enjoy doing what I am told cannot be done! Good luck!
Having successfully completed 8 Merlot kits from Costco I got cocky…. Figured “I like the taste, it just needs more body” Long story short I put 1.5 kits worth of juice in each of 2 batches. Starting SG. Were 1.118 and 1.124 (yes I know now WAY too high) and after fermenting like crazy for 2 weeks I’m down to 1.010 and 1.020 respectively. They both taste like someone put 4 tablespoons of sugar in a glass of wine. Is there any fixing this or am I destined to chalk it up to failure and move on?