I crushed fresh Syrah juice from grapes last September into 3 six-gallon plastic fermenters w/air gaps. I added 1 Campden tablet per gallon into the 3 six gallon plastic fermenters 24 hr. before adding the wine yeast. I separated out the sediment in January. I plan to bottle in mid-May. From your guidance, I plan to add 1 Campden tab per gallon before bottling. Should I have also added Campden tabs when fermentation was finished in September? I tasted the wine in January and it tasted good.
Name: Brad T.
This is a great question about using Campden tablets in wine making. I’ll need to answer this from a couple of different perspectives…
When you add Campden tablets to a wine, your are essentially adding sulfites. Sulfites protect the wine by destroying any mold, bacteria or anything else that wants to grow in the wine. During the fermentation this is not a problem. It’s when the wine must is still and not fermenting that sulfites become important.
The issue is that over time the sulfites want to leave. They dissipate into the air as SO2 gas. For example, the Campden tablets you added before the fermentation are long-gone by the time the fermentation had ended. So there is a need to replenish the sulfites to help keep the wine protected.
From a winery’s point of view, you always want 40 to 70 PPM (parts-per-million) of sulfite in the wine after the fermentation. The winery will measure and maintain this level all the way through the clearing process and on to bottling. They can easily afford the time and effort to do this because a lot of wine is at stake.
From an individual winemaker’s point of view, it may be a little overkill to constantly test the sulfites and make adjustments as called for — particularly if you’re only making 5 or 6 gallons at a time, and you’re going to bottle the wine in a few weeks, anyway.
So as a compromise, I recommend using Campden tablets directly after the fermentation, then again, right before bottling. So to summarize, you are adding sulfites:
- 24 hours before fermentation
- After the fermentation
- Right before bottling.
By handling the wine in this way you can keep the wine more evenly protected without a lot of effort on your part with tests and measurements.
From a home winery’s point of view, say you are making 30, 50, 100 gallons, you may want to spend the time and energy to keep track of your sulfites. This can be done with Titret Test Vials and the Titret Hand Tool that works with it. By running this test you can determine the sulfites that are currently in your wine, in PPM, and how much you need to add, if any.
You may also want to switch to a Campden tablet substitute such as potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite. These both come in a granulated form. They add sulfites to the must or wine, just as Campden tablets, but they come in a granulated form. It’s much easier to use when needing larger amounts. Instead of crushing up a bunch of tablets, you just measure it out by the teaspoon.
This is the basics of using Campden tablets in your wine making. To delve a little deeper you might want to take a look at, Campden Tablets: What They Can And Can’t Do.
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.