Yesterday, I posted 10 wine making tips and tricks. It received such a great response that I decided to post some more of them. These are quick, little tips that I have used over the years and have always been useful. I hope you find them useful as well…
- Try using glycerine in your air-locks instead of water. Glycerine does not evaporate like water, and it is perfectly safe if it accidentally gets drawn into your wine. In fact, any way already has some glycerine in it, naturally!
- Using a fermentation bag is a great way to keep pulp under control during a primary fermentation. Just pour your crush fruit into the bag and suspend it in the wine must during the primary fermentation. When it’s time to rack the wine, simply pull the bag out; allow to drain; and then discard pulp. This wine making tip is primarily for making fruit wine, but it will save you a lot of time.
- When Campden tablets are called for in a wine recipe, you can use sodium metabisulfite instead. Potassium metabisulfite has the same active ingredients as Campden tablets, but comes in a much-easier-to-manage, granulated form. You can also use our Campden tablet measurer which is a little spoon that measures out one Campden tablets worth of potassium metabisulfite at a time.
- If you’ve ever made wine from fresh elderberries, then you know that it can leave a sticky, gooey mess in your fermenter – one that is next to impossible to get out. This tacky mess seems to defy even the strongest cleaners available. Well, we have ran across a product that seems to be able to cut through this mess and take it right off. It’s called Goo Gone ™. It’s a citrus based cleaner that has the right mojo to take off the elderberry resin. You can find it in any full line grocery store, in the household cleaning section. I have no affiliation with this product or its manufacturer. I just think it’s great stuff.
- Sometimes it’s hard to tell just how clear your wine is when it’s still in bulk. Trying to determine if it is clear enough for bottling can be a difficult task. Heavier, darker wines often need to have a sample drawn off and put into a glass before you can really begin to determine anything. The same goes for any wine that is in a vessel which is not made of a clear material. One simple wine making tip that has worked well for me in the past, is to turn off all the lights in the room, and shine a strong flashlight through the side-wall of the vessel. What you are looking for is to see how clearly the beam of light illuminates through the wine. Some diffusing will occur with darker wines because of its color pigmentation. But, you do not want to see a murky or milky appearance to the light.
- The number one reason that a wine fails to clear up after fermentation is that it is still fermenting. A very slight fermentation can keep a lot of sediment stirred up. If your wine is not clearing, the first thing I recommend you do is check the wine with a hydrometer to see if residual sugar is the problem.
- Use our air-lock during the more active period of a secondary fermentation to keep up with the higher volumes of CO2 gas that is being released. As the fermentation slows down, switch to an S-shaped airlock like our triple ripple airlock, to help detect slighter amounts of fermentation. The triple ripple airlock is great for displaying even the slightest amount of activity.
- When making elderberry wine, plan on it tasting horrible when it’s first done. But, also plan on it tasting incredible once it has had time to age. Elderberry wine is very high in tannic acid which makes it taste very harsh in the beginning. But, it is this same tannic acid that also allows this wine to take extreme advantage of the aging process. The net result is a wine of stellar quality. All you need is the patience to let it sit for a year or so.
Bonus Wine Making Tip: Not sure what size cork, screw cap or plastic stopper you need for your odd-size jugs and bottles? Get a a sample pack of closures. It contains one sample of each of the various sizes and types of bottle closures that we carry. Each is clearly labeled for easy identification when you order.
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.
I love all of your tips. Keep them coming. I have one comment, however, regarding tip #1. Water will never evaporate from an air lock, even under the most arid conditions. The water in the airlock is in equilibrium with the water vapor coming off of the wine/must and therefore, any water that evaporates from the top of the air-lock will be balanced by water coming off of the wine/must. It is almost impossible for an air-lock to dry out.
Joseph, I have seen too many dried out air locks to buy that theory. I bulk age my wines up to a year, so I try to inspect air locks monthly. If glycerin does not harbor bacterial growth if might be the answer.
@JW , I agree completely having experienced evaporated airlocks myself, and have been using glycerine to fill airlocks for nearly a decade with great results. Glycerine is a sterile medium (as like honey). I have never experienced any contamination using it or had any evaporation occur
in the airlocks. The price is not cheap, but at this point of the process think of how much time and effort you have put into your wine, it is a small price to pay for peace of mind.
#5: I cannot believe you would recommend using a label removing chemical (Goo Gone) to clean the inside of any vessel you are using to make wine! Have you read the label? It contains petroleim distillates. While it is probably OK to used in you rinse the container thoroughly, I would never use something like that that could get into my wine!
Goo Gone is also good for cleaning bottles after you have soaked the bottles with labels in water and have scratched off the labels. Spritz with Goo Gone and let it sit 3 to 4 minutes and then use a pad with dish soap to finish.
The Elderberry goo: use a oil for cooking on a tissue and the goo removes nicely.
I have been using used filtered olive oil for that goo. I like the glycerine tip
Great tips! Will certainly give glycerine a try. But will it affect the wine’s taste if it gets in contact?
Kristine, glycerine has has very little noticeable flavor except for a slight sweetness. It is a natural byproduct of fermentation. It’s what adds body to a wine, so if a little of it gets in the wine accidentally, it is not of much issue.
I was making one of my cranberry wines like I always do and my son’s girlfriend asked about a cranberry apple wine . So I threw in a can of frozen apple concentrate which must have been pasterized…. I can’t seem to get it to start fermenting. Is there anything I can do or should I just call it a loss and throw it away ?
Last night I rehydrated a package of yeast in some apple cider and repitched it …
Bill, the fact the the juice is pasteurized would have no affect on the fermentation. However, if the juice contains preservatives, that could interfere with the fermentation. If that is not the issue, there must be something else at play. I would recommend looking at the articles provided below. One covers the most common causes of fermentation failure and the other will teach you how to make a yeast starter that is helpful for a stuck fermentation.
Top Reasons For Fermentation Failure
I gave up using air locks when making my wines years ago. They are not needed when it comes right down to it and can be easily miss leading if you use them to determine where your wine is at and what it is doing. The slightest air leak will cause them to make it look like you have a stuck fermentation when in fact it maybe just slowing down because the alcohol level is getting higher and the yeast need another doss of nutrient. During fermentation your musts needs all the air it can get. Why cut it down to almost zip where and when it needs the air the most?
Looks like I am going to have a good crop of plums this year. I am looking for a good plum wine recipe.
Ron, below you will find the link to our 5-gallon Plum Wine recipe.
I also have serious reservations about putting Goo Gone in my fermenter. I think it is more accurate to say it is mineral spirit based rather than citrus based. I could be wrong but to me mineral spirits means paint thinner. Are you sure about this?
Where can I buy glycerin.
Matty, we carry Glycerine and you can find product and pricing information at the link posted below.
Great tips here guys!
Question about elderberries added. When the clarification period is satisfactory, do you recommend allowing the wine to age in a bulk Carboy for a yr or so or is it best to let age in bottlesFor a year+ ?
Chris, you can actually age either way, in bulk or the bottles. Aging in bulk is a little slower and that is how the wineries do it. For more information to help you decide, please take a look at the article posted below.
Aging Wine In Bottles or Bulk
I think I know why it is recommended to store real cork-bottled wine horizontally, namely, to keep the cork damp, thus making it easier to uncork when opening it.
Am I correct?
But, nowadays genuine cork is disappearing and in its stead there is a synthetic cork taking its place, and even screw-on stoppers.
So, my question is: Is it still recommended to place these horizontally?