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Old 09-25-2012, 04:59 PM   #1
Hedley
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Default First time using a hydrometer

Hi there brewers,

I have been making wine for a year now and done four batches. One of the things I have found is that my wine is often sweet, and I would like it less so.

I have recently brought a hydrometer and have used it for a batch of blackberry and raspberry wine that I have just transferred to a demijohn. I wanted to take a reading before adding sugar so that I could work out how much sugar was present in the fruit, and alter the amount of sugar to be added. However I was not able to as I did not have a deep enough vessel to put the hydrometer in at that stage in the process.

The recipe I used (page 189 in C.J.J. Berry's book) called for the yeast to be added to the primary fermentation a few days before adding sugar, so presumably some of the natural sugar in the fruit would have been converted into alcohol during those few days.

After the 5 days in the primary (4 of those with yeast) I added 2 and a half lb of sugar (the recipe called for 3) and took my first SG reading (I have since brought a trial vessel). It read 1.082. This was lower than I expected (I think it was low because there was actually more than a gallon of liquid, which I only discovered when transferring to the demijohn). According to the table on page 81 of the aforementioned book that SG reading means that the wine will end up as around about 11 per cent.

However because some sugar may have been converted during the primary phase it might come out a little stronger, yes?

Any thoughts or pointers most appreciated.

Ross

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Old 09-25-2012, 05:29 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hedley
Hi there brewers,

I have been making wine for a year now and done four batches. One of the things I have found is that my wine is often sweet, and I would like it less so.

I have recently brought a hydrometer and have used it for a batch of blackberry and raspberry wine that I have just transferred to a demijohn. I wanted to take a reading before adding sugar so that I could work out how much sugar was present in the fruit, and alter the amount of sugar to be added. However I was not able to as I did not have a deep enough vessel to put the hydrometer in at that stage in the process.

The recipe I used (page 189 in C.J.J. Berry's book) called for the yeast to be added to the primary fermentation a few days before adding sugar, so presumably some of the natural sugar in the fruit would have been converted into alcohol during those few days.

After the 5 days in the primary (4 of those with yeast) I added 2 and a half lb of sugar (the recipe called for 3) and took my first SG reading (I have since brought a trial vessel). It read 1.082. This was lower than I expected (I think it was low because there was actually more than a gallon of liquid, which I only discovered when transferring to the demijohn). According to the table on page 81 of the aforementioned book that SG reading means that the wine will end up as around about 11 per cent.

However because some sugar may have been converted during the primary phase it might come out a little stronger, yes?

Any thoughts or pointers most appreciated.

Ross
I'd advise to take a specific gravity reading of the fruit juice prior to pitching yeast. This will aid you in your sugar addition. You don't want to add any more sugar than will ferment.

After fermentation is complete you can then back sweeten to taste.
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Old 09-25-2012, 05:48 PM   #3
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Thanks.

So, just trying to get my head around this. If the yeasts we use are capable of producing an alcohol vol of, say, 18 per cent, why doesn't adding extra sugar just mean it will end up stronger? (Up to this limit of course). Not that I want it that strong. I am just trying to understand the process.

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Old 09-25-2012, 06:46 PM   #4
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Another way of putting my question is this: why do we even get sweet wines at around 12 per cent? Why doesn't the fermentation just keep going until all the sugar is used up (up to a limit of say, 18 per cent and 3 and and half lb, or whatever the scientific limit is for a particular strain of yeast).

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Old 09-25-2012, 07:31 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hedley View Post
Hi there brewers,

I have been making wine for a year now and done four batches. One of the things I have found is that my wine is often sweet, and I would like it less so.

I have recently brought a hydrometer and have used it for a batch of blackberry and raspberry wine that I have just transferred to a demijohn. I wanted to take a reading before adding sugar so that I could work out how much sugar was present in the fruit, and alter the amount of sugar to be added. However I was not able to as I did not have a deep enough vessel to put the hydrometer in at that stage in the process.

Your hydrometer should have come with plastic cylinder that holds the juice and the hydrometer. You should get or use the cylinder for a hydrometer reading, rather than floating the hydrometer in the must bucket. I suggest you use a strainer pressed into the must to separate fruit from juice, and use a turkey baster to transfer juice into the hydrometer cylinder. You will get a better reading this way.

The recipe I used (page 189 in C.J.J. Berry's book) called for the yeast to be added to the primary fermentation a few days before adding sugar, so presumably some of the natural sugar in the fruit would have been converted into alcohol during those few days.

I don't know what advantage, if any, is gained by not mixing sugar prior to pitching the yeast. I think it's poor advice for several reasons. Certainly it prevents you from getting an original specific gravity reading on the combined fruit and sugar must.

I think a better method is to mix Kmeta, pectic enzyme and sugar into the fruit, let it sit a day or two for the fruit to begin to break down and the sugar to integrate, then take an SG reading just before pitching the yeast.


After the 5 days in the primary (4 of those with yeast) I added 2 and a half lb of sugar (the recipe called for 3) and took my first SG reading (I have since brought a trial vessel). It read 1.082. This was lower than I expected (I think it was low because there was actually more than a gallon of liquid, which I only discovered when transferring to the demijohn). According to the table on page 81 of the aforementioned book that SG reading means that the wine will end up as around about 11 per cent.

However because some sugar may have been converted during the primary phase it might come out a little stronger, yes?

Yes, you are right, and the method described in the recipe is flawed, in my opinion. Just because someone writes a book, article or post on winemaking doesn't mean they always follow best practices. The more you read about winemaking the more you'll realize this is almost universally true.

Any thoughts or pointers most appreciated.

Ross
Without your posting the recipe, actual ingredients, quantities and steps taken, it's hard to offer much meaningful advice.
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Old 09-25-2012, 08:28 PM   #6
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I don't know what advantage, if any, is gained by not mixing sugar prior to pitching the yeast. I think it's poor advice for several reasons. Certainly it prevents you from getting an original specific gravity reading on the combined fruit and sugar must.
I think that the idea is to make sure that your yeast are nice and healthy and fermenting actively before adding additional sugar. You can get them up to a slightly higher ABV that way. However, unless you're using a strain that can't take the ABV you're shooting for, it's unnecessary, and as you say it makes it harder to determine your final alcohol concentration.

It's still doable, though. Just measure the initial OG and volume, and before you add sugar weigh it accurately and measure the TOTAL volume of dissolved sugar that you're adding.

Example: You have a 6-gallon batch of must at an OG of 1.070, no added sugar. That's 70 gravity points per gallon. You add your yeast.
After a few days to a week, you add exactly 3 lbs of sugar, dissolved into water to a total volume of 0.5 gallons. So the amount contributed by the initial fruit is the initial reading times the dilution: 70 gravity points * (6 gallons/ 6.5 gallons) = 65 gravity points per gallon
Now you add the amount contributed by the sugar. Sugar ferments completely, and contributes 32 gravity points per pound per gallon. So you have 96 gravity points in 6.5 gallons = almost 15 gravity points per gallon.

Add that to your initial reading: 65 + 15 = 80 points per gallon, or 1.080.

When you get your final gravity (measured directly), just do the math like normal. Say it's 0.990...
(1.080-0.990) * 135 = 12.15% ABV
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Old 09-25-2012, 08:41 PM   #7
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What yeast are you pitching into this concoction of yours? I say that because we have no idea whats in it. If youre pitching a beer yeast thats likely why youre getting such a sweet wine thats finished fermentation either that or your just plain overdoing the sugar.

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Old 09-29-2012, 09:42 AM   #8
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Thanks for all the helpful comments people. Very much appreciated. Will always add sugar before yeast now.

Ross

P.s. Jlh42581: I am using wine makers yeast.

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