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Old 12-30-2011, 02:47 AM   #1
DGag453
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Default Moving from Beer to Wine

I've been making beer for a little over a year now and feel pretty comfortable with all stages, including mashing. Always looking to try something new, I've recently become interested in making some fruit wines. I purchased the Joy of Home Winemaking and have some questions. First, is this book outdated? I know the beer brewing book of the same name is important for historical reasons, but it outdated as far as techniques go.

More importantly, I want to make sure I don't bring from beerbrewing to wine making any techniques or preconceptions that would be inappropriate to transfer. (Is there already a forum about this? I have to believe somebody had made a similar post before). Anyway, my understanding of the critical differences are as follows:

When making wine, its necessary to use sugar adjuncts to reach a proper sugar level, whereas this would ruin the taste of beer.

When making wine, its important to rack of the trub (or whatever the appropriate wine word is) at least once, sometimes more. When brewing beer, this (arguably) is unnecessary.

After racking wine, its important to top of the fermentor to avoid oxygen exposure. (I've never heard of doing this with beer, although I don't understand why this aspect varies?)

For some reason, sanitization is less important when making wine. I've noted that in the above-mentioned book the author goes so far as to recommend sticking your whole hand into the fermenter to pulverize the fruit.

Please correct any of these statements if I am wrong. I have many more questions, but I will leave it at this for now. Thanks!

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Old 12-30-2011, 05:28 AM   #2
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[QUOTE=DGag453;3611476]For some reason, sanitization is less important when making wine. I've noted that in the above-mentioned book the author goes so far as to recommend sticking your whole hand into the fermenter to pulverize the fruit.
QUOTE]

Sanitation is always a concern when starting out. If you are making a fruit wine, often times the fruit must will be sat overnight with sulfites to kill of any bad guys. When you hear people note that sanitation is less of an issue they are often referring to racking as the alcohol level is much higher than in beers. I always over-sanitize if possible to play it safe.

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Old 12-30-2011, 01:35 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by DGag453 View Post
When making wine, its necessary to use sugar adjuncts to reach a proper sugar level, whereas this would ruin the taste of beer.
Well wine yeasts tend to hit a higher alcohol content so if you want to have the yeast reach their full potential, much less have any residual sweetness, you need to add some sugar. I normally add 10# to a 5 gallon batch. But then again I'm lazy and use concentrates.

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When making wine, its important to rack of the trub (or whatever the appropriate wine word is) at least once, sometimes more. When brewing beer, this (arguably) is unnecessary.
Well trub is quite acceptable, but generally referred to as Lees. It's important to rack off this layer that accumulates on the bottom every so often (sometimes 3, or even 5 times). The piled up yeasties start to do crazy things with lack of food and oxygen down there and can generate all kinds of off flavors. This is more an issue with winemaking because of the time spent in the carboy. Months for wine vs weeks for beer.

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After racking wine, its important to top of the fermentor to avoid oxygen exposure. (I've never heard of doing this with beer, although I don't understand why this aspect varies?)
Winemakers are PETRIFIED of oxidation. When oxygen combines with the otherwise nice flavor notes and turns them into eww flavor notes. I thought this was true of beer too, but then again I've never made beer.

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For some reason, sanitization is less important when making wine. I've noted that in the above-mentioned book the author goes so far as to recommend sticking your whole hand into the fermenter to pulverize the fruit.
There's various opinions of sanitation with winemaking, although most are very less involved than beer making. For example when I'm working with canned fruit, frozen fruit, or concentrates I just sure everything is rinsed out, dosn't smell weird, and has no mold. If I'm using real fruit I rinse everything out as before, but also rinse off the fruit. With real fruit it's necessary to add sulfites to kill the natural yeasts that live on the fruit. These come in the form of campden tablets and are super cheap. The thing is commercial wine yeast is VERY tolerant to this concentration of sulfites so I don't let mine sit for more than a half hour before I pitch in wine yeast.


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Please correct any of these statements if I am wrong. I have many more questions, but I will leave it at this for now. Thanks!
More questions! Go!
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Old 12-30-2011, 04:49 PM   #4
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Thanks brazedowl, that certainly answers a number of my questions. Oxygen is a big concern with beer, but I've never topped anything off. I usually just assume that the fermentation gas pushes all the oxygen out, and since an airlock is on no oxygen can get back in. Even when I use a secondary for dry-hopping or adding fun stuff I usually get enough bubbles that I assume all the oxygen is purged.

As for the campden tablets, you sort of answered my question. I guess I was confused by the idea of adding stuff to the wine pre-fermentation that is designed to kill wild yeast. My assumption would be that those same campden tablets would also inhibit fermentation by harming the wine yeast. Is this why recipes always say to let the wine sit for 12-24 hours before pitching the yeast?

Here are a few more questions:

The only time I would consider stirring beer during fermentation would be if I think the yeast has fallen out and gone dormant. Why the continuous stirring of wine? Is it to get all the gas out so you don't end up with semi-carbonated wine?

How is bottling wine different than bottling beer? I've been thinking about bottling wine in the same way I bottle beer. I use a bottling wand for my beer so its very difficult to fill the bottles up to the top. Inevitably, I end up with an inch or more of air at the top (which is of course useful for carbonating). When bottling wine I guess you must be sure to leave no room for air? Is this why corks are preferred, since they take up that extra space?

With beer, I'm used to ending with a gravity of around 1.006-1.020. I always assumed this more about the sugars (unfermentable) in the barley than about the yeast. Is wine gravity usually lower because simpler sugars are used or because the wine yeast is more aggressive? Without killing off the wine yeast, is there anyway to end up with residual sugar in the wine?

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Old 12-30-2011, 05:11 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by DGag453 View Post
Thanks brazedowl, that certainly answers a number of my questions. Oxygen is a big concern with beer, but I've never topped anything off. I usually just assume that the fermentation gas pushes all the oxygen out, and since an airlock is on no oxygen can get back in. Even when I use a secondary for dry-hopping or adding fun stuff I usually get enough bubbles that I assume all the oxygen is purged.
Well, yes. But once fermentation slows, the co2 production also slows and then stops. You rack the wine several times, so you'll want to protect the wine from oxidation.

Keep in mind also that the "co2 blanket" that is produces does protect your beer in the fermenter. But it's not like it stays in there forever and ever. The co2 will eventually dissipate, and since the wine isn't producing more, the best way to combat any risk of oxidation is to top up the carboy, and to use campden tablets (sulfites) which are an antioxidant. Sulfites will bind with the wine, so that oxygen can't, and is customarily added at every other racking and at bottling, to keep the wine at 50 ppm or so.

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Originally Posted by DGag453 View Post
As for the campden tablets, you sort of answered my question. I guess I was confused by the idea of adding stuff to the wine pre-fermentation that is designed to kill wild yeast. My assumption would be that those same campden tablets would also inhibit fermentation by harming the wine yeast. Is this why recipes always say to let the wine sit for 12-24 hours before pitching the yeast?
Wine yeast is pretty darn tolerant of sulfites, that's why winemakers use them. But it's still a good idea to wait 12-24 hours before adding the yeast before sulfiting, to avoid stunning them.

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Originally Posted by DGag453 View Post
Here are a few more questions:

The only time I would consider stirring beer during fermentation would be if I think the yeast has fallen out and gone dormant. Why the continuous stirring of wine? Is it to get all the gas out so you don't end up with semi-carbonated wine?
No, not really. You don't stir the wine "continously" at all. Just during primary, when the fruit has a tendency to float. You want to stir it down to keep the fruit (the "cap" also) from drying out and molding.

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Originally Posted by DGag453 View Post
How is bottling wine different than bottling beer? I've been thinking about bottling wine in the same way I bottle beer. I use a bottling wand for my beer so its very difficult to fill the bottles up to the top. Inevitably, I end up with an inch or more of air at the top (which is of course useful for carbonating). When bottling wine I guess you must be sure to leave no room for air? Is this why corks are preferred, since they take up that extra space?
No, you still have headspace with wine. But if you look at the bottle, where it narrows is where the headspace would be, and it's only about an inch wide.

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Originally Posted by DGag453 View Post
With beer, I'm used to ending with a gravity of around 1.006-1.020. I always assumed this more about the sugars (unfermentable) in the barley than about the yeast. Is wine gravity usually lower because simpler sugars are used or because the wine yeast is more aggressive? Without killing off the wine yeast, is there anyway to end up with residual sugar in the wine?
Wines tend to be made up of fruit which is comprised of simple sugars. Simple sugars ferment fully, unless the alcohol tolerance is exceeded. You can have a sweet wine in several ways- one is to overwhelm the yeast's alcohol tolerance, but then you may have sweet rocket fuel as some strains go upwards of 18% ABV. The most dependable way is to wait until fermentation is finished and the wine is clear, then stabilize the wine with sorbate and campden. That keeps the yeast from reproducing. Then add your desired sweetener to taste. You can make a wine from off-dry to dessert sweet that way.
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