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Beginner here... wine won't stop fermenting? Looking for advice

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huds0012

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Hi there, I'm making my first batch of wine and I'm looking for some advice.

It's a gallon of blackberry wine. It was in primary for about 10 days then I racked it into the secondary fermenter. According to the recipe I'm following, the secondary fermentation should have taken 30 days or less, but its just now passed the 2 month mark and it's still fermenting. It's still lightly bubbling and the hydrometer reads 1.010. From what I read, fermentation isn't complete until the hydrometer reads just less than 1.

Do I just let it keep going until I get that hydrometer reading?

Should I be worried about how long it's been sitting on the sediment at the bottom?

Why is it taking so long to finish fermenting? Any advice?
 

jgmillr1

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It is likely still fermenting because either insufficient yeast nutrients were added or the temperature is too low.

I'm estimating it is around 2-3% residual sugar now which is fine or even low for a pure blackberry wine. Depends on your starting brix and blend.

Ive made a lot of blackberry wine and love the way it turns out. Hang in there and it will be great.

I suggest you just stop the fermentation altogether. Hit it with a campden tablet per gallon (55ppm sulfites/L) and sorbate 1g/L (3.8g/gal). You must add the sorbate.

You can stick it in the fridge to really shut down the yeast or wait a week. You'll want to rack soon to get it off the yeast soon afterwards. Then allow to settle and rack after a month. Taste and see how you like the sugar/acid balance. Add more sugar if you like. I usually target about 5%sugar, but I'm making straight blackberry with no water or grape juice and there is a lot of acid.

As always, keep oxygen away from your wine by keeping the container topped off.
 

jgmillr1

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My bad. Sorbate to 1g/GAL (200ppm, under the legal limit). Thanks for pointing out the typo. Perfect example of why it is good to use a spreadsheet to do your calculations as a double check.

I'm impressed if you can taste it at 150ppm. Regardless, it should be dosed high or you are risking bottle bombs.
 
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huds0012

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It is likely still fermenting because either insufficient yeast nutrients were added or the temperature is too low.

I'm estimating it is around 2-3% residual sugar now which is fine or even low for a pure blackberry wine. Depends on your starting brix and blend.

Ive made a lot of blackberry wine and love the way it turns out. Hang in there and it will be great.

I suggest you just stop the fermentation altogether. Hit it with a campden tablet per gallon (55ppm sulfites/L) and sorbate 1g/L (3.8g/gal). You must add the sorbate.

You can stick it in the fridge to really shut down the yeast or wait a week. You'll want to rack soon to get it off the yeast soon afterwards. Then allow to settle and rack after a month. Taste and see how you like the sugar/acid balance. Add more sugar if you like. I usually target about 5%sugar, but I'm making straight blackberry with no water or grape juice and there is a lot of acid.

As always, keep oxygen away from your wine by keeping the container topped off.
I really appreciate the help! I'll follow your advice and stop the fermentation. Thanks!
 

RPh_Guy

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It's best to cold crash and then rack to clear the yeast before stabilizing with sulfite and sorbate. (Potassium sorbate is not very soluble when cold AND does not work when there is lots of yeast present).
 

bernardsmith

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What exactly is the problem? Yeast will continue to ferment sugar until either the amount of alcohol in solution is beyond the tolerance for alcohol of the yeast or there is no more sugar left for the yeast to ferment. At a gravity of about 1.010 your carboy still contains about 4 oz of fermentable sugar.
Stopping a fermentation in mid flight is much like trying to catch a bullet between your teeth. Some people can do it. They tend to be stage magicians but most folk who try this are not particularly successful. I would increase the ambient temperature a few degrees if patience is not your strong suite and perhaps stir the yeast back into solution.

You might also work to degas the fermenter as a build up of CO2 can sometimes mean that the pH level drops to a level with which don't really handle very well.
The actual problem might be caused by too little oxygen in solution when you pitched the yeast and insufficient nutrition for the yeast but adding either at this stage is not necessarily a wonderful idea: once the solution is 9% alcohol yeast cannot uptake any nutrients and adding O2 at this point may bond more to the fruit than be used by the yeast...
 

Jullie Keyser

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I am also making blackberry wine and I am following a recipe from a book First Steps in Winemaking by C.J.J Berry. I left it as a must for 7 days and them strained into a fermenter. It has been fermenting steadily for just over 2 months now. The book suggests to leave about 3 months before racking, then a further 2 month before it may be ready for racking again and another month before bottling. I have thought when reading posts on this forum that people rack and bottle much quicker than this and I had wondered if this was because yeasts had evolved since this book was first printed (1960) and this made the process a bit speedier, as the kit for a Pinot that I have also got on the go will be drinkable in 28 days, allegedly.
 

bernardsmith

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Hi Jullie - and welcome.
Not so much that yeasts are better today as processes are better understood. Generally, all other things being equal, you should expect active fermentation to take about 10 days plus or minus three or four days or thereabouts. Any fermentation that you have not designed to take months (and professional cider makers might aim for that: longer fermentation just like in bread baking adds flavor but you need to know what you are doing) should finish quite rapidly. If it does not then that could mean one or more of several possibilities that include:
a poor colony of viable yeast (not enough yeast pitched given the volume OR the sugar content, or the viability of the colony is itself poor so that perhaps 75% of the cells were in fact dead when you pitched the yeast); poor rehydration protocol (the cells were viable but rehydration in fact damaged the cell walls) ; insufficient nutrients supplied for the yeast; insufficient oxygen at the beginning of fermentation; too low a pH (too much acidity in the wine or mead); too low an ambient temperature; the fruit being used is producing compounds that inhibit fermentation (might the fruit contain sorbates that are released during fermentation?) . There could be other reasons too but these are the first that spring to my mind.
 

Jullie Keyser

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Hi Jullie - and welcome.
Not so much that yeasts are better today as processes are better understood. Generally, all other things being equal, you should expect active fermentation to take about 10 days plus or minus three or four days or thereabouts. Any fermentation that you have not designed to take months (and professional cider makers might aim for that: longer fermentation just like in bread baking adds flavor but you need to know what you are doing) should finish quite rapidly. If it does not then that could mean one or more of several possibilities that include:
a poor colony of viable yeast (not enough yeast pitched given the volume OR the sugar content, or the viability of the colony is itself poor so that perhaps 75% of the cells were in fact dead when you pitched the yeast); poor rehydration protocol (the cells were viable but rehydration in fact damaged the cell walls) ; insufficient nutrients supplied for the yeast; insufficient oxygen at the beginning of fermentation; too low a pH (too much acidity in the wine or mead); too low an ambient temperature; the fruit being used is producing compounds that inhibit fermentation (might the fruit contain sorbates that are released during fermentation?) . There could be other reasons too but these are the first that spring to my mind.
Thanks Bernard, that's a very informative reply and gives me a lot to think about. I may do another kit over the winter but will probably not make another country wine until the Elderflowers are about and hopefully I will have learnt a bit more about winemaking by then. It is very interesting xx
 

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