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Campden tablets: how to degas without exposing to air contaminents?

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kwiley

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This must be an incredibly straightforward question, but it seems problematic to leave campden-treated cider, either pre-primary-ferment, or racked-to-secondary, sitting open-topped for 24 hours to degas the sulfur dioxide.

First, there is the concern that you are exposing everything to air bacteria/mold/etc. Are you really supposed to just leave it fully exposed for a day while the campden tablets do their work? Does that not simply reinfect the wine at the same time you are decontaminating it?

Second, perhaps more relevant to post-primary-racking, if you add campden tablets as you go to the secondary and leave it exposed to air to offgas the SO2, then aren't you massively exposing the wine to oxygenation? How do you satisfy both the criteria of getting the secondary into a new carboy with minimal headspace as fast as possible and also leave it exposed to air for 24 hours to shed the SO2? I don't get it.

I know this comes up a lot, but I searched a bit, and while I found numerous discussions about this topic, I still don't feel I ever landed on a resolute answer. I'm still unclear about this.

Thanks.
 

xarimus

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I think you still put an airlock on it so that the gas leaving can escape but oxygen can't get in.
 
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kwiley

kwiley

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I think you still put an airlock on it so that the gas leaving can escape but oxygen can't get in.
Hmmm, my preferment isn't even in jugs/carboys yet. I can't airlock it, as it's just in a bucket. I guess I can poor it into jugs to finish off the campden tablet period and airlock them.
 

xarimus

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That's how I used to do mine (sitting in a carboy with airlock for 24 hrs. prior to pitching), now I use a fermenting bucket that has a lid with an airlock, but same concept.
 
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kwiley

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Okay, I guess I'll load up the jugs (do you call them carboys when you're referring to the 1-gallon versions?) and let the campden finish off through the airlocks. At some point here I need to add the pectic enzyme, I guess about 12h after campden and 12h before yeast. I suppose it doesn't matter too much so long as it's at least a few hours ahead of the yeast so it has time to work? I presume there's no harm in adding pectic enzyme *more* than the prescribed four hours before pitching, right?
 

xarimus

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Nah, I call em jugs :) I don't think it will hurt to add the pectic enzyme early, I've done it 24 hours before pitching in the past and didn't notice a difference.
 

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I once saw a post on winemaking where they suggested using a vacuum cleaner fitted to a bottle stopper to suck the gas. The video showed that it worked.

Back in the cork in bottle days you could buy a thing called "vacuvin". It was a cork sized rubber stopper with a slit type one way valve and a simple vacuum pump. It was used to suck air out of the bottle (if you didn't drink it all... why??). I have used it to degass and it really works... you can see the bubbles rapidly rising when you start the sucking.

If you had them in the USA they might still be around.
 
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kwiley

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I have used those vacuum-pump wine-bottle sealers for years (they also work on Crabbies, which I often drink half of at a time and want to preserve to the second night). There's one in my kitchen drawer right now. I've literally made a bottle of red last a week. They are amazing. It has crossed my mind that it would be really cool to vacuum the headspace of my jugs and carboys somehow, but I couldn't think of a way to accomplish it. It certainly seems to make sense conceptually.
 

Epond83

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Kwiley did the vacuum pump not work because of size/fit or did it off gas too much?
 
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kwiley

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The wine sealer I'm describing doesn't naturally fit over the top of an airlock. It's a custom device that comes with its own one-way-valved plugs that fit into a wine bottle. The vacuum pump goes over the top of the plug and pulls air out through the plug but doesn't let air back in. Here's an example I pulled up off Amazon. As you can see, there's no way to attach this to an inserted airlock such that it would pull air through the water from the headspace in a one-way direction, so as to evacuate the headspace. It just doesn't work, but in theory one could invent such a device.

 

Chalkyt

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Yep, that looks like the sort of thing I used, but of course I was degassing a bottle of wine (you could see the bubbles rising). To degas your cider, could you just fit it to the carboy (probably needs the right size rubber stopper/adaptor to fit the carboy with a hole for the "one way plug"). If sucking the air out for degassing, would it then be possible to re-fit the airlock after degassing?

Let us all know if you have any success.
 

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You don't degas the cider- you allow the campden to do it's work (airlock on or not), and then add the yeast 24 hours later. Wine and ale yeast are tolerant of sulfites, that's why winemakers use them, but giving it 24 hours ensures that you don't have a mega-dose in there.

When people talk about degassing, it's later on before bottling if a wine or cider is very gassy postfermentation. This is normally not an issue at all- I've had one non-kit wine, and never a cider, that needed some degassing before bottling.

For high alcohol wines and meads often some stirring is done in primary since co2 is created from fermentation and co2 is poisonous to yeast in large quantities, but that is not at all a concern in this instance.
 
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kwiley

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Yep, that looks like the sort of thing I used, but of course I was degassing a bottle of wine (you could see the bubbles rising). To degas your cider, could you just fit it to the carboy (probably needs the right size rubber stopper/adaptor to fit the carboy with a hole for the "one way plug"). If sucking the air out for degassing, would it then be possible to re-fit the airlock after degassing?

Let us all know if you have any success.
I mean, that could partially work. Presumably during the moment when you pull out the vacuum plug and quickly insert a stopper or drill airlock plug, the external air would rapidly and forcefully get pushed back into the headspace.
 
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kwiley

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I'm trying to nail this issue down. When racking it is recommended to add a campden tablets, not only to prevent infection but to alleviate any oxygen exposure that happened during the racking process. So, is the takeaway from the discussion above that you should close up the secondary, with minimal headspace, with the campden tablets, and use an airlock to vent off the SO2? Or are you supposed to leave it open for 24 hours before putting a long-term secondary-aging airlock on it in order to properly purge the SO2 during the 24 hours after racking, but in so doing expose the cider to oxygen the whole time?

Thanks.
 

madscientist451

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I usually don't use any campden in cider pre-fermetation. Your results may vary, but I haven't had any problems since I quit using it.
I do use some when racking though.
 
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kwiley

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Ok, but what's the answer to my question? *How* do you do it? Does your secondary go straight to minimal headspace and an airlock? Is that sufficient to give the campden tablets their stated 24 hours of open air exposure? It doesn't seem like it would to me. What's your method?
 

Maylar

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This must be an incredibly straightforward question, but it seems problematic to leave campden-treated cider, either pre-primary-ferment, or racked-to-secondary, sitting open-topped for 24 hours to degas the sulfur dioxide.
Where is it written that you have to "degas" anything after adding sulfite? I don't. Pre ferment I add the recommended dose (1/4 tsp in 5 gallons), let it sit for a day with the lid on loosely, then pitch the yeast. Oxygen is not an issue at that point. When racking, the airlock goes on immediately. When stabilizing for bottling or kegging I just mix it in with the cider and continue on. Never had a problem
 
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kwiley

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Where is it written that you have to "degas" anything after adding sulfite? I don't. Pre ferment I add the recommended dose (1/4 tsp in 5 gallons), let it sit for a day with the lid on loosely, then pitch the yeast. Oxygen is not an issue at that point. When racking, the airlock goes on immediately. When stabilizing for bottling or kegging I just mix it in with the cider and continue on. Never had a problem
Maybe I'm using the term "degas" incorrectly, but I still can't figure out how to satisfy two seemingly conflicting requirements. First, it is clearly stated that cider needs 24 hours of unsealed air exposure after adding campden tablets. If degassing is the wrong term, that's fine, but my understanding is that the purpose is to allow the SO2 released by adding campden tablets to escape. At the same time, it is equally emphasized that during racking you should minimize air exposure, minimize headspace, and get everything closed up as quickly as possible.

I do not understand how to do these two things at the same time. They seem in direct conflict with one another. Does a tiny headspace in a narrow neck (and therefore practically no surface exposure) with an airlock isolating the minimal headspace from the air outside count as "exposing to air" for the campden requirement or does the need to exposure campden-treated cider not get met by such an approach? If you *do* need to give it a more open exposure so the requirement of 24 hours of exposure (whether for degassing or some other term) is met, then doesn't that oxidize the cider?

This is what I can't figure out. There has to be a simple explanation to this question, but I can't find it written down anywhere. Everything I read just says "add campden tablets at racking" but doesn't explain whether to leave it exposed to air or seal it up with an airlock, and in either of those two cases, doesn't further explain how doing so doesn't break one of the two rules (either the need to expose to air for 24 hours or the need to minimize air exposure during racking).

I don't get it.
 

Epond83

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I'm pretty new to all this, 5 - one gallon batches so far.
My understanding is the 24 - 48 hours is for the Campden tablet is to let the SO2 do it's job and also off gas enough to let your yeast start working. Although a strong enough yeast batch can over come some SO2.

If you add Campden tablet again when racking you are looking to kill off any remaining yeast to help clarify and or stabilize to sweeten.
You are not worried at this point about the SO2 off gassing to allow yeast to grow again. As the cider ages the SO2 will off gas slowly and lower the sulfides in solution.

From my understanding wine makers will periodically add Campden tablets (or equivalent) throughout aging to resist oxidation and infection since it does slowly off gas.
 

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First, it is clearly stated that cider needs 24 hours of unsealed air exposure after adding campden tablets.
I don't get it.
This where I think we disagree. I've never once heard "cider needs 24 hours of unsealed air exposure after adding campden tablets" and I've been doing this for 25+ years. If you could give us the source, maybe we could tell you if it's reputable, but since I haven't done it in over thousands of gallons, and never heard this wisdom before, I doubt your source on this advice.
 
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kwiley

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This where I think we disagree. I've never once heard "cider needs 24 hours of unsealed air exposure after adding campden tablets" and I've been doing this for 25+ years. If you could give us the source, maybe we could tell you if it's reputable, but since I haven't done it in over thousands of gallons, and never heard this wisdom before, I doubt your source on this advice.
Well, I've been doing this for two months, so I have no stake in what I've learned so far. To the contrary, I'm asking because I admit to knowing nothing. :)

So, there's this webpage:
which says:
Be sure that you wait 24 hours before adding the wine yeast, or the Campden tablets may kill the wine yeast. Also during this 24 hour waiting period, be sure the fermenter is not sealed. Leave the fermenter open to the air. If you like, you can cover it with a very thin towel or netting to keep bugs and fallout from getting to it. The sulfur dioxide from the Campden tablets need the opportunity to dissipate into the air during this time.

And there's this:
which says:
It’s important to allow the vessel to vent, as the sulfur dioxide needs to be able to off-gas.

I've run across statements like this in my attempt to learn how to make cider and I continue to be confused about how to properly apply campden tablets during racking such that the desire to vent or offgas is satisfied but without literally exposing the now well-fermented cider to air and oxygen, which are you definitely not supposed to do.

Thanks again.
 

doublejef

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I usually don't use any campden in cider pre-fermetation. Your results may vary, but I haven't had any problems since I quit using it.
I do use some when racking though.
So you use it only to avoid oxydation or there is some other purpose?
When do you add it when racking? I guess you dissolve it into the cider before racking.
I really would like to avoid sulfite during all the process but sometimes I doubt it Worth the risk when I see that nearly everybody is using it.
I plan to use CO2 to purge the O2 from the vessel before racking.
 

madscientist451

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If I think I'm going to consume the cider pretty quickly, I'll skip the sulfite, but if I have a large inventory on hand or think the cider will improve with some more aging, I'll add it. I used to be 100% sulfite free on all my cider and wines, but then I had a few problems and had to dump some out.
 

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Wine and ale yeast are very tolerant of sulfites- that's why we use them. In the amounts of +/- 50 ppm (FAR below the limits allowed in commercial wine which is something like 300 ppm), you won't have any issues.

Don't overthink this. Yes, sulfites dissipate and are added at intervals, but no need to degas/offgas/whatever.
 

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Remember that there is no such thing as a sulfite-free wine or cider, except for one that I know of. The reason is that sulfites are actually a by-product of fermentation, so even "no sulfite added" wines usually have sulfites in them. It's less than winemakers add, but it's there.
There is one yeast strain that is used commercially that doesn't produce sulfites that I know of- not available to purchase but I did read about it a number of years ago, and that is the one company that has a "sulfite free wine".
 

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And what about allergic people? A friend of mine told me that is became allergic getting old and cannot drink wine anymore exept for sulfite-free. Otherwise his face turns all red and he get kind of trouble to breath.

Sorry for asking again but when do you add sulfite when racking? Into the juice before racking or after? It seems logic to do it before but it means you need to mix in the vessel and it won't be a good thing if you want to clarify...
 

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And what about allergic people? A friend of mine told me that is became allergic getting old and cannot drink wine anymore exept for sulfite-free. Otherwise his face turns all red and he get kind of trouble to breath....
That's one of the reasons I home brew, so I can avoid excess doses of sulfites. I'm sensitive to them. If I drink a commercial wine, I get joint pain immediately. Same thing happens with some commercial beers. My home brewed beer & mead does not cause me joint pain.

I do use small doses of Campden to treat my water (pre-brew) for chlorine/chloramine, but that is the only time I use it.

In my experience total dosage matters. As pointed about above, sulfites are naturally occurring, plus they are used as additives in food, drink, and even medicines. I can't avoid ALL sulfites, but I can control my total dosage by making smart choices about what I eat and drink.
 

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And what about allergic people? A friend of mine told me that is became allergic getting old and cannot drink wine anymore exept for sulfite-free. Otherwise his face turns all red and he get kind of trouble to breath.

Sorry for asking again but when do you add sulfite when racking? Into the juice before racking or after? It seems logic to do it before but it means you need to mix in the vessel and it won't be a good thing if you want to clarify...
There are definitely a few people who are allergic or sensitive to sulfites. But they would know it- for example, they can't eat raisins or other sulfited food. There are more sulfites in commercial foods than in homemade wine, unless the winemaker is sulfite- happy. So if someone can eat raisins, gravy mix, some potato chips, canned foods, etc- they aren't allergic to sulfites but instead maybe sensitive to something else (like tannin) in wine.

For those with true allergies, they should absolutely avoid sulfites in food and drink.

I add sulfites (50 ppm, so not much) at every other racking. I dissolve the powder in a little water or some of the wine, pour that into the carboy, and then rack the wine into it.
 

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Remember that there is no such thing as a sulfite-free wine or cider, except for one that I know of. T
Yes that's correct, thanks for the clarification. I should have said "free of additional sulfites added by me".
For those interested in a technical explanation, here a great article:
 
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kwiley

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Yooper, you asked above why I thought there was any description of offgasing campden tablets and I gave two links that had confused me on the issue. Did you have any thoughts on how I had misinterpreted the information on those two other websites? I'm curious what you think of that.

Thanks.
 

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