How long is it safe to let wine sit in the secondary fermenter?

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bcross

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Hello friends! I am a beginner home brewer just looking for an answer to a simple question. I just went out to a Costco Wholesale shop in my area and bought a double pack of cheap wine kits for like 80 CAD to see if I like wine brewing! I just finished the first step/ process of primary fermentation and siphoned my first batch of wine into the carboy/ secondary fermenter and I thought hmm maybe now since my primary fermenter is empty it's a good time to start that 2nd kit and put on another batch. However although I have enough bottles to bottle my first batch when I siphon my 2nd batch into the carboy/ secondary fermenter it might take while before I get enough empty clean bottles to bottle my 2nd batch! So the question is how long is it okay to let my wine sit in the secondary fermenter? It might be a month or more before I actually bottle it!
 

jtratcliff

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I'm a beginner with wine, too... Never used a kit, only fruit ... Mostly stuff I've grown... Grapes, rhubarb, loquats, etc...
I've only done 1 gallon batches...

I find that I have to rack several times, as they keep dropping lees for quite a while... I still have some in the basement from last july/august that I may want to rack 1 more time before bottling. I check every month or so. If the lees are ~1/4 inch, I rack to a clean carboy and check again in month... Once there are no more lees, I bottle.

Make sure to minimize head space by topping up to neck w/ water or similar wine (or adding sanitized marbles to raise the level) and to use campden tabs every other racking to reduce oxidation..
 

Mtrhdltd

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As long as you want, assuming the head space is virtually non existent. Also make sure to keep your airlock full or even a solid stopper to prevent air getting in.
 
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bcross

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As long as you want, assuming the head space is virtually non existent. Also make sure to keep your airlock full or even a solid stopper to prevent air getting in.
The wine I make ends up being about 6 inches from the opening of the 23L carboy do you think that's too much head space?
 

Erik the Awful

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If you have an airlock on it, it's safe to let it sit. I typically rack my wines every two months, and I usually have four or five wines in secondary. Once they stop dropping sediment I bottle them. It usually takes a couple rackings.
 

toadie

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6 inches from the opening is bad for long term storage with wine. Get a 5 gallon carboy and maybe an extra little bottle with an airlock for a future racking.
 

madscientist451

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The wine I make ends up being about 6 inches from the opening of the 23L carboy do you think that's too much head space?
Yes, that's too much head space. You have a couple of options:
-As already noted above, get a smaller carboy
-get the cheapest glass marbles you can find, sanitize them and drop them into the carboy to raise the level of the wine
-Buy a similar cheap wine at the liquor store in gallon jugs and top up your home made wine with that. (save the gallon jugs)
-Invest in new or used empty gallon jugs and rack your wine to those, you may still need to use the marbles for the last jug you rack to.
-You could go ahead and bottle the wine, but you might end up with sediment in the bottom of your bottles and you won't be able to make any adjustments to the wine after final bottling (or it will be a TPITA to adjust each bottle).
 

Coffee49

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All those suggestions are good, 2 key focus items are 1" head space and 3rd racking add S02 to prevent oxidation. I am running out of bottle space good problem to have,, so i am doing a long bulk aging at 3rd racking. Nice to be running out of room with all the carboys
 

bernardsmith

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I agree that headroom can be a major problem - it allows for oxidation and even if the wine is relatively immune from oxidation, alcohol in the presence of oxygen where there are acetobacter present can result in vinegar. But another issue are the lees, the sediment. Fine lees are less of an issue but gross lees can create off flavors as the gross lees include dead yeast cells and those cells can rupture allowing the insides of the yeast to enter the wine. You want to rack if you have a fairly thick layer of lees (say half an inch or more). A dusting is not a problem.
 

Ty520

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I agree that headroom can be a major problem - it allows for oxidation and even if the wine is relatively immune from oxidation, alcohol in the presence of oxygen where there are acetobacter present can result in vinegar. But another issue are the lees, the sediment. Fine lees are less of an issue but gross lees can create off flavors as the gross lees include dead yeast cells and those cells can rupture allowing the insides of the yeast to enter the wine. You want to rack if you have a fairly thick layer of lees (say half an inch or more). A dusting is not a problem.
From my understanding, small home batches aren't really susceptible to issues caused by sitting on the lees for extended periods. It's the immense pressure of large commercial batches that can rupture yeast cells.
 
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