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knowledge needed 1st timer Rhubarb & Elderflower wine

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Nbak

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Hi all,

As the title suggests I am making an Elderflower and Rhubarb wine, and I have never made country wine before in my life so I want it to go right but I don't know what to expect. I am doing my research and I thought it would be helpful to create a thread here to get conversations and knowledge going on to help me and others in my position out. Please read what I did below, and then I have some questions about what I am doing, done, and please add any thoughts.

I started to make an Elderflower cordial. I collected around 200 heads and added them to 4.5litres boiled and cooled water along with 5 lemons grated and squeezed + one large orange cut in two, with 3tsp of citric acid, let it steep for 48hrs. It tasted too bitter like lemon peel so I removed all the citrus and blooms with gloved hands and put another 80 heads in, steeped for 24hrs, still tasted a bit peely like lemon peel, so I put another 80 heads in with about 3.5 tsp citric acid and the juice from one lemon with another 500ml of water, then let it all steep for another 24hrs. . . . . then I took the lid off and at this point it was foamy and fizzing when I stirred it. It tasted like it was fermenting but there was no sugar at this point so I decided to take the blooms out, and being as our rhubarb was loving life to add, 2-3lb of raw bashed up rhubarb, 1.3kg granulated sugar, 2tsp of wine yeast to a make wine instead. When I added the sugar, it was in a syrup form, because I had melted it with a little of the steep juice on the hob. It started fizzing and foaming almost as soon as I added the sugar. It was alive!! . . . I left this with a semi air-tight lid for about seven days, giving a daily stir. I noticed on day seven that it was, I felt, a good day to transfer to demijohns as all livelyness ie fizzing and noise was much less than before, almost settled. At this point I took all fruit and left over debris out and sieved through a collander and sterile muslin. There was a lot of pollen and thunderflies on the muslin but it did sieve well. I filled one demijohn and a third of another, and I used my hydrometer. It was at +1.000 for 'reading upper meniscus'. The mixture is now very cloudy but with no debris, inside demijohns with bubble airlocks. This was two days ago.


I can see the bubbles going through the airlocks fine, they are not rapid they are every few minutes or so. The flavour before putting in the demijohns was dry and winey. lastly every piece of equipment I used was sterilised with bleach and the muslin boiled.

(1) My questions are - the transfer to demijohns was two days ago. I can still see bubbles through the airlock at every few mins or so. On the surface of both mixtures there are a few white bubbly looking spots, they are no bigger than a centimetre wide and I can see there is activity on them as a few were at the edge and they had strings of active bubbly formations dropping to the bottom. The liquid is still so cloudy. Is all of this normal/to be expected?

(2) I'm wondering how long it all takes to clear, or to notice that it is clearing? I am aware there was a lot of pollen in this mixture. I am also wondering/hoping this is not too early to notice bacteria that I don't want? I didn't use a campden tablet its just been a process straight to fermenting.

(3) I have no idea what the reading from my hydrometer means. Like I said the flavour on transferring to demijohns was dry and winey, but then I don't know what to be looking for or tasting for, so should I add more sugar at all? I can see that the airlocks have gas going through it every few minutes, but on day two is that normal or does my yest need more sugar? I prefer dry over sweeter flavour, and of course I would like a 12%.

Thanks in advance, I'm a right newb!!
 
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bernardsmith

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Hi Nbak- and welcome. We always need a recipe if we are to comment. We have no idea what the starting gravity was or what the gravity was wen you racked so we cannot offer any useful comments except to say that it can take a wine weeks if not months to clear and clearing often depends on how well you have removed CO2. But you don't tell us anything about your protocol.
Watching the airlock might be an amusing way to spend a few minutes but a) that tells us nothing and b) it suggests that degassing was not part of your protocol.. so it can take a while for gravity to overcome the pressure exerted by the CO2 to force particulates out of suspension... always much better to use a bucket as your primary even if that means that your entertainment comes from TV rather than watching CO2 bubble through an airlock...
 
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Nbak

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Hey Bern,

Thanks so much for the reply. Watching the airlock is amusing for me because it tells me at least something is happening as the bubbles are going through the ailocks!! XD haha . . . .

My plan is to leave this for as long as I can either 6 months or 2 years, I feel like the bubble airlocks are providing enough of a degassing system. I do welcome any elaborations on what you would do instead in my situation and why. I'd like to know as much as possible please? I didn't shake it up or anything as I'm aware the yeast may not appreciate it. Then again I didn't really rack per say. I moved it with a sterile jug and ladle :/ Next time I make a country wine I will try a bucket as a primary burper and see what happens with flavours, thanks for that Bern :) . . . . I will rack every 2-3 months or until there is no longer lees.

About the hydrometer reading, I agree I don't think I gathered enough info on that to begin, so I will just feel my way in the dark for now, and lesson learnt.

The white spots that I was concerned were a growth of unwanted bacteria have all nearly gone, I guess its not going too badly, but I'd really like some more info on the degassing that you mentioned. Why do you think that degassing was not part of my protocol, what is it in my process that suggests this? Is my time frame enough for the gravity to overcome the pressure exerted by Co2 to force particulates out of suspension?

Cheers Bern . .
 
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Nbak

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one more thing on protocol

your reply has really helped with my research. I'm probably going to rack, rack, rack untill no lees, then rack into an air tight bucket, to degas, and then clear it, & bottle.

I'd like to make a plum wine in the autumn, what are the benefits to degassing at different times during the process?
 

bernardsmith

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Couple of quick points. Buckets might be "airtight" but the surface area of any wine in such a bucket is very large... that area allows for far too much exposure to oxygen when active fermentation has ended and so CO2 production has ceased. The production of CO2 by the yeast is the rationale for using an "open" bucket (loosely covered but not necessarily sealed ) during active fermentation: the pressure of the CO2 being pushed out is far greater than any air pressure pushing down - CO2 blankets the wine.

The CO2 that pushes up and out (through the airlock) is only the CO2 that is not absorbed by and is saturating the wine. This saturating CO2 can combine with water in the wine (the % of alcohol is ...what 12%, +/- 7%? the remainder is water) to form carbonic acid and carbonic acid will lower the pH. Adding acidity to the wine during active fermentation adds stress to the yeast which can produce off flavors and aromas (H2S, mercaptans, etc) or can even stall the fermentation. Mead makers (those fermenting honey), perhaps more than wine makers religiously stir their meads once or twice every day to help degas their fermentations. Think of your airlock as more like a relief valve than a degassing tool. It removes the CO2 that cannot be absorbed by the liquid because the liquid is saturated with CO2. It does not remove CO2 from the liquid.
 
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