New to wine making, starting with blackberry... any advice would be appreciated!

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iceman_ii

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New to wine making, other than the wine I made out of Hawaiian punch fruit juicy red 40 years ago in High School... that said, I too harvested just over 60lbs of black berries from my 10 3 year old plants, normally I make jam, but when I froze enough mashed berries to make 160 jars of jam, I realized I needed to do something different because the freezer was out of space.

I got a "fastferment", and I'm preping the juice (juiced the berries through my kitchenade stand mixer) using about 4 lbs berries per gallon, 20 lbs for a 5 gallon batch today. I'm pitching the yeast in the morning (WLP720 Mead Yeast). Any advice or recommendations would be greatly appreciated! (Advice such as "add tannin" or "don't add tannin") I have also seen recipes that use anywhere from 2.5 to 3.5 lbs of sugar per gallon, I don't like dry wines, so was leaning towards 3.0 to 3.5, any thoughts would again be GREATLY appreciated!
 

Richard Jones

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Blackberries (or brambles as we call them round these parts) are excellent for country fruit wine. Your quantities sound about right. You will need the sugar (more = better), and some tannin. But apart from that just treat it as you would any fruit wine.

Another tip: I usually pick and freeze them over the six weeks of the season, and then make the wine later.
 

bernardsmith

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I have also seen recipes that use anywhere from 2.5 to 3.5 lbs of sugar per gallon, I don't like dry wines, so was leaning towards 3.0 to 3.5, any thoughts would again be GREATLY appreciated!
The dirty little secret to wine making (apart from the absolute need for patience) is balance and all wines must be nicely balanced among the following elements: ABV, intensity of flavor, sweetness, acidity, tannin and mouthfeel (viscosity), and so with country wines (fruit wines) flavor is not very intense and so the ABV cannot be very high - 12 % is a reasonable level (or a starting gravity of about 1.090). If we ignore for the moment, the sugar content of a few pounds of berries in every gallon, then table sugar dissolved in water to make 1 US gallon will raise the gravity of the water by about 45 points... and so 2 lbs of sugar will raise the gravity 90 points. (1.090). OK, You prefer a sweeter wine. No problem. Allow the yeast to ferment every last molecule of the sugar and then stabilize that brut dry wine to prevent any yeast from fermenting any sugar that you will NOW add. Bench test to determine how sweet THIS batch should be given the fruit flavors, the acidity (the more acid the fruit , the more sweet you may want the wine) and the mouth drying sensation that tannins provide. With country wines fruit flavors tend not to push forward unless carried by some sweetness. But only YOU can know how sweet YOU prefer THIS wine. You might find that about 4 oz of sugar dissolved to make a syrup and mixed well into your wine for each gallon will make the wine sweet enough (or that may be too sweet or not nearly sweet enough for YOUR taste with THIS fruit and at THIS acidity.
 
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iceman_ii

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Blackberries (or brambles as we call them round these parts) are excellent for country fruit wine. Your quantities sound about right. You will need the sugar (more = better), and some tannin. But apart from that just treat it as you would any fruit wine.

Another tip: I usually pick and freeze them over the six weeks of the season, and then make the wine later.
I appreciate the advice, but as Ceasar said "Alea iacta est"... today is the end of the second week of fermentation, not sure if I can draw a fine line between primary and secondary though.

I decided to go with 3.5lbs sugar per gallon, so I used a total of
- 23.125 lbs blackberries
- - - Mashed, frozen, thawed, then juiced down to ~10qts juice with minimal pulp
- 17.5 lbs sugar
- 2.5 tsp acid blend
- 1.5 tsp tannin
- water to make 5.5 gal
(also added yeast nutrient and pectic enzime - but those really don't contribute to flavor, correct?)

I Pitched the first yeast (White labs WLP 720) 2 weeks ago today, the OSG was 1.17 (yes I know, DAMN high) unfortunately with that level of sugar, it acted like a preservative, and the yeast had trouble starting. The next afternoon, I pitched an additional two packages of Red Star Premier Cuvee, and fermentation finally kicked in in earnest. As the fermentation kicked in, there was a significant amount of foam and floating pulp, which I punched down and stirred 3 - 4 times a day.

I had to travel for work starting on day 8 through today. As of day 5, it was still fermenting heavily, so I know it wasn't NEARLY out of primary, but I was concerned about the OSG... looking back, I think I used too much fruit for the volumes (adding additional un-accounted for sugar) so I decided to add a bit more water (3 pints) to drop the SG a bit, and give the yeast a better opportunity to convert more of the sugars.
- OSG = 1.17 (extrapolated to theoretical value of 1.165 considering the addition of water on day 5)
- SG day 5 before water = 1.115
- SG day 5 after water = 1.11
- SG Delta due to additoional water, 0.005

Skipping forward to today, the SG is now 1.065 and fermentation is still cooking along (albeit, much slower than before) and while there is no more foam with pulp floating on the surface (I skimmed the floating pulp on day 7 - I was concerned about it drying while I was traveling and did not want it to become a home for stray bacterial cultures) I still have fines from the pulp floating in suspension. Hopefully more of these will fall out to the collection bottle at the bottom of the conical fermenter. It has been going for 2 weeks, probably going to clean the collection bottle, and shift from the opaque plastic to a glass collection vessel so I can actually see what the leaves are looking like to minimize wasting product. On the upside, because I juiced the berries, I didn't introduce any seeds or seed bitterness to the must.

My plan is to let it keep cooking along until the yeast can take no more, and if it is still to sweet, I might try something with higher alcohol tolerance to drop the sugars, maybe a Lalvin EC 1118?

Using the lessons I am learning now, Next year I plan to:
1. Use a starter when I pitch the yeast
2. Only use half the sugar to start primary, let it ferment down, then add more sugar later as needed
3. Use a hops bag or something similar to control the pulp fines

Any thoughts on what I have done so far, or suggestions to improve this years outcome would be very much appreciated, as well as thoughts on my plans for next year. Thank you in advance!
 

lukebuz

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If you have that much berry harvest - try making a pure juice wine! Just like it sounds, no water. BB's are 80% water, so for 5 gallons, you need about 50# of berries. It tastes just as good as it sounds. Sipping berries, right off the vine.
 

Ty520

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I would definitely advise on using a nylon brew bag. Bernard had good advice regarding balance, but one thing I would differ on is that you do not necessarily need to consider 12% abv as your ceiling IF you punch up your fruit quantities - I found my blackberry wine w/ 4# berries per gallon to bit a bit thin in body, and went with 6# in the following batch
 

Ty520

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If you have that much berry harvest - try making a pure juice wine! Just like it sounds, no water. BB's are 80% water, so for 5 gallons, you need about 50# of berries. It tastes just as good as it sounds. Sipping berries, right off the vine.
the only problem with that is pure blackberry juice, at best is 1.075 OG, so you won't even hit 10% ABV without some supplemental sugars..

Although, I could see "Session" country wine being quite popular - I 've heard its actually slowly making a trend in the wine industry now
 
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iceman_ii

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Well, here is the latest update...

I pulled the Fastferment lid off the conical yesterday to check for floaters, had VERY few, but I skimmed them and put the lid back on. The must had a few (VERY few) bubbles, yet the airlock failed to rise, so it seamed that fermentation was nearly done... pulled the lid again to check the gravity, 1.060... using the alternate equation (for high SG mixes) it comes out to 17.48%... having pitched Red Star Premier Cuvee (tolerance around 18%) this makes perfect sense. I also took the opportunity to taste a bit, and its AMAZING how much it has mellowed in just the last 6 days!

Nothing to do now but wait!
 

Ty520

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Gravity is 1.060, and Abv is 17.48%?

can't be right - that would mean your starting gravity was ~1.195
 
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iceman_ii

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Gravity is 1.060, and Abv is 17.48%?

can't be right - that would mean your starting gravity was ~1.195
My starting gravity was 1.165, and if you use the alternate equation (the one for higher specific gravity solutions) it does yield a higher number...

The basic formula is:
ABV = (og – fg) * 131.25
Yes, this yields a value of 13.78% with an OG of 1.065 and an SG of 1.060

A more complex equation which attempts to provide greater accuracy at higher gravities is:
ABV =(76.08 * (og-fg) / (1.775-og)) * (fg / 0.794)

What can I say, I'm an engineer and I LIKE equations that aren't so simplistic ;)

The simple equation and the complex equation are in sync up to about 6% ABV, where they start to diverge... I think it safe to say that yes, I have a high gravity solution so I think the second equation is probably more representative of what is really going on. It yields a value of 17.48% with the same gravities (1.165 and 1.060), and this explains the fermentation slowing to a stop with plenty of fermentable sugars remaining given that the Red Star Premier Cuvee is only good to 18%

I don't want to get cross ways with the admins by linking to other boards, but you can check the calculator I used over on Br3w3rsFri3nd (pardon the leet speak typing, but I don't want to raise any red flags)
 
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Ty520

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well, in that case, with an OG of 1165 and an FG of 1060, you're yeast has probably done the best it can - I find that as a basic rule of thumb, you'll get a drop of 100 points (110 points with a really good nutrient protocol, and a push past your yeast's alcohol tolerance), and typically means is has achieved maximal attenuation.

Regarding high starting gravity, anything over about 1150 can cause osmotic stress, leaving high residual sugars, and stall a ferment, so I'd say you did pretty well.

IMHO, at 17.5% abv, the high residual sugar is probably for the best to balance out the high abv...might even be worth fortifying with brandy up to 20% if you find it too sweet
 
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iceman_ii

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well, in that case, with an OG of 1165 and an FG of 1060, you're yeast has probably done the best it can - I find that as a basic rule of thumb, you'll get a drop of 100 points (110 points with a really good nutrient protocol, and a push past your yeast's alcohol tolerance), and typically means is has achieved maximal attenuation.

Regarding high starting gravity, anything over about 1150 can cause osmotic stress, leaving high residual sugars, and stall a ferment, so I'd say you did pretty well.

IMHO, at 17.5% abv, the high residual sugar is probably for the best to balance out the high abv...might even be worth fortifying with brandy up to 20% if you find it too sweet
I followed a recipe that said to add that much, if I had it to do again, I would have added it incrementally... you are dead on, it WAS stressed, fermentation didn't start with my first pitching, so I pitched a second time two days later, and it took off like gang busters

Speaking of fortifying it, I had actually thought to fortify it to keep some of the residual sugars by stopping fermentation, but it looks like I don't have to make a port, it stopped all on its own... and for what its worth, I LIKE port! and yes, it is still a bit raw, but it already tastes rather "port-like"

The only problem now is waiting for it to clarify... silly me, could I start with a wine kit using juice? NOOOO... I had to start will real fruit! ;)
 
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