Tag Archives: carboy

Home-Made Wine From a Kit: Degassing, Stabilization, and Clarifying

If you’ve been following along with this little adventure then you’ll notice it’s been quite some time since the last post. If you’re just joining us you can check out part 1 and part 2 first.

The wine has finished it’s secondary fermentation over the last two weeks and is ready for the next process: degassing. If this sounds like something you need after Thanksgiving dinner then you’d be close. All of the fermentation has produced millions of carbon-dioxide bubbles that remain suspended in the wine, and we’ll need to get rid of those to prevent corks from popping out or bottles breaking. The bubbles also help to suspend particles that we are trying to get out of the wine to clarify it. The “Wine Expert” kit we’re using has you mix all the sediment in the carboy back into suspension as you stir very vigorously. I use a special paddle with a long rod that attaches to a power drill. Before stirring I add a couple chemicals: potassium metabisulphite kills off the yeast to stop fermentation but also is a powerful antioxidant that prevents discoloration and spoilage, and potassium sorbate which is basically a preservative. These chemicals stabilize the wine to prevent further fermentation and get rid of harmful acids or bacteria. These are added to water first and then stirred into the wine. By stirring rapidly, all of the gas bubbles are released and the wine foams up just like soda poured into a glass. After stirring for a couple of minutes I add something called isinglass clarifier, which will clump together all of the solids suspended in the wine and make them drop to the bottom of the carboy. Then the wine gets more stirring until all the trapped CO2 bubbles escape.

The last step is to put an airlock on the carboy and wait. It’s fun to watch the wine clear. First it’s all cloudy, then the cloudy layer slowly moves toward the bottom of the carboy over the course of about a week. When it gets to the bottom the wine is almost clear.

The cloud of gunk getting near the bottom of the carboy

The cloud of gunk getting near the bottom of the carboy

After about two weeks the wine is totally clear but still has a nice color. The instructions tell you to bottle it from here but I like to transfer the wine into another container and leave the sediment behind. Next I’ll wait another week for any sediment to settle again before bottling.

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Secondary Fermentation–A Quick Update

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Not wine yet. It looks more like runny peanut butter. Yum!

Chardonnay anyone? At this point the primary fermentation is done and the unfinished wine is transferred from the primary fermenting tank to the carboy (that’s a fun word isn’t it? It’s just a big jug). I first tested the specific gravity with my hydrometer. It’s supposed to read less than 1.010 before you can start the next phase. My sample read about 1.000 so it was fine. Specific gravity is a measure of the density of a liquid. The more alcohol, the lower the reading, so you can tell about the progress of the fermentation by the specific gravity. End of science lesson. You can read more about the hydrometer by clicking the link at the bottom of this post.

This step is simple, you just transfer the wanna-be wine from one container to the next, leaving behind the heavy sludge at the bottom of the primary fermenting tank. This is made up of dead yeast cells and the oak wood chips that you put in during the primary fermentation.

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Yeast sludge and oak chips at the bottom of the primary fermentation tank

You don’t need to add any chemicals or anything at this point. I put an airlock in the top and let it sit at around 72 degrees Fahrenheit for two weeks. Yawn, boring. The next steps get a little more exciting.

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