Tutorial on Wine Making - Lesson 3 of 6


Wine Making Tutorial – Lesson 3 Fermenting and Pressing

Wine Making – Primary Fermentation of Your Wine and Pressing of Fruit and Grapes
  • Now that you have your must ready with the required additives for the type of wine you are making you are now ready to pitch/add/inoculate with your yeast
    • One of the most frequent questions we are asked is what kind of yeast to use. The answers is “that depends on what kind of fruit you are using and what you want to accomplish with your wine”. Check out our Wine Yeast Reference Chart
    • Make sure you have waited at least one hour after adding your Sulfite before adding your yeast. If you do not wait the fresh Sulfite could kill your yeast
    • Rehydrate your yeast
    • This is a debated item, 4 out of 5 articles and books you read recommend rehydration, the yeast manufacturers recommend rehydration, and so do we
    • The Wine Kit instructions do not tell you to rehydrate their yeast – Why? The Wine Kit producers state that the preparation and balance they have in their wine kits do allow to simply sprinkle the packet of wine yeast on the top of the must – I have made plenty of wine kits without rehydration and all without incident, but I tend to rehydrate, even for wine kits.  Here is what Lalvin/Lallemand says about rehydration of wine yeast. Basically in rehydration we are bringing the yeast fully back to life by rehydrating it before we ask it to go to do the tough work of converting sugar to alcohol and to withstand residual fungicides and sulfite that are present in most wine musts.
    • How to Rehydrate (Rehydration is Easy) - Simply sprinkle a 5 gram packet of yeast into a quarter cup of 100 to 104 degree water. (1 gram of yeast to each gallon of wine your must is expected to yield). Caution - Too hot or too cold of water can kill your yeast!
    • Wait 20 to 40 minutes for your yeast to create a foam cap on top of the water. Amounts of foam vary and are not typically as foamy as baker’s yeasts.
    • When your yeast is foamed on top pour your yeast into the fermenter on top of your must. 4 out of 5 articles and books do not instruct stirring your yeast into your must. It is a living organism and will work its way through your must.
  • Now you get to wait… – Take a break, you have worked hard and have earned it!
    • Put your must in a place that has a controlled temperature within the range suggested for your wine yeast and consistent to what you are trying to accomplish with your wine. Red wines usually between 70 and 90 degrees and whites 55 to 85 degrees (usually on the cooler end if possible). Caution – Too cold of temperature or too hot temperature can cause your fermentation to get stuck and be incomplete, or not even start at all.
    •  Fermentation will take 1 to 3 days to begin and take from 5 days to 2 weeks to completion.
    • After fermentation begins your floating grapes or fruit or bag of fruit will float to the top. Once or twice each day push your fruit down into the juice. This helps impart the flavor from your fruit or grapes on your wine. Wine kits with fruit or oak added prior to fermentation will typically require pushing down the cap or stirring also, but without these additives wine kits do not require any mixing during fermentation.As active fermentation begins to taper off start taking hydrometer readings daily to determine when fermentation is complete by reaching your targeted Specific Gravity outlined by your Wine Kit’s instructions or guidelines for the type of wine you are making. 
    • You will notice the bubbles in your fruit or your airlock slowing down considerably towards the end of fermentation which is you indictor to start taking hydrometer readings.
  • Malolactic Fermentation – I am not going to cover this topic here in any great detail, I will reserve a detailed explanation for a separate article. However, I will note that Malolactic Fermentation (MLF) is the conversion of the green apple like Malic Acid to the softer, butter-like Lactic Acid by the introduction of a Malolactic Culture during primary fermentation. MLF is very common for red wines and some white wines like Chardonnay.
  • When fermentation is complete your break is over, at least temporarily, and you are ready for the next step
    • If you have made wine from wine grapes or fruit you need to press your juice/wine from your fruit or grapes, unless you are making white wine where you likely pressed your juice from the grapes prior to fermentation. 
    • You can press using a mechanical fruit or wine press, a mesh bag, a milk crate with screen material in the bottom while using a board on top to push down on your fruit/grapes to extract the juice, or any other method of pressing to extract.
    • Now that you have pressed to remove your fruit or extract all your wine from your fruit, whether in a mesh bag or a press, or have floating oak in you’re your wine kit juice, you probably have your wine in your original fermenter or other similar plastic containers. Using a large plastic funnel you can pour your wine into your glass or plastic carboy for secondary fermentation.
    • Wine Kits – If you have made wine from a wine kit you either have wine now without any solids in it, you may have floating oak chips, or may have a mesh bag of fruit. If you have a mesh bag of fruit you will squeeze the juice/wine from the swollen fruit in your bag back into your fermenter. Now, whether you have oak chips added prior to fermentation or just wine free of any solids in your fermenter you will use your racking cane or auto-siphon and tubing to transfer your wine to your glass or plastic carboy for secondary fermentation.
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