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"topping" With Marbles


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#1 clubber63366

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Posted 24 February 2006 - 07:31 AM

smileyiamwithstupid.gif I heard around about people adding marbles to top off rather than adding liquid. Seems a good way to keep the batch 'undiluted'. One question, though - How does one add marbles without damaging the glass carboy or breaking one marble on another when (I assume) dropping them in?

#2 joeae

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Posted 24 February 2006 - 07:52 AM

Hi welcome to the forum

Marbles are the best to top up when you do not have your spare bottle for topping up.

No need to drop marbles, can place marbles in bag or at the bottom by using glass rod with hook tied to end. Make sure that all is sanitized.

#3 Loam

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Posted 24 February 2006 - 08:10 AM

I used marbles for the first time last weekend. Seems to work fine. read it repeatedly in this months winemaker magazine.

HOWEVER, good luck finding the darn suckers. I went to Walmart, Target, and Toys-are-us and none of these stores had "tiger eyes". I guess kids are no longer allowed to play with marbles?? I settled for craft-style glass marbles (no dyes).
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#4 Psyguy

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Posted 24 February 2006 - 08:23 AM

Do a search for "Marbles" - this has been discussed before, and you may find your answer elsewhere on the forum.
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#5 Curt

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Posted 24 February 2006 - 08:49 AM

Go to a florist or a hobby shop and buy the flattened "florist's" marbles. They sort of float down a little slower.

what's brewing; 6gal local plum  6gal strawberry/rhubarb  6gal pinot noir  6gal blueberry/grape  6gal old vine zin  9gal local apple


#6 jen

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Posted 24 February 2006 - 08:57 AM

I can't imagine dropping marbles in a carboy full of wine would break either the carboy or the marble - whether round or flat.

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#7 clubber63366

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Posted 24 February 2006 - 09:00 AM

QUOTE (jen @ Feb 24 2006, 09:29 AM)
I can't imagine dropping marbles in a carboy full of wine would break either the carboy or the marble - whether round or flat.

jen

That was my thought in asking the question. I think I'd only feel safe if I was dropping them in a bottle of Prell shampoo (for those that remember that old commercial).

#8 scorch

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Posted 24 February 2006 - 01:58 PM

Just drop them in!!!!

Remember, there's wine in there. They will slowly and harmlessly drop to the bottom. And then when you rack off of the lees again, they will help you clean by swirling them around on the bottom before you pour them and the cleaning water out of the carboy.

#9 ChapstickCharlie

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Posted 24 February 2006 - 02:17 PM

Don't the marbles interfere with racking? What I mean is don't they stir up lees?
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#10 scorch

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Posted 24 February 2006 - 03:21 PM

The marbles don't stir up the lees because when you use them with carboys you usually add them after you rack, or you add them periodically to barrels to top off during bulk aging. But you don't add them just before you rack in any case. You don't want to rack when the lees aren't settled down.

Of course, when you do rack you need to make sure that you don't stir up the lees too much with your racking cane, but that is the case whether or not you have marbles there. I suppose it might a little more easy to stir up the lees if you have marbles down there, but not much. Really it's a non-issue. The secret to not stirring up the lees is to have all of your equipment ready and in position for racking, and only put the racking cane in at the very last, and don't move it around at all.

And by the way, I have found that most racking canes don't give you enough room to avoid the lees, and I don't use them. What I use is the regular plastic tubing attached to a dowel with plastic zip ties. By leaving a few inches from the end of the tube to the end of the dowel, which bottoms out in the barrel, I don't suck up the lees like I used to with the commecial racking canes. It means I have a lot of sludge and good wine in with the lees, but I just separate it out in my overflow containers and use to top off.

#11 linda0210

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Posted 24 February 2006 - 06:38 PM

QUOTE (scorch @ Feb 24 2006, 04:53 PM)
And by the way, I have found that most racking canes don't give you enough room to avoid the lees, and I don't use them.  What I use is the regular plastic tubing attached to a dowel with plastic zip ties.  By leaving a few inches from the end of the tube to the end of the dowel, which bottoms out in the barrel, I don't suck up the lees like I used to with the commecial racking canes.  It means I have a lot of sludge and good wine in with the lees, but I just separate it out in my overflow containers and use to top off.


That sounds like a good idea - I end up banging around the bottom with the canes and it just is not pretty. Do you use a regular wooden dowel? Do you put a racking tip on the end of the hose at all? Change how high the hose is on the dowel depending on how high your lees are?

And what do you mean overflow containers? How do you separate it out? (I keep looking at what is left in the carboy after racking thinking 'it HAS to be salvagable somehow")

thanks

#12 Curt

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Posted 24 February 2006 - 08:33 PM

One thing to remember is that if you are going to let it rest in the secondaries long enough to de-gas you will rack 6-8 times before you are ready to bottle it. A little lees at the first or even the second racking is pretty inconsequential.

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#13 Cork-N-Cap

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Posted 24 February 2006 - 08:44 PM

Several months ago I bought marbles at walmart For about 88cents. They were in the cheapy toy section not hung up, but in the display box of the bottle shelf.
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#14 scorch

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Posted 25 February 2006 - 10:04 AM

[quote=linda0210,Feb 24 2006, 06:10 PM]That sounds like a good idea - I end up banging around the bottom with the canes and it just is not pretty.  Do you use a regular wooden dowel?[/quote]

Yes. Doesn't matter what kind of wood. If you want to be thorough, wipe it off with some K-Meta solution before you rack. I use the same dowel to stir the wine when adding K-Meta, MLB, fining additives, stirring up the lees, etc.

[quote]Do you put a racking tip on the end of the hose at all?[/quote]

No, but I suppose that's a good idea, so that it sucks downward instead of upward.

[quote]Change how high the hose is on the dowel depending on how high your lees are?[/quote]

Yes, though it's not that precise. Three or four inches when it's gross lees, maybe an inch or two for subsequent rackings. And we're talking about 30 gallon barrels now, so if you're working with a 1 gal or 5 gal batch you can adjust it to whatever makes sense to you. Ultimately it's not that critical, because I also use what's left on the lees (see below).

[quote]And what do you mean overflow containers?[/quote]

One of the fundamental chores of a home winemaker is managing overflow. Usually you aim to ferment 5-10% more must than the capacity of your secondary aging vessel, and then manage the rest of the must in smaller containers as efficiently as possible. Ideally you try to get the right amount of juice for whatever fermenting containers you will be using, but sometimes you have to obtain the right capacity fermenting vessel to age the amount of juice that you happen to have (this happened to us in '05 - they told us they had about a half-ton of grapes, so our 50 gal barrel was going to work, but they only had something like a third of a ton, so we had to scramble for a 30 gal barrel at the peak of the biggest crush season ever in Napa!).

For grape wines the overflow is usually the press juice that you want to keep separate and blend in later because of its harsher tannins. In country wines this is usually not the case as you usually aren't pressing. Anyway, for instance, last year we pressed 42 gallons of zin into the 30 gallon barrel, two 5 gal carboys, and two 1 gal jugs. So the carboy and jugs are our overflow. We use those to top off the barrel. We used the gallon containers first, and now that those have gone into the barrel we will have to start in with one of the carboys. When we do that, we'll have to rack into a 3 gal demijohn, another gallon jug, a 750 ml wine bottle, and maybe a 325 ml bottle as well. The point being that you want to maintain the largest vessels possible to minimize transferring and oxidizing. And of course, if you treat (MLF, sulfite, etc.) the barrel, you'll want to treat the overflow in most situations. And if you are using airlocks in your secondary fermenter (barrel or carboy, usually), you'll want to use airlocks for your overflow containers.

Another aspect of managing overflow is that the overflow bottles will have lees in them. Before you use the overflow wine to top off, you should rack or decant it off of its own lees. Otherwise when you pour it in you will just be adding more lees to your wine.

For country wines, you will likely be making 1, 2, or 5 gal batches, so the overflow containers will be proportionally smaller. I currently have a 1 gal batch of pineapple wine fermenting in a jug, and the overflow is in a liquor bottle that holds about a pint and a half. When I rack, I will have to find a smaller bottle for the overflow, because I will have to top off the jug. Each time I rack there will be less overflow, and pretty soon there won't be any overflow. When that happens, if I rack again, I will have to use marbles to top off the jug.

[quote]How do you separate it out?  (I keep looking at what is left in the carboy after racking thinking 'it HAS to be salvagable somehow")[/quote]

After I've racked, there is usually quite a bit of salvageable wine mixed in with the lees. I pour that into a bottle of appropriate size (leaving the really thick sludge behind), and after a few days, sometimes a week or two, the lees settle out leaving the good wine to rack off again into a clean container. This time I will usually just put a small hose in manually to rack it down to the "sludge line," instead of using a racking cane. This stuff is usually the stuff that I use to top off with first (sometimes it's in a really small bottle like a Snapple bottle). If the wine isn't fermenting much anymore, I often like to use a screwcap glass bottle like a Perrier bottle.




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