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How Long Is Too Long Before First Racking?


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#1 bibbert

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 07:00 PM

Hi everyone. It has been four weeks since I pitched yeast in my organic, unsulfited syrah made from fresh juice, and a little over 3 weeks since I transferred the fermenting juice from an open fermenter to a carboy with an air lock (at that point, the SG had fallen to 1.002). Initial ph was 3.5 and sugar was 23.5 brix, and the carboy is in a room that is consistently between 16 and 18 celsius (61F to 65F).

I would have expected the bubbling to have stopped by now, but small bubbles are still forming (albeit infrequently), and I am still getting an air bubble passing through the air lock every 30 seconds or so. What I'm wondering is:

- Is it likely that this is still yeast-based primary fermentation - is it normal to have fermentation go on for four weeks at these relatively low fermentation temperatures?

- Could it be spontaneous malolactic fermentation, especially given that the only so2 that could be in there would be from the yeast?

- How long is too long for the wine to be sitting on the fine lees? Even though fermentation isn't complete, I'm a little worries that if I don't rack soon, the lees will begin to rot and spoil my wine - at what point should I really worry about this? Some of the lees from the open fermenter were transferred to the carboy, so there is four week old fine lees in there.

Thanks in advance for your feedback!

#2 smokinjoe359

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 08:30 PM

sounds like it may be stuck if sg was 1.002 3 weeks ago. why not check sg again?it could be mlf also.if you warm it up a bit it may help sg to move some and also mlf works best at 65 to 75 deg. another thing you can do is stir up the lees.

Joe
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#3 Briankos

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 06:38 AM

I agree... check sg again, warm it up a bit and then stir it. those bubbles also could be CO2.... I don't think a month on the lees is going to hurt it. If it is still at 1.002, you might try a pinch of yeast nutrient.

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#4 Jack Keller

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 07:08 AM

Bibbert, it could be any of the things you mentioned, as well as CO2 coming out of solution. I too would warm the wine a few degrees in case it is MLF -- you want it to finish

Three MONTHS is just about too long on the lees if you sulfited and are not stirring the lees, but because you aren't using sulfites you should rack NOW. It won't hurt the MLF if that is what is going on, although you will see more airlock activity after you rack as CO2 will definitely start coming out.

All in all, you should be okay.


#5 bibbert

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 10:45 AM

Thanks very much to you all for the advice - I am warming up the room (not an easy task in my basement in Canada), and will re-check the SG - I didn't mention this in my initial post, but there was very vigorous fermentation for at least a week after I transferred to the carboy, so I am pretty sure that the SG will be lower.

I have also been hesitant to handle the wine because of the lack of sulphites - I used EC-1118 yeast, which can make up to 20ppm SO2, and figured that this would provide some degree of protection until I racked, at which time agitating the wine would reduce the SO2 level, necessitating the addition of some META. If this logic makes sense, I would like to hold off on racking until the bubbling stops, be it from yeast fermentation or mlf, so I could sulphite it properly at the first racking without killing the fermentation process.

A couple of other observations that might mean something to you experienced winemakers

- The half gallon bottle that I filled with the excess fermenting juice at the same time as the carboy is now completely still and was sitting next to the carboy the entire time, meaning it was at the same temperature.

- I have been noticing that a significant number of the bubbles coming up in the carboy are also carrying up small bits of residue which rush up and then sink immeditately after the bubbles pop - might this be yeast that is dying, or dead yeast from the lees? Would this give any indication of the type of fermentation that is going on?

In any case, I will do a little testing and report back - I know I could answer almost all of my questions by doing a lot of testing, but as I am new to wine making, I would like to try and develop a little intuition first.

Any additional comments would much appreciated.

#6 smokinjoe359

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 04:00 PM

the bubbles could be mlf.you need to check the gravity to see if your wine is dry say .996 or lower.check gravity for 3 days if it dont move ferment is likely over and the bubbles may be co2 or mlf.

Joe
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#7 bibbert

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Posted 30 October 2009 - 07:01 PM

The results are in! Update after measuring wine:

My one gallon jug, which had stopped bubbling some time ago now has a SG of .992 and a pH of 3.76 (i used a ph meter with an accuracy of +/- .02. The wine was almost completely clear

My 5 gallon carboy with the bubbles is at a SG of .993 or .994 and a pH of 3.74. It is cloudy, and fizzy on the tongue.

Does the small difference in sugar and acidity from the same batch of juice imply that the 5 gallon carboy is still fermenting? My sense is that spontaneous MLF is unlikely to be the culprit - I assume it is wise not to induce MLF at these low acidity levels?

I'm going to try stirring up the 5g carboy and let it go for awhile longer before racking, unless anyone out there has another recommendation.

Thanks!

#8 mg1

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Posted 30 October 2009 - 07:31 PM

I would say your ph is high and since your not going to use sulphites you might want to drink this wine earlier then you think, did you test your acid? smileytoast.gif




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