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Bayou Lacroix Vineyards | Email | Basic Winemaking | Advanced Winemaking

Using An Acid Test Kit | Making a Fruit Wine | Hydrometer Scale


Using An Hydrometer

A hydrometer is a basic winemaking tool, and is also and essential tool for measuring the correct amount of sugar in a wine must. Some hydrometers read in a brix scale and other read in a specific gravity scale. I suggest for the general home winemaker to get a hydrometer that reads in specific gravity scale Most hydrometers actually have 3 scales on them. A sugar scale in ounces, a specific gravity scale, and a potential alcohol scale. All three of these scales will coincide with each other. The hydrometer comes with either a glass or plastic tub that it can be floated in for measuring purposes. Reading the amount of sugar in a wine must will tell you what the final alcohol level will be once fermentation is complete. Take your must readings with the must at about a temperature of about 68 degrees. A hydrometer floated in water will read 1.000 on the specific gravity scale. This is a neutral reading, meaning no sugar. Generally you will add some sugar to water ( 2 lbs) and heat to dissolve the sugar, this will give you a measurable starting point. pour the water into your fermenting bucket. Fill the fermenter up to close to desired amount of liquid. Make sure liquid is at ambient room temperature. Remove enough of the must with a sterile cup or some other dipper, and fill the hydrometer tube with it. Float the hydrometer in the tube that now contains the liquid. The hydrometer will float and you will want to read the line where the liquid starts. you can use any of the scales present on the hydrometer. A 12.5 % potential alcohol wine will have a specific gravity reading of 1.090 and a sugar ounces per gallon reading of 32.  What ever the specific gravity reading is at this point will depend upon how much sugar is now present in your must. so read the current specific gravity and then rotate your hydrometer to read the sugar ounces per gallon scale. lets say it reads 12.  That means you have 12 ounces of sugar in your must per gallon. To make a 12.5% alcohol wine, you will need 32 ounces of sugar per gallon. So.. subtract 12 from 32 and you get 20. You will 20 ounces of sugar MORE to get a 12.5% alcohol wine. There are 8 ounces of sugar in a cup, so 2 1/2 cups of sugar will equal 20 ounces. Multiply the number of cups of sugar your need by the number of gallons of wine your are making. Lets say you are making 5 gallons of wine. 2 1/2 x 5 is equal to  12 1/2 cups of sugar.  You will need to add 12 1/2 cups of sugar more to give you a finished wine of 12.5 percent alcohol and a specific gravity reading of 1.090. The procedure is simple and very accurate as long as the must temperature is around 68 to 70 degrees. temperatures higher or lower than that will throw your reading off.
Specific Gravity Reading Potential Alcohol %
1.039
1.044
1.048
1.052
1.056
1.061
1.065
1.069
1.074
1.078
1.082
1.087
1.091
4.5
5.1
5.7
6.2
7.2
7.8
8.4
9.2
9.8
10.5
11.2
11.9
12.6

Using An Acid Test Kit

Most acid test kits can be purchased from wine supply shops for 10 to 12 dollars. These little kits are well worth the cost and should be in every winemakers arsenal of test equipment. Acid in wine musts can be tartaric, malic, or citric acid. But when tested the result is usually expressed as just percent tartaric acid. A lot of the acid test kits on the market differ, so it is difficult to tell you  how to use a specific kit, not knowing the measurement procedures of your specific kit. All kits usually have a syringe, and test tube or burette, and some solutions. Some kits measure in grams per liter and others in percent tartaric. These amount is the same with the only difference being is that if measuring gram per liter, you would just move the decimal point one place to the left to get percent tartaric. In any case the procedure is basically the same.   Draw off the amount of must that the kit you have specifies. (mine says to draw 3cc's into the syringe) to this add 4 drops of phenolphthalien indicator solution to the liquid. You then add sodium hydroxide to the solution drop by drop until it registers a color change. You record the amount of sodium hydroxide used, and multiply this by a set number (given with the test kit) or use whatever other method the kit my give for determination. thus you will have your acid content of the must.  As discussed in other areas of this site, for a heavy red wine your acid reading of crushed grapes may be as high as .8 percent tartaric and as low as .4 percent. A generally acceptable range for a red and white grape wine will be around .65% tartaric. for a home winemaker this may still be high, as we lack the means for lowering the acid if needed. Though fermentation will lower the acid somewhat. For a fruit wine, you will always need to add acid, thus you can control how much acidity is in your must. Keep the starting acid for fruit wines at about .55% tartaric. For advanced analysis of Acid in wines see the advanced winemaking section on the home pahe

10 Steps To Making A Fruit Wine

 

This is for fermenting on the fruit pulp(5 gallons)

  1. Pick a time that's quiet and you don't have to rush, gather all your equipment and get your fruit ready, I suggest a 6 or 7 gallon  food grade plastic bucket or wine fermenter for use as a primary fermenter, don't use plastic that is not food grade. You can buy a beginners wine making kits from wine suppliers, I highly recommend this, the cost around $60.00 or a little more, but can be used over and over, and they generally come with everything you need.

  2. Now, sterilize everything in site. use potassium metabisulphate (2 tsp. in a spray bottle or gallon milk jug) or a bleach solution and clean everything that will touch your wine. if you use bleach make sure you RINSE GOOD, don't want any bleach in your wine. once all is sterile don't place anything on the counter top or let it touch an unclean surface. here's a tip: if you have a lid to your fermenter bucket, sterilize it and then you can lay your spoons, stirring rods and stuff on it while you work and it will stay sanitary.

  3. Prepare your fruit. (3 lbs. per gallon on must) Cut up and remove all bad spots and any seeds, cores, and pits in the fruit. also rinse your fruit prior to handling. we wont worry to much about it touching anything while you cut it up, as you will be adding campden tablets to your must that will kill off any bacteria. place your cut up or minced fruit in a fermenter bag, nylon panty hose, or some other thing that will contain it properly. If you don't have anything just put it in the bucket and it will be just fine. Crush the fruit well, really mash it with your hands or some kind of tool..

  4. If you are using any grape concentrate with your recipe (which I highly recommend it adds body and grape characteristics to your wine.) add it now to the bucket with all the fruit.  heat some water, say a gallon or so to boiling and pour this over the fruit and/or concentrate mixture. let your must sit a while and hour or two, and then add the rest of the water to just over 5 gallons.  this should help bring the temperature down also. Make sure the must cools to tepid, or room temp.

  5. O.K. now you have a full bucket of wine must. you need to get out the acid measuring kit and the Hydrometer. Its time to take measurements. If you don't have these essential tools, you really need to have them. As you will be making wine on guess work or by following a recipe, and the end result although may be o.k. wont be near as good as the FINE wine we are trying to make here. sweetness and acidity in a wine NEEDS to be balanced!!

  6. Measure the acidity of the must and write it down.  measure the specific gravity of the must and write it down. Your measurements have now told you how much acid blend and sugar is needed to produce a finished wine of balanced acid and at about 12.5% alcohol.  Remember there are 8oz of sugar in a cup. and 1 tsp. of acid blend will raise the acid of 1 gallon of wine  by .15%  so lets say your acid reading is about .40 tartaric you will need to add 1 tsp. of acid blend per gallon to bring total acidity to .55% so you will need to add 5 tsp.'s. The sugar reading will be in Specific Gravity, and there is also a sugar scale on most all hydrometers. lets say your must reads 1.030 S.G.  you will want to add sugar to the 1.090 mark for a 12-13% alcohol wine. So look on the sugar scale part of the hydrometer and see the sugar ounces per gallon that reads on the same mark as 1.030. Simply look at the 1.030 mark and rotate the hydrometer around to the sugar per ounces scale and read what it says. for instance, lets say it reads 15. that means you have 15 oz of sugar per gallon in your must at this time. You goal is to get to about 32 oz of sugar per gallon of must so that you end up with a 12.5% alcohol wine. So subtract 15 from 32 and you will see that you will need to add 17 oz of sugar PER GALLON. you are making 5 gallons of wine so if we do the math we see that (5x17=  85.) You will to add 85 ounces total sugar to get a 12-13% alcohol wine. now we know there are 8 ounces of sugar to a cup right, so we will divide 85 by 8 = 10.6  You will need to add about 10-11 cups of sugar. Now most of the time your must wont read as high as my example here, so you will usually use 6-10lbs of sugar for a 5 gallon batch of wine. add your sugar and acid blend and stir REAL good to dissolve all.. LEAVE YOUR STARTING ACID AT ABOUT .55% TARTARIC. you can re-take the tests if you want to check your accuracy. Remember that the temp. of the must can throw your hydrometer reading off a little also.. so just get as close as you can. White wines can be a little higher acid than reds.

  7. Sugar and acid are right!!  add your campden tablets (3) or potassium metabisulphate (1/8 tsp.). Add your pectin enzyme and your grape tannin. Cover the must with lid and place air lock, or use a plastic sheet or something to cover with and leave in warm place for 24 hours.

  8. After the 24 hours, stir in 2-3 tsp. of yeast nutrient, and sprinkle your yeast on top. cover the must once again and let sit. In about  24-48 hours you should see signs of froth on top and a lot of bubbling. Stir once a day and punch the fruit bag or fruit down into the must. Make sure that what you stir with is sterilized. Your must is now fermenting and will soon become wine. how good this wine turns out depends largely on the type of fruit you are using, the acid level, temperature of fermentation, and other uncontrolled phenomena. Once fermentation starts, keep it fairly cool around 65 degrees is perfect, although it may need to be warmer in order get the yeast going, but once it gets started the cool temps, will not phase it and a cool slow fermentation is what we are aiming for here..

  9. After 5 days remove the fruit, if its in a bag just take out the bag. If its floating in the must, you can scoop it out with a strainer or something, or pour the must through some cheese cloth that has been sterilized. after removing the pulp let the must sit undisturbed for 3 days and then rack it to a clean secondary fermenter.(glass carboy) Fit the carboy with a bung and an airlock. If you don't get a full carboy full of wine you will need to top up the bottle so the liquid is up at least the bottom of the neck. ALWAYS KEEP YOUR BOTTLES TOPPED UP. From now on we want NO AIR to get to our wine.. Let the wine sit for 3 weeks to one month  undisturbed while its in its secondary fermentation stage. The wine should be completely finished fermenting after this stage with a specific gravity reading of .998 or lower. Once finished rack it off of the secondary settlement into a clean carboy. Add 2 1/2 tsp. of potassium sorbate, 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. of potassium metabisulphate, and your fining agents now (if you are going to fine your wine) Stir!!!  Top up carboy if needed. Now you need to de-gas your wine, this means stirring your wine for 3 minuets long several times (this is important for making a quality wine) Once this is done leave wine to settle out the fining agent for about 10 days. Once wine has settled it should be crystal clear, rack off the fining lee's to clean carboy.   The wine should be nice and clear, meaning you can see all the way through the glass carboy (Unless its a deep red wine) Whites and light rose's will let you see through the fermenter. if its not clear after a few months and you have racked it good, and fined it then you may need to filter the wine. A lot of wine makers including myself often filter anyway to clear the wine of all potential suspended particles that may not have been cleared by the fining. Remember, you don't have to fine or filter your wine, as they will usually clear nicely if given enough time. For filtering and fining see the advance winemaking section on the home page. If you want to avoid settlement in your bottles then you will NEED to fine and filter your wine, or let it bulk age for long enough to let EVERYTHING settle out.   Your Choice. the aging needs to be done anyway.. But can be a shorter time with fining and filtering which also helps speed up the aging of wine!!

  10. Alrighty then, if all has gone well your wine should be a few months old now and it should be crystal clear. You can leave the wine an addition 2-3 months for aging, as it ages much slower and BETTER in bulk, or you can go ahead and bottle it. If you are ready to bottle, you should get a 7 gallon bucket that has a bottling spigot on it. you can attach a length of tubing to the spigot and bottle it that way. You can also get a spring loaded bottle filler from the supply shops that is invaluable at bottling time. (only cost a couple of dollars) Anyway no matter how you bottle you should check your acidity at this time and re-adjust to .5x  if needed. Taste your wine, if it  is young and may be somewhat tart/astringent, or bitter if you have let it ferment to dryness (no residual sugar) Young wines can be a little harsh but will smooth out over time. Tartness, or harshness can be easily masked in a young wine  by the addition of a little sugar.  I HIGHLY recommend sweetening fruit wines just a little to bring out the fruitiness and wonderful fruity aromas. If you do sweeten I recommend letting the wine sit a week before bottling, making sure its fully protected from air. keep it under air-lock. You also will want to add about 1/2 campden tablet per gallon to the must or some Ascorbic acid before bottling. This will help keep the wine from oxidizing, and allow it to last long enough to age well in the bottle. once you bottle your wine, cork it good and let stand upright for a few days, to allow the corks to seat good. you can then lay them on their sides to keep the corks moist. let your wine sit for at least 6 weeks before trying. Longer if no bulk aging was done. Wine goes into bottle shock right after bottling and actually gets worse during this time, so allow sufficient time for the wine to overcome this anomaly and begin to improve before you taste it...  

     Remember These Things!!!

  • Most fruit wines will be a little tart and harsh at first.. let them age and add a little sweetness to mask this

  • Stir your wine good after the 2nd racking for a couple of  days in a row, or several times in one day in 15 min increments,  to release carbon dioxide.

  • Be patient, and only open wine to stir or add, stuff.. don't mess with it to much.. it wont like it!!

  • Keep it cool...  65 degrees or colder.. this will help retain the fruity aromas of your wine. Keep the light off your wine at all cost..  cool and dark will make it very happy!!!

  • ALWAYS stabilize with potassium sorbate and add 1/4 tsp. of potassium Metabisulphate or 3 campden when fermentation is finished (2nd Racking) and another 1/8 tsp. of potassium metabisulphate at bottling. (adding potassium sorbate with out adding potassium metabisulphate could give geranium smells to your wine in the long run, so always add PM when you add sorbate.)

  • Most fruit wines are best drunk at about 6 months to a year of aging, thus they dont need the high acidity of a heavy red wine, that will age for years. So keep the acid levels down, start at .55 and then taste a few days before bottling. If its a little flat add some acid blend to it. If tart (should not be) let age longer.

  • Don't drink to much!!  keep it in moderation, but do tastes your wines monthly as they age, so will know when they are peaking, and can apply this knowledge to future batches....

  • Note** at the stabilizing and fining stage and after the stirring, you can (and should) place your wine in a COLD area around 22-32 degrees for 2 weeks or longer.. This will chill proof (cold stabilize) your wine and reduce some of the tartaric acids. it will also eliminate the acids from titrating out in the bottle when ever you put one in the fridge.. Most all commercial wineries do this, so that tartrate crystals don't form in the bottle when a customer buys and chills a wine prior to drinking. (not totally necessary though) If your acid level in your wine is o.k., then this step is not necessary. If you wine is over acid, this is a good way to help lower the tartaric acid. most useful in red wines...

There you have it... you have made your first wine. Let it age a good while as it will get better as time goes by. I think of wine as a living entity (It is)  and it is ever changing.  Big reds are best at a year or two of aging and whites are best at about 6 months to a year of aging (grape wines)  fruit wines are best bulk aged about 3-4 months and will peak probably about 6 months to a year after bottling, but will last years if you added the ascorbic acid or the campden tablets prior to bottling, and if your acid content is good.  Remember to keep a good balance of sugar, acid, .55-.60  tartaric, and alcohol and you will make a fine wine..... (Go easy on the acid blend with fruit wines, its easy to over do it!!!)  Good luck and let me know how it comes out!!!

 

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