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Winemaking 101 Pt. 3 - Racking and Secondary Fermentation

FeralLiberal's picture

It’s been 6 days since the addition of the yeast to the Red Raspberry wine. The cap has been punched down into the must twice daily, and the latest hydrometer reading of strained must shows an s.g. of 1.040, so it’s time for racking into the secondary fermenter.
(See here for the post on Primary Fermentation)

For information on equipment and terms see these previous posts

Note the cap at the top of the must, and the layer of lees at the bottom of the fermenter. The black object on the right is a carboy drying stand. I make these and have them available if anyone is interested.

I’ve placed the primary fermenter on a stool to give it sufficient height for siphoning. Remember that the end of your racking hose must be lower than the intake end of the racking cane to create a siphon. Be sure to wipe all equipment surfaces that come in contact with your wine with sterilizing solution, and run some through your cane and hose.

I skim the cap off the surface of the must before racking so there are less solids to strain out while siphoning.

My primary contains enough must to rack off six gallons, so I’ve rinsed a cleaned 5 gallon carboy and 1 gallon jug with sulfite solution to sterilize them. The racking cane is placed into the primary, positioned, and held with a spring clip to keep the intake above the layer of lees on the bottom of the fermenter. After siphoning, any remaining wine and lees will be discarded. The siphon hose runs into a funnel with a built-in strainer to remove solids. Depending on the quantity and size of the solids I may put a coarser strainer above the funnel to remove larger debris. A solid application of lung power starts the siphon and the wine begins to flow. A clamp near the exit end of the hose lets you stop the flow so you can clear the solids from your strainers if needed. Put a glass on the floor for the end of the hose to keep the floor clean of drips and the end of the hose low so you don’t break the siphon.

Berry wines don’t foam as vigorously during secondary fermentation so you can fill the jugs to the base of the neck. You want to minimize the amount of airspace in your fermenters from this point, but you'll have to leave more space if you have wines that foam. Once filled, attach a clean and sterile airlock to the jugs. I fill the airlocks with sterilizing solution so that no airborn organisms can grow in the airlock.

Clockwise from upper left: 10 gallons of apple must in primary fermenter, 5 gallons of Concord grape (more airspace was needed in this secondary as Concord foams!), 5 gallons red raspberry, 1 gallon red raspberry.

Be sure to divert a sample for yourself while filling and/or drink the wine you used for the hydrometer reading and note how it has changed since it went into the primary. The sweetness has dropped and the acid gives you a tingle on the tongue. Some effervescence may be present and there will be a noticeable yeast note on the nose; you will taste it in the wine as well. If your fruit was sound and your sanitation good you will not notice any of the sour, funky smells and flavors that indicate problems with the fermentation.

As secondary fermentation continues, more lees will drop to the bottom of the jugs. You will leave this behind on subsequent rackings which is why you have an additional gallon; it will used to "top up" the larger jug when racking to keep the airspace minimized. In three weeks it will be time to rack the wine again.

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bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Thanks for putting in so much time and effort with this series, well written and exquisite in the detail, your emphasis on that is well placed. The finest raw materials can end up as plonk or worse if all of the details aren't followed exactly.

Can't put too much emphasis on the benefits of sniffing and tasting and looking at the product along the way, a few times through the process and you'll learn what these keys mean for the finished drink, and hopefully also be able to recognize when things are going wrong.

Well done.

Submitted by lambert on

I'm going to start my micro-organism-driven activities small, maybe with cream cheese, but I'm definitely going to move up to this, I hope this winter.

And the rest of you, listen up! If there's any kind of cataclysmic event, involving, oh, mass unemployment or the collapse of the currency -- not to turn all survivalist on you -- this kind of skill will be very useful to exchange with your neighbors.

Also, making your own food is a way to cleanse your body and your palate of infestations of corporate desiring machines--of "owning" your own body.

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I'm sorry what was your address again and You are sending out an email for tasting aren't you?
This great and I'm sure with all the Love you are showing in this it will be Great.

FeralLiberal's picture
Submitted by FeralLiberal on

It's nice to know one's efforts are appreciated. bringiton, are you a winemaker too? In between this and the next series post I think I'll submit an open wine thread, and see what others are doing or what they want to know about the process.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

some time ago. Grew up around a neighborhood Portuguese culture that made red wine at home (and raised rabbit for meat and cooked up sweetbread and soupish for Festa del Spiritu Sanctus), all around me was vineyards and wineries, made out pretty well with free wine and barrel tastings during college by putting out a monthly newsletter rating the lesser known wineries, lots of time spent talking yeasts and barrels and blending and all with wonderful, patient people who were gifted and wildly committed; Dad and I made beer at home.

Kept up wine and beer making for many years but it eventually got inconvenient and I gave away all the equipment to someone who would put it to good use. Now I pay more but drink less and am delighted to be reliving past times vicariously through you.

All wine reflects the winemaker as much as the terroir; yours must all of them be bursting with passion.

FeralLiberal's picture
Submitted by FeralLiberal on

bringiton, you certainly got there from a different direction than I did. I grew up in a small Wis town, extremely homogeneous. My parents were non-drinkers for the most part, although my Dad did try to make wine as a means of using leftover fruit. Anything not good enough for canning or drying went into wine, which is the opposite of what you should be doing. And of course, the wines were uniformly bad. But having been involved in gardening all my life I got back into the winemaking thing and found that it was possible to make great wines out of common fruits when one used a little care and good practices.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

will work well for a lot of things.

My Mother grew up in Wisconsin outside of Friendship, towns don't get much smaller, and nobody for miles and miles that wasn't Scandinavian and Lutheran. Still that way now.

Never made fruit wines, tried mead but didn't turn out worth the bother. Grandmother in Wisconsin made blackberry cordial and cherry herring but I was forbidden to drink any or learn about the process, too young they felt and the fortification was with everclear from a bootlegger down the road I wasn't supposed to know anything about. I'm all ears - or eyes - to see what happens with your fruit.