Common Craft Winemaking Mistakes

Posted at April 11, 2012 | By : | Categories : News | 0 Comment

The following are some troubleshooting tips for winemakers, provided by RJS Craft Winemaking.  You can view the original article HERE.

The Ten Most Common Craft Winemaking Mistakes (and how to avoid them)

At RJS Craft Winemaking, we love what we do. We’re hoping you’ll see why we love it. Home winemaking is easy, and we’re trying to make it even easier. We’ve compiled a list of the 10 most common winemaking mistakes—mistakes we’ve all made in our own winemaking.

1. Using the Wrong Type of Equipment

When you start making your wine, don’t just grab anything you see around the house—like your Grandma’s pickle crock, peanut butter pails, garbage cans, or wooden spoons. These can’t be sanitized easily and might taint your wine.

Proper winemaking equipment is made of food-grade plastic and is designed to give you the best results possible. Life’s a lot easier when you’ve got the right gear. (Kind of like mountain climbing—what if you forgot the rope that holds you to the side of the mountain?) Your retailer can help you find the equipment you need.

2. Using the Wrong Size Equipment

It is important to use the correct size equipment. During the primary fermentation you should ferment in a container at least half as big again as the quantity of juice you are trying to ferment to allow the aerobic part of the fermentation to happen successfully. The fining stage should take place in a closed container with minimum headspace.

3. Dirty Equipment

Cleaning means removing visible residue. It’s really important. It’s kind of like washing your dishes—you aren’t likely to make dinner with dirty pots and pans. Use an unscented detergent on your equipment and rinse well. Your retailer can suggest something appropriate. Once everything is clean, you can move onto sanitation…

4. Poor Sanitation

Sanitizing means treating equipment with a substance that will inhibit or kill bacteria. There are several sanitizers you can use, including metabisulphite solution and Iodophor. They all work a little differently. Ask your winemaking shop for advice when choosing a sanitizer. Or you can call us and we’ll recommend something that suits your needs.

Clean and sanitize everything that touches your wine — fermenters, carboys, hoses, thermometers, spoons. You get the picture. It’s easy and worth it: ninety percent of winemaking failures can be traced to poor cleaning or faulty sanitation.

5. Not adding yeast

If you rely on the wild yeast to ferment your wine, you may be successful and sometimes you may not be. It is possible for the wild yeast to give strange off flavours to wine or stop fermenting at 10-11% alcohol.

6. Not adding yeast correctly

RJS recommends sprinkling the yeast over the surface (at 18 to 25 degrees Celsius) juice and not stirring. If the temperature is wrong, the yeast won’t be happy. And if you stir it in, you can suffocate it. Observant winemakers eventually notice that our instructions don’t match the instructions printed on our yeast packages. If you use the yeast manufacturer’s rehydration instructions, you must follow them exactly – sloppy rehydration will seriously harm your yeast. Simply sprinkling dry yeast over the surface of the juice is much easier and works great.

7.  Ignoring or Changing the Instructions

Follow each manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Wine kit manufacturers usually have plenty of experience making wine, and their instructions should be clear and easy to follow. These people find the best procedures for getting the best possible results from the ingredients in the kit.

8. Not adding Sulphite

Sulphite prevents your wine from spoiling, so please don’t leave it out. Wine without added sulphite may have a shelf life as short as one month.  Sulphite will help prevent your wine from oxidizing, prevent vinegar bacteria and a lot of other nasty things happen to your wine.

Some people blame sulphites for headaches, allergic reactions and hangovers. In reality, these conditions are usually caused by compounds other than sulphite.  However, if you think you are sensitive or allergic to sulphites, please consult your doctor.

9. Not Stirring Enough

Eventually you need to clear your wine. You do this by adding natural substances like chitosan, keiselsol, and a clay called bentonite. These come with the kit and need to be dispersed thoroughly throughout the wine. This means stirring….and stirring….and stirring. Even if your arm gets sore.

10. No Topping Up

You need to top of your wine to minimize the air space above the wine to prevent your wine from oxidizing.