Testing the extent of primary fermentation.

white wine bottle

After 7 to 10 days, open the primary fermenter pail and use your hydrometer to check the specific gravity again. It should be 1.010 or less. The lower the fermenting temperature, the longer it will take to reach this stage. If your gravity is not at or below this level, close the primary fermenter and wait 3 or 4 days, testing the gravity each day, until it reaches this number or less.

After primary fermentation is complete (7-10 days) it is necessary to transfer the wine to a carboy. The equipment needed to siphon the wine is a carboy, carboy airlock stopper, auto siphon and hose, hydrometer and sanitizing cleanser. A carboy is nothing more than a large bottle. We recommend that the better bottle be used. Glass carboys are available but are unnecessary for kit wine making. You would only need a glass carboy if you intended to bulk age your wine. Bulk aging is allowing the wine to remain in the carboy for an extended period prior to bottling. The plastic better bottle will not negatively affect your wine, even if you delay the bottling process for one or two months. The carboy and auto siphon must be cleaned and sanitized prior to racking. An optional carboy drying stand can be useful at this time. Standing the carboy upside down on a paper towel will also work.

Racking is the term used to describe the transfer of wine from one fermentation vessel to another. The timing of steps given in your kit instructions are the minimum requirements. It is very important that the wine NOT sit on the lees for an extended period. Lees is the spent or dormant yeast which collects at the bottom of the primary fermenter. If the wine is left in contact with the lees too long, the yeast cell begin to break down and releases amino acids into the wine. These amino acids can add an unwanted flavor to the wine.

We want to transfer the wine to a carboy at this time. The carboy is used because of its smaller opening and its ability to hold the carbon dioxide in its neck. Carbon dioxide is a by-product of fermentation and is heavier than the atmosphere. It creates a protective blanket over the wine surface, preventing exposure to oxygen and aceobactar, the two elements required for the conversion of wine to vinegar.

The auto siphon is used to transfer the wine because it minimizes the exposure to the atmosphere. The auto siphon also has a special tip which forces the wine to enter the tube from about one inch from the bottom of the pail. This is done to avoid sucking up the sediment. During the transfer the co2 gas trapped in the liquid is released creating a protective blanket and forcing the air out of the carboy as it fills.

Prepare one gallon of sanitizing solution in the clean carboy using warm water. Tilt the carboy on its side while covering the opening. Rock the carboy by rolling it back and forth on the counter. Be sure that solution comes in contact with the entire surface of the interior. Do this for thirty seconds. Stand the carboy upright. Use a small pail or mixing bowl to hold the airlock and carboy stopper. Now use the auto siphon to transfer the solution from the carboy to the small pail.

The auto siphon and hose will be sanitized by pumping a few short strokes of the sanitizing liquid through the tubing. It is a good idea to rinse the apparatus with cool clean water just prior to use. Be sure to rinse the outside of the auto siphon because it will be inserted into the wine.

Place the primary fermenter on a counter or table. Place the empty carboy on a stool. If your siphon hose is long enough, use the floor. Insert the auto siphon into the fermenter pail. Be careful not to stir up the sediment. Make sure the hose is in the bottom of the carboy. You want the carboy to fill from the bottom up. DO NOT ALLOW THE WINE TO SPRAY OR SPLASH DURING THE TRANSFER. Pull up on the interior tube of the auto siphon and then push down. It will take one or two strokes to fill the siphon with liquid then the siphon will flow automatically. Tip: An optional bucket clip can be used to hold the auto siphon in place while transferring and prevent the tubing from wiggling and disturbing the sediment. Close the carboy with the stopper and airlock once the transfer is complete. Clean the auto siphon and primary fermenter now. DO NOT ALLOW WINE TO DRY ON EQUIPMENT. This will attract bacteria to your wine making area and risk contamination of the wine.

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