Batter Up! Pitching Wine Yeast.

airlock on barrel

You will no doubt encounter wine makers who insist that they can make wine without adding anything to the juice. This method of spontaneous fermentation may work, but consider this; everything turns to wine. If you leave a banana on the kitchen counter for a week, it begins to ferment. Fermentation is the first step in recycling. Since everything eventually turns to wine, it is the wine maker’s job to control the spoilage and make the best wine. When given advice on your wine making, use this simple rule to evaluate the advice; if your ability to feed your family were based on the quality of the wine you make, would you use this method?

Pitching is the term used by wine makers to describe the adding of yeast to juice. You will note that the yeast packet is printed with instructions for re-hydrating the freeze dried powder in the packet. There is no need to do this. If the yeast packet has exceeded the use by date printed on the package, discard and purchase a new one.

The starting temperature of the wine is critical. If yeast is added to a kit that is too cold, it will not ferment or clear on schedule. If the temperature is too warm, you run the risk of activating an inferior yeast strain and producing off flavors and aromas. The juice temperature should be between 65-75°F (18-24°C) before adding the yeast.

Tip: If your wine making area is too cool or has a wide variation in temperature over a 24 hour period, a device called a brew belt may be used. This is a reusable electric heat strap that wraps around the fermentation vessel and helps to hold a constant temperature.

Pitch the yeast by simply sprinkling it on the surface of the juice. There is no need to stir it in. Yeast has been fermenting grape juice for thousands of years and it knows what to do.

Place the lid firmly on the pail and tap it in place. Fill the airlock with water to the indicated fill line and fit it into the rubber grommet on the lid.

The wine is now ready for primary fermentation. It may take 24 to 48 hours for fermentation to begin. The yeast must complete two stages of its life cycle prior to any real signs of fermentation. The first is re-hydration; then aspiration. At this time the yeast cells take up water and oxygen from the juice in preparation for the consumption of the sugar suspended in the juice and reproduction. Once fermentation starts you will see the airlock begin to bubble. It will look like the cap of an active coffee percolator. Primary fermentation will take approximately 7 days.

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