Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Socks and Fermentation

We have an odd range of interests in my house...

I finished the Miss Picky Socks, and I love them. Again, it's Twisted Fiber Arts Kabam (wool/bamboo), Minstrel colorway, worked on 2.75mm needles, shoe size 2. If she doesn't like these, I will just buy her socks until her feet toughen up.

The Riesling completed the aerobic fermentation stage this morning. The Specific Gravity was 1.025, so we racked (siphoned) the must from the bucket into a 5 gallon glass carboy. The wine needs to be in an air-tight container for the anaerobic fermentation, but the yeast is not only pooping alcohol (after eating the sugar in the must), it is also farting CO2, which needs to be released (or we'll have a big, messy BOOM). In order to keep the air out, but also allow the release of gasses, a fermentation lock is placed in the neck of the carboy. The liquid in the reservoir keeps air from seeping back into the carboy, while letting the gasses formed by fermentation escape. It's a handy little device- so much better than the balloons that college kids use while fermenting grape juice rotgut in their dorm room closets.

This phase will last until the specific gravity reaches 1.000. The longer the yeast works, the higher the alcohol content of the wine, and the drier the final product. If we were making a Chardonnay, we'd allow the fermentation to continue until the SG was .998, but since Riesling is a sweeter wine, "stopping" the wine, by killing the yeast, will keep the alcohol percentage a little lower but will also leave some residual sugar in the wine.

Wine yeast is engineered specifically to die when the alcohol content is about 12%(regardless of the residual sugar). Bread yeast (which we used on our very first wine making experiment about 20 years ago) will continue to ferment as long as there is sugar in the mix. We made some knock-your-socks-off Crabapple wine that year, lemee tellya.

So now, we just sit and watch the bazillion bubbles (I'm not kidding), and wait a week or two for the SG to drop. After that, we kill the yeast, add clarifiers, and rack the wine to a new carboy, and wait some more while the sediment settles out (remember how clear the Rhubarb wine was when we bottled it?). Lots of waiting in wine making.

Today, I think I'll start a 3 gallon batch of Hard Lemonade. This stuff is just for fun, and there is no clarifying or bottling- it goes directly into the freezer after fermentation and sweetening, to be scooped out later, and mixed with pop, and thoroughly enjoyed.

1 comment:

gayle said...

Love your winemaking posts! We're beermakers - a lot of similarity in the process.
When we were bottling our first batch of beer, many years ago, we found that we didn't have enough bottles available. So, we did what any good beermakers would do - we emptied beer bottles by drinking the contents.
I distinctly remember my husband exhorting me to "drink faster, sweetie..."
We were happy (though hammered) bottlers!