December 26, 2009

When I was talking about air being the enemy of cider, I mentioned that when there is no more sugar in the batch, the yeast die and fall to the bottom in process called flocculation and create lees. The lees will be a pile of sediment in the bottom of the jug, which will be easy to see if the jug is clear. If there is no more air passing though the airlock, then it is time to move to the next step of the wine and cider making process of racking.

Racking is siphoning the liquid, now called must, off of the lees. If it is not done, the must will take on an unpleasant flavor from the lees. I once heard a cider maker say something about he had never lost a batch of cider racking to early, but he had lost a batch from racking too late. I use that piece of advice in my winemaking.

It is easiest to take the jug and place it on the counter and leave it for a few minutes so that any disturbed lees can sink to the bottom again. A second container that has been sterilized will be placed at a lower elevation from the first container, such as on a chair or on the floor. I prefer a chair because I don’t have to bend down as much, it is easier to see, and it doesn’t require the hose to be as long or as much worry about it coming out. From here, there are two methods. The cheaper method is to take a sterilized hose and put it in the first container above the lees. After swishing your mouth with vodka to “sterilize” you mouth, drop down and begin sucking on the other end of the tube gently to start the siphoning process, and then place the other end in the second container. The better way to siphon is to purchase a siphon device from the supply store, sterilize it, and follow the directions provided.

Try to avoid splashing when racking to avoid contact with air to help prevent oxidization, which dulls the flavor. Pull the tub or siphon out of the first jug slightly before it would suck up any lees. Place an airlock on the second container and set it aside. After the first racking, the must may still be a little hazy and it may continue to push CO2 though the airlock, which is okay. After a few weeks or even months, if pectic enzyme was added, the must will clear, the airlock will stop bubbling, and there will be another layer of lees present. Then it is time for bottling.


5 Responses to “Racking”

  1. […] 31, 2010 I originally wrote about racking back in December 2009. The purpose of racking is to get the fermenting and/or aging alcohol off of […]

  2. […] tricky thing has been cleaning these plastic carboys. The handle area gives an extra area for lees to deposit on, making a mess. Because plastic scratches, I cannot use a bristle brush to clean them. I’ve […]

  3. […] to go, so it is absorbed into the beverage, carbonating it. However, this method does create a little bit of lees, so the trick with bottle conditioned drinks is to pour it without pouring the lees, which would […]

  4. […] Any time you add sugar to a wine with yeast, the yeast is going to eat it. It is hard to achieve a sweet wine because of this. Basically, you have to figure out how to either kill or remove the yeast. Methods include having the alcohol content to high, filtering, or pasteurizing. Thing is, to make carbonation via bottle conditioning, you still need the yeast alive at least for a little bit, so having the alcohol content too high or filtering won’t work, and grape winemakers really frown upon pasteurizing. Besides, you are still left with that pesky lee problem. […]

  5. […] cider so cloudy before, except one of my own early batches. When fermenting, the solids usually drop out and form lees after awhile, leaving the cider clear. The fact that this was so cloudy made me wonder if they […]

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