Making Wine with Whey

June 21, 2010

Shallon Winery in Astoria, OR makes a cranberry whey wine that is really good. I had written before that he “touts the health benefits of adding whey to the wine… This wine is not milky colored at all, and it is another bottle we take home. He recommends adding a little bit of 7-up to it for the bubbles, which is also excellent. I’ve never eaten it with turkey, which I imagine it would be good with, but to do so would probably mean I would have to share, and I would rather horde his wines.”

This wine has been the inspiration of trying to make my own whey wine, and I have been researching and experimenting.

First off, milk sugars called lactose are not fermentable by traditional yeasts, but instead require microorganisms such as Kluveromyces lactis or Kluveromyces fragilis to convert lactose to alcohol. Therefore, powdered lactose is actually used as a sweetener in beer and wine, as the yeast will leave it alone, leaving a sweet product in the end. Lactose is not usually captured in cheese, but is left in whey. I should note, though, that it takes a lot of lactose to make it sweet.

My original theory was that a wine maker would start a batch of wine fermenting, and then add the whey later. My reasoning behind this is that the alcohol would hopefully prevent the whey from spoiling. I should admit that from my own farming days, we would keep milk for the baby calves at room temperature for a few days before it would finally start to spoil around day three. In fact, before refrigeration, people would have left it sitting out. So I know that this is possible, but I was afraid it would spoil before anything would happen. Also, would the government allow a wine maker to leave whey out at room temperature for that long? My theory was that if the whey was added in the secondary, it would possibly preserve the whey so it doesn’t spoil. Another theory I had running against it was that adding acid to milk makes it curdle, and even whey curdles with acid at higher temperatures, so what would adding whey to high acid wine do to it? So many theories running though my head…

It turns out that in 1977, the Department of Food Science and Technology at the Oregon State University conducted an experiment using cheese whey to make wine. The results were published in a paper titled Utilization of Cheese Whey for Wine Production. It takes about 10 pounds of milk (1.15 gallons) to yield one pound of cheese, which means that 9 pounds is waste, or a whey by-product. The most common method used to make this whey waste profitable is to dehydrate it into powdered whey to use as a food supplement. However, the 1970s saw an energy crisis, so dehydrating whey was expensive, and they were looking for other cheaper usable methods to use whey and realized whey wine might be the answer.

So, armed with a research paper that is most definitely not a how-to, I kept some whey from three of my cheese batches, mixed it with some cranberry juice, added potassium metasulfite to get sulfur dioxide released, and some yeast. It started fermenting. Let the whey wine making experiment commence!


20 Responses to “Making Wine with Whey”

  1. […] should try making a cranberry cider again. At the moment, I am trying to make a cranberry whey wine like Shallon Winery does at 75% whey and 25% cranberry juice. The verdict is still out on if my […]

  2. Bob Emro Says:

    How did the whey wine turn out? I’d like to try making some. Any tips would be much appreciated!

  3. To be honest, the first batches scare me. Color is weird, and I was using a rennetless cheese whey. The batch I’m excited about is only 4 months old, which is too young to tell, but it was from a cheddar whey, and the color is gorgeous. I think it also helped that I knew of a winemaker doing a 75-25% instead of 50-50%

  4. Jonsto Says:

    I would like hear more about your process. I have a gallon of whey which I am wondering what to do with. What kind of yeast did you add to the whey-cran mixture? Was it Kluveromyces lactis or Kluveromyces fragilis that you mentioned earlier? Where did you source this from? All-in-all, sounds promising, keep us posted, and elaborate on that last paragraph, please!

  5. Jonsto – I just added wine yeast. I didn’t add either of the Kluveromyces lactis or Kluveromyces fragilis, and instead let the lactose remain as is to make the wine naturally sweet yet remain stable. See, with normal sugar or fructose, it is difficult to have a stable but possible. In this case, let the sugar/fructose get eaten up, and the lactose will remain to make it not dry.

  6. Jonsto Says:

    I agree. That sounds plausible. What was the purpose behind adding a sulfite to release sulfur dioxide? Is that normal wine-making procedure?

  7. Yes. Sulfur dioxide is a kind of… cleanser, if you will. It stuns anything that might grow. Domestic yeast is kind of stronger/immune, and gets going. By time the sulfur dioxide wears off, the yeast will have eaten any food, leaving nothing for the baddies.

  8. Christine Says:

    I’m making a batch of whey wine too. I added 1/2 cup yogourt and let sit overnight to ripen the whey and then added 4 kg of sugar, 1 cup molasses and 2 kg of raisins and champagne yeast and wine yeast. It took a day to get going but now it’s bubbling away. I’ll keep you posted. Smells good!

    • ajones-aromatics Says:

      Hello, may I ask how this turned out eventually? How much whey did you use and how much of the champagne and wine yeasts? Thank you.

      • Not as well as I had hoped. It kind of stalled out at the end, so I bottled it in beer bottles, and it started fermenting again. It was a lime wine, and I could never really bring myself to drink it. This was years ago, but I know that I used Odwalla lime juice and whey, no water. And a packet of yeast.

    • ajones-aromatics Says:

      Ok, thank you very much.

  9. […] need to start another whey wine. My husband just reminded me that we have a lot frozen bananas, so maybe I should give them a try. […]

  10. theamazingjessbrown Says:

    I’m a new reader to this blog, and very interested in whey wine. Looks like it’s about time you updated this piece to let us know how it went! Were you successful? I”d love to know!

  11. Kathy Says:

    Likewise, I too would like to know how your whey wine turned out and if any good – how about posting the recipe

  12. Jillian Says:

    I made a “whey wine” with just fruit (cherries), sugar (white), water (filtered), and whey (from milk kefir) and it was delicious. The yeast and bacteria in the whey fermented the sugar really quickly, so it got pretty boozy in about 3-4 weeks but I have no idea what the alcohol content is. I just store it in the fridge when it’s ready.

  13. Can you supply a recipe with quantities and processes. I’m quite new to the wine making deal but have lots of whey available so would like to find a use for it rather than tipping it or feeding to the pigs.

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