When to Rack

August 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 the dead yeast called lees. If it is not done, the alcohol will take on off flavors, sometimes referred to as band-aid, trash, rubber, or plastic like taste. Also in that blog, I said, “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.”

Well, I have a little more experience now, and while I still agree with that statement, there is such a thing as over racking. I had heard some advice to rack whenever I got a ¼” of lee sediment in the bottom of my container. Well, I had some strawberry wine going, made with strawberry slices. I removed the strawberries and then racked it. Two days later, I saw that I had quite the buildup of sediment in the bottom of my jug, probably from the strawberries, so I racked it again. Mistake. In this case, I actually removed some yeast, and so my fermentation became stuck, and it was difficult to get going again.

Since then, I’ve heard the following advice:

  • When working with fruit, remove the fruit after one week and rack. Then treat it like it is juice.
  • When working with juice, rack after three weeks.
  • Rack again after about a month or two and add sulfites.
  • Rack about every three months, sulfiting every other rack, until the alcohol is clear. After that, it will not produce lees or sediment, and can be left alone.
  • Bottle no earlier than the 6 month mark, but not longer than 2 years, again adding a small amount of sulfites.

I think this system is probably better, as I can mark it on my calendar as a reminder that I should be racking, rather than trying to remember to go check on everything and making sure my misjudgment on how much lees there are doesn’t end up causing off flavors.


6 Responses to “When to Rack”

  1. […] juice) and added sugar. I put the canned pears into a mess bag, but did not squish them, and then removed them after a week. So far, everything seems to be working out just […]

  2. […] comfortable using a plastic bucket for just a few weeks at the beginning of fermentation until the first racking, but beyond that, I’m nervous. Other issues include the fact that plastic is easy to scratch up, […]

  3. […] The 41 pages of recipes for making wine do look correct to me, though they are missing a bit of racking. Another oddity is that the recipe for making apple wine takes cut up apples and places them in […]

  4. […] changed the look of Measurements, Fermentation, and Racking.  Because Peter Mitchell taught me to add yeast nutrient after fermentation started, I move that […]

  5. […] I will raise that to a more stable 12% by chaptilizing with sugar, but I decided to do that after I remove the fruit in a week. I decided this mostly because I’ll have a better idea of how much volume I have to make a […]

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