Wine Making Yeast: The Key to Fermentation




No one knows how the first batch of wine was made, but most historians agree that it originally had something to do with the preservation process, not the fact that it contains alcohol and alcohol has a particular affect on human anatomy. Through the centuries, people have studied wine and come to have a greater understanding of the fermentation process and how it works.

Fermentation has everything to do with yeast, microscopic organisms that make it all possible. Wine making yeast at one time was all wild, but these days most winemakers find it much easier to add their own so that they can fully control the process.
Wine making yeast these days can be bought online or at a shop that sells wine making supplies. In general, it is sold in packets suitable for making 5 gallons of wine, but talk to the clerk at the shop if you have different needs. For wine makers making wine out of their homes, the 5-gallon model is the norm.

When it comes to adding wine making yeast, you have to do things in a certain order to get proper fermentation. First, sterilize your supplies to make sure that there is no contamination. Sterilizing chemicals (such as sulfite powder) are also commonly sold at shops selling wine making supplies. Always make sure you use food-grade plastic containers and utensils for winemaking. Wood is porous and may contain harmful bacteria that could disrupt your wine making process and even make you ill.

Next, prepare your must in a large bucket. If you don’t already know, the must is the pressed grapes and other additives that is essentially the early stage of wine. The must includes sugar, water, tannins, pectic enzymes, and other additives.

Now comes the time to add the wine making yeast. There are quite a few different types of yeast suitable for the job, but you’ll need the appropriate kind for whatever kind of wine you are going to make. This initial addition of yeast is called primary fermentation. All you have to do is add the proper amount for 5 gallons (5 grams of dry yeast or 35-175 ml of liquid), and stir with your sterilized spoon once per day for a week.

During this period, you need to test your mixture with a hydrometer for specific gravity (SG) and potential alcohol (PA). You want the specific gravity to be 1.024 to 1.030 and the potential alcohol to be 3% to 4%. If it hasn’t reached these markers yet, give your wine three or four more days to ferment before checking it again. When these two parameters are met, you can move on to secondary fermentation, where things really get fun!

The whole point of this is to demonstrate how vital yeast is in the wine making process. Adding yeast is one of the very first things you’ll always do when making wine and it’s imperative that you follow any recipe to the letter. We’ve been doing this for thousands of years, so we must be doing something right!

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