The Wise Man Knows he Doesn’t Know
Having settled in after my foray into a snowy Middle East, my whole urban vining effort is in full swing again with the fermenting of my kit, the order of my replacement vine, the decision to switch from wood mulch to living mulch, and the emergence of this year’s new growth. I will cover all these things in future posts but for today I will focus on my wine making efforts and the primary fermenting of my first batch.
Primary Fermentation (Part One): With all the excuses of missing gear removed it was time and yet I still found myself hesitating to start the kit. With everything I read, there was the constant emphasis on sanitizing everything and I was starting to overthink things. I was seeing the threat of bacteria everywhere and trying to figure out how to ensure that everything was sanitized and avoid inadvertently touching equipment or setting it on something that would soil things. There are a variety of sanitizing and cleaning agents out there. I opted for PBW for cleaning and Potassium Metabisulphite (Kmeta) for sanitizing. So off I went cleaning and sanitizing the carboy, thermowell, stirring spoon, and airlock (more on this in a future post) to be used for the primary fermentation.
Then the questions arose, did I need to wait until everything dried completely? If I did wasn’t it likely that items could get contaminated after it dried? In the end I left the bits in the solution and after sloshing a gallon of solution around in the carboy, stopping it up and letting it sit for about 20 minutes, I turned the carboy over and let it drip and air dry as much as it would for an hour.
With everything sanitized, I poured the juice in the carboy, added bentonite and mixed well and now a new set of questions, this time about water. Should I use tap water? In San Diego you can taste a bit of chlorine in the water. Or, should I use filtered water from our pitcher water filter? Would that introduce contamination from the picture itself? Ultimately, I settled on the advice that if you taste something in your tap, then it will be in your wine. I opted to sanitize the filter pitcher and use filtered tap.
After all the water was added, a new threat manifested. With my winemaking station in the spare room/office, I had to get the bowl with Kmeta solution which still had the thermowell and airlock. When I returned I found two fruit flies already flitting about the carboy. A couple claps and the immediate threat was gone, but clearly I needed to keep the carboy covered at all times.
Now it was time to don the lab coat and feel scientific (think Beaker of Muppets fame). First, action was to bust out the hydrometer for the initial specific gravity (S.G.) reading which was 1.087 (after adjusting for ambient temperature). Then it was time to unleash the yeast and cap with the airlock.
Iit was time to finally utilize some of the techie bits of equipment. The temperature in the room at night had dropped as low as 60-63F, too cold for proper fermentation, so I bought a Fermwrap Heater and Johnson A419 Thermostat to use with the thermowell, to maintain a stable temperature. It has worked amazingly well, perhaps too well, but that is a story for the next post...