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Perry Questions

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Kevin Buck — Via email asks,
Q

I crushed and pressed my own pears this year hoping to make a perry. The original specific gravity (SG) was only 1.034 so I added 5 pounds (2.3 kg) of sugar, some British ale yeast and yeast energizer. It fermented for a bit, then stopped at about 1.025 and tastes very sweet. I then added a white wine yeast, but it still did not ferment. I also made a batch with both apples and pears and added 5 pounds (2.3 kg) of sugar. Like the perry, it fermented then stopped short and is sweet. I suspect the pears have non-fermentable sugars. Is there anything I can do to encourage further fermentation, or should I learn to enjoy sweet wines? One more note, we made a batch of perry from the same pear tree two years ago and it was delicious and dry. We let those pears soften much longer than the ones we used this year. Did allowing the pears to become very soft prior to pressing change the sugars to become more fermentable?

A
You are making me thirsty! I am a huge fan of cider and perry (pear cider), especially when it’s tart, dry-ish and has a sparkling finish. Yummy yum yum! I applaud you for keeping this ancient and tasty art alive in your neck of the woods. You present an interesting scenario above. Since I don’t know your batch sizes (volume) I can’t help you calculate what 5 pounds (2.3 kg) of dry sugar (cane sugar? Malt sugar?) would do to your specific gravity, though an initial specific gravity of 1.034, being about 8.5 °Brix, certainly needs some sugar added to it. It’s possible you added too much, which would account for your stuck fermentation of about 6.5 °Brix or so (the 1.025 that you mention above). Once alcohol levels get above 14.5%, most yeasts start to struggle to complete a fermentation, which is why I try to never start my fermentations above 25.0 °Brix (1.106 specific gravity) if I can help it. Though the number varies from year to year and winery to winery, in my experience, alcohol conversion rates
Response by Alison Crowe.