Ask Wine Wizard

Is it ok to use ammonia in the winery?

TroubleShooting

Phil Feiner — San Carlos, California asks,
Q

I can’t remember anyone speaking to the use of ammonia as a cleaning agent in the winery. We use it for glass and plastic gear, and do not use it for metal. With it, I believe that it totally dissipates, and there is no possibility of a residue. Is it ok to use in the winery?

A
Regarding ammonia (chemical formula NH3), I’m glad you brought the subject up. There’s a reason why we don’t use ammonia for sanitation in the winery and one acronym says it all: DAP. More on that in just a little bit, however. Myself, I keep a little ammonia squirt bottle under the kitchen sink to remove persistent grease stains from my stovetop. Just squirt it on, wait a few seconds and wipe clean with my little scrubby sponge. Presto change-o, no more grease-o! I Love it for the occasional dirty-job use in kitchen, but not for my winery. Why, you ask? Let me explain. One of the most popular and widely-used yeast nutrients for home and large-scale winemakers alike is DAP, aka: diammonium phosphate (chemical formula (NH4)2HPO4). When added to juice or must, the ammonia part of DAP disassociates (becomes free in solution) and is available to the fermentation as a source of nitrogen for your soon-to-be happy yeast beasties. Nitrogen (N) is a critical component for yeast metabolism and for the completion of a healthy fermentation. Grape juice and must
Response by Alison Crowe.