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Using these methods, you will never make a wine that is too sweet to enjoy and you’ll never have cork blow out or bottles blow up. By keeping extensive notes on your winemaking, you will have the ability to perfect your recipe and duplicate it each year with a minimal of effort. The following ten easy steps, utilizing the sugar scale hydrometer, allow you to make wine within the yeast's alcohol tolerance levels while maintaining the option of sweetening the wine prior to bottling.
1) After preparing the fruit or concentrate, add all the water needed to make the full batch of wine before adding any sugar.
2) Wait 24 hours for the campden tablets to be effective and the sulfur dioxide to dissipate. Decide on the about of alcohol that you wish to develop. Knowing that most commercial white wines have an alcohol level of 9-12%, we decide that we want to produce a wine of 11% alcohol. To determine the amount of sugar needed to produce this amount of alcohol, we look on the hydrometer's scale for the amount of sugar needed to produce 11% alcohol which is 28 ounces. WRITE this number down.
3) Place a sample of the must in the hydrometer test jar. The hydrometer must float to achieve a accurate reading. We will be reading the SUGAR SCALE where it breaks the surface of the test sample.
Subtract the amount of sugar supplied by Mother Nature (8 ounces) from the amount of sugar per gallon needed to produce 11% alcohol (28 ounces). The difference (20 ounces) is the amount of sugar per gallon needed to produce a white wine in the 11% alcohol range. Since 1 CUP of sugar = 8 ounces, we can now determine that we need 2.5 cups of sugar (20 divided by 8).
4) Remove an equal number of cups of "must" from the fermenter and place it in a sauce pan. Add the sugar to the sauce pan and heat on the stove to a temperature of 130° to 150° to thoroughly dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, it should be added to the fermenter.
5) Combine the additives into the "must" that are needed to prepare it for fermentation.
Some fruits are deficient in acids and tannins. These should be added as needed at this time.
6) Fermentation will be vigorous for 5 to 7 days, during which 75% of the fermentation will be completed. The hydrometers specific gravity reading should be in the 1.010 to 1.025 range.
7) The wine can then be racked (a wine term meaning to transfer eliminating sediment) into a sanitized glass carboy. Attach a stopper and airlock.
8) The fermentation should be completed after approximately 30 days in the carboy. When completed, the wine will have a specific gravity of 1.000 or lower and the character of the wine will be considered dry. Rack the wine into an additional, sanitary glass carboys which will aid in the clarifying process. If you were accurate in your sugar calculations, the specific gravity should dip as low as .990 after a few months in carboys.
9) Once the specific gravity has fallen below .995, the wine should be treated with ascorbic acid, which prevents it from oxidizing and turning to vinegar.
10) Prior to bottling, ALL wine should be stabilized (the process of adding potassium sorbate) to prevent the restart of fermentation. Once stabilized for 48 hours, the wine may then be sweetened to taste and bottled.
Take a hydrometer reading of the finished wine. Relate that reading to the scale below to determine the adjustment that should be made.
Dry Wine .990 - 1.000
Medium Sweet Wine 1.000 - 1.008
Very Sweet Wine over 1.008
Two (2) ounces of sugar will raise one (1) gallon of wine by .005 or five (5) gallons by .001.
Sweetening is a matter of preference. Add small amounts of sugar to the wine at a time, repeat the process until the desired level of sweetness is achieved.
Remove an equal amount of wine from the secondary fermenter and place it in a sauce pan. Add the sugar to the wine in the sauce pan and heat on the stove to a temperature of 130° to 150° until the sugar is dissolved. We don't want to boil the wine because it would boil away the alcohol. We dissolve the sugar in some of the wine, instead of water, to prevent the dilution of the finished product.
Once we have added the sugar solution back to the wine, stir it well and allow to stand for 20 to 30 minutes before sampling the mix for the sweetness achieved. Repeat this step, if needed. Once the desired level of sweetness is achieved, you may begin bottling.
NOTE: You can bottle portions of the wine at different levels of sweetness / dryness in order to satisfy a greater range of drinking pleasures and wants.