Friday, July 25, 2008

Acidity in Wine: Part 5 (Final)

After you have completed your acid testing you will have determined the acid level present in your wine sample. Recommended acid levels for various types of wine were provided in Part 2 of this series on wine acidity.

If you need to increase the acid level in your wine to meet the recommended level you can add acid blend. It takes one gram of acid blend to increase the acidity in one liter of wine must by 0.1%. Thus, if you have a 6-gallon carboy (23 liters) you would need to add 23 grams of acid blend for each 0.1% increase in acidity desired.

No scale? No problem! A level tablespoon of acid blend weighs approximately 15-1/4 grams, a level teaspoon would weigh approximately 5.1 grams, and a quarter teaspoon would tip the scales at approximately 1.2 grams.

Having to decrease acidity in wine must is not usually where you want to be. Increasing acidity is easy, decreasing it is possible but the results can be less than satisfactory.

The addition of calcium (or potassium) carbonate will reduce the total acidity (TA) of your wine but should never be used to lower the TA by more than 0.4% as the carbonate can taint the flavor of your wine. It takes approximately 2/3 gram of carbonate to lower the TA of one liter of wine must by 0.1%. The maximum dosage (to lower TA by 0.4%) is thus 2-2/3 gram per liter. If you do not have a scale you can approximate the proper dosage of carbonate by knowing that a level teaspoon of carbonate weighs approximately 2.6 grams.

Rules of the Road:

Test twice prior to adding anything to your wine must; and

Additives should be mixed into your wine must in very small quantities as it is easier to add more then to remove excess; and

Test after each addition to determine whether additional quantities are required.

BlueStem Winery is your source for home wine making and homebrewing supplies. Centrally located in the heart of the Midwest, BlueStem ships your purchase of wine making equipment, home brew supplies or your purchase of WinExpert or Cellar Craft wine kits promptly.

BlueStem Winery inventories a wise array of both Cellar Craft and WinExpert wine kits plus a complete line of both brewing supplies and and everything you need for making wine. New to wine making? Drop us an e-mail at and we'll explain the nuances of home winemaking and we'll be happy to recommend one of our WinExpert kits or one of our Cellar Craft kits to get you started. Both the Cellar Craft and WinExpert ingredient kits are the best of the best. One of BlueStem's regular customers just won the People's Choice Award at the Benton County (Iowa) Fair. His kit of choice: WinExpert's Riesling Ice Wine Style.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Acidity in Wine: Part 4

Instead of using the titration method for measuring acidity as described in Part 3, you can also use a device called a pH Meter to measure wine acidity. A pH meter is more expensive ($50 to $60) than using a titration kit but it is more accurate and will last a long time if well taken care of.

When using a pH meter you add a reagent to your wine sample until the pH meter reads out at 8.2. The reason that 8.2 is the magic number is that 8.2 is the pH level at which phenolphthalein changes color.

There are a few things to know about a pH meter:

First, do not drop the device and be extra careful that you do not damage the probe. Second, keep the device clean. Third, it important that the device be calibrated (using fresh buffering solution) prior to every test. Fourth, be sure to mix your sample thoroughly between each addition of the reagent. Last, be sure that you take care of your pH meter in between usages (store according to the manufacturer's instructions). If you take good care of your pH meter, it should last a long time.

BlueStem Winery is your source for both quality wine making and home brew supplies. BlueStem stocks a large variety of both WinExpert and Cellar Craft wine kits in addition to all of the home winemaking and homebrew equipment in inventory. If in the northeast Iowa area we welcome your visit to our store where you can make your personal selection from our homebrewing ingredients, wine making supplies or choose one of our Cellar Craft or WinExpert kits.

We will increasing our inventory of WinExpert wine kits in October of this year and will greatly expand our selection of Cellar Craft kits with our factory order in September. Give us a try! Our BlueSaver Shipping gets your order (no matter how large) to you for only $7.95 if you are located in the lower 48 United States.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Acidity in Wine: Part 3

Acidity in wine can be measured easily and inexpensively. Our acid titration kit is part number 03-54000 and can be found in the testing section of the BlueStem Winery website (

Titration is simply the process of determining the concentration of a substance in a liquid. When testing wine for acidity you are trying to determine the acid concentration present in your wine sample. Two chemicals are used in this process. The first is Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) which is the reagent (base) in this test. The second is Phenolphthalein with is used as the indicator. A small amount of the color indicator (the Phenolphthalein) is added to your wine sample. The reagent (NaOH) is then slowly added to the sample until white wines turn pink/red or until red wines turn blue/grey/black.

Using a plastic syringe (included with the testing kit), measure 15cc of wine or juice into the test bottle (also provided). Add three drops of the Phenolphthalein color solution to the sample.

Draw 10cc of the Sodium Hydroxide into the syringe. Avoid contact with your skin as this solution burns.

Add the Sodium Hydroxide in very small increments to the wine sample. Agitate the sample after each addition. Keep doing this addition until there is a slight color change and it remains after agitation. Continue the small additions (continue to agitate after each addition) until a deep, dark color change is noted and it does not diminish with agitation. This indicates that the end point has been reached.

Each 1cc of the Sodium Hydroxide which was required to get to this point indicates 0.1% of acid (expressed as Tartaric) present. If 5cc of the neutralizer was required the acid level is 0.5%.

You can adjust the acid level upward to the desired level by adding one teaspoon of Acid Blend (per gallon of wine) to raise the acid level by 0.15%.

Dispose of the sample used (do not add this back into your wine).

When making wine at home you should always test for acidity levels prior to starting your fermentation. The exception to this would be if you are using one of our Cellar Craft or WinExpert wine kits as the juice concentrate used in these kits has been balanced as part of the manufacturing process.

BlueStem Winery operates a retail store and a web presence from 305 Third Street in Parkersburg, Iowa. BlueStem specializes in providing high quality wine making equipment, ingredients and supplies plus we carry a complete line of homebrew supplies, home brewing equipment and beer brewing ingredients. BlueStem inventories a large selection of wine making kits and features both WinExpert and Cellar Craft kits. We manufacture our own line of homebrew ingredients kits known as BlueStems Best.

Both our WinExpert kits and our Cellar Craft wine kits provide the home winemaking enthusiast with the very best quality wine concentrate kits available on the market.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Acidity in Wine: Part 2

Recommended acidity levels in wine varies by the type of wine being made and also by the sweetness level the winemaker is aiming for. This is not to say that individual vintners cannot vary from the recommended levels based upon their own taste.

Sweeter wines will tolerate higher levels of acidity as the sugar masks the acid present in the wine.

The level of acidity that BlueStem Winery recommends for various styles and sweetness levels is:

Dry white grape wines in the .65% to .75% range, dry red grape wines in the .60% to .70% range, sweet white grape wines in the .70% to .85% range, and sweet red grape wines in the .65% to .80% range. White wines which are made from fruits or vegetables other than grapes should be in the .55% to .65% range and non-grape red wines should be in the .50% to .60% range. These percentages are what is known as titratable acidity (or T.A.) and represent acidity as a percentage of total volume.

As mentioned in our first article about acidity in wine, you can be less concerned about the acidity in your wine if you are making your wine from a commercial wine kit such as the WinExpert or Cellar Craft wine kits sold on the BlueStem Winery website as the acid levels have been balanced during the manufacturing process. More about acids in wine with our next blog article.

BlueStem Winery operates both a retail store and a website for the marketing of winemaking equipment, ingredients and supplies, homebrewing supplies, homebrew ingredients, beer brewing equipment, our own line of beer brewing ingredients kits known as BlueStems Best plus both Cellar Craft and WinExpert wine kits.

Wines made from Cellar Craft kits and WinExpert kits make absolutely delicious wines and the odds for failure are extremely small. If you can read and follow directions and keep your equipment clean you too can me fabulous wine at home. If you are thinking about making wine at home or learning to brew your own beer, let BlueStem Winery be your source for home brew supplies and all of your home winemaking needs. We ship brewing supplies and home wine making materials all over the world and can be your source for everying you need in the way of beer brewing supplies and wine making ingredients, equipment and supplies.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Acidity In Wine: Part 1

This blog article is the first of several articles which will be written about acidity in wine. If you make all of your wines from commercial wine kits such as the WinExpert or Cellar Craft wine kits that are sold on the BlueStem Winery website, then the articles may be of interest to you but the measurement of the acidity in your wine will not be necessary as both the Cellar Craft and WinExpert ingredient kits are acid balanced to guarantee that your wine has the proper level of acidity when it is finished. If your home wine making involves making wine from fresh grapes or from backyard fruit then the articles will not only be interesting but the processes involved will need to be followed to help your home made wines obtain the proper acid balance.

The acids present in wine provide the slightly tart taste you notice when the wine is on your tongue. Wines that have too little acidity taste stale and flat while wines which have too much acidity leave your palate feeling like you have been sucking on a very strong lemon. Excellent wines have obtained a balance between the acid level and the other characteristics present in the wine (alcohol, sugars, etc.).

Tartaric, malic and citric acids represent the majority of the acids found in grape wines. Other acids are found in fruit and vegetable wines and in varying quantities. Citrus fruits obviously have much more citric acid then other fruits and vegetables while oxalic acid is present in rhubarb (oxalic acid is toxic in large concentrations and is used in products such as bleaches, stain removers, and can be used as a sanitizing agent for home winemaking and home brewing equipment).

If your wine has low acid levels it is easy to increase the acidity through the addition of tartaric, malic and citric acids or you can use a product sold on the BlueStem Winery website known as Acid Blend. Most commercially prepared acid blends consist of tartaric acid (10%), malic acid (40%) and citric acid (50%). Research we have done indicates that years ago commercially prepared acid blends were made in approximately the following ratio: Tartaric acid (40%), malic acid (40%) and citric acid (20%). The reason for the change is simple: citric acid is cheap, tartaric acid is much more expensive. For your information, BlueStem Winery blends their own acid blend and uses the much more desirable tartaric acid at 50%, malic acid at 40% and the less desirable citric acid at only 10%.

More on the testing of your wine and the addition of the proper level of acids to follow in future blog articles.

BlueStem Winery is located in the tornado ravaged community of Parkersburg, Iowa (but the winery survived intact) and markets winemaking supplies, WinExpert wine kits and Cellar Craft kits. In addition to all things necessary for wine making, BlueStem also carries a complete inventory of homebrew supplies, brewing ingredients and beer brewing equipment.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Water You Use

Many home wine makers use grape concentrate kits such as the Cellar Craft and WinExpert wine ingredient kits that are sold here at BlueStem Winery. As part of the process of making wine from concentrates, it is almost always necessary to add water to the kits to bring the juice back to the same brix (sugar concentration) as when the grapes were harvested and crushed.

The water you use can come from a variety of sources and have many varied characteristics and we at BlueStem Winery believe that the water you use can impact the quality of the wine you make.

The sources of water available to the home winemaking enthusiast (or home brewer for that matter) typically are the municipal water you get from your tap, the water from a well if you reside in a rural area, spring water, bottled water which has been purified (but not distilled) and distilled water.

Most municipal (what we call tap water) has been treated with chlorine to manage bacteria levels. You can contact the city clerk or the water works where you live to determine whether chlorine has been added to the water but you can usually smell or taste it in the water. This tap water can be used for your wine making but only after boiling the water to remove the chlorine. An alternative to boiling is to filter this water through an activated charcoal filter. Some communities treat their water with chloramines rather than with chlorine. Chloramines will not be removed by boiling and should be removed by filtering through an activated charcoal filter and then treating with sulfites at the rate of 10 parts per million. Again, talk to the city clerk or the water department where you live to find out how your local water is treated.

The use of water from a well presents a whole array of potential problems as rural water (especially in highly agricultural or industrial areas) can contain many types of bacteria, minerals, and other contaminants. Here in Iowa with our huge agricultural economy rural water has many sources of contamination. Have this water tested to see what is present in the water (a good idea even if you are not making wine!).

After testing, use an activated charcoal filter to remove many of the contaminants. A silver-impregnated charcoal filter does an even better job of removing bacteria. Keep in mind that you should change these filters regularly to prevent bacterial build up.

Rural water is many times also high in iron content. Water which has been softened to reduce iron content is high in sodium which, too, can affect the ultimate flavor of your wine.

My general recommendation for home wine making clients who have well water as their primary source of water is to purchase bottled spring water (it is cheap and you avoid the possibility of contamination in your wine).

Spring water is great for making wine at home as contains no chlorine, chloramines, flouride and yet has a few trace minerals that help give your wine must the nutrients it needs to make your yeast get off to a good start. If you don't have a ready natural source for pure spring water then your local grocery can be the answer. Bottled spring water is inexpensive but make sure that you read the label. Some spring water is nothing more than bottled tap water. Verify the source of the spring water you are purchasing. Codes like MTW on the container indicate that the water is nothing more than municipal tap water! The water should be great for wine making if you can verify that it is pure spring water and that it has been ozonated.

Bottled water is water that has been purified but not distilled. Although it can certainly be used for wine making it lacks many of the trace minerals found in spring water and is generally a little pricier than bottled spring water.

Distilled water is water which, through the distillation process, has had all trace minerals removed from the water. We recommend not using distilled water when making wine.

BlueStem Winery specializes in making limited quantities of very high quality wines. Our wines our marketed only through our store front in Parkersburg, Iowa and to a limited number of states which we have determined that we can ship to. We also operate both a retail and web based business marketing wine making ingredients, homebrewing equipment, home brew supplies, and both WinExpert and Cellar Craft wine kits.

For all of your home winemaking and home brewing supplies plus either WinExpert or Cellar Craft kits for making wine you can count on friendly, prompt and professional service from BlueStem Winery. If we don't have the brewing equipment or one of the WinExpert wine kits you need we will be happy to get the item you need quickly.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Importance of Punching Down

BlueStem WineryWhen making a big red wine (such as a Cabernet, Barolo or Zinfandel) from either fresh grapes or from one of our WinExpert or Cellar Craft ingredient kits which include a two liter packet of crushed grape skins, it is necessary to regularly perform a procedure known as punching down. Failure to punch down your wine will most like result in a wine which lacks astringency, taste and color.

When fermenting wine on the skins as you would with fresh red grapes or as you would with one of our Cellar Craft or WinExpert wine kits which include the two liter packet of crushed grape skins a cap of grape skins, stems and seeds will float to the top of your primary during fermentation. To obtain the flavors and colors present in this mass of pulp floating on the top of your fermenter you need to break up this mass and push it under the surface so that it stays moist. This breaking up of the cap and the process of pushing it under the surface is called punching down.

As mentioned previously, your wine will benefit from this process with more flavor, astringency and a richer color.

Other benefits derived from the punching down process include helping to keep bacteria from forming on this crusty surface, yeast which is trapped in the crust is mixed back into the must, punching down introduces oxygen into the must which provides a healthy environment for your yeast to thrive, and it helps dissipate heat which can build up during fermentation (warmth provides a healthy environment for bacterial growth).

The use of a stainless steel spoon (slotted preferred) or a masher of some type works well. Break up all the clumps so that the surface of your wine is smooth and all floating matter is thoroughly moist when done. Punch your wine down as soon as you have pitched your yeast and do so every six to eight hours throughout the primary fermentation process.

Maintain a temperature slightly cooler than maybe you normally do during primary fermentation. Keep your ambient temperature around 65 degrees Fahrenheit if possible and try hard to not let your temperature exceed approximatly 70 degrees.

As fermentation slows there will be less carbon dioxide being generated (the carbon dioxide rising to the surfact of the wine must is what causes the pulp to float to the surface). When the mass of pulp disappears (sinks) it is time to press out the pulp and remove it from the fermenter.

BlueStem Winery would like to be your source for all the wine making supplies, home brewing ingredients, WinExpert wine kits and Cellar Craft kits that you need. We stock an extensive array of homebrew equipment and equipment for making wine in addition to a large inventory of WinExpert kits and an even larger supply of Cellar Craft wine kits. So, if you are a veteran home brewer and need to order home brew supplies or whether you are a novice to home winemaking and need some help getting started, we can provide the help you need.