Sunday, March 15, 2009

Punching the Cap

I do enjoy driving my Ford truck but this has nothing to do with Ford trucks or caps in the context of a baseball cap. When making wine the cap we are discussing is the layer of stems, seeds and bits of grape skins that are pushed to the surface of your primary fermenter by the carbon dioxide gasses being produced as the yeast consumes sugars present in the must. This cap is a layer of foam and the bits described previously that rise to the surface during fermentation. The term usually ascribed to breaking up this layer of foam and disbursing it back into the wine must is punching down the cap.

Why is it important for someone engaged in home winemaking to punch down the cap? If making wine from one of the Cellar Craft or WinExpert kits that we sell it is not as important (you can do it once or twice a day rather than 3 or more times per day) unless you are using one of the wine kits that include a crushed grape skin pack. Cellar Craft wine kits from their Showcase series of red wines all include a two liter package of crushed grape skins. Punching down several times (at least 3) a day when using one of these wine making kits is very important. It is also important if you are making wine from fresh grapes or any other fresh fruit and of lesser importance if the winemaking is done using juice or from one of our wine making kits which does not include grape skins.

Here is a concise list of reasons why you should punch down the cap when wine making at home:

1. Tannins and flavors and colors which are in this cap will be added back into your wine must.
2. The potential for bacteria formation in this layer of foam is reduced. Heat which is a natural product of fermentation is not allowed to be trapped under this layer. Warmth provides fertile ground for bacterial growth.
3. Yeasts which may be imbedded in this layer are moved back into the wine must.
4. By the very act of stirring and pushing down the cap oxygen (which is beneficial to your yeast) is introduced into the wine must.

BlueStem Winery offers a complete line of beer brewing and wine making supplies at our retail outlet in Parkersburg, Iowa. We are also on the web with our complete inventory of brewing equipment and winemaking ingredients. We feature both Cellar Craft and WinExpert wine kits for wine making and hour own line of home brewing beer kits known as BlueStems Best. Visit our website at and you will find friendly service, prompt delivery and knowledgeable answers to your home brewing and winemaking questions.

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