Buchomucho, welcome to the forum I hope DGreen will read this soon since I am 100% sure he would know what to do in your situation.
A couple of questions-
Original Specific Gravity. I need to know this because if you originally had enough sugar to make 14-15% alcohol then you probably started too high. If you did then the next time you do it, make sure you start out with the calculation for about 14% because that is pretty much the limit unless you totally control the atmosphere and temp etc. but also so that you can actually mix for about 10-12% and add sugar as it goes.
I need to know if you actually started fermentation in the carboys or if you started in a tub where the yeast could get some oxygen. It needs it to begin and have a healthy ferm. Also knowing how much and what kind of yeast you used is necessary.
What is the temp in the fermentation area?
What is the actual recipe that you used? Does it include yeast nutrient and or ghostex or hull and pectic enzyme or pectizyme? Would help to know initial conditions of everything IE temp, grav, recipe, etc etc. What kind of water did you use was it bottled? If so spring water or distilled?
Turbo yeast probably not the best thing to use unless you are trying to make something that tastes pretty bad. Champagne yeast such as Lavin EC1118 is more what you want, and if you are going to try to restart you should actually have the yeast in a starter to hydrate an actually begin to ferment in the starter before you try to pitch and restart a stuck one.
Get back to me on this and we can probably figure it out.
Not sure of the specific gravity. I use a hydrometer when starting and from that should have had a 14% level of sugar. I started the recipe in a 35 gal trash can with a lid on it, so it could breath. I used Red star Pasteur Red yeast and the temp would have been outside in Pa. in July, so warm. I had a strong fermentation process for about two weeks but when I strained it and transfered the carboys inside my house it slowed down and stopped. I did use yeast nutrient and pectin enzime . And last i use mountain spring water, I have used the same water for years and have had great results. It is the same water we bottle to drink. It has a low ph.
Ok good info, since we know you started with a hydrometer and were figuring 14% we can tell where you were. As long as you measured we can assume you were not guessing which is nice! Also knowing where you are gives me some good info, I am also in PA but in Philadelphia not up in Strousburg which should be about 10-15F cooler than me, but warm enough I think for a solid ferm.
I think what happened is just a run of the mill stuck fermentation, probably from a bit too high of a sugar level in the beginning. It's always good to start lower and feed the fermentation using your hydrometer as a guide, adding at about 1.010 to raise it 0.010-0.015 to about 1.025 or less, it gives the yeast a better lifespan and prevents a lot of weird flavors etc.
Do me a favor and check specific grav on each carboy, it helps if we know how high it is at this point because we can calculate sugar content as it is now and move on from there. I think what we should consider is reinoculating with a higher alcohol tolerant yeast, and the way to do it is to use one package per 6 gal carboy. Rehydrate it in 2 cups of warm water with two tablespoons of corn sugar or regular if thats all you have, and 1/2 teaspoon of yeast nutrient. That's for each package. Warm meaning about 104F tops. Let this sit in a warm place (75F or so) for 24 hours or until it starts to actually ferment. Use EC1118 or its equivolent, it works in almost anything, is VERY tolerant of both sugar and alcohol, and should plow through what you have left. Also measure the actual temp of the wine and make sure it's about 70F or so. Much colder than 65 and it will scream to a halt again and I don't think we want that. If you need to use a heating pad or something like that to start the thing, once it's going I doubt it will stop as long as the temp is stable. It's getting pretty cold at night so if you are keeping it in a place that is not weather proof you might want to consider moving it inside. Temp is extreemly inportant if it's a stuck fermentation. I am absolutly confident the EC1118 will work, but if the temp is low try stabilizing it first and it may start chugging along on its own. Don't worry you will get the wine going again. The yeast starter will really help if you need to pitch again because it will be done growing and starting to ferment when you pitch, so it will start within a few hours.
Get back to me on the spec grav or if you dont have that scale the percent of potential alcohol.
Ok, never took a reading for specific gravity, but my hydrometer is reading 1012, if that makes sense, hope this helps. thanks so much for your help. I don't have any of the Ec 1118, all I have on hand is the champagne yeast. Let me know if I should get some.
1.012 means you still have sugar. If the temp is below 70 get a heating pad and warm it up, it may start on its own. EC1118 is a champagne region yeast so what you have should work. Actually it is most likely a temperature problem so check it and raise it to 70-75F and see what happens. On carboys I just use those cheap stick on fishtank flat thermometers but really sanitize and dunk whatever in there just check the temp, in a high alcohol wine it is critical.
If you raise the temp and nothing happens, try making a yeast starter with your yeast (2 cups water WARM 104F, yeast, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon nutrient) and use one package per carboy, make sure the temp is up above 70 and pitch in the yeast and give it a gentle stir. Also Let the starter sit in a warm place out of the light for 24 hours or more depending on temp until it starts to ferment in whatever containers you use to start it in, the idea is to have an active healthy fermenting yeast and stirring that into the wine.
By the way, you are measuring specific gravity when you use your hydrometer. Could you give me the recipe you used for this wine by the way?
4 lbs of crushed wild black rasp.
1 campden tab
1 tsp yeast nutrient
3.5 lbs of sugar
1 tsp of acid blend
multiplied this out and made thirty gallons
Soooo.... what's the temp, and what is happening now?
I was a little surprised you did not use any pectic enzyme, but I guess you can get away without it, just less extraction from the fruit. But the sugar. Unless your blackberries are totally devoid of sugar I can't imagine using 3.5 Lbs per gallon. 2.5 with a normal to low brix berry would normally give you a starting SG of around 1.090-1.095 which yields 13.5-14% potential alcohol. What I am afraid of is that you miscalculated and tried to make somewhere in the range or 17-18% alcohol. In the very best of conditions this would be very very very very very hard to attain a near dry ferment with that high of an alcohol level without oh, maybe a dozen different variables all coming together perfectly. That means a higher temp ferment, and an extremely stable temp as well. I hate to suggest this, and it totally depends on you, how much flavor is actually in the wine, and how much body you want in the wine IE a full bodied wine like say a borolo or claret or any strong red, or a med bodied wine like a beaujolais etc. If you truly want it dry, siphon off about 3L from each carboy, actually strike that. Siphon off a liter from each and top with water, DISTILLED water at this point as we do not want to add O2 at this point, distilled water has almost none. If you don't want to go distilled I think with your current SG you can get away with it as some C02 will be present in the wine already. Do this and taste, hope for a ferment restart, and if you are not taking too much away from the wine maybe make it 2 liters. Each 2 liters per 6 gallon carboy will reduce the mixture of alcohol to mimic a starting SG lower by 0.010. With the sugar it will lower that as well. I am worried about the flavor and body of the wine, so think it out first. You can save the wine you siphon off, and then use that for topping later or whatever.
Even better take one of the 6 gallon carboys and put it in six one gallon bottles and experiment with those. With lower alcohol the yeast will restart. It will eat the sugar, and ferment closer to dryness. Other than watering I am not sure you can do much except make some sweet wine. Double check your recipe for me please. Another option is to obtain some more rasberries, make some more wine using too little sugar IE about a pound and a half and pectic enzyme to extract more flavor and color, then use that to blend. Well, that and water.
Sorry, I hate to give you that kinda news. The thing is, it may be salvageable. Think about the water thing. And please get back to me about the temperature in the wine room and the actual temp of the wine, stick a floating thermometer in the thing.
I realized I was out of pectin enzime when I was making the recipe and where I live it is a major pain to get to a suppy place, about an hour or more. Anyway the clarity looks good,... as I am reworking any of this should I add some pectin enzime now?> The sugar is misleading, the recipe I gave you is the recipe I used, but when I am mixing in the sugar to the must I am checking it several times with the hydrometer until I get a reading of percentage of alcohol to be around 14%. That is the way I had been taught to determine the sugar level, never understood the specific gravity number. Anyway that is the way it started and I have done this method for probably 5 years now and always worked. The only difference is the larger quanity. The temp in the room is around 70 degrees and I will have to get a thermometer to measure the wine temp.
Ok sounds good. When you are measuring the alcohol to 14% you are measuring specific gravity, but there are a few different scales you can use. Specific gravity just means how dense it is. With more sugar it is a denser liquid so things float higher in it. You are not measuring alcohol level, you are measuring POTENTIAL alcohol, which means that if all goes well etc. The temp of the stuff is important when measuring with a hydrometer, usually they are calibrated to 70F. Colder is denser, warmer is less. Molecules bounce more etc.. So anyway you are actually taking a spec grav measurment, but it's an easier scale to read for me since there is more lines to get a more exact reading. Potential alcohol is inches and spec grav is centimeters sort of, know what I mean?
Ok so if we are right about the initial readings, you need to warm it up to maybe 75F, make sure there are no temp variations in the ferm area, use a blanket or whatever you need to keep it there. You might need to repitch the yeast, do the starter like I told you before, and be patient. I'm glad you didn't start it at 18% like I thought.
Ok I'll do the yeast starter and try that on a gallon that I have poured off the carboy, thanks again for the timely and detailed advice.
It has been some time since we spoke and wanted to give you an update. I thought I had this resolved but have run into a wall again.
I had some time around the holidays so I did some experimenting with this per your instructions.
Heres what happened:
moved the carboy to a spot near my woodstove where the temp maintained around 88 degrees. The area I had this in before was the laundry room where temps where around 65 degrees. Then I added a healthy yeast starter into a clean carboy and racked the wine into it. Within a day I had good activity and could actually see the tiny bubbles running the sides and the airlock bubbling. Was definately excited at this point so I started another one, same steps, and it worked. Now my wine was sweet and was also lacking a lttle in flavor(so I didn't want to dilute it as you had mentioned). I was able to get a big batch of additional frozen rasp berries from my sister, so I strained them and ended up with about 2 gallons of pure juice. I have 4 6.5 gallon carboys near full of this stalled wine, so I added the juice to each one, about 2 qts to each and restarted the remaining two carboys with a healthy yeast starter. Well the first two had stalled out again, even before I added the juice and still seem to be stalled. I checked the sg on those two and it has dropped to 1010, not much. There is still some activity, but very slight. Before the airlock would bubble about every two minutes, now it is about every 5-6 minutes, or more.
So that is the status, do you have any advice, Maybe things are ok and it will take some time. Let me know. thanks.
That is good activity for what is going on. The only way to really check to see what is up is take another hydrometer reading and see if it still going down. You may consider to add a little yeast nutrient, but other than that just take some time. I dunno about getting the wine up to 80 degrees but somewhere in the 70s would be good. Too high and you might end up with something weird. The fact that the sg is going down is a good sign tho. Sometimes fruit wines just take a while, they are tricky to deal with since you can't always measure all the factors. Give it a week, maybe add some nutrient disolved in water.. then measure sg and see if it is still headed in the right direction.
What is the ideal sg for a dry fruit wine?
Not sure there is any such thing. I usually try to get it to ferment as dry as it will go and sweeten it back to taste if needed. Also I like to age in the carboy for about 6 months racking every other.
Good news, its been a process, but I have successfully restarted the rasp. wine and it has finished out to be some of my best wine ever. The thing that did it was to dilute the original mix and then restart with a champagne yeast. So I am glad I didn't dump 30 gallons of wine. I have run into a new problem with one of this years batches. My strawberry is finishing out with a very strong chemical smell, something between fresh asphalt and nail polish remover. But once I pour out a glass and it sits for a minute the smell is gone and it tastes great. I tried airating it with my son's respirator machine and I haven't checked it for a few days. Any idea what happened and if there is a fix for it?
I have heard of that, I would just rack it one more time to drive off the odors.
sounds like too much suger between berries and adding suger i would say add water to reduce suger.
it happened to me and what got going again was heat after i bottled it i have shampain
Well the smell is Ethyl Acetate which can be caused by excess total acidity in the wine or may be caused by exposure to acetobactor via the air IE vinegar making bacteria. I posted earlier assuming that you had sufficient sulfite in the wine and assuming you do my posting about racking (splash) will work, but if you don't have enough sulfite in the wine that bacteria will keep going and you will have to dump the wine.
Not too sure what brad is talking about but it sounds like he bottled with residual sugar causing his wine to carbonate in the bottle, I am hoping he is using Champagne bottles because if he has that much pressure in a normal wine bottle he is going to have an explosion which could be very dangerous, so brad be careful wear a face shield and heavy gloves when you handle the rest of that wine and keep it somewhere that you and other people/pets etc will not be hurt if it just goes boom while sitting there.
Try starting more yeast in 1gal jug about half full sugar water then slowly over 1 or 2 days add your blackraspberry to it till 1 gal is going. after that you can use that gal to get 1 more going rememder 1 packet of yeast will work for up to 5 gal. remember to pull out enough wine so it dont foam over.