how to make homemade wine

Racking and Clarification Tips:

Racking is an Essential Step in How to Make Wine.  Here is What you Should Know about Racking:

  • The process of racking (in its simplest interpretation) is meant to separate the sediments that accumulate at the bottom of your wine container from the wine blend fluid. You will be siphoning off the liquid into a new container so that the sediments stay behind in the old container.

how to make homemade wine racking 1

  • You do the first racking within five days up to seven days during the fermentation process. Racking is important at this time because you have to siphon off your wine blend liquid into a completely air-tight container to keep the wine blend from being contaminated as the fermentation process slows down significantly. This is a crucial step when learning how to make homemade wine.
  • Racking during this five- to seven-day period allows the wine blend to be freed from majority of the sediments in the blend through siphoning. Up to 80% of the sediments are left behind in the old container through this first racking, meaning the timing is perfect at this point for removing these bulk sediments.
  • If you have been using fresh fruit in your wine blend, racking at this stage will also help you eliminate the pulp within the blend. The pulp may cause your wine to taste too strong if you leave it within the wine blend without racking and too bland if you remove the pulp too early.
  • The second racking is necessary to undertake when all fermentation has been done with. You may do your second racking somewhere between a few days after completion of the initial racking, or around four to five weeks after that initial racking period ended, depending on the pace of the actual fermentation itself.
  • The third racking can be done once the wine blend has finished clearing up, and is often the last racking phase your wine blend has to undergo. At this stage, the remaining 20% to 30% of the sediments have formed and you have to rack to separate the liquid from these sediments.
  • You might need to do other rackings, depending on the situation of your wine blend. Sediments crop up because the wine blend may have inherent instabilities which may result in new sediments as the wine blend is put away for long-term storage (such as storage for months at a time.)
  • Rackings may also be necessary if your wine blend has had clarifiers or finings added to the mixture. In this case, you need to conduct a racking one time before your wine blend is treated, and then again after the results of adding clarifiers or finings has been finished.
  • Some people make the mistake of conducting one too many rackings in their eagerness. The reason too many rackings is bad is because your wine blend needs to “rest” for some periods of time so too many rackings can over-oxidize the wine blend and later affect the wine flavor.
  • The sediments you want to sieve away from the liquid of your wine blend are actually made up of dead yeast cells that have done their part in helping your wine blend ferment. There will also be components of the fresh fruit you used among these sediments, mixed with the dead yeast cells.
  • When these yeast cells were first placed within the wine blend towards the start of your wine making process, the yeast started to multiply significantly. Yeast cells may increase to up to 200 times the original yeast amount that was added to the wine blend before dying and sinking to the bottom of your resting wine blend.
  • You have to remove these accumulated dead yeast cells that have become sediments because you want to avoid ruining your wine. The live yeast cells that have remained within your wine blend prior to racking will start cannibalization of the dead yeast cells because the sugar they feed on has been depleted.
  • To do cannibalization, the live yeast cells will automatically churn out the appropriate enzyme to “eat” or cannibalize the sediments. By breaking down the dead yeast cells into their component nutrients with this enzyme to eat the nutrients, your live yeast cells will effectively ruin the quality of your wine.
  • Within weeks, if you permit the live yeast cells to keep on breaking down the dead yeast cells to serve as the food of live yeast cells, your wine will taste pretty bad. The taste may be bitter, rubbery, and perhaps even metallic depending on how effectively the live yeast cells have done their job.
  • A more obvious reason for having to do rackings is to clear up the wine blend itself so that it looks better and flows better when poured. Without rackings, your wine blend would appear clear only near the top while the rest of the wine blend would look thick down to the bottom.
  • You might be surprised how thick the sludgy sediments can get – a five gallon jug of wine blend can have as much as five inches of hazy sediments observable lying at the bottom of the container. Aside from this hazy part, your wine blend could also have more sludge sunk at the bottom.
  • To do racking right, you need to be able to siphon off the clear liquid without stirring up the bottom sediments using a food-grade length of hose. If you stir up the sediments accidentally, the particles get sucked into the hose you are using as well which defeats the purpose.
  • Your food-grade siphon ought to have a clear plastic Racking Tube attached to its end so that you can direct your hose where needed within the container. Otherwise, your hose becomes unwieldy and you will probably dredge up a lot of sediment and sludge along with the liquid being racked.
  • Another more convenient tool you can use is the Automatic Siphon. This Automatic Siphon makes getting the liquid only out in a much more effective manner because it acts like a Racking Tube and a priming pump in one step – just use it like a bicycle pump to begin the siphoning process.
  • Bear in mind that when you do your initial two to three rackings, there may be some acceptable amount of sediments that are dragged into your siphon hose as well. It is during the final racking that you have to be sure no sediment will be dragged along and affect the final wine quality.
  • Once your racking has been done on a wine blend which has finished the fermentation cycle, you may then add a 50% dosage of Sodium Bisulfite or Campden Tablets. These will rely on sulfite gases to remove oxygen that went into the wine as racking proceeded and cuts down on wine oxidation.
  • But when fermentation is progressing, the carbon dioxide caused by fermentation itself will remove the oxygen in the wine blend automatically. This means you need not worry about adding Sodium Bisulfite or Campden Tablets while fermentation is at work, and should absolutely refrain from adding any of these products during fermentation at any cost.

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