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Thread: To Rack Or Not

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Lee Center, NY
    Posts
    150

    Default To Rack Or Not

    I had a friend stop by the other day who makes home made wine and we got to chatting about how we did things. He noticed my carboys all had a layer of sediment in the bottom and asked when I racked them off last. I told him I don't rack the wine until it has cleared and then I rack off into a new carboy for several weeks before bottling to avoid some of the deep sediment in the original carboy from being sucked up by the bottling siphon.

    Well that did it for him and he launched into his version of how I should be doing it. He said I need to do my first racking 7 to 10 days after the batch was started and then every thirty days until it was clear enough to bottle. He claims it is the best way to produce a good tasting crystal clear wine.

    All the time I thought I was doing just fine, so how do others do this? Do I need to mend my wine making ways? :confused:

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Lyons, CO
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    3,046

    Default

    You're doing it just fine. Racking does a few things. It removes the wine from the accumulating sediment (lees), it oxygenates the wine, and dissipates dissolved gases. And of course it helps you reduce the remaining volume of finished product. If you're a by-the-book winemaker who enthusiastically sulfites, then certainly one has to rack that frequently to drive off the sulfites (which protect the wine from the racking's oxidation). But with careful attention to racking technique to avoid splashing, sulfiting is largely a matter of preference for the home winemaker after must preparation is over. Oxygenation is actually pretty harmful for wines/meads that haven't been sulfited except in small quantities.

    And as for clarity, racking does NOTHING. Read that again. Once sediment has precipitated out, whether it's yeast or tannins or pectins or what have you, it does not magically leap back into solution when you miss a racking date . There may be some technical minor benefit to aeration and precipitation of tannins, but technique and time do so much more that racking's contribution is not significant. Are your meads and wines clear? You've answered his question.

    Some yeast, breaking down over long times, lends an autolysis flavor to the finished product. This may be why some winers are so frantic to remove the wine from the lees, but that same character can be a benefit and important aspect of the finished character to a mead or wine. But think about it: let's consider a full-bodied tannic red wine that needs three years to mature. If racked every thirty days, even a large volume batch would be drastically diminished by the time its barrel-conditioning would be complete, nevermind the damage from over-sulfiting to protect from the repeated aeration.

    Sorry but this pedantic, stodgy traditionalism is I think one of the reason people steer away from home wine and meadmaking. There's more'n one way to skin a cat, and more than one way to make high-quality mead and "whine" at home .
    Bees, brews and fun
    in Lyons, CO

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Lee Center, NY
    Posts
    150

    Default

    Thanks for the response. Nope no sulfite's here.... I just make up my batch in the carboy and let it ferment until I see only one or two bubbles floating to the top and then I rack it one time before bottling. Seems to work for me but then again I don't get to fancy, just 2 gallons of honey added to either 4 gallons of water or some wally world juice and a packet of EC1118.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Perkasie, PA
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    1,998

    Default

    Ben is spot-on. Racking does little for clarity and some flavors imparted by yeast autolysis are desirable.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Knoxville, TN
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    1,933

    Default

    With just honey and wally juice, its hard to imagine much sediment at all.

  6. #6

    Default

    The important thing to recognize is that you are making a fine point and sharing time with another brewer. Having such passionate discussions is what we do when together. This is a much better thing to be talking about then all the physicists at the particle beam thingamabob in switzerland. They can't drink...

    I have left some in primary for years

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Lyons, CO
    Posts
    3,046

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    Hey now, let's not lose sight of the importance of the hadron collider. Without the gravity that the Higgs boson lends to our mead, we wouldn't be able to pour it into glasses. Drinking mead from a squeeze tube just wouldn't have the same cachet .
    Bees, brews and fun
    in Lyons, CO

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Port Orange, Florida, USA
    Posts
    218

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    I rack out of the primary after 2-3 weeks when the main fermentation has slowed to get the mead off of any fruit or yeast sediment. Then I'll let it sit in a glass carboy for about 2 months, rack again and let it sit till clear. I use sulfites to shut the yeast down after 3-4 months and bottle when clear. I have also needed to use pectine enzyme to clear haze with.

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