First, I will be focusing on Metabisulfite and Sorbate.
There are two types of metabisulfite that is used for the same purpose The two types are Potassium or Sodium metabisulfite. Some people call it K-Meta.
Metabisulfite is used for two main purposes in wine making:
- As a sanitizer: When metabisulfite is mixed with water in a high concentration, the water based solution becomes a great sanitizer. This sanitizer is used to sanitize all of your equipment and bottles, in essence anything that touches the wine.
- As an additive to wine: In a weaker concentration, it is added to wine at different stages. At the beginning of the wine making process, it may be added to kill unwanted wild yeasts and bacteria. At the end of a fermentation, it can be added to stop fermentation before clearing and bottling. It also acts to minimize the effects of oxygen on the wine.
Metabisulfite as a Sanitizing Solution
To make a good sanitizing solution, dissolve 2 oz metabisulfite powder for each gallon of clean water. Store this is a tightly sealed one gallon glass jug. The sanitizing solution can be reused over and over again and will last for about 2 months. The fumes of the metibisulfite sanitizing solution are intense, so make sure to keep the area that you are working in well ventilated. People who have asthma or other breathing conditions may find the fumes can trigger an asthmatic attack.
Sanitizing is not the same as cleansing. The process of getting your equipment ready to work with winemaking involves first cleansing with a cleanser and rinsing well. Then, sanitizing your equipment with the metabisulfite solution.
After I sanitize my equipment with the metabisulfite solution, I rinse it well. The exception is after fermentation is complete. When racking to a carboy for clearing, bulk aging, or when bottling, I use the solution to sanitize and I don’t rinse afterward. Instead, I leave the bottles or carboy upside down, and allow all excess solution to drain out. This will leave a thin film of the sulfite on the inner wall of the bottle or carboy. When filling with wine, the dried sulfite on the walls of the bottle react with the wine and become a sanitizing gas that aids in killing bacteria and assists in preventing oxidation.
Many people are concerned that this will add a lot of sulfites to the wine. Homemade wines made in this way have about a ¼ of the sulfites that commercial wines, yet still offer the protection that the sulfites proved against bacteria, re-fermentation, and oxidation.
Metabisulfite to Kill Wild Yeast and Bacteria
If you are NOT making wine from a kit and instead using a juice from fresh fruit, before putting your winemaking yeast into the wine, you may want to kill off the wild yeast and bacteria in your juice. For 6 gallons of wine, ¼ teaspoon of metabisulfite powder can be added and stirred in. After doing so, you will need to wait 24 hours to add your yeast. If you add the yeast too soon, the metabisulfite will kill they yeast you are adding.
To make things easier, metabisulfite is also sold in a tablet form, called Camden tablets. All you would need to do is crush one Camden tablet per gallon of wine. For example, you would crush 6 tablets for your standard 6 gallons of wine that will eventually fill a six gallon carboy.
This whole process of adding metabisulfite is often repeated after fermentation is complete, many times prior to de-gassing and clearing.
After your wine is finished and prior to bottling, Potassium Sorbate, also called wine stabilizer, is sometimes added reduce the possibility of re-fermentation. This is very important if you have a wine that is sweet in any way. If you don’t add sorbate, you run a great probability that the wine will re start fermenting while it is in the bottle. When this happens, the wine will get more gas, and in some cases the corks will shoot out with the added pressure being built up in the bottles. Since you will be storing your bottles on their sides, your wine will pour out all over the floor, and you will most definitely cry.
To prevent this nightmare, it is strongly recommended that you use Potassium Sorbate in any wine you are back sweetening or any wine that is still sweet after the fermentation is complete. In a nutshell, anything that is not completely dry, I would recommend the use of sorbate. You work hard to make your wine! To have to remove all of your wine from the bottles, de gas, sulfite, sorbate and rebottle is a lot of unnecessary work that could have been prevented if you used the sorbate in the first place.
Prior to bottling, add the sorbate to your wine by first dissolving it a cup of wine. After it is dissolved, add the cup to the rest of your wine and stir the mixture thoroughly. If the wine is sweet, I would recommend ½ teaspoon for each gallon of wine. If you choose to use it in a dry wine, you would use half that amount. Do not exceed ½ teaspoon per gallon of wine.
Now let's talk about Pectic Enzyme and Fining agents.
All fruit has pectin. Some fruits have much more than others. Apples or Black Berries, for instance are very high in Pectin. Pectin is desirable when making Jams and Jellies. It is what makes the jam thicken when sugar is added to it and cooked down. While pectin is desirable in making jam is not in making wine. Pectin can cause your wine to be cloudy.
This is where pectic enzyme comes in. I recommend Pectic Enzyme whenever you are making wine from fresh fruit. Pectic Enzyme is added to the juice prior to the beginning of fermentation. This will enhance the clarification process that will come later, when fermentation is complete. The pectic enzyme breaks down the pectin cells that can leave a wine with a permanent milky appearance that is also known as pectin haze.
To use pectic enzyme in your wine making, add an 1/8 teaspoon of pectic enzyme powder for each gallon of juice, before fermentation.
In this section, I will discuss some of the fining agents used in winemaking. Fining agents are used to help clarify the wine making it clear, without haze. I will be discussing Bentonite, Sparkolid, Chitosan, Isinglass, Kieselsol, Gelatin, Siligel, Liquigel, Egg Whites, etc. For each of these, clearing takes about two weeks.
Bentonite is a type of clay. As a clarifier, it is used to remove fine, undesirable particles from a finished wine. It works because Bentonite is negatively charged. Like a magnet, it attracts the positively charged particles that are suspended in the wine. These particles stick to the Bentonite, and then the Bentonite sinks to the bottom of the carboy. You can then transfer the wine out of the carboy into another carboy, being careful not to transfer the sediment with the Bentonite.
When using Bentonite, many people who make wine from juices and fresh fruit use it after fermentation. Many kit wines, however, use it on the first day of fermentation. In fact, every wine I have made from kits use it on the first day. They reason for this is very interesting.
From what I understand, when adding the Bentonite on the first day, most of it will be suspended in the wine for a few hours, then settle to the bottom of the juice. When the yeast starts to get active in the fermentation process, the juice will circulate the Bentonite back into the wine, as the CO2 is being produced in the fermentation. Some call this active fermentation boiling, as the juice starts bubbling. So, in a nutshell, the yeast’s activities will re-circulate the Bentonite over and over again…
When using Bentonite, it is important to mix it very well into a slurry. You want it to be finely mixed throughout the liquid, not just clump on the bottom.
Chitosan, Isinglass and Kieselsol
Most fining agents stick to particles in the wine, and then sink to the bottom. You would then transfer the wine off of the sediment, leaving behind the sediment that contains the fining agent and the particles that it removed. The process of transferring the wine is called “Racking”.
Chitosan is a shellfish derivative. It is a very popular fining agent these days... Many of the largest manufacture of wine kits, uses Chitosan for their red wines and Isinglass for their white wines. Isinglass acts in a similar way to Chitosan, but is a bit gentler on the wine.
Some companies use a two part fining mixture with Chitosan and Kieselsol. The Kieselsol is added first and stirred thoroughly with the wine. Like Bentonite, it attracts the particles in the wine to it using opposite charges, like magnets. Then, the Chitosan is added to the wine, where it binds to the Kieselsol, and sinks to the bottom.
Sparkoloid is a clearing agent that I have had some great success with. All you do is dissolve a tablespoon of Sparkoloid powder with a cup of boiling water. Stir well and make sure it is complete dissolved. Let it cool, and then stir it into your wine.
Siligel and Liquigel
Some kits come with these for clearing agents. Siligel is the same this is Kieselsol. Liquigel is Gelatin. You use these the same way you would use the Chitosan and Kieselsol. You put the Kieselsol in the wine first, stir very well, then add the Liquigel (Gelatin ). Like with the Chitosan/Kiesolsol method, the order you put the clearing agents in is very important.
Some folks use egg whites for fining. Using egg whites will also remove some tannins. The dosage is ½ an egg white for 5-6 gallons with a pinch of salt. I, personally don’t use egg whites for fining. I can’t tell you how effective egg whites are for fining, but it does make a great breakfast.
Clearing without any of these agents…
Your wine will clear on its own without any of these things. It will take much longer, though. You can let it sit, carefully racking off the sediment, over and over again for a long period of time. Keeping the wine cool during this process will aid in clarification, as well.
Also most wines, with the exception of wine grapes will need yeast nutrient or energizer and acid blend - make sure you have a sound recipe to get good results