Wine is Not Fermenting

So you're a wine maker. Maybe you've just received some of our wine making equipment or one of our wine making kits, maybe you're making wine with your own wine ingredients; fruit concentrates or grapes. This time however, there seems to be a problem. You’ve given the yeast a chance to start, and yet you still see nothing. At this point, this isn’t a cause for concern because there are many things that can help get the fermentation process get started. Some options are very simple, while others can take some time.

It's best to follow these ideas in the order that they are written here so that you do not cause your wine problems by skipping steps.

Troubleshooting Wine With No Fermentation After 72 Hours:

  1. Move the wine to a warmer area to see if the yeast doesn’t kick in. Give it 24 hours before you move on to the next step.
  2. Create a yeast starter. To do this you need a packet of wine yeast, some juice from the fermenter, table sugar, and a glass. Make sure that the glass is sanitized. Add 16 oz. of the juice (2 cups), 1 tablespoon of table sugar, and the yeast to your glass. In roughly 15 minutes to an hour you should notice foam forming on top of the glass. This lets you know that the yeast is active and ready to go. Just pour the active yeast into your fermenter. DO NOT stir the yeast in. Note: If you added your yeast and metabisulphite into your fermenter at the same time, that is the cause of your problem. Metabisulphite needs to be added 24 hours prior to the yeast addition. Then add your yeast to the fermenter, but do not stir it in. Potassium metabisulfite kills bacteria, but it also kills yeast.
  3. If all else fails you can do what we refer to as a reverse starter. How this works is you start with a normal yeast starter, like the directions above. But instead of pouring the yeast starter into the fermenter, you add a little bit of the juice, or must, to the starter instead. So, you essentially need another fermenter to be able to do this. Start by making the yeast starter. Once that gets going, pour that and another 16 oz. of juice into a fermenter. Let that start fermenting. Then continue to add a ½ gallon to a gallon of juice at a time until the whole batch is fermenting. Be careful to pay attention to the amount of juice added at one time, because you are trying to overpower whatever is causing the yeast not to start. By adding a little juice at a time and letting that start to ferment, you are overcoming the issue.

Note: The reverse starter is a last effort to get the wine to ferment. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the wine will start to ferment before having to move on to this step. If you try this and nothing happens there is nothing else that can be done. Something major is causing the yeast to not start. This is usually due to large amounts of metabisulphite being in the juice.

Keep in mind that most issues are either due to too much acidity, or too much metabisulphite in the juice. Most times these issues can be overcome, but on very rare occasions you cannot get the yeast to start. When buying juice from the store, make sure the packaging doesn’t say that it contains anything along the lines of metabisulphite, benzoate, or sorbate. All three of these ingredients will cause you fermentation issues.

For more information on How to Make Wine check out the rest of our Bottle Knowledge archive.

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