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Racking the Strawberry

Having given the Strawberry another 11 days after it seemed to have got to the edge of its target gravity, I decided it was time to wrack it to the secondary demijohn. Like the Merlot, I decided to take a gravity reading anyway, which was again easiest from a picture:
Strawberry Final Gravity

The gravity was really hard to read, but it definitely wasn’t any lower than the 1.008 I had measured last time.

Day Time per bubble (secs) Gravity
0 infinite  
1 8  
3 4 1062
6 1.5  
12 50  
19 103 (after hydrometer reading) 1.008
30 103 (after hydrometer reading) 1.008

In fact, I even thought the gravity might be 1.009, so I’m not sure if that suggests a misread last time, or perhaps the gravity has dropped with the clearing of the wine. Speaking of which, the wine was already very clear, and was noticeably lighter in colour than the Merlot, which was a very dark red.

Anyway, onto the racking. I had sterilized the demijohn that had previously contained the Merlot, as well as the tubing, a grommit and an airlock. I placed the wine on the side in the kitchen, and positioned the empty demijohn in the washing up bowl on the floor. (I actually placed the washing up bowl on top of my wine making tool box so that the tubing would reach to the bottom of the demijohn.) I again sinned by sucking to get the wine going, and away it went, again without so much as a sip of win for me. 😦 As it got near the end, I very gently tipped the demijohn in order to get a little more of the clear wine off the top of the sediment.

Wracked Strawberry

I tried to pour a little of the remaining wine from the nearly empty demijohn into a glass to taste, but as soon as I moved the demijohn the sediment mixed with the clear wine to turn it very sludgy. I was impressed at just how much the wine had cleared, and how well the stiff tubing had taken the wine from above the sediment without disturbing it.

The instructions suggested mixing the stabiliser with a couple of tablespoons of water and then adding it to the primary demijohn. As I was wracking to a secondary to remove much of the sediment, I actually added the stabiliser into the empty demijohn before wracking the wine into it. As instructed, I then added the Strawberry flavouring to the wine. This took the form of a small clear sachet containing a surprisingly small amount of red liquid. Unlike with the Merlot, the instructions then told me to add the finings straight away, before shaking the demijohn vigorously for a few minutes. I must then shake it on at least 6 occasions over the next 24 hours, before leaving it a few weeks to clear. I wondered whether the difference between this and the Merlot (where I hat to add just the stabiliser and shake the contents regularly over 3 days before adding the finings and then leaving to clear) was a genuine difference, or just lazier instructions given with a cheaper kit where it wouldn’t make much difference, and might be being made by a less professional brewer.

I found after a few minutes of shaking, the wine stopped fizzing when I removed my thumb.
shaken Strawberry Wine

I replaced the airlock and placed the demijohn back in the brewery, with the intention of shaking it a few times over the next 24 hours.

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I decided the time had finally come to rack the Merlot – the first home brewed wine I had tried. I decided to take a hydrometer reading, even though I expected to see little or no movement and would wrack it anyway. I took a picture for future reference:

Merlot Reading

It was hard to get a reading as I couldn’t see through the glass clearly, and the opening of the demijohn was very tight. Zooming in on the photograph was actually the best way of deciding on a reading. I put it down as 0.995.

Day Time per bubble (secs) Gravity
0 infinite 1.078
3 2
5 9
9 15
12 18
15 30
21 55 1.000
24 infinite (after hydrometer reading) 0.998
27 infinite 0.997
34 infinite 0.996
44 infinite 0.995

As I said, I was determined to wrack it anyway. Its had a long time in primary now and I don’t think the gravity is going anywhere now.

Having sanitised some tubing, a gromit and an airlock, I placed the full demijohn on the work surface, and a freshly sanitised demijohn on the floor in the washing up bowl (to catch any spillage). I had a couple of different bits of tubing, with and without taps, but having had a bit of a play with syphoning earlier I decided that I couldn’t find a way of starting the syphon without sucking anyway, so I went for a basic tube connected to a stiff tube with a hole a couple of centimetres from the bottom. This stiff tube goes into the full demijohn and the hole allows the clear wine to be syphoned off while leaving the sediment at the bottom.

The instructions actually didn’t mention transferring to a secondary container, but given the next steps were to help with clearing the wine, it seemed sensible to rack it at this point. I committed the sin of starting the syphoning by sucking, and quickly putting the end into the demijohn. It worked perfectly, sadly so well I didn’t even get a taste of the wine. The only problem I found was that I left a little more wine in the original demijohn than I wanted, but after a second attempt to collect a little more failed, I decided I would rather lose a glass of wine than ruin all the wine so left it alone.

Returning to the instructions, I poured the contents of the sachet labelled Stabiliser into the demijohn, placed the sanitised grommit in the opening, and with my cleaned thumb over the opening I shook the bottle for several minutes to release the co2. Whenever I removed my thumb, there was a strong hiss of co2 escaping, so I continued shaking until no fizz occurred. I then placed the airlock into the grommit.

Wracked Merlot

I will repeat the shaking several times a day for the next 3 or 4 days as instructed before adding the ingredients that make up the finings.

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