As I’m sure most of you saw already, I’ve been kind of in a panic for the last few days. You see, this past weekend I started a new batch of strawberry wine using a very delicious recipe that I concocted last summer. What I did differently this time was that instead of pasteurizing the fresh strawberries I crushed them, added the water and sugar, and then added ¼ teaspoon of sodium metabisulfite to kill off all the wild yeasts and bacteria living on the berries.
In theory, there should be absolutely no problems with this method. The addition of the sodium metabisulfite creates sulfur dioxide gas in solution in the must. This gas then will kill off almost everything alive in that must; be it yeast, bacteria, mold, or amoeba, it’s going to die. Then, over the course of the next 12-24 hours or so depending on the temperature of the must, the gas will diffuse to the surface and out of solution, leaving it safe for you to add your desired yeast culture (in my case, Lalvin EC-1118 champagne yeast).
So, once I had waited overnight after adding the kill solution (added it on Sunday) I added in two packets of yeast, stirred it into the must and punched down the fruit at the same time. You see, when making yeast from whole/crushed fruits you have to stir the fruit that rises to the top back into solution every day until you rack it off. This keeps the fruit from getting dried or moldy, as well as giving the yeast more opportunity to extract sugars from them. After I did that, I re-sealed the bucket, marked the top of it with the batch information on a piece of duct tape, and left it alone.
That was Monday evening.
Tuesday morning as I was leaving the house for work I went up to check on the progress of the batch. There were no bubbles from the airlock. Remember what I posted yesterday about the importance of NOT panicking? The first thing I did was to start panicking. I was freaking out about whether or not I had killed the yeast. Was I going to have to go get more at the LHBS (Local HomeBrew Store)? Would there be the risk of an infection? Was fermentation just off to a slow start and I was panicking unnecessarily?
All of these thoughts and more rushed through my head over the course of the day. I’m sure those of you who read Tuesday’s post were aware of just how much I was freaked out. Even worse than that, I didn’t actually DO anything about it until Yesterday evening! Fortunately, upon opening the bucket and punching down the fruit, I saw and smelled the wonderful signs of a healthy yeast colony. This greatly eased my mind. Even more so than that, once I re-sealed the batch the fermentation lock began bubbling away happily, and still was this morning.
So what’s the moral of this story? It’s simple, really. Whether you’re a brewer or vintner, always take the time to be sure that you really HAVE killed your yeast if you suspect that you might have. It’s not going to do you a lick of good to worry when a simple check of your specific gravity can tell you whether or not your batch is fermenting.
Or, in my case, if a loose bucket lid is letting the CO2 escape so as to not make the airlock bubble.
Here’s hoping your next brewventure goes at least a bit more smoothly than mine. And a protip: When in doubt, RDWHAHB. Relax, Don’t Worry, Have A Home Brew!