How to Rack Your Wine

There is often confusion around “what is” and “what isn’t” racking.  Racking “is” the process by which you move wine must from one carboy to another in order to leave the sediment behind.  The sole purpose of racking is “to leave the sediment behind.”

Racking is necessary because the solids that settle out of the wine during the fermentation process are dead/inactive yeast cells. As generations of cells continue to die off the active yeast begins to run out of food (sugar).  Once that happens the active yeast begins to feed on the dead cells.  In order to consume the dead cells the active cells begin to produce and enzyme to aid in that consumption.  This process is known at autolysis and can ruin a wine’s flavor if allowed to carry on.  Following through with racking on a strict schedule is important and will also help the clarification process.

Throughout the home wine making process, racking should be performed 2-4 times.  The first scheduled racking should occur 5-7 days after fermentation begins.  The second racking should occur approximately 4-5 weeks after the first (depending on how fast sediment develops).  The third and fourth racking*, prior to bottling your wine, should occur when more sediment has developed and once the wine has cleared up.

Items for Racking:

  1. Food grade hosing (siphon, with or without clamp)
  2. Secondary Carboy

Racking Instructions:

  1. Sanitize Carboy
  2. Sanitize siphon tube with Sodium Bisulphite sanitizing solution or by submerging (for 15-20 sec) in water that has been brought to a rolling boil; remove siphon tube with clean tongs or other clean instrument and place on a clean towel to air dry
  3. Place your secondary Carboy side-by-side underneath the primary carboy
  4. Place one end of the siphon tube in the primary carboy being careful to keep the tube from touching the bottom of the carboy
  5. Suck from the other end of the tube to start the flow of wine (Feel free to practice this step with water beforehand)
  6. Place the other end of the siphon tube into the secondary carboy
  7. Let the wine flow into the secondary carboy until the primary carboy is only left with sediment
  8. Place the air-lock on the secondary carboy and follow your racking schedule

*It is possible to rack your wine too many times.  Thus, more racking is not better.  The negatives of too much racking is over oxidation and the deterioration of the wine’s flavor.

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