If you’re at all familiar with home wine making, one of the final steps is degassing the wine. It can also be the most labour intensive steps in the whole process from kit-to-bottle.
Degassing is a pretty straight forward concept. While the yeast is doing its thing, converting sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide (or CO2), some of the CO2 dissolves in the liquid. To end up with a nice looking and tasting end product you must remove as much of this dissolved gas the wine. If it isn’t, then you will end up with wine that feels a little fizzy on the tongue. That’s not a good thing, unless your intent is to make a sparkling wine. It can also inhibit the clearing of the wine which may not have an adverse effect on the taste, but the wine may look a little cloudy in your glass, which may not be all that appetizing.
The kit instructions say to dissolve two packets of included additives in water and add them to the carboy, then stir vigorously for a few minutes. I did that. Then I did it some more, figuring it can’t hurt to agitate it a little more. Then the instructions tell you to add the clearing agent, and stir for another two minutes. I did that too. I kept at it for another few minutes for good measure. You are then instructed to take a sample and put it in a test jar, cover tightly with your hand, and shake the jar like hell (it didn’t actually say shake it like hell, but you get the idea). If you get a “puff” of escaping gas when you remove your hand, you have more degassing to do.
All this stirring can get tiring. Fortunately I was using a drill mounted stirring tool called a Wine Whip. It works really well for stirring and degassing. All you have to do is put the wine whip in the drill chuck and pull the drill trigger. The hardest part about this is to control the drill speed so you don’t end up with wine sloshing out the top of the carboy.
After another 10 minutes or so, I take a sample for the “puff” test. Failed. Back to stirring for another 10. Failed the test again. And Again. “What the hell!???!” I think, since I had absolutely ZERO trouble degassing my last (and also my first) kit. I ended up killing both my cordless drill batteries doing this. I had to switch to my corded drill. I spent close to an hour just stirring away, taking test samples, and repeating over and over. It was too late to call the store to ask any questions, so I called it a night and phoned the next day. I was also monitoring the temperature, since cooler liquids can dissolve more gas and are more reluctant to release it.
As it turns out, I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I just had a hard time degassing. Some friends told me they had degassed over the period of a couple days, so I just took my time. I went back for the next two nights stirring and testing. I also decided to taste small samples to see if I could detect the fizz. I definitely could earlier on, but once I could no longer feel any fizz I decided to stop my efforts and let the wine settle over the next two weeks before bottling.