Go to grapestompers home page

grapestompers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adding Water to Wine Kits - What Type of Water Should You Use?

Why We Add Water to Wine Kits | Types of Water | Conclusion

Does It Really Matter?
If you've ever made wine from a grape concentrate kit before, you know that you must add a bit of water - the actual amount to add varies from kit to kit - before you can pitch the yeast and start making wine. It is necessary to add water to the juice concentrate because you must reconstitute (or replace) the water that was lost during the evaporation process* at the manufacturer.

grapestompers.com believes the type of water added to your wine kit can have a huge impact on the finished product. Using the wrong kind of water can adversely affect the taste of your wine, so we'd like to offer our opinion of the types of water to avoid.

My Own Experience
Growing up on the family farm in the mountains of North Carolina certainly had its advantages... among them, the access to lots of cool, clear spring water. I must have taken the quality of our water for granted - that is, until I moved away from home to the "big city". One sip of that city water, and my first reaction was "Yuck!"

My second thought was even darker: Would I be able to make good wine with this awful tasting stuff? Luckily, through research and trial and error, I worked out a solution to my "city water" dilemma, and thought I'd pass along what I've learned.

Types of Water
What follows is a short list of the most common types of water available to the home winemaker. We'll discuss each one in turn in the following paragraphs:

  • Tap water (city, or municipal water)
  • Well water
  • Distilled water
  • Bottled or purified (non-distilled) water
  • Spring water

Tap Water
We'll define tap water as potable "city water" that is delivered to your faucet by your local municipality. Typically, tap water is chlorinated to keep bacteria levels down. Ironically, the very thing (chloride ion) that protects the water from carrying disease-causing germs can actually ruin your wine, or at least affect the taste. The point is, if you can smell or taste chlorine in a glass of lukewarm tap water, then you'll also smell or taste it in your wine. If that's the case, you'll want to filter (or boil) the water to remove the chlorine** or find a substitute water for winemaking.

Activated charcoal filters offer an easy way to remove chlorine and particulates (colored and aromatic components) and sediment from tap water; just be sure to change filters regularly, so bacteria doesn't have a chance to grow in the cartridge. Some folks recommend using an activated charcoal filter impregnated with silver so that the bacteria and fluoride is removed from the water at the same time. The silver-impregnated filters should be changed often too.

Outside of filtering, boiling tap water will also remove the chlorine (but not chloramines**, see below), since the free chlorine is removed during the boiling process - just remember to let the water cool before using it to avoid burning yourself or breaking your favorite glass vessel.

Well Water
Well water (water drawn from a deep hole dug into the ground), especially water from private wells, contains all sorts of potential contaminants and trace minerals. The most common bandits found in well water that can hurt your wine are bacteria, iron and other hard minerals. To know for sure what trace elements are in your well water, you should get the water tested so you may take any appropriate action.

If you want to use well water to make wine, we'd first recommend the use of an activated charcoal filter to remove most of the particulates (colored and aromatic components). Bacteria can be removed by using the silver-impregnated version of the activated charcoal filter described above.

To combat the hardness of well water, many families employ the use of water softening systems. These systems "soften" the water by replacing the ions that cause hardness with sodium ions. The result is a water that is extremely high in sodium ions, which is probably high enough to negatively affect the flavor of your wine.

If you have a water softening system installed on your source of water, you may be able to avoid the sodium problem... look closely, and you should be able to find a spigot that allows you to bypass the system and get water straight from the well. If so, draw off some of this water and mix it with some distilled water (see description below) to lessen the hardness effect.

Distilled Water
Distilled water is water from which all the minerals have been removed, either by a distillation or reverse osmosis process. We don't recommend using distilled water alone when reconstituting your concentrated grape juice, because the wine yeast depends upon a small amount of minerals for "food" in order to live and convert the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.

If you choose to use distilled water when making wine from a kit, we recommend adding a little yeast nutrient to ensure the yeast can get a good start.

Bottled Water
We'll define bottled water as water that has been purified, but is not distilled. This type of water is good for making wine, but not as good as spring water. It is generally more expensive to buy than spring water.

Spring Water
To us, you can't get a better source of water for making wine than pure spring water. It has just enough trace minerals to give yeast the food it needs to thrive, and no chlorine, fluoride, or other contaminants to give an "off" taste.

Spring water that is purchased in a grocery store has been tested for purity, and is a lot less expensive to buy than the designer bottled waters. Be careful when buying spring water, though... in many cases, what is called "spring water" is merely someone else's tap water masquerading as something "pure and natural". The problem is, there is no standard for defining spring water, so you should read the packaging carefully. Look on the label for the source of the water, and if it has been treated. If it has been ozonated, you're good to go.

As another alternative to tap water, Dave Burley (longtime winemaker and contributor to the Stomper newsletter; see his info below) recommends using the low-sodium water used by cardiac patients because it is low in minerals and low in taste.

Conclusion
Fresh spring water from the source, due to its purity and scant amount of trace elements, is the best water to use when making wine from a kit; apart from that, bottled spring water, low-sodium or bottled (not distilled) water from the grocery store is your next best bet.

In a pinch, tap or well water may be used with success, provided activated charcoal filters are used (or other methods such as boiling are employed to remove the chlorine) and any water softening systems are bypassed.

Therefore, grapestompers.com recommends using spring or ozonated water for making homemade wine from grape concentrate.

Resources
Our thanks to Dave Burley for his help with this article. Dave has been making wine since 1960 (he's won several awards) and enjoys digging into the more technical aspects of winemaking. Currently, Dave is in South Carolina studying Pierce's Disease (a disease affecting grapes that are indigenous to this area), where he is beginning a program of grape breeding for P.D. resistant grapes from local grapes. Good luck, Dave!

 

*The evaporation process usually involves removing water from pure varietal grape juice through the use of vacuum (not boiling!) technology. The main reason manufacturers of grape juice concentrate evaporate excess water from pure varietal grape juice is simple - less water means the grape juice takes up less space and weight and is easier (and thus less expensive) to ship. Back to top

**Many municipalities chlorinate their water with chloramines, which are not removed by simple boiling. Just filter with activated charcoal, and treat with 10 PPM sulfites to negate the chloramines. To be sure, we recommend calling your city water plant to see if your water is treated with chlorine or chloramines. Back to top

 

[ Back to Winemaking Articles | grapestompers home page ]