Champagne Yeast Fermentation Time

Making champagne is a delicate art that has been crafted over hundreds of years. While we can say that wine can be made relatively effortlessly, champagne is a whole different ball game —- or wine game as it were. Still, once you understand the logistics and what is expected, you’ll get the hang of the process. Then, you can make your own amazing brand of champagne. One of the elements of those logistics is champagne yeast fermentation time.

Also read: Champagne Yeast Fermentation Temperature

Champagne Yeast

It is important to note that while wine can be made with virtually any yeast, champagne is in its own category, and therefore must ferment with a special yeast.

Why?

Well, the truth is that champagne was a happy accident.

Wine has been around for thousands of years, and will actually make itself if you let it.

All that is required is crushed grapes and yeast.

Truly.

Test Your Yeast

 

In fact, many anthropologists believe that animals in the wild have been drinking wine since long before humans even came onto the scene. They would simply wait around for fruit to grow ripe and then drink the fermented juices to get inebriated. Some animals even collect palm sap and leave it out to ferment for several days, essentially making their own wine.

That’s how simple the winemaking process can be.

Of course, great wines with complex flavors and rich textures are crafted with consideration given to terroir, select grapes, particular yeast, and more.

But at its most basic, wine is nature’s little miracle.

It has been perfected over time, but the basic elements remain the same.

Wine

Grow grapes and harvest them at their fullest and ripest. Crush those grapes and allow them to sit on their skins and seeds if you want red wine. If you want white, remove the skins and seeds immediately. A nice rose would fall somewhere in between the two.

Then, filter out the skins and seeds (if you still have them in the juice) and allow wild, local yeasts to become naturally attracted to the sweetness in your grape juice. Indeed, it is highly likely that those grapes came with plenty of their own yeast already on the skins.

Barring waiting for local yeast to naturally ferment, you can select a commercially produced yeast or cultivate your own and add it to the grape juice (or must) at this point in the process.

Now, you can close the fermentation vessel to fully deprive the must of oxygen and the yeast cells will consume the sugars in the grape juice and convert those sugars to alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Champagne

Champagne, however, is a much more complex and complicated process. The biggest difference between champagne and still wine is the bubbles. Why isn’t all bubbly, or sparkling wine, called champagne then?

Well, because only sparkling wine that comes from Champagne can be called champagne, legally. Fortunately, that doesn’t have to stop you from using champagne yeast to make your own sparkling wine or even to ferment beer.

It is important to note here that all wine begins as bubbly. After all, yeast will convert all sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide. But most wines are exposed to the air and then bottled, allowing the bubbles to evaporate and creating a still wine.

However, in the region of Champagne, in France, during the 1700s, the winemakers experienced a particularly cold winter, and the cold temperatures caused the yeast to stop fermenting and lie dormant in the bottles.

When the weather warmed up again, the yeast jumped back into action with a new zest for life, and creating tons of bubbles. So many bubbles were created, in fact, that many bottles exploded.

The wine was dubbed “the wine of the devil” as a result.

Still, the wine bottles that did not explode were greatly appreciated by the local royalty, and the fruity, bubbly wine was seen as fun and perfect for celebrations.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Champagne Yeast Time, Temperature, and Tolerance

Today, if you are hoping to work with champagne yeast, know that you can usually get up to an 18% ABV with most strains. If you are hoping for a sweeter champagne, you can cut the fermentation process a bit short, but you’ll have to realize that this action may result in weaker body and off flavors.

In general, champagne yeast takes anywhere from 5 to 7 days to complete primary fermentation. But, as with most yeasts, you will want to give your sparkling wine, cider, or beer another week or two, or much, much longer, to allow the yeast a chance to undergo secondary fermentation.

Secondary fermentation will encourage the yeast to absorb off flavors and consume dead yeast cells, resulting in a fuller wine with more complex flavors and aromas.

Furthermore, make sure you ferment your champagne at lower temperatures as the yeast tends to perform better in a cooler environment. Stick to temps between 50 and 70 degrees at the outside and aim to hover closer to the 60 degrees Fahrenheit mark.

In the end, you can measure your fermentation time best by keeping an eye on the foaming process. As the bubbling and fizzing and foaming dies down and leaves a clean, still wine, you’ll know primary fermentation is complete.

Then, when you’re ready to put it through secondary fermentation, you can bottle the champagne with the yeast still in must and allow it to reactivate and create the bubble effect you’re looking for in sparkling wine.

The entire process is a fascinating one, what with setting the champagne bottles upside down at an angle under cold conditions and disgorging them so they don’t explode.

But of course, you’ll explore and experiment with your own sparkling wine process to fully master your craft with champagne yeast.

That’s the whole point of making wine, cider, or beer, after all.

Cheers!

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