Category Archives: tomato wine

Titratable Acidity: Mystery, Consistency, and too much acid

Cherry Mead: The case of the disappearing acid

Suppose you measure 6 g/L titratable acidity (TA), then add about 1.3 g/L of tartaric acid. After you let it sit for a while you’d expect a TA over 7, right? Me too. You certainly wouldn’t expect just a little over 5 (call it 5.2), would you? I didn’t either, but that’s what happened and that wasn’t the end of it. I’m talking about my cherry mead and after that 5.2 measurement, I added another 1.3 g/L of tartaric acid. When I checked again the TA stood at just over 5.5 g/L, not the 6.5 I was expecting. Over the course of six months, my starting TA fell from 6 g/L to 5.5 g/L as I added 2.6 g/L.

What happened? I don’t know, but a look at pH tells me that the additional acid was affecting the mead, even if I wasn’t detecting it in my titrations. While TA went from 6 to 5.2 to 5.5, the pH went from 3.56 to 3.39 to 3.13. I’m going to have to chew on this for a while. Got any theories? I’d love to hear them.

Honey Apple: Promising, but not ready yet

Compared with my cherry mead, the honey apple is a model of consistency. Yesterday’s measurements:

SG: 0.996, pH: 3.56, TA: 7 g/L

were exactly the same as on 11/15/07. This is reassuring and gives me a (false?) sense of precision. It’s not ready to drink yet; tasting it all I could think of was “tart and young.” The Lady of the House would only say that, yes, it was an apple wine or mead but refused to offer anything more. It’s clear with compact sediment, and the numbers look good, so I think I’ll rack without making any adjustments.

Tomato Wine: Young, tart, and bone dry

It tastes just as harsh as you’d expect it to from these numbers:

SG: 0.990, pH: 2.97, TA: 9- g/L

In addition to being tart, there is an unusual flavor that I wouldn’t recognize if I didn’t know I was drinking tomato wine. I’m not sure whether I like this tomato flavor or not – its hard to get past the harshness of this wine. The Lady of the House knew it was the tomato wine, even though I didn’t tell her. She made a face and said it was young and that there was “an acid thing” going on. This one needs some more time, and I need to neutralize some of the acid.

So, I’ve got a mystery to solve, some acid to neutralize, and some mead to rack. Time to hit the “save” button.

Tomato Wine: First Racking

Ten days after pitching the yeast, I siphoned the translucent, yellow, tomato wine into two 1-gallon jugs and a 1.5L magnum bottle. So 18 lb (8.2 kg) of tomatoes, 4.8 lb (2.2 kg) sugar, and 2.5 quarts (2.4 liters) water turned into about 9 liters (a little under 2.5 gallons) of wine. I still don’t have a good idea of what tomato wine will taste like. At this point it’s just tart and young. Lets see what happens after I add a little time!

Tomato Wine: Fermentation Complete

It looked like fermentation was winding down, so I drew a sample for testing. The sample had some dissolved CO2 in it, and that can skew my tests in two ways. It can give rise to carbonic acid, which will push the titratable acidity (TA) higher. It can also make it look like there is more sugar in the sample than there really is. As the CO2 comes out of solution, in the form of bubbles, it physically pushes upward on the hydrometer which leads to a higher specific gravity (SG) reading.

SG: 1.000, pH 3.03, TA: 10 g/L

The TA went from 6.5 to 10 g/L in six days, which is a much bigger jump than I was expecting. Did the carbonic acid push it up that much? Or did I just botch the test? Either way, the thing to do is rack and set it aside for a while. When I come back to retest, the CO2 will have bled off and I’ll have better results.

Tomato Wine Recipe

I sowed seeds that sprouted into seedlings. I transplanted the seedlings to beds. I fussed over the tomato plants. I planned. I harvested. Now, at last, I’m finally making tomato wine!


Juice from 18 lb (8.2 kg) tomatoes – about 1.67 gallons (6.3 liters)
4.84 lb (2.2 kg) sugar
2.5 quarts (2.4 liters) water
8 tsp (40 g) tartaric acid
2 tsp (10 g) diammonium phosphate
1 tsp (2.3 g) pectic enzyme
sulfite to 50 ppm (equivalent to two campden tablets)
premier cuvee yeast


Make a yeast starter and set it aside to grow. Juice the tomatoes and pour it into the fermenter. Dissolve the sugar in the water, boil, cool, and add to fermenter. Add sulfite, pectic enzyme, diammonium phosphate, and tartaric acid. Pitch the yeast starter when it is active.

Adjusting the sugar

I measured the pressed juice at:

Specific Gravity (SG): 1.024, pH: 4.23, Titratable Acidity (TA): 4 g/L

Based on those measurements, I decided to add 4.6 liters of SG 1.180 sugar syrup to the tomato juice. That’s 2.2 kg of sugar dissolved in 2.4 liters of water, and it ought to leave me with almost 11 liters of SG 1.090 juice. To determine how much sugar syrup to add in your own recipe, you can use this formula:

x = ( V * (TG – SG) ) / (1.180 – TG)

where x is the amount of sugar water, in liters, to add
V is the volume of must, in liters (6.3, in my case)
TG is your specific gravity target (1.090)
SG is the current specific gravity of your must (1.024)

The 1.180 is the SG of the sugar syrup (I was running out of variable names!)

Adjusting the acid

Once I adjusted the sugar, I knew what the final volume of the must was going to be, about 11 liters. Dry white wine musts are normally between 7 – 9 g/L TA, but I decided to aim a little low at 6 g/L. I wanted to add some acid to get the pH down, but not down so much that it would inhibit fermentation. It’s easy to add more later, and I expected to do just that. At any rate, I already had about 25 g (6.3 liters of juice at 4 g/L), and I was targeting 66 g (11 liters of must at 6 g/L), so I needed to add about 41 g. After the additions, I measured again:

SG: 1.104, pH: 3.02, TA: 6.5 g/L

My actual sugar and acid levels came out a little higher than I predicted, probably because my weight and volume measurements are imprecise – close enough. Now I’ve got a little under three gallons of sweet acidic tomato juice. I don’t know what tomato wine is going to taste like, but this juice is really odd. There is a strong flavor of tomato, which I like but is completely out of place in such a sweet juice. I hope the yeast like it, because I just pitched the starter.

Update 2/28/2008: Too much acid!

After fermentation, I measured the TA at 9-10 g/L. An error in my measurements might explain the apparent jump. I took two measurements just before pitching the yeast, however, and they were consistent with each other. I took two more measurements after it had fermented out, and they were both showed an increase of 2.5-3.5 g/L. I know that some acid forms during fermentation, but this much? I’m not sure what happened here, but I think the lesson is to wait until your wine is fermented out before you adjust your acid.

Tomato Wine: Defrosted, Crushed, and Pressed

Collecting Free Run Tomato Juice

I started with about 18 lb (8.2 kg) of frozen cherry tomatoes that came up to the 4-gallon (15 liter) mark of the bucket. After they thawed, I lightly crushed them with a long spoon. That left me with about 2.25 gallons of must, which I loaded into my three-bucket press. A few hours later, I had 1.67 gallons (6.3 liters) of juice. My initial measurements were:

Specific Gravity (SG): 1.024, pH: 4.23, Titratable Acidity (TA): 4 g/L

That ain’t grape juice

Because it will change the volume significantly, it’s best to adjust the sugar first. And it will be a big adjustment. A wine with 12% alcohol starts with juice at an SG around 1.090. Dissolving sugar in boiling water is a great way to sanitize it and make sure it mixes well with the juice. I’ll be adding so much I’m going to concentrated it to an SG of 1.180. That’s close to one part sugar and one part water. Any more sugar and I might have trouble dissolving it.

How much syrup? How much acid?

Ok, if you’ve got 6.3 liters of juice with an SG of 1.024, adding 4.6 liters SG 1.180 syrup should yield almost 11 liters of SG 1.090 juice. That initial 6.3 liters of juice had 4 g/L, about 25 g, of acid. To get 6 g/L in our final 11 liters of juice, we need to add about 40 g. Sometimes pressing takes longer than you think. Sometimes schedules get out of whack. By the time I had my estimates for sugar and acid additions, it was past midnight. I decided to add the acid right away, as that would push down the pH and help protect the juice from spoilage, and go to bed. We’re nearly there, and tomorrow, I’ll pull this all together into a recipe for tomato wine!

Defrosting Tomatoes

Four gallons (15 liters) of frozen Gold Nugget tomatoes

I finally pulled the 18 lb (8+ kg) of tomatoes out of the freezer. I’ll be making a white wine from them, so once they defrost I’ll press them into juice. Then I can see what I’ve got in terms of sugar and acid, make adjustments, and start fermenting! I say this every season, but I don’t know why I waited so long. While I’m growing and harvesting my tomatoes (and rhubarb and grapes) I can’t wait to make wine from them. Then I get busy. Well, at least I’m starting my 2007 vintage in 2007.

Tomato Wine: Harvest update

I began harvesting my Gold Nugget tomatoes a month ago. I hope to get at least 15 lb (almost 7 kg) to make a white tomato wine. The 6.5 oz (175 g) that I harvested on 8/9/07 has become 9 lb 12.5 oz (about 4.4 kg) and counting, so I’m about 2/3 of the way there. I couldn’t fit that many tomatoes in my kitchen freezer, so I bought a chest freezer to store my harvest. I may have been a little optimistic, though, when I was thinking about how much space I would need …

Chest freezer with two bags of tomatoes at the bottom

Tomato Wine: First harvest

It’s a modest beginning, but a beginning nonetheless. Yesterday’s 6.5 oz (175 grams) of Gold Nugget tomatoes began a harvest that I expect to last into September. I’ll be gathering the fruit often, maybe every day, and storing it in the freezer. Currently, the freezer has unimportant things like food in it, so you might think it would be no problem to just store the harvest in there. No, the lady of the house has informed me that the meat, bread, and other non-fermentables are staying. I was as shocked as you must be, but what can I do? There is just no reasoning with her, so it looks like I’m in the market for a chest freezer.

Tomato Wine: Early thoughts on red wine varietals

I’m waiting to see how my white tomato wine turns out before trying a red, so I haven’t been thinking about which varietals to try. Until yesterday. That’s when I noticed a photo of some beautiful bite-sized tomatoes that, if they were darker, would be just the thing for a red tomato wine. The photo is from this article by Molly Day about her garden. After some advice from Molly and some internet searching, I came up with a short list of promising tomatoes for red wine:

Black Russian
Black Cherry
Brown Berry

At this point, all I know is that they’re small and darker than most tomatoes. So now I’ve got some research to do, and I’ll revisit this topic when I know more.

Pruning Gold Nugget Tomatoes

I put a lot of thought into pruning my grapes, but I normally just let my tomatoes grow any which way they choose. I might try to tuck them into their cages every now and again, but I never thought about pruning. Now that I’m growing tomatoes for wine, I’m starting to wonder if some of the principles behind grape pruning would apply to tomatoes. If one leaf shades another on a grape vine, then I would want to pull one of those leaves because a leaf in the shade isn’t doing much in the way of photosynthesis. Wouldn’t that be just as true for tomatoes? Also, tomatoes have a way of sending branches off in every direction. Maybe trimming off the ones growing into the dirt would keep the fruit cleaner? Maybe it would reduce insect problems?

Pointing at a low branch that is sloping downward. This is the sort of pruning cut I'll be making.

In this photo, I’m about to prune a low branch that is sloping toward the ground. This is the sort of pruning cut I’ll be making this year. The tomatoes have grown taller and bushier since 6/21/07, when I took the above photo, but I’m going to start slowly with my pruning. If this goes well, I may try pruning tomatoes more like grape vines. I don’t know if I’ll really go that far, but if I do, I’ll get there by taking baby steps.