Sometimes I make a large batch of wine and fill maybe two or three demijohns, sometimes four. I don't know how many demijohns I can fill until I've filled them. That means, sometimes I end up with an extra two pints or something of unfermented wine. I have avoided putting this juice/sugar/yeast mixture into a demijohn since I have been believing that a demijohn somehow needs to actually be filled.

Come to think of it, I don't where I picked up a belief like that. And I wanted to ask if it's true, or if it's perfectly fine to let my wine ferment in a half-full demijohn. ?

  • totally fine to let a 1/2 full demijohn ferment.
    – Mr_road
    Aug 13, 2017 at 11:26

5 Answers 5


I have never had a problem with fermenting wine, beer or soda in a part filled demijohn in several years of brewing. To be fair, I have never fermented anything in a demijohn less than 1/3 full, but I have fermented many brews in demijohns that are 1/2 - 3/4 full. All turned out as expected (or nearly so...)


Oxygen can always be a problem, and indeed, the less headspace you have on your demijohn the better.

For beer, I know that I can add 4 g of sugar per liter of headspace to get the fermentation going a little bit again, to clean the air out of the demijohn. I do not have enough experience with wine if there is also still enough yeast in suspension to do the same.

Another possibility is to fill all your demijohns almost up to the brim, and then put the rest of the wine in a PET bottle, and squeeze the air out of it.

Oh, and now I see in the last line that it is about fermenting. Like mentioned in the preceding lines, 4 g of sugar gives (appr) 1 liter of CO2. If you have 2L of juice with a Brix value of 10°, which means 10g of sugar on 100g of solution, that would mean that you would have appr. 200 g of sugar in this 2L of juice, then the fermentation would generate more than 40L of CO2, well enough to clean out most demijohns, except the biggest, I suppose.

  • I contest that oxygen can always be a problem, in the first couple of days of fermentation sufficient oxygen is a bonus and allows the yeast to rapidly synthesis sterols which maintain flexibility of cell membranes.
    – Mr_road
    Aug 13, 2017 at 11:24

IMHO one can ferment perfectly well in a half filled demijohn. Filling a demijohn completely when fermenting can lead to airlock problems if the fermentation is vigorous - which most initially are. So some space above the ferment in demijohn is a useful thing. 7/8 and 3/4 full are common situations and I have fermented wine in a approximately half full demijohn - for exactly the reasons stated in the question. The wine in the partially filled vessel tasted just like the wine in the mostly filled vessel.I have done this several times for different wines and several beers.

IMHO Oxygen and fermenting liquids are not such bad company as one might be lead to believe....


Ok, I know this is an old question, but just in case: The CO2 of the fermentation "pushes" the oxigen outside of the demijohn, or wherever you are fermenting. CO2 is more dense than air, so it covers the drink, and while it ferments then it pushes the o2 outside.

The problem is when you extract the wine outside of the demijohn to bottles. Then is when you have to use something to syphon, or carefully fill as much as possible or something like that


A Demijohn, carboy, or any container that is fermenting or aging wine MUST ABSOLUTELY be filled to near the top to absolutely minimize the amount of oxygen that is present. This is basic wine making 101 protocol. Anyone that says otherwise, has no clue and ends up with a grossly inferior product. If drinking an alcohol product is your goal with no other objective, then fill the container up as you choose.Just being honest here.

  • Do you have any kind of source or something? A problem I've had when filling up as much as I could is that the foamy crap ends up oozing through the airlock early on in the process when the yeast is having a real good time. Sep 16, 2021 at 8:05
  • 1
    Welcome to the site! I agree with this when aging wine, then you want to minimize headspace, but not so during fermentation. Yeast benefit from oxygen during the lag phase, and any oxygen left in the headspace is dispersed during fermentation.
    – mdma
    Sep 17, 2021 at 17:04

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