How to make wine at home There is not much to making wine. Humans have been making wine for thousands of years.
It’s not rocket science.
The earliest mention of winemaking is in some Mesopotamian texts – hieroglyphics – and they detail how to ferment the juice
of grapes. Apparently, we were making it long before written text. It turns out that when grapes grow, there is actually yeast ON the outside of the grapes. If all you do is crush the grapes and keep the juice around 75 degrees, the juice will ferment all by itself. Of course, the types of yeast found on the outside of grapes are many and not all of them produce a fine tasting wine. Over the years, winemakers have developed many different strains and varieties of yeasts. These yeasts are specifically designed to extract exactly what we want out of the grape juice or fruit juice. You could use Baker’s yeast and it would work. Feel free to do so if you do not have access to a local wine or brew shop. Or, you can go to an online store and order some EC-1118 winemakers yeast. A special note about Sugar and Fruit
Grapes that are harvested at exactly the correct time are brimming with natural sugar. They are tested electronically while still on the vine to determine the exact peak time of day when the sugar content is the highest. These types of grapes never need sugar added – they already have enough.
Grapes that you get at the grocery store are harvested unripe so that they will not spoil during the delivery to your
supermarket. It is difficult, at best, to make a good wine from these store bought grapes. They were not ripe when they were
picked, and the sugar content was probably very low. If you use grapes from the store, you will need to check the sugar content
with a hydrometer and you will probably need to add quite a bit of sugar. The best thing to do is always use a hydrometer and
check the sugar content yourself.
If you are going to buy Fruit Juices at the store, use natural whole juices with NO PRESERVATIVES. Preservatives will KILL YEAST – that’s what they are there for. A word to the wise –read the label.
Making GOOD wine takes some time – and by time I mean months – not days or weeks. Also – patience is required during
the fermenting process, the racking process, the bottling process, and the ageing process.
Patience, Patience, Patience. Believe me – it will pay off. Go SLOW.
Can you make wine fast and drink it? ABSOLUTELY! However, no one else but you will drink it. It will not taste good to
anyone else but you (and YOU will usually think it tastes bad, too). Sorry. Can you make wine fast and bolster the alcohol content so that it is 18% or more? ABSOLUTLEY! But again, YOU will be the only drinker of this wine.
BEFORE WE GET STARTED...
Planning and preparation. There is a lot that can be said about those two words. Especially when it comes to making wine.
You should PLAN what you are going to make. You should PREPARE everything in advance. This way, you will not get caught
in the middle of doing something and not have what you need. You should also PLAN where your work area will be. Sure, you
could do this in your kitchen, but it’s a lot nicer to have a spot staked out that is your “WINEMAKING” area.When I first started out I used a corner of my basement. I set up 2 work tables and a set of shelves. That’s really all it takes.
I have since progressed and now have a little nicer setup. I have a nice work desk area and two storage cabinets large enough to hold my primarys and secondarys.
Nobody bothers my stuff and I know where to find what I need at a glance. I recommend the same thing for you. Make it EASY.
GATHER WHAT YOU WILL NEED
Before you ever crush the first grape, process the first peach, or open the first can of frozen concentrate, get everything you are going to need. This includes corks, bottles and a corker. It also includes siphon tubing, chemicals, and primary and secondary fermentation vessels. Read and then re-read the recipe to make sure you have everything before you get started. There’s nothing quite like having your juice in the primary and realizing that you don’t have any Campden tablets. Oh, and it’s Sunday afternoon and the wine shop isn’t open. Great. Plan ahead. Check your list. Make sure everything is together BEFORE you get started.
Cleanliness is Next to Godliness
Did you ever wonder how those scientists get bacteria and other little bugs to grow? Simple, they put them in a nice warm sugar/water mixture. Just about all kinds of microscopic bugs love that kind of environment. So – DON’T give it to them. We want one kind of microbe to grow – not hundreds. We want our yeast to grow and that’s all. We are not trying to have a microbe party and invite everyone.
Remember to clean and sanitize everything you will be working with…and ON. This means all surfaces in your work area
should be routinely disinfected. Dirty equipment results in very crappy wine with nice little unpleasant tastes. You can clean your spoon. But if you put it down on your workbench and then pick it back up and put it in your wine….
Well, you’re “spreading germs” as momma used to say. If all of your work surfaces are sterilized, you will be AOK. The best
thing to use is something called B-Bright Sanitizer. It is a sulfate powder that you mix with hot water. You can just wipe this mixture on everything and it kills all the microbes. If you don’t have it or cannot get it, crush up a Campden tablet and
fully dissolve it in a half gallon of hot water. This is a nice sanitizing substitute.
Before you start, you want to wipe down EVERYTHING you are going to use with the sanitizing solution. This includes the
inside and outside of your fermentors, as well as all of the equipment you may use. KILL all the bugs at the beginning. That way, they won’t have a chance to grow later. Sulfites are very good at this bug killing thing. Remember, all of the antibiotics in use today are made from sulfur and sulfites. Hmmm –must work.
You need a fermentation vessel like a milk jug or a sanitized food grade storage container. The food grade storage container is best and you can get them free by just asking at a restaurant. I do not recommend using the ones they use for pickles. You can use milk jugs, sanitized of course, or you can also use 1 gallon wine jugs. The wine jugs actually work pretty good and it’s easy to find stoppers to fit in the top of them. The one gallon milk jungs could cause your wine to have an “off taste” or a plastic odor.
LET’S GET STARTED!
All you need is some kind of fruit juice (or vegetable or spice or pepper or whatever!) that has a sugar content high enough to let yeast feed on it. This is what fermentation is – it’s YEAST eating SUGAR. The by products of the yeast consuming the sugar are alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Remember – sanitize everything before you begin.
The best way to know if you have enough sugar is to follow a good recipe, or, to measure the Specific Gravity. Usually – a
specific gravity of about 1.1 will do it. (Learn more about specific gravity and hydrometers). If the sugar content is not high enough, you will need to heat some water on the stove and dissolve sugar in it and then pour it into your fruit juice. You can use ice to cool it down. Your mixture should taste sweet but not overpoweringly so. If the sugar content is too high, or it tastes sickly sweet, add water and give it a good stirring.
Ad 1 crushed Campden tablet per gallon of juice mixture. Put a towel or something over the bucket or use a rubber band and
put a paper towel over the top of the jug. We want to let air in and out but not bugs or little flying insects. At this point, if you were a little more into advanced winemaking, you would want to measure the acid content and also add any other additives like pectin enzyme or nutrient. Let this mixture, called the “MUST” sit overnight. This lets the sulfur gas go into solution, kill the microbes, and then come out into the air. Don’t worry, you won’t even smell it.
THE FIRST STAGE
Once you have the sugar content right and your must sanitized with sulfites, then all you need to do is toss in (pitch) the yeast some yeasts make very good wine while others, like bakers yeast, do not). The temperature of the mixture (“must”) should be between 72 and 78 degrees F and should be kept there. Within 24 hours, you will have fermentation happening. The mixture will be bubbling and it will sound like a can of soda that you have opened. It will be fizzing.
This is called the “Primary Fermentation” or the 1 st Stage Fermentation. The first 5 to 10 days is really when all the action takes place. Almost all of the alcohol is created during this time. After it has been bubbling or fizzing nicely for at least 24 hours, either stir the must (if it’s in a food container), or give the jug a pretty good shake.
If you are stirring, remember to SANITIZE whatever you are going to stir it with BEFORE you put it in the must.
This agitation redistributes the sugar and the yeast and will cause even more fermentation to take place…which is exactly
what we are looking for. Let this mixture ferment for at least 8 days with just a paper towel or rag rubber banded over the opening of your fermentation vessel. Once 8 days has passed, you will need to put on an airlock of some sort. An airlock does nothing more than let the carbon dioxide escape but not let air in. Usually, you can find the materials to make one of these around the house.
Now, if you want to boost the alcohol content, the 5 to 7 day point is where you would do it. All you have to do is add some concentrated sugar water to the must. This give the yeast something else to feed on. Don’t wait until all of the fizzing and bubbling has stopped – just wait until it starts slowing down. To make sugar water, just heat a cup of water on the stove and put sugar in it until it won’t dissolve any more. Cool it down and then add it to the must. The next day, you should see renewed vigor in the bubbling department.
Sounds painful doesn’t it? In this hobby and business, instead of saying “siphon the wine in the primary container into the secondary container”, we say RACK the wine from the Primary to the Secondary. Why? I’m still researching that one… After about 4 days of no visible bubbling, probably on day 10, it’s time to remove the wine from the Primary and put it in a secondary container that’s about the same size as the first one. The reason is that you will have a LOT of DEAD YEAST (called lees)on the bottom of the Primary vessel and it can give the wine a bad flavor if it sits on it for days. So the purpose is to get all the wine, and leave as much of the dead yeast, or lees, as you can in the Primary. Once you have racked the wine over, you may have lost a little so top up the jug to near the top with regular tap water.
By the way, if you are using the 5 gallon food container, you have probably figured out by now that you will have to move that 5 gallons of wine into another 5 gallon container. If you are making this much just starting out, you need to get a 5 gallon glass CARBOY.
Put an airlock of some kind on your secondary and ….. WAIT.
THE SECOND STAGE
Leave the airlock on for 4 weeks. At the end of 4 weeks, it’s wine. The longer you let it sit in the secondary, the better the wine is going to be, up to a point anyway. The wine sits unexposed to air during this second stage. The little yeast that is still active is still turning sugar to alcohol. Let it do it’s thing. This prolonged time also lets all of the smaller solids that can make a wine cloudy fall to the bottom. When it’s time, you will have to carefully pour off the wine from the sediment that has settled at the bottom of your vessel. If your wine is cloudy, let it sit for another week or so with the airlock on until it clears. The Secondary fermentation stage,
depending on the type of wine you are making, can sometimes take 3 months. Mead, a wine made out of honey, can sometimes
take 2 months in the primary and then 6 months in the secondary. The key is to find a recipe and follow it.
Okay, we are done with the primary and the secondary fermentation! The wine looks clear! We are ready to bottle it right? WRONG. This fermentation thing is a microbiological process. Although we cannot see it, we may still have a small amount of fermentation going on in the wine. If we were to just bottle it now, the small amount of carbon dioxide being produced could cause our bottles to explode. We need to do something to STOP the fermentation form taking place. This is called Stabilizing the wine.The most common stabilizer is called Potassium Sorbate. The common dosage is ½ teaspoon per gallon. You can get this at a wine shop – or online. Potassium Sorbate doesn’t kill the yeast, it just makes it harder for the yeast to multiply and reproduce. It’s sort of like a contraceptive. It will not stop the fermentation instantly but over the next few days. After you add the stabilizer, you will need to wait about 3 days for it to do it’s work and then you will be ready to BOTTLE YOUR CREATION!
BOTTLING YOUR WINE
I just go to local restaurants and ask them to save me cases of bottles at a time. If you want, there are wineshops that will sell them to you for pretty cheap – but why buy them if you can get them free? Soak used wine bottles in hot soapy water until the labels begin to fall off and then scrub them up nicely so they are sparkly and have no label glue left on them.
The is part of that PLANNING thing I mentioned earlier. Get ALL of the bottles you will need ready BEFORE you are ready to
bottle the wine. You will also need corks. Again – online or a wine shop. Uhhh…. Okay I admit it, I have even used USED corks.
But ONLY after I soaked them in HOT, SULFITE saturated water for about an hour. The corks are LARGER than the hole in the top
of the wine bottle. This presents a problem for home brewers. You NEED a corker. This is the only real toolyou MUST buy. If you cannot get one (if you’re reading this, you can obviously get one online), you will have to use something like re-sealable plastic pop bottles to put your wine in. Makes me shudder just thinking about it….
Sanitize everything, the bottles, the corks, and the siphon tube that you will use to siphon the wine from the secondary into the bottles. You will need some way to “pinch” the siphon tube to stop the flow ofwine when the bottle gets nearly full. Fill each bottle to the bottom of it’s neck. You can fill ALL the bottles and then cork them all at the same time. Again, a little air isn’t going to spoil the batch. When you are siphoning into the bottles, be careful to splash the
wine around as little as possible. You DO NOT want to aeriate the wine, just quietly siphon it into the bottles. Use a corker that you have purchased. The more expensive the corker, the easier it will be to use. For a long time, I used a simple hand corker but I was only bottling 30 bottles at a time. I have graduated to a larger one because I now make 60 to 90 bottles at a time. The hand corker is just too much work for that many corks.
WRAPPING IT ALL UP
There are literally hundreds of things you can do to improve the quality of your wine. There are different additives, different flavors, fortifiers, etc. In addition, some fruits or wines require chemicals be added before primary fermentation. You can find recipes, learn to make champagne, learn to make brandy and many other things once you get the basics of winemaking down. Find out more in this site.
This guide article is not intended to be an all out, in-depth, encompassing review of the
winemaking process. It is more of a beginner’s overview and guide. Using the techniques and information contained
in this book will get anyone started making GOOD homemade wine. I look forward to hearing about your winemaking adventures!
For more basic information visit :Wine clubs, wine gifts, basic wine information
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