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Suggested Proper Equipment

 

Alternate Household Item

Primary fermenter -  A 6 or 7 gallon food grade plastic fermentation bucket, and lid that seal airtight allowing attachment of an airlock. This is for when you are using fruit of some kind. If you are making wine from pure juice then you can use a 6 gallon glass carboy. Both of these items can be purchased from a wine supply store. various stores are listed on our home page. 

  

 

 Any large food grade plastic bin. A large Ice chest of some sort will also do. A large crock pot made of ceramic sealed material. A stainless steel pot will also do. Do Not use a trash can that is not food grade plastic, as It can impart off flavors into your wine. Any other container that you are not sure what its use has been, should never be used. Glass, stainless steel, and food grade plastic should always be your only choices.
Secondary Fermenter - A 5 gallon or larger glass carboy is Ideal for this. When fermenting on the pulp or fruit, you can transfer from the plastic primary to the glass secondary after 5-7 days of pulp fermentation. glass imparts no smells or flavors into a wine and is a perfect vessel for making wine.
 
 
 
    
Wine at the secondary stage of fermentation, through finishing you must needs to have oxygen and air kept from it, to eliminate spoilage. There is no alternative to an airlock when it comes to this. If you can find a glass or food grade plastic container that you can seal air tight, with the ability to make a hole in the top, you can run some tubing from the hole into a glass of water to allow for venting of C02 gas. a balloon can also be used with some holes punched into it, to allow inflation gases to escape. 
Racking Cane - This is a handy little gadget. Its a hard clear plastic tube that bends at one end to form a J like object. It is used for transferring wine from one vessel to another. (also known as a J tube) It allows you place one end into the wine or must, with the other end coming out the top of the vessel and curving downwards towards the receiving vessel. The end pointing downwards usually has a length of tubing attached to end and is placed into the receiving vessel to fill it. Most all racking canes come with a sediment inhibiting tip on it, that draws the liquid downward into the tube rather than upward from the bottom of the fermenter where all the settlement is.
 
 
 
 
    
A piece of tygon or plastic tubing will work here. If you are transferring from the primary to the secondary and on the first racking only, you could (in a pinch) pour the wine through a funnel with a screen in it to trap settlement. (This will be tedious) 

 

 

Siphoning Tube - This is a 5/8" diameter piece of tubing used in conjunction with the racking cane to transfer wine. this tubing is usually about 5 feet long.
 
A piece of tygon or plastic tubing will work here. If you are transferring from the primary to the secondary and on the first racking only, you could (in a pinch) pour the wine through a funnel with a screen in it to trap settlement. (This will be tedious) 
Bung or rubber stopper - A bung or rubber stopper is used to plug the hole in the top of the glass carboy. A hole is drilled in the bung to allow the insertion of an airlock. There are alot of different sizes to accommodate all sizes of openings in the carboy. These are invaluable for the secondary fermentation and aging of wine.
 
Here, anything that will seal the opening in a container and allow for the attachment of some type of airlock or bleed off tubing would suffice. You goal is to completely seal the container, but allow the carbon dioxide to escape at a slow rate, so that pressure does not build up on your fermenting vessel
Airlock, Red TopAirlock - There are several designs of airlocks. the most common is an "S" configuration. you fill the chambers with water or sulfite solution, thus keep air out. The released gasses from the wine form bubbles in the airlock, and allow you to monitor fermentation
 
Tubing from a sealed container, a balloon with small holes punched in it, the balloon will expand and contract with the escaping C02, once the fermentation is over it will collapse and pretty much keep air out of your wine.
Bottles - Use Bordeaux or burgundy bottles to bottle your wine. These bottles come 12 to a case and are usually on about $12.00 per case. 
 
There is no substitute in my opinion for using wine bottles. You can use a decanter if you are going to drink all of the wine you put in it right away. I would never use whiskey bottles, or soda bottles for wine. You could store a whole gallon of wine in a one gallon glass Demi-john in the fridge, and it will keep for a few days, as long as you keep a cork in it.
Wine Corks, #9 (std) Bag of 100 corksCorks - Corks come in different sizes, and vary in quality. You can buy them fairly cheep, and are well worth the investment. There are agglomerated corks on the market now, that are not very expensive, but should only be used if the wine will not be stored for more than a year or so. Other wise use the best quality corks you can get. size #8's and #9's will usually be what you want. these come in varying lengths also. I use #8's because they insert easier. #9's are a little bit bigger around than the 8's are.
 
 
 
   
There is not substitute for a good cork when it comes to sealing a wine in the bottle. DO NOT use screw caps, as they do not seal well. you can use a temporary plastic plug in a bottle, but only for a bottle of wine you are going to drink right away. There are also the plastic bag in a box servers that have a spigot on them. These are great for adding a gallon or so of wine to, and then using them for the daily serving of wine. Wine will keep in these for a good while, as long as they are refrigerated.
Plastic Plunger CorkerCorker - Some type of corker to insert corks into the bottle is generally considered essential. A small hand corker is just fine and only costs about 5 dollars. you can buy expensive table top and floor model corkers, but I have found that I can cork just as fast and easy with a simple hand held corker. Always soften the corks by soaking in HOT water, and then in sulfite solution, this makes inserting them a breeze..
 
 
 
   
A rubber mallet or anything that will drive a softened cork into the bottle.
 

 

 

Nylon Straining Bags

Nylon Straining Bag 6X7These are nylon mesh bags used for fruit and pulp fermentation, as they allow you to contain the fruit for easy removal. They come in a fine mesh and a coarse mesh are very inexpensive. If you have ever had to scoop out fruit from a fermenter you will understand the usefulness of these bags. Depending on how much wine you are making, use either a small fruit bag or a large one. For 5 gallons of wine, you will need a large bag. Generally you place the cut up fruit into the bag and tie of the top of it with a string of some sort. Place the fruit filled bag into the bottom of your primary fermenter and crush it the best you can with your hands, this helps to extract juice. you then pour your water either hot or cold over the fruit and add your wine chemicals and sugar. you leave the fruit filled bag in the must for 3-5 days and allow the yeast to work on the fruit. You then remove the fruit bag and discard the mushy fruit that is left inside of it. the Bag can then be washed real good and hung up to dry, and will be ready to the next use. You may use a sterilized panty hose in a pinch, as if will facilitate letting the yeast in, and still contain the fruit fairly well, although may not hold the amount of fruit that you want to use.

Acidity

Proper acidity in a wine is of the utmost importance. I wont go into the advanced explanations here, because its covered in the advanced winemaking sections, but I will endeavor to give the basic or novice home winemaker all the needed information on this subject. Wine low in acidity is most always flat, medicinal,  and insipid. Wine that is overly acidic is usually tart. Acidity and PH in a wine go pretty much hand in hand, if the acid is low the PH will be higher. A wine with high PH values is susceptible to bacterial infection. I cant stress enough how important proper acid levels in a wine affect the taste. To much acid in a wine will ruin the taste and the wine in my opinion. A high acid wine is a  common mistake young winemakers make, I can attest to this because I have been there done that!! Fruit wines especially are delicate when it comes to acid levels. Always do an acid test on your must prior to adding yeast if at all possible. Acid test kits are very inexpensive and well worth the small cost. Acid levels in a wine will affect the taste, the longevity, how stable it is, and many other factors. It is easier to add acid to a wine, than it is to reduce the acidity of a finished wine. Follow these guide lines and you will always have a balanced wine.

There are basically three kinds of acid in wines. 

  1. Citric Acid (lemons, oranges, pears)
  2. Malic Acid (peaches. plums, cherries, apples, blackberries)
  3. Tartaric Acid (grapes, raisins, currants)

This is for a 5 gallon batch or wine!!

  • If at all possible purchase an acidity test kit. (the kit will explain how to use it)
  • start your must, get the sugar right, and add 4-5 tsp's acid blend. (this will give you a measurable amount)
  • test your acidity with your acid test kit. (will be around .3 to .4 tartaric.) give or take a few points.
  • now adjust your acidity to about .5 % tartaric. and leave this level through fermentation.
  • once wine is finished and aged a couple of months, taste! if it tasted good leave the acid where is. If its a little flat, add a teaspoon or so of acid blend to give it some life.
  • If you dont have an acid test kit, add about 1 to 1 1/2 tsp. of an acid blend per gallon to your must. This will finish your wine just about right, and you can always add more if needed prior to bottling.

Note! The above procedure is for fruit wines, for a grape wine, DO NOT add any acid before measuring. Most grapes will have sufficient acid present to give you a balanced finished wine, your must for say a red grape wine will measure about .68% tartaric. This will be fine as a lot of the acidity will be lowered during fermentation. Taste the finished product, It should be just fine, if the acid is to high (wine is tart) see the advanced winemaking section on the home page for procedures on lowering the acidity of a wine.

 

Sugar

  Sugar is an essential part of winemaking. You can not make wine without sugar or something for the yeast to work on. Pure cane white sugar is the best, but you can use glucose sugar as well. Substances that contain sugars such as honey may also be used. I recommend using honey only if you are going to make a mead, or give the wine a slightly different flavor. In the later case, use mostly sugar but add a few cups of honey along with it. Without sugar your wine would contain no alcohol, so in perspective the less sugar in a wine must, the lower the alcohol content will be. Measuring the amount of sugar in your must is a very important part of winemaking and should not be over looked. Sugar is the back bone to any unfermented juice, and its what the yeasts are after when they are placed into the must. Keeping sugar a correct levels prior to fermentation will ensure a finished wine with a balanced or acceptable alcohol level. The desirable alcohol level is usually around 12.5% alcohol by volume. To simply follow a recipe is to guess at the sugar level, thus you are guessing at the finished alcohol level in your wine. A finished wine should have balance between sweetness, acidity, and alcohol. A wine competition judge will always look at these features in a wine, along with other constituents. In general if you want a wine to finish at 12.5% alcohol per volume, you will need to add 32oz of sugar per gallon to the must. A cup of sugar is 8oz. so for a 5 gallon batch of wine, you normally would add about 20 cups of sugar. This is just a general guideline, there is no substitute for measuring your sugar content with a hydrometer. Using a hydrometer will give you an accurate reading of sugar in a must, and allow you to correct it very accurately.  

As general rule, and if you dont have a hydrometer use about 2 /12 pounds of sugar per gallon of  finished wine you want to produce. 



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