Click here to learn how to make wine from a kit.


3 x 3 in 3 Kit Wine Making by William Forsch

- Aug 29, 2016

3 x 3 in 3 Kit Wine Making by William Forsch

Winemaker’s Academy is built on members helping each other make a better bottle of wine.  One of our members provided a very helpful presentation for the beginning kit wine maker.  As the title states you only need a 3′ x 3′ space and 3 hours of time to start your wine making experience. Bill has been a kit wine maker for 9 years and has completed over 150 kits including all styles – red, white, and dessert.  He has also conducted full kit wine making classes for four years including almost 100 students.  After retirement five years ago, he began making wine from grapes.  Bill is an avid golfer, tennis player, chef/cook, and supporter of the Orange County Wine Society – Winemaker’s group and a member of their “leadership team”.  Bill’s Home Wine label is:  Lolita’s Claw Wines, named after the nasty calico cat that resides with him that tends to claw everything and everyone! Forsch Wine Kits Presentation-Updated...

read more

Vacuum System for Home Winemaking

- Jul 17, 2016

Vacuum System for Home Winemaking

A vacuum system for amateur home winemaking David W. Vehar There are a number of pre-built vacuum systems available for the home winemaker, and there is no reason to disparage any of these.  However, during my 40-year career as an engineer making equipment work in a laboratory, I have found it considerably more satisfying to design and build something myself than to purchase it.  Besides, after said 40-year career, I prefer to avoid heavy lifting.  So, a few years ago when my wife presented me with a home winemaking kit, I immediately started to think of ways to make the material handling easier. The first of these innovations was a hydraulic lift to hold my carboys, which allowed me to raise or lower them as needed. This actually worked pretty well, but still involved working at inconvenient heights. My next idea was to use a vacuum to pump the wine, allowing me to work at a convenient bench top height without having to lift carboys from floor level.  I also thought that with fewer components actually touching the wine, sanitizing and cleanup would be easier.  I immediately discovered a number of systems described for just that purpose.  This was obviously not a novel idea, but I persisted. So, nearly five years and 30 kits later, virtually every stage of my wine handling is now done with vacuum.  The following is a description of the various components that go into my system.  There is little unique about this setup.  This is what I have found works for me, and it continues to evolve with experience and the suggestions of others. Overview A generalized view of the vacuum system is shown in the accompanying diagram.  A pump creates a vacuum that draws wine from a fermenter or supply carboy into a sealed receiving vessel (carboy or wine bottle) by means of a racking cane and 3/8” ID Tygon® tubing.  All other tubing is 1/2″ OD x 3/8” ID, either Tygon® or HDPE (high density polyethylene) tubing.  These will not collapse under vacuum.  A trap placed between the receiving carboy and the pump prevents liquids from entering the pump.  Details of the individual components and how they are used are provided below. Vacuum Pump For reference, atmospheric pressure (1 atmosphere) = 14.7 psi = 29.9 inHg at sea level (24 inHg at 6000 ft where I live).  Attainable vacuum depends on the type of pump, but this is the maximum that any pump can produce. My pump is a GAST® LOA-P175 oil-less rocking piston pump capable of maximum vacuum of 26 inHg, or about 20 inHg at 6000 ft.  I found it new on eBay for about $120, salvaged from a beverage handling system.  This is adequate for vacuum degassing, and is more than adequate for transferring liquids (racking).  I equipped the pump with a vacuum valve and vacuum gauge purchased from my local Granger store. There are a number of inexpensive utility pumps available for applications such as servicing air conditioning systems. Most of these are oil-lubricated.  I chose an oil-less pump because I have never found an oil-lubricated pump that didn’t exhaust some oil into the air.  I don’t want to breath it, and I certainly don’t want it to find its way into my wine.  [Ed note – Medical...

read more

Choosing a Wine Kit – Part 2

- Jun 24, 2016

Choosing a Wine Kit – Part 2

Winexpert kits from smallest to largest. Each kit makes 6 gal. of wine In part one of this article we discussed the characteristics that differentiate one size/price range of kit from another. http://winemakersacademy.com/choosing-a-wine-kit-part-1-owerview/  In part two we are going to look at how each of the product lines in the Winexpert family compare to each other using these characteristics.  Just by way of reminder, the aging times provided in this article are based on our experience, numerous customer reviews of various wines and a great deal of online research. However, many people are comfortable drinking their wines earlier than we recommend. Ultimately it’s your wine.  It’s up to you to decide when it’s ready to drink. A word about prices – Winexpert has instituted a Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) price fixing scheme that regulates the price that their resellers are allowed to advertise on many of their product lines. However, you may be able to get a discount from your local retailer or online retailer, they just can’t advertise a lower price. The prices shown below are based on either the MAP price if there is one or the typical internet price for non-MAP categories at the time of this writing. The cost per bottle is based on thirty bottles per kit except for the Selection Speciale kits which only make 15 bottles. The prices do not include the cost of the bottles which are reusable. The price ranges for a comparable commercial wine are subjective based on our experience.   Summary of Each Kit Type Like most things in life, you make your choice and you pay your money, and in the case of wine, you wait your time.  With that in mind here is a quick guide the differences between to the various sizes of kits and why you might choose one over the other.   Key Characteristics of Kit Lines Island Mist Vintners Reserve Selection Selection w/ Skins Eclipse Selection Speciale Size in Liters 7.5 10 16 18 18 12 Time to make 4 wks 4 wks 6 wks 6 wks 8 wks 6-8 wks Age Time White 1-3 mo 3-9 mo 6-9 mo N/A 9-18 mo 9-18 mo Age Time Red 1-3 mo 6-12 mo 9-18 mo 12-24 mo 12-24 mo 12-24 mo Aprox. Price $70 $55-$85 $85-$130 $120-$170 $160-$170 $70-$110 Cost/Bottle $2-$2.50 $2-$3 $3-$4.50 $4-$4.50 $5-$6.50 $5-$7.50 Compares to Commercial Wine costing $8-$12 $8-$14 $12-$18 $14-$24 $18-$30 $14-$30   Product Line:  Island Mist Size:  7.5 Liter Time to ferment and clear:  4 weeks Aging time:  1-3 months Approximate Price: $70 (May 2016) Cost per Bottle: $2 – $2.5        Compares to Commercial $8-$12 wine   These are great kits for new wine makers because they are easy to make and quick to drink.  They can be bottled in as little as 4 weeks and in theory consumed immediately after bottling.  However you’re probably going to be disappointed unless you wait at least a few weeks.  My wife and I have found that for us three months is about the minimum amount of aging before we start to drink these kits. They will continue to improve until about a year or two then level out.  These kits are not intended for long term aging or storage but they are a great way to start building up...

read more

When and How Often Should I Degas My Wine?

- Apr 7, 2016

When and How Often Should I Degas My Wine?

This is a seemingly straight forward question I get asked quite often. The answer, however, depends a lot on your wine making methods and what tools you use to degas. I recommend degassing a wine only once. It’s a lot of work, especially if you use the agitation method (with a drill attachment), and there’s really no reason to degas in the middle of fermentation as you’ll only wind up with more suspended carbon dioxide anyway. Degassing through agitation can introduce oxygen into your wine so it’s best to keep that to a minimum. There are times, however, when degassing a wine is difficult and you may have to come back for a second try. This can happen, for instance, if you’re degassing a wine that is cooler than 70 degrees F. This can take FOREVER (I know from extensive experience). If you find that your wine is not degassing very well and that you’re going to have to come back for an additional attempt make sure you rack off the sediment. Many wine kits have you add clarifiers and then degas as a way of both degassing the wine as well as mixing in the clarifier. Mixing the sediment back up after using a clarifier to settle it out can result in a wine that is difficult to clear. In my own experience, I did this and ended up having to add a second dose of clarifier which can potentially start stripping character from the wine. Stirring up that first clarifier put everything back into suspension and the clarifier did not work a second time, thus the additional dose. Vacuum Degassing Another way to degas a wine is to draw a vacuum in your wine container. The drop in pressure will literally suck the carbon dioxide out of your wine. As this method does not rely on agitation it does not introduce oxygen to your wine, nor does it disturb sediment that has collected on the bottom of the carboy. So you could degas as many times as you like as often as you like. That being said, it still is a bit of work to set up the compressor and run the lines. Personally, I would not want to do all that more than once. When to Degas a Wine In summary I recommend degassing: only one time after fermentation is over at temperatures above 70F, ideally 75F (24C) before adding a clarifier or after you’ve racked off of settled sediment Going by these rules reduces the risk of unnecessary oxygen exposure, needing to degas many times, and undoing the work of clarifiers. Commercial Wineries Don’t Degas Most commercial wineries do not degas their wines at all. They simply bulk age the wine long enough that the carbon dioxide escapes on its own. In so doing they avoid the cost of degassing equipment and having to invest the effort to get it done. You can do this too, even if you make wine from a kit. However, you’ll need lots of patience. Also, as a side note, it is sometimes beneficial to degas mead during fermentation as the suspended carbon dioxide can inhibit the yeast. Because honey is difficult to ferment and most meads ferment for months at a time the yeast needs all the help it...

read more

Choosing a Wine Kit – Part 1 Overview

- Mar 22, 2016

Choosing a Wine Kit – Part 1 Overview

Selecting a wine kit can be a little daunting especially if it’s you’re first one. A lot of factors come into play including the type of wine, cost, kit complexity, processing time, minimum aging time and feedback from other kit winemakers. In this two part series I’ll try to demystify the process. In this first article we’ll start by identifying the key characteristics that separate one product line from another. In part two we will use these key characteristics to analyze each product line and compare the different categories of kits. Then we’ll finish up by discussing how to select your first wine kit and how your kit choices can help build your wine cellar. I’ve used the Winexpert product line for examples because those are the kits I am most familiar with. However, the same basic guideline should apply to other kit makers product lines as well as long as they start out with approximately the same number of liters per kit. Does size matter? One of the things that puzzled us the most when we first started making wine kits was – other than the price, what is the difference between all these different kit product lines?  The short answer is 1) the quality/cost of the grapes used to make the kit and 2) the physical size of the kit.  The quality of the grapes seems obvious but does size really matter?  The answer, at least in the case of wine kits, is an emphatic “Yes!” The more expensive kits are roughly twice as large as cheaper kits yet both kits produce the same 6 gallons of wine.  This is only possible because the smaller kits have a much higher percentage of juice concentrate (juice with a significant amount of water removed) than larger kits, as a result you have to add a lot more water to make 6 gallons of wine with a small kit. The use of a juice concentrate provides two benefits. The first and most obvious is that it reduces the size of the package and the weight of the kit thereby saving on storage and shipping cost. The second less obvious benefit is that the concentrate has a much higher sugar level which acts as a preservative to protect the juice in the kit and extend the shelf life. This may seem counter intuitive at first that sugar would protect anything from spoiling but if you think about things that are high in sugar like the sugar bowl on the table, honey, jelly and fruit preserves. They can all sit out for weeks or months without spoiling because of the high sugar content. The downside of juice concentrates as we all know from experience with things like orange juice and other concentrates is that a little bit of the flavor seems to get lost in the process. Larger kits have a lower percentage of juice concentrate and a higher percentage of regular juice. Basically there is a lot more “stuff” in the juice bag for a “big kit” which gives the wine a richer, more complex flavor. If you take a small kit and a large kit and rehydrate both to 6 gallons and then sample the must before adding the yeast you will find that both taste good but the juice...

read more

Questions on Wine Fermentation & More – WMA039

- Sep 25, 2015

Questions on Wine Fermentation & More – WMA039

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma039.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSQuestions on Wine Fermentation & More In this episode of the Winemaker’s Academy Podcast Matt gets back to some listener and reader questions of wine fermentation as well as safety concerns regarding carbon dioxide. Also, Matt shares a bit about his own winemaking adventures and how they’re going. Click on the player above to listen in now! Questions Answered Is my wine fermentation too warm? What is “TA” and how do I measure it? Can I grind oak chips into oak dust before adding it to my wine? Is it safe to ferment wine where my family hangs out? Resources & Products Mentioned Measuring Titratable Acidity Winemaker’s Log Book Oak Products...

read more

Always Use Airlocks On Carboys

- Sep 10, 2015

Always Use Airlocks On Carboys

It’s a fairly common mistake to use airlocks only during fermentation and switch to a solid plug or bung for bulk aging in a carboy. Why wouldn’t you? After all fermentation is over so there really shouldn’t be anything going on in there. The truth is that there are other forces at work that can cause problems when using a solid plug on a carboy. The Trouble With Solid Plugs on Carboys Typically we like to leave a bit of headspace in our carboys when we rack our wines. While it’s best to minimize this headspace we often do still have some space (i.e. trapped air) in there. As you can imagine a glass or plastic carboy does not “breath” and it’s certainly not flexible. Solid plugs or bungs also do not breath, nor can they accommodate any changes in pressure within that headspace. You put the two together and there’s no room for pressure changes or for suspended carbon dioxide to come out of suspension. So what happens when a carboy warms up a few degrees? Or when a bit of carbon dioxide finds its way out of suspension? The plug pops out leaving your wine unprotected. Let’s say the opposite happens and the temperature drops. This creates a vacuum in the headspace causing the plug to get sucked down tightly into the neck of the carboy and can be quite difficult to remove. This happened to me once while making a one gallon batch of mead. The plug was so far down into the neck of the carboy that there was nothing left to grab hold of to pull it out. I decided to go after it with a screw driver and try to pry it out. This resulted in a lot of chipped glass and a decent size hole in my hand. I also tried drilling a screw into the plug and pulling on the screw. This valiant effort merely put a hole in my plug. It didn’t move at all. After wrestling it for an hour, and eventually got it out. At that point I vowed never to use a solid plug again. It’s actually a pretty common occurrence for winemakers to have trouble with solid plugs in carboys. On average I get two to three emails per month from winemakers who are trying to figure out if their wine has gone bad or not because they came home to find that the plug has popped out of the carboy left their wine exposed for three days or more. It happens all the time. Always Use An Airlock With Carboys It doesn’t matter how long fermentation has been over, always use an airlock. Yes, you do have to check the water level from time to time as evaporation, however, this is a small price to pay. The alternative is coming home from a week long vacation to find that your plug is on the floor and your wine has been sitting there for who knows how many days open and unprotected. Airlocks provide a flexible barrier that can give with pressure changes. They can also tip you off if spoilage micro-organisms have taken hold as the airlock will start to bubble again after being in active. That being said airlocks certainly aren’t perfect. They do...

read more

First Time Winemaker – Part III

- Sep 4, 2015

First Time Winemaker – Part III

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma038.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSAlas, here is the third and final installment of the First Time Winemaker series where Matt walks Academy member Chris through the entire kit winemaking. Start from the beginning here: First Time Winemaker – Part I, or catch up on the second installment here: First Time Winemaker – Part II. In this episode Chris and Matt talk about how the first racking went and what to expect in the third and fourth steps in the kit winemaking process. As usual Chris has some great questions that take us into how wine is made. Click play on the media player above to start listening! Resources & Products Mentioned Meadmakr Podcast Cider School The Ultimate Guide to Kit Winemaking The Winemaker’s Academy Community The Winemaker’s Log Photograph by: Tim Patterson...

read more

Fermenting Wine in Open Containers

- Aug 20, 2015

Fermenting Wine in Open Containers

There’s a lot of discussion around open fermentations. Beginners especially wonder why some recipes call for open fermentations and kit instructions call for an airlock to be placed on the fermenter as soon as you’ve pitched the yeast. The truth is, you can do it either way. When you’re first getting into winemaking I do not recommend fermenting your wine in an open container. There’s a bit more risk involved if you don’t have a good feel for when to put the lid on your wine. The Benefits of Open Fermentation Fermenting out in the open can be beneficial during the early stages of fermentation for a couple reasons. First, you get some oxygen exposure which helps the yeast build a strong population. Second, there’s nothing keeping the heat generated by fermentation from escaping. Lids can help trap heat and, depending on your ambient temperature outside the fermenter, your wine could get too hot with a lid in place. Most commercial wineries will ferment red wines in open containers to allow heat to escape and to have better access to the cap. When you ferment on the skins they will float to the top and for the cap. This cap protects the wine from outside elements but it must also be punched back down into the wine from time to time to help extract more flavor and aroma compounds from the skins. The Risks of Open Wine Fermentation As you might imagine you’re at a higher risk of picking up too much oxygen or spoilage micro-organisms when your wine is not protected by a lid and airlock. Open fermentations work because the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast during alcoholic fermentation acts as a blanket over the wine. As long as the air around the fermenter is still and there’s enough carbon dioxide being produced you can happily ferment without a lid. However, at some point carbon dioxide production will fall to a point where there’s no longer enough to protect your wine. With some experience you’ll be able to identify when this time is approaching and get your wine covered up before it’s too vulnerable. This is why I never recommend to first time winemakers that they ferment in an open container. Here’s a great introductory article from EC Kruas entitled Wine Fermentation 101 Something else to consider is air movement around the fermenter. Even an aggressive fermentation, with lots of carbon dioxide being produce, can be susceptible to oxygen and spoilage micro-organism exposure if you have an air vent or ceiling fan constantly blowing the carbon dioxide blanket off your wine. Then there’s also curious cats and dogs but we won’t get into that. Advice for Beginning Winemakers If you’re preparing for your first fermentation stick to using a sealed primary fermenter with an airlock. You’ll want to be sure you have a few inches of headroom in case the yeast foams up. As your wine ferments pay attention to the rate of carbon dioxide production by keeping an eye on your airlock. At first it will bubble quite slowly when the yeast is acclimating to their new environment. Then the pace will pick up as the yeast goes into the growth phase. For some time the rate will remain constant before it starts to slow down. Record your observations...

read more

First Time Winemaker – Part II

- Aug 13, 2015

First Time Winemaker – Part II

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma037.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSThis is the second part in our three part series going through the entire winemaking process on the air with first time winemaker, Chris. Start from the beginning here: First Time Winemaker – Part I. In this episode Chris and Matt discuss how the first steps in the kit winemaking process went. Then they discuss racking from the primary fermenter to the carboy. Throughout the interview Matt answers many great questions from Chris regarding racking, auto siphons, and bulk aging. Click play on the media player above to listen now! Resources & Products Mentioned Ultimate Guide to Kit Winemaking Auto Siphon (affiliate link) The Winemaker’s...

read more