Checking the Specific Gravity and Racking

After the primary fermentation has slowed down (after about 7 days) it’s time to check the specific gravity. What this tells us is how the density of the wine compares to that of water. Grape juice is more dense than water. Thus before we fermented the grape juice the specific gravity was over 1.0. As the yeast converted the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide during fermentation, the density of the wine has been decreasing. A specific gravity less than 0.990 tells us that the primary fermentation has slowed down enough that we need to rack. Our main concern is leaving the wine on the dead yeast, or lees, for too long. Wine is sometimes left on the decomposing yeast to impart a nutty flavor, however, you really need to know how to time this right. Left too long and the wine will start to taste like rotting yeast. Check out this video to see all the steps involved in this part of the wine making process. The racking cane can be a bit tricky to get going so I’ve created a separate video all about how to use a racking cane. Hint, you don’t want to use your mouth to get this going! If you found this video helpful please leave your thoughts in the comments...

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Pitch the Yeast and Make Some Wine!

Let’s make wine! Now that we’ve covered wine kits and what equipment required to make wine it’s time to hydrate the grape juice and pitch the yeast. In this video I’ll show you everything it takes to get your wine kit happily fermenting.   This part of the process is probably the most labor intensive step until it comes to bottling. The most time consuming part was cleaning all the equipment and reading the directions over and over again. One word of caution, watch your water temperature. My must was a little too warm. When I hydrated the grape juice concentrate I should have measured the temperature of the water I was adding. Because I didn’t I wound up with a must around 90 degrees (F)! That’s really not all that bad except that for the yeast to get going the must needed to be between 72 and 75 degrees (F). It took nearly six hours for the must to cool off after re-hydration. Lesson: montor the temperature of the water you’re adding to the must as well as the ambient room temperature. My Shiraz began fermenting within 24 hours of pitching the yeast and it smelled like heaven! For about two days… After a couple days it began to smell like old beer and grape juice; kind of rowdy. Up next, racking off the lees and into the...

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Which Wine Kit Should I Start With?

Which Wine Kit Should I Start With?

When you first get started with making your own wine it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of decisions you have to make. I recommend you start simply with a wine kit. Starting with a kit reduces the amount of equipment you need to purchase or rent at the outset. The process is also limited to that of making wine and does not include tasks such as finding grapes, pressing them, or any else besides the actual chemistry of making wines. Choosing which wine kit to make is also an important decision which is influenced by several factors. Here are just a few things to think about. What Do You Like to Drink? Choose a varietal that you enjoy! This is first and foremost because you’re about to make 30 bottles of wine. No one wants 30 bottles of wine they don’t like. Wine kits have been designed such that they all follow just about the same process. There is some variability but by in large kits are all relatively the same once you get going. Fortified wines do have a bit of extra work that must go into them, however, the kit manufacturers have made the process as simple as possible. Quality Just like anything else you spend your money on, you usually get what you pay for. An inexpensive kit will be of good quality while a more expensive kit will be of the highest quality. Many of the grapes that go into these kits come from the same vineyards that produce grapes for commercial wineries. This is why you might see on your Zinfandel kit that this particular vintage won this medal or that one at some point. Pros are using the same raw materials to make their wines. Depending on your budget you may have to start with the inexpensive kits given that you’ll be purchasing equipment as well. No worries, start where you can. These days a wine kit can produce good results provided you follow the directions. How Much Patience do You Have? Time is both the best ingredient for a great wine and the hardest to give. After you’ve spent the time and effort researching kits and equipment, then fermenting the wine, you’ll then have to let it age. Some wine kits take longer than others to mature. Many are designed for early consumption (four to six weeks from starting fermentation) while the more sophisticated ones take longer to reach their peak flavor. White wines can be made and consumed fairly quickly while reds need more time. Don’t pick up a kit that needs a year or more of aging for your first winemaking experience. The return on investment is just too long unless you have unparalleled patience. Start with something you can make and consume fairly quickly. That way you’ll get a sense of how much you enjoy making wine. Another idea is to pick up a kit that is ready to drink quickly and right afterward start another kit that takes a bit of time to age. This way you’ll get the experience and 30 bottles of wine to consume...

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Equipment Required for Making Wine from a Kit

Once you’ve decided on what wine kit you’d like to make we now move onto what equipment you’ll need to get started. In this video I outline the minimum amount of equipment required to get going. You can always add more gadgets but this is an affordable place to start. In summary, you’ll need: a primary fermenter a carboy a hydrometer test jar racking cane with tubing wine thief corks a corker wine bottles bottle filler carboy brush bottle brush sanitizer Here are links* to most of the equipment shown in the video: Winemaking Equipment Kit Carboy Brush Wine Thief Test Jar (very similar to mine) The testing equipment I showed is not necessary with a kit, however, it doesn’t hurt to get an early start to understanding the chemistry of wine. *These are affiliate links. By clicking on these links you will be helping support Winemaker’s...

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What Comes in a Winemaking Kit?

So you’ve decided you want to make wine but what do you need to get going? First of all you’ll need to choose a wine kit. A wine kit includes a grape juice concentrate, most importantly, but also several additional chemicals used during the winemaking process. In this video session I’ll show you what you can expect to find in your winemaking kit when you open it up. Here’s a link to the Vintner’s Reserve Shiraz shown in the video (affiliate). In the next session we’ll cover the equipment required to ferment the grape juice into wine. Questions or comments? Please let me know...

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