Awesome Reusable Wine Labels

While it is great fun to have your very own wine label on the bottles you made it can also be a hassle when you go to reuse the bottle. Most wine labels leave a sticky mess behind that require chemicals to remove. There is one company, however, that makes a reusable wine label that leaves no mess behind and has quite a few other neat features. I found these not too long ago and wanted to check them out. I wrote to the company to see if they had any over-run labels from other orders that they could send me to review with you. They agreed and sent me a variety of wine and beer labels to test out and create a video with. Here’s a video showing what the wine labels look like and how they work. Again, the key points were: 1. The labels are completely removable. 2. You can write on them with washable or dry erase Crayola Crayons. 3. The labels can be customized to read whatever you like. The guys over at Grogtag were kind enough to give me a code that you can use to get 10% off of your order. You can either follow this link or just use the code “WineMakerMatt” when you check out for the discount. In addition to getting 10% off a percentage of the sale also goes to Winemaker’s Academy making this a great way to dress up your wine and help support the Academy. Academy proceeds from label sales will go directly to purchasing more wine making supplies and equipment to share with you. I was not paid to make the video or say what I said. I genuinely like these labels and will be ordering some of my own for my Riesling. When they get here I’ll be sure to share them with...

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The Most Neglected Piece of Winemaking Equipment

The Most Neglected Piece of Winemaking Equipment

It’s inexpensive, easy to use, and easy to neglect. The cost of neglecting it, however, is all the wine your making. So what is this little savior of wine? The airlock. Why Are Airlocks So Critical? First, they keep out all of the undesirable micro-organisms that seek to ruin your wine. Vinegar bacteria, lactic bacteria, and weak wild yeasts are all kept at bay with a properly maintained airlock. Second, airlocks prevent oxygen from entering your wine. Not only does this prevent oxidation it makes the production of alcohol possible. As I mentioned in my post about the yeast fermentation process, yeasts only produce alcohol when it consumes sugar. This is only possible once they’ve run out of oxygen. Thus it is critical that a properly set up airlock is used to starve the yeast of oxygen so they’ll produce alcohol. Now that I’ve shown you how important it is to properly setting up an airlock let’s get into how to set one up. Why do Winemakers Neglect Airlocks? Airlocks are put in place when the wine needs to sit for a while. Generally they’ll be in place for as little as a couple of weeks or up to a few months or more. Many winemakers will “set it and forget it”. The hard part is done and now it’s time to give our wine a little time to itself to ferment or age. Many will just walk away and trust that it’s functioning properly and nothing will happen to it. However there airlocks can fail. All it takes is an overly active fermentation, an improperly seated plug, or a cat to make unseat an airlock and let int oxygen and some nasty micro-organisms. When that happens all that wine will have to go down the drain. How To Use an Airlock In the following four minute video I’ll walk you through the entire process of setting up your three piece airlock. These are not the only type of airlock on the market, however, they’re the ones with the most moving parts. Watch this video to make sure you set up your airlock properly. If you follow these steps you’ll be well on your way to making the best possible wine with whatever raw materials you started with. The price for not following these steps so is just too high. Pretty easy right? Yes, BUT, don’t take these little devices for granted! They may be simple but they’re our guardians against spoiled grape juice. Remember These Tips Clean and sanitize every part of the airlock and plug. Fill airlocks with only clean water. Check on your airlock every day! Here’s a link to the same three piece airlock I use to make my wine. This is an affiliate link so if you use it you will be helping to support Winemaker’s...

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How to Remove Wine Labels

How to Remove Wine Labels

Reusing wine bottles is the perfect way to save some money when making your own wine. The problem is how do you remove the labels? I’ve found there are mainly three types of labels, paper, plastic, and plastic coated paper. Paper labels are easy as they’ll come off after only a few minutes in water. Plastic labels peel off but leave a mess (more on that below). The toughest labels to remove are the plastic coated paper labels. They don’t peel off and water can’t penetrate the plastic so you can’t soak it off. After a bit of practice, however, I stumbled upon a method that works really well for paper and plastic coated paper labels. Check out this video to see how I do it. I’ve got a few more tips and safety tips for you after the video so be sure to check out the rest of the post too. Here’s a brief summary of how to remove wine labels made of paper and plastic coated paper: 1. Using a utility knife carefully score the label vertically and horizontally. 2. Soak the bottle in a tub of water for 24 hours. Hint: it helps to put a little water in the wine bottle so that it doesn’t float. This way you can stand them up in the tub. 3. After soaking take  a window scraping blade and scrape the label off. Be sure to push the blade down the bottle away from you. Do this on a table and not your leg. 4. With all of the paper removed scrub off the glue. The glue can be particularly challenging to remove. One way to speed this process along is to use a cleaner such as Goo Gone. HOWEVER, do not allow any bit of this to get inside the bottle! It’s best to spray a rag away from the bottles and then use the rag to wipe down the bottles. Goo Gone in your wine isn’t going to taste good. After using any cleaners be sure to thoroughly wash the outside of the bottle. If you have to remove wine labels from a lot of bottles be sure to wash the rag out once in a while. While the goo removers do break down the glue it has to go somewhere. Your rag soaks it up and after ten labels or so you’ll just be spreading glue around instead of removing it. Removing Plastic Labels There are some labels that don’t have any paper in them. They’re thin sheets of plastic. I’ve found that these labels leave a real mess of glue behind. Your best bet is to peel the label by hand and then either scrape off the glue or use Goo Gone. A Word on Safety It’s not hard to remove wine labels but please do be careful with those utility knives and window scrapers. I don’t want to be a nag but I’d rather see you bottling wine than getting stitches in the hospital. So just two safety points here. 1. Always use a brand new blade. It’s much better to get cut by a brand...

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How to Use a Racking Cane

A racking cane is simply a hard plastic tube used to siphon wine from one container to another. Despite their simplicity they can be a bit tricky to use. The most difficult part of using this device is getting the flow of wine going. While you could suck on the end of the tube like a straw to get the siphon started this is hardly a sanitary way to make wine. I’ll show you the best way I’ve found to use the racking cane. It takes a little practice but once you get the hang of it it’s really easy. Summary To get your siphon going: 0. Sanitize all you equipment. 1. Coil the flexible tubing in a container of clean water. 2. Close the tube clamp or put your finger over the end of the tube to prevent the water from leaving the racking cane. 3. Place the end of the racking cane below the free surface of the water in the pitcher and open the clamp. This will allow water to flow from your pitcher to a waste bucket or sink. 4. Once the racking cane and tube are filled with water close the tube clamp. 5. Place the racking cane into your fermenter or carboy such that the end of the cane is 2 – 3 inches off the bottom. This helps prevent sediment from being siphoned. 6. Place the end of the flexible tube into the waste container and open the clamp. 7. Let the racking cane and tube fill with wine and close the clamp again. 8. Place the end of the flexible tube into the container you are filling and open the clamp. It looks like a lot of steps but it’s really not that bad. This is the most sanitary method I’ve found of filing a racking cane. Remember to always keep the container you’re filling below the free surface level of the wine in the container you’re emptying. If you don’t the flow of wine will stop and you’ll have to start the siphon over again. The Equipment I Use Here are links (affiliate) to the racking equipment I used in the video in case you’d like to work with the same stuff: racking cane (comes with the black tip) 3/8″ Tubing (sold by the foot. I recommend starting with four or five feet. You can always shorten it to meet your needs) small tube clamp Most equipment kits will come with all the racking equipment you’ll need. Auto Siphons They do make auto siphons which are devices designed to help you get the flow of wine going without going through all these steps. I haven’t used one yet and cannot attest to how well they work. However, I have had them recommended to me from more experienced winemakers. I also wanted to start with just the basic equipment and move into fancier equipment as I go. If you’d like to check one out here’s a link (affiliate) where you can read about the auto siphon. I do plan on getting one and will provide a tutorial once I’ve used...

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Using a Hydrometer for Making Wine

Using a Hydrometer for Making Wine

The hydrometer is the testing instrument you’ll use most when making wine. While it looks simple enough it does take some practice to fully understand both how to use it and what it’s telling you. I’ll show you how to use a hydrometer as well as what the results mean in this three and a half minute video. You’ll get to actually see the hydrometer used to measure the specific gravity of tap water, a sugar solution, as well as a finished wine so you’ll see the differences. After the video I’ll share some additional tips on getting the best reading you can from this extremely useful instrument.   Tips on Using the Hydrometer 1. Give the hydrometer a gentle spin as you lower it down into the liquid you’re measuring. This helps shake loose any bubbles that cling to the hydrometer which will affect the reading you get. 2. If  your wine is still fermenting you’ll need to take the reading as fast as you can before too many bubbles collect on the hydrometer. You could try shaking your sample vigorously in a test jar in order to degas is. 3. Always remove a sample to test fermented wine. While it is possible to take a reading from the primary fermenter you won’t be at a good viewing angle to get an accurate reading. More importantly the longer you leave your wine uncovered to take the reading the more oxygen you’ll be exposing it to. 4. Be aware of the temperature of your wine when you take your specific gravity reading. These instruments are calibrated to take correct readings at only one temperature. For many hydrometers that is 68 degrees (F). Any warmer or cooler and you’ll need to correct your reading to get the true specific gravity. Here’s a link to a specific gravity temperature correction calculator I put together for you. Also, here’s a link to a similar hydrometer used in the video. This is an affiliate link so if you use it you will be helping to support Winemaker’s Academy. If you these tips and the video useful please let me know in the...

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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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