Where to Set Up Your Wine Making Operation

Where to Set Up Your Wine Making Operation

Making wine takes not only time but also space. The right kind of space. Finding The Best Wine Making Area With all the sanitizing, racking, and testing you’ll be doing it’s easy to see how wine making can get messy. Without the proper area you’ll definitely be leaving your mark. Let’s look at what sort of area will work best for your wine making operation. The most important factors are: A sturdy work surface. Temperature control. Exposure to sunlight. Being near a water source and drain. Having a washable floor. Having a well ventilated area. Have a Sturdy Work Surface Don’t trust wobbly tables or shelves to hold your carboys. A full 6 gallon glass carboy weighs around 50 lb when it’s topped up. If you’ve got two or three carboys make sure your table or shelves can take that kind of load. Most store bought tables will have some sort of indication as to what sort of weight you can apply before getting into trouble. Stay away from tables made from particle board if you can. Temperature Control Being able to control the temperature of your wine during fermentation is very important. If your winemaking area is too hot during fermentation your wine can take on a cooked taste. Too cold and fermentation will stop. Fermenting wine generates its own heat. So even if your wine making area is at a reasonable temperature your wine can still overheat. Prior to starting your wine making efforts take the time to log day and night time temperatures of your prospective areas. You might be surprised to find out that a certain area has wild temperature swings. The best area will have a more or less constant temperature day and night. Minimal Exposure to Sunlight Sunlight causes wine to age prematurely. Even if you bottled in dark green or brown bottles the light will still change your wine. At the very minimum you need to avoid direct sunlight. Ideally, though, you should block all forms of light especially once you’re aging the wine. During the wine making process cover your carboy to block the light if the room isn’t totally dark. I put an old jacket over my carboy to insulate and block the light. They do make insulating carboy covers that serve the same purpose. After I bottled my wine I moved it under the stairs in the basement. Even with all the lights on you can’t see a thing back there. Find a spot where you can produce your wine protected from sunlight but more importantly figure out where you’re going to store your wine for aging. Be Near a Water Source and Drain Having a water source and a drain of some kind close at hand is really helpful. Throughout every winemaking step, regardless of whether you are making wine from a kit, frozen must, or grapes, you’re going to need to sanitize and rinse equipment. I made my Shiraz in a basement that met every one of the requirements listed here except this one. While I was successful it would have been much easier had I had a...

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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 Much Does it Cost to Make Wine from a Kit?

How Much Does it Cost to Make Wine from a Kit?

Wine kits are by far the least expensive way to get into wine making. It requires the least amount of equipment and makes the smallest amount of wine. Let’s take a look at what determines the cost to make wine for the first time. The Equipment I Purchased To get started I picked up the Vintner’s Reserve Shiraz wine kit. This included the grape juice concentrate and nearly all of the additives required to make the wine. However, wine kits do not include any equipment. With that in mind I picked up this wine making equipment kit from Midwest Supplies. This kit included the following: Primary Fermenter Glass Carboy (6.5 gallon) Hydrometer Corker Corks Bottle Brush Sanitizer Airlock Carboy plug While this got me most of the way as far as equipment was concerned I also purchased the following items: Carboy Brush Wine Thief Hydrometer Test Jar Self Adhesive Thermometer Titratable Acid Test Kit (optional) pH Test Strips (optional) With this equipment I was able to progress as far as completing fermentation. However I did find that I was missing a few key pieces of equipment for degassing the wine as well as having enough additives to age the wine longer than six months. Thus I also purchased a Wine Whip 28″ spoon additional potassium sorbate Star San sanitizer. I’ll get to the cost here in a minute. The point of laying out my equipment purchases in this way was to show you that these equipment kits don’t necessarily come with everything you need. Neither do the wine kit instructions spell out everything you’re likely to need. When I was making my initial purchase of the wine and equipment kit I believed I had nearly everything I needed. Even then I’d already picked up several things that weren’t in the equipment kit. As you saw above though, I wasn’t prepared for all of the wine making steps. One thing you may have noticed that’s missing from this list of equipment are the bottles. I used bottles I’d saved from wine I had consumed. Also, I got in touch with a local winery who offered to save me their empty tasting room bottles. I encourage you to collect bottles any way you can. They tend to be quite expensive to purchase due to the shipping costs. Local supply shops also pay that shipping before selling to you so there’s really no good deals on bottles. The only hitch with used bottles is removing the wine labels. So let’s get to it! Here’s the complete list of equipment I purchased and what I paid for it. The price per bottle is the sum of all equipment I purchased divided by the number of bottles yielded, 30. In all honesty I wound up with 29.5 bottles but I could have had 30 had I been more careful with the racking cane. Now that I own this equipment the cost per bottle of the next batch will come down significantly. This is because the cost of equipment can be spread out over the two batches instead of just the one. Much of this equipment will...

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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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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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