Introduction: How to Make Better Wine
So you've read "How to make Wine"? Did you enjoy reading and making your own wine? Are you ready to take it a step further?
Your pocket book is going to get a little lighter from equipment and supplies too so I'd read over this instructable before committing!. The advantage is that you'll be using better equipment, better techniques, better ingredients and can expect a better product.
Enjoying the fruits of your labors will never be as true here as any other time!
Before beginning, a few acknowledgments/shameful plugs:
Homebrewtalk.com- Full of great advice and friendly posters knowledgeable about beer, wine and mead making.
Jack KellerJack Keller - Type 'wine making' into google and you will find Jack. His website should be a required read for anybody looking to get into wine making. His recipe database alone is impressive. Odds are if you have questions about wine making, he'll have the answer somewhere on his site.
Scott @ Homemadewine.wordpress.com- I'm using his blueberry wine recipe and guide to making a sulfite solution. His site has a bunch of quick tips that are great for any winemaker.
Word of warning: The fruits of your labor are not meant to be consumed right away. The process of making wine is a test of patience, meaning you need to wait usually 5-6 months AT LEAST before judging if your wine is good.
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Step 1: Legality and Warning
I've copied this step from the first instructable and it's just as true now as it was then.
Winemaking, also known as Homebrewing, is completely legal in the US and many other places. As follows is what I KNOW is legal in the US(1):
1. You can make up to 100 gallons by yourself or 200 max, if you live with other people, annually.
2. You may not sale your homebrew.
3. You must be 21 or legal drinking age to make and drink your homebrew. *
4. You may not distill spirits.
5. You may share and taste homebrewed beverages
*Technically it is 18, but you'd 99% of the time be seeking to consume or possess alcohol, which is illegal.
Since you are producing substance that kills more people a year than most forms of cancer, you will need to treat alcoholic beverages with the respect they command.
1.Do not drink and drive.
2. Do not drink while pregnant or nursing.
3. Do not drink if you suffer from liver, heat failure, or anything else just about.
4. Consult your doctor if you are unsure how alcohol will interact with any drugs you are taking.
Home wine making is not making moonshine. It will not cause you any more harm than consuming alcohol does. You will have few, if any, methyl alcohols that cause blindness. You would die from alcohol poisoning long before having to worry about this.
Almost all commercial wines contain sulfites. This Instructable teaches users how to add sulfites if needed. This may be left off if sulfites cause allergic reactions to you or those you want to consume the wine. Potassium Metabisulfite MSDS
Potassium Sorbate is potentially added if additional sweetening is required. Do not add if you are allergic to it. Here is it's MSDS Potassium Sorbate MSDS
Finally, your final product will be about 12-18% alcohol. Keep that in mind when serving.
With disclosures and warnings out of the way, let's go to it!
1= Wiki Link
Step 2: Equipment
Everything listed here can be obtained from a Homebrew Shop. If you don't have a local one, Check out Northernbrewer or Austin Homebrewing supply online. Buying these in a kit will help make sure you have all the stuff and save a little.
1. Food safe, air tight Bucket:
You can find these at restaurant supply stores or other places. However, if they are not air tight, it will not do. In addition, you will need to drill a hole and place a gasket for your airlock. Also, make sure that it is #1 or #2 grade plastics.
A 7.9 gallon bucket is a necessity for fruit wines. You need to have sufficient space for the liquid and the fruit to sit in.
2. Plastic/Glass Carboy 5-6.5 gallon:
Used for secondary/aging wine in. You can find these at some chemical shops(used to hold acid), though your best bet is to get them from Homebrew Store. You can also use a large 5 gallon plastic jug for water. See the last instructable for what is ok. I love using glass carboys for extended aging and they have absolutely no oxygen permeability.
Glass Carboys can be also very dangerous if you are not careful. A filled glass carboy that is dropped is more than capable of causing serious injury.
If you are unable to lift a 5 gallon water jug, do not get a glass carboy.
Plastic carboys, while nice and easy to carry, can be scratched on the inside. You cannot use a brush to clean these. Instead, a chemical cleaner MUST be used to avoid contaminating them.
3. Rubber Stopper/Carboy Cap:
These hold the airlock in place and keep the carboys airtight.
You can find a three-piece and single piece airlock. The three piece is used for primary and the single-piece for secondary. Truth be told, the three piece can be used for both though. Get two in case you loose/break one.
This little sealed and weighted tube tells a lot about wine or any alcoholic beverage. By measuring the must before fermenting and after fermenting, it will tell you the alcohol %. Get two of these as they tend to break when you only have one them. The are calibrated at a certain temperature, either 70F or 68F.
Chiefly, though, it tells you WHEN FERMENTATION IS FINISHED. Generally, when wine hits bellow 1.0 - .990, it is done, The recipe should specify though.
Sanitation, hydrometer usage, and planning are what separate the lucky from the skilled.
6. Hydrometer jar/tube:
Anything that allows you to let the hydrometer float in. Typically, a 100ml graduated cylinder works best. It can also be the the plastic tube the Hydrometer comes in. Fancy that.
7. Measuring spoons:
Makes adding additives is much easier. The more increments in Table and Tea spoons, the better. Get some that include 1/8th teaspoon.
8. Wine Thief:
If you have a Turkey Baster, this will also work. If not, get a wine thief. It allows you to take samples a lot easier in a size that is easier to work with.
Last time it was a suggestion. Now it's a requirement. These buggers make transferring an easy task. Get the 1/4" variety and about 2-3' of 3/8" tubing.
We're making wine, so let's start bottling some of it fancily. You can find the two-handed kind at any homebrewing store. I recommend bottling with two people, one to hold the bottle, one to cork the bottle.
If you've got cash or plan on making wine often, get a floor corker. They make the corking process much, much easier.
Honestly, this is the easiest and hardest thing to get. You need about 30 750ml bottles for a 5 gallon batch of wine. You can buy them from any homebrew store for sure.
BUT, why not help mother earth out for a change? Go to any recycling place or restaurant that serves a lot of wine and ask for the bottles. You do NOT want champagne bottles, but actual wine bottles. Champagne bottles require a special corker and need to wiring to keep it in. The trade off is that you'd be able to carbonate your wine. Cleaning and sanitizing aren't that hard.
12. Bottle Brush;
Cleaning the above bottles.
You can get the cheap, "particle board" corks, but I'd just spend the extra dough and get the plastic kind. You don't have to worry about cork-rot and can store the bottles vertically. You can get the "real cork" kind, but be sure to store them horizontally after bottling.
14. Nylon Straining bags:
You need these for fruit wines when you need to get the juices out of the fruit without the solids getting loose.
15. Bottling wand:
Never bottle without one of these unless your idea of fun is big messes. They are spring activated and fill a bottle until you lift it off the bottom of the bottle.
A liquid crystal sticker that you put on your fermentors. It tells you the temperature of the wine, which is pretty important, though not as much as with beer.
Step 3: Materials
Making a reappearence from last time is Juices, Yeast, sugar and some chemicals.
However, this time, we'll be using fruits as well. You can continue to use juices if wish.
Choosing a fruit is, of course, what determine the body, the flavor and aroma of your wine. Some fruits will not taste at all the same after fermentation. Some will taste the same. The key is to research your recipe thoroughly before starting. Jack Keller's Website is the best place to start.
When working with fruits for wine, you want to pick ones that a bit less ripe than the rest. Go to your local farmer's market or better a farm fruit stand. You can also try a fruit distributor for you area. Don't rely on the super market. You'll get pitiful fruit that costs way too much.
Be sure to get a couple of jumbo sized freezer bags as well. You will freeze the fruit before crushing. Throw them in the freezer and let them sit there for a day or so. After that, pull them out and put them in the fridge to slowly dethaw. The freezing caused liquid inside the berries to grow and rupture the cell walls. This'll make crushing the fruit much easier.
I've heard conflicting reports of washing then freezing or to freeze the fruit than wash it. I personally like the idea of rinsing it before freezing. If the fruit is thawed and the cells are all busted up, they rinsing will just wash away the juices.
Once fully de-thawed, put them on the counter and start squeezing the bags, Once you've got all the berries crushed (don't do it too hard!) grab your straining bag attached or otherwise held inside the fermenting bucket, begin pouring them into it. It's not the end of the world if a few don't fall into the straining bag. Follow your recipe now.
These buggers are the reason we're making this stuff. It's more critical than ever to make sure you are using the right kind of wine yeast. No longer will using baker's yeast or other yeast be acceptable.
Beer yeast can be used but it often will not be up to par with champagne or wine yeast.
The recipe will suggest a yeast to use, but feel free to experiment with different strains of yeast once you've got the hang of wine making. Most wine strains produce a wine that is acceptable and tasty, but may not quite fit the style the recipe calls for. Also be sure to check the optimal temperature for your yeast. The primary fermentation will be brief but it will still be useful keep it properly controlled.
Most wines need some sweetening to reach the desired taste. Sugars can be divided into two categories:
Fermentable- These are your Corn Sugar(dextrose), Table Sugar(sucrose) and other types. Yeast will consume these and produce alcohol and CO2.
Unfermentable- Lactose, Splenda(Sucralose) Yeast cannot metabolize these sugars, thus the remain in the wine and will taste sweet.
What sugars you use will be up to your taste and the recipe. I can say that you should probably stock up on a 10# bag of White sugar.
Boil the sugar into water to make a simple syrup and add it to the must. It is a lot easier to mix a liquid into the must than a solid.
Now that we're high-flouting wine maker's, we'll side-step those "all-natural" arguments by insisting we are using additives or some other words. The idea is that we are not engineering the wine but making sure that the conditions for fermentation and other natural reactions is the best it can be. pH and sulfite levels are critical if we want good wine. Again, we're not doing anything different than what is already being done in most commercial wineries .
Potassium Metabisulfite- Notice that Sodium is gone? That's because it adds unwanted sodium to an otherwise somewhat healthy beverage. Buy this in a jar and make your own solution. Remember, 50ppm is what you want when fermenting, if the directions don't actually say what to use.
Potassium Sorbate- Critical for fruit wines especially. Often, you will want to backsweeten(sweeten after fermentation) to taste. In order to keep the wine from referementing. you need to use this.
Yeast Nutrients - Some fruits are especially devoid of building blocks for yeast. Adding this makes sure you get a a good fermentation from your yeast and some insurance.
Grape tannins(Tannic Acid)- This is a somewhat astringent additive from the skin of grapes. You add it to ensure the wine ages properly and that it has a little bit more depth/body. Grape Wines may not require this, of course.
Pectic Enzyme - This little enzyme helps break down cell walls even further, allowing more juice to come out. A necessity in most fruit wines, though some may already possess enough pectin to work. This helps reduce pectic haze as well.
Acids- You will need to adjust the pH of a wine to an optimal level for the style, taste and other reasons. You can choose between Citric Acid, Malic Acid, Tartaric Acid, and Acid Blend (combination of all three.) These all add different flavors, so using Acid Blend is usually the best way to go. The recipe will also usually advise you on what to actually add.
Fining or Clearing Agents- There are a number of things you can add to your wine to adjust the taste. For instance, you may wish to add oak chips to a red wine to impart some oak flavoring.
A word on "Cloudy" Wine
Your wine may not always come out clear but don't worry. The flavor is rarely disturbed by this and it will usually clear on its own. If it's not clear, give the wine more time. There is no sense in rushing the wine to completion.
However, if you must have clear wine, after letting it sit in the carboy for months, you can add a wide range of clearing agents ranging from Benoite to Gelatin to Sparkolloid. They all have their advantages and disadvantages based on what type of clarifier is being used on what type of wine.
Also, if dietary concerns are an issue, that some clarifier may use animal products such as gelatin or egg whites. Always be sure to check!
Step 4: Sanitiation and Cleaning!
If you tuned in last time, you saw that I had an entire step for sanitation. Rather than repeat myself here on sanitation, I'll just give you the core message
You cannot over do it enough!!!!!!
I've been using Star-San for a while and absolutely love it. No infected batches since I've been using it!
You will need a good cleaner though. I suggest Oxyclean, though Homebrew stores will have several varieties.
For using oxyclean, fill the container up with warm, not hot, water and add about a scoop of oxyclean for each 3-4 gallons. Shake the container (VERY CAREFULLY IF USING A GLASS CARBOY!) and set it down over night. In the morning, all your gunk will be cleaned off. Follow with a quick rinse and dry. For carboys, this can be setting it upside down in your sink for an hour or so.
For cleaning stubborn deposits on plastic containers, using a stiff brush can create scratches. This makes it impossible to sanitize at the mircoscopic level, so just use cleaner and be lazy. You can use a soft sponge and towel you a bucket, but a plastic carboy will be a bit more difficult to clean with those.
On glass, however, use anything but metal to clean it.
Step 5: Getting Started
So double check what your recipe says before taking the this instructable at it's word.
In this instructable, I will be showing you how to make a blueberry wine. We're using a recipe from a site that really got me interested in wine, homemadewine.wordpress.com. Lots of quick, good tips there.
Anyways, the recipe is as follows.
- 18 lbs of blueberries (3 lbs per gallon)
- 1 tsp grape tannins
- 1 T yeast nutrient
- 1 T acid blend
- 1 T pectic enzyme
- 2x 5lbs bags of Sugar
- Champagne/Cote Des Blanc yeast
Step 6: Preping the Fruit
When you first get your fruit or berries home, give them a quick look-over and make sure you do not have any bugs or other gross stuff. Discard any rotten berries too.
Wash them gently and pat them dry. Place them into freezer bags and place tem on a scale to make sure you get the right amount. As homemadewine blog says, keeping them in bags of proportional to your recipe will allow you to easily grab some fruit. This means you can grab some berries out of the freezer early next year for a recipe and know that you have the right amount.
Freezing the fruit allows the liquids inside the cells to expand, rupturing the cell walls and allowing the juices to more easily flow out.
Once you are ready to make the wine, pull the berries out and place them in the fridge. They will slowly dethaw there. A day or so later, once the berries are dethawed, you are ready to make wine. Pull them out and squeeze the bags. Give 'em a good push around. The fruit should be crushed up lots of juices in the bag.
Step 7: Prepare the Must
With the fruit properly crushed, start preparing the must. Get three gallons of sterilized water (boiled or store bought) and pour it into the fermenting bucket.
2. Pour the 1T of pectic enzyme and the sulfite solution into the bucket.
3. With your nylon bag in the bucket, pour your crushed fruit into the bag.
4. Let the fruit fall into the bucket. Stir it around and seal the bucket.
5. Stir it several times a day for 2-3 days. This is really great for getting the most out of your juices.
Step 8: Pitching the Yeast
1. Boil the bags of sugar into 18-20 cups of water. This is mixture is also referred to as a simple syrup. It can be VERY sticky!
2. Boil some extra water/get some spring water and keep it to the side. You'll need it to get the gravity of the must right.
3. Pour the syrup into the must and mix it.
4. After doing so, grab your wine thief and hydrometer. Take a sample of the must and look to get a reading between 1.075-1.090. If it's too high, add some water from the stuff you set aside. . If it is too low, boil a 2 cups of sugar of water into one cup of water and pour it in.
You should get about 6 gallons at that gravity range.
DO NOT RETURN the sample to the bucket.
4. Mix the acid blend, the yeast nutrient and the grape tannins into must. They should dissolve with no problems.
5. Reseal it and let it stay alone for an hour or so.
6. Open it back up and pour the yeast onto the top of the must and mix it slowly.
7. Reseal the bucket and put it in a proper temperature range. Make sure the airlock is securely in place.
8. Check it every so often to make sure foam, called 'Krausen' is not building up into the airlock. If so, remove it and a clean it.
9. After a 5-7 days, take a gravity reading. It should be below .990. If not, reseal the bucket and come back in 2-3 days.
10. Once done, carefully remove the bag with the fruit in it, and squeeze to the side of the bucket gently. You want to release the juices trapped in the bag, not force them out. Discard of the bag and used fruit (or maybe use it in baking. Be inventive!)
11. You are now ready to move the wine to secondary.
Step 9: Transferring to Secondary and Aging
1. Siphon your autosiphon. Run a sanitizer solution through it and submerge the hosing and body of the siphon in it.
2. Placing the bucket higher than your carboy.
3. Making sure that the hose is in the carboy far enough, begin the siphon.
4. Avoid siphoning directly from the bottom by holding the siphon up an inch or two. You want avoid getting the junk at the bottom that is referred to as "trub".
5. Once your carboy is filled/you have gotten all of the wine, take a quick sample with your wine thief and check it's final gravity. To find your Alcohol by volume percentage, use this equation:
(Your OG when you started - your final gravity)*129.
For instance, for this recipe: 1.080 - 0.980 = .100 * 129 = 12.9. The wine would be 12.9% alcohol by volume.
Be sure to sample it and make sure it doesn't taste like a vinegar solution. Other than that, hold your judgment on taste for a few months.
6. Seal your carboy with an airlock and put it in a out of the way place. It should not be too hot or cold.
7. Check it every week or so to make sure the airlock has sanitizing solution in it. Other than that, forget about it for several months. It will depend on your recipe, but no one will recommend less 2-3 months. See ya again in a while!
8. After it has sufficiently aged and cleared, move onto the next step.
9. After a few months, if the wine is just not clearing, you can transfer it into another carboy. If you choose to do so, add another amount of sulfite solution and mix it in. Siphon it into the new carboy the same way you did with the bucket into the carboy. If the wine is STILL not clearing, proceed to the next step anyways. We'll deal with this with finings.
Step 10: Adjusting Taste/Clarity and Stabilizing
Welcome back after a few months!
Parts of this step may be omitted if the wine tastes well enough or you have added sulfites since starting.
After you wine has aged for the sufficient amount of time you can begin the final steps heading towards bottling.
Before you can place the wine into the bottle though, you need to finish the wine, as once it's in the bottle...it's in for good.
If you wine has particulates floating in it and seems to just not settling down, you have a wide range of fining agents that can help polish the wine and give it the appearance you want.
Normally, a winery will just run their wine through a series of filters here, but that is a bit above our budget as filter setups can run $100-$300. In addition, the filter pads/lines need to be cleaned and sanitized each time as well as the
Depending on the wine you are making and any dietary restrictions, you can choose the correct fining. In most cases though, a 2-stage ingredient of kieselsol and chitosan will give you the quickest clearing. Sparkolloid powder will work as well, but is best added during the secondary aging since it requires a while to bind with other substances and flocate. Keep in mind that some finings, like egg whites, are animal products.
In my case, I had some clearing issues after aging, so I went with a kieselsol and chitosan packet.
You'll generally just follow the directions on the packet to ensure that you follow the correct method of preparing and adding the fining agent.
As you can see below, the fining agent did a stupendous job of binding with particulates in the wine and ensure they did not end up in the final product!
Keep in mind you should always use finings and transfer the wine BEFORE adjusting the taste and stablizing. Otherwise when you begin mixing the wine, you'll bring all of the flocated particulates back into the wine.
Depending on the style wine you are making, you may or may not want to back sweeten or add some astringency. Keep in mind the ultimate goal is a flavorful, well balanced wine.
You're not trying to make alcoholic kool-aid.
In the case of back sweetening, you will need to have some potassium sorbate and sulfites ready(as the sorbate works much better in the presence of sulfite). Additionally, the type of sugar you choose to add will imparts it's flavor profile. I'd stick close to boring ol' white sugar(sucrose).
Boil about a 1lb of sugar into 1 cup of water for every gallon of wine for about 10-15 minutes. Once done, cover the pot with sanitized foil to keep anything from landing in it.
Take a sample of the syrup (I typically get 2-3 ounces) and a 16oz of wine I'll add about a 1/4 of an oz of the syrup to the wine, dilute and sample. If it needs more, I'll add another 1/4 oz. For every 1/4 oz of sample syrup, I'll pour an 1/8th of the syrup into the wine. Make sure you add Potassium Sorbate in the next step.
Make sure you "dispose" of that tasting wine and do not add it back into the main wine.
Might I suggest a wine glass for further study?
For astringency, mainly only for red wines, the main contribution is from the grape tannins themselves then the oak barrels they are aged in. Since oak barrels are not easily found and when they are, not very cheaply, this astringency can be imparted by adding oak chips to the wine. I'd suggest doing this while aging in a bucket as you can put the chips into a nylon bag for easier removal after siphoning the wine.
If you have added sugar or there has been two siphons since you last added sulfites, you will need to stabilize the wine.
1. Sanitize a measuring cup and add 8oz of wine into it.
2. Crush or dilute enough Potassium MetabiSulfite to make the wine ~60ppm.
3. Pour the sulfite into the sample about a 1/3 at a time and stir with a sanitized implement until dissolved.
4. Once all of the sulfite is dissolved, add potassium sorbate, 1/2 tsp per gallon. This can be omitted if backsweetening was not done. Again, stir until dissolved.
5. Add the obtained sample back into the wine and stir to incorporate it.
Assuming you do not need to wait for the finings to take action, you can now proceed to the next step...bottling!
Step 11: Bottling
First and foremost...you are going to need to confront a possibly harsh reality.
Wine, almost under any circumstance, can be rescued and saved by finings and aging. Even if your wine does not come out perfect, it will usually be palatable and find it's own place among meals and what not. The internet is full of information on how to rescue a batch of wine as well!
However, you may just get a batch that does not seem to improve no matter what happens or what you do.
If your wine just cannot seem to gain any flavor other than an old, moldy or mousy flavor, at this point I suggest starting over as the agony of pouring out 6 gallons of wine is never as bad as having to open 30 bottles to pour out after waiting over a year to enjoy it.
Keep in mind that this is purely a "worst case" scenario and hopefully you will never experience this.
With that said, onto bottling, the last step of this instructable!
1. Clean and sanitize 30 750ml bottles and 30 corks. Leave the corks floating in the sanitizing solution.
2. Sanitize your autosiphon and bottling wand.
3. Attach your wand to the end of your siphon tube. Use a hose clamp to tighten it in place.
4. Put your carboy/bucket filled with wine on a counter or shelf. I recommend doing bottling in a bathroom or over a something that can be cleaned.
5. Get another person before filling the bottles. One person will fill them, other will start the siphon and make sure the carboy does not tip over while siphoning. They can also begin corking the bottles after getting the siphon started.
6. Align your bottles into a 5 x 6 grid with an inch of spacing.
7. Putting the wand into the bottom of the first bottle, being the pumping the autosiphon. Pressing the wand down will allow it to start. You will only have to pump the autosiphon for the first bottle.
8. Fill right up to the half the neck of the bottle. Removing the wand will allow it to be right at the neck.
9. Continue doing step 8 for every bottle.
10. Cork the bottles, pulling a sanitized cork at a time from the solution.
10.5 a. - If you are using a "wing" corker, I suggest making sure your buddy waits until you are done. Place the cork in it, and have one person hold the bottle will the other corks it.
10.5 b. If you are using a floor corker, make sure your stand is adjusted for the bottles. Rotate the plugger to the correct height by finding out with an empty bottle and spare cork. To use a floor corker, place a cleaned cork into the iris of the open corker and insert the bottle into the loading platform below. Lower the lever and the iris will compress the cork as the plugger pushes it into the wine bottle.
11a. If you are using real cork, allow the bottles to stand upright for a day or so, then you MUST store them horizontally, with wine against the cork. This prevents the cork from drying out. Failure to do so will cause cork rot and when you go to open the bottle, the cork will fall apart into the wine.
11b. If you are using the plastic cork, store them wherever you intend to keep the wine. See why I like these? You can still use any cork opener to open these.
12. The wine is not done aging yet! The process of bottling causes what is called "Bottle shock". Feel free to take a sample or two, but the wine is not quite done yet. You should really wait another month or two before opening a bottle. Remember, wine will only get better with age. Hide a bottle somewhere and retrieve it a few years later to enjoy the full richness the wine has developed.
Step 12: Finished!
After waiting for so long, place your bottle of wine into the fridge.
If you allowed clearing and siphoned properly, you will have no sediment in any of the bottles.
If you do have sediment, leave the last inch or so of wine in the bottle.
If your batch of wine does not turn out perfect, relax! No one every does something entirely right their first time. I screwed up siphoning my first time and had one bottle that was almost undrinkable from all the yeast in it. Just about every other bottle has some yeast in it as well.
If something does not taste right, give the wine more time! Almost all wines will come into their own after a while. The only reason to ever dump a batch is if it quite undrinkable or it smells like vinegar.
The only way to fail at wine making is to quit.
Relax and enjoy your wine in moderation! Let your imagination run wild with ideas for new wines. Check Jack Keller's website for more recipes than you'll ever make. Be sure to save your empty bottles for new batches and thanks for reading!