Introduction: Making Your Own Wine
Well I knew that how to make wine was a burning question for a while, and when I started this there were zero instructables on the topic, but now there's plenty! The method I'll be showing here is from a kit, but don't be fooled, there's still loads that can go wrong. In this instructable I'll try to outline both the kit method and the true home-brew method by stating how and where they are different.
Be aware that there is no 'one method' for making wine, so try your own variation using these guidelines and make sure you browse the bar on the right to see how others did their wine!
what you need:
If you go to your local homebrew shop they'll have all this equipment, usually in a package deal.
Any food grade container will do the trick, what were looking for is a giant pail that has a lid and can fit at least 24 litres (6 US gallons).
Carboy (secondary fermentor)
Really just another container of equal volume to the primary will suffice.
A good item to get, but if you want to do it the way I used to when I was young and poor your can just use cling-film, seriously it works. Don't laugh.
any food grade hose will work. Garden hose is not food grade
I use this pink stuff that is a chlorinated sanitizer, when mixed with water it's super soapy. You can also use bleach and water solution but it involves much more rinsing and is less fun, so don't bother.
It's got all the goodies inside! But if you're not doing the kit method then you're going to need all of the above stuff plus:
pH balancer (most homemade wines will have an acidity or alkalinity that will not promote the yeast to activate and could potentially kill the littel guys (yikes!) add this to ensure the pH is suitable for your new best friend, yeast!)
yeast (Champagne yeast works really well as it has a higher tollerance to alcohol and will last up to around 14%)
Bentonite (a type of clay that binds wine poteins which help for clear wine, which everyone enjoys)
Sulphite (a wine stabilizer that prevents microbial growth and allow your wine to age properly. Also an antioxidant)
Potasium sorbate (inhibits yeast after fermentation has completed and prevents renewed fermentation. Because there is nothing funny about a cork popping out and red wine all over the floor)
Kieselsol (a gelatine, it's is used for two reasons: clarification and reduction of astringent wines (bitter))
Chitosan (A naturally charged polysaccharide derived from chitin, extracted from the outer shells of ocean crustaceans. When combined with Kieselsol, Chitosan will clarify wine in a short time and is syphoned away from the clear wine as part of the sediment)
Enough talk! LET'S DO THIS!
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Step 1: Preperation
Before we begin, there's a little something you should know.
Let's talk about sterilization.
Seriously, this is the hardest part of the entire process. You're going to need to sanitize everything that will touch the wine, this includes your hands. The easiest way to do this is to get a small bucket, say about 2 litres (1 gallon) and add a small amount of pink sanitizer and fill the bucket with cold water. Read the exact amounts on the package, a little goes a long way.
I usually use a flattened spoonful for 2 litres, it'll dissolve clear. Fire in a cloth and you're golden!
Use the cloth to wipe down your primary fermenter, lid, and spoon. Rinse well.
The mystery of Specific Gravity (SG).
This is the term used to determine the alcohol content of your creation, personally I don't subscribe to this. After years of making wine I can count the amount of failures I've had on one hand, and I'm sure all of them were from either bizarre experimentation on my part or unsanitary conditions that I introduced, possibly both.
The measurements you get from the specific gravity of the wine from pre-fermentation to post-fermentation will give you an idea of your wine alcohol content (and more importantly if you wine has even fermented!) however, as you will see if you use the kit method and keep your fingers clean then these is no need for using specific gravity, or his cronies: the wine thief, hydrometer, and the test cylinder.
Step 2: Add That Juice
So you read over the preamble, and figure you're ready. Well then crack open that box and let's get started.
Grab your package of bentonite and empty into sterilized primary bucket. Add about 4 litres (1 gallon) of water to primary and dissolve that bentonite by stirring. Then add contents of the juice/concentrate bladder into the primary fermenter, fill entire emptied bag with water and shake to get all the residue, and dump into primary.
Open the pack of oak chips or berries (depending to type of wine) and add them now too.
If you're making your own wine the mixture of fruit juice or real fruit to water is going to be a tricky one. So trial and error is going to be your best bet here. Personal preference will take the drivers seat here. Something to keep in mind though is that your mixture now will taste nothing like the finished product.
Step 3: Yeast. You'll Love These Little Guys!
DAY 1 - continued
Fill the remainder of the bucket up to the 23 litre (6 gallon) mark. Temperature is important here as the yeast has to be able to survive, so hot water is not such a great idea. If in doubt cold water is a better idea as it won't kill the yeast, they'll just hang out until the temperature of the mixture reaches above 25oC (75oF).
Stir stir stir.
To make things easier on the yeast, I'd recommend making a simple syrup with your sugar before adding it to the mixture (1:1 ratio of sugar and water), again sugar amount is personal preference for sweetness, but too little sugar will not give the yeast anything to eat and you'll have a low-alcohol wine. I know what you're thinking: add loads of sugar to make crazy alcohol wine. No. This will work to a degree, but once the alcohol content gets up to around 14-16% the yeast will die, those little guys can't handle too much. So you'll end up with a bunch of sweet, 16% wine. Which some people like.
Once your wine is up to the 23 litre mark and the temperature is right add that yeast. You don't need to mix the yeast, so don't even think about stirring. Let it sit on top of that foamy pile of goodness. Cap that sucker and forget about it in the closet for a while.
(There is also such a thing as 'liquid yeast', I wouldn't recommend this as dry yeast is pretty easy to make into liquid by just adding water.)
Something to keep in mind here is temperature. If the wine is too cold it will stop fermentation, too warm and the yeast get all excited and die. Neither of which produces happy wine. So make sure your closet is somewhere not too cold, and elevate that primary fermenter off the ground.
Congratulations! You've just completed the most laborious stage of making wine.
Step 4: Time to Check Up on Your Creation!
Here's where you open that lid and peer in. If you see bubbles and foam and can hear it crackle and hiss like a fresh bowl of Rice Krispies then you're in good shape.
If you don't hear this sound then something is wrong. Very wrong.
Really, if you followed my directions you shouldn't even be reading this. The problems of wine not fermenting are typically sterilization issues (you dirty boy!) or temperature. Even if you're equipment wasn't 100% sterile you should still get some reaction.
Solution: Try moving your wine to another warmer room.
There are probably 4598731 reasons why your wine didn't work: Temperature, sterilization, pH, sugar content, bugs or rotten fruit, moon in the seventh house, Jupiter aligns with Mars, take your pick.
Solution: Same as above, but really after 5 days I'd say try your hand at making a kit wine a few times to see how it's done then come back to this method.
Step 5: Racking
Time for more sanitizer!
You'll learn to love and hate this stuff, especially when your fingers get all pruny, angry, and slippery.
Using the bucket cloth method sanitize: Carboy (secondary fermenter), siphon hose (suck some solution through the hose as well), and stirring device.
Grab your primary bucket and place on the counter top, place your sterilized secondary on the floor. Using the hose, siphon the contents from the primary to the secondary. If you can help it don't let the hose touch the bottom of the primary fermenter, you'll drudge up all the sediment so try to keep it elevated about 1 inch from the bottom of the primary. Once you've siphoned all the goodness into the secondary, place your hose back in the primary bucket and put aside to clean later.
Step 6: Adding More Chems
DAY 14 - continued
It's time to add all the other packages that came with your kit. But be careful, there's an order here that we need to observe.
-Start by adding the Sulphite, stir it in.
-Next add the Potassium Sorbate. Stir again.
-Now it's time for more stirring. Stir like your life depends on it. You are both mixing in the Suphite and Potassium Sorbate and degassing the mixture. Stir for around 5 minutes, and don't be shy about really mixing it around. Just like you wine sometimes has a hard time passing gas in front of strangers. Insufficient stirring will prevent the wine from clearing.
- Add the kieselsol and still for about a minute to dissolve.
-Now add Chitosan, stir again.
-Degas for another 5 minutes.
This is a bit trickier as there is no formula which will work for every wine. Some wines take a little longer to reach this stage, especially if you are using 100% juice. So take notes and see if this step is applicable to you.
Step 7: Topping It Up
DAY 14 - continued
Your secondary is probably a bit low, seeing as you've left about an inch or so in the primary (remember? it's the stuff with the cloudy sediment. You did leave that behind, right?), well simply sanitize a pitcher or jug or other receptacle for water and top off your secondary to about 2 inches from the top.
Now sanitize your airlock and bung and fill the airlock about halfway with your sanitizing solution, reassemble the airlock and place on top of the secondary (or simply rip a sheet of cling film and stretch over the top).
Clean the carboy if needed, I was a little sloppy with mine. I really don't like waiting for the foam to dissipate so I overflow and just clean later. Conduct yourself accordingly. Fire that bad boy back in the closet for another 2 weeks to settle.
Step 8: Bottling
So you've taken your secondary fermenter (carboy) out of the closet and back onto your counter top. If your carboy is glass you should be able to see the sediment that's fallen to the bottom, and the remainder of the wine is now pretty clear. The most common complaint I hear from people is "homemade wine is cloudy", this is usually followed by a wine snob saying something about "homemade wines have too much sulphite". Wrong. So wrong.
ALL wine has sulphites, it's part of the clearing process. If you are opting to omit the suphite, sorbate, bentonite, or any of the other guys you are asking for cloudy and unhappy wine. Sediment in the bottom of the carboy is a great sign, it means that the chemical bonding of the particles has occoured and your wine will be clear and tasty!
I know I said that the first step of making wine was the most labourious, and I'm not lying. Honest! But if you choose to bottle your wine into 750 ml bottles then you may call me a liar.
That's why all my wine is consumed from 2 litre bottles and sometimes from wine bags!
Regardless of how you choose to bottle your wine the process is identical.
Sanitize your siphon hose, and your bottles. Once you've sanitized everything keep your sanitizing solution around to dump your corks into.
Just like before when you racked your wine from the primary to the secondary, keep the siphon hose from touching the bottom of the carboy as you'll suck up sediment which will turn everyone off drinking the bottle that it ends up in. The easiest way to accomplish bottling is to keep the end of the hose about 5 inches off the bottom and stuff a rag in the neck of the bottle to prevent the hose from creeping down. If you have a second pair of hands they can just hold the hose for you. As you get close to emptying the secondary slowly move the hose closer to the bottom, tipping the carboy to one side helps here.
I'm not going to sugar coat it. Learning to siphon while not touching the bottom of the carboy alone is an art in itself and worthy of an instructable. However difficult it is not impossible, so don't give up.
Bottle, bottle, bottle. Then when you've finished cork, cork, cork. Leave the wine upright for a day to let the corks settle and expand back into place. After a day you should lie them on their side to maximize the airspace in the bottle which helps in aging the wine.
Keep wine out of direct sunlight and from extreme cold and heat. While homemade wine is suitable to drink (albeit very young tasting) in about a week you'll notice marked improvement in taste in a month, and even more after about 6 months.
Step 9: Final Thoughts
I know it's tempting, but try to keep about half your batch aside. Hide it in your closet or in the attic for around 6 months. The remainder I'd recommend experimenting with opening them to see when it tastes right to you. There is little point in aging the wine past 2 years, most wine that you will make will reach maturity in under a year. Besides, you made it to drink right?
So there you have it. Wine made in about a month, in your very own closet! Make sure to post your results, I'd love to hear of any variations or other tips that I forgot.