How to make homemade wine

How to make homemade wine

If you’re thinking about making your own wine, you’re in good company! The idea of making wine at home is as old as the idea of home itself. People have been making wine for tens of thousands of years. In fact, winemaking is a natural process if you did nothing more than putting some grapes into a jar and leave them, the juice would run out wild yeast would ferment it and it would turn itself into wine. Now it would be a little rough and ready.

What we’ve put together is the equipment and the supplies for you to make not just wine, but great wine from the very first time.

        A couple of things about winemaking:

  1. First. Don’t worry that you don’t know anything to start with everybody start someplace.
  2. Second. You could make not just good wine, but great wine and that’s the truth. You can make wines the equal of those from stags leap vineyard in Napa or Sonoma dry creek valley and they’ll turn out fantastic the results are guaranteed.

Now you get to decide which one you want to make, again don’t worry if you don’t have a high level of wine knowledge, that doesn’t preclude you from knowing your own taste.

  • Do you want to make white Zinfandel to have with your chicken salad?
  • Do you want a great big red to have with your steak or
  • do you want just a nice wine for sipping with friends around the fire?

Choose something that you like to drink.

In the course of this site, we’re going to show how it only takes a couple of hours of time altogether to make two and a half cases of wine and I’ll demonstrate the equipment and the ingredients that you’ll be using.

What equipment do you need?

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There’s the big mouth bubbler plastic six and a half gallon primary fermenter. This is where the line will go for the first part of the fermentation process. There’s also a six-gallon glass carboy where the wine will go to the finish.

big mouth bubbler plastic six and a half gallon primary fermenter.
six-gallon glass carboy
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There’s also a bung and an airlock — these help keep air from entering the wine and oxidizing it.

airlock
best wine aerator and pourer

You’ll also need some cleaning equipment including cloths and some sanitizing products. We’re going to be using one step no-rinse sanitizer and submitted by sulfide solution, will demonstrate how to use those in a bit.

One-Step-No-Rinse-Cleanser
submitted by sulfide solution
5 criteria for choosing best wine aerator — Design

You’re also going to need a plastic spoon

a bottle filler, we’ve also got five feet of tubing and auto siphon and that’s going to help you transfer liquid from one of the fermenters to the other,

we’ve got our clean bottle express wine and beer degasser.

spoon and degasser
got five feet of tubing and auto siphon
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There’s also a carboy brush and a bottle brush which help keep everything clean.

There are 30 corks and a corking machine.

We’ve got a thermometer for checking the temperature of our grape juice. There’s also some stick on thermometers to make sure that our fermenters stay in the right temperature range.

We’re going to need a wine thief, this one comes in three pieces and needs to be assembled, that’s used to take samples to check the wine.

We’re going to be using a hydrometer and test jar that’ll tell us the progress of our fermentation.

We’ve also got some instructions on a DVD be sure to read those.

carboy brush and a bottle brush
corks and corking machine
thermometer
wine thief
instructions on a DVD

Let's Get Started

instructions

The first step that you are going to take and winemaking is the most important one  — you need to open the box and extract the single most important item that you’re going to get.

That is your instructions. Carefully remove the instructions from the box, take them out, put them back in the box, close it and do nothing else until you have completely and thoroughly read your instructions.

                                                   “Why so much emphasis in the instructions?”

Well within them is everything you need to know to make great wine. They’ve got information on temperature, timelines, specific gravity readings and the place you can go back to the reference to find out where you are in your process.

Keep in mind that wine kits are made in a winery and they’re very carefully crafted, they’ve got the right amount of nutrient, they’ve got the right specifications for sugar, for tannin, for acid, for alcohol all those things.

But to have them turn out you need to follow the instructions, so please do!

That brings us to an important point — if your instructions vary from anything you see in this site obey the instructions. We’ve necessarily made this just a tiny bit generic because some kits contain oak, some kits contain sweetening packs and some kids have different timelines.

When in doubt your instructions of the place to go.

cleaning/ sanitizing

Next step in winemaking is to get everything clean and sanitized so we can use it.

Cleaning and sanitizing are two separate steps.

clean and sanitized

For our first day, we’re going to sanitize and clean our primary fermenter, our lid spoon, thermometer, hydrometer, test jar, wine thief, bung and airlock.

We’re going to use one step cleaner — it works great! A tablespoon in a gallon of warm water will clean very effectively.

Once your equipment is clean you can sanitize it.

Most winemakers use metabisulfite it’s a solution made of three tablespoons of sulfite powder in one gallon of cool water stir to mix and it’s ready to use.

submitted by sulfide solution
  • You can dip or so each piece of equipment in it and then you can either let it completely drift dry or rinse it with clean water.
  • You could also put it into a trigger spray bottle and use it that way.

In leftover sulfide solution doesn’t need to be tossed out.

You can keep it tightly sealed in a jar for up to a month at room temperature before you have to make a fresh batch.

Alright now that all of our equipment is sanitized and ready to go, it’s time to dive into the kit.

product code sticker

The next step will be to have a look at the top of the box and see if there’s a product code sticker on top if there is peel it off and stick it on to your instructions. This has not only the name of the kit and the type line it is but also a production date code that will be very useful if you have any questions or inquiries about this particular kit.

Next step takes everything out of the box and let’s have a look at what our ingredients are.

There must be bag contains all the ingredients and additives that you need to make your wine.

  • It includes a packet of yeast specially chosen for this particular kit,
  • it’s also gone bentonite which is added to the wine on day one hardly to help us clarifying it and partly to help to get the fermentation going
  • It contains potassium sorbate
  • potassium metabisulfite in order to stabilize the wine in the bottle
  • and a fining agent to make sure it clears up on time
  • Now different kits have different additives as well this particular kit we’re making today contains some oak powder this simulates Aging in the barrel.
  • Some kids have more than one package if your kid has more than one add all of them when directed.
  • Other kids may have another smaller bag of juice inside, that’s a sweetening packet used after fermentation is over, consult your instructions.
ingredients
oak and juice
dissolve bentonite

The first step is to dissolve our bentonite in about a half a gallon of warm water in the bottom of our fermenter.

This is pretty easy and there’s a just a tiny trick to it, the bentonite is a finely powdered clay.

  • if you pour it in all at once it’ll tend to clump up and form lumps
  • If you stir the water first and then pour it in it’ll dissolve really easily

Let me show you!

pouring grape juice

Finally, we’ve got our big beautiful bag of grape juice.

We’re not gonna take it out because it’s heavy but I’ll show you how you can pour this carefully and easily.

pouring lukewarm water

The next step is to top the fermenter up to the six-gallon mark with lukewarm water.

On the big mouth bubbler, it’s very conveniently marked off at six gallons right there!

  • It’s important to use lukewarm water, our instructions tell us that this should be 72 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit before the yeast goes in if.
  • It’s colder than that it’s going to slow fermentation down and the wine may not finish or clear on time.
  • If it’s a lot hotter than that these can get a little crazy and produce some strange flavors

Make sure you get it just in the right temperature range!

So let’s top it up!

6 gallon big mouth bubbler
stir

The next step is to give the juice a really good stir.

Even though it may look mixed the juice has so much sugar in it that it can settle out in strata in the bottom.

You need to stir that into solution and get it all evenly distributed.

Get in and give it a darn good stir, don’t be shy!

stir
hydrometer reading

Next, you need to take your hydrometer reading.

A hydrometer is a device that measures the specific gravity or the density of a liquid.

Since grape juice has sugar dissolved into it, it’s denser than water so the hydrometer will float higher in the liquid.

As the yeast eats the sugars and converts them into alcohol a hydrometer will progressively float lower and lower and lower.

And this way we can tell the progress of our fermentation by taking hydrometer readings, it’s important to start out with one on the very first day.

  • Use your wine thief
  • dip it in and hold it under until it fills
  • get your hydrometer test jar, cover the hole in the top of the line thief with your thumb
  • pull it out straight up
  • carefully put the tip into the hydrometer test jar and take your thumb off
  • it will fill up

Further, you need to take the hydrometer reading, there’s a scale that runs down the side of the hydrometer and what you want to do is start from the 1.000 marks near the top and read down to the point where the level of the juice meets the markings.

wine thief2
hydrometer_illustration
hydrometer-closeup
temperature reading

Once we’ve taken our specific gravity reading it’s important that we take a temperature reading as well.

We can use the liquid in the test jar to do this take out your thermometer, dip it into the test jar and leave it for a couple of minutes to let the temperature come up.

We want it to be between 72 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit before we pitch the yeast again this is crucial.

If you’ve got a serious problem and it’s 50 degrees or cooler you can fill a bathtub with warm water and very gently sent your fermenter down into it to let it warm up to temperature.

thermometer
adding oak

You can return the grape juice to the primary fermenter and now it’s time to add any oak that’s included with the kit.

So we’re going to tear them open and pour them directly on top of the juice. Technically now it’s called “a musts” winemaker word for juice.

Oak smells great — it’s got vanilla, toasty, woody, that’s really going to compliment this Cabernet Sauvignon.

When you’ve got both packages of oaken, grab your spoon and stir it under the surface of the liquid.

It won’t sink on the first day, it’s wood so it floats however after a couple of days it’s going to get waterlogged and it’s going to sink and stay in the wine.

Don’t worry about it! By the time you’re ready to rack this from the primary fermenter into your carboy the oak will have given up all of its flavors and the wine will have a delicious toasty vanilla character.

oak powder
adding yeast

A lot of beer and wine making textbooks will tell you that it’s very important to rehydrate drive winemaking yeast before you add it. This is one of those things that’s true, but not actually important in regards to wine kits. The yeast that’s included with the kit is fully sufficient to ferment it well and ferment strongly just by being added dry. You don’t have to rehydrate it or fiddle with it in anyway!

Simply tear the pack of the yeast open and sprinkle it right into the carboy.

This is the point where this must is now wine as soon as the yeast touches it begins to rehydrate, grow to culture strength and then it’s going to start making delicious alcohol.

We’re on our way!

winemaking yeast
primary fermenter

Finally, it’s time to close up the primary fermenter and let the yeast do its work.

Attach your lid to the top, screw it down and put in the bung and airlock.

And make sure that your airlock is half full of water that fermentation lock is going to keep any air from getting into our primary fermenter but it’s going to allow fermentation gases like carbon dioxide to escape.

airlock
testing specific gravity

It’s been 5 days since we started our primary fermentation.

Now it’s time to test our specific gravity to check and see if it’s okay to rack from our big mouth bubbler into our carboy.

In preparation you need to sanitizing the carboy, a fresh airlock and bong are siphon rod and hose, our wine thief and our hydrometer and test jar.

Now let’s take that sample and check it to make sure we’re where we need to be.

If we transfer too early we could get foaming in the carboy and it might come right out the airlock and make a big mess, so we want to wait until that gravity is the correct reading.

So let’s have a look!

transferring to carboy

With our gravity reading at 1010 or less we can transfer the line from the primary to the carboy.

We’re going to be using an auto siphon which makes transferring very easy. Both of these have been sanitized and they’re ready to go.

  • Dip it straight into the bottom of your primary fermenter
  • let it rest there
  • put the hose into the receiving carboy
  • then with a good smooth stroke — just like a bicycle pump, and it goes.
Dip it straight into the bottom
got five feet of tubing and auto siphon

This transfer everything over in just a couple of minutes when we get to the very bottom we’re going to tail the primary fermenter a little bit because we want to carry over all of the liquid that we can.

testing specific gravity

Ten days later we’re ready for the next step which is stabilizing and clearing.

You need to check the specific gravity and we need it below 1.000 which means it’s completely finished fermenting.

Take a minute to write that down and we’re good to go!

adding sulfite and sorbet

Next step we want to add our sulfite and sorbet.

These are two stabilizers that are going to help keep the wine from oxidizing or spoiling during aging and storage.

So just about half a cup of water pour them in and give it a stir. Once it’s completely dissolved, you can add it to the carboy and stir it in there.

sulfite and sorbet
degassing

Traditionally stirring in the carboy is done with a spoon since the big end of a spoon will fit in you sanitize and use the back end.

However, some kits comes with an excellent stirring device that cuts down on labor by a big amount. This is the clean bottle Express wine degasser, it’s got some whippy bits on the end that go into the wine and the other end goes into an electric drill. With this in only a couple of minutes, you can get a lot of degassing done.

We’ve got our degasser inserted into the end of a drill and it’s been sanitizing it’s ready to go.

degasser inserted into the end of a drill
  • If your wine is fermented cooler it could be quite foamy and if you go full power with a drill right away you could create quite a mess as it jumps out of the carboy.
  • So let’s just give it an experimental stir first to see where we’re at with the carbon dioxide.

So here’s the sequence for using a drill mounted degassing whip like this. What you want to do is stir in one direction at full speed for as long as you can, after a while the line is going to start to climb up the size of the vessel and want to come out.

At that point reverse your drill and go backward and that’ll keep it from foaming out everywhere.

Do this back and forth four or five time and you’ll have gotten most of your degassing done in under a couple of minutes.

spoon use the back end
clean-bottle-express-wine-degasser

Here’s how it’s done.

You can see how much work how fast that gets done.

It’s really a labor time-saver!

finding agent

Next step is to add our finding agent in this case this kit uses a product called Chitosan.

So we’re just going to snip open the edge of the packet and pour it straight into the carboy.

Now it’s time to stir it again

stir again

All of the fining agents have been stirred in along with the stabilizers and it’s been thoroughly degassed.

fermenting

The next step is to reattach the bong and airlock make sure it’s still half full with water and put this back into our fermenting area for 14 days.

airlock
transferring back

Our wine is sat quietly in our fermenting area for 14 days and it’s ready for bottling, but there’s a layer of sediment principally yeast cells and fining agents at the bottom of the carboy.

What we’re going to do first is

  • rock of the line from the carboy
  • back into our big mouth primary fermenter
  • and being very careful we won’t disturb any of that sediment that will give us a free hand to get nice clear bottles of wine.
bottle preparation

Now that our wine has been transferred back into the big mouth bubbler, we’re ready to start bottling.

The first thing we need is some bottles.

  • You can save these yourself at home and clean them very very thoroughly by using your one-step cleaner and a bottle brush to get all the stuff out from the inside. After they’ve been cleaned you can store them upside down in a box until you’re ready to use them. At that point, you’ll want to sulfite them to make sure that they’re sanitary for bottling use.
  • Alternatively, you can purchase brand new wine bottles. These don’t need to be scrubbed but you still need to sanitize them and we’re going to use our leftover metabisulfite solution to do that.

To sanitize the bottles we need to coat the inside with our metabisulfite solution.

There are trigger sprayers and other devices out there that can do this, but you can simply use a funnel and your metabisulfite solution and then transfer the liquid from one bottle the next.

Repeat until you have 30 bottles ready to fill with one.

And that amount in the bottle won’t change the levels of sulfide in any way we can measure.

However, if you’re concerned you can rinse them but I never do.

wine bottles
brand new wine bottles
bottling

Now that our wine has been transferred over into our primary fermenter it’s clear and it’s free of sediment.

  • If you check it and you notice that it’s still cloudy, don’t rack it over! You can’t bottle cloudy wine it won’t clear up in the bottle.
  • You should leave it instead for another few days and checking for clarity first.

We’re going to bottle it using a siphon bottle filler.

This is an acrylic plastic rod with a little needle valve on the end and unless you’re pressing up on that valve wine won’t flow.

That will let us fill our bottles neatly and accurately.

We’ve got our sanitized auto-siphon will connect up our bottle filler and we’re going to start filling our first model.

  • When you hold the siphon filler deep into the bottle the needles pressed up
  • and wine flows
  • as the bottle begin to fill you get ready to watch it going to the neck
  • and stop right when it gets up to the top.

As you withdraw the siphon filler it leaves exactly the right amount of space for the court to go into the bottle. It does drip a tiny little bit so I’ve set our bottles onto plastic garbage can lid.

plastic rod with a little needle valve on the end
corking

Now that all of our bottles are filled it’s time to put the corks in.

We’re going to be using an impact corker and this relies on a plunger to push the corks through a sleeve that compresses down like a funnel and sticks them into the neck of the bottle.

Now that all of our bottles are filled it’s time to put the corks in.

We’re going to be using an impact corker and this relies on a plunger to push the corks through a sleeve that compresses down like a funnel and sticks them into the neck of the bottle.

In order to get this to work properly the corks need to be soaked for a few minutes.

I’m using our sulfide solution to do this.

  • Then when the cork is soaked
  • put them into the impact corker
  • pull the bottle in closer you can get our weight over top of it
  • hold it down very carefully
  • and it goes!

And that’s it, in only 4 weeks and with just a few hours of labor we’ve got finished wine.

corking
finish

Now that you’ve caught your wine it’s important to keep it upright for 3 days.

This will allow the pressure inside the bottle to escape and equalize with the outside air and it will also allow the court to seek firmly inside the neck.

After the 3 day period, you can lay the line down on its side for storage.

You can go a little further and finish your bottle with a beautiful label and a matching capsule over the top.

Makes for a great presentation.

Whatever you choose to do

you’re now a winemaker!

storage device
corking
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