Basic Wine Making
It is easier than you think to make wine at home, though to make a good drinkable wine takes time practice and experimentation. It is good fun and relatively cheap. I am currently producing my own wine at about 50p a bottle, it is quite drinkable though it is a matter of taste.
I would advise if you are a beginner, to purchase or borrow from a library a good how to type book. If you follow these instructions you will brew a drinkable wine though it may pay in the long run to find all the little tips.
The first thing we should talk about is equipment for making your brew, For a beginner you will need the following as a minimum;
- 2 fermentation vessels, 1 gallon demijohns or fermentation bucket
- Bung and Air Lock, This fits in the top of the fermentation vessel and prevents contamination entering the brew while allowing carbon dioxide gas to escape.
- Sterilising solution, You will use this to clean any equipment you are using for your brewing process, (Remember cleanliness is the key, you will know if you have not been clean enough because you will end up with a gallon of vinegar)
- Glass Tumbler, for making up your yeast mixture
- Spoons, for measuring and stirring
- Funnel, for pouring ingredients into your fermentation vessel.
- Siphoning pipe, Special pipes and equipment can be purchased though I use a pipe that I purchased from an aquarium shop. The sort used for pumping water into an external water pump water, (10mm) diameter.
- Wine kit, I would recommend for a first time beginner, a wine kit. They are very easy, have step by step instructions and usually all you will need to add is sugar and water. Many shop sell these in a vast selection from basic red or white through to a Merlot, Cabinet or Chenin.
Ensure all your work surfaces are clean, use a bleach or sterilising solution, do not allow cross contamination from anything. There is nothing worse than patiently waiting for a brew to finish and finding a gallon of vinegar at the end of it.
For sterilising there are all sorts of products on the market, I have been making my own wine for 15 years and I use Milton baby sterilising solution, (In 15 years I have only ever had one batch of vinegar and I learned my lesson from it).
If you have a large bowl or bucket you can use just for home brew, then this would be useful for placing all your equipment to be sterilised in, (It is also more cost efficient to do it this way). Be careful with work surfaces and cross contamination, once I have cleaned my equipment I usually place paper towel on the work surface and stand my equipment on this. Clean your fermentation vessel thoroughly immediately after use, this prevents any unwanted yeast/must from drying hard on the bottom.
Brewing your wine, follow any instructions carefully. Most people know that the more sugar you have the more potential alcohol you have. DO NOT be tempted to add more sugar unless you know what you are doing. Under ideal conditions the maximum alcohol content you can produce is around 17% abv, after this the alcohol in the brew begins to kill the yeast. This will result in a stuck fermentation and a wine that is very sweet much like a desert wine.
Wine needs to be kept in a constant warm place, for beginners an airing cupboard is best, though special heaters can be purchased relatively cheaply. Don't be tempted to fill your fermentation vessel to the top because the yeast will cause the
liquid to froth up slowly.
The wine is usually finished when there are three or less bubbles passing through the air lock per minute on 3 consecutive days. Don't be tempted to finish the wine on the first day you count less air bubbles, there are many reasons why the fermentation could have slowed down, be patient! A hydrometer is a useful tool, it looks similar to a thermometer but measures
the specific gravity (Sugar content) of your brew and gives a much better and accurate measurement of when the wine is ready to clear.
When you are certain your wine has finished fermenting, remove it from the warming area and place it somewhere cool for at least a week. This serves two purposes, the first is, in the cool the yeast may begin to die or become inactive. The second is, bits of yeast and fruit debris in the wine will begin to sink to the bottom and your wine will begin to clear. At this stage move your wine very carefully, avoid disturbing the sediment in the bottom.
Ensure your second fermentation vessel and siphoning pipe have been cleaned and sterilised. You can now careful siphon your wine from one vessel to the other, BE VERY CAREFUL, a slight blow back from the siphoning pipe can result in stirring up all of the sediment.
Once done you can add any clearing agents supplied or purchased and refit the air lock. Leave to stand until clear, it may be necessary to give a second or third clear before it is crystal clear.
It must be pointed out that even while the wine is totally cloudy it can be consumed but the better things look the better they taste (usually).
Finally carefully siphon the wine for a final time into bottles. If you have no intention of waiting for the wine to improve with age then siphoning it into plastic bottles is fine for short periods of time.
For keeping wines over longer periods then old recycled wine bottles should be used, corks and small corking tools can be purchased from any home brewing shop.
Sometimes a wine may have an overpowering taste, for example the first batch of Elderberry I made, or it may be too sweet for your pallet. Rather than tipping it away because you can drink it try diluting it with tonic or soda water. Alternatively if your brew is to dry then a touch of lemonade can work wonders.
Final thought, Always bear in mind when using country ingredients that they may have effects you may not have yet considered such as, Elderberry one of its many properties is a mild laxative. You may find this out the next morning so don't blame the wine for giving you an upset tummy. Also medicinal headache cures are also advised for the next morning if you are prone to hangovers as you will soon find that you get drunk quickly from home brew.
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