Updated: Feb 5
Winemaking is a great hobby but like most great hobbies it involves a large amount of equipment. There is an almost unlimited range of gadgets and helpful little tools that every winemaker wants in the cabinet. If you are buying gifts for winemakers this season, here are a few great gifts that they are sure to love. The gifts listed are beyond what would come in a basic winemaking starter kit and are very nice to have for both beginning and serious winemakers. Click on the item pictures if you would like to purchase on amazon for your loved one.
A refractometer is used to measure the sugar level in juices which is critical when making wine. Unlike a hydrometer, a refractometer needs only one or two drops of juice to make the measurement. The tool measures the bending of light through the liquid to make an accurate measurement. A refractometer previously was a very expensive piece of equipment but more recently there are several high quality options that won't break the bank. This refractometer is the model that I use.
2. Graduated Cylinders and pipettes
A great technique used by nearly all professional winemakers is blending. I highly recommend that home winemakers experiment with blending before committing to the bottling of any wine. To make test blends, you will need a method of measuring small quantities. For this I recommend at the very least a 50mL graduated cylinder or a set of graduated syringes. This set is a perfect size for measuring small quantities and pouring into wine glasses for tasting.
3. Gram Scale
Powdered additives like wine tannin, acids, enzymes, and sulfites are best measured with a scale rather than a set of measuring spoons. Here is an inexpensive scale that will get the job done and work withing the range needed for home winemaking quantities.
4. pH Meter
Every winemaker should have a good pH meter to keep tabs on a wine and make adjustments to achieve balance. I use my pH meter more often than any other item in the cellar. This pH meter is accurate to .01pH which is critical for quality wine making.
5. Laser Thermometer
This is great to have around because you can get a quick read on your wine temperature without actually making contact with the wine, meaning you don't need to sanitize anything! During the critical stages, like primary fermentation I use an instant-read meat thermometer but the laser thermometer is a LOT more convenient and can be used all around the house if you want to get a read on a temperature.
6. Glass Wine Thief
A blown glass wine thief is a thing of beauty and is a nice gift for a winemaker. You can get away with a plastic wine thief or a turkey baster to take a sample, but a glass wine thief just feels so much nicer. I love my glass wine thief.
7. Three Gallon Glass Carboy
You can never have enough carboys. The glass versions will last for many generations and are much easier to clean than their plastic counterparts. Common sizes are 3, 5, 6, and 6.5 gallons. Most winemakers will already have a handful of five and six gallon carboys. As a gift, the real winner is the three gallon carboy. These are great for smaller experimental batches, or for splitting up larger batches for different styles. This is a great carboy at a reasonable price.
8. Carboy Dryer
These are great gifts, since most people don't already have them. After washing a carboy, it is tough to get all the water out without turning it upside down somehow. You can make a homemade carboy dryer with a small square of plywood and scrap lumber or you can buy a molded plastic version for about $10. Without a carboy dryer it is easy to get mold inside your carboys which can be a real nightmare. I have a couple of these plastic dryers as well as a few homemade versions.
9. Wine Corks
I go through these like crazy and it can be annoying to continuously purchase them. My favorite corks are acquamark which are made from solid, natural cork but the pores of the cork are filled with cork dust to provide a better seal against oxidation. Here is a link to a 100 pack on Amazon.
10. Portuguese Floor Corker
If your winemaker friend does not yet have a floor corker, it is time to get them one! Hand corkers leave dimples in the corks and are a pain to use. A floor corker squeezes the cork in an iris before inserting into the bottle, leaving a much more professional cork job. They are also a lot easier to use and a serious upgrade to your home bottling line. I have tried several corkers and this model is my favorite for the money.
Bonus: Winemaking Books
These are some of my favorite winemaking books and are must haves for anyone looking to get serious about making wine.
Read Next: Making Better Wine by Managing the Lees
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