Making wine can be fun and can also save you a lot of money. Once you own some basic winemaking equipment, the possibilities are endless. Not only can make wines unlike anything you can buy in the store, you can also try to replicate some of your favorites. Once you own the equipment the price per bottle is anywhere from $1.50 to $5.00! To get started, here is a short list of the very basics that you will need to make wine from a kit or fresh juice.
1. Food Grade Bucket
A food grade bucket is used to ferment your wine in during the vigorous primary fermentation stage. Primary fermentation is the first stage and can last between 5-10 days depending on your volume and temperature. A bucket allows the yeast to get oxygen and allows for some head space in case the must foams up excessively. If you are buying juice to make wine at your local winemaking shop, it will usually come with a bucket.
A carboy is a large, usually 5 or 6 gallon glass jug with a small neck. The wine is transferred into the carboy after fermentation is complete or nearly complete. Once fermentation is complete, it is important to isolate the wine from oxygen exposure. Topping up your carboy to the neck minimizes the surface area of the wine and
minimizes the air exposure
3. Fermentation Lock and Stopper
This device is fitted on the opening of your carboy to provide an air tight seal, while still allowing any gas to escape during the later parts of fermentation and aging. Most fermentation locks are the water type that bubble as gas escapes. To reduce the risk of bacterial contamination, I like to fill my bubblers with vodka.
4. Racking Cane and Hose
A racking cane is a J shaped plastic or stainless steel tube with a small cup shaped end. These are used to transfer the wine from carboy to carboy or from bucket to carboy. The small cup on the end helps reduce the amount of sediment being transferred. The hose attached to the other end of the cane and forms a siphon. To get your siphon started, check out this video.
How to Start a Siphon
5. Bottle Filler
A bottle filler fixes to the end of your siphon and has a small valve on the end that is activated as you press the filler against the bottom of the bottle. There are spring loaded valves and gravity activated valves. I prefer the gravity style without the spring, so that you can take your hand off the tube when filling. These are a must when bottling!
A hydrometer serves two purposes. It measures the sugar level of the wine indirectly by measuring the specific gravity and it allows you to calculate the percent alcohol of your finished wine very easily. During fermentation you an monitor your progress by measuring the specific gravity along the way.
7. Corker and Corks
With the equipment above, you are all set to make your wine, but now it's time to bottle! There are two basic types of corkers for home use. One has two levers and is handheld, while the other is a floor or table mount with one large lever and an iris to squeeze the corks. If you plan to stick with winemaking, get the floor or table mounted corker. They are easier to use and they do not leave dimples in the tops of the corks like the handheld corkers do. #9 Agglomerated corks are great for starting out in winemaking and will fit most bottles.
This equipment will get you started. If you enjoy winemaking and want to step up your game, the equipment upgrades are endless. If making wine from fresh grapes or fruit, you may want to consider adding a basket press to your list, but they are not cheap! Oak chips or even oak barrels are an option that can round out a red wine. There are also many additives beyond yeast that can be used in winemaking. Stay tuned for more!
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