Wine Making is an Art as well as a Science; it should never be a mystery!
First and most important, start with superior juice. Whether you are making wine from grapes or elderberries, great tasting wine cannot be made with poor quality fruit/juice. If you’re looking for the lowest price for juice, remember...you usually get what you pay for.
Know your sugar (brix) levels. The amount of sugar you start off with, determines the amount of alcohol you'll end up with. A hydrometer
helps determine how much sugar is in your juice, as well as how much alcohol that sugar can make. As a rule, for every pound of sugar you add to five gallons you will raise the potential alcohol by 1 percent. For making most common wines with an alcohol percentage between 10%-12% you should have a sugar level of approximately 22 or a specific gravity reading of 1.080.
Acidity levels are important to the wine making process. Juice with high acid levels, may produce a sour or bitter tasting wine. In contrast, low acid levels can produce a flat or blah wine. Proper acidity levels will enhance the wine's overall character as well as aid fermentation. There are two common ways to check the acidity of juice. pH test strips are easy and quick but not the most accurate. Titration test kits
are the most accurate. A titration kit measures acid in relation to how sharp it actually tastes. There are three common fruit acids that can be used for adjusting a juice's acidity (tartaric, citric, and malic) all can be purchased separately or they can be purchased together as an Acid Blend. To increase the acid - 1/3 oz. acid blend to 1 gallon of must raises acid by .3% or 1 oz. acid blend to 6 gallons of must raises acid content by .15%
Primary Fermenting Pail
Stirring Spoon or Paddle
Straining Bag (for certain wines)
Siphon or Siphon Hose
Acid Test Kit
Check out our Equipment Kits
to find the best one for you.Step #1 - Preparation
Clean and sanitize all equipment that will come in contact with the fruit/juice by using a cleansing sanitizing agent or a mixture of metabisulphite (anti bacterial).
Your juice will need to be put into a Primary Fermenting container. During the first week to ten days, the sugar in your juice is working with the yeast to convert it to wine. This stage is known as "violent fermentation". The juice will become "frothy" and it needs extra room to allow for the froth. Therefore, the Primary Fermenting container should be larger than your quantity of juice by at least one gallon. In other words...it is not recommended to make 5 gallons in a 5 gallon container. It is preferred to have all of the juice ferment together. If you are making 5 Gallons of wine, use a 6.5 gallon Primary Fermenter. For larger quantities, use a 7.8 Primary Fermenter.
Fruits, especially grapes, grow a bacteria (wild yeast) on the skins. This wild yeast will ferment your wine but most winemakers prefer to kill off the wild yeast and use packaged winemaking yeast. To kill off wild yeast, add 1 crushed campden tablet or 1/8 tsp of potasium metabisulphite to every gallon of juice. Stir into the juice (must). At this time, if you need to add additional sugar (see above info about sugar measurements), acid blend (again, please refer to above info regarding acidity levels), or if following a recipe, any other ingredients as needed. Cover with lid, fill airlock with water and insert in the grommeted hole in your primary fermenting lid.
Allow this to sit 24 hours at room temperature (65-75 degrees).Step #2 - Primary Fermentation
After 24 hours, remove lid and add wine yeast to your juice. Replace lid and airlock. Stir daily until bubbles start appearing in airlock or a layer of foamy froth has formed on the top of the juice. Once fermentation has started, do not disturb. Keep wine in a temperature between 65-75 degrees.Step #3 - Secondary Fermentation
Within approximately 10 days, you
will notice much less activity in your airlock. You can now transfer (also known as racking) by using a siphon or siphon hose into a clean, sanitized carboy. The desired level should be above the carboy's shoulders but at least a few inches away from the bung. The wine will now sit for a few months to continue the fermentation process. It can be kept at slightly cooler temperatures at this point.Step #4 - Stabilizing & De-gassing
We hear all too often about home winemakers "popping" corks out of the bottles. This happens from either having active yeast still present in the wine or excessive carbon dioxide. These two things can easily be fixed.
After your wine has finished secondary fermentation, rack it back into a clean Primary Fermentor. Be sure to leave behind the sediment. Add 1/4 tsp metabisulphite per gallon of wine. Stir vigorously for approximately two minutes. Add 1/4 tsp Potasium Sorbate per gallon of wine. Stir again for another two minutes. Adding metabisulphite and sorbate will stabilize your wine which will prevent refermentation. It will also prevent your wine from oxidizing and turning to vinegar. By stirring the wine, it will remove the carbon dioxide bubbles. Afterwards, rack your wine back into the carboy (be sure it has been cleaned out and sanitized). If there is a large amount of airspace in the carboy, you can fill this up with a similar style of wine. If you have a large amount of airspace and do not top up with a similar wine, you will risk oxidizing your wine which will result in off flavors or may even spoil.Step #5 - Bottling
Allow wine to sit for approximately a week or two or until clear. If wine is cloudy, do not bottle. A fining agent can be used to help speed up the process.
Once the wine is clear, it is time to bottle. A bottle filler is the easiest way to transfer the wine into bottles. Be sure all equipment, bottles and closures are clean and sanitized. Be sure to check out Bottles & Fillers section.
Want to make high quality wine just like you can purchase from a liquor/store? For those of you just starting the winemaking hobby or perhaps you've been making wine from raw juice without consistent or good results, be sure to check out our top-of-the-line wine making kits. Kit wines start off with superior, high-quality juice. Our kits start with superior juice that has perfect sugar and acidity levels which will assure a great quality wine with consistent results.