I am in no way an expert wine maker but I am a pretty good home brewer according to all of the people who have tried it! We first got into wine making because it was cheaper than buying wine and that snowballed into our wedding. We made our wedding favors bottles of wine and it was a great idea because it was about $1 a bottle to brew and that included the labels and ribbons to decorate them.
Now I will be upfront and tell you that the initial cost for wine making supplies can be daunting if you want things like what I have pictured here but never fear because there are alternatives that you can use and that people have been using for years!
- 5 Gallon Glass Carboys- you can use the gallon jugs that wine come in but you will have to break down your 5 gallon batch into 5 smaller ones. Check out Craigslist or ask your friends if they are getting rid of some. People recycle these so you could always check in your neighborhood too.
- 5 Gallon Fermenter- you can use any food grade plastic bucket! Check out bakeries or Home Depot.You would have to drill a hole in the lid and fit it with a rubber grommet so you can put the airlock on.
- Airlocks- you can use a balloon if you are not using a bucket type of container. If you are just doing a gallon batch put a balloon on top of your jug and make sure it is sealed with a rubber band! Airlocks really are not that expensive though.
- Hydrometer- This is a must have to read your alcohol levels. I guess you could just not read the specific gravity and hope for the best but it isn’t worth it to me.
- Sanitizer- This is a must have and isn’t expensive for how long it lasts. I like the Five Star found below.
- Yeast-This is a must have and Lalvin at my store is $1.09
- Wine Kits- Frozen concentrate if you like fruit wines. This peach chardonnay kit is delicious though!
The first thing you need to when making wine is to sanitize your equipment. You should sanitize everything that is going to come in contact with your wine: 5 gallon buckets, stirrers etc. This is what Michael bought this time to sanitize things and I don’t have pictures of it because he did it without me. The instructions are pretty cut and dry on the sanitizing agent so just follow them.
Here are the 5 gallon buckets (AKA primaries) that we use to make our batches. You do not need to go out and purchase these to make wine. You could very well use a glass gallon jug that wine comes in that you buy at the store. Buy the wine and enjoy it and you get a jug to start brewing in!
For the first batch I am going to make is from Old Orchard’s Blueberry Pomegranate. We have made this flavor before and it turned out to be great! It aged fabulous and got better too. For my batch you will need 10 of the concentrates and I picked these up for .79 a piece which is $7.90 for the juice!
I use 2 cups of sugar and 2 jugs of concentrate per gallon. I take 1 quart of water and boil it so I can dissolve the sugar into it. We recently got a bigger pot too so I don’t have to do the sugar dissolve step in multiple steps.
The picture above is my new giant pot and I am boiling 5 quarts of water and 10 cups of sugar until the sugar is dissolved.
Next you will want to add your sugar water and your 10 containers of juice concentrate and top off with water until you have 5 gallons in the bucket.
When it comes to the yeast you have a couple of options.
- You can sprinkle your yeast over the top of your batch (called wort or must) like I have always done and is pictured above. Do not stir it into your wine though! This is called ‘pitching’ your yeast.
- You can make a starter (aka activated yeast) Typically you take 1 cup 105 degrees F water and sprinkle the yeast on top to ‘rehydrate’ it. Wait about 15 minutes. Once it is hydrated you would add sugar or juice to ‘feed’ the yeast. After about 30 minutes see if it is rockin’ and rollin’ and if so then you can ‘pitch’ the yeast! The is an extra step to ensure that the yeast is going to work before adding it to your must.
Tips for a good fermentation:
- Store your fermenting batch somewhere warm because cooler temperatures will slow down your process and perhaps stop all together.
- Add yeast nutrient and/or energizer before pitching your yeast. The more food for your yeast the better your fermenting will go! Energizer also helps if you get a slow fermentation.
- Don’t take the lid off of your fermenter a lot because you could possibly let germs in. The primary is OK being plastic because the yeast is creating carbon dioxide which acts as a protective barrier keeping germs out! That is also why you store your wine in the following stages in glass containers.