Many of us enjoy wine at home, on occasion or more frequently. Some wine lovers quickly find themselves making a hobby out of wine, whether it is collecting it, researching it or sharing it. However, when the wine bug really bites some of us, we wish to learn and delve into every aspect including making it. The new hobby in the world of wine is winemaking at home. But where do you begin?
There are a few things to consider before you even purchase your first piece of equipment:
- Are you going to make wine from fresh grapes or other fruit?
- Do you have a good supplier for quality products?
- Will you make wine from prepared juice from grapes or other fruit?
- How much wine do you want to make?
- Do you have space in and around your home to make it possible?
If you can answer these questions, then you will have an idea of what equipment you will need. Without the proper equipment and planning, making wine at home can get complicated, and sometimes, rather quickly. Setting up an area with enough space and having a rough outline in the steps you will need to take throughout fermentation and later details such as fining, filtering, aging and bottling will make your first home winemaking experience more enjoyable and less stressful. Here is a semi-detailed list of some equipment you might consider when venturing into your first wine vintage. What you'll need:
Crusher and Press
If you are starting from fresh fruit, then you will need some tools to crush your grapes or other fruit into juice. However, while this is a useful tool, if it is your first time making wine at home and you are unfamiliar with the fermentation process and you want to go step-by-step, then the option would be to purchase juice or concentrate. While it might not make the finest wine, it will save some money and give you the opportunity to realize if you enjoy making wine at home or otherwise. Spending money on a crusher you might only use once is a bit of a loss.
These are crucial for fermentation stage. These five-gallon containers clean up easily and will not deteriorate. They also make for a nice tool so you can observe the fermentation of your wine. As you will need to do some racking (wine transferring) on occasion, it is best to have three to six carboys, depending on how much wine you are planning to make. Although cleanup easy, be sure to purchase a specialized carboy cleaner tool that consists of a cloth attached to a stick that fits easily through the opening and expands inside to clean the inside of the carboy. These sell for between $15-$30.
Wine Barrels & Storage
If you can splurge a little more, you can use barrels, which come in 30-gallon sizes or less to ferment and/or age your wine. However, not only are they more expensive than carboys, barrels need a bit more attention. Evaporation is always a factor and they might leak. If you do not have the extra time to care for barrels during fermentation or while wine is aging, they might be an unnecessary cost.
Brushes & Cleaning Equipment
As cleanliness and hygiene is one of the most important steps needed to be taken in the winemaking processes, you need equipment to make cleaning efficient, easy and thorough. Set yourself up with a couple of carboy and jug brushes as mentioned above. Don't forget the chemical cleansing agents needed for home winemaking:
Cleaning agents you will need:
- Potassium metabisulfite
- Citric Acid
- And/or bisulfite- and chlorine-free powder
Chances are if you're considering winemaking at home, you have probably already read some relevant material. To track fermentation, a hydrometer is a necessary tool needed to figure the weight of liquids in comparison to plain water. As things can get slippery in the winemaking area and clumsy days occur, be sure to have an extra in case the first one breaks; they are small and fragile and range between $5 and $7.
Another important tool is a siphon. When a wine has finished its fermentation process, it will need to be transferred a handful of times to remove it from solids, which fall to the bottom of their holding vessel. As these are large and heavy vessels to move about, a siphon is key. Transferring wine via a siphon is also more gentle on the wine and more efficient.
Get an air lock for your carboys or other fermentation vessels. It not only allows for carbon dioxide and other gases to escape during fermentation, but an air lock prevents oxygen from getting in and any pests, i.e. fruit flies, from getting in your fruit juices.
Acid & SO2 Test Kits
This is an important tool to have before and throughout fermentation. A balance of acid and sugars are necessary to make fermentation successful. Purchasing a small journal to record your findings is also a useful tool, both for keeping track of your fermentation and as a learning tool. Acid test kits range for around $11 to $15 for home-use kits.
If you are using sulphite to preserve your wine during aging, an SO2 test kit will be needed to test levels of SO2 which need to be added.
Yeast, Enzymes & Nutrients
An important component for fermentation is yeast. The strain will vary depending on what type and/or style of wine you are making. Yeast cannot survive on sugars alone, they need a well-rounded diet. Be sure to research what nutrients you will need for the specific type of yeast strain you'll be using. If you are making wine from other fruit other than grapes, then you will need pectic enzymes.
If you are using a form of sulphur to preserve your wine and use it as an antioxidant, you will need potassium metabisulfite.
Acids & Clarifying Agents
To have balance in your wine, sometimes adding acid is a key step in the winemaking process. Assess which type of acid is best for your style of wine and run a test to find out how much is needed. Sometimes trial experiments are recommended. The two most common acids that are introduced to wine are citric acid and tartaric acid.
The most popular clarifying agents used for home winemaking are sparkolloid or bentonite and are easy to purchase on many home winemaking websites. These range in price between $3-$11 for sparkolloid depending on the size and $7-$32 for bentonite depending on the size in ounces as well.
Bottles & Closures
There will be a moment when you will need to bottle your wine, otherwise, all your work will have been in vain. You will need bottles and a chosen closure. Available also on homemaking websites are natural corks, synthetic corks or screw caps. If you opt for cork, then you will need a cork press to push the cork into the bottle.
This concludes our basic, semi-detailed list of equipment you will need to make your first vintage at home a success. The best winemaking is in the details, but the important thing is to enjoy the process and have some fun.