How to Make Wine at Home
If you’ve ever wondered how to make wine at home, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn it’s not as difficult as you might think. Despite terms like aromatic bouquets, undertones and subtle notes that describe the popular drink, spending some time doing a wine DIY isn’t actually as complex as you may think.
However, with that said, you can’t just set up shop on your kitchen table and let grapes slowly dissolve into fermented mush. There are processes, equipment and other components needed to successfully make homemade wine.
Let’s begin with the items and conditions that you will need for winemaking.
Making Homemade Wine
You may be eager, but before you begin pulling out old wine bottles to fill, you need to make sure you have the proper equipment and ingredients to make nearly two dozen bottles of 750 ml wine.
- You will need a 4-gallon plastic bucket (food grade quality) with a lid to be your fermentation vessel
- 3 1-gallon jugs (glass) for secondary containers
- A funnel that goes into the mouth of the bottles that you chose for your wine
- Fermentation lock (3)
- Rubber corks to seal secondary containers
- Roughly 6 feet of half-inch, clear plastic tube
- 20 bottles (5 per gallon)
- Corks (9-size)
- Nylon mesh for straining
- Hand corker (relatively cheap to buy but if you are doing a triple batch or more, you may want to rent one at a wine supply store)
- Wine grapes
- Filtered water
- Wine yeast
- Granulated sugar
It should be noted that you can use grape juice to make your wine, but it just won’t have the same aroma or undertones as the wine you buy in a store. Using all juice would not make the delicious, fruity wine that you may desire but rather a wine with sharp undertones of bitter and sour.
If you are going to use grapes, it’s quite an undertaking since you must de-stem and crush the grapes before the fermentation process. After the grapes have fermented for days, they need to be pressed before they are fully fermented.
If you’re going to make your wine from grapes, you can use Campden tablets. Campden tablets are sulfur-based and used almost exclusively to sterilize ciders, wine and beer to kill off bacteria. They are also used to inhibit the growth of wild yeast.
Step One: Prepare Your Ingredients
- It is essential to sterilize your equipment and then rinse thoroughly. Sterilizing should be done right before you begin the wine-making process so that bacteria haven’t had a chance to re-settle.
- If you’re using grapes, make sure you’ve thrown out the ones that are rotten and wash your grapes completely.
- Make sure all stems from the grapes are removed.
- Crush the grapes.
I’ll stop here and acknowledge that there are a few ways you can crush the grapes. Your hands will work just great, especially with a smaller bath (you may want to wear gloves). You can stomp grapes with your feet but make sure you do it in a container that will not leak and ensure your feet are super clean. If you are making a large quantity of homemade wine, you may want to rent a fruit press, along with the wine corker from a wine supply store.
- Add the wine yeast.
- When adding the granulated sugar, dissolve it in filtered water. Make sure you insert a hydrometer into the mixture to measure the specific gravity of the mixture you are going to ferment, which will give you the alcohol by volume you are about to produce. If it reads 1.010 or less, you may want to add more sugar to boost the alcohol level.
- Cover the primary fermentation bucket and allow it to ferment for at least one week and upwards of 10 days. Fermentation will cause a froth to form on the top and sediment will fall toward the bottom.
Step Two: Time for Fermentation
After the 7-10 days has passed to allow for fermentation, you may do the following:
- Strain the liquid, gently removing froth and sediment that has formed.
- Once strained, put the juice into the secondary sanitized glass fermentation container and fill it to the top so that little air can reach the wine.
- Use airlocks to fill containers.
- Let the juice ferment for about three weeks.
- Use your plastic tube for siphoning the wine into the glass secondary containers to separate the wine away from any sediment that has formed.
- You will siphon the wine of the sediment occasionally until the wine runs clear. (This process is called racking and usually takes two to three months.)
Step Three: Making the Wine
- Once the sediment has run off and the wine is clear, pour the wine into the bottles with the plastic tubing (cleaned, of course). Leave space for a cork and ½ inch.
- Insert the corks.
- Ensure the wine is upright for at least the first three days, then store sideways (at a 55 degree Fahrenheit angle for red) and age for at least one year. For white wine, you can drink after about six months.
Making your wine is a time-consuming process, and you don’t want to forget any of the steps or forget that your wine is fermenting. If you don’t have time to go back and siphon the wine every few weeks, then you may not want to take on such a lengthy project.
You might find that learning how to make wine has given you a new hobby that you will rekindle each year to keep your wine cellar supplies. There are many people who not only enjoy making their wine, but their homemade wine is the primary source of what they drink when enjoying an alcoholic beverage.
Here are a few common questions that people ask when they’re considering or while making their homemade wine:
Is making homemade wine worth it?
When you make your first batch of wine, it’ll be expensive because you need to purchase the equipment you plan to use. After the initial batch, you won’ be spending near as much money, and it will cost roughly $7 per bottle.
As a wine connoisseur, you will, no doubt, purchase wine from your favorite vintners, but making homemade wine can be a cathartic experience and might be a lot of fun.
What are the common mistakes of beginner winemakers?
Most beginners try to make their wine too complicated. The process is long, and they want to make the most of their shot. Make sure you are using a fruit that is common with winemaking and ensure everything you are working with is sterilized so that bacteria will not enter your wine batch.
Keep a record of all that you’ve done so that you’re sure you’ve followed each step. Follow steps like they are the law, and make sure that you have your wine in a sterile location where it won’t be contaminated during the fermenting periods.
How will I know if my wine finished fermenting?
Wondering if you will know when your wine finishes fermenting is a common question for beginners especially. So the big question here is if wine can go back if you leave it to ferment for too long. Winemaking is not a quick process. There are ways that you can tell if your wine has fermented.
If your wine is still in the fermenting process, you will see bubbles rising from the bottom of the container to the top, much like a carbonated beverage. When wine is actively in the fermentation process, you may see fragments of the fruit pulp moving about in the wine. If bubbles form on the edges of the wine or near the top, it is still fermenting.
When your wine is clear and not murky, it is an indication that it has finished fermenting.
How do I find out the alcohol content of my wine?
Calculating the alcohol content in your wine is what the hydrometer is for. Remember, if it is 1.010 or lower, you may want to add some sugar to boost the alcohol content.
Why does my wine smell like vinegar?
If your wine smells like vinegar, you will want to dump it out and start from scratch. A vinegar smell indicates that something was not sterilized properly or the yeast you used died in the process.