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How to become an expert winemaker – fermentation

wine and grapes

Last week I explained how to turn the millions of yeast cells in a packet of wine yeast into the zillion cells, you need to make wine. All you do is put a litre of fruit juice in a 2L bottle, add yeast and seal with a plastic bag, secured with a rubber band, so the carbon dioxide gas can escape. Now we can make our first drop of decent wine. A modern wine bottle is about 70cl and so we can get 6 or even 7 bottles from a 5 litre batch of wine.

If you have a food quality (white plastic) bucket to mix your ingredients together, that will be easier. You need:

Sugar, 800 grams to 1 kilogram.

Apple juice, 1 litre.

cultured wine yeast.

grape tannin or tea.

You can first of all make your grape tannin up, by mixing with hot water, a spoonful with boiling water and stir it up; just like making instant coffee. Alternatively, use a few teabags; tea contains lots of tannin too. The tannin acts as a wine preservative and colours the wine. You can add this to your bucket with the sugar. If you make a full pot of tea with a few teabags, that will help your sugar to dissolve. Then add you apple juice and stir it  up until all the sugar is dissolved.

Now you can let it cool, if it’s too warm, you want it around room temperature before you add the yeast. Now add your yeast culture and put it somewhere warm to ferment, near a radiator would be great. If you have made it in a bucket, pour or syphon it into a clean demijohn or plastic 5 litre container. Containers can be bleached with ordinary thin bleach to get them clean, but wash them out afterwards and leave them a day to get rid of the smell of bleach.

You should secure a plastic bag to the top of the demijohn with a rubber band to allow the carbon dioxide gas to escape from your fermenting wine or it could get messy. Enormous pressure builds up in fermenting wine and it is enough to break a demijohn or wine bottle. Fermentation does take place in some champagne bottles, but they are thick glass and weigh 1 Kg each; the amount of gas they have to withstand is quite small too; just enough to give the champagne sparkle.

You should now keep your fermenting wine in a warm place for 3 to 4 weeks to ferment. You can test it to see how much sugar is in the fermenting wine. You do this with a hydrometer and hydrometer jar. It’s easy, to test the wine. You syphon some wine into your jar, about 3/4 full and then float the hydrometer in the wine. You can take a reading where the hydrometer meets the surface of the wine. If in doubt ask at the winemakers’ store for advice on how to read a hydrometer. The scale goes from 1 to  around 1.080. There are different scales on different hydrometers. When you start the fermentation the reading should be around 1.060  because the dissolved sugar will make the wine ‘thick’ like a syrup. As the wine ferments it will thin and the readings will keep dropping. When the wine is at 1.000 it’s about medium dry and the fermentation can be stopped.

I suggest your first wine is made medium dry. You can stop the fermentation at a higher reading for a sweeter wine or at below 1.000 for a dry wine. Most people in the UK like medium dry white wine; it is the most popular choice. You can try others, including vintage wine, later.

You should get some sodium metabisulphite from you wine supplier when you get your yeast, etc. One teaspoon of this can be mixed with a litre of cold water to make a strong steriliser and used to sterilise containers etc. as you use them. The solution gives off sulphur dioxide and kills bacteria. Don’t use warm or hot water or the sulphur dioxide is given off quickly and can cause breathing difficulties.

Good luck with your winemaking! As usual there are more amazing blogs on the Home Page.

Next week: Stopping fermentation, clearing and filtering your wine.

One Response

  1. Pingback: » How to become an expert wine maker – clearing A Zillion Ideas and counting…

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