JUST STARTING? HERE'S A HANDY CHECKLIST AND USEFUL THINGS TO KNOW FOR WINE:

HBO_StaffHBO_Staff Posts: 1,884Administrator
edited January 2014 in Welcome To The Forum

There are a few things to check as you're first starting out and to be aware of, take a look and make sure you avoid any problems. The process is fairly simple so don't worry, it's not as precise as you might think, most things are not an exact science, so just do your best, it will turn out great. When choosing which wine to make there are plenty of styles to pick from, and as a general rule, the more expensive the ingredients, the better the quality of the grape juice included is;

1 - Clean and sterilise! - Make sure your equipment is well cleaned ideally with warm water and a steriliser or washing up liquid, and then well rinsed with clean water to remove any residue, it's time well spent! When brews do go wrong, the most common cause is contamination from equipment not properly cleaned. Whilst you want your fermenting vessel and equipment to be clean, do not use a scourer or scratch it if possible, as this can damage the surface and cause bacteria to infect the brew as it is harder to keep clean in future. Anything that will come into contact with the wine must be cleaned ideally with a steriliser.

2 - Follow the instructions step by step, with wine kits they are often inside the box or on the tin. Wine kit instructions vary depending on the ingredients and the size of the wine kit, they are generally available in either 6 bottle or 30 bottle ingredients kits. Kits are then in two types, those which need sugar adding and those which don't, you may find that by the time you have taken in to account the cost of brewing sugar the better quality 'no sugar required' kits are very similar in price and will often produce better quality wine.

3 - The first stage is adding the ingredients, the grape juice, water, and any sugar which is needed (if applicable), and make the mix up to the correct volume as described in the instructions.

4 - Add the yeast and yeast nutrient sachets (sometimes this is a yeast/nutrient mix in one sachet) to the brew and stir it well to mix everything in. This ensures the fermentation gets off to a good, quick start which is preferred. It is useful to now take a reading with a hydrometer if you are using one, and make a note of the reading, a guide to using your hydrometer is also on this forum if needed. Cover the vessel either by fitting the lid loosely, or by sealing the lid on and using an airlock. The vessels do not need to be airtight at this stage. If using an airlock it needs to be part filled with water, and the red dust cap can be left in place on the airlock. Whether you decide to use an airlock or not, any gases need to escape from the brewing vessel so it does not build up too much pressure, and the vessel should be well covered to keep any contaminants out. We recommend that you position the wine somewhere out of the way if possible so it is not disturbed, ideally away from direct sunlight.

5 - The instructions recommend an ideal temperature range for brewing, if possible keep the wine within this range. In extremes of hot or cold this can slow and even stop the fermentation, although a few degrees either way usually does no harm. Cooler temperatures will make the fermentation take longer and brewing at the lower end of the recommended temperature range often produces better wine, but can increase times. Various heating devices are available if you are brewing somewhere too cold and a separate guide is available on the forum on heating devices. It will now ferment on it's own - sometimes it will produce froth and if an airlock is used it may bubble, other times you will hardly notice anything and the airlock wont move - it varies drastically from brew to brew, just leave it to do it's own thing. There is no hard and fast rule of what you will see, if the airlock doesn't bubble that is perfectly fine, they sometimes don't, it varies so don't worry or mess around with it too much. Relax. Remember to store it in a place where damage cannot occur if it were to leak or froth over.

6 - To check when the fermentation is complete, you can use a hydrometer and take readings, you can do this by half filling a trial jar, or other clear container, with some of the wine, pop the hydrometer into the liquid and read the number where it passes through the liquid. It should be around what the instructions for your kit recommend, and you can double check by reading it for 2 days in a row and making sure the reading remains constant - this is a good sign it has finished. If using hydrometer readings to work out the approximate alcohol content you need to make a note of your final reading at this stage. If in doubt leave it to finish off for an extra day to be on the safe side. No trial jar? put the cleaned hydrometer straight into the fermenting vessel and read it there, plus there is no washing up! All signs of bubbles rising through the liquid to the surface must also have stopped, if the wine tastes too sweet, leave it for another couple of days.

7 - At this stage some kits say to add more sachets, others say to transfer (known as racking) to a second fermenting vessel, follow the instructions for your particular wine. If transferring to a second vessel, the idea is to leave as much of the sediment behind as possible, which will help the end result be much clearer. It is now a case of adding the various sachets in the order the manufacturers instructions say, and also de-gassing the wine. De-gassing is removing as much of the gas from the wine as possible which helps with clearing, it can be done various ways, vigorous stirring (drill attachments are also available to help with this) or transferring rapidly from one vessel to another, and this process may need to be repeated several times over the next day or so for best results. Further sachets may then need adding and mixing in, and then the wine is usually left to clear for a day or two at a cool room temperature.

8 - After the wine has been left to clear, it is now ready to transfer to bottles, these must also be sterilised and once filled you need to ensure they are sealed up and airtight. If the wine needs sweetening then the instructions will give details. There are various ways to fill your bottles, from simple syphon tube to syphoning devices which make it much easier, if you will be filling lots of bottles a syphon device is worth considering. Leave behind any sediment which has settled in the second fermenting vessel and try not to disturb it for the clearest results.

9 - With many wine kits the wine is now ready to drink, and whilst it will be perfectly good, we recommend you leave it in the bottles for a while, ideally somewhere cool and dark, for a good few weeks, this allows the full flavours to develop and the results of your hard work can then be enjoyed at their best. (Tip - if the wine doesn't taste as you would expect, allow it some time in the bottles to condition, all home brews improve with more time in the bottle, this is when they develop their full flavours, leave them for a month or two if needed)

10 - Once your brew is ready and is being tasted, leave a review on your favourite website www.home-brew-online.com so that others can use the reviews under each product as a guide on which drinks to try next, there is nothing better than genuine customer reviews from other like-minded people to help with making your decision, the manufacturers tell you a description, but the reviews are an actual insight into what to expect and any tips to bear in mind. There are many makes and styles to choose from, so use the reviews to help you decide if you aren't sure

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