Thursday, March 21, 2013

Adventures in Winemaking: Part 1

Last summer Derek and I decided to start a new hobby. We weren't quite sure what we wanted to do until we went to Jungle Jim's, an awesome HUGE mega-grocery store. They had winemaking kits and we were instantly sold. We bought the Vintners Reserve Wine Equipment Kit for about $90. It came with the 7.5 gallon plastic fermenter with lid, 6 gallon glass carboy, stopper, airlock, bottle brush, hydrometer, wine thief, 8 ounces of Easy Clean No-Rinse Cleanser, Gilda single lever corker, 5 feet of siphon tubing, bottle filler, shut-off clamp, and equipment instructions. We also decided to go ahead and buy a double corker, which you'll see in Part 4.

Since last year we've made a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Chilean Malbec, and a Chianti. Each concentrate kit was between 60-70 bucks and each kit has made at least 30 bottles. So as long as it turns out well, we're talking right around 2 bucks a bottle, not including initial equipment cost.

This time we're making a Coastal Red. This one was $60 bucks a kit, and BOGO this past Black Friday. So here we're talking $1.00 a bottle. That's a steal, and it's fun!

Each concentration kit includes directions, concentrate, and the various additives used throughout the fermenting process.

Today we're focusing on the Primary Fermentation stage.

Step 1:
The most important thing that you must do is ensure that all your supplies are cleaned and sanitized. For primary fermentation, we're using the primary fermenter, lid, spoon, thermometer, hydrometer, test jar, and wine thief. We use Oxi-Clean and the Easy One Step sanitizer for this step.

Step 2:
Heat and then add a 1/2 gallon of hot water to the primary fermenter. We buy and use gallons of distilled water, but feel free to use from your tap if you wish. Stir the water vigorourly as you slowly sprinkle in the bentonite onto the surface of the water. Stir for at least 30 seconds to allow the breakup of any clumps in the water.

Step 3:
Take the concentrate kit out of the box, secure it by the neck, and remove the cap from the bag. Pour the concentrate into the water/bentonite solution. Add enough warm water to the bag to get out any remaining juice in the bag and add to the bucket.

Step 4:
Fill the primary fermenter with water up to the 6 gallon mark. Stir vigorously for 30 seconds. In total, we used 3 1/2 gallons of water total for this kit.

<--Derek :)

Step 5:
Take a sample of the juice. To check the specific gravity, use the hydrometer and test jar. The reading should be between 1.080-1.097. For this batch, the starting specific gravity was 1.082. This number is extremely important, because with the next reading we can determine the alcohol content of the wine.

Step 6:
If your kit contains oak chips or elderflowers, this is when you will add them. This kit doesn't contain either additive.

Step 7:
Ensure that the temperature of the juice is between 72-75 degrees. If you ferment in a cooler environment, fermentation will take longer.

Step 8:
This is another very important step. Add the yeast now. Sprinkle the contents on the surface of the juice, and DO NOT STIR.

Step 9:
Cover the primary fermenter and place in a cool, dark place. Insert an airlock, and fill the airlock halfway with water.

**Fermentation will start within 48 hours. The water in the airlock will begin to bubble as the yeast begins to activate. We'll check back in 7 days. :D

It really is a fun and interesting process. Each kit takes around 28 days to complete, and then you should wait at least one month to drink. They recommend 3-6 months of aging before truly enjoying the wine.

Hope you've enjoyed! See you next time!

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