Being Sanitary Is Less Work With ‘Basic A’ Wine Making Sanitizer.

Basic A Wine Making SanitizerOne of the most important aspects of making your own wine is keeping things clean and sanitary.

It’s important because wine is like a living thing. It needs to be protected from wild molds, bacteria, etc. Without proper care your wine can become overtaken by these foreign organisms and eventually spoiled.

Using a wine making sanitizer to cleanse your wine equipment is often overlooked or treated lightly by many home wine makers, and understandably so. It takes time and effort to be sanitary. Simply put: it’s extra work! Who wants to spend their time sanitizing their wine making equipment when all they really want to do is make some wine!

We understand. That’s why we set out to develop a product that addresses both of these issues: the ‘sanitizing’ and the ‘work’. What we’ve come up with is a wine sanitizer called ‘Basic A’ . It’s a very quick and effective sanitizer. But even more importantly, it’s very simple to use and requires very little effort on your part.

Basic A is not a chlorine. It’s an oxygenating cleanser. What this mean is that all the sanitizing is done while the wine equipment is air-drying. It’s actually the evaporation of the solution that causes the sanitizing action to happen. It’s a no-rinse cleanser.

Basic A wine making sanitizer is safe. So safe and eco-friendly that you don’t need to worry about any residues being left behind… because there aren’t any!

It works on any non-porous surface: glass, plastics, metals, porcelain and others. Just give Basic A one minute of contact time with your: fermenters, carboys, bottles, air-locks and other wine making materials, then allow to air-dry. No rinsing is required! It doesn’t get any easier than that.

Basic A wine making sanitizer comes in an 8 ounce jar that is sufficient for making 10 gallons of solution. Complete directions are included. Just dissolve 1 tablespoon to each gallon of warm water and you’re all set to go.
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Rinsing Beer Yeast For Reuse

Rinsing Beer YeastWhile it’s possible to pitch wort directly onto an old yeast cake, a better method of reusing yeast is called yeast rinsing. It’s a simple technique that can help make the most of your raw ingredients and keep your yeast cost down. And if you ever decide to take your homebrewing hobby to the pro level, rinsing your beer yeast will become part of your fermentation and yeast handling routine.


What is yeast rinsing?

Yeast rinsing is a method of taking a yeast slurry from a fermenting beer and separating the healthy, viable yeast from the dead yeast cells and trub. It’s always best to pitch as pure a yeast culture as possible, and rinsing removes much of the other particulate from the yeast slurry. This yeast can then be reused in another batch of beer. It’s best to reuse yeast from a low to moderate gravity beer after fermentation has started to slow. Yeast used in a high-gravity beer is more likely to be stressed and to produce off-flavors.


Directions For Rinsing Beer Yeast

  1. At the end of primary fermentation, boil 2-3 cups of water and chill it to room temperature.
  1. After transferring the beer into secondary, pour the pre-boiled, pre-chilled water into the primary fermenter. Swirl the fermenter to stir up the yeast at the bottom.
  1. Pour the slurry into a sanitized quart-size or larger glass container. A mason jar works well for this. **Remember – everything that touches the yeast at this point should be thoroughly clean and sanitized: the glass jar, the lid, and funnel (if used).
  1. Place the jar in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
  1. The slurry will stratify into three layers: a liquid beer layer on top, a dark layer of trub on the bottom, and a whitish layer of healthy yeast in the middle. That middle layer is what we’re after.
  1. Prepare another sanitized container. Pour off (decant) most of the top layer and discard, then transfer the white yeast layer into the container, leaving behind the darker trub.
  1. Keep refrigerated and use within a week (the sooner the better).Shop Beer Yeast Culturing


That’s it! Now you can try rinsing your own beer yeast. Then you’ll be able to reuse it in a new batch of beer! I recommend using a yeast pitch calculator to estimate how much of the yeast slurry to use in your next batch.


Some pointers:

  • Though professional brewers may reuse yeast for ten or more generations, I wouldn’t recommend reusing the same yeast more than 2-3 times. You can aim for more if your sanitation practices are spot on, but as soon as you notice fermentation problems, start with a fresh batch of beer yeast.
  • Reusing yeast will take some foresight and planning. Chances are you won’t want to brew the exact same beer back to back, so keep the beers at least similar stylistically. That said, rinsing your beer yeast can open up some interesting cross-over experiments. For example, reuse your English ale yeast in an American IPA, or reuse your Kölsch yeast for an American cream ale.

Have you ever tried rinsing beer yeast? Why or why not?

David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

When Is My Wine Ready To Bottle?

Three homemade wines that are ready to be bottled.What is the best way to tell when my wine is ready to bottle?

Thank You,
Rick, IN
Hello Rick,

Great question, and an important one too. The last thing anyone wants to do is bottle their wine too soon. This is especially important if you plan on handing any of it out as wine making gifts. A significant amount of sediment could eventually form in the wine bottle, or worse yet, corks could possibly start pushing out and cause a mess.

Fortunately for us home winemakers, it’s very easy to determine if a wine is ready to be bottled. Here is what has to happen before you can bottle your wine:

1. Your wine has to be completely clear. There should be no more sediment that needs to fall out. Most of the sediment you’ll be dealing with is made up of tiny, microscopic yeast cells. These cells are as fine as flour. It is important to understand that even the slightest amount of murkiness in the wine at bottling time could lead to sediment in the wine bottles later. Give the wine plenty of time to clear. If you’re not sure wait, longer.

2. Your wine should read less than .998 on the Specific Gravity scale of your wine hydrometer. This is telling you that the fermentation process has actually finished and hasn’t just stalled out halfway, or still fermenting very slowly as a stuck fermentation. If you do not have a wine hydrometer I would urge you to get one. They are not that expensive and can save you a lot of problems in the long run.Shop Degassing Paddles

3. The wine should be free of any residual CO2 gas. This is the gas that occurs when the wine ferments. CO2 gas is the same stuff that makes beer foam and soda pop fizzy. Once the wine is taken off the sediment, you can stir the wine to get this gas to release. You may want to consider purchasing a Degassing/Mixing Paddle to help you with this process. It is a paddle that attaches to a hand drill and will fit in the opening of a carboy as well as an opening of a plastic fermenter.

Best Wishes,
Ed Kraus
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

How Do I Increase the Alcohol Content of Homebrew?

High Gravity Beer Over FlowingWhen making beer at home, yeast turns fermentable sugar into alcohol and CO2. Increase the fermentable sugar, and you increase the potential alcohol content. These higher-alcohol brews are often referred to as “high gravity”.


Why increase the alcohol content of a beer?

You may be interested in “upgrading” a beer recipe to a double or imperial version. Say you have a great stout recipe, but want to bump it up to an imperial stout. Add more fermentable sugar, and the potential alcohol goes up.

You may also want to increase the alcohol content of a beer to make it better for aging. Higher alcohol content helps prevent contamination and encourages flavors to develop over time. “Winter warmers” – higher gravity beer, often brewed with spices and other flavorings – make great holiday gifts. Brew a high-gravity spiced ale for New Year’s Eve, and let it age so you can pull it out for future New Year’s Eves and see how the “vintage” changes over time. (Hint: these 1-Liter amber bottles can give your beer an elegant look.)


By how much can you increase the content of a homebrew?

Most beer yeast will stall out at 12-15% alcohol by volume, some even way before that, depending on the strain. Some are more alcohol tolerant than others. Beyond a certain point, adding more fermentable sugar than the beer yeast can handle will only make the beer sweeter, not increase its alcohol.


Sources of fermentable sugar

There are several ways to add more fermentable sugars to your beer. This increases the original gravity of the beer, which is measured with a hydrometer.

  • Malt – If brewing all-grain or partial mash, adding more malt will increase the gravity. Most of your gravity will come from an increase in base malt, but you may also increase the specialty malts to keep the flavors in balance.
  • Malt extractShop Liquid Malt Extract – Adding malt extract to your recipe is an easy way to add more fermentables for both all-grain and extract brewers. Just mix it right in the kettle as usual.
  • Sugar – Adjunct sugars offer yet another way to raise the gravity of a beer, but don’t limit yourself to plain old white table sugar. There are several types of sugar, from cane sugar and brown sugar to more exotic sugars like candi sugar and panela. Maple syrup and honey are also interesting sugar sources. Keep in mind that nearly 100% of the sugar will be fermented into alcohol. Generally speaking, the darker the sugar, the more color and flavor will be contributed to the beer.


Another option: add alcohol directly to the beer

If you want to make something along the lines of a bourbon barrel stout or a wine barrel saison, you can add liquor directly to the beer after fermentation. Flavored liqueurs can also be used to add fruit, chocolate, or coffee flavor to beer. This is a great option if you want to take a five-gallon batch and divide it into different experiments after fermentation.

Though there’s a time and a place for lower-alcohol, session beers, there are times when raising the alcohol content of a homebrew gives it an added level of sophistication. What are some of your favorite high-gravity beers?

David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

How To Determine Your Wine’s Alcohol Level.

Tipsy ManThis is the question every budding home wine maker wants to know, “How can I tell how much alcohol is in my wine?” The problem is, this question is usually asked about the time they’re ready to bottle their wine.  Unfortunately, for the amateur winemaker, this is far to late in the process to make any accurate determinations.

What Needs To Happen
The easiest way to know how much alcohol is in your wine is to take two readings with what’s known as a wine hydrometer: one reading is taken before the fermentation has started and the other reading is taken after the fermentation has finished. By comparing these two hydrometer readings you can determine – with great accuracy – how much alcohol is in your wine.

Very simply put, a hydrometer is a long, sealed glass tube with a weight on one end. By observing how high or low it floats in a liquid you can determine a reading.

“And what are we reading?” Essentially, we are trying to figure out how much sugar is in the wine or wine must. The higher the wine hydrometer floats, the more sugar there is in the liquid, and the opposite holds true as well.

During a fermentation, sugar is what yeast turns into alcohol. If we know how much sugar there was in the wine must before the fermentation, and we know how much sugar there is in the wine after the fermentation, we then know how much sugar was consumed by the yeast during the fermentation. From this information we can determine how much alcohol was made during the fermentation and is now in the wine.

It all sound complicated when it is all explained in detail this way, but in practice it is very easy to accomplish. All you need to do is:

1. Take a wine hydrometer reading at the same time you add the yeast to your wine must. The hydrometer has a scale along it called “Potential Alcohol”. At this point in the wine making process you should be getting a reading of around 10% to 13%. The reading is the point where the surface of the liquid crosses the scale. This reading indicates how much alcohol the wine can have if all the sugars are fermented. Write this number from the gravity hydrometer down and save it for later.Shop Hydrometers

2. Take another reading with the hydrometer once the fermentation has completed. This reading should be somewhere around +1 to -1 on the Potential Alcohol scale. By comparing these two gravity hydrometer readings you can determine your wine’s alcohol level. Take the first number you wrote down and from that, subtract the second number.

The Calculations
As an example, if your reading before the fermentation was 12% and the reading after the fermentation was 1%, this means that your wine has 11% alcohol (12 minus 1). If your first reading was 12% and your second reading was -1%, that means your wine has 13% alcohol (12 minus -1).

Another way to think of it is you are monitoring how far along the wine hydrometer’s Potential Alcohol scale the fermentation is traveling. It started at 12 and ended up at -1. That’s’ 13 points along the scale.

Further Information
You can find more information about using a hydrometer to make wine in the book, “First Steps In Winemaking.” Also, the article, “Getting To Know Your Hydrometer” as lot additional information about using your hydrometer when making wine.
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Fall Homebrew Recipe: Pumpkin Porter (Extract)

Pumpkin Porter RecipeWith fall approaching, it’s time to get to work on some seasonal brews! And no other beer screams fall like a good pumpkin porter! Below you will find a pumpkin port recipe that’s simple and delicious!

Pumpkin beers are popular this time of year, but brewing one involves figuring out the answers to several questions:

  • What kind of pumpkin, fresh or canned?
  • How to prepare the pumpkin?
  • Should I mash the pumpkin?
  • What kind of spices to use?

As the brewer, it’s up to you to figure out the method that works for you, and it may just come down to how much time you have available. Fresh pumpkin can be used, but it takes time to peel the pumpkin, remove the seeds, chop it up, and bake. Some homebrewers recommend roasting the pumpkin for an hour at about 350˚F for flavor development. In terms of when to add the pumpkin, I suggest mashing it with the rest of the grains. Just be sure to use plenty of rice hulls to avoid a stuck mash.

As for spices, you’re certainly welcome to come up with your own spice blend, but a premixed pumpkin pie spice blend will already have a good balance between the different flavors. Whatever you do, use a light hand on the spices. Cinnamon is usually pretty safe, but it’s easy to go overboard with spices like cardamom, nutmeg, and clove. Start with just a pinch in a five-gallon batch, added at the very end of the boil. If using a pre-mixed spice blend, use half an ounce at the most.

For the pumpkin porter recipe below, I’ve gone with some of the easier methods. Canned pumpkin instead of fresh saves a lot of time and energy, and a premixed pumpkin pie spice blend takes some of the guesswork out of getting the balance right.


Pumpkin Porter Recipe (Extract)

OG: 1.061
FG: 1.013
ABV: 6.3%
IBUs: 21
SRM: 22

2 lbs. canned organic pumpkin
0.25 lb rice hulls
6.6 lbs. Munich malt extract
1 lb. Caramel 40L malt
Shop Steam Freak Kits0.5 lb. Victory malt
0.5 lb. Chocolate malt
1 oz. Willamette hops at :60
1 oz. Willamette hops at :30
1 tsp. Irish moss at :10
0.25 oz. pumpkin pie spice (ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg) at :0
Wyeast 1056: American ale yeast


Put the canned pumpkin on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake at 350˚F for 60 minutes, then mash with the specialty grains and about 1.5 gallons water at 152˚F for one hour. Use a strainer to strain wort into the brew kettle, rinsing the grains and pumpkin with about 1/2 gallon of water at 170˚F. Add the liquid malt extract and enough water to make 3.5 gallons. Bring wort to a boil, then add hops, Irish moss, and spices according to schedule above. Whirlpool, chill, and transfer to a clean, sanitized fermenter. Top off with enough clean, chlorine-free water to make 5.5 gallons. Pitch yeast at 70˚F.

Ferment at 68-70˚F for one week, then transfer to secondary for two. Prime with corn sugar, then bottle.

Do you have a favorite pumpkin porter recipe? What’s your secret?
David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Giving Your Wines Amazingly Long Shelf-Life!

Homemade Wine AgingI am fairly new to home wine making and was wondering what process should I follow to insure that the wine that I make will not have a short shelf life?

Dave Yoder
Hello Mr. Yoder,

The very first thing that I think should be pointed out is that the shelf-life of homemade wine can easily be as long as the shelf-life of any commercially made wine. The home winemaker can perform the same procedures and use the same techniques that are used by a winery to extend the shelf life of their wines.

There are a couple of things you may be meaning by shelf-life when using it in the context of wine and wine making. The first is shelf-life in terms of spoilage. How do you make a wine that will go a long time without spoiling? The second is in terms of flavor. How do you make a wine that will taste good for a long period of time… without it’s character, flavor structure and other agreeable qualities breaking down and becoming decrepit? I’ll try to tackle both of these perspectives:


If you want to extend the shelf-life of a homemade wine, the first thing you have to do is not allow the wine to spoil. Making a wine that doesn’t spoil is relatively simple. There are two basic parts to it:

First and foremost, you need to be sanitary.
By this I mean you need to wash and clean all your equipment, bottles, etc. Make them grim free with soap. This part is mostly common sense.

But beyond washing you need to sanitize all these items. Just because it looks clean doesn’t mean that it isn’t harboring traces of mold or bacteria. When you are talking about allowing a juice to ferment for days or weeks you need to be sure that the only thing growing is the wine yeast. To do this you must destroy all the other opportunities.

Soap does not sanitize. For this you need to use a sanitizing solution. We offer several sanitizers that you mix with water to make this solution. Some of the sanitizers we offer are: Basic A, Cleanpro SDH, One Step, B-Brite and Star-San. You can read more about them on our website.

The second half of preventing spoilage is to use sulfites.
Adding sulfites directly to your wine, 24 hours before the fermentation is critical to keeping spoilage from starting. It is only added in trace amounts but is very effective in keeping the wine fresh during the fermentation. It destroys wild mold and bacteria. Then it leaves the wine must by dissipating into the air as a gas.Shop Potassium Bisulfite

Sulfites should be added to the wine a second time, right before bottling. This is to keep the wine from spoiling while in the wine bottle. Doing this will go a long way in increasing the shelf-life of your homemade wine.

We offer sulfites in three different forms: Campden Tablets, sodium metabisulfite and potassium metabisulfite. Any of these three will work fine. You can find more information about adding sulfite to a wine on our website as well.


Now that we know how to keep a wine from spoiling, we need to know how to make it age better over longer periods of time — without losing its flavor qualities… Its goodness. This is the second part if extending the shelf-life of a homemade wine.

It is important to realize that from a flavor standpoint all wines have a life-cycle. They start out a little harsh; a little rough around the edges; a little bit one dimensional. This is what’s meant when someone says the wine is young.

Then as time passes, they slowly matures into a smoother, more flavorful wine. Depending on the quality of the grape, some wines even become complex and layered with many different flavors that come and go on the tongue with each swallow… something with a bit of marveling character. These wines are now considered to be in their prime.

This maturation of a wine will usually happen relatively quickly in its lifetime. Typically in the 6 to 36 month range, depending on the type of wine. After the maturing the wine is usually at its best — flavor-wise. Then very slowly, year after year, sometimes decade after decade, the wine will begin to loose its positive qualities. It will become less flavorful, more flat and lifeless, more uneventful to drink.

This is the rise and fall of the life-cycle of the wine. How fast a wine lives its life or ages-out depends partially on some known factors. These factors control the shelf-life of the wine to some degree:


  • How Big The Wine Is: Big, heavy red wines that have low pH from tannins and high alcohol, will mature and age more slowly than wines that are light and delicate. So if you want a wine that will keep in the wine rack for years and maybe even decades, make it big. The downside to this is that these types of wines also take a bit longer to mature and become fully worth drinking. They will stay young for longer periods of time. Usually at least 24 months and more likely to be 36 months.Shop Wine Corks
  • How Much Air Is The Wine Allowed To Breath: Yes, wines breath, but not intentionally. In part, oxygen facilitates the aging of the wine. A slow infuse of air into the wine bottle is what is needed for optimal aging. It just so happens this is exactly what a natural wine cork does. It allows extremely small amounts of air to come in contact with the wine over very long periods of time. If the wine is allowed too much air in a given time period, then the wine will develop a temporary condition known as bottle sickness or bottle shock, and in extreme cases, may become oxidized. If too little air is allowed then the wine will age very, very slowly and in many cases taking it forever to achieve its full potential. This is why you see light, fruity wines being bottled under screw-cap… to stymie the quick aging and extend the shelf-life of the wine.
  • How Stable Is The Wine’s Storage Temperature: This factor is related to the wine’s breathing as well. If a wine is being stored in an area that has fluctuating temperatures on a daily bases or even on a seasonal bases: summer verses winter, then it will age quicker and have a shorter shelf-life than a wine that is stored at a constant temperature.This it due to the expansion and contraction of the wine in the bottle. As the wine becomes cooler it will contract just a little. Because it is a liquid it will contract more than the glass wine bottle it is in. This causes a vacuum in the bottle and minuscule amounts of air will slowly seep past the cork into the bottle. The opposite holds true as well. As the wine becomes a little warmer, it will expand causing a small amount of pressure to build up in the bottle. Air will slowly makes its way past the cork and out of the wine bottle.
  • How Dense Is The Wine Cork Being Used: This partially relates back to the stability of the wine’s storage temperature. The more dense the cork is, the less air it will allow to seep past when under a vacuum or pressure. However, if the storage temperature is constant, the density of the cork does not really matter since vacuum and pressure are not being built up in the wine bottle. You will find wine corks with different density on our web site.
  • How Cool Is The Wine’s Storage Temperature: This is mostly a commonsense factor. Wines that are stored at cooler temperatures will age more slowly than wines that are stored at warmer temperatures. So cooler temperatures will extend the shelf-life of the wine. I think this is something most of would instinctively know. Most wine experts agree that a good storage temperature for most wines is 55° F.


Just to recap: there are two parts to extending the shelf-life of a homemade wine. First, you want to be sanitary. Clean and sanitize your equipment. Add sulfites to the wine, particularly before bottling to discourage unwanted growth of mold and bacteria. Second, you want to control air contact and temperature while in the bottle. By understanding and controlling these principals you can control the shelf-life of your homemade wines.

Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

10 Beer Recipes for Fall Brewing

Beer For FallSomething about the change of weather has a big impact on our taste buds. The pro brewers know this – seasonal beers are beginning to outpace IPAs as the most popular craft beer option. To brew your own fall seasonal beer, consider one (or more!) of these ten beer recipes for fall brewing.

Keep in mind some of these homebrew recipes take time – if you want them ready in time for a special occasion be sure to give yourself at least a month or two head start. Among the ten beers are some fall classics, some winter warmers, and of course, no such list would be complete without at least one IPA.


Classic Fall Beer Styles

  • Oktoberfest –Oktoberfest is traditionally brewed in the spring, but frankly it’s a tasty beer any time of year. This amber lager is malty, smooth, and refreshing. If time is an issue, you can always brew it as an ale to have it ready faster.
  • Amber Ale – Maybe it’s the color, but amber ale always strikes me as a good fall beer. This one features caramel malt flavors, medium hop bitterness, and 5% ABV.
  • Brown Ale – Brown ales showcase darker malt flavors, and are often describes as nutty with notes of chocolate. They’re smooth, easy drinking, and work great with grilled meat!
  • Pumpkin Ale – The quintessential beer recipe for fall, a good pumpkin ale tastes just like pumpkin pie! Be sure to brew it by mid-October to have it ready in time for Thanksgiving!


Fall Brewing for Winter Drinking

Fall’s a great time to get started on some of the higher gravity beers for the winter. Each of these tasty brews can be aged for several months or longer. Just for fun, save some for next winter to see how the flavor develops over time.

  • BarleywineBarleywine is like the port of the beer world, high alcohol with a complex range of rich caramel malt flavors. At about 10% ABV, this one’s a sipper!
  • Russian Imperial StoutSimilar to barleywine with a higher alcohol content, Russian Imperial Stout features darker malts, giving the beer deep flavors of dark fruity, chocolate, and coffee. This kit comes in at around 8% ABV.Shop Steam Freak Kits
  • Maple Scotch AleA good Scotch ale is rich, malty, and smooth. This one uses 1 lb. of maple syrup for an extra layer of deliciousness! What could be better in the fall.
  • Bock – German bock is a malt-forward lager with a somewhat higher than average alcohol content. Traditional bock is typically 6-7.5% ABV whereas dopplebock may get as high as 12%. This beer recipe kit makes a brown lager at around 7% ABV.
  • Winter Spiced Beer – Spiced beers offer a great opportunity to exercise some creativity, but sometimes it’s best to start with an established homebrew recipe to develop a sense of different spices and their flavor contribution. This recipe is an award winner, brewed with honey, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, and orange peel.


IPAs Are Always in Season

One of the few IPAs made specifically for the winter also happens to be one of my favorites:

What are some of your favorite beer recipes for fall brewing?

David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

How To Crush Grapes And Why It’s Important!

Crushing Wine Grapes Into GlassYou say grapes must be crushed before pressing, what do you use to crush them with?

Thank you,
Hello Tony,

Crushing the wine grapes is a very straight forward process. All you want to do is burst the skin of each grape. This is necessary to release the juice from the grape. It also allows the yeast and enzymes into the grape to further break down the fiber and release even more juice along with flavor and body elements that will make up the character of the resulting wine.

If you do not crush the grapes, you will discover that a significant number of grapes will not release any juice at all. They will stay whole when being pressed. Other grapes may only give up a marginal amount of their juice while being squeezed. This is true regardless of the type of wine press you are using.

On the flip-side, you do not want to over-crush the wine grapes. Doing so may release too much tannin. This could lead to a wine that is out of pH balance and bitter tasting. You just want to solidly burst the skins. As an example, don’t pull out the food processor. That is not how to crush grapes and would definitely be overkill!

Another aspect to consider is that you need to remove the stems from the wine grapes at some point. A few stems are okay, but you do not want all of the stems in the fermentation. This too will cause the wine to become overly bitter with excessive tannin.

How you tackle the crushing of the grapes will depend on the amount of grapes you are dealing with. If you have just 10 or 20 pounds it wouldn’t be a bad idea to crush them by hand. With 100 pounds you might get away with crushing the grapes by beating them with the butt end of a 2×4 while in a bucket. But anything beyond this, and you are going to want to start considering an actual grape crusher.

We offer four different grape crushers. They all crush the wine grapes equally well. The biggest difference between these crushers is speed. Some have de-stemmers with them, or you can de-stem the grapes by hand. Regardless, if you have a large pile of grapes, using one of these units is how you will want to crush your grapes:


  • Wooden Fruit Crusher: This is the smallest grape crusher we offer. It is hand-cranked and easily does about 80 to 100 pounds an hour. It is well designed and will crush small berries as will as larger fruit.Shop Grape Destemmers
  • Stainless Steel Fruit Crusher: This is a manual grape crusher as well. The main differences are that it is rated at 1850 pound per hour and it is stainless steel, very easy to clean up. It also has rotating knives within the hopper for handling other types of fruit.
  • Motorized Crusher / De-stemmer: This is a motorize grape crusher. And as the name suggests, it is also a grape de-stemmer. The crushed grapes fall out the bottom and the stems will come out the side of the unit. It is rated at 2,200 pounds per hour.


I hope this information helps you out and gives you a better idea of how to crush your grapes. The bottom line is the wine grapes need to be crushed before they can be made into wine, and they need to be crushed by the right amount. Burst the skins thoroughly, but don’t do more than that.

Happy Wine Making,
Ed Kraus
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Tracking Your Homebrew Fermentation

Hydrometer In Homebrew FermentationDuring fermentation, yeast consumes sugar and turns it into alcohol and carbon dioxide. But yeast also produces a range of byproducts that have a huge effect on the flavor of beer. Doing some simple tracking of your homebrew fermentation is one thing you can do to analyze how the beer yeast is performing.


Why Track Your Homebrew Fermentation?

The more information you have, the easier it will be to address potential problems. The more you can learn about managing a fermentation, the better your beer will be!

Fermentation tracking helps you identify potential trouble areas. With just some basic notes on temperature and gravity, you can use this information to evaluate yeast performance. Maybe you’ll discover that fermentation temperature tends to peak on the second or third day. Now you can do something about it.

Towards the end of fermentation, it will be especially important to take gravity readings, as this is the best way to determine when fermentation is complete. Two to three days of consecutive readings indicate that fermentation is done. If you can more accurately predict when fermentation will complete, then you might be able to shave a few days off primary fermentation and have beer ready to drink that much sooner!

Tracking a homebrew fermentation becomes even more important if you are reusing yeast. You may find that when using a fresh yeast pitch, the fermentation goes relatively quickly. But with each successive reuse of yeast, the speed of fermentation may start to lag. When the fermentation deviates from the standard fermentation curve, it may be time for a fresh pitch.


Basic Note-Taking When Tracking a Homebrew Fermentation

To track your homebrew fermentation, take some readings at around the same time each day during fermentation:

  1. Make note of the fermentation temperature.
  2. Take a sanitary sample with a thief.
  3. Shop RefractometersTake a gravity reading with a hydrometer. You can also use a refractometer. It requires a smaller sample size, but values will need to be adjusted due to the presence of alcohol. There are various tools online that can be used to adjust the reading.
  4. Optional: take a pH reading (pH should drop during fermentation). You can use a digital pH meter or pH papers to do this.
  5. Plot the values onto a graph.
  6. Evaluate the curve.

Gravity values for a normal fermentation should resemble something of an S-curve – a slow decline to start with (day one, lag phase, while yeast are reproducing), followed by a sharper decline for the bulk of fermentation, followed by a slow down as most of the sugars are consumed and the yeast starts to settle out.

Though it’s not imperative that you track your homebrew fermentation, it can be a helpful tool when trying to optimize your procedures. And if you’re a big brewing geek like me, it’s just one more reason to distract yourself from whatever you’re supposed to be doing and do beer stuff instead!

David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.