Beers for People Who Don’t Like IPAs

Malty BeerDespite the fact that IPAs are the best-selling craft beer in the US these days, not everyone is into hoppy beer. Some would prefer a malty beer style. In many cases, people who are new to craft beer may prefer to start with something more approachable before moving on to things like Heady Topper. Heck, I like IPAs and sometimes I’m just in the mood for something different.

One of the reasons people homebrew is so they can drink beers they can’t get at the store. With so many IPAs on the shelves, it’s nice to brew a malty beer or … to mix things up.

If for whatever reason you’re not into IPAs – you don’t like the bitterness, or you’re just ready for a change – consider one of these malty beer styles for your next homebrew:

The Malt Bomb
Well, the opposite of a hop bomb is a malt bomb. These beers feature – you guessed it – malt as the main flavor ingredients. You could try a caramel-rich Irish Red Ale, a bready, toasty German Bock, or a clone of Sierra Nevada and Ninkasi’s Double Latte Coffee Stout.

Belgian Ale
Belgian beers offers a level of complexity you don’t always get from IPAs, mainly due to the use of Belgian ale yeast. If you’re into dry, complex white wines, you might like to try a Hennepin Clone or an Abbey Single. This rich and fruity Rochefort 8 clone is a near perfect copy of one of the most highly regarded beers in the world.

Wheat Beer
This is not necessarily a malty beer style, but the effect is the same. Wheat tends to give beer a sweet, bready flavor and a smooth mouthfeel. On a hot day they sure go down easy! In my mind, Paulaner Hefeweizen is the quintessential German wheat beer. You could also try an American wheat or a Blue Moon clone if you’d like something more citrusy.

Fruit Beer Shop Steam Freak Kits
Adding fruit is a great way to bring some complexity to beer, and may be just the thing a new craft beer enthusiast needs in order to make the jump. Try the chocolate-berry combination of a Blackberry Porter, the tropical fruit flavors of a Hibiscus Mango Blonde Ale, or the tartness of a Cranberry “Lambic”.

Lawnmower Beer 
If you’re looking for something a step or two above macro lager, consider brewing your own American Cream Ale or Honey Blonde Ale. If tailgate quaffability is what you’re after, try brewing this Buddy Light Clone.

Drink up and brew a malty beer style! As they say, variety is the spice of life!

What’s your favorite malty beer style?
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 Do I Put My Wine Into Oak Barrels?

Oak Wine Barrel On StandMy son gave me a 5 gallon oak wine barrel as a gift. I have a batch of red wine that I would like to put in the oak barrel and let it age a bit. When do I put the wine in the barrel? Do I let the wine finish up and clear with bentonite first and then put it in the barrel or should it go into the barrel now, let it age for a period of time then finish and bottle it?

Dear David,

Thanks for the great question, and way to go son! An oak wine barrel is really one of the better wine making gifts you can receive as a home wine maker. A lot of people underestimate how valuable the effects of oak aging can be to a wine.

The most common time for a wine to be in barrels is after the fermentation has completed, and the yeast has had time to settle out. That is also when I would recommend you put your wine in the barrel. That being said, the direct answer to your question is: add the bentonite first; let the wine clear; then go to the oak wine barrel.

One thing you have do have to be concerned when aging a wine in a barrel is how long to keep the wine in the barrel. A vast majority of the wineries will barrel-age anywhere from 18 to 30 months. This is perfectly reasonable if using 50 gallons oak barrels, but when using smaller oak barrels, the length of time needs to be much less.

A 5 gallon wine barrel holds only 10% of what a 50 gallon wine barrel can hold, yet the surface contact between the wood and the wine is still about half that of a 50 gallon barrel. What this translates into is: smaller wine barrels will affect the wine much more quickly than larger wine barrels. In the case of 5 gallons versus 50, about 5 times faster.Shop Fermentation Sampler

Because of this, it is easy to over oak the wine when aging in small barrels, especially if you are used to aging in glass jugs. With glass jugs aging too long is hard to do, more forgiving, but with small barrels you can potentially ruin the wine with too much wood.

This is why I always urge anyone aging in smaller barrels to monitor their wine’s flavor progression closely. At least once a month, taste a sample so that the barrel aging effects does not become too much. This can be easily done with a wine thief.

In summary, after you have cleared out the wine yeast is when to put your wine in the barrel, and monitor your wine’s flavor closely, at least monthly. Make sure that the wine does not become to woody or overcome by the effects of the barrel.

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.

“Copperhead” Hoppy Red Ale Beer Recipe

Hoppy Red Ale BeerThis beer started out as many good beers do: attempting to copy, or “clone”, someone else’s good beer. One of my favorite local nano-breweries produces a very hoppy red ale that I have fallen in love with. They list the grains and hops used on their menu, but neither the amounts nor the process.

It wasn’t very difficult to determine the grain bill amounts and the hops to use for the hoppy red ale beer recipe, but the hop schedule was pretty much a guess. I was able to match the IBUs they listed, but like I said, I wasn’t really sure of the hop schedule.

My clone beer tasted fairly similar, although not exactly the same; more copper than red, which is why I call it Copperhead. But it turns out that I started to like this beer better than the one I had been trying to copy. I assume that’s because there is a bit of pride in developing this beer, but also, it’s a fair bit lighter than the professional counterpart, and therefore I can drink more of it and not get as full.

This is the tweaked recipe from the third batch I brewed of this beer. This is absolutely the best beer I’ve ever brewed, and it’s a beer I love to drink. It can even be made into a session beer. This recipe makes a 5-gallon batch. Enjoy!


“Copperhead” Hoppy Red Ale Beer Recipe
(5 Gallons, All-Grains)

OG: 1.069
FG: 1.017
ABV: 6.8%
IBUs: 80+
SRM: 12


Grain Bill:
11 LB     Pale Two Row
14 OZ    Crystal 20L
8 OZ      Special B Shop Barley Crusher
4 OZ      CaraRed 

.5 OZ     Warrior (60 minutes)
1 OZ      Simcoe (20 minutes)
1 OZ      Columbus (10 minutes)
1 OZ      Citra (Flame Out)
2 OZ      Citra (Dry hop – 7 days)

Wyeast 1272 American Ale II (use two packs or make a starter)

The process is fairly straightforward. Mash all grains at 154°F for 60 minutes, using 1.25 quarts of water per pound of grain. Sparge to about 5.5 gallons and then boil for 60 minutes using the hop schedule above, cool, and add to fermenter. Ferment at 68°F. After 4 to 7 days, when fermentation has slowed substantially, add the final Citra hops and let sit for a week. After two weeks total in the fermenter, I like to clear with gelatin, and then package and enjoy.

If your mash reaches a good efficiency, your starting gravity should be about 1.069. I generally come in a little less than that. If you have room in your fermenter, and want to make this a session beer, you can simply add enough water to bring the OG down to 1.050. This beer is flavorful enough that it can handle that much dilution. It does change the beer, but the result is still a VERY drinkable somewhat-red-to-copper hoppy ale.

Hope you enjoy this hoppy red ale beer recipe! Cheers!
John Torrance is a database developer, gadget lover, and avid home brewer living in Lafayette, Colorado. When he’s not actively brewing, he’s generally daydreaming about what he’s going to brew for his next batch.

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.