Not Sure How To Clean Your Wine Bottles? Then Read This…

Cleaned and sanitized wine bottles.Preparing wine bottles for bottling wine is sometimes glossed-over or minimized by some home wine makers. That’s not a good thing. That’s a bad thing! Starting out with clean and sanitized wine bottles is paramount to having healthy wine. The alternative can lead to a spoilage and embarrassment.

Cleaning Your Wine Bottle
Even if the wine bottles are new, out-of the-box they should be thoroughly rinsed to wash off any box dust that may have made its way inside.

If the wine bottles have been used then there is the dirt and grime to deal with as well. This can be cleaned off with regular dish soap. Clean the wine bottles as if you were cleaning the dishes. A wine bottle brush comes in very handy during this step. You may also find that it helps to have two wine bottle brushes to entice others to pitch in as well.

If the wine bottles are extremely filthy with dried crud and dirt, you may want to clean them in two steps. The first step would be to clean the pieces of dirt. The second, to clean the surface grime and rinse. Having this second bath of water will help to leave the serious filth behind.

Sanitizing Your Wine Bottles
Many beginning wine makers confuse “cleaning” and “sanitizing” to mean the same thing, but they are very different.

Think of “cleaning wine bottles” as getting rid of what you can see and “sanitizing wine bottles” as getting rid of what you can’t.

When you are sanitizing a wine bottle you are destroying the mold, germs and bacteria that may exist on the glass. You are making the glass as sterile as possible. Sounds serious, but it’s really very simple.shop_wine_bottles

There are several products that can sanitize your wine bottles with little effort on your part. Some that we recommend are: Basic A, One-Step and Star-San. You mix any of them with water to create a sanitizing solution. In addition to the wine bottles, these solutions can be used to sanitize gallon glass jugs, wine carboys, and even plastic fermenters.

All three products are oxygenating-type cleansers. What this means is that the sanitizing of the wine bottles is actually being done while the solution dries or evaporates from the wine bottle’s surface. And, no residues are left on the wine bottles.

What this means for you is that these cleansers are quick and require no rinsing. Just submerge the wine bottles and let them drain and dry. One product that works perfect for drying is a Bottle Tree. Just as the name sounds, it is a single column with pegs. Each peg holds a wine bottle. Not only is it handy it’s also a great space-saver.

It should also be noted that the traditional solution of sodium metabisulfite and water can be used for sanitizing wine bottles, but only if the wine bottles are new, or the wine bottles were washed right after being emptied. Cruddy, scavenged wine bottles with “questionable backgrounds” should always be treated with a cleanser similar to the three mentioned earlier, not sodium metabisulfite.
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.

Do Wine Kits Need More Ingredients?

I’ve been making wine using wine kits such as KenRidge for several years. These kits seem quite complete with all the ingredients needed – but reading many of the posts on your site causes me to wonder. Should I, could I, must I supplement the ingredients provided in these wine kits with other ingredient such as Yeast Nutrients, Acids, Tannins, Potassium Sorbate, Wine Conditioner? Should I add Campden tablets between bottling?

Name: Paul
State: New Jersey
Hello Paul,

One of the great things about using one of these wine kits is that the all of these wine making ingredients have already been taken care of for you. This has either been done directly by including the ingredient in the grape juice, or indirectly by eliminating the need for the ingredient, all together.

As an example, you mentioned acid blend. This is typically included in a wine recipe to bring the wine’s acid up to the proper level. If a wine’s acid level is too low, it will taste flat and flabby. With one of these wine kits, however, the grape juice has already been adjusted to the correct acidity level.

Not only is it been adjusted to a proper range for wine, it is adjusted to the optimum level for each specific type of wine. This is done by bench-testing a batch-sample of the juice with an actual fermentation beforehand, then test-tasting the resulting wine for balance and overall character. The optimal amount of acid is determined, then applied to the all of the grape juice. And, all of this is done before the grape juice goes through any packaging into one of the wine kits.

The same can be said about the yeast nutrient and the wine tannin. Each are already in the grape juice at a level that will result in the best possible wine for that wine kit.

Another aspect to this is the speed at which the wine progresses through the fermentation, then the clearing, and then the bottling. The wine kits on the market today are set up to get in the wine bottle so quickly, that they do not have a need for sulfites such as Campden tablets to be addedShop Conical Fermenter along the way. It should be pointed out that most wine kits do include a packet of potassium metabisulfite. This is the same thing as Campden tablets, but they only recommend adding it if you plan on storing your wine for longer than 6 months in the bottle.

The last item I will mention is the Wine Conditioner. This is essentially a sweetener designed specifically for wine. It is something that can be added to taste before bottling, but only if you desire to change the wine kit manufacturer’s intended favor. If you decide to do so, proceed cautiously. You can always add more, but you can’t take it out.

If you would like to read more whether or not your wine kits need more ingredients, here is another blog post that continues on with this subject, Do Your Wine Juice Kits Need Adjusting? It has some additional info on this.

With that being said, don’t’ feel left out because you are not concerning yourself with all these wine making ingredients. Feel fortunate. Wine kits have come a long way toward making the process simple, and the results outstanding.

Happy Winemaking,
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.

What Is ‘Bench Testing’ And How Does It Apply To Wine Making?

A Bench Trial Of Red Wines.I understand the practice of using bench trials, but don’t know how to apply it to my wine making. I want to blend Cabernet, Merlot, and Sangiovese to produce an Italian Chianti style red. I’ll take a small amount of each and get what I want. How do I use this “formula” to make a large batch.

Name: Cos S.
State: PA
Cos, thanks for a very good wine making question. For those of you who have never heard of bench trials, in terms of wine making, it is basically taking a small sample of a batch of wine and treating it in a specific way, and then evaluating the effects on that wine sample. If the results are favorable, you do the same thing to the rest of the wine batch. That’s basically how you go about using bench trials in winemaking.

As an example of using a bench trial, if some one has 10 gallons of wine and wants it sweeter, they can take 1 measured gallon of wine from the batch then add measured amounts of sugar syrup to the wine until it is the sweetness desired to establish a dosage. The best part is if you accidentally add too much sugar to the sample, you can add it back to the other 9 gallons and start all over with a new sample — without ever jeopardizing your wine. No risk to the entire batch.Shop Wine Bottle Corkers

Cos, in the instance of using bench trials to blend wines together, it is a matter of getting the ratios down for each wine. It’s all about the ratios. This means that you need to measure each wine before adding it to your blended sample. Once you know how much you used of each wine, you can then apply the formula in larger numbers.

Let’s say after playing around with different blends for a couple of days and several bench trials, you have determined that you like the blend of:

6 oz. Sangiovese
3 oz. Merlot
1 oz. Cabernet Sauvignon

You now have your ratio: 6/3/1. Right now it’s in ounces, but it could be in any measuring units that is convenient for you: mL’s quarts, gallons, barrels. If you wanted to create 10 gallons of the blend you would use:

6 Gals. Sangiovese
3 Gals. Merlot
1 Gals. Cabernet Sauvignon

If you want to only blend 5 gallons of wine it would be:

3 Gals. Sangiovese
1.5 Gals. Merlot
.5 Gals. Cabernet Sauvignon

shop_wine_barrelsOne fun activity you can do when using bench trials in winemaking is to do blind tastings. Have someone make several different variations without revealing which sample is which. Then you and friends can taste them and see which one you like best. Use the winner to change the rest of your wine(s).

I hope this clears thing up a bit for you. The key to using bench trial in winemaking is to get everything measured that goes into the test sample. That way if you like it, you have a clear recipe as to what to do with the rest of the batch of wine.

I also wanted to mention that there is an article on our website titled, “Blending To Improve Homemade Wines” that you may want to look over. It goes into the art and science of blending homemade wine in more detail and covers a little more about using bench trials, as well.

Happy Winemaking,
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.

Complete, Step-by-Step Extract Brewing Instructions

Extract BrewingExtract brewing is the easiest way to brew your own beer. Many homebrewers begin with extract beer brewing and later progress to all-grain. Some even go back to extract brewing because it’s easier and much less time consuming than all-grain brewing.

So what is extract brewing?
Professional brewers extract fermentable sugars from barley malt through a process called mashing. When extract brewing you can skip this step by using malt extract, which is a condensed form of liquid wort. (Wort is the term for unfermented beer.) Malt extract is available as a liquid malt extract or dry malt extract (LME or DME), and LME is either hopped or unhopped. Much like malt, malt extract is categorized by color, ranging from Pilsen, Pale, and Amber, to Munich and Dark.

By using malt extract, beginning homebrewers can save easily an hour or more on brew day. Plus, they can still make perfectly good beer with significantly less equipment.

Further below you will find some extract brewing instructions. Here is the basic list of equipment you will need to follow those instructions (5-gallon batch):

Shop Home Brew Starter KitMost homebrew supply shops carry homebrew equipment kits with everything you need to get started. E.C. Kraus also carries extract brewing kits with everything you need to brew your first batch of beer. You can also find an extract brewing recipe, and purchase all the ingredients, à la carte.

Extract Brewing Instructions:

  1. Thoroughly clean and sanitize everything you’ll be using to make your own beer. Many homebrewers consider this to be the most important step!
  1. Heat your clean, chlorine-free water. If you can smell chlorine in your tap water, you’ll want to boil your water for 30 minutes first. Or, you can use bottled spring water from the grocery store. The exact amount of water you use isn’t critical for extract brewing process; shoot for 3 gallons or so. Give yourself at least a couple inches from the top of your brew kettle.
  1. Meanwhile, if using liquid malt extract, soak your canisters of malt extract in a large bowl or pot of hot water. This will make it easier to pour out the extract in the next step.
  1. When your brew kettle of water is hot (not boiling), turn off the burner (for gas stoves) or remove the kettle from the heating element (for electric).
  1. Slowly stir in your malt extract until completely dissolved, taking care that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of your brew kettle. Your water is now wort!shop_liquid_malt_extract
  1. Heat your wort to a strong boil. Keep a close eye on it to avoid a boil over!
  1. From the start of the boil, add hops depending on your extract brewing recipe. (If you’re using hopped extract, you may not need to add any hops.)
  1. At the end of the boil, turn off the heat, give the wort a good stir, and move your kettle to a nearby sink for an ice bath. Fill the sink with cold water and replace as needed. The idea here is to cool your wort so that you can add the beer yeast. Yeast is a living organism (and responsible for creating alcohol!), so you don’t want to kill it by pitching it into wort that is too hot.
  1. When your wort is at about 90°F or so, carefully pour the wort into a sanitized fermenter. If using a carboy, you may want to siphon it using a sanitized siphoning hose. If you added hops to the boil, do your best to leave those behind. It’s important from here on out that everything that touches your wort is thoroughly sanitized.
  1. Top off your wort with water to make 5 gallons. Fermenting buckets usually have lines on the side that show you your volume.
  1. Aerate the wort by stirring vigorously. This is to provide oxygen for the yeast to feed on. This is the only step in the extract brewing instructions where adding oxygen is desirable.
  1. Take a hydrometer reading, correcting for temperature if necessary. This will help you measure alcohol content after your beer has fermented.
  1. Add the beer yeast according to the packaging instructions. Give it a good stir with your spoon.
  1. Put the fermenter in a closet or other dark, temperature constant room.
  1. Close the lid with air-lock attached (if using a bucket) or close with a rubber stopper and air-lock (if using a carboy).
  1. Fill your air-lock about halfway with clean water and place it firmly in the drilled hole of the rubber stopper.

If you follow these extract brewing instructions, within 24 hours you should see bubbles coming out of the airlock. After a week or so, you’ll be ready to bottle your beer!
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.

Using Pasteurized Juice For Making Wine

Pasturized JuiceI have decided to get in to the mysterious world of wine making. I have gotten my hands on carboys, yeast, corks, airlocks, etc. My only problem is that I can’t find any preservative free, unpasteurized apple juice, or any juice, to use in my first batch. Is using pasteurized juice for making wine OK? I’ve been told that the pasteurization process takes away from the final flavor. How much of an impact does it actually make? Thanks for the help!

Name: Steve G.
State: North Carolina
Hello Steve,

I’m glad you’ve decided to make some wine. Using a pasteurized juice for making your wine, is a pretty good place to start for a beginning winemaker. The process is fairly straightforward and representative of the winemaking process in general.

You are correct in your assumption that you need to read the label and see what’s in the juice before actually buying it and using it to make wine. You need to look for preservatives that could sabotage your fermentation.

For example, you want to make sure that the juice does not have sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate. These specific preservatives will interfere with wine yeast ability to multiply and start a fermentation. However, things like potassium metabisulfite or ascorbic acid are just fine and will not give you any troubles whatsoever.

Shop Grape ConcentrateAbout the pasteurization, it is perfectly fine to make wine from a juice that has been pasteurized. It does not effect the flavor in any way and is a good thing for the juice to go through. While this process does have a big fancy name — named after Prof. Louis Pasteur, the creator of process —  it is really a very innocent and simple process. Pasteurization is simply performing a flash heating and cooling of the juice.

These days, the juice is heated and cooled so fast that it does not even have a chance to oxidize the juice. But it is being heated long and hot enough to kill any microbes that would have eventually caused the juice to spoil. This process has no chemistry to it and is nothing more than what I have described. So as far as affecting flavor, it does not.

The bottom line is that using pasteurized juice for making wine is perfectly fine. What you want to be on the look-out for is things like sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate.

Happy Winemaking,
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.

What Information Goes On A Wine Bottle Label?

Wine Bottle Label ExampleAs a home winemaker, you don’t have to worry about conforming to all the strict rules regarding wine bottle labels that are in place for commercial winemaking.  However, creating wine labels that will allow you to easily identify your wine in your cellar is highly recommended.

Simply writing a “Cab” for Cabernet Sauvignon or “P” for peach on the top of the cork or side of the bottle with a grease pencil isn’t going to cut it. The information that goes on the wine label is going to become more important as you start producing more styles and vintages.

Designing and creating a wine bottle label system that helps identify exactly what’s in the bottle and that looks stylish and professional if you’re gifting it for a friend or family member will save you a lot of headaches in the future.

You can as much or as little information on the wine bottle label as you’d like. You can make the wine bottle label as simple or as complex as you’d like. This is because it is your wine. You are the winemaker and are not bound by strict wine bottle label laws.

Each country has different laws in regards to what information must go on the wine label, however, most of them have basic similarities that you can apply to your own wine label.  If you’re looking to design a wine bottles label that’s similar to those from commercial wines, you’ll need a few standard pieces of information.

  • Brand Name: What do you want to name the wine? Joe’s Amazing Chardonnay? Sweet Peachy McGee?  You can get creative with this one!
  • Vintage:  What year were the grapes or other fruits picked?
  • Variety/Fruit Information:  What’s in the bottle? Is it Sauvignon Blanc? Or is it Raspberry wine?
  • Region/Geographical Location:Shop Wine Bottle Labels  Where did you make the wine?  Where did the fruit come from?  You could very well be making your wine in a different location from where you purchased the fruit, and that’s OK! Since you’re not bound by any wine bottle label laws, you have the freedom to write what you want here.  On commercial bottles, it must be made clear where the fruit is coming from as well as the location of the winery.
  • Alcohol content: This is information that goes on any wine label you see on the commercial shelf.  It might be nice to include this on your wine label as well, particularly if you’re going to be gifting it to someone else that isn’t familiar with how you made the wine.
  • Volume: This information indicates the volume of wine contained within the bottle.

As a home winemaker, what information goes on your wine labels is completely up to you. You have freedom to do anything you want with your wine label. However, it is important to label your wines in such a way that you can easily identity them. And, if you’re giving the wine to someone as a gift, it would be nice to design your wine label in such a way that it creates a little fun, as well.
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.

Making Mulled Wine For The Holidays

Mulled WineHey I hope yall had a great week, I have been thinking about trying to make something to serve during the holiday. Possibly something with a slight cinnamon or clove flavor or maybe a cider flavor as well. Do you have any suggestions?

Thanks for your help.
Hello Steven,

It’s hard to beat a hot cup of spiced wine. This it’s actually called mulled wine. And, it’s very simple to make… All you need to start out is a bottle of your favorite wine. Usually, its a sweet or semisweet wine, but any wine you like will do.

Making Mulled Wine
Heat the wine up in a sauce pan. Add to this a mix of spices. Typically it’s a combination of spices such as cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, cloves, star anise, allspice and citrus peel. You can also go as simple as heating up the wine; add it to a coffee mug and throw in a couple of cinnamon stick and serve. If the wine’s not sweet enough add some brown sugar or honey, to taste.

When making a mulled wine a typical recipe would go something like this, but you also can play around with other ideas:

  • 8 Whole Cloves
  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 2 Star Anise

Regardless of how you make the mulled wine, it’s a great way to enjoy the cold winter months and holiday gatherings, and there’s not much fuss to preparing it.

An even easier way to go about making mulled wine is to use our Glow Wine Spices. They are little teabags or sachets fill with a perfect blend of mulling spices. Each bag is sufficient for mulling one 750 ml bottle of wine.

I have been making mulled wine to warm up the holidays for years. Not only does it taste fabulous, it fills the house with a wonderful smell of the holiday season.

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.

Dealing With A Cloudy Peach Wine

Cloudy-Peach-WineI have tried to make fresh Peach wine, it has been six weeks and it still is not clear, I followed all the basis steps in wine making, even put a clearing agent in it. Do I need just to weight longer.

Thanks Tbone
Hello Tbone,

What your wine may be experiencing is what’s called a pectin haze. Peach wines are notorious for having this kind of fault.

Certain fruits have a lot more pectin in them than others. Pectin is the thick, gelatinous stuff that holds the fruit’s fiber together. Peaches, strawberries and certain other fruits have an abundance of it. Normally, pectin is broken down by the yeast during the fermentation and does not cause any issues. The yeast actually produce enzymes that help to break-down the pectin resulting in a clear wine. But when there is more pectin than the yeast can handle, the result is a pectin haze.

A pectin haze cannot be settled out by a fining agent such a bentonite, isinglass or other clarifier designed to settle out particles. That’s because a pectin haze is not made up of particles. It’s made up of an organic structure that is bound to the wine itself. The only way to rid yourself of it is to break down its molecular structure.

This is where pectic enzyme comes in. If you did not add pectic enzyme to this batch, or used pectic enzyme that was too old, a pectin haze is most likely what you are dealing with. Pectic enzyme is additional enzyme that can be added to the fermentation to help the yeast break down the pectin cells. The yeast produce it naturally during the fermentation, but with some fruit – such as your peaches – it’s just not enough. More pectic enzyme needs to be added.Buy Pectic Enzyme

At this point, I would go ahead and add a double-dose of pectic enzyme to this batch. The amount will vary depending on the type of pectic enzyme you are using. Just double the recommend dosage that is stated on the container it came in.

If you purchased the pectic enzyme from us, that would be a 1/4 teaspoon per gallon – a standard dose is 1/8 teaspoon. Be sure to rack the wine into a clean fermenter first so that you do not stir up any sediment when mixing in the pectic enzyme.

The results will not be immediate. It takes pectic enzyme longer to work once the activity of the fermentation has gone. But if a pectin haze is what you are dealing with, you should start to see improvements in the wine’s clarity within a couple of weeks.
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.

When Do I Add Campden Tablets To My Homemade Wine?

Campden Tablets For WinemakingHelp!

I was wondering if you can straighten me out on something. I have heard that you should add campden tablets before you add the wine yeast. I should also add campden tablets after every time I rack the wine. Then add them before I bottle the wine. That seems like a lot to me.

Hi Gary,

Thanks for such an interesting question.

You do need to use Campden tablets or some other form of sulfite such as sodium metabisulfite, or the wine could eventually spoil or turn to vinegar. But how much you should add is another issue all together.

If you’re making wine from fresh fruit, we recommend that you add one Campden tablet per gallon before the fermentation. This is the standard dose. If you are making wine from a packaged juice, this step is not necessary. Continue reading

Water Treatment For Brewing Beer

Beer In Brewing WaterBefore you use water straight from the tap for homebrewing, it’s important to understand exactly what you’re putting into your precious brew. After all, water makes up more than 90% of beer by weight. Water chemistry can get a bit technical, but don’t worry — you don’t need a degree in chemistry to make good beer. In the famous words of Charlie Papazian, “Relax, don’t worry, have a home brew.” In fact, if you’re brewing with extract, you don’t need to worry much about water treatment at all. However, if you are brewing all-grain, water treatment for brewing beer becomes a much more important subject.


Why is Water Treatment so Important in All-Grain Brewing?

Water contains much more than pure H2O. There is usually an assortment of minerals, salts, and chemicals in there as well. Some minerals and chemicals are beneficial to your brew. Some help yeast grow so that they can ferment your beer, while others help to extract fermentable sugars from barley malt. It’s important to be aware of sterilizers, such as chlorine, which may affect the flavor of your beer. Finally, if you’re trying to make a style of beer traditionally brewed in a certain part of the world, you may want to recreate the brewing water profile used to make that beer. Continue reading