The Mother Earth News Wine Kit Challenge

We did something interesting! We sent one of our wine making kits to the folks at Mother Earth News, and we had them video themselves making the wine. None of them had ever made wine before, and we provided no information — just the kit and the directions that normally comes with it. Watch what happened.

Below are three videos they shot while making the wine. You can go to Mother Earth News’ website to view more videos on other self-sustaining projects. Click on the pictures to play the video:

Part I

Part II

Part III

These guys did an amazing job and plowed right through the steps with no trouble at all. Hopefully, these videos will help to show others just how easy it is to make your own wine.

For those of you who have never heard of Mother Earth News, it is one of the most popular and longest-running magazines for people wanting to live a self-sustainable lifestyle. It is filled with all kinds of ideas, information and projects. In addition to their magazine, their website is a pleasure to learn from, as well!

 

Using Campden Tablets: The How, When And Why

Campden tablets to be used in wine makingI crushed fresh Syrah juice from grapes last September into 3 six-gallon plastic fermenters w/air gaps. I added 1 Campden tablet per gallon into the 3 six gallon plastic fermenters 24 hr. before adding the wine yeast. I separated out the sediment in January. I plan to bottle in mid-May. From your guidance, I plan to add 1 Campden tab per gallon before bottling. Should I have also added Campden tabs when fermentation was finished in September? I tasted the wine in January and it tasted good.

Name: Brad T.
State: California
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Hello Brad,

This is a great question about using Campden tablets in wine making. I’ll need to answer this from a couple of different perspectives…

When you add Campden tablets to a wine, your are essentially adding sulfites. Sulfites protect the wine by destroying any mold, bacteria or anything else that wants to grow in the wine. During the fermentation this is not a problem. It’s when the wine must is still and not fermenting that sulfites become important.

The issue is that over time the sulfites want to leave. They dissipate into the air as SO2 gas. For example, the Campden tablets you added before the fermentation are long-gone by the time the fermentation had ended. So there is a need to replenish the sulfites to help keep the wine protected.

From a winery’s point of view, you always want 40 to 70 PPM (parts-per-million) of sulfite in the wine after the fermentation. The winery will measure and maintain this level all the way through the clearing process and on to bottling. They can easily afford the time and effort to do this because a lot of wine is at stake.

From an individual winemaker’s point of view, it may be a little overkill to constantly test the sulfites and make adjustments as called for — particularly if you’re only making 5 or 6 gallons at a time, and you’re going to bottle the wine in a few weeks, anyway.Shop Potassium Bisulfite

So as a compromise, I recommend using Campden tablets directly after the fermentation, then again, right before bottling. So to summarize, you are adding sulfites:

  • 24 hours before fermentation
  • After the fermentation
  • Right before bottling.

By handling the wine in this way you can keep the wine more evenly protected without a lot of effort on your part with tests and measurements.

From a home winery’s point of view, say you are making 30, 50, 100 gallons, you may want to spend the time and energy to keep track of your sulfites. This can be done with Titret Test Vials and the Titret Hand Tool that works with it. By running this test you can determine the sulfites that are currently in your wine, in PPM, and how much you need to add, if any.

You may also want to switch to a Campden tablet substitute such as potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite. These bothShop Grape Concentrate come in a granulated form. They add sulfites to the must or wine, just as Campden tablets, but they come in a granulated form. It’s much easier to use when needing larger amounts. Instead of crushing up a bunch of tablets, you just measure it out by the teaspoon.

This is the basics of using Campden tablets in your wine making. To delve a little deeper you might want to take a look at, Campden Tablets: What They Can And Can’t Do.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
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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 Long Does Homemade Wine Last?

Homemade-Wine-LastingHow long can a finished homemade wine be stored or aged before going bad?

Gabe
———–
Hello Gabe,

There is nothing unique to homemade wine that makes it spoil or go bad any faster or keep any better than commercially made wines. As long as the homemade wine is treated properly, it will keep just as long and as good as wines you purchase at the store. So when you ask, how long does homemade wine last?, the simple answer is, just as long as any other wine!

But what does treated properly actually mean?

  1. It means your wine must be dosed with sulfites, and
  2. Your wine bottles must be sanitized before using

 

Treating Your Wine With Sulfites
This is very simple do and is very beneficial to the keeping qualities of the wine. If the wine is being made from fresh grapes or other fresh fruits, just add a standard dose of potassium metabisulfite or Campden tablets 24 hour before adding the yeast. If you are making wine from a wine concentrate this process can be skipped.

Another dose of potassium metabisulfite or Campden tablets should be added to the wine right before bottling. This dose before bottling goes for any wine – regardless if it’s made from fresh fruit or grape concentrate. There may be other times that sulfite should be added, depending on how many times the wine is being siphoned or how long it’s being bulk aged. You can find more information on this in the blog post: Using Campden tablets: The How, When And Why.

Shop Campden TabletsBy performing these simple steps your homemade wine will stay fresher much longer and will degrade in quality much slower. And, you will have have virtually eliminated the chance of your homemade wine experiencing out-right spoilage.

 

Sanitizing Your Wine Bottles
This is the second part of the equation. How long does a homemade wine last? It depends on how well the wine bottles were sanitized. Fortunately, it’s a simple process.

All you have to do is clean the wine bottles as you normally would anyway. Use some dish soap and a wine bottle brush. If the wine bottles are brand new, you can skip this part. Then use a cleaners such as Basic A on the wine bottles to sanitize them. Both of these products come with complete directions on their usage. Once the wine bottles are mostly dry, they are ready to be filled with wine.

The wine bottle can be cleaned ahead of time, but the sanitation part should only be done when you are actually ready to bottle.

 

Shop Basic AFinal Word…
It’s important to understand that these are the same critical steps that any winery would take. It’s what keeps all those bottles of wine consistently fresh on the store shelves, and that’s why your homemade wine can last just as long as any commercially made wine – stay fresh and free from going bad.

Follow these procedures. Make them habits. And you’ll never have a problem with any of your wines keeping while in storage.

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.

3 Questions About Using Potassium Sorbate In Wine Making

Potassium Sorbate For Wine MakingThanks again for being there.  You’re greatly helping an amateur wine-maker get by the label “amateur”.

Three part question, all using potassium sorbate in wine making.  This is a question recognizing that potassium sorbate does not stop fermentation, but is used to keep wines from starting to ferment again after the fermentation has been completed.

1).  When should the potassium sorbate be added to the wine — is it sufficient to add to the wine at day of bottling or should it be added earlier (like 7 to 10 days before bottling)?

2).  Will the answer to part 1) change if the wine has a sweetener added?  Is the potassium sorbate ALWAYS added to the wine AFTER the sweetener, or does it not matter as to the sequence?

3).  Does using a wine filter at time of bottling impact any of the above? Or is the filter process just the filter process?

Thanks, Steve S.
—–
Dear Steve,

Thanks for the great questions on using potassium sorbate in your wine. Let me see if I can put a dent in this subject.

 

First, A Little Background On Potassium Sorbate And Wine:

Potassium sorbate is one of those wine making ingredients that often gets used incorrectly or confused with other ingredients such as sodium metabisulfite.  I’d like to go over exactly what potassium sorbate will do for your wine and maybe that will clear up how it should be used.

Potassium sorbate does not destroy wine yeast. Let me repeat this for more emphasis:

 

“Potassium Sorbate Does Not Destroy Wine Yeast.”

 

What potassium sorbate does do is keep wine yeast from increasing in numbers. It stops the wine yeast from reproducing itself into a larger colony.

Shop Wine BottlesAs an example, if you add potassium sorbate to an active fermentation you will see the fermentation become slower and slower, day after day. This is because some of the wine yeast is beginning to naturally die off and new cells are not being produced to take their place. Eventually the yeast colony will either run out of sugars to ferment, or they will all die off from old age.

If you add sugar to a finished wine to sweeten it, and the wine is still laden with residual wine yeast, it does not matter if you add potassium sorbate or not. The wine yeast will ferment in either case. The only difference the potassium sorbate will make is whether the fermentation is going to become a full-blown one or just sputter along, almost unnoticeable, until the aging yeast cells can do no more.

 

What This Means For The Home Wine Maker:

What this all means for you is that before you add a sugar to a wine to sweeten it, you need to make sure that it is completely done clearing out as much of the wine yeast as possible. You want to give the wine plenty of time to drop out as many of the yeast cells as possible. Then rack the wine off these yeast cells. This is key to eliminating any chance for re-fermentation when sweetening a wine.

Whether or not the sugar is added to the wine before or after the potassium sorbate is immaterial. Just adding them both on the same day is sufficient. And to take this a step further, you can bottle the wine right after adding them. The only requirement is to be doubly sure that both the sugar and potassium sorbate are completely dissolve and evenly disbursed throughout the wine.Shop Wine Filter System

As a side note, you should always add sulfites such as potassium metabisulfite to the wine at bottling time, regardless if you are sweetening it or not.

As to your question about wine filtration… running a wine through a wine filter can only help not hurt during this process. This is simply due to the fact that wine filtration will get more of the yeast cells out of the wine. All three of the pressured wine filter systems we offer have sterile filtrations pads at .50 microns available to them. This will typically get 90% percent of the residual yeast cells that are left.

Happy Wine Making,
Ed Kraus
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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.

Restarting A Stuck Mead Fermentation

Stuck Mead FermentationI just started my first batch of Mead. I followed your recipe to the tee. Now after 4 days my SG is 1.062. The Mead is fermenting slow or may have stopped fermenting completely. When will it drop to 1.030-1.040.?

Name: Tony A.
State: SD
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Hello Tony,

What you may be experiencing is a stuck mead fermentation. This is something that is not all uncommon when fermenting honey, so don’t feel like you’ve done anything wrong or that the mead is doomed to failure. A slow or stuck mead fermentation is a simple issue with a simple fix. I’m confident you will be successful in restarting the fermentation.

The reason this is happening is because there is an array of varying sugars in honey, each with its own molecular makeup. Some of the sugars have a very complex cell structures. Others are not so complex. These are called complex sugars and simple sugars.

When a mead fermentation starts off, the simplest of the sugars are consumed first. This is because these are the sugars that are easiest for the wine yeast to consume. The yeast grab on to the lowest hanging fruit, first, so to speak. But as the fermentation continues there slowly becomes a point when all that’s left are the more complex sugars.

These sugars have large cell structures that can not be readily consumed by the wine yeast in their current state. The wine yeast must first break down the complex sugars into a simpler form. This is done with enzymes. The wine yeast will naturally excrete enzymes through out the fermentation and even more so when simple sugars are less available. The enzymes break down the complex chains of molecules into something smaller, simpler and easier for the yeast to digest.

Tony, this is where your mead fermentation stands, currently. This is why you have a stuck mead fermentation. It has seemingly hit a brick wall because the wine yeast have ran out of simple sugars to consume. What’s happening now is that they are nibbling away the best they can at the more complex sugars as the yeasts’ enzymes slowly break them down. This equates to a slow fermentation or on that stops, too early.

If you do nothing, the mead fermentation will more than likely finish on its own… eventually. But this is something that could take months to run its course. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help restart the stuck mead fermentation:Shop Yeast Nutrients

  • Add magnesium sulfate to the mead. Another struggle for the wine yeast is that a honey fermentation is low in pH. By adding a small amount of magnesium sulfate to the must (1/2 teaspoon to 5 gallons) you can put the wine yeast in the proper playing field for a healthier fermentation.
  • Add a 1/2 dose of yeast nutrient to the mead. This would be 3/4 tablespoon to 5 gallons.

By doing the above three procedures, restarting a slow or stuck mead fermentation should come about very easily.

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 Are Yeast Nutrients In Wine Making?

Yeast Nutrient In Wine MakingIn home winemaking for the keep-it-simple winemakers, you toss yeast into wine must and see what happens.  What’s the problem here?  There are a lot of problems here, but the one we are referring to relates to the ability of that yeast to complete a wine fermentation.   One major component that’s missing from this equation is yeast nutrients!  Just as humans need sustenance to move and be active, wine yeasts also need nutrients to keep their metabolism going and to keep the fermentation going strong. But what are yeast nutrients in wine making?…

For wine yeasts, it takes a heck of a lot of energy to multiply themselves into a viable colony, then turn the sugars of the juice into alcohol and carbon dioxide, so their energy really needs to be thoroughly replenished in order for them to not give up and die from exhaustion. The alternative is a stuck fermentation where the yeast activity comes to a complete halt.  Wine yeasts are living creatures (yes, they are teeny tiny, but they are still alive and kicking!), and they need to have their nutrients replaced when it is depleted through the rigorous activity of fermentation!

OK, so your wine yeasts need yeast nutrients in order to avoid a stuck or stopped fermentation.  What do I give them?  Multivitamins?  Pasta primavera?  Red Bull?  Surely those items will cause more harm than good for your wine, so instead, we’ll recommend some nutrient products for your wine yeast to munch on in order to ensure your wine fermentation keeps on going until the end.
Shop Wine Yeast

  • Di-Ammonium phosphate:  This is a common ingredient in a lot of wine yeast nutrients, and is the primary ingredient in the product Yeast Nutrients.  Basically, the yeasts utilizes the nitrogen component of the Di-Ammonium phosphate in order to supply the energy they need to keep that fermentation going strong.  Nitrogen to the wine yeast is like oxygen to us humans.  How much Yeast Nutrient to add will depend upon what kind of wine you are making, You can always add more Yeast Nutrient later if your fermentation becomes sluggish, so don’t worry too much if you think you aren’t adding enough.
  • Yeast Energizer: Sometimes when the yeast nutrients you added aren’t enough, you end up with a slowing, sluggish, or otherwise stuck fermentation.  Yeast Energizer is a great product to help jump-start the fermentation again and get your wine back on track.  The primary ingredients in Yeast Energizer are Di-Ammonium phosphate (the same stuff we’ve seen before), yeast hulls, magnesium sulfate, vitamin B complex, and tricalcium phosphate.  Not only will these ingredients help re-start your fermentation, but they also will ensure that your wine fermentation will keep going and at a rapid rate.Shop Wine Making Kits

As a general rule-of-thumb, Di-Ammonium phosphate is used by itself with wines made from grapes or hearty fruits similar to grapes such as bush-type berries. But as you start making wines with fruits that are more dissimilar to grapes, you are more likely to need Yeast Energizer. Herb wines such as dandelion, rose hip are prime candidates for Yeast Energizer, as is honey wine or mead. If you are following a wine recipe it will most likely tell you which type of yeast nutrient to use in your wine.

Remember, a wine that is lacking in yeast nutrients will not only cause a slow, sluggish, or even stuck fermentation, but can cause off-flavors and aromas in your finished wine.  So, don’t forget to feed your yeasts!
—–
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.

My Top 10 Favorite Winemaking Posts…

Top 10Another year has passed, and the rear-view mirror is full! I always use this time as an opportunity to reflect on what’s happened. In doing so I have come up with a list of my top 10 favorite wine making posts.

These are wine making post that I feel have been helpful, entertaining and interesting. They are listed in no particular order. You might want to give them a once-over and see if there’s anything that piques your interest:

  1. Keeping Fruit Wines In Fruity Balance
    Learn how: sugar, fruit and alcohol level all come together to create balance in a homemade wine.
  1. 7 Random Winemaking Facts…
    A listing of winemaking trivia that my surprise you. Take a look and see how many of the 7 you already know.
  1. In Plain English: The Difference Between pH And Titratable Acidity In Wine
    Understanding pH and titratable acid is the key to having a wine that tastes great and is stable. This post takes a complicated topic and distilled it down to something that’s easy to understand.
  1. A Simple Guide To Metabisulfites
    Covers the differences among Sodium Metabisulfite, Potassium Metabisulfite and Campden Tablets and how much this difference really matters.
  1. What’s The Difference Between Crushing And Pressing Grapes?
    The blog post clears up some of the confusion surround crushing and pressing. How are they different, and what are their purposes.
  1. How To Handle That Last Bit Of Sediment
    A handy little article the gives some quick pointers about racking your wine — how to do it more efficiently so as to lose less wine with less work.
  1. Is Oxygen Good Or Bad For Wine?Shop Wine Making Kits
    Knowing how to leverage air exposure to your advantage can go a long ways in producing a healthy, stable wine. See how easy it is.
  1. Picking When To Pick
    This is actually a 4 part series of posts that contain some solid information on how to determine the optimal time to harvest your grapes.
  1. What On Earth Is Bottle Shock?
    Learn how bottle shock affect both commercial and homemade wines, particularly after bottling, and how manage this phenomenon.
  1. 5 Myths About Homemade Wine
    Here are the top 5 myths that many non-home-winemakers believe. These are misconceptions that keep many from enjoying this rewarding hobby.

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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.

Understanding the Effects of a Malolactic Fermentation in Wine

Wines Going Through Malolactic FermentationMy Cabernet Franc and Carmenere, made from juice, both need to have their acid levels increased. Both wines went through malolactic fermentation. What type of acid is best to use? I have acid blend but it contains malic acid. Would using malic acid defeat the purpose of the malolactic fermentation in this wine?

Name: Dennis D.
State: Ohio
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Hello Dennis,

There are three main reasons for wanting a malolactic fermentation in wine (MLF):

 

  • To Make The Wine Stable: If the wine is induced into an MLF before bottling, you don’t have to worry about an MLF occurring in the wine bottles, spontaneously. Having a malolactic fermentation in the wine, naturally, while it’s in the wine bottle would be the last thing you’d want.
  • To Lower The Acid Of The Wine: If the wine’s acidity is too high and the wine is tasting too sharp or too tart, then a malolactic fermentation can very possibly improve the wine by lowing its acidity level.
  • To Change The Flavor: A malolactic fermentation in wine lowers the malic acid content and raises the lactic acid content. The net result is a lowering of the wine’s overall acid level, but also, because of the exchange of malic to lactic acid, the wine takes on a different flavor character. The wine will tend to be less fruity and more earthy. This may, or may not, be an improvement depending on the wine and your personal taste preference.

 

If your malolactic fermentation caused the wine to be too low in acid, I am going to assume that you did not put the wine through the MLF to lower its acidity level, but rather, you did it to either make the wine more stable or to change its flavor profile.Shop Malolactic Culture

With that said, if you add malic acid back to the wine you are increasing its potential to become unstable again, especially sense, I assume, you put a malolactic culture in the wine to initiate the MLF. The malolactic culture is a bacteria that consumes malic acid. If you add more malic acid to raise the acidity of the wine, you could be feeding a renewed MLF.

This is why it is very important that the wine be treated with sulfites, such as sodium metabisulfite. This is needed to destroy the bacteria culture, or your MLF will very likely start back up again–fueled by the new malic acid.

If you put the wine through a malolactic fermentation for reasons of flavor, then again, adding malic acid is going to be counterproductive. The harsher malic acid was fermented into half carbon dioxide gas and half lactic acid. The lactic acid is not as harsh as malic. So if you replace your acid deficiency with malic acid you are going to go backwards.

There are some other things that go on with a malolactic fermentation in wine. It’s not just an exchange of acid that’s altering the wine’s character. One major example, is the production of diacetyl. This is a substance that causes the wine to have a buttery flavor and aroma and can give the wine a more creamy texture. These effects are there to stay regardless if you add back malic acid or not. So there could be an argument for using malic acid to raise the acid level if all you where looking for was the diacetyl effect on the wine.Shop Acid Test Kit

After going through all of this, I think it starts to becomes clear that, for the most part, adding malic acid back to a wine that just went through a malolactic fermentation, does not make too much sense. You are better off using a blend of tartaric acid and citric acid, instead. I would suggest 2 parts citric acid and 1 part tartaric acid.

If you would like to read more about using a malolactic fermentation in wine—why they are used, how they affect a wine—you might want to take a look at: Malolactic Fermentation: Is It Right For You And Your Wines?

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.

Degassing Wine With A Drill Mixer

Illustration of Degassing Wine With A DrillThank you so much for all the information–it has been a lifesaver at times! My question is on degassing wine with a drill Mix-Stir in the carboy. How fast should I be using it with my drill? It seems like I just keep making more and more foam if I speed it up and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. It also takes forever. Should I slow the drill down? And when should I stop-is it okay to have just a few bubbles left? Thanks so much from a “Newbie”, and keep up the good work.

Name: Eileen M.
State: Florida
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Hello Eileen,

When degassing wine the a drill mixer, you want to run the drill as fast a possible. The only thing that should be slowing you down is the foam that is wanting to come up and out of the wine. Like pouring a glass of hot soda pop over ice, this may require a little patience on your part. But other than that go as fast as you can. No reason to keep things slow. Degassing the wine quickly will not hurt the wine in any way.

Having said this, the one thing you definitely do not want to do when degassing with a drill is splash the wine. Splashing is different than mixing the wine. When the Degassing/Mixing Paddle is submerged into the wine it is only agitating the wine within itself. When you are splashing the wine you are disrupting the surface of the wine.

Splashing the wine can allow air to saturate into the wine. This would be a bad thing since air in the wine will promote wine oxidation. Splashing is not so much an issue when you are first starting the degassing process because so much CO2 gas is coming off the wine that air can not saturate. But it does become a consideration as you finish up degassing the wine with a drill mixer.

As to your question about how long you should be degassing the wine or how far you should go, you want to get it to a point where there is only a small amount of foam being produce. Don’t worry about getting all the gas, just get to a point where it’s relatively hard to make foam. If a remnant amount of CO2 gas is still in the wine, that’s okay. This amount will have opportunities to leave during racking and bottling.

Shop Wine Bottle CorkersJust realize that degassing wine with a drill mixer is a safe and efficient way to go about it. Just get the paddles in the wine before spinning it, and you’ll have no issues whatsoever.

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.

Wishing You A Very Merry Christmas!

Eggnog With Cinnamon SticksThis has been quite a year. Some fantastic, new items have been added to our website. We’ve also had a lot of wonderful conversations with a lot of great customers. It’s amazing to see so many people enjoying the art of making wine and beer. Making alcohol is a hobby that seems to transcend across many different walks of life.

This is the last blog entry before Christmas rolls around our way. With that in mind we would like to stop and take time to wish you the very best this holiday season. I sincerely hope that your Christmas holiday is full of joy and excitement and that the New Year brings you the brightest of days and provides you with all for which you strive.

In keeping with the holiday spirit I have listed below an eggnog recipe that I have used for many years. I’d like to share it with you in hopes that it might add a little warmth to your holiday season.

Holiday Breakfast Eggnog
10 ounces of Apricot Brandy
3 ounces of Triple Sec
1 Quart of Eggnog

Mix together and sprinkle with nutmeg and cinnamon.

Happy Holidays,
Ed Kraus

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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.