Best Environments for Making Wine in Your Home

It is essential to understand where you should and shouldn’t be making wine in your home. The difference between a good and bad batch of wine is dependent on the environment that it ferments in. Wine can be made in any home, but you must be able to find the best possible environment to achieve winemaking success. Continue reading

Ready to Make Your Own Wine? Make Sure You Do These 3 Things Before You Start

Making wine for the first time can often make you feel like a mad scientist. Even when following a recipe step-by-step, uncertainty about the finished product remains. Will it taste good? Did I add enough yeast? How long is too long for fermentation? These are all questions you may ask yourself the first time you make wine.

Perfecting the art of making wine takes practice and several batches. However, there are a few things you can do to make sure your first batch doesn’t leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. Continue reading

What Vineyard? You Can Make Wine at Home

In a world where you can DIY just about anything, why not try wine? There’s a good chance you already have some of the household items tucked away in your pantry. With the right tools, ingredients, and environment, you can bottle up a hefty batch of your favorite vino. Here’s how to get started:

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7 MORE Random Wine Making Facts…

Sharing Wine Making FactsA few weeks ago we posted the blog, “7 Random Wine Making Facts…”. It had such a great response we decided to put some more wine making facts into a post.

These are trivial little pieces of information that randomly shoot off into different areas of wine and winemaking. Some of them you may already know, but do you know them all?

  1. A single packet of wine yeast multiplies itself many times over during a fermentation. That little 5 gram packet of wine yeast you put into your fermentation will typically regenerate itself by 100 to 200 times. Most of the growth happens during the first 3 to 5 days of fermentation. This is what it takes to have a vigorous fermentation.
  1. All grape juice starts out clear. If you go out into the vineyard and lightly squeeze a wine grape of any color: red, blue, purple, black, green, yellow… you will get the same color grape juice, clear. Squeeze the same grape harder and roll it between your fingers, and you will notice that the juice coming from the grape is no longer clear. The color starts to release from the skin and join in with the grape juice. The color of the grape juice comes from the grape skin, not the grape juice itself.
  1. All wine contains vinegar. This wine making fact throws many for a loop, but no matter whose wine it is, who made it, or where you got or bought it, the wine has vinegar in it. This is because vinegar, also known as acetobacter, is a natural byproduct of a wine fermentation. The wine yeast actually produces low levels of vinegar while fermenting. Most wines have a level of vinegar on the order of .02% to .06%. Small indeed, but enough to contribute to the wine’s overall character in subtle ways.
  1. Here’s a handy piece of math that may interest you. Take your wine hydrometer and get the starting Specific Gravity (S.G) minus the ending Specific Gravity (before and after fermentation), and times it by 131. This equals the alcohol in the wine. As an example, let’s say your wine hydrometer reading at the beginning of fermentation is 1.100, and your ending hydrometer reading is 0.996. You take 1.100 minus 0.996. That equals 0.104. Times 0.104 by 131. That gives you an alcohol reading of 13.62%. Could be handy!
  1. Shop Wine Making KitsOne grape vine produces about a gallon of wine. This is a very general wine making fact, but gives you a good ballpark, rule-of-thumb to go by when thinking about planting some grape vines. Some variables that affect this amount are: the type of grapes planted, the climate, the soil, and how well you maintain the trellising and punning.
  1. Grape vines do not produce a full crop until their 4th year. This wine making fact relates to #5, above. When starting a vineyard, you need to plan ahead. The first two years will have no substantial harvest. During the third you will have enough grapes to do a test run of your wine making. It won’t be until your forth season that you will have a full-fledged, complete and usable harvest.
  1. You can freeze your wine making fruit. One problem with making garden fruit wine is getting enough of the fruit all at one time to make a complete batch. No worries. Just freeze the fruit until you do have enough. Freezing the fruit will help to break down its fiber. This makes it easier to extract the flavor into the wine.

There you have it, 7 ‘more’ random wine making facts. Can you think of anymore? We’d love to hear them and share them with other home winemakers. Just comment below and we’ll pass it along.
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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.

Other Ways To Seal Wine Bottles

Closures that provide other ways to seal wine bottles.Many beginning winemakers will be happy to know that you do not have to buy a corker to seal your wine bottles. We have other ways to seal wine bottles during the wine making process. Consider the alternatives listed below for your next batch!

When you go to buy wine corks for your wine bottles you will find that most of them require a corker to press the cork into the wine bottle. This is because a new cork starts out much fatter than what you are used to seeing coming out of the wine bottle when decanting.

These are the type of wine corks we recommend using, particularly if you know you’re going to continue to make more wine into the future. But, if you are not sure if you’ll be making more wine, or you just don’t feel like buying a corker, just yet, there are other ways to seal your wine bottles.

Mushroom corks are an easy way to seal your wine bottles without using a corker. They are basically a cork with a plastic grip top. They come both in natural cork and synthetic cork. With some force they can be pushed in by hand to create a tight seal. While they do not seal quite as tight as traditional corks being pressed in, they are more than sufficient for any wine that will be consumed within 12 months.

Another way to seal your wine bottles that does not require a corker is our reusable wine bottle stoppers. Just like the mushroom corks, these stoppers can be put in by hand as well. Their unique design of ridges creates a series of chambers to produce a seal. While these stoppers are not all that attractive for passing out as wine making gifts, they can be covered up with decorative heat shrink capsules to give them a professional look.Shop Heat Shrink Capsules

And yes, you can always use screw cap wine bottles. By using screw caps you will be sealing the wine bottle air-tight, however you must have the right screw cap on the right bottle. Not any wine bottle can take a screw cap; it must specifically be a screw cap wine bottle. And, the screw caps you are using must be the correct size with matching threads. Not all threads are the same.

In summary, you do not have to buy a corker. There are other ways to seal a wine bottle. But, if you plan to continue making wine corks and a corker are your best long-term option.

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.

Table Grapes Vs. Wine Grapes For Wine Making

Table Grapes vs Wine GrapesHello Kraus,

Please explain to me what is the difference between wine grapes and table grapes.

Thank you,
Mert B.
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Hello Mert,

This is a great question and one that gets down to the basics of learning how to make your own wine.

There are many significant differences between wine making grapes and table grapes – eating grapes as you called them:

Table grapes are crunchy-er with a stronger skin and firmer pulp than wine grapes. This not only makes them more pleasant and appealing to eat, but it also makes them hold up to the rigors of being transported long distances to your local market. As a consequence, grape you buy at the store tend to have less juice in relation to the amount of pulp.

The juice you get from the eating grapes is also not as sweet as the juice from wine grapes. A typical brix reading for table grapes is 17 to 19, whereas wine grapes are around 24 to 26 brix. This is important because it is the sugar that gets turned into alcohol during a fermentation — less sugar, less alcohol.

*Brix is a scale that represents the amount of sugar in a liquid as a percentage. It is the standard scale used by refractometers which are used to take these readings in the vineyard.

Another significant difference is that the acidity level of table grapes tend to be slightly lower that the average wine grape. This is to increase the grapes impression of sweetness while on the market.

Having said all this, you can learn how to make your own wine using grapes you buy from the grocery store. You can run them through grape presses to get all the pulp out of the way. You can add extra sugar to bring the brix level up to that of a wine grape juice. And, you can adjust the acidity of the juice by adding acid blend to raise the acid level to what’s need for wine.Shop Grape Concentrate

But all of this will not change the leading factor that makes a table grape far different from a wine grape… and that is flavor. While table grapes taste fine for popping into your mouth as a snack, once fermented, the flavor of the resulting wine is fairly uneventful and could also be described as non-existent.

While table grapes could be used for learning how to make your own wine – as a practice run, so to speak – do not expect this wine to bring any enthusiastic raves from family, friends and neighbors. The wine will be drinkable and may even be pleasant, but it will not be stellar.

Mert, I hope this answers your question about table grapes and wine grapes. It is a question that we get fairly often, so I plan on posting it on our wine making blog.  If you have anymore questions, just let us know. We want to do everything we can to help you become a successful home winemaker.

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.

Leigh Erwin: Wine Fermentation Temperature

Cellar Craft SterlingHi everyone!

I am very excited to finally be starting some new wines! I ended up purchasing two more wine making kits: the Cellar Craft Sterling California Chardonnay and the KenRidge Classic Nebbiolo. I chose the Cellar Craft Sterling Chardonnay because I have yet to make a white wine using oak chips and I wanted the opportunity to do so. As far as the red goes, I chose the Ken Ridge Classic Nebbiolo because it is a red that did not come with the skins, nor does it use oak. It does contain a packet of dried elderberries, which I thought was a fun change-up for a wine making kit.

I decided to start with the Chardonnay first for no reason in particular. Just like all the other times, I drew off water the night before, just in case there was chlorine in there so it could dissipate. The day of fermentation, I first prepared and added the bentonite solution, then added the wine base. Then, I used about 8 cups of warm water to rinse out the bag.

At this point, I checked the specific gravity with my hydrometer as well as the temperature, which came out to 1.100 and 69oF.

Feeling satisfied with these values, I then sprinkled the yeast onto the top of the juice and loosely placed the lid on top. I decided not to place the lid on tightly or use an air lock because from what I’ve read about primary fermentations, they actually like and need to have some oxygen in order to successfully proceed through the process.

According to the instructions that came with the wine making kit, I was to leave the wine fermenting until at least day 6. So, I did just that.

On day 6, I went to check in on the specific gravity and was surprised to find it had barely moved and was at 1.080. I had forgotten to check the temperature of the wine, but I could feel in the room it was somewhat cool.

See, previously the heat was switching on regularly, as it was late winter and that’s what happens! Around the time I started the Sterling Chardonnay, however, it had actually been very warm outside, so I wasn’t using the heat at all. There were actually a couple of days where it was so hot that I needed to switch on the air conditioning, but didn’t think about the fact that the vents were open in the winery room and while I was making things nice and comfortable in the upstairs living areas, I was inadvertently making things very cold in the basement where the winery room is located.

Beginning to wonder if that had something to do with my ridiculously slow fermentation; I decided to try a couple things to get this wine making kit fermenting while simultaneously reaching out to ECKraus for advice. My next post will follow up more on that.
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Leigh Erwin Bio PictureMy name is Leigh Erwin, and I am a brand-spankin’ new home winemaker! E. C. Kraus has asked me to share with you my journey from a first-time dabbler to an accomplished home winemaker. From time to time I’ll be checking in with this blog and reporting my experience with you: the good, bad — and the ugly.

Introducing The Cork Retriever!

A Cork Retriever DogNo, the Cork Retriever is not a new breed of hunting dog, but it can be just as nice to have around.

A Cork Retriever is a useful tool that any winemaker should have. Anyone whose tried to fetch a cork from inside a wine bottle knows what I’m talking about. You try your darnedest to uncork the bottle, but neither the corkscrew nor the cork feel obliged to cooperate. Instead of the wine cork coming out, it ends up going in.

Not only do you end up with the aggravation of drinking a bottle of wine with a cork floating in it, now you need to figure out how to get the cork out or end up throwing away a perfectly good, reusable, wine bottle.

Whoever said that, necessity is the mother of invention was a genius, and the Wine Cork Retriever is just one more piece of evidence supporting their wisdom.

Shop Cork RetrieverThe Wine Cork Retriever is designed to remove the cork from within the bottle. Now, instead of throwing the wine bottle away, you can rescue it, and use it to bottle your next batch of wine.

The Wine Cork Retriever is easy to use. The three heavy wire prongs go into the bottle and act like a cradle. They spread out as they are pushed in, so you can easily grab the cork.

Once the cork is in the cradle, just give it a tug on the grip handle. As the prongs are pulled out they come together, trapping the cork tightly and pulling it out.

Not only does the Wine Cork Retriever save your wine bottles, it saves you from all the headache. That alone is worth having one sitting around.
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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 Sweet it Is: Sugar and Honey in Home Brew Wine

Home brewed wine is a beautiful product that is composed, in essence, of three parts – material selection, method of crafting, and time given for fermentation. With the right wine making supplies, intrepid brewers can elevate their collections beyond store shelf fodder by incorporating their own twists on additives and base ingredients. Wine making kits will come with components such as grape juices, yeasts and brewing containers, but curiosity drives many home brew enthusiasts to think outside the box when it comes to wine kits, researching switches and swaps that make vino truly personal. One of the most common changes is the sugar, or sugar alternative like honey, that is used to feed the yeast that ferments the juice.

Honey: Pros and Cons

Honey is a very complex ingredient all by itself – flower pollens and dozens of sugar compounds like dextrose and maltose are all packed into that thick, sweet syrup we all know and love. The taste of honey can vary widely depending on what flowers the producing hive frequents, giving rise to classic types like wildflower and more exotic varieties like orange flower or elderflower. When incorporated into the ingredients found in wine making kits, honey adds a deep complexity and sweetness to wine that many home brewers find more attractive than sugar, but it comes at a price. Due to the multiple sugars present in honey versus the single compound in traditional wine making sugar, fermentation takes considerably longer. According to home brewing enthusiast and blogger Jack Keller of JackKeller.net, 1.25 pounds of honey can be substituted for a pound of sugar in a given wine recipe, though if all of the sugar is exchanged for honey, you’ll end up brewing a honey wine or mead, rather than a traditional wine.

Sugar: Pros and Cons

Sugar, despite being a relatively simple ingredient, also comes in a wide range of forms that affect the wine it ferments. Traditional table sugar will produce wine that is consistent and familiar, but experimenting with more unique forms such as the blonde turbinado sugar or dark muscavado sugar with its hints of molasses will give your palate plenty to explore. The drawbacks of using sugar is that table varieties may not produce the depth of a finished product that you’d like, and the more exotic forms of sugar may be outside of the price range of beginning brewers. Sugar, however, is an excellent and stable ingredient to stretch your winemaking “legs” with, making it a must-have inclusion in wine kits. Sugar can also be added to a finished wine to sweeten it; rock sugar and bar or caster sugar are the most popular choices for this option due to their respective long and short dissolve times.

If you’re interested in home brewing wine, or are already a fan of the hobby, experimenting with both honey and sugar is the best way to find out which one, or what form of combinations, will work for your needs.

Why are Campden Tablets, Acid Blend, Yeast Nutrients and Pectic Enzymes so Important to Wine Making?

When you first start getting into wine making, you’re going to be recommended various brands of Campden tablets, acid blends, yeast nutrients and pectic enzymes. Before you can make an informed purchasing decision on any of these products, you’re going to need to know what they do in the first place. Here’s a brief rundown of why these ingredients matter:

Campden Tablets

Think of Campden tablets as your wine’s immune system. Campden tablets are used in the making of wine and other alcohols to inhibit the growth of wild yeast and to destroy unwanted bacteria in the wine. In short, these tablets prevent your wine from spoiling. While you do want certain yeast to grow inside your wine, allowing wild yeast free reign is a sure way to ruin your wine.

Acid Blend

Acid blend is actually a generic term; it can refer to anything from a blend of citric acids to a blend of tartaric or malic acids. Every brand will have its own acid blends that can be used to acidify your wine. This is necessary to create a balanced wine.

Yeast Nutrients

Yeast nutrients can help to ensure that your yeast thrives and produces the alcoholic content that you’re looking for. Yeast nutrients can be used to prevent a stuck fermentation, which is what happens when your yeast lacks the nutrients it needs and the wine can no longer ferment. Remember, your yeast is a living thing, and you won’t get the results you’re after if you don’t feed it.

Pectic Enzymes

Pectic enzymes, or pectinase, are a series of enzymes such as polygalacturonase, pectolyase and pectozyme. These enzymes can help to break down pectin. What this essentially means is that it helps to break down the plant matter and get a richer bounty of flavors from the grape, and it can help to break down the cloudy appearance that you see in some wines.

These four ingredients weren’t always used, but more recently, you simply don’t want to make wine without these products on hand to help you get the results that you’re after.

Check out our store for any winemaking ingredients you’ll need for your own homemade wine.