This time of the year we receive a lot of various questions about making wine from the different fruits that are coming into season. One particular question we get quite often has to do with making homemade grape wine:
What equipment do I need to make grape wine?
Well… it depends. I know what your thinking, why can’t this guy give us a straight answer? I want to, but that would not do you or the question any justice.
The answer depends on the amount of grapes you need for your wine recipe. And, that is based on the kind of grapes we are talking about and the size of the batch you intend to make. If you are making wine from wild grapes such as mustang, muscadine, scuppernong, fox, etc., you’ll only need to prepare 20 to 40 pounds of grapes to make a 5 gallon batch. This is certainly manageable by hand and no exclusive equipment will be needed to make the grape wine.
But, if you plan on making 10 gallons of wine using actual wine grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or even Foch, now you are dealing with about 160 pounds of grapes… this is when you need some equipment to make your grape wine.
Before any grape can be fermented it needs to be crushed with a grape crusher. A grape crusher is different from the grape press. A grape crusher only bursts the grape skins open. You can certainly crush the grapes by-hand, depending on the amount needed to be crushed, but the grapes definitely need to be crushed before they can be pressed.
At some point in the wine making process you will need to squeeze the pulp to get all the liquid out of it. For white wines this pressing is done right after the grapes are crushed. For red wines the grapes are pressed after the must has fermented with the crushed grapes for about 3 to 7 days.
You can squeeze the pulp by-hand, just be aware that this will lead to a wine with less body and color. Also, you won’t be getting all of the juice. You will not be able to press the pulp nearly as well as an actual wine press can. Unless you are dealing with a very small amount of grape – say, 20 or 30 pounds – shopping for a grape press is probably in your future.
For larger volumes of grapes, say 500 pounds or more, another piece of equipment you will need to make grape wine is a grape crusher/destemmer combo. When you make wine from grapes a majority of the stems need to be removed. If this does not happen, a ropy bitterness can be present in the finished product. Doing this by-hand is not so bad if dealing with a few hundred pounds, especially if you get the kids involved, but for larger amounts you will probably want to invest in a crusher/destemmer.
In general, the grapes need to be crushed, destemmed and pressed to make it through the wine making process. Any of this can be done by hand, but if you are dealing with 50 or 100 pounds or more, you will want to use some equipment to make your grape 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.