WINEMAKING STARTER KIT INSTRUCTIONS
From cleaning and sanitizing, through primary and secondary fermentation, follow these instructions along with your ingredients recipe to perfect your wine.
- Bucket Fermenter with Bored Lid (Primary Fermenter)
- 6 Gallon Glass or PET Carboy (Secondary Fermenter)
- Stopper with Hole
- Racking Assembly (Siphon Tool and Tubing)
- Bottle Brush
- Twin Lever Corker
- Triple Scale Hydrometer
- Hydrometer Test Jar
- Stick-on Thermometer Strips (2)
- Degassing Tool
- Bottle Filler
- Equipment Cleanser
- Potassium Metabisulfite
- Plastic Mixing Spoon
- Beginner’s Guide to Winemaking
YOU MAY ALSO NEED
- Wine Recipe Kit or Ingredients
- 24 to 30 x 750 ml Wine Bottles
- Sanitizer (Star San, Iodophor, or similar product)
- Drill with Adjustable Chuck for Degassing Tool
- Measuring Spoons, Cups, and Pitchers
- A Wine Thief or Stainless Baster for taking samples
- Spray Bottle (32 oz recommended)
- 1 Gallon Jug
- Carboy Carrier Strap System
- Fermenter Heat Pad or Belt
- If your equipment kit includes a glass carboy, always handle it carefully. Do not lift it by the neck when it is full of liquid; avoid impact with hard surfaces. Never fill your carboy with scalding hot liquids. Immediately discard any carboy that appears to have formed cracks or other defects. A carboy carrier strap system can help move and lift full carboys.
- Follow fermentation steps precisely. Never bottle your wine before fermentation is complete. Failure to follow these steps may result in glass bottles bursting due to excess pressure.
- If your equipment kit includes a PET plastic carboy, do not fill it with liquid that exceeds 120°F (49°C). High temperatures may cause your carboy to deform. Do not use a brush or cleaning tools that may scratch the material.
- Follow use and dosage instructions for cleansers and sanitizers and pay close attention to all product warnings. Avoid inhaling Potassium Metabisulfite powder or solution.
TIPS FOR MAKING GOOD WINE
Proper cleaning and sanitizing of equipment is the most critical part of the winemaking process. Without it, you risk the introduction of contaminants and undesirable microbes into your wine. All winemaking equipment should be thoroughly cleaned and rinsed before winemaking. Anything that touches your wine must be clean and sanitized.
If you are using Wine Recipe Kits, use only clean, neutral tasting water that is suitable for drinking. Avoid using water with a strong chlorine presence, which is extremely hard or has been softened. Using filtered or store-bought drinking water may be necessary depending upon the quality of your tap water.
Stable temperature is essential for a healthy fermentation. Significant temperature shifts should be avoided during fermentation. Fermenting your wine at too hot or cold temperatures can result in sluggish or overactive fermentation and create undesirable flavors in your finished product.
Home winemaking is a hobby that teaches patience. Good wine can’t be rushed. It’s always better to wait a few more days than to transfer or bottle your wine too early. You’ll find that wine given additional time in the bottle will typically taste better.
Good notes will help you recreate recipes, adjust recipes, and identify mistakes. We advise keeping track of dates, times, temperatures, gravity readings, and other information.
Preparing Your Equipment
Your equipment kit includes two stick-on thermometer strips. Remove the backing from one and apply it to your primary fermenter just above the threaded hole near the bottom. Apply the second thermometer strip about 1/3rd of the way up from the bottom of your glass or PET carboy.
Cleaning and Sanitizing
Any equipment that comes into contact with your must (unfermented wine) should be cleaned and sanitized. This includes the primary fermenter and lid, carboy, airlock, stopper, mixing spoon, racking assembly, bottles, and bottle filler.
- Rinse your primary fermenter, lid, mixing spoon, and airlock with warm water to remove dust or debris.
- In a well-ventilated area, create a sanitizer solution by adding ½ gallon of cool water to your fermenter and stir in 1½ tablespoons of potassium metabisulfite. This solution will release some SO2 (sulfur dioxide) gas; avoid inhaling it.
- Seal your primary fermenter with the lid.
- Over the next 5 minutes, periodically swirl and shake the primary fermenter to ensure that all surfaces have been rinsed with the sanitizer solution.
- Open the bucket and rinse your mixing spoon in the sanitizer solution inside.
- Pour the sanitizer into a smaller container, such as a quart jar or jug, for later use. If you have a spray bottle, you may fill it with the sanitizer solution. This makes it easy to sanitize equipment in later stages. Mark the date on the spray bottle; this solution will remain viable for 2-3 months.
- Once emptied, thoroughly rinse the primary fermenter and lid with cool water. Using a sanitizer besides potassium metabisulfite, such as Star San or Iodophor, may not require a rinse step after use.
- Disassemble the airlock and place it into the sanitizer solution. Soak for 5 minutes, then remove, rinse, and set it aside on a dry paper towel.
Wine Recipe Kits
Wine Recipe Kits are an excellent starting point for home winemaking. The recipe kits will include all necessary ingredients, and the acid and sugar content of the juice has already been adjusted for you, so very little work is required to yield good results. While many kits claim to be ready to drink 6-12 weeks after beginning fermentation, allowing your wine additional time to condition in the bottle will generally yield improved results.
- Follow the instructions for your recipe kit, mixing everything in your sanitized primary fermenter with your sanitized mixing spoon.
- If your recipe kit requires additional water, use room temperature, neutral tasting water. Use the volume markers on the side of the fermenter to top your fermenter up to the appropriate mark. You will fill to the 6 gallon/23 L mark if you’re making a 6 gallon/23 L kit.
- Use the thermometer strip on the fermenter to ensure you are within the recommended temperature range. This may be on the yeast sachet as well, typically between 65°–77°F (18°–25°C) for most kits.
- Place your hydrometer inside the test jar and set it near your primary fermenter. Remove the inner curved tube portion from your siphon tool and set it aside leaving you with the outer tube. Sanitize the outer tube using your sanitizer solution, insert it about ¾ down into the juice in the bucket, then pull it out vertically and pour the sample into your test jar. This is best done near a sink to contain any mess. Do this as often as necessary until the hydrometer can float freely in the test jar. If you have one, use a sanitized wine thief or a stainless baster to remove the sample instead of the outer siphon tube.
- Once you have drawn off enough juice so that the hydrometer floats freely. Take a reading from where the liquid level is on the scale on the hydrometer. Make a note of your readings as well as the date. Once you have finished taking a reading, discard the sample and clean your equipment after use.
- The hydrometer includes a scale for reading Specific Gravity. Specific Gravity (SG) is a scale that measures the density of a liquid solution. The more sugar present in a solution, the higher the density. Therefore, a solution containing a lot of sugar will give a high SG reading. During fermentation, yeast converts the sugars present in your juice to alcohol, meaning as the juice ferments, the SG decreases, and the Alcohol by Volume (ABV) increases.
- Knowing the Original Gravity (OG), a measure of Specific Gravity before fermentation, and later comparing it with the Final Gravity (FG), a measure of Specific Gravity after fermentation, will help you to determine if fermentation is complete, as well as the ABV% (Alcohol by Volume) of your wine.
- Your hydrometer also has a Potential ABV% scale. Take a Potential ABV% reading at the start and end of fermentation. By subtracting the Potential ABV% reading after fermentation is complete from the original Potential ABV% reading, you will determine the wine’s final ABV%.
- Move your fermenter to a spot where you can ensure it will remain within the recommended temperature range for the fermentation period. Read the thermometer strip on your fermenter to check the liquid temperature is within range before sprinkling the yeast over the top of the juice. Do not stir. The yeast will hydrate and settle into the juice on its own. Seal the primary fermenter with the lid. Half-fill your airlock with clean water (or to the fill line), then insert the stem of your airlock about ¾ inch into the grommet in the lid. The airlock will maintain a seal while allowing CO2 created during fermentation to escape through the water.
- Your airlock should begin to bubble within 12 to 48 hours after adding your yeast, and foam will start to form on top of your wine. Keep the fermenter lid closed throughout fermentation to prevent contamination.
- Leave your wine to ferment for the time specified in your kit’s instructions before moving on to the Racking stage below.
Follow the previous steps to remove a sample to take a hydrometer reading. Compare this to the Final Gravity provided in the instructions included with your recipe kit. If the reading is higher than the recommended FG, wait a few more days then take another reading. If it is at or below the recommended FG, proceed to transfer (rack) your wine to your secondary fermenter:
- Run hot water over one end of the 5-foot section of siphon tubing for several seconds (or soak in hot water) to soften the material slightly, then slide it about ½ inch onto the curved end of your siphon tool.
- Using either your stored sanitizer solution from earlier or fresh sanitizer solution, proceed to sanitize your carboy, stopper, degassing tool, siphon tool, and siphon tubing, making sure that all surfaces have been rinsed with the solution. Set some sanitizer solution aside for later steps.
- Ensure no sanitizer solution remains in your carboy or racking assembly, then place your carboy on the floor. Being careful not to disturb the sediment, move your primary fermenter to a sturdy elevated surface above the carboy and remove the lid. Gently insert the siphon tool into your wine and let it rest on the bottom of the primary fermenter, doing your best to avoid stirring up any sediment. Insert the end of your siphon tubing into the carboy, letting it rest on the bottom.
- Using one hand to hold the outer tube of your siphon tool in place, slowly pull the curved inner tube out so that the siphon tool fills with wine, then slowly push it back down into the siphon tool to begin the siphon. Your wine will now automatically transfer from the primary fermenter into the carboy, leaving sediment behind in the primary fermenter. Stop the siphon when the wine has reached 2-3 inches below the top of the neck of the carboy by lifting the siphon tool out of the last bit of wine in your now emptied primary fermenter.
- Rinse the sediment and debris out of your primary fermenter, then wash your primary fermenter and racking assembly with a cleanser solution, following the instructions on the equipment cleanser included.
Depending on the kit you’re making, your instructions may recommend degassing your wine before racking. Check and follow your instructions to ensure you’re completing this step at the right time.
Degassing will remove excess CO2 from your wine. If your kit included a PET carboy, you will need to replace the smaller stopper on your degassing tool with the larger one included in your equipment kit.
- Clean and sanitize your degassing tool and attach it to a drill. Insert the tool into your wine, using the stopper to stabilize it in the neck of your carboy.
- Start with the drill at a very low speed, then gradually increase the speed, taking care never to get to a point where the wine overflows from the carboy. Initially, you will see some fine, mousse-like bubbles begin to form on top of the wine as the CO2 is driven out of the solution. These will gradually become coarser, like soap bubbles.
- Degas your wine for 3-5 minutes before proceeding to the next step. If you do not have a drill available, the handle end of your mixing spoon may be sanitized and used to stir the wine vigourously instead. However, this process will take several additional minutes and may be less effective.
- Wash your degassing tool or mixing spoon with a cleanser solution, following the instructions on the equipment cleanser included.
Clarifying and Stabilizing
Follow the steps to clarify and stabilize your wine following the instructions for your recipe kit.
- Sanitize the stopper using some of the sanitizer solution you set aside earlier, then transfer the airlock to the stopper and seal your carboy. Move your carboy to a dark location slightly colder than the fermentation temperature range.
- Allow your wine to remain in the carboy for the period advised in your kit’s instructions. Check regularly to confirm that there is still water in the airlock and fill or change the water as necessary.
Before bottling, your wine can be filtered for improved flavor and clarity. The Buon Vino Mini-Jet filter system works well and is best for batches of wine up to 20 gallons (76 liters). If filtering, follow the steps in the manual to transfer the wine into your sanitized primary fermenter before bottling. If you do not have a wine filter, proceed to the bottling steps
Before botting, you may wish to rack (transfer) your wine again, off the sediment layer that builds at the bottom of your carboy during secondary fermentation, into your sanitized primary fermenter. This reduces the risk of transferring any sediment into your bottles.
- If your bottles have previously been used, ensure they have all been cleaned and rinsed in advance. Soaking your bottles in a warm cleanser solution will help remove any soil and assist with the removal of labels. Use the bottle brush to clean the inside of your bottles. Discard any bottles containing mold or other visible growth or heavy soil. Do not use any bottles that appear to still have dirty spots in them after cleaning.
- Sanitize your bottle filler, racking assembly, and bottles. Set aside some sanitizing solution in a large container for use during the bottling process. A Bottle Sulfiter, also known as a Bottle Sanitizer, can sanitize your bottles before filling them.
- Have your corks and corker where you can access them during the bottling process. Do not soak your corks before bottling.
- Run the end of your siphon tubing under hot water for several seconds (or soak it in hot water) to soften the material, then slide it about ½ inch onto the clear end of your bottling filler.
- Carefully move your carboy to a solid elevated surface such as a counter or table. Slowly insert the siphon tool into the bottom of your carboy, being very careful not to stir up any sediment.
- Using one hand to hold the outer tube of your siphon tool in place, slowly pull the curved inner tube out so that the siphon tool fills with wine. Insert the end of the bottle filler into a bottle and push it down onto the bottom so it is open. Slowly push the curved inner tube back down into the siphon tool to start the flow of wine.
- Allow the bottle to fill to the top of the bottle, then remove the filler from the bottle to stop the flow. When removed, the bottle filler should displace enough wine giving your bottle the proper headspace.
- Cork the bottle and wipe away any wine that may have spilled on the outside of the bottle. Continue to fill your bottles until your carboy is empty.
- Wash all equipment with a cleanser solution, following the instructions on the equipment cleanser included.
Serving & Storage
- Your wine is ready to drink immediately but will mature and improve with time.
- Leave bottles upright for 3-5 days allowing the corks to expand, then store bottles on their side to keep the corks moist. Store wine in a dark place at 52-65°F (11-18°C).
- Serve white and rosé wines between 49-55°F (7-12°C) and red wines between 62-68°F (15-20°C).