Christie Kiley on August 13, 2014 2 Comments photo credit If you are making wine at home in small batches, chances are you know which grapes you are buying or what juices you are getting this season. However, in case you are new to home winemaking there are a few things you want to research before you start fermenting anything. What You Need for Fermentation Well, the very basics are this; sugar, yeast and oxygen. Your grapes will arrive mature and with a certain level of sugar, likewise if you are getting concentrate to dilute with water or juice (we call this must in winespeak). This level of sugar is referred to as Brix. The levels of sugar contained in the fruit or must are going to determine which yeast you utilize for fermentation. A home winemaking supply can easily help you out with this. But to give you an idea what to look for, here is what you should consider. There are different strains of yeast used for white wines and others used for red wines. This is just the simple aspect of it all. The style of wine you would like to make also depends on the yeast strain. When fermentation takes place, you are not just simply transforming sugars into alcohol with some CO2 being the only bi-product. There are many bi-products that are created throughout fermentation. These bi-products will determine the style of your wine and some characteristics of its aromas to its finish. Obviously, you would want some stylish characteristics different for white wine than red wines and vice versa. How to Simplify the Fermentation Process To help simplify the fermentation process, we have a variety of kits and equipment that will help take all the guess work out of trying to figure out which yeast to start fermentation with. For instance, if you are making a Cabernet Sauvignon wine and you want a California style Cabernet, you can try using this California Cabernet Sauvignon ingredient kit. The grape juice is even included along with all the ingredients you need for wine with the nuances of a California Cabernet. The kit will make up to six gallons of wine! There are other kits you can choose from as well. You could probably even try a couple kits at the same time to have a little diversity. If you are a beginner when it comes to home winemaking, these ingredient kits are a great place to start. I kind of like comparing them to recipes in a cook book. All the instructions are right there and the ingredients. If you make a recipe a couple times, usually by the second and third times you get the hang of it and it becomes second nature. From there you can do some experimenting on your own. The Fermentation Process Now that we have got you prepped for the fermentation, I am going to walk you through the process on a semi micro level. As mentioned before, you start with sugar, which is must which may or may not contain the skins of the grapes. photo credit This needs to be added to a fermentation container, bin, or carboy (make sure they are sanitized!) Whichever medium you choose to use, make sure you leave extra space for the fermentation. The wine will be bubbling in a sense and it created a lot of heat, so the juices will expand. On average you just need about a third of the volume of your must contents extra. Be sure you have your airlock clean and ready to go as well. Before you add the yeast, you will need to add some “food” to the wine. This comes in the form of Diammonium Phophate (DAP) and Fermax. These two items contain essential nitrogen, phosphorus, dipotassium phosphate, magnesium sulfate and autolyzed yeast. Why do we need these? Well, lets take a look at ourselves, our body. The yeast will be consuming sugar in order to make your wine. But they are living organisms just like us. If you were to just eat sugar all the time, you would start feeling sluggish, not to mention you would have all sorts of unwanted bi-products. The yeast get tired from eating just sugar too and they need a balanced diet just like us. If these foods are not added, you will have off-odors of sulfur, possibly acetone and other elements which can turn your wine into something you will not want to put your nose to or even drink. Prepping the Yeast Adding these nutrients will get the yeast a bit of a jumpstart, like when you eat a good breakfast. Now that the “food” has been added, you can prep the yeast. It is inactive dry yeast so you will need to get it going. A simple two liter pitcher will do. Take a little bit of your must and add it to the pitcher, just a bit, a cup or two. Now, from just your sink, turn on the hot water. Get it heated to about 95-100°F. You can just hold a thermometer under the running water to check. Once it gets around to that point, you can add some water to the pitcher with the grape juice. Do not fill it all the way! Just fill it up about half-way. If the water is to hot, the yeast will die, so it needs to be like the Goldie Locks bed she loved so much, “just right”. Now you can add the pre-determined amount of yeast needed. Almost right away it will start frothing, give it a couple more and then you can add it to your fermentation container. Put on the airlock and your in the winemaking business! You probably have your container in a temperature-controlled area so as to keep the fermentation slow. For red wines the average fermentation time is no more than two weeks and for whites it can be up to three. Now, the fermentation is something you must keep a close eye on. About once or twice (preferred) a day you need to mix the juice or punch it down if there are skins. Check the sugar levels with your hydrometer twice a day as well. Most must will start out around 23 to 26 degrees Brix. At about 18 to 16 degrees Brix you will need to do another food add and then again at about 12-10 degrees Brix. If you miss the food add in these ranges, DO NOT add it. If you are sensing any off odors I described earlier, sometimes a good enthusiastic punch down will help as the oxygen and air will blow off the odors. After a couple weeks, you should be getting close to 2 to 1 degrees Brix! Now you have your wine, congratulations! More About Winemaking: Shop for Wine Making Supplies Why Sanitation is Important During the Winemaking Process Winemaking: A Quick Overview of the Process & Equipment About AuthorChristie Kiley, International Sommelier and Chef, has over a decade of experience in both restaurants and wineries. She has worked wine harvests in Napa, learning the nature of the product from soil to bottling. Working the back- and front-of-the-house in restaurants and wineries in sales, and as a food and wine educator, has given Christie an in-depth knowledge in both food and wine throughout many aspects. She currently lives in Buenos Aires, where she received her International Sommelier Certificate from the Escuela de Argentina Sommeliers (EAS) after two years of study.Comments John says October 16, 2017 at 4:11 pm Hi, Can I keep my very new wine at 67 degrees till malalactate completes which is app. Three weeks. ? John Thank you Reply Steve Bostock-Smith says January 23, 2018 at 4:02 am I have two,gallon plastic containers of red wine from Spain, when I opened one they had both fermented Should I throw them away or is there anything I can do? Reply Leave a Reply Cancel reply Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *Comment Name * Email * Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.