Christie Kiley on June 27, 2014 1 Comment You love drinking wine and exploring many wines from all over the world. So you decide one day, you would like to make your own wine. Even if you have found a great supplier or grower from where to source your grapes or juice, that is only just the beginning. I like to think that the fermentation process of grapes is much like that of raising children. You cannot really turn a blind eye and it takes a certain special touch. A touch of patience could not hurt either. 10 Essential Tools You Will Need Before you get started, here is a quick list of ten essential tools you will need to acquire before making your own wine. Whether you are just starting out or if you are fairly seasoned and you’ve always if you are missing something to make your home winemaking that much easier. 1. Primary Fermenter A primary fermenter, of course, is key to winemaking. You need something to put the juice for fermentation. A good rule of thumb is to find a container that is at the very least twenty percent bigger than the amount of wine you want to make. It should be made of a material that can be easily cleaned and sterilized. Basically, something foodgrade. 2. Secondary Fermenter The purpose of a secondary fermentation container is to keep air away from the wine. Clear glass containers, such as used milk bottles or water containers, are a great place to start as they can also be cleaned and sanitized easily. If you are a beginner, it may be a good idea to keep your containers small; one gallon size is a good place to get started. Of course, this all depends on the person and most winemaking equipment kits will come with larger containers. 3. Air Lock You will also need an air lock for the secondary fermenter. You don’t want to use a cork any closure, as just like the initial fermentation, one of the byproducts of the secondary fermentation is carbon dioxide. This little gadget is a one-way valve that allows the carbon dioxide to escape and does not allow air in. 4. Hydrometer A hydrometer is a tool that is probably just as important as the fermentation container itself. The idea of making wine is to ferment the sugars into alcohol. The hydrometer will allow you to keep track of the fermentation process the progress of your fermenting sugars. Here’s more about why you need a hydrometer. 5. Tubing It is also advised to get yourself about six to eight feet of tubing, three to four centimeters in diameter. Clear tubing is nice to keep track of the flow of the wine when you need to rack and clear the wine off the sediment. Make sure it is of food-grade material just like your fermentation container and easy to sanitize. 6. Bottles Once your wine is ready you will most definitely need something to put it in. If you even have a stash of empty wine bottles from commercial wine, those work too, and you’ll save a bit of money that way. If not, a case of bottles is easy to come by and readily available to buy. 7. Closures Now that you got your wine bottles, you’ll also need something to seal it up with. The average wine bottle takes #9 size corks and screw caps, but there are many bottling and corking products available for you to choose from. 8. The Corker If you are using corks, then you will need a corker. There are hand-corkers, which take a bit of force, but if you spend just a bit more, there are electric corkers as well. 9. A Funnel I’d recommend getting yourself a large funnel. You will need this for anything from transferring juice to wine. It will also help cut down on mess and clean-up. 10. Wire Brushes Sanitation and cleanliness are keys to making a good wine or at least a successful batch of wine. There are many different cleaning and sanitation tools that are handy to have, but you’ll definitely need a wire brush. Invest in a few of them, of all lengths and a different bristle strength. They will come in handy when you need to clean the big jugs out and the bungs. I know, I always have a little private giggle when I hear that word too. Have another. Bung. photo credit 9 Steps of the Winemaking Process Now that you have your tool shed with your wine gear all ready to go, we should probably talk about the overall process, the steps which are involved in winemaking as sort of a checklist so we don’t miss anything. 1. Crush This step is basically the preparation of your grapes, the crushing of them to get the juice and skins separated. Of course, if you are just fermenting juice, then this step is not involved. 2. Fining The next step is a clarification process typically only used for white wine fermentation. We will go over the specifics of this later on. 3. Cold soak This step is only necessary if you are crushing (if not, pass on to the next) then you will need to let your grapes and juice sort of rest together for about 24 hours and kept at a cool temperature (about 48-50° Fahrenheit). This allows the juice to sort of stabilize before fermentation is started. Check your sugar level with the hydrometer for the initial amount. 4. Innoculation This is, of course, a step you cannot skip over, or we could end up with vinegar. Basically you prepare the yeast you have selected like you would prepare it if you were to make bread: mixed with a bit of lukewarm water so it can grow and bloom. Once the yeast is frothing, you can go ahead and add that to your juice. 5. Fermentation Now that your fermentation is off and running you need to keep tabs on it. This is when you will need your hydrometer to keep tabs on your sugar levels. There are some other steps along the way you will need to keep in mind, such as actually “feeding” the yeast, but we will go over that in a future read 6. Racking This is what happens once your fermentation has been completed. Once it is complete, the yeast cells and other solids will fall to the bottom of the tank. This is where the tubing will come in handy to transfer the wine to another holding container. 7. Barrel aging, secondary fermentation This is another ‘fermentation’ process to lower the wines overall acidity level. It makes it a more stable product and overall it makes it a more palatable wine. This is recommended for reds, but optional for whites. 8. Filtering/fining Before you bottle, you need to make sure that all the little microorganisms found in wine that pertain to fermentation. If the wine is not separated from them, a small fermentation could occur in the bottle which result in exploding corks or capsules and of course a big mess. 9. Bottling and Corking Need I explain? Congratulations! Now it just needs a bit of rest and you can enjoy all the hard work!