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Here at makewine.co.nz we know it can be confusing when you first start making your own wine as to what equipment is really necessary and what all the ingredients do.
We think the only silly question is one you don't ask, so if you have any questions please, please contact us and we'll get back to you within 1 working day.
Home winemakers make wine in various sized batches. This winemaker prefers 5 litres / 1 gallon as it is physically easier to handle. Other common batch sizes are 10 litres or 23 litres - it all depends on the size of the equipment you manage to get your hands on.
Various common household items you will need (preferably plastic):
Funnel/s, measuring jug/s, colander, spoon/s, masher, measuring spoon/s. We don't sell any of these things as we know most people have them at home. If you don't you can usually purchase them cheaply at the supermarket or $2 shop. If you are going to buy your ingredients in bulk, digital kitchen scales with 1g increments will be useful. You can purchase these fairly cheaply from trademe or kitchen supply stores.
Primary fermenter - bucket with a lid:
This is a crucial piece of equipment. You can use the primary fermenter as your secondary fermenter as well by drilling an 12mm hole in the lid and adding an airlock with a grommet; you can tape over the hole with duct tape when you are not using it with an airlock. The primary fermenter is where you put your main winemaking ingredient/s and start the fermentation process. See our instructions page.
Once you've made a couple of batches of wine, you will find it useful to have more than 1 bucket. This makes it much easier for straining your wine and aerating it. Yeast needs some oxygen to ferment, so it is a good idea to tip the wine from container to container to aerate it.
The bucket is also really useful for storing all your smaller equipment in, with some potassium metabisulphite solution, which means all your equipment is sterile and ready to go at a moment's notice!
Also known as a fermentation lock. A small plastic or glass piece of equipment which has water, vodka or potassium metabisulphite in it. It enables the carbon dioxide to escape during fermentation but prevents oxygen or other contaminants getting in to the wine.
This is also a crucial piece of equipment. There are alternatives though, you can use a ballon which you have poked tiny holes in using a needle. This winemaker has used the ballon successfully on several occasions when caught short without an airlock or bung. You can also run a piece of tubing from your fermenter in to a container of water. However, for the $3 an airlock will cost you, the homemade choices aren't really worth the bother (in this winemaker's humble opinion!).
Secondary fermenter - carboy / demijohn / jar:
Desirable but not entirely necessary, especially when you are beginning. The fermenter can be made from glass or plastic. You can easily use a bucket with a lid (see above). There are also cheaper alternatives like food grade jerry cans or used bulk water containers. The advantage of using a glass or clear plastic vessel is that you can see what is going on with your wine (which can be quite interesting to watch - or does that just mean I need to get out more??). The other advantage is it minimises your wine's exposure to oxygen, but provided you fill your bucket close to the top, that shouldn't make too much difference.
A bung for the top of your fermenter:
This is crucial as it is important that oxygen cannot get to your wine.
Straining Bag or Muslin:
You can use (preferably new) stockings or panty hose; but personally I find a straining bag much easier to use. They can be muslin (aka cheesecloth or stockinette) or nylon. Nylon will last longer but it quite pricey. If you are making wine from an ingredient with a lot of pulp, take the big bits out with a sterlised coarse sieve or collander.
If you are using muslin or cheesecloth, fold it over several times and put it inside a sterlised colander or sieve.
You can re-use the straining bag or muslin by rinsing well with water, washing with detergent and rinsing really well untill all the detergent and "bits" have been rinsed off.
You will need bottles for your wine. The cheapest option is to sterlise and use your old wine bottles or soft drink bottles. Especially when you first start making wine it may be advisable from a safety perspective if you use PET soft drink drink bottles as if you bottle your wine too early and it is still fermenting, standard wine bottles can burst, causing very serious injury.
If you are planning on making sparkling wine, you will either need to use PET bottles or glass bottles made for sparkling wine which are thicker and can withstand the pressure of the bubbles.
Closures for your bottles:
If you are using old screw cap wine or softdrink bottles you can re-use those caps if you are only planning on keeping your wine for a month or 2 before drinking it. If you are planning on aging your wine in the bottle you will need to use a longer term solution.
Novatwist screwcaps are great but pricey. Corks can be good, but can't be re-used and require special equipment to insert the corks.
If you are bottling sparkling wine in old sparkling wine bottles, you will need to get some plastic champagne corks. Put them in boiling water and push them in to your bottles. You are not supposed to reuse them, but this winemaker has done so without any problems. You also need to wire down (use pliers to tighten the wire) the corks with wire "baskets". You can reuse these until they break.
Be careful when you are opening sparkling wine - definitely point the bottle away from yourself, windows, anything breakable, other people and the cat. This winemaker has given drawn blood by not following that rule!
You could probably tip the wine out of the carboy and in to bottles using a funnel, but the main reason for using the siphon is you can leave (most of) the sediment behind.
An instrument that measures the SG (specific gravity) of your must. The SG is how much sugar is in your must and has a direct bearing on the alcohol content of the final product. If you add too much sugar, it may not all ferment out, leaving you with a sweet wine.
Once you've made a few batches of wine, you may decide a hydrometer is a good investment. It is good for tweaking the amount of sugar you add (although without exception around 1kg of sugar per 5 litres of wine seems to work). It is also very useful to see if your ferment is finished, as there will be no (or very little) sugar left once your wine has finished fermenting.
If you don't have a hydrometer, the best way to test this is by taste. If you taste your wine and it is still sweet, you know your wine has not finished fermenting.
© 2011 Karen q Temple