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Basic Steps in Home Winemaking

Basic Steps in Home Winemaking

Country Wines (Fruit), Grape Wine from Fruit or Juice


These instructions are general guidelines written as an overview of the process for the beginner winemaker.


Now Let’s Get Started!

Step 1: Start to familiarize yourself with some of the commonly used terms and the basic procedures by reading other articles on Sanitation, Commonly Used Wine Making Ingredients, Terminology, Equipment Needed, both on this website and others. This will help to answer a few questions that are frequently asked.


Step 2: Mark your primary fermenter. (Plastic Bucket) Pour 1 gallon of water into it and draw the shadow line on the outside with a permanent marker, write 1 gal. Add another gallon of water and draw the second line, mark it 2 gal. Continue adding water and until you reach 6 gal. (10 gal. if you plan to use fresh fruit or grapes for wine)


Step 3: While your primary is filled with water clean it with a mild dish soap or other home fermentation cleaner and rinse very well.


Step 4: Sanitize your equipment.

Mix 2 oz. (3 Tblsp.) of Sodium Metabisulfite in 1 Gallon of warm water. Shake until thoroughly dissolved. Sanitize all equipment to be used in your first session: Primary Fermenter (Plastic) & Lid, Spoon, Hydrometer and test jar, mesh straining bag, spoon etc. Drain completely. Do not rinse (except the straining bag may be rinsed). Sanitizer can be returned to the container and reused for up to 6 months provided it does not become cloudy or lose its sulfur smell. Sanitize all equipment used in each winemaking session as needed.


Step 5: Start your “must” (wine)

Fresh fruit may be frozen, in fact it will usually benefit by the breakdown of the fruit skins and fibers allowing more juice to flow out. Thaw completely.

Place fruit in straining bag and tie loosely.

In your primary fermenter:

Add your fruit or concentrate.

Add the amount of water specified in your recipe or until the desired amount is reached.

Add white cane sugar. 2 1/4 cups equals 1 pound. Stir well to dissolve all sugar.

Add Campden (crushed), Nutrient, Pectic Enzyme and any other ingredients specified in your recipe. DO NOT add the yeast yet.

Note: Temperature should be 65°-75°F.


Step 6: Take a hydrometer reading - Sanitize your hydrometer, jar & “thief”

Draw a sample of the juice with the wine thief (baster) and make note of the reading. See hydrometer instructions included. This step is very important, if you call us with questions we will need to know your readings to provide you with the best advice we can.


Step 7: Cover the fermenter with the lid. Wait 24 hours before adding yeast.


Step 8: Adding the yeast

Sprinkle the yeast on the surface of the must (wine during the making). OR Rehydrate the yeast for 20 minutes in 1/8-1/4 Cup of warm water. Pour on top of the must.

Do not stir. Cover with the lid. Keep at room temperature 65°-80°F. Fermentation should start within 24-48 hours.


Step 9: 1-3 days after the fermentation has started stir the must. Stir once a day until ready to transfer to the carboy.


Step 10: First Racking (Siphon) into the glass carboy. Take a hydrometer reading after 4-7 days of active fermentation. When the reading is 1.030 or less it’s time to rack the must into the glass carboy.

Sanitize the hydrometer & test jar, carboy, racking cane & hose, air lock & rubber stopper. Place the plastic primary on a table or counter and the carboy on the floor. Start the siphon.

Siphon the must into the carboy leaving the sediment at the bottom of the primary and discard the sediment. If your hydrometer reading is between 1.010 and 1.030 you may leave an air space in the carboy to allow for the still active fermentation. If your hydrometer reading is below 1.010 fill the carboy to the narrow of the neck. Add clean water if necessary to “top off”.

Fill the sanitized air lock with water and attach it firmly into the carboy.


Step 11: Additional Rackings (Siphon away from sediment)

After 1-2 weeks you will notice sediment accumulating on the bottom of the carboy. Rack into a clean sanitized carboy if you have one, if not rack the wine into the sanitized primary fermenter, clean the carboy, sanitize it and rack the wine back into it.


Check the wine every few weeks for sediment, rack as needed to remove accumulated sediment until the wine is clear.


Approximately one month after starting the wine, take 2 hydrometer readings several days apart to determine whether or not fermentation is complete. Fermentation is complete and the wine is considered “stable” when the specific gravity reading is the same for several days. It should be below 1.000.


Sweetening: If you want to sweeten your wine you may do so during one of your rackings after the wine is stable

See Notes below on how to properly sweeten a wine.


Step 12: Evaluation

Sample the wine to determine whether or not you need to adjust the acids and/or sweeten the wine.  If you live in the Milwaukee area, please feel free to bring in a sample prior to bottling for evaluation. We will offer suggestions to improve balance, aging and storage of your wine. This service is free of charge!

Step 13: Bottling

When your wine is ready to be bottled you will need a few more items. Clean and Sanitize enough bottles for the amount of wine you are ready to bottle. You will need 5 bottles per gallon (25 for 5 gallons).

Place the carboy on a table or counter and siphon the wine into the bottles. Fill the bottles into the neck leaving enough space so the cork fits with ½-3/4 inch of space below the cork.

Use a corker to insert the corks.

Never reuse corks, once pulled out with a corkscrew they are no longer air tight.

Corker- we suggest you rent one from us. Try the different models out before you make this purchase to see which type works best for you.

Labels- always label your wines, whether simple or elaborate, just so you know what’s in the bottle.


Step 14: Age Your Wine

By its very nature wine will benefit from aging. Immediately after bottling the wine will go through a process. It starts with “bottle shock”. For several weeks the wine will be harsher, and then it will start to “smooth out” again, continuing to improve over the coming months and years. Aging time will vary depending on the fruit or grapes used and storage conditions. The wine will continue to improve, eventually reaching its peak. It will remain at its peak generally for as long as it took to get there, and then start to decline.


Step 15: Enjoy your wine!

This is the day you’ve waited for! When the wine is ready to drink, drink heartily and responsibly. Be generous and share with family and friends.


NOTE: Sweetening a wine.

Some wines will benefit from sweetening; however the sweetness level is determined entirely by the taste of the winemaker and the people he or she shares the wines with.

The wine should be fermented completely prior to stabilizing. I do not recommend trying to stop the fermentation at the sweetness desired. It is too difficult especially for the beginner.

Add ¾ Teaspoon per Gallon of Potassium Sorbate to prevent refermentation of the sugars added for sweetening. Wait 1-2 days and sweeten the wine as desired.

Wine can be sweetened using several different methods.

  • Simple Sugar Syrup: 2 Cups of Sugar and 1 Cup of water. Boil for 10-15 Minutes until syrupy, cool and add to the wine.
  • Frozen Juice Concentrate: Add one or two cans of frozen juice concentrate (thawed) to desired sweetness.
  • Fruit Syrup: 2 Cups of Sugar, 1 Lb of fruit (strawberries, blueberries etc.) ¾ Cup of water. Boil 10-15 Minutes until syrupy. Strain out fruit pieces.


I recommend doing this at least a month prior to bottling as a precaution to ensure the Potassium Sorbate has been effective and that there will be no sediments from the sugars in the bottle. If adding frozen juice concentrate or fruit syrup an addition racking will be needed.

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