Make Your Own Wine and Beer!
Wine and beer making may be as old as civilization but it still holds the same fascination for us today as it did for our ancestors over 1000 years ago. There is still something magical about the fermentation process that intrigues us.
Wine and beer making is an entirely natural process that can and will happen without any human intervention. But over the years the human race has harnessed this natural phenomenon to produce outstanding wines and beer. Wine and beer making can be enjoyed and perfected by anyone. Maybe that's why it fascinates us so much. I have been to wine competitions where home crafted wines have put professional wine tasters in awe. Anyone can make outstanding beer and wine. Almost every great or famous wine and beer maker started out just like you!
Since beer and wine making has been around forever it is only natural that it is part of our folklore. There are many tall tales about the potency of home made beverages while stories of the dangers of drinking home made alcohol abound. Most of these stories are totally untrue and some are downright silly. Here is a list of some facts that you might like to know.
- Wine and beer making is safe. Pathogenic bacteria (the stuff that makes you sick) cannot survive in wine or beer. The common spoilage bacterium that can survive in alcohol will make your wine or beer unpalatable but it will not harm you.
- The alcohol made by the fermentation of sugar is ethyl alcohol and should not be confused with its deadly cousin Methyl (wood) alcohol. All of the stories you hear about people going blind and been poisoned was by the accidental consumption of methyl alcohol. This is not the type of alcohol you will be making.
- You can make wine or beer that is as good or better than commercial products. They make it the same way and you do but only on a larger scale.
- Most wine and beer contains 12 or 5 percent alcohol respectively and should remain that way if you wish to maintain the traditional characteristics of these beverages.
- Fermented alcoholic beverages can reach a maximum of about 20% percent alcohol by volume (and that is with some difficulty). To reach higher alcohol levels you will have to distill which is illegal in most of North America.
- Quality wine or beer is made by using the best ingredients. This is an area where amateurs often err. They're thinking is that if they buy some cheap malt or grape concentrate for their first wine or beer and it's a failure then they haven't lost much. Wrong. If you buy cheap malt or concentrate your chance of failure increases ten fold and you are most likely to be disappointed and give up the hobby. Don't make that mistake.
What you need to get started?
Most people should consider a prepackaged equipment starter kit. This package has all the basic equipment necessary to begin wine and beer making. Starter kits are usually sold at a discount to encourage new people to try the craft. You will also need a wine or beer ingredient kit. Listed below are the essentials you will need to make your own wine and beer.
An equipment starter kit is a one time purchase which you will use for all your future wine and beer making. Here is an outline of what you will find in most starter kits.
- A 25 - 30 litre (5.5 - 6.5 gallon) fermenting bucket with sealable lid drilled to accept an air lock.
- An air lock and rubber stopper which creates a one-way valve that allows carbon dioxide gas to escape from the fermenting liquid but prevents oxygen from entering.
- A long handle plastic stirring spoon which makes it easy to stir a five gallon bucket of liquid.
- A thermometer. This is necessary for checking the temperature of the liquid before adding the yeast.
- A glass or plastic carboy. ( a large five gallon bottle similar to those you see on water coolers). Your wine or beer is transferred to this for bulk aging and clearing.
- Siphoning tube and attachments used to transfer your wine or beer between your fermenting bucket and carboy.
- Sanitizing powder and instruction booklet.
- Some start kits may also contain a hydrometer with sample jar and a crown capper or wine corker.
Now that you know what equipment you'll need let's take a look at the necessary ingredients. We recommend that you purchase a wine or beer ingredient kit. These contain everything you need to make your wine or beer. All you need to do is add water and start the fermentation! Here is a list of what you can expect to find in a wine or beer ingredient kit.
- Wine kits usually contain a blend of grape concentrate, grape juice and sugar. Premium kits such as our Cru Select, Cellar Classic and En Primeur are made up of 100% grape product and have no added sugar. The kit will also contain a packet of yeast, a packet of stabilizer and a packet of finings or clarifier. Some kits may also contain oak chips, grape skins and elderberries.
- Beer kits will contain hopped malt extract and yeast. Most beer kits will also need the addition of 1 kilogram or 2 1/4 lb. of sugar. Premium kits such as our Brew House and Barons have either the sugar added or are made from all grain without added sugar.
Well that's the basic information. If you would like to find out more about the fermentation process continue on to the next section. If this is all you want to know right now you can go back to our home page and explore our site some more.