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Old 07-02-2012, 08:14 AM   #1
emjay
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Sorry in advance for the ridiculous length of this! If you want to just tackle a single paragraph instead of the whole post, I totally understand.

Anyways, I have a lot of experience making beer, but I've never made a wine (unless you count Edwort's apfelwein). I decided to just dive in headfirst while my electric brewery is being built, and ordered 3 high-end wine kits, not seeing the point in going with the cheaper stuff after spending so much time and money (and space!) to produce the wine. The three kits I ordered are all from RJ Spagnols brands, as my LHBS doesn't carry Winexpert or Cellar Craft, and their kit prices are damn good (considerably better than even any stores I've seen in the US, which is completely opposite the case for everything else they sell... strange, but I can't complain!). I pick these up on Tuesday:

(En Primeur) Italian Amarone
(Cellar Classic Winery Series) California Old Vine Zinfandel
(Cellar Classic) German Gewürztraminer

When I pick them up, I want to buy some fermenting vessels for them... I'm thinking carboys or better bottles (any problem with BBs?). What size vessels will I need for these? I often hear people start in a 6.5gal carboy (is 6gal okay?) and secondary in a 5gal... is that what I should plan on doing with these kits? I have no idea how much wine they're supposed to produce - the only volume I saw labeled for them is the volume of the concentrate they provide, and as such I'd guess bigger is better - but my best guess would be 23L. Is that correct? And while I'm there, should I pick up any additional ingredients?

To figure out how many vessels of each type I need, I also need to know the timelines for these wines. ie, how long should each of those styles stay in the primary? And then how long after that should they stay in the secondary? Will I need to rack it beyond a second (eg tertiary, quaternary, etc)? And just so I have an idea, how long would you recommend I let each style take (fermentation AND aging) for a good balance between timeliness and quality?

Also, is agitation (like a paint stirrer or wine whip on a drill) more than adequate for degassing, or are those vacuum degassers noticeably better?

And just a couple more questions I haven't come across I might as well ask now, based on my experience with beer. For instance, temperature control is *EVERYTHING* when making beer, but how critical is it for wine? I'd rather not have to control the temperature, but if the lack of temp control can ruin wine like it does beer, I'd do it anyways. Should I oxygenate the must like I would oxygenate beer wort? Is some sort of yeast starter recommended? And lastly, beer kit instructions are notoriously poor... is the same true of wine kits, and if so, how should I proceed with these kits in particular?

Sorry again for such an onslaught of questions, but I figured that a million questions in a single thread is probably better than a single question in a million threads, and if you think this took a long time to read, consider that this was all typed on my phone! I am very comfortable with most of the process, so I would MUCH rather do things the BETTER way than the simpler and easier way that's often suggested to beginners (if it makes a real difference in the finished product, of course), so please, none of that "just follow the included directions for the first few times" nonsense... if I'm going to spend the money and wait such a long time to drink the wine, I want to make it the best I possibly can.

Anyways, thanks for taking the time to read and (hopefully) answer this. And if anyone has any more tips for an experienced brewer just getting into wine making - particularly the things that are different from the beer-making process, or what a brewer might otherwise assume - they would be much appreciated!

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Old 07-02-2012, 11:48 AM   #2
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Degassing........If you have the time, patience, and carboy space the wine will degas naturally over many months in bulk storage. Most of us don't want our carboys tied up that long so we degas.

You can make a degasser with a plastic coat hanger with a crook on the end. I have one of the commercially made ones. I found this process slow and tedious as I was afraid a vigorous degassing would oxygenate the wine too much. I bought a medical vacuum pump on ebay for $75 shipped to my door. It has a built in gauge and regulator. It works fantastic. I have it set up so I can also use the vacuum to rack from carboy to carboy.

I've not made any kit wines so I have no input for you there.

If you can keep the ambient temp around 70 or below you should be fine w/o temp controller. I imagine in Toronto your tap water is fairly cool so just sitting your fermenter in a sink full of cool water would do a pretty good job.

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Old 07-03-2012, 01:53 AM   #3
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You should be fine with ambient temps in your house. Many wine yeasts are more forgiving than ale yeasts.

As far as time goes some kits require more time to make than others. In general you will be looking at about 1-2 months of time from mix to bottle. (just following instructions)

As far as vessels I typically do a bucket for primary and then 6gal glass for secondary. Most kits are 6 gallon (except ports and icewine) that I have seen.

Follow the instructions and you will be fine. I would deviate on the Gewürztraminer as they may give you a chemical to add to slow the formation of wine diamonds. I cant remember if that type produces them or not. If you chill the whole batch for a few weeks most of what will form will form in that time period. (assuming you care about them)


As far as extra things to get I would say to decide on how you want to cork/cap things. You can go screw top, zork, cork, or some other thing. I zork a few of most batches as they dont require anything to open later. It is personal preference though. I hope this helps!

Oh I have a vacuum pump as well and it is pretty nice. I got mine on amazon.

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Old 07-03-2012, 02:05 AM   #4
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A bucket for primary is fine- you'll need a 6 gallon carboy for secondary. I use my same ale pail and bottling bucket for wines and beers. Better bottles are great! Those kits are produce 6 gallons of wine- and almost all do.

It's so counter to beer kits, so I know you'll find this hard to believe- but following the directions 100% for wine kits is recommended. Even I follow the directions (um, more or less) because the kits are that solid.

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Old 07-03-2012, 04:32 AM   #5
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Thanks for the help. I've had bad luck with buckets and infections so I'm not sure I want to use them. All my previous "good" buckets got messed up so I think I'll just ditch them altogether. I plan on getting a few conicals eventually, but I've got more to be done on my eHERMS, ferm chamber/workbench, and keezer before I can spend cash on that. Just dropped almost $3500 in the past week on Blichmanns and other stainless stuff (commercial sink and range hood, etc)! What can I say, I'm an equipment geek.

As for the kit instructions... I'll take your word for it But... is wine must supposed to be aerated before pitching?

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Old 07-03-2012, 12:00 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by emjay View Post

As for the kit instructions... I'll take your word for it But... is wine must supposed to be aerated before pitching?
Yup wine, ciders, and especially meads are all well aerated pre fermentation and
most aerate mead until 1/3 sugar break.
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Old 07-03-2012, 12:33 PM   #7
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i've made a couple kits and i haven't bothered to aerate.. i do use a bucket for the primary then my 6.5gallon BB for secondary.. following the directions is key like yooper said.. you don't have to make a starter for the yeast as i'm assuming it came with some dried yeast.. i would strongly suggest getting a floor corker, especially since you'll have 90 bottles to cork.. once you use one you'll never want to attempt anything else.. Floor Corker

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Old 07-03-2012, 02:00 PM   #8
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Yes, you aerate. But an easy way to do it is to just pour in the water from a pitcher into the must (since you add some water to get to the 6 gallon level) and then stir it up a bit with a sanitized spoon. No extra aeration is required.

I understand the bad luck with buckets, and for most wine kits you'll be ok with a 6.5 gallon carboy for primary. But I still always use a bucket since you'll be pouring in oak dust and stuff. That's ok with a funnel and carboy, but sometimes you're adding packs of grape skins and such in primary and it'd be more than a huge pain to put them in and remove them plus then you'd have no headspace. I wouldn't write off buckets just yet!

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Old 07-03-2012, 02:37 PM   #9
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ah yeah.. i guess me using my hand sprayer from my kitchen faucet counts as aeration.. i use an oxygen tank and stone with my beer so i usually only call that "aeration"

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Old 07-03-2012, 07:28 PM   #10
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I tried a whip to degass, and then a hand pump, and finally ended up with a vacuum pump..... and wish I had done that from the beginning. The Vacuum pump made my kit wines come out so much better than any of the previous methods.

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