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Winemaking beginner; kits? Dried vs. canned elderberries.

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Scientific hippie

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I have been having a blast making my own kombucha. I am a gardener, and after reading several books about permaculture, I ordered some elderberry bushes, spicebushes (Appalachian allspice, Lindera benzoin), and the nitrogen-fixing goumi shrub (Elaeagnus multiflora). They were not expensive, and are attractive, so even if I wind up not making good wine, I have some nice shrubs. But I DO want to make good wine! Anyway, I want to make elderberry wine while waiting for my shrubs to bloom and bear fruit next year. I am looking at dried elderberries and canned ones. I see that the cans assume a 5-gallon batch. As a beginner, is it advisable to start right off making 5 gallons at a time, or should I start out making single gallons? I am looking at a 5-gal kit at Kraus'; are there some 1 gal kits on the market that might fit the bill? Thoughts?
 

PRM

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Batch size is up to you but a couple things to keep in mind:
  • You will certainly find more kits and recipes for the 5 gallon batch size.
  • Scaling recipes down is not that difficult but kits won't.
  • With a full 5 gallon carboy you have almost 60lbs to move around.
  • 1 gallon batches require the same work as 5 gallon batches (cleaning, sanitizing, racking) and you only get ~5 bottles instead of ~25 bottles.
  • 1 gallon batches allow you to experiment a bit more and only risk 5 bottles of undesirable wine instead of 25.
I have a variety of fermenting vessels. I use my 5/6 gallon fermenter for wine. I have a couple of buckets for 1 gallon recipes or experiments and a 3 gallon fermenter that I find works well for country wine since I don't usually want tons of that.

If you were looking for only one set of vessels, a 5/6 gallon setup would be most flexible since you could do wine kits along with wine from fresh fruits.

Can you share more information about the cans of elderberry juice? I would imagine you could make any size batch with enough cans of juice.
 
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Scientific hippie

Scientific hippie

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Batch size is up to you but a couple things to keep in mind:
  • With a full 5 gallon carboy you have almost 60lbs to move around.
  • 1 gallon batches allow you to experiment a bit more and only risk 5 bottles of undesirable wine instead of 25.


Can you share more information about the cans of elderberry juice? I would imagine you could make any size batch with enough cans of juice.
Thanks for getting back to me! I especially appreciate the two bullet points quoted above. I am a very enthusiastic person, and tend to throw myself wholeheartedly into anything that interests me. Some of these have worked out (medicine, gardening, writing) and some have not (making my own knitted furniture; yeah, right), so I like to start out with a minimum investment to see if this interest is going to stick. Fitting a 60 lb. carboy into the basement also gives me pause (major invasion of the husband's man cave), so I think I will start with one-gallon batches and see how it goes. The canned elderberries I am looking at suggest 1-4 cans for five gallons, and since I like a full-bodied wine it sounds like I am looking at $120 for a five-gallon batch, plus the cost of the equipment. Anyway, I am willing to spend the $$ if it means a better-tasting wine. Assuming I am going to do one gallon at a time, I could do either the canned berries or the dried berries. Have you, or any other members, had any experience with these ingredients? Hopefully, I will have elderflowers (they make a nice syrup or cordial and are easier to handle) next spring followed by berries in the late summer, so I can have at least a few gallons from different recipes to guide me when I harvest the shrubs.
 
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Scientific hippie

Scientific hippie

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I like foraging for my own
I am still working pretty much full-time, so my foraging time is limited. I love hiking, but I have never been the best at identifying plants in the wild. This new book is wonderful, but there is usually just a single photograph of a given species, and I don't know if that is enough to help me avoid poisoning myself. I still remember stuffing some awful-tasting weed into my mouth on a trip to California and then spitting it out, mistaking it for wild fennel! Anyway, right now I am concentrating on growing stuff on my land, and am delving into permaculture, the growing of perennials for food. I have been growing Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus species), climbing spinach (Hablitzia tamnoides), and oyster leaf (Mertensia maritima) with some success. This book has also given me lots of ideas.
 
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bernardsmith

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Brewers tend to view making 5 gallon batches as standard and argue that it takes the same amount of effort to make 5 gallons as it does 1. And while that may be true it takes a great deal more effort to swallow 5 gallons of mediocre wine than it does to swallow 1 gallon. Moreover, beer is generally drunk by the pint but wine is drunk by the glass and you can get pretty bored drinking glass after glass after glass of the same mediocre wine.You also drink wine for pleasure rather than thirst. And beer deals as much with thirst as pleasure, so these are not identical "beverages".
That's not to say that making 5 gallon batches of wine is never a good idea but it seems to me that making 5 gallons rather than 1 is a far better idea when you have mastered the process and the recipe - and I include "recipes" because recipes for country wines (using fruits and herbs and the like) are more often incredibly poor and it can take you dozens of attempts to find the right quantity of fruit and sugar and the right match of yeast to must and temperature before you know your wine is good - never mind great. Just because you can does not ever mean you have to. :no:
 
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Scientific hippie

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That is very sage advice. I bought one can of elderberry base and one bag of dried elderberries. I decided to get a "Your Juice!" beginner's set; it has a five-gallon plastic fermenting container. I also bought a 1 gal glass jug on Amazon; I'll probably start with that, and can just get a 5-gal carboy when I am ready. Reviewers of the YourJuice! kit complained about the absence of a bubbler and a siphon, so I bought inexpensive versions of them, made for small batches. I have seen recipes for elderberry wine calling for Montrachet yeast, so I added that. Let's see what happens!
 
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