General Guide to Making Wine from Juice

Fermentation is greatly affected by temperature. A brewing belt can be attached to the bucket to help control the temperature. **76 degrees (F) is recommended for highest quality fermentation. These instructions are a GENERAL guide for making wine from our juice. The period in which the juice ferments solely depends on the conditions and the yeast strain’s ability to convert sugar to ethanol. This guide is not based on time, it is based on measurement of specific gravity and temperature. Specific gravity indicates the density of sugar in the juice. The amount of sugar accurately shows how much is left to convert to ethanol. The most accurate way to determine when to move to the next stage is to take a Specific Gravity (S.G.) reading with a hydrometer. Taking and using these readings will help ensure a successful fermentation.

Example of how to take S.G. measurements:

Equipment: Primary fermenter, stirring spoon, hydrometer, siphon tubing kit, 6 gallon carboy, airlock and bung. A thermometer and brewing belt may be used to monitor and control temperature.

Helpful hint: make sure all equipment (i.e. stirring spoon, etc.) is sterilized. Contaminated equipment can ruin the quality of the juice and the ending product.

Stage 1: Preparation

Mixing: Carefully remove the bucket lid by removing the safety seal and pry off the lid. Let juice warm up to room temperature by either placing the bucket near a controllable heat source or by using a brew belt.

Yeast Hydration and primary fermentation: in a large cup add 4 ounces of warm chlorine free water. This water is to not exceed 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir contents of yeast packet into warm water and be sure to break up any clumps. Let mixture stand in cup for 15 minutes. Bubbling or increase in mixture size is a good sign of rehydration. Add an equal part of juice to the hydrated yeast mixture and let stand for 15 minutes. Pour yeast mixture into bucket and stir gently. Next, measure and record the Specific Gravity and temperature to establish a fermentation starting point. Recording your S.G. and temperature in a log will be helpful especially if you would like to duplicate your results next season. ***Place primary fermenter with lid lightly on (can use a cheese cloth or clean hair net over bucket) and in an area that is 76 Degrees Fahrenheit.

Consistent stirring: Stir gently twice daily for 5 minutes. Stir once in the morning and once in the evening. Continue to monitor the yeast activity (bubbling, foaming, etc.) that is most active in this stage. Readings of S.G. decrease as sugar converts to alcohol.

Stage 2: Secondary Fermentation

Racking: Check S.G.: it is most ideal to rack once S.G. reaches 1.020. Rack to the secondary fermentation vessel, a six gallon carboy, and fit the airlock with bung in the opening. Although yeast activity will decrease as the fermentation process proceeds, the process will continue on in this phase. But, before racking stir to make sure any yeast that settled at the bottom of the fermentation vessel is transferred to the next fermentation vessel. If active yeast is left behind, the fermentation will stop. If you want your wine to be sweet, you can ferment a little longer in this stage to 1.00, if at desired sweetness, then we do encourage to leave the dead yeast settled on the bottom behind.
S.G. Monitoring: Check S.G.: if 0.990-0.996 the wine will be dry, if 1.000 it will be medium- sweet, if greater than 1.000 it will be a sweet wine. Allow fermentation to continue longer if needed for desired dryness. You should taste the wine to find the dryness or sweetness level that is desired. When the wine is ready, proceed to stabilization. Remember temperature controls the rate of fermentation, cool temperature will extend days required for fermenting your juice or stop the process prematurely leading to problem wine.

Stage 3: Stabilization

Stabilize the racked wine to the STERILIZED plastic bucket or carboy, and add stabilizer (potassium metabisulfate and potassium sorbate). Dilute the contents with some wine from your carboy. Pour contents on the bottom of the bucket or carboy. Next, rack the rest of the wine, leaving dead yeast and sediment behind. (Note: further fermentation will not occur after this step). Stir to de-gas the wine before final stabilizing and clearing.

If transferring to a bucket, STERILIZE the carboy and refill with stabilized wine to the top (it is essential to fill the carboy to the top with no room for air), fit airlock and place in a cool area. Make sure the carboy is topped off. Wine exposure to oxygen can oxidize the wine and cause spoilage. Go by the “thumb rule”-there should not be any empty space beyond the length of your thumb from the opening of the carboy. Fix the air lock and bung. When siphoning wine, make sure the wine that needs to be racked is higher than the new, sterilized, vessel.

Stage 4: Aging / Bottling

Store the wine in a dry, cool place for 35 to 45 days to allow further stabilization. You should notice the wine clearing and sediment collecting on the bottom of the carboy. Repeat the racking process several times every 35-45 days to achieve maximum clarity, if desired. At this stage, you may also consider clarifying agents (SuperKleer, Gelatin, etc.) if the wine is still cloudy or aging materials like oak essence or chips are used to add tannin, or astringent, oak flavor. When wine is clear, it is ready for bottling. Make sure bottles and closures are clean and sterilized. Filtering your wine is an option, but is recommended.

Flow Chart for the Process of Making Wine from Juice