Making your own wine is a fun hobby to do in your spare time. You can make it from the juice of specially selected grapes or from simple fruit juice, herbs or flowers. As with most hobbies, there are expensive ways of making your own wine, but there are several tricks you can use to keep the costs minimal. Some are obvious, but others are a little intriguing.
Use Free Fruit
Start by looking around your area. Some people have trees with fruit that they have no intention of using. Forest areas often contain wild grapes, blackberries, elderberries and wineberries that are wonderful for making wine. Produce stands often offer discounted or free produce when it gets bruised or is not good enough for general sale. Of course, planting your own fruit is the safest way to ensure a consistent source of free fruit for wine.
Collect Wild Yeast Spores
Just as in San Francisco, where the bakers pride themselves on growing their own strain of yeast for their baguettes, wine makers also protect and guard their variety of yeast. It adds the character and nuances of the air and soil, creating individual bouquets for their wines. You can collect you own yeast spores by setting the juice aside for a few days. Keep it covered with a piece of gauze to keep fruit flies away. You should see a layer of foam develop as the yeast cells grow. This process tends to take longer than if you simply added wine yeast to your juice.
If you read a winemakers instruction booklet, you will be advised to get a whole list of equipment and products to make wine. Of course, they write this to keep the winemaking very simple and straightforward for the average reader. You need a bucket for fermenting the juice and a cover to keep the bugs out. As with everything you use with wine, it must be clean and free from bacteria and off flavors. To siphon the fermented juice off of the fruit matter, buy a four-foot section of plastic tubing from your hardware store. Use a metal spoon for stirring, and a glass jug for holding your wine. The only two things that will really help you control the alcohol content and the acidity are a wine hydrometer and pH testing strips. Both of these are inexpensive and available online or at local shops. During the fermenting stage, use a simple balloon over the opening of your jug or carboy if you don't have an airlock plug.
Save your wine bottles, and clean them so they are ready for storing your homemade wine. When wine has reaching the stage for bottling, it no longer is creating carbon dioxide and is stable. You can use any bottle that has an airtight lid to store and age your wine because it will not build up pressure as beer does.
The Process Simplified
Grind, press or steam your fruit to remove the juice. Berries are often boiled in water to release their juice. Taste the juice for sweetness, and add sugar, using your hydrometer to test for accuracy and then test acidity with the pH strips, adding lemon juice if alkaline. Strain into a clean and sterilized bucket, cover with gauze and set aside in a warm area to ferment for about a week. After active fermentation, siphon the juice carefully away from the residue on the bottom of the bucket and into a glass container like a carboy, and let it sit for about six weeks. Allow the gasses produced by fermentation to escape by using a airlock or a balloon. Siphon the wine again if more residue develops after three months. Bottle the wine when there is no more fermentation happening. Store for another three months for aging.
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