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Tips for Making Wine with Grapes

As you contemplate the prospect of making your next batch of wine you will need to decide whether you want to use fruit, such as grapes, or packaged fruit juices. Packaged juices are known as concentrates and can be easily purchased online as well as in home brewing stores. There are many advantages to using concentrates, including the fact that they come with easy to follow directions and usually all of the extra ingredients you may need. Many novice winemakers feel that concentrates are a great introduction to the process of winemaking. There are also advantages to using fruit rather than concentrates; however. The main advantage to using fruit is that you have more control over the process, and thus the results, when you use fruits.

For the most part, the process of making wine from fruit is similar to making it using concentrates. There are a few differences; however, and those differences are critical.

Before you begin, you will need to make sure that you have plenty of fruit. It is not uncommon for many novice winemakers to think they have a sufficient amount of fruit when in fact they do not. You will need at least 70 pounds of grapes in order to produce six gallons of wine. This is the equivalent of about two bushels. The one exception to this is if you are using wild grapes such as Muscadine. In that case you will only need about 25 pounds of grapes due to the fact that wild grapes tend to have a stronger flavor as well as more acid.

Since you will be dealing with a large amount of grapes, you will need to make sure that you have sufficient facilities to deal with them properly. Before you are able to use them to make wine, you will need to remove the stems as well as crush the grapes. Later, the grapes will then need to be pressed after they have had a few days to ferment.

You can easily remove the stems as well as crush the grapes by hand. For small batches of grapes, you can use something as simple as a potato masher to crush the grapes; just make sure it has been cleaned and sanitized first. If you are dealing with larger amounts of grapes it may be worth it to go ahead and invest in a grape crusher as this will speed the process along.

As previously mentioned, after the grapes have fermented for a few days, you will need to press the pulp in order to extract as much juice as possible. In the event you are making white wine, the grapes will need to be pressed directly after they have been crushed but before the first fermentation.

When working with fruit rather than concentrate you will also need to have a hydrometer on hand in order to assist you in controlling the sugar level. As you may recall, this essential in determining the alcohol level in the final wine so it is a step that must not be overlooked.

An acid test kit may also be helpful in controlling and monitoring the levels of acid that are present in your wine when you are using fruit rather than concentrate. When the acid level in the wine is too high, the resulting wine will typically have a taste that is too sour or sharp. If there is not enough acid; however, the wine may taste somewhat flat. An acid test kit will provide you with accurate readings and help you to determine whether you need to add water or acid blend for balance.

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Troubleshooting Fermentation Problems

As we all know, fermentation is one of the critical stages of winemaking. Without fermentation, it is impossible to create wine. In some cases; however, you may find that you have problems with the fermentation process. Usually, these problems will take the form of either fermentation that just does not occur at all or else is too slow.

One of the reasons that this may occur is that the temperature was either too cold or too hot. Remember that yeast cells are live and in order to become activated they require a temperature that is between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Ideally, you should aim for around 72 degrees; however, if you drop below 70 or go above 75 degrees, you will have problems. When the temperature is too cool, the fermentation will likely not occur at all. When the temperature is too warm; however, the yeast can become damaged and will also perform poorly.

This is why it is critical to ensure that you have a stable temperature in the room where you ferment your wine. If the temperature in the room fluctuates, you will generally have problems. Basements tend to make the best places for fermentation; provided the area does not become too cool during the winter. In that case, you can provide a small heat source. Making sure that your fermentation containers are not placed directly on the floor may also help. You can also use a thermometer to monitor the fermentation. A floating thermometer can be placed right in the wine and you can lift it out when you want to check the temperature.

Improperly starting the yeast can also result in problems with fermentation. This is also commonly due to problems with temperatures. Most yeast packets require the yeast to be rehydrated, or moistened, with some warm water prior to use. Ideally, this should not cause any problems. That is, unless the water temperature was too warm. Most yeast packets call for the temperature to be somewhere between 95 and 105 degrees. If the water exceeds these temperature limits even just a small bit, the yeast is likely to be destroyed. As a result, it is unable to support the fermentation process.

As a result, it is important to make sure that you actually verify the temperature of the water before you add the yeast. In addition, it is important to make sure that you do not leave the yeast in the water for too long. Generally, you will need to leave the yeast in the water for about fifteen minutes. If you walk off and forget about the yeast and leave it in the water for even a few minutes longer, you will also run the risk of destroying the yeast cells. Therefore, it is important to keep an eye on the clock and make sure that the yeast does not remain in the water for any longer than 15 minutes at the most.

Adding too much sugar can also cause problems in the fermentation process. Remember that while it is necessary for yeast to have sugar in order to produce alcohol, you can add in too much sugar. When the sugar level is too high, it may begin to have a detrimental effect on the ability of the yeast to produce alcohol. This is why it is critical to verify the amount of sugar that is already present in a batch from the fruit itself before you add in any additional fruit. Remember that the fruit itself will have its own amount of sugar. This level can vary from one fruit to another, making it even more important to verify the sugar content level. A hydrometer can be used for this purpose. If you have not previously used a hydrometer it is a good idea to invest in one and become acquainted with it. A quality hydrometer can help you to avoid many of the problems that might otherwise ruin a good batch of wine.

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