Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Making Homemade Concord Grape Wine

Yes, yes, I am well aware that the tags on the bottles say "Apple wine" But this post is about making CONCORD GRAPE wine. 
Although many of the steps in the process are the same for all wines, there are also differences which are very important to each variety.  This is the process we used turn our grapes into              "Mommas' Happy Juice"
The measurements used in this post are for 1 GALLON of wine. (the pictures are of a 5 gallon batch)

First we had to make the juice. Making the wine with the fruits in the mixture is certainly an option, but we wanted to make it easier and use the juice alone. This would make the racking process easier later on in the process.
We crush the grapes in a few cups of water and boil for about 15 minutes. Then we use a mesh juice bag (cheesecloth works great) to strain the solids from the juice.

Make sure you make enough juice to measure out exactly into the size of the batch you are trying to make. If it is less than you need, you can add a little bit of water to finish the measurement. The juice should be put into the Primary Fermentation bucket and should be at room temperature before starting the process. The bucket, as well as ANY tool you will be using to make the wine should be washed in a sterilizing solution. We use B-Brite.
If you do not sterilize everything with extreme intent, it is possible for bacteria to ruin the entire batch. 1 tiny bacterium can multiply exponentially (like yeast) and will turn the wine into vinegar instead. 

First, with the juice in the bucket, mix in 1 tsp of yeast nutrient.

Then stir in 4 1/2 cups of sugar.
If you have a hydrometer (which you should get), the specific gravity of the solution should be close to 1.085 S.G.

Next, add 1 campden tablet into the mixture. This will help prevent the harmful bacteria. It is best to take the tablet and dissolve it in about 1/4 cup of warm water before stirring it in. 

Don't forget to check the reading on the hydrometer. (1.085 S.G.)

Now is the hard part.  WAIT.  I know, I know. We need to wait for about 24 hrs before continuing. 

After the 24 hrs. we stir in 1/2 tsp of Pectic Enzyme and then allow the mixture to settle to a complete stop.  We tend to wait to move on for about 20 minutes to make sure that there will be no movement when we add the yeast.

When the mixture is motionless, lightly sprinkle the yeast on top of it.

We typically sprinkle half of the packet in right away, and then save the other half for the next morning. Not sure if this really matters, but I have found that it creates a more even layer of foaming from start to finish.
Now it's time to WAIT again. This is the PRIMARY FERMENTATION PROCESS. This usually takes anywhere from a few days to a week on average.

Within 12-24 hours, you will see the mixture begin to foam violently. 
Every other day, give the mixture a slow stir to make sure that the yeast is activating throughout the bucket.
The foaming is created as the yeast multiplies and feeds on the sugars.

Eventually the violent foaming will subside and it is time to rack the mixture for SECONDARY FERMENTATION.

Place the Secondary fermentation carboy on a lower level than the Primary fermentation bucket for siphoning purposes. Make sure that the Mixture is well settled before beginning the siphon.

Siphon the mixture into the carboy slowly. Having a hose which is long enough to reach the bottom of the container will help prevent too much movement and air being introduced into the mix. (Air is our enemy because it can introduce bacteria. It is also helpful to add another campden tablet to the carboy before siphoning.

Leave a little bit of room for some small foaming in the carboy and then place an air lock on it. The air lock should not allow for air to go into the container, but should allow a lot of gasses to be released.

As the smaller foaming comes to a halt, you can top off the secondary carboy with either water, or some of the primary mixture which you have thoughtfully placed in an airtight container in the fridge just for this purpose.
By the way, you can taste the wine at any stage. Although sediment may be floating in it, this sediment is "yeast". Yeast can be safely consumed, therefore you may drink the happy juice.

The secondary fermentation may take anywhere from a month to a few years, but it can be bottled as early as you would like, as long as there are no gases escaping from the air lock.
If you bottle it to early, the pressure inside of the bottle can cause it to explode.

You may choose to rack the wine another time for clarity purposes. We did it once more before bottling.
But by all means, wine will always benefit from aging in bulk. So leaving it in the carboy longer is always better. 

TIP: if using cork stoppers when bottling, or if you receive a bottle with a cork in it instead of plastic, store the bottles on their sides to prevent the cork from drying out and letting air inside.

Also, Homemade Wine is typically more potent than that of your store bought wines. (Ours is around 20% alcohol) 

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