In the DEAR MOTHER section of MOTHER EARTH NEWS No. 3, Gary Dunford asked if it’s possible to make wine at home without buying $40 worth of equipment. The answer is yes.
I started making wine with stuff I could scrounge while living in a one room apartment in the city. Following are my own Super Simple directions. They’re guaranteed to drive dedicated winemakers up a wall but they do produce results. Anyway, they’re a beginning and beginnings are the most important part.
You can make wine out of almost any fruit. In fact, you can make it from just about anything that grows. I have used grapes, pears, peaches, plums, blackberries, strawberries, cherries and—my favorite—honey. Honey wine is called Mead. The so-called wine of the gods. It’s cheap, easy and good. Here’s how:
Homemade Wine Recipe
Get a gallon jug, preferably glass but plastic will do. Clean it out good. Smell it. Someone may have kept gasoline in it. Wash the jug with soap (NOT detergent), rinse with baking soda in water and—finally—rinse with clear water.
Put a pint and a half to two pints of honey in the jug (the more honey, the stronger the wine), fill with warm water and shake.
Add a pack or cake of yeast—the same stuff you use for bread—and leave the jug uncapped and sitting in a sink overnight. It will foam at the mouth and the whole thing gets pretty sticky at this point.
After the mess quiets down a bit, you’re ready to put a top on it. NOT, I say NOT, a solid top. That would make you a bomb maker instead of a wine maker.
What you have to do is come up with a device that will allow gas to escape from the jug without letting air get in. Air getting in is what turns wine mixtures into vinegar.
One way to do the job is to run a plastic or rubber hose from the otherwise-sealed mouth of the jug, thread the free end through a hole in a cork and let the hose hang in a glass or bowl of water. Or you can make a loop in the hose, pour in a little water and trap the water in the loop to act as a seal.
Now put your jug of brew away about two weeks until it’s finished doing its thing. It’s ready to bottle when the bubbles stop coming to the top.
Old wine bottles are best. You must use corks (not too tight!) to seal the wine as they will allow small amounts of gas to escape. The wine is ready to drink just about any time.
You can use the same process with fruits or whatever, except that you’ll have to extract the juice and, maybe, add some sugar. You’ll also find that most natural fruit will start to ferment without the yeast and will be better that way.
Once you’ve made and enjoyed your first glass of wine, no matter how crude, you’ll be hooked.
There is nothing more satisfying than doing something yourself. Whether it’s fix your broken boiler, change the oil in your car, or making your own wine – satisfaction and a pat on the back always feels great. If you’re interested in how to make wine from grapes then please continue reading. If you’re more interested in using a DIY wine making kit, we’ve written a comprehensive guide on some of the best that are available.
There are a plethora of different grape types to choose from. Unless you’re planning on importing, this will vary depending on where you live. European countries are home to some of the more famous flavors, but the US has it’s fair share of fantastic grapes.
If you live in a cold climate, you might be hard pressed to source locally grown grapes. However, don’t fret. There are many specially designed grape species that do alright in colder climates. Of course, if you really can’t source local grapes, ordering them to your local produce shop or to your door might be the best option.
Regardless of your grape choice, the equipment and techniques used won’t change. Below we have listed a simple overview of how to make wine from grapes.
How To Make Wine From Grapes
Step 1: Remove the grapes from the stalks.
Step 2: Press the grapes to remove all the juice.
Step 3: Measure the specific gravity of the juice. Pour some juice through a sieve and pour the juice into a testing jar. Test the specific gravity using a hydrometer, it will tell you how much sugar is in the juice and how much you will need to add to get the required alcohol content.
Step 4: Put the crushed grapes into a brewing bucket.
Step 5: Add one crushed campden tablet per gallon of wine.
Step 6: Add the campden tablet to the brewing bucket. The campden tablet will kill any harmful bacteria that is on the grape skins.
Step 7: Cover the brewing bucket and leave for 24 hours for the bacteria to be killed.
Step 8: Make a yeast starter. Pour some boiled water into a glass jar and place the jar into cool water and allow the boiled water to cool. Add a tablespoon of sugar and stir until it is fully dissolved. Next, take wine yeast and add to the sugar solution. Cover to prevent bacteria getting into the yeast and after about an hour or so the yeast will start reacting with the sugar, producing alcohol.
Step 9: Dissolve sugar in boiling water. The exact amount of sugar depends on the specific gravity measured earlier. Stir the sugar until it is fully dissolved in the water. Allow to cool, then add to brewing bucket.
Step 10: Add the yeast starter to the brewing bucket,
Step 11: Cover the brewing bucket and
leave at room temperature,This is called primary fermentation where the yeast reacts with the sugar to produce alcohol,
Step 12: Stir the bucket daily as the grapes will rise to the top of the bucket. They need to be pressed below the surface every day and the mixture stirred.
Step 13: After six days sterilize a second brewing bucket with a campden tablet.
Step 14: Sterilize a piece of muslin cloth. The cloth needs to be about 1 meter square.
Step 15: Empty the bucket and place the cloth over a sieve.
Step 16: Pour the fermented wine from the first bucket through the cloth and through the sieve. The cloth will capture all the grapes but let the juice pass through.
Step 17: Gather the cloth together and squeeze all the juice from the grapes – try and get as much juice as you can.
Step 18: Measure the specific gravity a second time. This will tell you how much sugar you need to add to get the required alcohol content.
Step 19: Dissolve the sugar in hot water and allow to cool before adding into the grape juice. This prevents the juice from burning.
Step 20: Cleanse and sterilize the demijohns using a another campden tablet.
Step 21: Siphon the fermenting wine into the demijohns. This stage of fermentation is called secondary fermentation and it’s less vigorous than the first stage in the bucket.
Step 22: Fit the airlocks and leave until fermentation has finished. Airlocks prevent bacteria getting into the wine.
Step 23: Sterilize and clean your bottles. The wine must not be transferred from the demijohns until all the fermentation is finished. It’s important to note that this could take up to several months, depending on your setup.
Step 24: Siphon from the demijohns into the bottles. When siphoning place the tube low down in the bottle below the level of the liquid. This avoids getting bubbles and air into the wine which could introduce bacteria and spoil it.
Step 25: Cork the bottles, drink and enjoy!
Closing Thoughts On Making Wine
Hopefully this has given you some idea on how to make wine from grapes at home easily. Don’t let the wall of text scare you though, the process is very simple- anyone can do it! If you’d prefer to make wine using a pre-made kit, we’d suggest checking out our guide on some of the best wine making kits that are available online.
We wish you all the best in your wine making adventures.
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Hello there! I’m Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don’t worry, I’m no wine snob—you can also ask me those “dumb questions” you’re too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don’t forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Can I sell my homemade wine? What kind of license do I need to obtain to do that?
The good news is that federal law permits adults to make up to 100 gallons of homemade wine per calendar year if you are the only adult living in the household, and up to 200 gallons if there are two or more adults in the household. The law also allows you to take your homemade wine off premise, “for personal or family use including use at organized affairs, exhibitions or competitions, such as home winemaking contests, tastings or judgings.”
Guess what it says you may not do, under any circumstance? Sell it.
Before you make any wine for commercial purposes, you first need to submit an application to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and get their approval. You’ll need to decide your business structure (as in, are you going to be a bonded winery or a customer at a commercial crush operation?), and submit various applications, including with the IRS (to make sure you’re paying tax on your sales!), labels and a bond to underwrite your payment of federal taxes on your planned wine sales. If you want to turn your home into a legitimate winery, you’ll need to register with the FDA, and there might be state, county and local laws that cover everything from water rights to licensing and distribution guidelines.
If that doesn’t sound complicated enough, this process is currently halted due to the partial federal government shutdown.
I don’t mean to be discouraging, but I want to make sure you know what you’re getting into. There’s much more information at the TTB’s website, including online application forms. Good luck!
It tastes much better than store-bought
Michelle Arnold / EyeEm / Getty Images
Wine vinegars, whether red or white, are a ubiquitous ingredient in salad dressings, sauces, stews, and slow-roasted dishes. And, it is easy enough to pick up a bottle at your supermarket, but, as with most food products, a homemade version tastes better than a mass-produced, store-bought. Homemade wine vinegar will be stronger and more concentrated, with a more delicate, but complex flavor. This will not only improve the taste of your recipes, but homemade wine vinegar also makes a nice gift.
And it’s quite simple to make. (You may have even accidentally made wine vinegar in the past by leaving out an opened bottle of wine too long!) To start, you will need a good-quality wine (red or white) that’s not too strong (about 10 to 11 percent ABV); too much alcohol inhibits the activity of the bacteria that transform the wine into vinegar. On the other hand, if the alcohol content is too low, the vinegar won’t keep well. Depending on how much wine vinegar you’d like to make will determine the method you use.
Make 1 Bottle
The easiest way to make your own wine vinegar is to leave an open, 3/4-full bottle of wine in a warm place for a couple of weeks. It’s really that simple—the natural oxidation process will do all of the work. The only issue you may encounter is fruit flies. To avoid this, place a small piece of cheesecloth over the opening of the bottle.
Make a Steady Supply
To make larger amounts of wine vinegar you will need what is called a “mother” vinegar. This fermenting bacteria culture turns alcohol into acetic acid (in combination with oxygen) and can be purchased as “live” or “mother” vinegar or simply as an unpasteurized vinegar. You can also make your own mother vinegar by combining wine and vinegar and leaving it to ferment.
For a constant supply of vinegar, pour 1 quart (4 cups) of wine and 1 cup of the mother vinegar into a wide-mouthed glass jug with at least 1-gallon capacity. Cover the container with a piece of cheesecloth secured with a rubber band. In a couple of weeks, the live vinegar will have settled to the bottom of the jug, while the vinegar above it will be ready for use. Add more wine as you remove vinegar for use, to keep the level in the jug constant.
Make Large Batches
If you want to make wine vinegar in larger batches, you will need a 1-gallon glass or ceramic cask that has a spigot at one end. If it’s new, rinse it with vinegar and let it dry. Next, fill it to within a couple of inches of the top with wine and place it, covered with cheesecloth, in a location that’s about 68 F (20 C). In a couple of weeks, the wine will be vinegar. Drain it from the cask using the spigot. Replace the vinegar used with more wine, adding it into the cask through a hose or a funnel, so as to leave the mother undisturbed.
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Simple homemade lemon wine is like sipping summertime! This simple recipe only requires a few ingredients, and if you harvest lemons in season during winter the finished lemon wine will be ready just in time for summer.
Citrus, especially lemon, finds its way into all manner of wine recipes. My homemade dandelion wine recipe has quite a bit of citrus added, meaning that it’s really more or less a citrus wine flavored with the floral aromatics of dandelion petals. Why not try skipping all that, and just make a pure, sweet and refreshing lemon wine?
How to Make Lemon Wine
Since this recipe includes whole lemons, both juice, and peel, I’d strongly suggest starting with organic lemons. A full gallon of lemon wine only requires about 8 to 10 lemons, and even at the fancy natural food store that only set me back about $7. Not bad, given that the other ingredients are pretty inexpensive. In total, this homemade lemon wine will cost around $2.50 per bottle even with purchasing organic lemons. If you’ve got free backyard lemons, even better.
Start by slicing the lemons thin and placing them in a large saucepan with the sugar.
Add in either 1 lb of golden sultana raisins or about a quart of white grape juice. The yeasts need something to nourish them, and lemons aren’t exactly full of the correct nutrients to get the job done. You need a sweet fruit to provide micronutrients for the little beasties, and raisins or grape juice are perfect. For this recipe, I suggest golden raisins or white grape juice so that it has less of an impact on the color of the finished wine.
Beyond the grape juice or raisins, the yeasts also need a little bit of yeast nutrient to carry them through to complete fermentation. Roughly 1 teaspoon of powdered yeast nutrient does the job nicely. I’ve also included 1 tsp of pectic enzyme to help the wine clear, but that’s optional and merely cosmetic.
I generally use premier blanc wine yeast in my homemade wines, and that’s a good choice for this lemon wine. Please, whatever you do, don’t add bread yeast. Yeast actually imparts quite a bit of flavor to wine, and bread yeast wines taste…well, like bread. Just don’t do it. It’s only about $1 for a packet of yeast, and it’s well worth the investment. If you’re making more than one batch at a time, a single packet is enough for 5 gallons of wine (dissolved in water and then distributed evenly among the carboys).
I’m using a one-gallon wide mouth fermenter for this batch because I want to leave the whole lemon slices in for the primary ferment. If you’re using a standard narrow neck carboy, filter them out before putting everything into a carboy or you’ll clog up the neck. In that case, juice and zest the lemons instead of slicing them, and discard the rinds.
You can also divide this recipe in half and make a half gallon of lemon wine in a half gallon mason jar with a silicone airlock kit. This recipe works fine with Meyer lemons as well, and the flavor of a Meyer lemon wine is a bit less acidic and slightly warmer to the palate.
Lemon Mead Recipe Variation
Since lemons aren’t exactly high in sugar, this recipe requires about 3 pounds of added sugar to allow the mixture to ferment. If you’d like to try a lemon mead instead, the recipe is the same…simply substitute 3 lbs of honey in place of the white sugar. Keep in mind, honey is quite a bit less fermentable than white sugar and the wine will take a bit longer to brew. Mead also benefits from more time aging in the bottle, and I’d suggest bottle conditioning a lemon mead for at least 6 months (as opposed to 3 for a lemon wine).
A lemon mead would be pretty similar to this rhubarb mead, and you could actually just substitute lemons for rhubarb in the recipe. This particular recipe is a micro-batch mead recipe, which makes just one quart of mead. That might not be a bad idea if you’re trying something experimental.
Similarly, if you want to make just a single quart to see if lemon wine is really your thing, it this recipe can be divided by 4 for a quart batch using this small batch wine method.
I also came across a recipe for a traditional Finnish drink called Sima. It’s a carbonated lemon soda that’s naturally carbonated by letting it ferment with a tiny pinch of yeast for just a few days. They drink it to celebrate new years, which happens in late April in their traditional calendar.
A sweet refreshing lemon wine is the perfect drink for summer.
Have you ever entertained the thought of making homemade wine?
If you have, you probably talked yourself out of it because as we all know, it’s a very difficult process and probably involves a lot of expensive equipment. Or does it?
The fact is, you can make your own wine at home with little instruction and investment. While it will take some care and time, homemade wine making is a money saving, delightful hobby. And it all starts with the grapes…
Making the Must
There are many ways you can create the juice (or must) that will be fermented into wine. The easiest of these is to buy a wine making kit which will contain everything you need to make the desired wine. Since you’re here, however, you’re probably not going that route.
The classic way we all think of is pressing the actual fruit that you are using (it doesn’t have to be a grape wine) into juice. You can do this with a juicer machine, by stomping it, or in any way you can think of to get enough juice out of the fruit. You will normally need a large quantity of fruit for this method.
Wine makers can also choose to buy juice or concentrate. There are plenty of wine making or fruit juices available. Concentrates will need to be diluted with water and should have the instructions on the package. Using purified water is safest.
Fermenting The Juice
Once you have the amount of juice that you are making into wine, put it into your bucket or jug. Now that you have your must in the fermentation container, add your wine yeast by sprinkling it on top.
Primary fermentation usually takes one or two weeks. The wine should froth up some and the yeast will multiply and start converting the juice into alcohol. Make sure your fermentation container has some kind of airlock to allow the CO2 out, without letting foreign substances in.
Secondary fermentation will take another 3 or 4 weeks. your wine should start to clear during this stage and can be racked into another container to help it clear. Just make sure to leave the sediment on the bottom alone.
After this time, you can proceed straight to bottling or you can bulk age your wine longer. Aging reds on oak is a common practice and should be done a minimum of 3 months. Racking the wine off of the sediment from time to time will help it clear further.
The last step in making homemade wine is to bottle and cork your wine. You can technically drink it as well but for best results, age in the bottle a little longer. Use a bottling bucket to fill each bottle very close to the top of the bottle, leaving room for the cork.
Once all the bottles are corked, store them in a cool, dark place on their sides. Storing wine on its side will keep the cork moist and full and keeps sediment far enough away from the cork end of the bottle to prevent spoilage when pouring.
Wine logic’s horizontal design ensures proper storage and by installing racks inside your cabinets, your wine is protected from light degradation from the darkened conditions. Click here to learn more about Wine Logic then join in the conversation.
Making wine is a project that you have to do far before the need for the wine arises. So if you are planning a party for this weekend, you will need to buy your wine. Wine-making in its simplest form is easy and very inexpensive. However, you will not attain the flavor or fine wines from wineries. The easiest wine to make is referred to as balloon wine. This wine takes few ingredients and a little time to prepare, and a month or so to be ready to drink.
Pour thawed juice concentrate into a clean gallon jug using a funnel. You can use an old milk or water jug. Add the water and place the lid on the jug. Shake the jug to mix the juice and the water.
Place the funnel back on the jug and add the sugar. Quickly place the lid back on the jug and shake to mix the sugar. You don’t want the sugar to sink and settle at the bottom of the jug. Shake for a couple of minutes to make sure the sugar is mixed well.
Hydrate the yeast by placing some warm water in a bowl and pouring the yeast in it. Don’t mix the yeast, just allow it to soak up the water for about half an hour. Add 2 tsp. of sugar to the yeast and stir. The yeast should start to foam; once it foams up to about a half inch, it is time to add to the juice.
Pour the yeast into the jug and shake it up again. Make sure to get the yeast mixed into the juice well. Take the lid off the jug and put it where it will not get thrown away. You will need to use it later.
Poke five or six tiny holes in the top of your balloon. Place the balloon over the mouth of the jug and, to better hold it on, wrap a rubber band around the balloon. Tuck the balloon down inside the jug.
Place the jug on a shelf or in a pantry where it will be warm and not have to be moved. Check on it the next day to see if the balloon has started to inflate. You should also notice bubbles coming to the surface and the sound of the gases being released from the small holes in the balloon.
Leave the jug for about two weeks or until the balloon deflates most of the way. Then transfer the jug to your refrigerator and leave it there until the balloon is totally deflated. Take the balloon off at this point and put the lid back on.
Let the wine cool for a few days and then, using a funnel with a coffee filter in it, transfer the wine into another jug or bottles and place the lids on them. The wine is ready to drink but the flavor will continue to improve for months if you don’t drink it right away.
There is nothing more satisfying then uncorking your own, homemade bottle of wine. We give you a brief list of wines and their characteristics, followed by instructions on making your own.
Know Your Wines…
Each variety of grape creates a different flavor for your wine. From deep, full-bodied reds to soft and honeyed whites, every wine has its own personality and with it, a myriad of sensual characteristics. Pick the grapes that best suit the wine characteristics you’re looking for in your own vintage!
Making Homemade Wine | A Step-by-Step “How To”
1. Place bucket for juice in a room at 65-70˚F in order to bring juice up to room temperature.
2. Remove lid from bucket and give the juice a gentle stir for a minute or two.
3. Dissolve 1/4 teaspoon of potassium metabisulfite into 1/4 cup of warm water. Add this to juice. Allow the juice to stand for at least four hours.
4. After four hours, rehydrate wine yeast packet following the instructions on packet. Let the yeast stand for 15 minutes. Add one cup of the juice from the pail to yeast mixture and stir well. Let stand for 10 more minutes. Do not use baker’s yeast for this.
5. Remove about a half-gallon of the juice from the pail using a small pan. This will prevent the bucket from overflowing during the primary fermentation. Place excess juice in a clean vessel.
6. Pour the mixture of yeast and juice into the bucket of juice. Do not stir the juice at this time. Allow the yeast to grow on the surface. Yeast cells will begin to consume the sugars of the juice and convert them to alcohol. Place the lid back on the bucket loosely.
7. Twice a day, gently stir the juice for a minute or two. A good fermentation is indicated by rapid bubbling or foaming in the bucket. After 36 hours, you may add the half-gallon of juice from step 5 back to the bucket of juice. Do this slowly.
8. After seven days, the fermentation will slow down noticeably. Using a clean piece of tubing, siphon the juice into a five-gallon glass carboy. Fill to within two inches from the top.
9. Place an air lock with a rubber bung in to the top of the carboy. Fill the air lock to the line on the side with peroxide. You may also use a solution of water and potassium metabisulfite.
10. The juice that remains in the bucket can be saved in a gallon jug. An air lock should be used here, or you can use a balloon stretched over the neck to keep air from the juice as this continues to ferment. You will need this juice when you “rack” a second time to top off the carboy. It is normal to see sediment in the bottom of the bucket. This should be discarded. Clean and sterilize the bucket for later use.
11. After three weeks you will again transfer the juice “rack” into another container you may use the original bucket here. Do not disturb the sediment in the bottom of the carboy. After you transfer the juice to the bucket clean the sediment from the bottom of the carboy. Use your sterilizing solution after you wash the carboy. Return the juice to the carboy and top off with excess juice. Replace the air lock.
12. In five or six weeks the fermentation will be complete. Remove air lock and add 1/4 teaspoon of potassium metabisulfite to juice. If you see more than 1/8 inch of sediment in the bottom of the carboy you may need to “rack “again. The more you rack the clearer your wine will be.
Note: Always clean everything that comes into contact with your juice and the wine. A good tool is a spray bottle with 1/4 teaspoon of potassium metabisulfite and water—an easy way to sanitize everything after washing.