I'm going to document my winemaking start to finish. Mustang grape season is now (Central Texas). Historically july 4th is mustang grape picking season. On a sidenote, Mothers Day coincides with native blackberries.
We pick the clusters, stem included. 5 gallons of grapes is needed to make 5 gallons of wine. DO NOT WASH THE GRAPES. The yeast is on the skin. You can adjust up or down from there based on your batch size. The only other ingredient is 10 pounds of sugar for the 5 gallon batch. Next year I will substitute honey for the sugar, making my wine 100% homegrown.
I would guess it takes 2 hours for 2 people to collect 5 gallons. Picking clusters vs individual grapes helps a lot with the pain. The grapes are very acidic and you will itch from picking just the berries. Its not enough to stop the picking, but you will feel it.
After you have the quantity desired, break them up. I used a brick cause thats what I had. A 2x4 or baseball bat would be preferable so that your hand doesn't dip into it which will cause you to itch. The pics show the decrease in volume from the crushing.
After they are crushed, place a towel over the bucket. The yeast is on the skin so no yeast needs to be added. This is the first ferment. It will start bubbling and can become violent(expand). You want plenty of head space in the container. Normal house temperatures should suffice.
You will let this sit for 2 weeks. If it gets mouldy, remove the mould and move on to the second fermentation.
Ive been gone for 3 days. What a difference. It is bubbling like crazy. I pushed some skins aside and snapped this pic. It hardly represents the action going on. The volume in the bucket is taller as the bubbles push up the grapes. The aroma also. You can smell the grape alcohol scent in the bubbles.
At this point, if you are not getting bubbles, i would say to collect the juice, start the second ferment by adding yeast. Since adding yeast would be needed, you could even slow boil it to kill any bacteria. In my case the natural yeast is working so im sticking with my basic plan for a country wine.
Time to get the juice. We dont obsess about this. Some people use cheesecloth, or bags from tshirts that they squeeze it through. The mucus type juice clogs these up quickly. Its a chore.
Instead i drop some into a double sieve. I'll grab the skins, wring them out like i am making a snowball, then throw the skins in my compost bucket. I use a rubber spatula to push the rest of the juice through.
After it is all processed, i pour the liquid through the strainer one more time. The bucket is slightly more than half full. Lets call it 2.5 gallons from 7 gallons of grapes wirh stems.
Oh, at this point the acidity is gone. No itching from wringing out the skins.
2 pounds of sugar per gallon of picked grapes. My 7 gallons of pick grapes needs 14 pounds of sugar. Using measuring cup (16 fluid oz) per pound is fine. Especially when rounding past a full bag. I did 10 pound bag plus 8 cups to get 14 pounds.
Add water to bring total to 1 gallon per gallon of picked grapes. 1:1. This will be done later when everything is added to fermenter.
I choose to make a simple syrup so that all the sugar is dissolved. Use non chlorinated water as chlorine can kill the yeast. If this is your only choice, boil it and let it sit overnight so it can dissipate. I use rainwater. My goal is total homestead wine, all ingrediants come from my place. Next year I'll have honey available instead of store bought sugar.
Picture is syrup in progress. EVERYTHING must be cooled to room temperature before adding it to the juice as the heat can kill the yeast.
Next step is to add the juice, the sugar (syrup or honey), and enough non chlorinated water to get the final volume. 7 gallons in my case.
You will need a fermenter with an air lock. I use the fastfermenter and will highlite its benefits and faults.
The basic process of fermenting is the yeast eats the sugar. The byproduct is alcohol and co2 that bubbles out. You want the co2 to bubble out, but not let air in.during this process dead yeast and small bits will settle on the bottom. The normal process is to periodically siphon the liquid from one container to another, holding the siphon above the sediment so it stays behind. The fast fermenter has a ball valve and bowl that collects the sediment. Periodically you just close the valve, unscrew the bowl, and dump it out. Pretty ingenious! Once you understand the concept, you might be able to do the same with other containers. How about a glass sun tea container wirh a bottom spigot, just open the valve. Or a restaurant sized Stainless steel tea or coffee vessel.
Another advantage of the fastfermenter is the spigot. You can sample the wine at anytime. In the beginning, the samples will have "floaties" that will quickly settle to the bottom. Just wait till it settles then sample it. The wine is done when there is no more floaties. It is live yeast. Although you can drink it sooner. Let your taste buds decide. For wine started in july, it is generally ready at Christmas. There is no hurry though, it gets better with more time.
The lid size is nice for filling the container. Most fermenters are glass gars (1,5,or6 gallon) with cork sized holes on top. Filling requires a funnel.
The only downfall with it is i can't get a tight airlock. The air escapes from around the lid and not through the airlock. I have noticed that they changed from a flat gasket in the lid to a food grade silicone o-ring so the problem may be resolved.
Here is a link to the FastFermenter. Purchasing from this link will help support permies.com
Im waiting for everything to cool to get it in the fermenter. Sanitation needs to be addressed. In the past i would use bleach to clean everything (bucket, fermenters, air lock, wine bottles etc. If not fully rinsed out the bleach can kill the yeast. I found a product called star-sans. It uses acid to sanitize. Its concentrated, 1 oz of it to 5 gallons of water. After cleaning with soap and water, i use this in a spray bottle to coat all surfaces, then let it drip out. It does sud, and some stays behind in bottles, but thats ok. Its an acid and will dilute when filled with wine.
Thanks for sharing all of this! It is great to see each step along the way. One day I'm hoping to try making my own wine. Would the process be similar for making say elderberry wine or other similar drinks not from grapes? I'm a complete novice when it comes to fermentation.
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I'm trying to keep this basic, but yes, the steps are the same. If its not hand picked, you will likely add your own yeast. You can take a store bought bottle of grape juice, bring it up to room temperature, add yeast and an airlock to the container it came in, and you'll have wine soon. Its that easy.
I'll be discussing what i know about dry wine, sweet wine soon. Choosing the outcomes of this would be the next progression and can add some steps.
The wine is a sweet country wine. Some wine is dry. Dry wine is the result of the yeast eating all the sugar. This may be confusing, but let me try to explain it.
Your juice (fruit, water, sugar) has the "potential" to make x% of alcohol. As an example, my reading from a hydrometer shows that it has the potential to make 14% alcohol. The type of yeast determines how much sugar is left behind after ferment. Lets say we put yeast in thats good for 10% alcohol. Thats the point when the yeast starts to die, it cant survive in a higher alcohol content. So you end up with sugar left in the wine, since the yeast dies before it eats all the sugar.
Another way to get a sweet wine is to kill off the yeast. Sample it till you like the taste. A cambden tablet is dropped in to kill the yeast. I do not use them as i keep it as natural as i can. If you refrigerate it without using the Camden tablet, the yeast activity will slow down or stop.
You can also sweeten it on the backend. If the wine has aged adequately, and it is dry, you can add sugar to it until it suites your taste. This can be problematic if keeping it natural. This will give the yeast more sugar to eat. If its bottled, the corks can pop. There are workarounds. Like refrigetating at this point. This will slow or stop the yeast from eating.
Brew houses sell sweeteners that dont have sugar, so the yeast cant eat it. I have never done this. I guess stevia or those pink packets would work. My goal is homestead produced wine.
At some point, i transfer my wine into 1 gallon jugs with an airlock. When im ready to drink it, i move 1 gallon into the frigerator. I will sweeten it at this time if it is dry. The other 5 or 6 jugs are left at room temperature, to continue aging. The last gallon will be better than the first.
But the recipe i am outlining results in a sweet drinkable wine. Natural yeasts on the skins generally provide a lower alcohol content so some sugar will stay behind.
Some people will mix this wine with sprite if they want a bubbly drink. I like it just as it is.
To fully finish the wine, you generally wait till no sediment collects on the bottom for 6 weeks. The yeast (sediment) can be killed off with camden tablets but i prefer to keep it natural. At some point i will tranfer a gallon into a glass jar and keep a water trap on it. I put it in the fridge and occasionally fill a glass for consumption. Refrigeration significantly slows the yeast so very little sediment will form. Keeping the water trap (or a loose top) on it prevents it from building pressure and exploding.
The last gallon always seems better than the first because its continuing to age.
Another year. Back at it again. One difference i am doing vs last year is measuring the juice. The original recipe i linked to said the goal is 6 quarts of juice. With my 5 gallon bucket i had 5 quarts. So i cut back the batch to like 4.25 gallons. Lowered sugar by same percentage.
Doing this should give me consistency year to year and as well as fine tune the recipe.
We have 4 people making wine this year. One is my brother. He said he googled "mustang wine recipe" and this thread was on the first page of searches. He got a kick out of seeing my name. Lol. His tastes better than mine each year. Mine being more watered down, but i think i have it solved this year.