Essentials in Home Wine Making Equipment

A History of Wine Production

Eight thousand years ago, grape farmers in the Middle East discovered some very surprising effects were
developing from within their clay vessels of grape juice. Unbeknownst to them, a delightful and naturally-occuring chemical process was changing their juice to a completely new beverage: wine. Since then, wine production has become one of the most treasured, meticulous and rewarding arts of our time. Wine today is often mass-produced; expansive vineyards can produce outrageous amounts of wine each year. In fact, one acre of a successful vineyard’s vines can produce over two thousand bottles of wine!

While most vineyard operators pride themselves in consistent quality amongst all their bottled products, the best way to ensure that the utmost individual care has been taken with your wine is to make it yourself. If Iranians from 6000 B.C. could make wine without the use of complex tools and recipes, any average consumer can make wine today with the collection of tools and materials that are available for a reasonable price. This article gives a few of the essential wine-making tools you will need to create your own delicious wine.

A Fermenting Vessel

The most important piece of equipment, obviously, is the vessel, bucket or container you will use to store the grape juice as it is fermenting. The ideal fermenting vessel will be airtight, as excessive amounts of oxygen can spoil a batch of wine. Vessels should have a latching lid to prevent bacteria-carrying insects to spoil wine. For small, personal batches of wine, the best vessel to use is called a carboy. A carboy is a five to fifteen gallon glass container with a narrow neck. Glass is especially useful for making wine because it does not absorb air and it resists staining, so the vessel may be used again and again. For personal use, a smaller carboy is recommended as the larger varieties are difficult to maneuver when filled with wine. Heavy plastic containers, or even large garbage cans, may be used in place of a carboy, but be certain to poke a hole in the lid to allow carbon dioxide to escape during fermentation.

A Fermentation Trap

Also called an airlock, fermentation traps are essential for wine production. This inexpensive device contains a specially formulated valve and an antibacterial solution that allows carbon dioxide to escape the carboy or plastic container while simultaneously preventing oxygen and airborne bacterias from contaminating the wine. An airlock is either inserted into the neck of the carboy or securely affixed to the hole in the plastic container. As carbon dioxide escapes the airlock, small bubbles will appear in the clear liquid atop the airlock. This bubbling is a great indicator as to when the fermentation process is nearing completion.

Siphoning Tubes, Bottles, and Corks

When fermentation has completed, a serious wine-maker will never pour the freshly made wine into bottles. Pouring the wine into empty bottles results in splashing which adds oxygen to the wine, shortening its lifespan. Siphoning tubes are used to draw the wine from the carboy and place it calmly in the empty wine bottles. Common plastic tubing from a local hardware store can easily be used as a siphoning tube. A corker is also necessary for sealing the filled bottles of wine. Corkers compress the corks, allowing them to be inserted into the neck of the wine bottles where they then expand, creating an air-tight seal. Soaking the corks in wine before insertion will ease this process.

Other Equipment

When the wine-making process is complete, a careful and thorough cleaning of all equipment is necessary. To clean a carboy and old wine bottles, bottle brushes are essential. These brushes have long, twisted wire handles that end in stiff, abrasive bristles.

Wine-making is an ancient, honored tradition. A successful home wine-making endeavor will result in personal satisfaction and a delicious beverage that can last for years.