The problems most common with making homemade wine is when a batch becomes affected by wild yeasts or acetic bacteria.
Acetic bacteria is the common reason how alcohol becomes converted into acetic acid. Acetic acid is what is found in vinegars so if you have had trouble in the past with your homewines turning to vinegar – now you have the culprit. Fixing the problem is another story because, sadly, acetic bacteria is present in the air all around us.
The same is true of wild yeasts and fungi spores. In homemade wine making, these culprits will turn your batch flat in flavor and even sour tasting.
If you’ve started your homemade wine making using fresh fruit or berries from the garden, supermarket or fruit stand, you’re most likely to run into these troubles. This does not mean that you can’t use fresh fruit or berries, nor does it mean that by doing so you’re always going to have problems. This also does not mean that the fruit or berries are always the troublemakers – sometimes it is the water that causes all the trouble.
While wine that has turned on you might not be harmful to your health – it certainly is not a desirable outcome to all your hard work – so let’s be sure to clear away all possibilities of spoilage before we begin our foray into homemade wine making.
I’ve said it before on other pages, but it bears repeating here: Cleanliness is one of the largest components to making homemade wine.
Once everything has been sterilized – the fruit, water, bottles, fermentation bucket, transfer tubing, corks and more, you’ll also want to keep your fermenting wine tightly covered and sealed from the surrounding air.
Covering a wine must in a jar is easy. The moment you add yeast to the mixture, is the time to seal the bottle, carboy or jar. You can do this with a tight fitting lid, saran wrap or a professional bung that tightly seals your vessel.
It is true that the most superior system you can have – certainly for keeping out bacteria and wild yeasts – is a wine carboy with a bung corker. The last time I checked you could get both for under $30. The bung stopper is also called a fermentation lock.
Another reason for a tight fitting fermentation lock in homemade wine making is to prevent all outside air from reaching the wine. Fermentation locks may have a liquid inlet. This is used as a barrier to air and an easy release for the gas your wine must makes. Many people use a sterilizing agent as the liquid in the fermentation lock. If you don’t have a sterilizing solution for wine on hand, crush a campden tablet in boiled water and use that.
Another advantage of having a fermentation lock in use is that it becomes very easy to see when fermentation of your homemade wine has ceased. During fermentation you’ll notice bubbles passing through the lock – you can see and hear them. When fermentation stops or slows to one bubble per day (or so), you should shake or twist the carboy to stir up any last yeast particles. At this point final fermentation begins and only another day or two will need to pass before you can move onto the next phase.
Remember, the whole concept behind using a fermentation lock is to keep the harmful airborne particles from contaminating your wine. Ensure that the bung and lock are airtight. If they are not, the gas leaking out may prevent air reaching the wine during the early stages, but as the process slows air could easily reach (and spoil) your wine.
Clearing Your Homemade Wine
The next step is in ‘clearing’ your homemade wine. Depending on the recipe you used this could be done instantly or naturally; within a week to 10 days. I will cover this process fully in the next article as this one is getting a little long, but if you’ve ordered a kit, don’t worry, the wine making supplies you’ll need (including those for clearing) will all be included. Kits for making wine at home make the process simple and affordable.
These starter kits come with an ingredient and materials pack to include all the supplies you’ll need such as campden tablets, air locks, bungs and carboys.