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Winemaking Tutorial - Lesson Three

Mix the Must and Add Yeast

Now it's time to start putting some of the ingredients together. We won't use all of them right now, but we will soon!

  1. Take a quick peek at your wine kit ingredients and see if you have an oak chip infusion bag... it looks a lot like an overgrown tea bag with oak chips inside. Some kits have this item. If yours does, go ahead and start steeping the bag of chips in hot water as described in step #9 below. This will save you some time.
  2. Add 4 liters (just over 1 gallon) of warm non-chlorinated water to the primary fermenter. Stirring constantly, slowly add the Bentonite to the water until it is dispersed.
    Hint: As you'll see in our winemaking video, we recommend you hold back about a pint (roughly 500 ml) of warm water from the 4 liters of water mentioned above and use this water in a sanitized blender to mix up the bentonite instead of trying to mix it up in the bucket with a spoon. We say this because bentonite is so heavy compared to water that it will tend to clump up unless it is mixed really well. You should start the blender moving with only water in it, and then add the bentonite to the swirling water. Once the bentonite has been added and is completely suspended in solution, you can safely add it to the bucket followed directly by the addition of the concentrated juice. See below.
  3. Open your wine kit carefully so you do not puncture the pouch that contains the grape concentrate. Open the top with a bottle opener, dull knife or other object, and pour the contents into the sanitized fermenting bucket.
  4. Now take the EMPTY pouch and refill it with hot non-chlorinated water, then pour this into the fermenter. Do this a couple of times until you have rinsed all the concentrate from the pouch.
  5. Continue filling the fermenter with cool non-chlorinated water until you reach the 23-liter level previously marked on the fermenter bucket (see step #1, Lesson Two). If you purchased your fermenter bucket from grapestompers, the 23-liter level is denoted by the raised inside ridge, located approximately 2 1/2" from the top of the bucket.
  6. Stir the mixture (called must) with the sanitized plastic spoon or paddle really well. If you have a Fizz-X mixer, use this instead and save your arm from dropping off!
  7. Now stir it again... remember, stir it really well!
  8. If you have a hydrometer (highly recommended), you should place a sample of must in the test jar and record the initial specific gravity (SG) as well as the temperature. We will be measuring the SG of our wine throughout fermentation to mark our progress. You need to measure the temperature of the must because hydrometers are calibrated for 60° Fahrenheit and a correction should be made to get an accurate reading.
  9. Now add the oak chips, oak powder, raisins, or elderberries (if present in the kit). Elderberries and raisins (or any other dried fruit present in your kit) should be rehydrated in hot water and the entire mixture poured into the must and stirred vigorously. You can also tie your fruit in a sanitized nylon bag for easy removal at the racking phase. If your wine kit includes an oak chip infusion bag (which looks a lot like a big tea bag), soak it submerged in 1 cup of hot water for 10 minutes. Do not open the infusion bag. Add water and infusion bag to the primary fermenter.
    Hint: The directions that come with the wine kit actually tell you to measure the SG after adding these ingredients, but it is much easier to measure the SG without all this extra stuff floating around in your must.
  10. Place the fermenter in a room that will be around 70-75° Fahrenheit. Be sure the fermenter is placed on a high surface (such as a table or workbench) to facilitate racking. Racking wine from a high position to a lower position gives you a greater mechanical advantage. If you place the fermenter on a higher surface now, you won't have to move it later, preventing a possible disturbance of the sediment.
  11. Using a floating thermometer, ensure the temperature of the must is between 70-80° F (20-25° C) before adding yeast.
  12. Now open the yeast packet with a pair of scissors and sprinkle the yeast all over the surface of the must. Try not to get any yeast on the sides of the bucket, and evenly distribute the yeast across the surface of the liquid. DO NOT STIR.
  13. Cover the fermenter by snapping on the lid. Press the lid down hard so you get a good seal. Fill the airlock half-way with water and attach it by sticking it into the hole provided in the top of the lid. Depending upon the size of the hole in the lid, you may have to use your bung to get an airtight seal; otherwise, just stick the airlock into the small rubber-grommetted hole.
    CAUTION: Be careful when inserting the airlock in the grommet. If you push too fast, you might accidentally push the grommet through the hole and into your grape juice!
    OUR HINTS: Slightly moisten the stem of the airlock with water, then slowly work the airlock into the grommeted hole by twisting it back and forth and pushing slowly. You might even consider inserting the airlock into the lid BEFORE you put the lid on top of the wine; that way, even if the grommet is pushed through, at least it won't land in the bucket of juice!
  14. You are now making WINE! Mark the instruction sheet that came with your kit with the appropriate dates and readings to record what you've done so far.
  15. Within 2-3 days the wine will show signs of fermentation. Vigorous primary fermentation is represented by bubbles or foaming. If your wine does not start fermentation with 3-4 days, give us a call at 800-233-1505.


We'll talk more about primary fermentation in our next lesson.

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