Apple Wine -- First Ever Wine Attempt

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J-Dewey_1980

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And first timer is an understatement...completely overwhelmed right now as I’ve never made wine of any kind, but I am ready to jump in. I apologize in advance for the ramble. I have probably read TOO many articles and now I feel more overwhelmed than before.

We had a bumper crop of Zestar apples this year that are currently cored, quartered and frozen. My plan is to thaw a bit, run them through a grinder, then run through my apple press. Before I do any of that, I wanted to first share what items I have on hand, and then post some questions for the primary fermentation phase.

Current Equipment/Items:
  • 7.9-gallon fermenting bucket with lid
  • 6-gal. glass carboy
  • Carboy bung
  • Airlock
  • 24" plastic stirring spoon
  • Hydrometer
  • PBW cleaner
  • Double-lever corker
  • Corks
  • Auto-siphon
  • Siphon tubing
  • Bottle filler
  • Bottle brush
  • Mix-stir
  • Bottles
  • Wine yeast (ICV-D47)
  • Yeast nutrient
  • Sodium Metabisulfite
According to the kit, that’s all I need, but the directions that came with it are very vague and not specific to apple wine, so there are many "catch all steps" meant to cover various wines that aren't super helpful it seems. If anyone is willing to hold my hand (please use small words! ), I would be forever grateful.

Questions:
  • Based on my "on-hand" items, is there anything else I need to purchase before starting, or do I have what I need to see this through from first steps to bottling?
  • With a 6-gallon carboy and a roughly 8-gallon fermenting bucket, how much raw juice should I aim for? I assumed the carboy needs to be filled to nearly the top, and understand there will be sediment left behind from initial fermentation that may decrease yield, so 7 gallons of starting liquid?
  • I assume Sodium Metabisulfite is the same as K Meta? If so, is that used for sanitizing equipment but ALSO as an additive? I am confused on that altogether.
  • Do I need to treat the juice in any way before starting?
  • I assume the juice needs to be a certain temp for the yeast to be active? I see some treat with K Meta day one and cover the bucket with a towel, then pitch yeast and cover with a tight-fitting lid on day 2...?
  • How much yeast would I need? 5 gram packet, or more? And how much yeast nutrient?
  • When to stir or not stir? How often?
  • Is there a way to "shut off" fermentation, and am I aiming for a certain reading before I do that? Seems like stage one is regularly 5-7 days?

The more I write the more anxious I seem to get, ha ha. And I still have no idea how to take readings, how airlocks work, etc. Maybe I should stick to fishing 😊

Thanks in advance for any helpful hints to get started. Once it’s time to rack, I am sure I will have a ton more questions. If anyone has the time/patience to jot down a step-by-step guide for phase one (or if that exists on this stie and I just didn’t see it), that would be incredibly helpful to me (and perhaps many other folks).

Thank so much!
 

Ohio Bob

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If your serious about this hobby, and I’m guessing you are, you will need one more 6g carboy for racking into from the first carboy. Also 1g jugs, 1/2g jugs are extremely helpful for storing any excess. Anytime you rack you inevitably end up with less, so you need additional to always keep the carboy topped off.

Kmeta is used to protect the wine, typically 1/4 tsp for 5 or 6 gallon carboys. If used for sanitizing the dose is much higher, read the package for instructions.

I wouldn’t estimate how much juice to make, I would prepare to have carboys and jugs for the potential juice I could make. You may even need an additional 8g fermentation bucket. They should probably be filled to 80% to avoid any foam over. After filling the buckets with raw juice, add 1/4 tsp kmeta and cover with a loose lid, or towels, take precautions against fruit flies, traps, etc. wait for 24 hours to allow th Kmeta to work. Measure the SG and record that data.

But at this same time start some yeast in a starter, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp yeast nutrient, like Go Ferm. Add the yeast, allow to hydrate, give a few swirls to mix it, cover with paper towel, place next to the fermentation buckets, so it is at the same temperature as the juice. After 24 hours give the yeast another swirl and pour slowly into the juice. Do not stir for another 24 hours, cover with a loose lid or towel. After 24 hours start stirring, twice a day. At day 2 you might want to start checking the SG. When it gets to 1.020 or below, rack it to a carboy, or a bucket with a sealable lid and put on the airlock.

Airlocks fit into a carboy or bucket in a rubber stopper. Vodka or Everclear is typically used to fill the airlock. There should be lines on the airlock to determine how much to fill it. Water is generally avoided as it can grow weird things if not changed monthly(?). One advantage is the high proof liquid will kill fruit flies that find their way into the airlock.

Stopping a fermentation is possible, but it’s much more easier to let the juice ferment totally dry, then back sweeten.

1 package of 5 grams of yeast is good for 5-6 gallons of juice. Read the instructions on any yeast nutrient you decide to use. There are also nutrients to use when the SG gets to about 1.060 (1/3 sugar depletion). Not mandatory but gives yo a better chance of success.
 

BigDaveK

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You asked a lot. That's fine - don't stop asking. @Ohio Bob gave you a lot of good info.

MoreWine has some good beginner manuals:


Sodium metabisulfate and k-meta are different. The "k" is the chemical symbol for potassium.

You'll find that wine making is not that complicated. Remember, you don't make wine. You're providing the yeast with a happy little world so they will make wine. Gotta keep the yeast happy and content.

Welcome to WMT and good luck!
 

Jovimaple

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Welcome to WMT!

The first batch is always a doozy. Remember that patience is key! And asking questions is good. The members of this site are remarkably helpful and welcome questions. Everyone wants you to make good wine!

I made a 1 gallon batch of apple from Honeycrisp apples last year. Checking my notes, I see that the recipe called for acid, pectic enzyme, and tannin to be added. Here is what I did for 1 gallon (note - if I were doing it today, I would try to use more or all juice and not so much water, but this was one of my first batches - also, I would make more than 1 gallon in order to have enough to fill the carboy after the lees fall out, and finally, I don't boil the sugar in water anymore - I just stir it in):

Approx 7 1/2 lbs Honeycrisp apples, chopped
Approx 5 cups (2 lbs) sugar, boiled in 4 cups water
Additional 12 cups of warm water = 1 gallon total
Add'l 6 oz sugar stirred in before yeast to raise s.g. to 1.081
1 tsp yeast nutrient
1+ tsp acid blend
1/2 tsp pectic enzyme
1/2 tsp tannin

According to my notes, I used 1 crushed campden tablet, which is either sodium- (Na-meta) or potassium-metabisulfite (K-meta). I use potassium (K-meta) because I've read that it's not desirable to add sodium (the Na in Na-meta) to the wine. But I believe the 2 can be used interchangeably. 1 campden tablet is enough for 1 gallon of must; the powdered kmeta I buy says use 1/4 tsp for 5 to 6 gallons. Adding kmeta before fermentation kills any wild yeast and other nasties; you will want to mix this into your must 12-24 hours before pitching your yeast. Stirring the must before adding the yeast gets additional oxygen (which the yeast need to reproduce) and also gets rid of the lingering kmeta so that the yeast you WANT to reproduce can do so.

It's generally recommended that you ferment to dry (when the hydrometer reads under 1.000 and is stable for 3 days in a row). Some people will rack to the carboy and put it under airlock at a specific gravity of 1.100 or below. I generally end up procrastinating and don't rack until it's down to about .995 or below. Once it's stable (same specific gravity reading for 3 days in a row), I add another dose of kmeta which protects against oxidation, and at some point I also add potassium sorbate if I'm going to backsweeten the wine. Most non-grape wines benefit from at least a little backsweetening. Kmeta + potassium sorbate is birth control for the yeastie beasties, because when I eventually add more sugar to backsweeten, I don't want fermentation to start up again.

So . . . your shopping list additions:
- Acid
- Pectic enzyme
- Tannin (you can add tannin using black tea or crabapples, but for your first wine you may just want to buy the packaged wood tannin powder)
- Potassium sorbate (this expires in a year or so, so buy it as you need it rather than buying it bulk)
- Potassium metabisulfite unless you don't care about adding the sodium version
- A test jar or wine thief can make it easier to measure the specific gravity, especially when there's not enough liquid in the fermenter for the hydrometer to float - remember to always sanitize the test jar/wine thief (and hydrometer) so that you can dump your sample back into the must when you're done measuring the specific gravity
- A second hydrometer and test jar or wine thief for when you break the first one at an inopportune time (personal experience here)
- A second carboy (while this is not strictly necessary because you CAN rack back into a cleaned fermenting bucket, then clean the carboy, then rack back into the carboy . . . having a second carboy makes it much easier and also lessens the exposure to air during the racking process)

You never should bottle cloudy wine. Time will clear most wines, but if you want to speed up the process, you can get products that will help:
- SuperKleer which is Kieselsol and Chitosan (you can buy the K & C separately, as well) - follow dosage instructions on the packaging
- Bentonite - this is a clay that kit makers often include with instructions to mix into the must before starting fermentation. It can also be used post fermentation to help clear.

One other note - I have started labeling all my additives with the date that I buy them, so that I can make sure they're still good when I need them.

Good luck and happy fermenting!
 
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Rice_Guy

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Welcome to wine making talk.

Apple cider / apple wine are traditional products, so you have what you need and some like the auto siphon that i must have but never bother to use.
Pectic enzyme is used for the cosmetic purpose of reducing cloud, ,, but if you look at ciders half of them are cloudy, ,, ignore it
My answer on sorbate is to age Wine at least nine months, or let it dry then skip it. If less than nine I assume live yeast and use it. (sorbate can produce bubble gum {ethyl sorbate} and geranitol {MLF bacteria} off flavors)
Volume? My ferment is usually six gallons if I have a six gallon carboy, ,,, plus one or two half gallon milk jugs of cider in the freezer. This is used for topping off after I rack at a month, or if I need a pint more when I rack out of the primary.
If you have lots of juice you can freeze then thaw to drain off the high sugar fraction. A club member is dealing with a high 1.110 concentrate (ice wine).

Most of all remember that apple is traditional and worked 100 years ago without all the modern tools/ tricks.
 
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ChuckD

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@J-Dewey_1980
I have a bushel of Zestar in the cellar waiting for me to find some time. A wine or cider will benefit from a variety of apples including some crabs or other sour or bitter apples. I plan on visiting some local orchards to see if I can pick up another bushel of “wine apples”. Seconds can be had pretty cheap too.
 
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@J-Dewey_1980, welcome to WMT!

I'm going to let you in on a secret -- all our members made a first batch of wine at some point, all survived it, and you will, too! :)

Relax! Winemaking is actually easy. You are doing the wisest thing possible -- looking for help before you start. Dave pointed you to the MoreWine! manuals -- skim the white wine manual. That will give you an overview of the process.
 

J-Dewey_1980

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Wow! Thank you so much, everyone, for such great and detailed advice. I surely do appreciate you taking the time to share your wisdom! That's what I love about true forums like this--they really do serve to educate and inspire (that hasn't been my expereince on FB groups where it seems to be a bash fest instead).

Thanks, again! I am sure I will have more to ask as we go along :)
 

montanaWineGuy

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I've been making wines now for a good number of years. The idea of becoming a world famous wine maker are gone. Never a real thing, but even the small inkling is gone. With that in mind I have scaled back the complexity of the process.

Water, sugar, juice, yeast, and that IS IT! Simple, inexpensive and good enough. And good enough means better then I can buy at >$7 or $8 at the grocery store, and better then I can get thru those promotional deals at NakedWines, and others.

And lastly don't worry about taste. You'll fix all that before bottling.
 
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cherry-bon

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And first timer is an understatement...completely overwhelmed right now as I’ve never made wine of any kind, but I am ready to jump in. I apologize in advance for the ramble. I have probably read TOO many articles and now I feel more overwhelmed than before.

We had a bumper crop of Zestar apples this year that are currently cored, quartered and frozen. My plan is to thaw a bit, run them through a grinder, then run through my apple press. Before I do any of that, I wanted to first share what items I have on hand, and then post some questions for the primary fermentation phase.

Current Equipment/Items:
  • 7.9-gallon fermenting bucket with lid
  • 6-gal. glass carboy
  • Carboy bung
  • Airlock
  • 24" plastic stirring spoon
  • Hydrometer
  • PBW cleaner
  • Double-lever corker
  • Corks
  • Auto-siphon
  • Siphon tubing
  • Bottle filler
  • Bottle brush
  • Mix-stir
  • Bottles
  • Wine yeast (ICV-D47)
  • Yeast nutrient
  • Sodium Metabisulfite
According to the kit, that’s all I need, but the directions that came with it are very vague and not specific to apple wine, so there are many "catch all steps" meant to cover various wines that aren't super helpful it seems. If anyone is willing to hold my hand (please use small words! ), I would be forever grateful.

Questions:
  • Based on my "on-hand" items, is there anything else I need to purchase before starting, or do I have what I need to see this through from first steps to bottling?
  • With a 6-gallon carboy and a roughly 8-gallon fermenting bucket, how much raw juice should I aim for? I assumed the carboy needs to be filled to nearly the top, and understand there will be sediment left behind from initial fermentation that may decrease yield, so 7 gallons of starting liquid?
  • I assume Sodium Metabisulfite is the same as K Meta? If so, is that used for sanitizing equipment but ALSO as an additive? I am confused on that altogether.
  • Do I need to treat the juice in any way before starting?
  • I assume the juice needs to be a certain temp for the yeast to be active? I see some treat with K Meta day one and cover the bucket with a towel, then pitch yeast and cover with a tight-fitting lid on day 2...?
  • How much yeast would I need? 5 gram packet, or more? And how much yeast nutrient?
  • When to stir or not stir? How often?
  • Is there a way to "shut off" fermentation, and am I aiming for a certain reading before I do that? Seems like stage one is regularly 5-7 days?

The more I write the more anxious I seem to get, ha ha. And I still have no idea how to take readings, how airlocks work, etc. Maybe I should stick to fishing 😊

Thanks in advance for any helpful hints to get started. Once it’s time to rack, I am sure I will have a ton more questions. If anyone has the time/patience to jot down a step-by-step guide for phase one (or if that exists on this stie and I just didn’t see it), that would be incredibly helpful to me (and perhaps many other folks).

Thank so much!
I read this and this is exactly me haha. Had to check myself getting so stressed over wine making. Hope yours works out.
 

cherry-bon

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So far, so good! It seems each time I do a new step and it doesn't end in disaster, my comfort level grows. Best of luck to you, too!
Thanks. My first step was a bit of a disaster because I left the lid on tight so nothing happened at all. Then I added yeast & still left lid on and luckily a kind person on here told me the lid shouldn’t be on but just a cloth 😅my partner did tell me it needed oxygen but I didn’t listen 🙈
 

BigDaveK

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Thanks. My first step was a bit of a disaster because I left the lid on tight so nothing happened at all. Then I added yeast & still left lid on and luckily a kind person on here told me the lid shouldn’t be on but just a cloth 😅my partner did tell me it needed oxygen but I didn’t listen 🙈
Actually, @cherry-bon, there's enough free oxygen in the must and headspace to get things going. Some recipes advise putting everything under airlock immediately. In fact, 3 of my earliest wines were under airlock immediately because I was following a recipe and they fermented just as quickly as my ferments under a towel.
With more experience and an increased comfort level you'll find that it's difficult NOT to make wine.
 

J-Dewey_1980

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Update on my batch--just completed day 8 of primary. At the peak, I was getting a bubble every 1-2 seconds. A few days ago, it slowed to 8-10 seconds, then 15, then 30, and so on. Today there is not noticeable movement in the airlock. I know that doesn’t necessarily mean primary fermentation is done, but is that a good indicator to test the gravity again? What am I looking for, and how many days do I leave it now before racking to secondary?
 

J-Dewey_1980

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Since it's already under airlock, I wouldn't bother racking again until the specific gravity is 1.000 or lower and stable for 3 days in a row.

Thanks, Jovi. At this stage, if I use a wine thief to grab a sample for a gravity test, is it okay to put that sample back in (using santized equipment, of course) or do you typically discard that sample? Or consume it? :)
 

Jovimaple

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Thanks, Jovi. At this stage, if I use a wine thief to grab a sample for a gravity test, is it okay to put that sample back in (using santized equipment, of course) or do you typically discard that sample? Or consume it? :)
As long as the equipment is sanitized, always put the sample back in (although I do sometimes save a little bit out to sample).
 

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