Batch Size Preference?

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varano14

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Just curious what all your thoughts/strategies are on batch size, especially when trying something new. Do you go small and just do 1 gallon as a test. Say screw it and go right to the size of your biggest carboy? Something in between?

I ask because when making something like a country fruit wine or a wine from grapes the only limiting factor is getting your hands on the fruit. I would like to try a few different DB variations with different fruits but am torn on how much to make. Mostly because for some fruits like apple I keep reading you need to age it 1 year plus. I would hate to age 1 gallon for a whole year only for it to be a hit and have to wait all over again.

So if your experimenting with something new what amount do you make and what is your reasoning?
 

winemaker81

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For me it's a trade-off. My confidence in the recipe vs. how much of that wine I want vs. what ingredients I have. Let's say I got a bunch of kiwi fruit. I'd probably make a 3 gallon batch if I had enough fruit. I have little doubt the wine would turn out fine, but I'd question how much kiwi wine I'd want to have.

IME the best way to make a stellar wine is to only make 1 gallon, as it's gone so far. 😉
 

BernardSmith

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I think that the volume sizes are very much a personal issue. Me? I like to try my hand with as many different fruits and honeys as I can find but I may not like the result, NOT because I made a poor wine but because the flavors may not be worth swallowing five or six gallons. So I make a single gallon and if I like the result I may make 3 or 5 or 6 gallons. But a wine that I know and love I plan on making five or six gallons
But here's the thing: for those just starting off I would urge them to begin with single gallons and would urge them to make a new batch every week. Fifty -two single gallon batches in a year may give you 52 gallons BUT the experience you CAN gain is very different from someone making eight 6 gallon batches in the same time period. We are not commercial wine makers and we don't make wine to put bread on the table...
 

toadie

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It's worth mentioning that the amount of racking, work, etc (except for fruit processing) are relatively the same for 1 gallon and 5 gallon batches. I think a larger batch of DB or even skeeter pee which doesn't have to age as long can be a good buffer of homemade "wine" while you try other (arguably) more interesting things in smaller batches.
 

BernardSmith

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Very true, but then you could use the same argument if you bake your own bread or make your own cheese. Same effort involved in making a 15 lb loaf as a one pound bread... Same effort in making a 50 lb wheel of cheese as a 1 lb... When was the last time you baked a 15 lb loaf just because the effort was the same?
 

varano14

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My eventual plan is pick up some 3 gallon carboys to experiment with. I figure they strike a good balance.

Also the hype is real with DB everyone I know loves the stuff. A family member and her friend both approached me about helping them make there own batches of it. I asked them how much they wanted to make for their first go and they both went straight to a 6 gallon batch.

I had not considered the question of how much kiwi wine would I really want. I tend to think along the lines of most wines can sit around for awhile and most likely only get better so it doesn't matter if I don't drink a ton of one thing. At some point though I think you have a point winemaker81
 

mainshipfred

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I think it depends on your experience level. I'm not the most experienced but feel comfortable enough to make a large batch of anything I want. The only country wines I make are peach and blueberry but other than that it's only wine grape wines. Large is kind of relative, I make 8-10 varietals a year around the 16 gallon mark which I consider large. But others make full and half barrel batches. The reason I chose that size is so I can give it away and still have enough for me to age. Thankfully most turn out way more than drinkable with a few outstanding. I can honestly say I only had to dump 2 batches and they were when I first started and smaller quantities.
 

winemaker81

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Fifty -two single gallon batches in a year may give you 52 gallons BUT the experience you CAN gain is very different from someone making eight 6 gallon batches in the same time period.
Bernard is absolutely right. Winemaking is more of an art than science, no matter how much effort we put into the science. The experience gained by making fifty 1-gallon batches is huge, because of the per batch experience factor. Every wine is different and making the same type of wine again doesn't mean having the same experience or outcome.

At the same time, there is much to be learned from making a 5, 15, or 50 gallon batches that is quite different from those 1-gallon batches, as there is in aging wine in barrels. @varano14, we are not providing any definitive answer to your questions, but I suspect we're providing you with enough POVs to make your own decisions.
 

toadie

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Bernard makes a good point but I do now make 2 loaves of bread. One goes in the freezer and gets the final 15-20 min reheat when I want an almost fresh crusty loaf. Cheers.
 

Raptor99

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I agree with both @BernardSmith and @toadie. This is a very personal decision. In my case, when I started making wine 2.5 years go I went with 1-gallon batches because:
* I had no idea what I was doing and didn't want to waste larger batches if they were bad. (If the fruit was really cheap or free, and I had lots of room, I might have tried larger batches).
* I wanted to try a lot of different things, and making 20 5-gallon batches in a year would be far more wine than we would ever consume
* My wine making space is limited. I bulk age and I don't have room for lots of 5-gallon carboys
* I have a bad back, so I don't want to move 5-gallon carboys around (--> this issue has been resolved now that I have the All in One Wine Pump)
* 1-gallon carboys are easy to get free or cheap

This year I have acquired some 3-gallon carboys. I plan to make larger batches of the wine/cider/mead that I am confident that we will enjoy. It is certainly more efficient to make larger batches. I will continue to make 1-gallon batches of my experiments. I also plan to build a wine room. Once that is finished and I have more room, I will probably move up to some 5-gallon carboys.
 

winemanden

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I think that the volume sizes are very much a personal issue. Me? I like to try my hand with as many different fruits and honeys as I can find but I may not like the result, NOT because I made a poor wine but because the flavors may not be worth swallowing five or six gallons. So I make a single gallon and if I like the result I may make 3 or 5 or 6 gallons. But a wine that I know and love I plan on making five or six gallons
But here's the thing: for those just starting off I would urge them to begin with single gallons and would urge them to make a new batch every week. Fifty -two single gallon batches in a year may give you 52 gallons BUT the experience you CAN gain is very different from someone making eight 6 gallon batches in the same time period. We are not commercial wine makers and we don't make wine to put bread on the table...
A few years back, in Albany NY at a food and wine fair, I asked a winemaker from Finger lakes, after telling him I made wine at home, how he made his Blackberry wine. 'How long have you been winemaking?' he asked. 'About a dozen a year for forty years,' I replied. He looked at me and laughed. 'What the hell you asking me for, I've only done fifteen vintages. You're more experienced than I am!'
 

winemaker81

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He looked at me and laughed. 'What the hell you asking me for, I've only done fifteen vintages. You're more experienced than I am!'
It's a funny story, but the guy is wrong in one respect -- regardless of experience level, we have the potential to learn from each other. As I'm wont to say, I learn something new every week.

Folks, even beginners, will post ideas and actions that are new or updated. I also learn a lot while researching questions people post. Very recently, the instructions in the Finer Wine Kits for creating a yeast starter pushed me to read more about how yeast reproduces, which changed my view on yeasts and starters. I've been making wine for 40 years as well, and many of my long held ideas have changed in just the last 3 years. We should never be too old or too "expert" to learn.
 

varano14

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Thanks for all the opinions so far. I knew posting this that there is no "right" answer. I was more interested in the whys that I may have been overlooking and I couldn't find a similar discussion searching old posts.
 

Rice_Guy

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* the original post was looking at variations in DB, to me this is like being an industry guy and making one or two variations of a spaghetti sauce a day with a standardized one week age on shelf and then picking the winners which might wind up in a preference panel that month. Every ingredient which a vendor suggests is tasted straight to get a feel for what it is like/ what is important in it. , ,,,, ie DB isn’t reinventing the basic technology (TA/ air locks/ carboys/ pH meters/ sugar ), you are only tweaking flavors.
* for home use looking at a new ingredient or flavor combination I will run blends and ratios in a test system. I like to use pies and may do four ratios of peach/ rhubarb or ginger/ dandelion or crabapple/ dandelion or elderberry/ concord before I start a must. I am looking for a hedonic sweet spot where aroma, acids, tannin, long flavor notes, sweet flavors are balanced. ,,, sometimes as “Thanksgiving wine” I play with totally different ingredients and it took a dozen pies to come up with the test ingredients in the must (squash/ cranberry/ orange concentrate)
* I also am assigned juice buckets by the vinters club to make demos with which are always a gallon each variable and once the club looks at it, it’s done/ tossed. (it is hard to have quality without a gallon)
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* any wine I do for myself is a “fill the carboy” ,,, five or six or seven gallon. , , , , Every crop of rice had differences such as the farmers were switching to a new variety or it was a late planting year. , , , , , My job as winemakers is to know the basic rules/ technology so we can make 2021 vintage as hedonic as 2020 or even 2010 vintage.
 

winemanden

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It's a funny story, but the guy is wrong in one respect -- regardless of experience level, we have the potential to learn from each other. As I'm wont to say, I learn something new every week.

Folks, even beginners, will post ideas and actions that are new or updated. I also learn a lot while researching questions people post. Very recently, the instructions in the Finer Wine Kits for creating a yeast starter pushed me to read more about how yeast reproduces, which changed my view on yeasts and starters. I've been making wine for 40 years as well, and many of my long held ideas have changed in just the last 3 years. We should never be too old or too "expert" to learn.
Quite right. 60 years now and still learning. Like Dawg said, a blend of old and new.:D
 

RRRwine

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What a great question. One of the factors for me has been the expense of the ingredients. I once came into POUNDS of pineapple for free. I just kept gathering them all up. When it came time to make wine, using the recipe I found online, the ratios worked out to having to use a 36gallon Brute Plastic garbage can for the initial fermentation! Over 36 gallons of pineapple wine I had never tried! It was horrible from day one till the last 5 gallon carboy 6 years later was given up on. It was a hoot, but a 'fruitless' adventure.
 

Steve Wargo

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Just curious what all your thoughts/strategies are on batch size, especially when trying something new. Do you go small and just do 1 gallon as a test. Say screw it and go right to the size of your biggest carboy? Something in between?

I ask because when making something like a country fruit wine or a wine from grapes the only limiting factor is getting your hands on the fruit. I would like to try a few different DB variations with different fruits but am torn on how much to make. Mostly because for some fruits like apple I keep reading you need to age it 1 year plus. I would hate to age 1 gallon for a whole year only for it to be a hit and have to wait all over again.

So if your experimenting with something new what amount do you make and what is your reasoning?
I started off making wine in 1-gallon batches. I'm glad I did. Losing a 1-gallon batch doesn't have the same ouch effect as a 5-gallon batch. Try staring multiple 1-gallon batches at the same time, variations on a theme, or completely in different directions. It allows for blending if required. I named and numbered each batch. Keep meticulous notes on each ingredient, each small addition, and each rack, each taste test. Note the taste testing before fermentation. I kept one bottle from a May 2019 1-gallon batch till now. The one-year taste test bottle was that good. This last from the batch will get consumed next week at a family dinner.
 
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Nebbiolo020

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I work with random grape volumes every year I just get what I get and make it work I don’t really prefer any volume size but I do try to have even numbers so I can fill Carboys up evenly as if I have say 22 gallons then it’s weird cause I need to use 2 1 gallon jugs to store extra wine.
This year I have 21 gallons of Sangiovese, 15 gallons of my blend which is Cabernet franc, Merlot, Malbec. And I will have 30 gallons of Syrah and 3 gallons of Sauvignon Blanc.

That’s just the wine I make at home I work at a winery as well and this year we will produce 3000 cases total of various wines we pressed our first white grapes yesterday and the day before.
 

winemaker81

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I work with random grape volumes every year I just get what I get and make it work I don’t really prefer any volume size but I do try to have even numbers so I can fill Carboys up evenly as if I have say 22 gallons then it’s weird cause I need to use 2 1 gallon jugs to store extra wine.
This illustrates a very clear cut difference in winemaking. I see three very different winemaking styles based upon fruit acquisition: 1) kit wine and concentrate makers who are regimented to a pre-defined batch size (typically 19 or 23 liters). 2) Fruit purchasers who buy (or pick) what they need to produce a given batch size. and 3) fruit pickers who get what they get.

There is no right or wrong here. Each group has a different mindset in how they look at fruit and batch size.
 

Raptor99

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This illustrates a very clear cut difference in winemaking. I see three very different winemaking styles based upon fruit acquisition: 1) kit wine and concentrate makers who are regimented to a pre-defined batch size (typically 19 or 23 liters). 2) Fruit purchasers who buy (or pick) what they need to produce a given batch size. and 3) fruit pickers who get what they get.

There is no right or wrong here. Each group has a different mindset in how they look at fruit and batch size.
Great observation! I fall into group #2.
 

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