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Sep 24, 2016
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Hello all. So not really a wine drinker how ever always had an interest in making homemade wine. I'm studying up on the lingo and getting the basic concept down. I plan to live on this forum and get all the help I can get. My plan is to make fruit wine mostly . As of now plans are for a kit type deal to start off. However I want a complete kit with quality pieces. Any recommendations? 2nd I live in South East Ga . It's hot and humid most of the yr. Will this have any effect on what I need to do for a good wine? Lastly all the steps and tasks seem kinda overwhelming. However I like a challenge and want to make some really good wine. So anyone got beginner tips tricks, do donts or any advice please chime in. Thanks a lot for the help.
If fruit wine is your goal - I'd start with a fruit wine starter kit (no juice just the materials and chemicals you need.) Along with that I'd purchase a pH meter or TA test kit. Your best bet is to find a local brew shop to set you up with those extras. I started with the Master Vintner Fresh Harvest 1 Gallon Fruit Winemaking Kit added in another bucket and 4 x 1 gallon carboys.

The reason I recommend that kit is that it has all the basic chems and instructions as well as recipes for a wide variety of fruit wines. (The fruit quantities listed should be boosted about 50% (use 6 pounds of fruit if they recommend 4 pounds) Otherwise that kit will get you started. That local brew shop should either have that kit or one like it. OR you can piece it all together - but the kit saves you few bucks and gets you all the basic items.
As for your location - Need a cool place for aging and perhaps starting your wine. Room temp should be low to mid 70s tops for fermentation. (over 80 will cause issues potentially.)

Oh yeah, one more thing you will need lots and lots of..... P A T I E N C E. Biggest problem beginners have is trying to rush things. Even solutions need to be given some thought before taking action. Turn-around time for answers on this board are really pretty good so you can usually get lots of help here if you think you made a mistake. So again be patient and as you seem ready to do - absorb info from the folks on this board. It's been a life saver to me and a reassurance that in most cases, errors can be corrected and that there is most often more than one way to get from start to finish with good results.

WELCOME to the Fruit Wine makers - And look at that thread for more specific Fruit wine questions and answers.

Oh yeah - Pick a simple fruit for your first wine. Avoid the problem children like apples and persimmons they tend to require some work to press and clear (apple) and persimmon apparently is a bit quirky. My favorite is peach but it might be a bit late for fresh peaches but Frozen peaches do work though. You can start with a canned concentrate from the various wine juice suppliers - they will be free of additives that might be in regular canned, bottled or frozen juices from local grocery stores. I'm sure you'll here from lots of folks pro and con that idea but that's what this board is all about - sharing ideas.
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Hi Armyvet,

Good points from Scooter.

As far as the heat of SE GA, you will probably early on want to learn how to keep the ferment cool. Here is a pic of a small batch I'm fermenting right now. The bucket goes in a larger bucket with water as high as the level of the must, then toss in ice packs. Good, simple way of doing it for small batches. Otherwise you'll need dry ice.

At your local brew shop you can get cans of fruit concentrate. This is a good way to go to start. If not using a recipe post your plan here BEFORE you start and you will get good feedback.

A few other pearls that took me too many years to learn:
Get a good pH meter. pH is so much easier to check than TA and many folks here (including myself) feel that for fruit wines it is more important. Milwaukee MW102 is a good one, worth every penny.
Graduate ASAP beyond Keller's recipes. Lots of people start with Keller's recipes which is fine. But those recipes have issues which you can read about here in other threads.
Skip acid blend for fruit wines. Acid blend has lots of malic acid which is rather harsh. Get citric and tartaric separately and use one or the other or a blend. Lists of fruit acids here and here.

Just jump in and get started. Like many things, it takes experience. You have to get a "feel" for it - how fast a ferment is going, how often to check it, is this a good smell, is this a bad smell, etc. This community is very supportive.

Hi Armyvet and welcome. If you are really thinking about fruit wines, you might look for cans of Vintner's Harvest fruit juice. One can of the concentrate makes 3 gallons of wine (or it can make a thinner flavored 5 gallon batch). Alternatively, the juice section of your local supermarket will have bottles of fruit juices - from pomegranate to pear, from apple to mango. As long as they do not contain preservatives you can use those either "as is" (and the wine will be as strong as a cider) or you can add sugar to boost the potential alcohol by volume (ABV) to about 11 or 12 percent).

Not sure that I agree with the others that you need to buy a pH meter right off the bat. What you need is a bucket and a carboy , a bung and airlock and a siphon. You will also need a sanitizer and measuring spoons and an hydrometer together with a cylinder to test the sample . I suggest that you also buy a turkey baster or a wine thief to take the sample. You may also want a thermometer that you can use to monitor the fermentation temperature - and a scale to measure the amount of sugar (for example) that you add. pH meters or litmus strips or a TA kit can wait until you have a half dozen wines under your belt.
How large a bucket and how large a carboy you need will depend on the size of the batches of wine you are thinking of making. You can buy carboys for one gallon batches, three gallon batches, five gallons or six and you can buy buckets that will hold up to two gallons or up to about 6 gallons.
One trick you might employ from day one is to always make slightly more wine than your recipe calls for. This , because when you transfer (rack) the wine from one container to the next you will always leave behind lees and sediment and that means that the one gallon you begin with will be less than a gallon in the second container and that means that you will need to find some way to increase the volume so that when the active fermentation has subsided there is no "headroom" , no significant space between the top of the wine and the bottom of the bung - space that will be filled with air because access to air can spoil your wine.
Good luck! .
Remember the key elements for a good wine:
1) Proper Alcohol content (ABV) (between 10% - 18%) Use an Hydrometer to measure SG before during and after fermentation. Don't over power your fruit unless it's destined to be a sweeter dessert wine. Keep the level above 10% to avoid spoilage.
2) Proper Acidity - Acidity contributes to the wine ability to be stored and the taste of the wine. Without a pH test or TA test an inexperienced tongue will not know the difference between the right amount of acidity and too much/little. Testing (pH meter, TA kit, or pH paper) is the only way a newby will find this out - Especially since you say you are not a frequent wine drinker. (There are several excellent threads on her about acidity and Jack Keller has a good article of pH as well.)
3) Flavor - having the right amount of Alcohol or Acidity matters little if it doesn't taste good. Being a newby the keeping track of the above two aspects of the wine will help but in the end if you find the tastes objectionable the rest won't fix that. Beware the temptation to water down juices AS well as the temptation to say ALL fruits should be ALL juice with no water added - both ends of that spectrum are equally wastesfull. Blueberries, Elderberries and several other berries are Certainly NOT grapes with lots of water. Even wine grapes have much higher water content than a number of other berries.
(And Remember FEAR NOT - most new wine - less than 6 months old - will have a lot sharper taste than a wine that has aged at least 8 months to 2 years (or longer))
4) Clarity - Not a critical element but eye appeal does matter especially when you serve to friends. This is one aspect that time will normally take care of but it is good to know and plan how to handle a cloudy/hazy wine. Some fruit are quick to clear on their own, some are a stubborn as Missouri mule on a hot summer day.
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I cut my teeth on a batch of skeeter pee. Learn all the steps (and why) and cost you $15 or so for the batch. Good luck! It is not hard, but does take some attention to detail.
Bernard gives some great advice/tips.
Make a little more than the recipe calls for, so you have extra to top up with.
Most important piece of equipment is a hydrometer.
When I started, I bought a 1 gal. equipment kit online. Came with hydrometer, fermenting bucket, racking cane and hose, additives, recipe book.
Either start off with, as Bernard stated, Vintner Harvest fruit concentrate, or Dragon Blood. Simplest ways to make something drinkable and learn the tricks.
I would not worry about testing devices yet, until you get the basic processes down.
Ask, ask, ask questions.

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