How do I experiment in small batches?

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Vinoors

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As I've posted previously- family tradition for the past several decades has been to buy 20-30 lugs of zinfandel (& a little alicante) and late nature run its course- no cultured yeast, no sulfite, etc. However, after lots of reading over the past 12 months, I am eager to experiment, and try a specific yeast strain and possibly even malolactic fermentation. My plan is to do this with a small batch w/o changing tradition, so I have the following questions....

1) Whats the minimum # of lugs required to experiment- 2 to 3 lugs for 5-6 gallons?

2) Do most people still use a manual hand crank crusher for such a small amount or should I just squeeze grapes by hand?

3) We have 3 large purple tubs for maceration, each of which would be way too large for a small amount, what do you recommend using instead?

4) Same issue with the press- I currently have 3 different sizes, all of which are too large for something like 2 to 3 lugs, so how do I separate the juice from the pomace?
 

salcoco

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it takes 12-15 lbs of grapes for a gallon of wine three lugs will give you 7 gallons. a 30 gallon Brute food grade should work for fermentation. A hand crusher /destemmer is the minimum I would use. If not owned, rent one from local wine store or borrow from another wine maker. one hand for pressing method is scoop out the pomace first into a cheesecloth let it drain into another vessel then squeeze by hand, the remainder once complete should be juice, run through a colander into funnel into vessel.
 

Ajmassa

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Agreed with all. 3 lugs for 6 gal carboy. And keep the extra in a 1 gal jug and use for keeping the carboy topped up.
2. No reason to not use the crusher.
3. 20 or 32 gal brute trashcan is most common it seems.
4. A big basket press would still work, no? As long as the skins take up a few inches of volume it can be pressed I thought.
I made a DIY press with buckets. Drilling holes all over one and pressing with body weight into it with another bucket. Worked well for small amount.

A couple of these batches and sulphites, regular rackings, specific yeast and MLF will soon be added to your family tradition I bet.
 

Vinoors

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Thanks for the feedback. I would use our smallest press but I think the threads in the center pole only go down to a certain point which may still be too high for a small amount like 2-3 lugs. Separate question- correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems that most of the brute barrels that I've come across are food grade, would you agree? This is just your standard 20-30g brute barrel available at home depot.
 

Ajmassa

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Separate question- correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems that most of the brute barrels that I've come across are food grade, would you agree? This is just your standard 20-30g brute barrel available at home depot.

Yup. The "Brute" cans are food safe. Some other brands are not. It's always gonna be marked on the can somewhere if it is.
 

stickman

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You may need to cut some extra wood blocks to use the press with a small batch. I have even used blocks cut from a 2x4, they don't come into contact with the wine.
 

salcoco

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I have done the same as stcikman. used wood to extend the height or allowed the press to go lower. oak is the best if you can find it.
 

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