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How Painful Will It Be?

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jsbeckton

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Been making kits for a few years and want to give all grape a shot. Thinking one 6g batch in the spring and another in the fall. Have been looking for a crusher/destemmer and a press on CL for the last several months and found a press...no luck on a crusher.

I’m thinking about using a milk crate to destem and then a potatoe masher or something else to crush. Would this be a nightmare for the small volume? I think I can get a new crusher for fairly cheap but seems that eventually I would want a crusher/destemmer so trying to hold out to see if I will continue to do all grape before shelling out that cash.

Thanks!
 

CDrew

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I am no expert, but 6 gallons of grapes/wine isn't very much. I'd do 2-3 times that at a minimum to make it worth your while, since grapes take a lot more effort and added gear. And once you're making from grapes it's no longer a "batch". You can call it "2019 Merlot" or something similar. You'll need to buy a small Brute trash can to use as a fermentor and a commercial potato masher to do your punch downs. A couple of carboys (which you probably have) and good to go.

With grapes, 200 pounds is about the critical mass where you can explore enzymes, tannins, yeast nutrients and the like. That will net you around 15 gallons of finished wine depending on your process and racking losses. A crusher/destemmer is a significant expense and kind of wasted on a small batch. Maybe here in the dead of winter you can find one cheap on Craigslist, but I doubt it.

Rent your crusher/stemmer at your local supplier, and if you want to buy something, buy a small press so you can press on your own time table.

Wine is made from grapes, so money you spend now is not wasted. As time goes on, I promise your production will increase as you sort out your process. I did 200 pounds in 2016, 400 pounds in 2017, and 900 pounds in 2018. Figure each 100 pounds of grapes is 10 gallons of must and 7-8 gallons of eventual wine.

Good luck, you'll enjoy making wine from grapes.
 

jsbeckton

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My local shop doesn’t rent equipment, only sells new stuff. As I noted, already have a press. I’m sure that my production will grow but want to start out small, especially seeing as though I can’t find a crusher/destemmer.
 

NorCal

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6 gallons = 30 bottles = 100 lbs of grapes or so. If that is your 6 months need, I’d do it by hand. Milk crate destemmer, bucket in a bucket press = winning.
 

jgmann67

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Many wine grape sellers also make crushing/destemming services available to buyers. Some charge a nominal fee, others do a free self-serve.

My first batch in 2016 was 120 lbs. since I wasn’t ready to commit to spending money on equipment, buying grapes from a retailer that also offers C/D services makes a lot of sense. At $10 a season, you’ll have 100 seasons under your belt before you break even on a decent C/D of your own.

I made a bucket press... works great.

View attachment 52958
 

FTC Wines

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We went to “real grapes “ 4 years ago. We hand destem and crush 8-10 lugs each October. My crushing tool is a oak masher, started with a 2X4. It takes us almost a hour per lug to do both, but we are way too fussy on the destemming part. Keep thinking about buying a crusher/destemmer but can’t justify the cost. Or storage space. We did build a press a few years ago. That’s our 2 cents. Roy
 

Johnd

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If you’re just doing 6 gallons, you’ll need three lugs of grapes (36 pounds each) to get there, with a little to spare. You could easily de stem three lugs of grapes by hand in an hour with no equipment, just pulling them off the stems.

Wash your feet and legs, spray down with sulfite, and crush away, or let your kids do it, or wife, have some fun. Or don’t crush, do a whole berry ferment. So many good choices, and a very manageable quantity. The c/d will wait til you know you need it.
 

Boatboy24

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You can start small by getting a juice bucket and adding a couple lugs of grapes to match. This will give you some sense of the 'pain' of manual desteming and what kind of quality you can expect in the wine. From there, you can keep looking for a C/D. If your supplier will do it for a reasonable price, all the better. No setup or cleanup.

I found a used press pretty easily on Craigslist, but had a hard time with the C/D. For a few years, I was paying my grape supplier to do it and it wasn't too expensive. When they changed their pricing structure, I broke down and bought a new manual C/D. Not the electric I wanted, but I called the shop, asked them if they could cut me any slack on the price and they did. For my volume, the manual is just fine. I do 300-500 pounds in the fall and sometimes a few spring batches as well.
 

mainshipfred

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!!!!!WARNING!!!!! If you make one batch in the Spring you won't only make one in the Fall. I'd bet 3 or more so you better be diligent about that C/D purchase. Jim's idea of a juice bucket and a couple of lugs is a good one just remember Spring lugs are only half lugs. Aside from the press and C/D I would recommend an accurate way of testing S02 and ph. I could be in the minority here but I don't ferment in brutes but rather 6 gallon buckets where I split the must in smaller amounts and use different yeasts, usually 3. It also makes it easier when it comes time to press. I just pour the wine from the smaller buckets in the press and let it free run before pressing. When pressing try not going too hard on the initial press. Get a firm cake them break it apart, fluff it up and press again. You will get more wine than a single hard press and it's easier on the harsh tannins from the seeds, I do 3 presses and end up with very dry pulp. No matter which way you decide to go you're probably going to love it.
 

jsbeckton

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Thanks for the feedback. I tried 2 juice buckets in 2016 and was underwhelmed. Both were fairly light on SG and also color compared to the premium kits I have been doing so want to go to all grapes. I’m also looking for a vinmetrica on CL but those seem to be tough to find as well.

I’m tempted to just bite the bullet and spend $1-2k to get the equipment that I need but still need to convince myself it’s worth it (feel a bit of pain going without). That would probably take making a batch that I felt was on another level than the kits but that might take some time. So I guess I have a chicken and egg thing going here.
 

jsbeckton

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!!!!!WARNING!!!!! If you make one batch in the Spring you won't only make one in the Fall. I'd bet 3 or more so you better be diligent about that C/D purchase.
Haha, you are probably right. A few years ago when I started kits I got a cheaper one and thought I’d try one a year. 2 months later I had 5 premium kits going and a refrigerated basement cellar under construction!
 

askins3097

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I’m switching over to all grapes myself. I did 3 lugs by hand this past fall with 2 of the same juice buckets added to get my volume up. It was a lot of work. Wear nitril gloves unless you want purple hands.

This spring I’m just eating the $400 cost and buying the manual crusher/destemmer. I’ll use saw horses for the supports to save the $250 they’re asking for the stand. I figure it’ll last forever. It is what it is. The way I look at it is there’s a lot worse things I could be spending my money on. I know people that blow twice that at the casino every weekend.
 

jsbeckton

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I’m switching over to all grapes myself. I did 3 lugs by hand this past fall with 2 of the same juice buckets added to get my volume up. It was a lot of work. Wear nitril gloves unless you want purple hands.

This spring I’m just eating the $400 cost and buying the manual crusher/destemmer. I’ll use saw horses for the supports to save the $250 they’re asking for the stand. I figure it’ll last forever. It is what it is. The way I look at it is there’s a lot worse things I could be spending my money on. I know people that blow twice that at the casino every weekend.
Do you already have a way to measure SO2 and TA? I was trying to decide if I should get the crusher/destemmer next or a Vinmetrica sc300. Figure I’ll get one thing this year and the other next year (or maybe in the fall).
 

askins3097

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Do you already have a way to measure SO2 and TA? I was trying to decide if I should get the crusher/destemmer next or a Vinmetrica sc300. Figure I’ll get one thing this year and the other next year (or maybe in the fall).
I just have a cheap TA testing kit and ph meter. Never had issues with SO2 by just following the recommended doses and times with k-meta. The Vinmetrica sc300 looks nice tho. I’ll probably get one next year. It’s an addictive, and at times expensive, hobby! Lol.
 

Ignoble Grape

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I'm in the exact same spot. To answer your first question: I did 200 lbs by hand last year using the milk crate method - only I used a cross-hatch wire cooling rack from the kitchen because the merlot grapes were pretty tiny. The process took me 3 hours. Any longer and I think I would have gotten blisters. Lots of whole berries left. I think that affected my primary fermentation and when I pressed, fermentation really took off again. I would keep more stems in the primary if I were to use that method again to help break the berries during punch down, but I digress...

All of this was after 3 hours of harvesting. It was a long, brutal day. I don't want to repeat, and my goal is 500 lbs. this year. We do have a local brew shop that will rent out the c/d, so that's an option, but I've been on craigslist religiously and can't find anything. I also know that I need to get the SO2 reader. Right now I'm blindly adding k-meta and tasting as things go. But, braces for the teen come first, oh well...
 
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