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Hello out there in the world of modern conveniences. I am a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer, writing to you from the South Pacific Kingdom of Tonga where I live on a fairly remote island with few resources and lots of amazing fruits and not one place to buy alcohol of any sort, unless I take a three hour boat ride, and even then, my selection is very limited. So, I’ve stumbled across this site, and would like to ask for some help.
I’ve never made any type of fermented beverage before, but having read this sight and others it doesn’t seem to be that daunting. However, many of the tools and some of the ingredients are just not available here, but I’m sure I can make do with what I have, which is where I’m looking for suggestions from the “modern” world. Unless things are sent from the U.S., which is too expensive on a peace corps living allowance, I have no access to many of the nice equipment available in other places. If I’m lucky, I can find a sealable 5 gallon bucket or two, some various types of pipe, plastic wrap, and a filter of some form. I also will not be able to obtain wine yeast, sterilization tablets, or measurement tools that have been mentioned in many sites.
So, my question is; what can I get away with for a bare bones operation?
Hello! I am sure you can use plain bread yeast and also a balloon for an airlock. If you have a sealable bucket but cant get a demijohn then maybe for secondary fermentation you can make sure the bucket is topped up and then cut a hole in the lid, insert some plastic tubing (short enough so it doesnt submerge in the wine) and fit a balloon over the plastic tubing. I think you need to have about 5 holes poked into the balloon with a needle or something to let CO2 escape. Does that make sense? I am sure it will work! Just familiarize yourself with the wine making process and make substitutes when you can.

Hope this helps!
Hello out there in the world of modern conveniences. I am a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer, writing to you from the South Pacific Kingdom of Tonga where I live on a fairly remote island with few resources and lots of amazing fruits ?
There are some days here on Ontario when I wished I was you...I'm new on this site and a novice in this field as well. Good luck with your wine making adventure...

Cheers !!
Hi japosc -

You seem to be in a position comparable to a prison inmate.

As in...craving a little taste of something nice every once in a while, but only having the resources of a kitchen pantry to work with...heh, heh, heh!

Usually, making anything this way results in something called "Hooch!"

However, thanks to the progress of modern science, very nice wines can now be made with very basic equipment.

Since you do have internet access, you can easily order a few simple items, such as a tapered, drilled rubber stopper, an airlock, a 'fine-mesh' nylon bag, yeast, yeast nutrient, a wine thief, a cheesecloth, a hydrometer with testing jar, One-Step sanitizer, etc., that will really simplify as well as enhance this process very inexpensively, IMHO!

Anyway, rather than making wine from prepackaged wine kits, you indicate that you intend to use the local, fresh, RIPE, whole fruits that you have available to you there.

You will need to begin by finding a suitable container that will allow you to execute a PRIMARY fermentation in a TRADITIONAL, or OLD WORLD, manner.

To ferment wine this way, you will need an open top container, or at least one with a large mouth, wide enough to reach a hand/arm through, which allows for the easy insertion, removal, and cleaning, of your crushed/pressed fruit pulp (solids) and their juices (liquids).

A five-gallon bucket will work nicely, especially if it is made out of food grade plastic. If it originally contained food (not vinegar or a type of food preserved with vinegar, such as pickles), and hasn’t been used to store anything toxic since emptied of its original contents, then it should be fine.

From this day forward, this vessel will come to be known as your PRIMARY!

BTW, I've heard through the grapevine that Montezuma does indeed have a part-time residence in Tonga. And, if you don't observe strict sanitation practices, I'm sure that he will be coming to visit you regularly, and staying longer than you would prefer.

If you’ve been studying the wine making process, you know to fill your PRIMARY with the crushed/pressed RIPE fruit and it’s juice. Then, cover this PRIMARY with a cheesecloth, and secure it nice and tight with twine, bungee cords, etc. This will keep insects and debris out, but let air (oxygen) in.

Next, several times each day (three to five times would be ideal, more would be even better), for the next 'eight-to-ten' days, you will need to remove the cloth from the PRIMARY, and with a sanitized long-handled spatula, spoon, etc., gently submerge the pulp CAP.

At this point, after 'eight-to-ten' days, the PRIMARY fermentation should be completed. Specific Gravity (SG) readings with a hydrometer would tell you exactly when this happens!

Remove the CAP, and squeeze all of the juice you can out of it (a 'fine-mesh' nylon bag is nice to have for this step) and back into the juice/must, which is still in the PRIMARY.

Next, RACK (transfer) the must from your PRIMARY into your SECONDARY container (or containers, if they are smaller than the PRIMARY). This is where the SECONDARY fermentation will take place, hence the name SECONDARY.

Unless you like vinegar, from this point on, once the juice/must is in it’s SECONDARY fermentation, where it will stay as it conditions and ages, until it is bottled, you absolutely HAVE to prevent air (oxygen) from getting to the juice/must.

If you don’t intend to invest in a tapered, drilled, rubber bung stopper ($0.99 US @ + S&H) and a three-piece plastic airlock ($1.99 US @ + S&H), then you will have to figure a way to add an airtight, make-shift airlock, such as a rubber balloon with a pinhole prick in it (though still NOT as efficient or desirable as a manufactured airlock), to the lid of a different five-gallon bucket.

If you do have/get a drilled, rubber bung stopper, fitted with an airlock, simply drill a proper sized hole (between 1" and 1-1/4", depending on the stopper size itself) in the lid of another five-gallon bucket, that will allow a snug fit for your stopper, with it’s water filled airlock, and you then will have your SECONDARY fermenter ready to go.

Depending on what’s available to you, it might be easier to use several one-gallon jugs (glass, preferably) as your SECONDARY. Since you are working with liquids only from here on out (no more solids, other than some sediment), small-mouth jugs will work fine, and are easily fitted with balloons for make-shift airlocks.

Once your juice/must is past the primary fermentation, and is in the SECONDARY fermenter, you can then make additions, such as topping-off with sugared UNCLORINATED, BOTTLED, OR FILTERED water (which will also boost the ABV) to replace the void created by removing the CAP, or what ever other modifications you may desire, while the juice/must finishes it’s fermenting, conditioning, and aging.

But, mostly, your work is now done, and it is just a waiting game from here on out.

Once in the secondary, depending on the yeast, temperature, and many other variables, the fermentation should be complete after one month, on the inside, two months, at the outside. However, the only SURE way to know that the fermentation is complete, it to take a SG reading with a hydrometer.

Making wine without a hydrometer is like driving at night without your lights on...IMHO.

When the SECONDARY fermentation is complete, barring outside intervention, your wine now already has all of the octane that it will ever have. At this point, it is ready for bottling, which also will free up the SECONDARY for making more wine.

But...if you are not happy with the taste, don't dump it out. Bottle it, and just wait...years if it takes it. The conditioning, aging process is an ongoing one!

I have been told by those whose wine's have won regional wine competitions that some of their best tasting, most award winning wines were undrinkable at two months of age. But, some, after as little as one year, and some, even longer, were fantastic!

In the off-season, you also have other options, if you are not against employing more modern, New World, methods and techniques. Such as, using bottled juices and frozen juice concentrates to make wine.

When fresh, local, RIPE, fruit isn’t available, you can take a gallon (or even a half-gallon) jug of your favorite 100% fruit juice - grape, apple, orange, etc. - and just ferment this juice in the same jug that it comes in! Just be SURE that the juice contains NO chemical preservatives, other than ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)!

That being said, since fruit juices that come in plastic jugs now have zero headspace in them. The ideal way to use this mini-batch system would be to take a CLEAN, empty, one gallon jug and fill it to within about three inches of where the neck of the jug starts (this allows an air space for any foam that your particular yeast may develop, some produce more than others), then simply add 1/2 teaspoon of yeast, insert the bung stopper with water-filled airlock snugly into (or stretch a pin-pricked balloon over) the jug’s mouth.

When fermenting with juice, like this, no secondary fermenter (another jug to transfer the must into) is needed. So the primary fermenter (the original jug you start with) serves as both the primary and secondary fermenter.

Scrounge up every one-gallon jug (again, glass preferably) that you can find. These small-mouthed jugs make a perfect fermenter/conditioner for these mini-batches of wine from bottled 100% juices, when no fruit pulp is involved.

Then store in a cool place for a month or so, the longer you wait the better it will be!

Note - If you are new to winemaking, the citrus juices have high levels of acid, and thus are harder to get a good result, I'd advise starting with the grape or apple, etc., and then move up to the citrus juices when you have more experience.

You also might want to check into other postings on other wine sites by Peace Corp members who tap palm trees for their sap and make a wine called ‘tuba’ or ‘too-bah’ or something like that, which ferments in like 24 to 48 hours, and has quite a kick I’ve read!

Good luck, and keep us posted,

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