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What are your "Top 10" including equipment/tips/tricks pertaining to Kit Wine Making?

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ithink2020

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What would your Top 10 list include when it comes to kit winemaking? This could include tips, tricks, or products you can't live without.
 

Brian55

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#1 Aging, whether bulk or bottle. There is nothing more important.
#2 EM for at least a month on kits with skins
#3 Oak, glass carboys and plastic buckets don't replicate barrel aging. If you don't have barrels, over oak it, it will fade with time.
#4 Short the water addition, especially on cheaper kits.
#5 Ad at least half the f-pac to primary. Unless you enjoy sweet wines.
#6 Skip the bentonite, sorbate(unless back sweetened), and shellfish goop, racking and time will clear your wine.
#7 Buy the best kit you can afford, life is too short to drink cheap wine.
#8 Host wine tastings with friends and family. Blind is best. Include a commercial bottle or two in the mix.
#9 LE's and RQ's can be, and often are the best kit wines you will have the option of making and enjoying.
#10 Have fun and be patient, wine takes time. If you're concerned that your wine may outlive you if you actually age it properly, no worries, friends and family will enjoy the fruits of your labor for years to come.
 

Val-the-Brew-Gal

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I love making fruit wines and 4-6 week kits so my suggestions are quite different from Brian55's. As you can tell from my choices, I'm not a patient winemaker but I love my wines sweeter so these are well suited for someone who wants to be drinking their wines in a matter of weeks, not months or years.

1. The All in One pump is the best thing I've ever purchased as far as equipment. In fact, if it weren't for this one product and the way it makes racking, degassing and bottling so easy, I might have given up on pursuing this hobby an long while ago.

2. Always have an extra hydrometer on hand.

3. Always have extra of your favorite kind of yeast on hand.

4. If you decide to make a fruit wine or a
quick drinking one and don't want to wait for it to clear naturally, my favorite fining agent is SuperKleer (Dualfine). It usually produces crystal clear wine in just a few days.

5. I like my wines to not only be pleasing to the palate but I want the whole product to be appealing. To that end, I always use some type of label, whether the ones that come in a kit or something I design myself. When I share with my friends, I like the entire presentation to be special...but that's probably just my vanity coming through 🤣 So, make your whole bottle special in some way...it will give you even more pride in your wine.

6. Don't cheap out on corks. I'm not saying that you have to buy the most expensive ones but make sure they are good quality. It will save a lot of frustration not only on bottling day but when you go to open your wine as well.

7. Share with your friends! It's important to make wine that you love but it's also fun to make some that you know your friends will enjoy even more than you do.

8. Don't stress too much if you think you did something a little "wrong" during the process. I've made tons of small mistakes but my wine has turned out fine in the end anyway.

9. I prefer to call my taste testing quality control inspections and it's one of the the most important jobs as a winemaker...regardless of the time of day 🤣🤣🤣

10. Have fun! This is the best hobby you'll ever have!
 

Brian55

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@Brian55 How do you do EM? That is where you keep the grapes on the juice for an extended, correct?
 

skyfire322

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Brian's and Val's points are great and I definitely agree with them
(Please note: I'll be throwing in some silliness in my answers):

1. You don't necessarily need to follow the instructions. While they're decent guidelines, factors can come into play.

2. I concur with Brian... Over oak and let it age. Which kind of ties into #3.

3. Instead of using the included oak powder, try getting your hands on oak spirals, chips, or cubes. I personally think the powder really doesn't do much.

4. Make sure you're using a good sized funnel when pouring the kit juice into your fermenter, and for the love that all that is holy, make sure you're pouring on a hardwood or laminate floor. I learned that the hard way and my landlord wasn't too pleased with what looked like a murder scene.

5. If you make a mistake, don't panic because some stuff can be fixed! Whenever I thought I made a mistake with a kit, WMT helped tremendously.

6. If you think you have enough hydrometers, you don't. Have you seen the show Hoarders? Yeah, like that but with hydrometers 🤣

7. Three letters: A.I.O. Not only does it help racking, degassing, bottling easier, your back will thank you to the ends of the earth.

8. Take notes every time you touch the wine, no matter how trivial it may be. The exception being "I longingly looked at the carboy, just waiting for the day that first bottle is opened." while listening to the Monster Ballads compilation album. What happens in the cellar, stays in the cellar.

9. Have a blind tasting! I like to have my friends and family do an A/B on which one they prefer, and also how much they thought the bottle was. Who ever guesses the wines correctly and/or the closest dollar amount wins a bottle. Now, if someone says it tastes like the $1 BP gas station special, then I'll say no one was correct. In the words of Willy Wonka: "You Lose. Good day Sir."

10. Like Val said, get creative and make the wine personalized. As silly as it may sound, it's one of my favorite things to do. Heck, I make wine in my music studio but I label it as "Ancient Oak Cellars", design the labels, and give them unique names. People know that I don't own a vineyard or anything, but in a silly way, I feel like it gives me "street cred" 🤣

BONUS:
Set some aside and open them on a special occasion a few years from the time you bottled them.
 

Val-the-Brew-Gal

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I thought of one more! Buy yourself some tubs to set your carboys in. I've had one break on two different occasions. The first time, I had 6 gallons of wine all over my floor. Thankfully, I had purchased the tubs before it happened again. I just bought laundry tubs and cut them down so I can better see when my wine is clear. Photo attached...20200802_165347.jpg
 

Val-the-Brew-Gal

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Like Val said, get creative and make the wine personalized. As silly as it may sound, it's one of my favorite things to do. Heck, I make wine in my music studio but I label it as "Ancient Oak Cellars", design the labels, and give them unique names. People know that I don't own a vineyard or anything, but in a silly way, I feel like it gives me "street cred" 🤣
Designing my labels is one of my favorite things too! Here's one of mine...

91063248_3202115073347890_6872952631522754560_n.jpg90382066_3202115206681210_8592732179077791744_n.jpg
 

GaDawg

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I love making fruit wines and 4-6 week kits so my suggestions are quite different from Brian55's. As you can tell from my choices, I'm not a patient winemaker but I love my wines sweeter so these are well suited for someone who wants to be drinking their wines in a matter of weeks, not months or years.
I make the fruit wines and 4-6 week kits. I also make premium kits, so I alternate. That way I always have wine ready to drink. It's a lot easier to age wine if you have drinkable wine.
 

akron

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I haven’t been doing this very long, but I think the AIO pump is going to be my number 1 on any list would make. I just got it so am learning different ways to use it. A pH meter is also important for what I make.
Thanks to all for your good ideas.
 

GaDawg

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I haven’t been doing this very long, but I think the AIO pump is going to be my number 1 on any list would make. I just got it so am learning different ways to use it. A pH meter is also important for what I make.
Thanks to all for your good ideas.
I would not be making wine without my AIO pump!
 

BernardSmith

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I thought of one more! Buy yourself some tubs to set your carboys in. I've had one break on two different occasions. The first time, I had 6 gallons of wine all over my floor. Thankfully, I had purchased the tubs before it happened again. I just bought laundry tubs and cut them down so I can better see when my wine is clear. Photo attached...View attachment 64345
Better than a tub, in my opinion are crates. Tubs don't often have any grips for your hands but crates do so they are easier to move around AND they protect the carboy far better. Any carboy larger than 2 gallons I fill in a crate.
 

GaDawg

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I thought of one more! Buy yourself some tubs to set your carboys in. I've had one break on two different occasions. The first time, I had 6 gallons of wine all over my floor. Thankfully, I had purchased the tubs before it happened again. I just bought laundry tubs and cut them down so I can better see when my wine is clear. Photo attached...View attachment 64345
I have also used a tub with ice water to slow fermentation.
 

Chuck E

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  • “Drink no wine before its time.” Have patience. Age for a minimum of one year.
  • Be obsessive with sanitation. More problems are eliminated by cleanliness.
  • Only make kits with skins or learn how to make fruit-packs.
  • Write down everything you do… Everything!
  • Science is your friend, but wine is art. Trust your taste buds.
  • Wine is not finished until it is in a bottle with a label & a cap. Be creative.
  • Bench testing is where you find the sweet spot in all additions.
  • The All-In-One pump is indispensable.
  • A floor corker is a must have.
  • The FastWash system with the FastRack system makes bottling easy.
 

KCCam

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I learned that the hard way and my landlord wasn't too pleased with what looked like a murder scene.
🤣 Hahaha, not funny then, for sure, but makes a great story now, right?
don't panic because some stuff can be fixed!
I might even say most stuff can be fixed.
7. Three letters: A.I.O. Not only does it help racking, degassing, bottling easier, your back will thank you to the ends of the earth.
Amen.
The exception being "I longingly looked at the carboy, just waiting for the day that first bottle is opened."
What's wrong with that? Am I the only one? ;)
Set some aside and open them on a special occasion a few years from the time you bottled them.
Agreed, and having nice labels on them makes it even more special.

Good advice, @skyfire322
 

familynerone

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I've only done kits thus far, and not a ton of them at that. But here's what I can contribute to this thread:
(1) Increase S.G. right out of the gate, particularly for sweeter fruit wine varietals, by adding in a portion of the F-pack before pitching the yeast. Add a bit of sugar too if not at the original S.G. you need for the final ABV you hope for. Save the rest of the F-pack for backsweetening.
(2) Keep a backup supply of a good all-around yeast (like EC-1118 for the fruity kits), yeast energizer, clearing agents. In a pinch this could mean breaking into an unopened kit, sure, but having a few extra packets of stuff will help you if something gets spilled.
(3) Get some smaller bottles (375mL) for small one-gallon wine kits; 10 small size versus 5 large size bottles for the yield, and, you can then open one a month to learn how aging affects the final product. I just bottled a small batch Cab this way that was delicious at bottling, can't wait to start opening my mini bottles in a few months to see how it matures over the course of a year.
(4) There's no such thing as too many hydrometers... for roughly ten bucks it is really a no-brainer to have several around. Calibrate them often in plain water to ensure they are accurate.
(5) Get the floor corker! Totally worth it!
(6) Invest in some carboy straps/carrier gadgets. There are always steps where lifting a full carboy is likely to be needed, and a slippery, full, glass 6.5-gallon carboy is just begging to be dropped. The straps help. A lot.
(7) Fermentation wraps are essential if you are making your wine in a basement room like we are... they increase the temp about 10 degrees F for us, which is perfect (room temp around 64 steadily so 74 is what we get with the wrap).
(8) Keep a record of every little step you take or thing you do. You might have a phenomenal result with a kit and not remember some of the things you tried when tweaking it - so it would be hard to replicate without notes. I have an Excel spreadsheet going where I capture that type of stuff.
(9) Find removable labels... or print on paper and use a glue stick. As your gifted wine is consumed and bottles returned to you, you'll be glad you did, as label removing is the bane of my existence right now. (If you also have friends collect wine bottles for you, remind them to only give you cork style or you'll be the neighborhood recycling pro with screw-top bottles filling up your trash).
(10) Have a steady table or cart a level lower than your primary work surface. This lets you rack to a lower level without being directly on the floor.
Have fun... and don't let people tell you that kit wine making is not "real" wine making (I've heard this more than once). The process may seem inauthentic to some, but, it is a great way to learn. And, it is also one of the only ways to make a wide variety of wines with ingredients sourced from all over the world. There are only so many varieties of fruits, veggies, and grapes, you can grow or purchase nearby! A kit wine will still give you a unique end product based on your process and environment.
 

KCCam

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I love making fruit wines and 4-6 week kits so my suggestions are quite different from Brian55's. As you can tell from my choices, I'm not a patient winemaker but I love my wines sweeter so these are well suited for someone who wants to be drinking their wines in a matter of weeks, not months or years.

1. The All in One pump is the best thing I've ever purchased as far as equipment. In fact, if it weren't for this one product and the way it makes racking, degassing and bottling so easy, I might have given up on pursuing this hobby an long while ago.

2. Always have an extra hydrometer on hand.

3. Always have extra of your favorite kind of yeast on hand.

4. If you decide to make a fruit wine or a
quick drinking one and don't want to wait for it to clear naturally, my favorite fining agent is SuperKleer (Dualfine). It usually produces crystal clear wine in just a few days.

5. I like my wines to not only be pleasing to the palate but I want the whole product to be appealing. To that end, I always use some type of label, whether the ones that come in a kit or something I design myself. When I share with my friends, I like the entire presentation to be special...but that's probably just my vanity coming through 🤣 So, make your whole bottle special in some way...it will give you even more pride in your wine.

6. Don't cheap out on corks. I'm not saying that you have to buy the most expensive ones but make sure they are good quality. It will save a lot of frustration not only on bottling day but when you go to open your wine as well.

7. Share with your friends! It's important to make wine that you love but it's also fun to make some that you know your friends will enjoy even more than you do.

8. Don't stress too much if you think you did something a little "wrong" during the process. I've made tons of small mistakes but my wine has turned out fine in the end anyway.

9. I prefer to call my taste testing quality control inspections and it's one of the the most important jobs as a winemaker...regardless of the time of day 🤣🤣🤣

10. Have fun! This is the best hobby you'll ever have!
Right on the mark, every one. I must say, I need to work on #6, the corks, but I don't make enough to have any sitting around long enough to warrant it. The few that have made it 3 or 4 years were fine, but I knows I takes my chances! I also need to work on #7. None of my friends are really wine drinkers, but my Dad and oldest daughter are. I originally got into wine-making as a way to spend more time with my Dad. After COVID, I'll definitely be spending more time with them both.
 
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KCCam

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I thought of one more! Buy yourself some tubs to set your carboys in. I've had one break on two different occasions. The first time, I had 6 gallons of wine all over my floor. Thankfully, I had purchased the tubs before it happened again. I just bought laundry tubs and cut them down so I can better see when my wine is clear. Photo attached...View attachment 64345
I like the white inside the tub. I wouldn't have thought of that when buying one, but very important, I can see. And with the AIO, they don't need handles, 'cause you never have to move them! Well, almost never. Haha.
 

KCCam

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Designing my labels is one of my favorite things too! Here's one of mine...

View attachment 64349View attachment 64350
Ahhh, @Val-the-Brew-Gal, I sooo envy your creative and artistic ability. After your 10 tips, I thought maybe we were twins separated at birth, but then this example of your labels, and I know that we definitely are not. I have been trying to make something for my Saskatoon and my Cherry/Blueberry batches of Dragon Blood, but I am hopeless. Oh well, something to work on. You are an inspiration.
 

DizzyIzzy

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#1 Aging, whether bulk or bottle. There is nothing more important.
#2 EM for at least a month on kits with skins
#3 Oak, glass carboys and plastic buckets don't replicate barrel aging. If you don't have barrels, over oak it, it will fade with time.
#4 Short the water addition, especially on cheaper kits.
#5 Ad at least half the f-pac to primary. Unless you enjoy sweet wines.
#6 Skip the bentonite, sorbate(unless back sweetened), and shellfish goop, racking and time will clear your wine.
#7 Buy the best kit you can afford, life is too short to drink cheap wine.
#8 Host wine tastings with friends and family. Blind is best. Include a commercial bottle or two in the mix.
#9 LE's and RQ's can be, and often are the best kit wines you will have the option of making and enjoying.
#10 Have fun and be patient, wine takes time. If you're concerned that your wine may outlive you if you actually age it properly, no worries, friends and family will enjoy the fruits of your labor for years to come.
Brian, in #2, what is EM? Also, in #9, what is LE? Thanks..................................Dizzy
 
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