Which size containers are best for the amateur?

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Morgan

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So pretty new at this. I started a couple five gallon batches and ran into the conundrum of not having appropriate sized containers. My 5+ gallon sized primaries from MoreWine weren't quite big enough to allow for caps on grape wines without making a big mess so I had to split my batch between 2 5-gallon primaries, then combine when I racked to secondary (less than ideal in my book). Also by the time I'd racked off lees, I had less than 5 gallons and had to top off with a commercial. I just got a nice big 10 gal primary for my newest batch (5 gallons of cranberry wine) and had to deliberately adjust my calculations to account for volume loss.

What's the best way to approach this to minimize headspace, volume loss, etc? Do I need big primaries, a 6 gallon carboy, and multiple 5 gallon carboys? I know the wife is keeping an eye on the ever-expanding collection of containers in the basement.

Tell me about what setup worked for you when you were starting off! I'd like to go from primary to secondary to bulk aging with minimal containers and minimal loss.
 

Pumpkinman

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In my experience, if you are making 5 gallon batches, your 10 gallon fermenting bucket (primary) is perfect, you don't have to worry about head space in the primary as much as once fermentation is complete, although you don't want a ton of oxygen getting to the wine, the theory is that there is a "blanket" of CO2 that lays on top of the wine during fermentation, protecting the wine.
Keep the lid on, not tight as it does need some oxygen.

As far as Carboys, I use 5 gallon Carboys, and 1 have 1 gallon and half gallon glass jugs with appropriate stoppers and airlocks, I never seem to get 6 gallons of wine from a 6 gallon juice bucket, I treat the smaller amount exactly the same as the 5 gallon carboy, and I use the gallon or half gallon to feed my taste for wine...lol...or to top the carboys off after various racking.

I always have more carboys and smaller glass containers than I need, you never know when you may need to rack the wine (you may get a faint smell of Sulfur and want to splash rack it), or you may want to start another kit.
It is always a bigger pain in the arse to need something in the middle of a project than explaining to the wife why you really need 15 carboys...LOL!

This is just my opinion based on my experience, I'm sure that you will get a bunch of different answers that will all be correct, there are so many ways to approach this obsession!
Welcome aboard!
Tom
 

MurphyTexas

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I went to Lowes and bought 6 white food grade 5 gallon buckets for $4 each ( they have a big round sticker on the side that says it is food grade). They stack together when not in use so they have a small storage footprint. I like splitting the primary into 2 buckets because it doesn't weigh a ton. I also have a 7 gallon bottling bucket w spigot.

In order to get every drop of good wine from primary to secondary I bought a $14 Auto Siphon. To minimize wasted wine I use a $8 plastic "wine thief" with my hydrometer. I also don't break hydrometers anymore. These are must have tools. Less wasted wine means less topping off plus these tools make this hobby more enjoyable.

For secondary I am using only PET1 plastic carboys. 5 and 6 gallon Better Bottles. They are so much lighter to carry; don't break; easy to clean; plus easy to store because they are so light weight.

So I rack from primary buckets into a 6 gallon better bottle.

My church uses Mogan David communion wine in 3 liter glass screw top bottles so I get one free per week.

So when I rack from 6 gallon into 5 gallon and a 3 liter glass bottle. 5 gallons for long term and 3 liter for topping up and drinking early.

I also found a good deal on 5 gallon stainless steel corny kegs which I use for long term storage pressurized with a little argon gas. Corny kegs are getting pricier for some reason but I like using them because you can store one most anywhere out of the way.

There is no single best way.

Hope this helps.
 

Tom_S

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When I started making wine, and I recommend this to newcomers, I started with 1 gallon batches. This way if you do something wrong and ruin a batch, you haven't lost much like you would with a larger batch. Then, when you get more confident and improve your technique, you can move up to 5 gallon batches.
 

Rocky

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Morgan, I make between 200 and 250 (Honest, Officer!) gallons per year. Below is my array of containers, which have been collected or purchased over a period of years.

As far as fermenters, I started with 2 each 7.9 gallon buckets and quickly added 5 gallon, 10 gallon and 20 gallon fermenters. In addition, I buy and install spigots in all of my fermenters. One tip on spigots: after each use, remove, disassemble, clean and sanitize the spigot. Wash and dry the fermenters before putting them away.

As far as containers are concerned, I have quite a few of all sizes from a 15 gallon demijohn to 6.5 gallon to 6 gallon to 5 gallon to 3 gallon carboys, 28 in all of which 2 are Better Bottles. I also have a number of 1 gallon and 1/2 gallon jugs. In a pinch, I have 1500 ml bottles and 750 ml bottles to which I can fit an airlock, using a #3 stopper. I like this flexibility because I am not a "topper-offer" but rather a "volume reducer." By this I mean that I do not top off carboys when racking but I size down, e.g. from a 6.5 gallon to a 6 gallon to a 5 gallon plus a 1/2 gallon, etc.

I am sure you will develop a modus operandi that works for you. Good luck and happy winemaking!
 

JohnT

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I like to use Brute containers. Never ferment in a carboy. They are too hard to clean.
 
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Rocky I am sure you may begin with up to 250 gallons of wine to allow for waste and top ups at rackings because the legal limit per household is a maximum of 200 gallons of finished wine per year anywhere I know of in the US since that is regulated by the federal govenment.
 

Rocky

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You are right, Rich. I have to deal with evaporation, shrinkage, employee pilferage, racking, QA testing, those pesky "angels" that live in my barrels, etc. I am sure I end up with less than 200 gallons per year.
 

Morgan

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Thanks for sharing, everybody! I'd like to get some in-between size containers so I can easily reduce volumes without requiring top-offs.
 
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