I’ve been making wine at home for many years. I seem to constantly make small changes in the process in an effort to make it simpler and quicker. The way I do it these days is to use a 64-ounce bottle of grape juice, which is the cheapest generic grape juice I find in the supermarket, to make 3 gallons of wine at a time. Here’s the way I do it:
- 3 1-gallon glass jugs
- 3-quart pan
- 2 2-cup measuring cups
- large funnel
- drinking glass
- 2 large spoons
- 1/3 cup measuring cup
- 3 small plastic bags
- 6 large rubber bands
- 64-ounce bottle of grape juice
- packet of active dry bread yeast
- Put a little sugar in the glass. Add some warm water, 1/2 cup more or less. Add the yeast and stir it occasionally while doing the following steps.
- Measure out 4 cups of sugar and pour it into the 3-quart pan. (I use 2 measuring cups so I can keep one dry for measuring sugar and one wet for measuring grape juice.)
- Measure out 1/3 of the grape juice (that’s 21 1/3 fluid ounces, which equals about 1 2/3 cup plus 1 cup) and pour it onto the sugar in the pan.
- Mix with the spoon to dissolve the sugar into a slurry, then pour it through the funnel into one of the gallon jugs. Add remaining sugar to the jug.
- Repeat steps 2, 3, and 4 to put sugar and grape juice into the other 2 jugs.
- Pour yeast solution into the wet measuring cup. Add water to bring it up to 1 cup. Stir to mix. Use the 1/3 cup measuring cup to put 1/3 cup of this yeast solution through the funnel into each of the gallon jugs.
- Add water to bring the level up to the shoulders of the jugs.
- Put a clean, small plastic bag over the top of each jug to serve as an airlock (to allow CO2 to escape, but not allow oxygen to get in). Fasten it by wrapping 2 large rubber bands around the neck of the jug. (The 2nd rubber band is for insurance in case one breaks.)
- The mixture may foam up when the yeast starts working. That’s why I fill only to the shoulder at first, so it doesn’t foam out of the top and make a mess. After a couple days, when the foam has died down, mix by swirling each jug around to put into solution the sugar that has settled to the bottom of the jug.
- It may take a couple days of swirling the jugs now and then to get the sugar all dissolved. Then add water up to the neck.
- After waiting one more day to make sure the mixture won’t foam up out of the top, I put a masking tape label on each jug, noting batch number and the date it was mixed. Then I move the jugs off the kitchen table to a shelf (which happens to be in my bedroom, but could be anywhere), and I leave it undisturbed for many weeks (4 months is ideal).
When I start drinking the wine, I pour it from the same gallon jug it ferments in. Sediment develops at the bottom, so I stop pouring when I get down to the bottom inch or 2 and start using the next jug. When there’s enough room in the newer jug, I marry the 2 by pouring the dregs that’s left into the newer jug. After one day of settling, I can resume pouring from the newer jug. I wash out the empty jug using a bottle brush and re-use it when I mix the next batch. The way to do it so you don’t have to wait 3 or 4 months while the wine is fermenting is to get a system going like a pipeline. Mix wine periodically and add it to the right side of the shelf, while taking each oldest jug in turn from the left side. Keep moving the jugs over to the left as space opens up on the left side.
I’ve made wine using other fruit juices, but I’ve found that grape juice is really the best, and also the cheapest. Above all, avoid cranberry juice, or any mixture containing cranberry. Cranberry appears to kill the yeast, and it absolutely will not ferment.
Wine can also be made from grapes or other fresh fruit. I make a small amount of wine from grapes each year, but I don’t have a fruit press, so it’s a much harder process that requires 3 separate filterings, through a colander, through a strainer, and finally through a fine cloth. But the result is a richer, more full-bodied wine.