Homebrewing has been legal in the United States since 1979, though each state varies on its particular regulations. Do you enjoy brewing your own wine or beer? Are you interested in getting started with homebrewing as a hobby? You’ll find that it’s fun and rewarding! Whether you want to make red wine, white wine, or even champagne, grab a packet of yeast and have some fun experimenting with your own unique flavors. Want to learn more? Here is an introduction to the basics of homebrewing.
Wine: Its Beginnings
Juice, not whole fruit, is the starting point for wine. Most wines are made using grape juice grown specifically for wine making. If you grab bunches of grapes at a grocery store and start squeezing, you won’t end up with a quality wine. However, the juice is best when it is squeezed directly from the fruit, so choosing a bottle of fruit juice off of a grocery store shelf will probably not lead to great results either.
Not all wines are made from grapes; you can use any fruit juice to make wine. Even “country wines” (such as dandelion or rose petal wine) start by cooking up a sugary liquid that includes fruit flavors or a splash of fruit juice.
Building Blocks of Beer
Beer is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented brewed grains. Beer is commonly made from malted and unmalted barley. It can also be made from malted or unmalted wheat, oats, rice, corn, and rye.
How to Make Wine
Here is what you’ll need, along with the basic steps for grape wine, although the same idea works for whatever fruit you choose.
For red wine, you’ll need 30 pounds of fresh red grapes.
For white wine, you’ll need 35 pounds of fresh white grapes.
Clean your equipment thoroughly. Boil every everything that will come into contact with the process. If you can’t boil it, use a food-safe disinfectant.
- Equipment needed:
- 20L plastic bucket with lid
- Smaller bucket, no lid required
- Fermentation lock and bung
- 2 x 10L demijohns
- Kitchen strainer
- Measuring jug
- 1m plastic tubing/hose
- Bottles and caps (cork, screw cap or crown seal)
- Sort through the grapes and get rid of anything that doesn’t look nice. If the skin is broken or if there’s any other reason you wouldn’t put that grape in your mouth, toss it.
- Now the fun part: crush and press the grapes. The juice you get from this is called the “must.” Crush the grapes and keep the leftovers. Whatever method you use to extract the juice, make sure it’s sanitary and thorough. You want all the juice possible from your grapes.
- If you’re making red wine, you want the skins and the juice to be together at this point. Also, add about 30 percent of the stalks to the juice. The stalks should be brown and sweet. The stalks add a little extra boldness to the wine, so if you choose stalks that are too young, your wine will be bitter.
- Ferment the wine.
- For white wine, put the juice in a demijohn and put the fermentation lock and bung on it. If nothing happens after two days, follow the instructions on the yeast packet to get the process going.
- For red wine, keep the juice in a large bucket, covered with cheesecloth. Fermenting creates gases that need to escape, so leave the lid off. The skins and other non-liquid items in the bucket should float to the top; this is referred to as “the cap.” Keep the cap moist by gently pushing it down into the juice twice daily.
- Keep an eye on the juice-becoming-wine process. There shouldn’t be any strange or strong smells; if there are, your wine might need a little air. The fermentation should take no longer than a week.
- Once the wine has fermented, siphon the wine into a demijohn.
- The demijohn should be nearly full. Oxygen is the enemy at this point, so you don’t want a lot of airspace at the top.
- For red wine, be sure to extract all of the juice from the cap. If you don’t have enough juice to fill the demijohn, you could add a little water or good red wine to top it off.
- For white wine, you’ll see a layer of dead yeast cells sitting at the bottom of the demijohn. When you siphon the wine, do so carefully so that the yeast doesn’t get into the good wine.
- Bottling. When you bottle the wine, leave the neck of the bottle (the thinnest part) clear. Cap or cork the bottle and store it in a cool, dark place like a fridge. You can add a Campden tablet as a preservative if you would like to keep it for a while; otherwise, you’ll have a few months to drink it.
Fun fact about wine: The word “vintage” comes from an old French word “vendage” meaning “wine harvest.” Wine made from the juice of harvested fruits is a vintage wine; therefore, every wine ever made is vintage. Since most people think that a vintage wine is something special, feel free to brag about your first batch being vintage – regardless of how it turns out!
How to Make Beer
- Clean your equipment thoroughly. Anything that will come in contact with the beer needs to be extremely clean. Lack of cleanliness can result in failure of your batch.
- Brew Kettle/Pot
- Fermentation Vessel (what you’ll use to let your beer ferment)
- Air Lock
- Stir Spoon
- Auto Siphon
- Bottle Caps
- Bottle Capper
- Steep the grains. Fill your 5-gallon brew kettle with 2.5 gallons of water. While the water is heating up, steep your grains for 20 minutes. When you remove the grains, let the water drip naturally out of the grain bag and into the kettle. Don’t squeeze the grain bag; that will badly affect the final flavor.
- Bring your kettle to a boil, then take it off the stove and add malt extracts. The hops are also added during this step, but you’ll have to check your exact recipe to see when they should be added. Now that your malt extract and hops are added to the boil, you have what is called a “wort.”
- Cool your wort as quickly as possible. You can set your pot in a sink with an ice bath or use a wort chiller.
- Sanitize your fermentation vessel, then pour or siphon the wort into the fermentation vessel and add water so it reaches the 5 gallon level.
- Mix your wort around in it’s container. That will bring the oxygen level up so the yeast can get to work once you add it.
- Now add your yeast. Sanitize the yeast pack and the pair of scissors for opening the packet, then pour the yeast into the fermenter.
- Add an air lock and store the wort in a dark, cool place.
- Fermentation usually takes about two weeks, so if two weeks have gone by, it’s time to get bottling.
- Sanitize your bottles, bottle filler, bottle caps, and bottling bucket you will be using for transfer. Everything must be as clean as possible.
- Boil your priming sugar in 16 ounces of water. This is the sugar that will help your beer carbonate. When the sugar has cooled, add it into the bottling bucket.
- Siphon the beer from your fermenter to your bottling bucket. Try your best to keep the liquid separate from the solids that have settled at the bottom.
- Attach the bottle filler to your hose and the hose to the bottling bucket spigot. Push the bottle filler to the bottom of the bottle, open the spigot, and let the beer flow into the bottle. Fill each bottle to the top. When you take out the bottle filler, there should be the right amount of space at the top of the bottle.
- Cap the bottles and store them at room temperature for about two weeks. This gives your beer time to carbonate.
- Put them in the fridge. Once they are cold, they’re ready to enjoy!