Beyond a vessel to ferment in, there really isn’t any specialized equipment required to turn fruit into alcohol. Like most forms of fermentation, it is one of those things that happens naturally, which is why people have been making fruit into alcohol for centuries. However, specialized cider and wine making equipment and supplies will ensure that the final beverage tastes good.
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Luckily, it’s easy to find everything you need at your local homebrew store or online. Best of all, you should be able to buy everything for less than $50.
This post on winemaking equipment and supplies is part of a larger series of posts on cider and wine. Check out Everything You Need to Know about Making Cider and Wine to learn more.
- Airlock: Using an airlock is very important if you are serious about making alcoholic ferments. An airlock allows the CO2 to escape, while maintaining a sterile fermenting environment. I recommend cylindrical airlocks because they are easier to clean than S-shaped airlocks. They cost about $2 each, and you just need to make sure that your airlock fits snugly into the mouth of your carboy.
- Carboy: The carboy is a large container that is used for the secondary fermentation. In my case I use 5 liter jugs that I get from buying apple juice. If you want to make large batches of wine or cider you will need to invest in large carboys.
- Siphon and Tubes: Food grade tubes and a siphon are used for moving liquid between vessels. They are also handy for filtering out the sediment during racking and bottling. They only cost $20, and are well worth the investment.
- Sanitation Chemicals: It’s important to sterilize all equipment to make sure you make good tasting wine. Here’s more information on sanitizing for wine making.
Officially wine is made of two things: fruit and yeast. However, there are a few additives that are handy if you are making wine from fruit other than grapes.
- Fruit: Grapes happen to have all the sugars, protein and tannin required to feed the yeast and make wine. However, any fruit or juice will ferment into alcohol.
- Yeasts: Traditionally all alcohol was made from wild yeasts. However, wild yeasts tend to die out at 5% alcohol, so they aren’t ideal for stronger beverages. Over time, specific strains of yeast were cultivated to make white wine, champagne etc. The yeast were selected to ferment at particular temperatures and will influence the flavour of the end product. You can buy yeasts online or at your local brewing and wine making shops.
There are a few optional additives that really help improve the flavour of fruit cider and wines.
- Yeast nutrient: This gives the yeast the nutrients, vitamins and minerals needed to ensure a good ferment.
- Acid blend: This is a combination of citric acid, malic acid and tartaric acid. It is added to wine to raise the acidity levels.
- Yeast energizer: Yeast energizer will kick-start a sluggish ferment. It’s generally added to the secondary ferment.
- Campden Tablets: This is the most common form of sulfite used in cider and wine making. It is added to the fruit before fermenting to kill any wild yeasts and molds. It is also used to halt fermentation at a particular alcohol level. -I am sensitive to sulfites, so I don’t use it in any of my recipes.-
There are a number of chemical tests that can be used for winemaking. They allow precision at every level of the process. You can test:
- fruit ripeness
- total acidity
- pH of finished wine
In general, these are not required for the home wine maker. Particularly, if you are only making small batches of wine for you own consumption.
However, I do recommend getting a hydrometer (sponsored link): A hydrometer measures the approximate alcohol levels of your wine. It can help you determine when your wine has finished fermenting and is ready for bottling. Here is more information on how to use a hydrometer.