Beyond a large vessel to ferment in, there really isn’t any specialized equipment required to turn fruit into cider or wine. Like most forms of fermentation, it is one of those things that happens naturally. This is why people have been making cider and wine for centuries. However, specialized cider and wine-making supplies will ensure that the final beverage tastes good.
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This post on winemaking 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.
To properly make wine, you need all of these pieces of equipment. 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 all of this equipment for less than $50.
- 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. 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 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 prevent contamination from unwanted yeasts, bacteria, and mold.
- Hydrometer: 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. It is the only piece of equipment that is not strictly necessary, however, it is pretty handy!
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. However, you may need to add a few of the optional additives.
- Yeasts: Traditionally all alcohol was made with wild yeasts. However, wild yeasts tend to die out at 5% ABV, so they aren’t ideal for stronger beverages. Over time, specific strains of yeast were cultivated to make white wine, champagne, etc. The yeasts were selected to ferment at particular temperatures and will influence the flavor 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 flavor of fruit cider and wines.
- Acid blend: This is a combination of citric acid, malic acid, and tartaric acid. It is added to wine to raise acidity levels. Some recipes also use freshly squeezed lemon juice.
- Yeast nutrient: This gives the yeast the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals needed to ensure a good ferment. It’s particularly useful when making wine from fruit, like pears, which don’t contain all the necessary nutrients.
- 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 winemaking. 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 them 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
- the pH of the finished wine
In general, these are not required for the home winemaker. Particularly, if you are only making small batches of wine for your own consumption.