Friday, April 06, 2007

Making Wine I

Last Saturday night, rather than drinking wine, I started making wine. I'd bought a kit (a bag of grape juice concentrate, plus yeast Saccharomyces bayanus and few packets of dry chemical powders as well as a little bit of a goopy liquid) and the necessary equipment in the form of a "beginner's starter pack" (glass carboy, plastic bucket, siphon, hydrometer, thermometer, etc).

The first stage, termed "Primary Fermentation" in the instruction manual, involves sterilizing the needed equipment (Fig. 1), then pouring the concentrate into the bucket (the "primary fermenter") along with enough water to reach the correct volume and concentration. The nasty grey dirt named "Bentonite" goes in next, (lots of stirring) followed by the yeast (no stirring) (Fig. 2). Then I just put the bucket somewhere stable with its lid on (not airtight) and let the yeast do their thing.

Fig. 1. Pink sterilizer solution killing greeblies on my big-ass spoon and other equipment.

Fig. 2. The primary fermenter just after the yeast was added.

Now my apartment smells like rotting grape juice - but that's OK. I have long found the soft buzz and occassional flicker of flourescent lights less bothersome than most other people, and I always attributed this comfort to my teenage years spent in my parents' basement, on the computer. My father makes wine at home in much the same way I now do, so the smell of rotting grapes wafting from the basement laundry room area has long served as an aromatic accompanyment to the aforementioned visual and auditory components of my childhood. The pre-wine fermenting away in my basement apartment just triggers happy memories for me of years wasted in front of a 486 computer.


Fig. 3. The primary fermenter bubbling happily away in a stable place.


Also, eventually I should end up with 23 litres of red wine, which is approximately 30 bottles. Huzzah!

10 comments:

Carlo said...

This is great news! Grapists unite!

I've been thinking about wine making ever since my father began suggesting that I do so (when I was about 4 years old... just kidding). But I've got a much smaller appt, and I think that the smell of fermenting grapes (which I am quite familiar with) would cramp my sweet style... Not to mention that Julie wouldn't like it.

You renting basement space?

TheBrummell said...

This is great news!

I'm glad you approve. I was worried that most people would react, uh, snobbishly to my home-made wine efforts, based on some poor experiences or unsupported prejudices. I can't promise it will be good, but given my training in sterile technique and biology, I am expecting it to be at least "decent".

Grapists unite!

Is that a deliberate reference to an old Onion article, which I think contained the funniest line ever written?

I have no intentions of sodomizing thirsty children.

You renting basement space?

You wanna make wine at my place? Sounds good! I can totally hook you up with a square meter or two for your efforts. We can discuss rental terms, but I think they'll be low - and probably payable in liquid currency.

We can probably stagger the timing of the fermentation, such that we don't need to get a second primary fermenter, just another carboy and associated airlock (the pre-wine spends about three times as much time in glass compared to in plastic). If you buy the kit (juice), I'll handle the majority of the labour and provide the space.

langmann said...

I am totally behind this 100%.

I want to do the same thing so let me know how it goes. This is indeed as Carlo says great news. Where did you get the "kit"? You should be able to make great wine, I think a lot of people are just stupidly elitist about these sort of things.

I forsee a future with a backyard shed with tons of fermenters and even a still. Not like I drink hard liquour but its the thought that counts.

(All libertarians believe in overthrowing any government intervention in things that should be person freedoms. Like wine making or owning guns. Not like many of us libertarians own guns, its the thought that counts.)

Carlo said...

Is that a deliberate reference to an old Onion article, which I think contained the funniest line ever written?

Indeed it is!

TheBrummell said...

I want to do the same thing so let me know how it goes.

Will do. Notice the " I " in the post title.

Primary fermentation is supposed to take 6-8 days, but my basement is a little colder than the recommended range (the dilution water was 12 C going in), so I'm planning on checking the situation on Sunday, and possibly racking to the secondary (i.e. the carboy) either Sunday or Monday.

I forsee a future with a backyard shed with tons of fermenters and even a still. Not like I drink hard liquour but its the thought that counts.

The combination of my inherent incompetence and love of stupid weird sciency shit would inevitably lead to me attempting to construct a nuclear-powered backyard still.

Seriously. Smoke detectors contain Americium, which is a neutron emitter, and I know how to get ahold of the 1000 or so necessary to push U235 up to U238...from there, it's a short jump to a breeder reactor, and Plutonium galore.

Some day I gotta look up the story of the FCOJ Home TacNuke.

TheBrummell said...

That didn't take long.

Orange Juice Nuke http://www.webspawner.com/users/nukes/

Backyard Breeder Reactor
http://www.dangerouslaboratories.org/radscout.html

Mike said...

Nice, you just unknowingly sweetened the incentives for some thirsty Albertan visitors!

I'm hoping to start the same project in May or so. I'll be relying heavily on help from you and your dad!

Best of luck with the first batch!

langmann said...

This is fabulous. I cannot wait for the reviews of the wine later.

As to the reactor, I am also 100% behind that as well. For one its my person dream to make my house completely self sufficient from the monopolistic energy grid. That sounds like the way to do it, though possibly buying an old russian nuclear sub may be cheaper. :)

TR Gregory said...

Should it concern me that you have a whole category called "procrastination"?? Anyway, this is just a test of my new account, since you have somehow managed to get me thinking about the use of starting a blog with links to the database.

TheBrummell said...

Professor Dr. T. Ryan Gregory said: Should it concern me that you have a whole category called "procrastination"??

For those who don't know, Dr. Gregory is my PhD advisor. I need to keep him happy, you know, for my career.

So I'm going to now assure him that no, it should not be grounds for concern. hehe. uh.. moving on...

Anyway, this is just a test of my new account, since you have somehow managed to get me thinking about the use of starting a blog with links to the database.

Mwa-hahahaha! And so it begins...

Actually, I hope I manage to contribute something more to the world during my PhD than "got my advisor into blogging".