Preparing Your Must
Wine making made easy? Yeah, right!”
This might be what you are thinking as you click on this article. Really, I assure you, wine making is a very easy thing to do. What makes it seem daunting is all of the variables and options you have when making wine.
I am writing here to shed some light on a few of the more mysterious aspects of making wine at home. I want to cover Preparing Your Must, Making a Yeast Culture, and Understanding a Few Common Ingredients. These are a few of the basics behind making wine, and with a grasp of each of these, then you will be very ready to take on making wine at home.
Preparing Your Must
Must is the term used for your wine before it actually becomes wine. Basically, it is very sugary liquid used to feed the yeast. It’s basic components are:
A Base Fermentable, such as sugar, honey or juice, water and additives, such as yeast nutrient, pectic enzymes, and acid blends.
You begin by mixing all of these things together. Now, with so many things together in the mix, there is a large chance that there are microbes present in the must that you do not want in your wine. At this point, you will want to sanitize your must. The most popular, and easiest, way to do this is to add Campden Tablets to the mix. Campden Tablets are a sulfur-based sanitizer made from either sodium or potassium metabisulphite. They kill off all unwanted bacteria in your must, as well as inhibiting the growth of nearly all wild yeasts that may be present. Most importantly, Campden Tablets achieve this without affecting the flavor of your wine. You simply add one crushed-up tablet per gallon of must for red wines, and two for white wines, and let the must rest for 24 hours. Keep it covered with just a piece of cheesecloth or a towel, to allow the sulfur gas to escape.
For those sensitive to too many sulfates in their must, such as myself, you can also sanitize the must using heat. Many wine makers are opposed to this, as they feel that heat breaks down much of the flavor compounds and aromas of their wine. If you are careful not to overheat your must, then there is not too much worry over this. Using heat to sanitize is often faster than using Campden tablets as well, but there is really no need to rush, as the fermentation takes weeks to complete anyways.
That’s all there is to it! Once your must is properly sanitized, then you are ready to add your yeast!
Making a Yeast Culture
Yeast is a finicky thing. More than likely, you are using yeast in a packet, which has been dehydrated and been dormant for a very long time. Preparing the culture activates the yeast, and gets it off to a healthy start before it goes to work on your must.
You’ll need about a cup and a half of some juice or sugar-water at room temperature to start. Put the juice and a teaspoon of yeast nutrient and/or energizer into a jar with a tight fitting lid. Add to this your packet of yeast and secure the lid tightly. Now, shake this concoction vigorously, and make sure the yeast is dissolved into the liquid. Let it rest for one to three hours, until it becomes bubbly, before adding it into your must. By the way, after it becomes bubbly, don’t shake it anymore. It’s kind of like a can of soda now. Not that I’ve done this… I’m just saying’….
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