Basic Wine Making From Kits

Most wine kits come complete with all the packages and instructions you need to make 30 bottles of wine. Since they’re all made differently, it’s best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions exactly.

Below is a set of winemaking instructions from a Vintner’s Reserve (one of the more popular brands on the market) wine kit:

Caution: These instructions are here for illustrative purposes & you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the kit that you have.

  1. Empty contents of foil bag of concentrate into your sterilized primary fermenting pail. Rinse bag by adding approximately 5 litres of warm water to the bag & empty that into the pail as well.
  2. If your kit contains oak chips, add them to a cup of boiling water & stir. Pour the oak solution into primary fermenter and stir.
  3. The temperature should be between 65ºF & 75ºF. If it is, add yeast.
  4. Cover primary fermenter and place in suitable area to maintain fermentation temperature of 65º to 75º for the next few days. Fermentation should start within the next 24 to 48 hours.

Stage #2 – Secondary Fermentation

  1. Once Specific Gravity has reached 1.010 or less (approx. 5-7 days) the wine is ready for transferring. Note that at lower fermentation temperatures, it may take longer to reach the target gravity.
  2. Carefully syphon the wine into a clean and sanitized carboy leving all the sediment behind.
  3. Attach airlock (with ater added) and bung to seal the carboy.
  4. Leave carboy at fermentation temperature for a further 10-12 days to finish.

Stage #3 – Stabilizing

  1. After the 10-12 days are over, check that specific gravity is 0.996 or less. If not, allow a few more days, and then repeat this step.
  2. Dissolve Pkg #2 (Potassium Metabisulphite) and Pkg #3 (Stabilizer) in approximately 125 ml of wine extracted from the carboy. Add this back to the carboy and stir vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes
  3. Shake contents of pouch 4a (Clearing Agent). Pour into carboy. Stir vigorously for 2-3 minutes. Wait 24 hours.
  4. After 24 hours, shake contents of liquid pouch 4b (Chitosan – clearing agent). Pour into carboy. Stir vigorously for 2-3 minutes. Top up carboy with sterile water to within 2-5 inches from the neck. Ensure airlock is adequately filled with water and bung secured. Allow 8 days to clear.

Stage #4 – Clarification & Bottling

  1. After the 8 days, your wine should be relatively clear, but it should be racked once more to polish the wine. Syphon into a clean, sanitized carboy.
  2. Allow more time to clear if necessary. Top up with sterile water to eliminate airspace. If your wine is clear, you can bottle your wine at this point instead, into sterilized bottles.

I know these instructions may be a bit vague, but that’s because most kits are that easy to make and are made differently from each other. If you would like me to expand on any particular part of the process, email me here:

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Fresh Fruit Wines

You must follow a recipe for fruit wines. If you require a recipe, request it by emailing me at

We sell many fruit bases, which are canned with real fruit mixd into a grape concentrate base. This may be an alternative, especially out of season.

Most fruits and vegetables can easily be made into wine. You can follow the general instructions below for the process:

  1. Use only clean, sound fruit. Remove any stems, leaves, pits, dirt, etc & then crush the fruit & put into your primary fermenter.
  2. Instructions usually call for a “Campden Tablet, crushed”, per gallon. Adding this prior to fermentation will help sterilize the fruit. It’s a good idea to add the crushed campden tablet to the fruit (in your primary), and wait 12 hours before adding the rest of the ingredients.
  3. After the 12 hours, stir the fruit-campden mixture well (to release any remaining SO2 gas that the Campden Tablet may have left behind). Add all remaining ingredients required except the yeast (consult recipe) & dissolve into the water that is needed (ie if making 4 litres, usually 3-4 litres of water will be required). The recipe usually lets you know how much you’ll need.
  4. Add yeast & place fermenter in warm spot for 7 to 9 days. Cover with a tied-down plastic sheet or lid with airlock. Periodically, you should “punch the cap” (submerge the pulp that floats on top back into the wine).
  5. Once your specific gravity has reached 1.010 or less (usually 7 days), rack the wine into a carboy (or gallon jugs) and fit with an airlock (half-filled with water). Leave to finish fermenting and clear for about 3 weeks.
  6. Syphon the clearing wine after the 3 weeks into another empty carboy and add 1 to 2 crushed campden tablets per gallon to the carboy. Let sit for 4 to 6 weeks to clear further. You may add a clearing agent (such as Claro KC, or Isinglass) if you wish.
  7. When clear (you may wish to filter it) bottle the wine but make sure you add 1 crushed, dissolved campden tablet (again) prior to filling your bottles. It may be easier to syphon/filter the clear wine into an empty pail first.

Note: if you wish to sweeten your fruit wine POTASSIUM SORBATE (1/2 tsp per gallon) MUST be added prior to bottling, otherwise fermentation will start up again in the bottles. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to use potassium sorbate in your fruit wines, as a preventative measure.

Wines From Fresh Grape Juice

We sell pure fresh grape juice from two different sources:
Californian – 23 litre pails – from October to March
European* – 11½ litre pails – all year round
Canadian – call for details

* 19 varieties of European juice from Austria, France, Hungary, Italy, Germany…. make 11½ litres at a time or put two together for 23 litres.

Basic Procedure

  1. Empty contents of juice pail into your primary fermenter. Add yeast & cover with plastic sheet tied down, or with lid & airlock. Let sit for 7 days in a warm place to ferment.
  2. Once specific gravity has reached 1.010 or lower, syphon into carboy & top up with boiled cool water if necessary. Leave in warm place to finish fermenting.
  3. Once gravity has reached 0.996 or lower, you can move carboy to cool place for storage & clearing. It’s best to rack your wine into a clean fermenter every 6 weeks (add 1 crushed-dissolved campden tablet per gallon at this time for preservation). It’s recommended to take overall about 3 to 4 months to make your juice wine.
  4. You may add a clearing agent 2 weeks prior to your planned bottling / filtering date. You may filter the wine prior to bottling, but remember to add the campden tablets again.
  5. Age whites in bottles at least 4 months before sampling and reds over 6 months is recommended. Try the wine periodically to gain a sense for how juice wines age… it’s the fun part of the learning process.

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Using a Hydrometer

Hydrometers measure sugar content, and can therefore be used to determine the progress of your wine or beer’s fermentation. Since the sugar ferments directly into alcohol, you will also be able to determine the alcohol content of the wine.

Winemakers need to know a) when to add the final stabilizing packages (when the Specific Gravity is as low as it will go – between 0.990 and 0.999) and b) how dry your wine is (the closer to 0.990, the drier the wine).

Beermakers use the hydrometer to make sure fermentation is complete before bottling their beer (to prevent excess carbonation).

  • Beer kits made with sugar will usually ferment down to 1.006 or lower
  • Beer kits made with malt may only reach 1.010. Fuller bodied (and darker) beers may have a higher terminal gravity – and usually higher starting gravity too.

To read a hydrometer, place it in solution and read the marking at eye level – where the liquid crosses the line. Hydrometers are accurate at 60ºF. If the mix temperature is 50º, subtract 0.001 from your reading, if 70º, add 0.001 to your reading.

To determine alcohol %, subtract your Ending reading from the Original & multiply the result by 131.25.

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Minijet Filter Instructions


  1. Filter only wine that is fairly clear already. If your wine is too cloudy, the pads will clog quickly and you’ll have to replace them half-way through. The same is true for preventing the intake tube from dropping into the sediment.
  2. Do not bottle your wine from the filter’s out tube… it will cause too many problems. Especially do not attach a bottle filler to the end, and don’t shut the motor on & off to bottle the wine. This will damage the motor, and likely overheat during the filtering process and shut down completely half way through. Filter first and bottle second (use your syphon and bottle filler then).
  3. Quickly wet pads prior to inserting. The pads then fit more snugly & seal better.
  4. Use 1 set of 3 pads per each 5 gallons.
  5. Let filter stand for 45 minutes between successive batches to cool down.


  1. Sterilize tubing, plates & other parts prior to starting.
  2. Insert wet pads between the filter plates. Make sure that the holes in the pads line up with the holes in the plates, which line up with the in and out holes for the tubing (top left & bottom right). (Hint: rough sides of the pads will face you if you are facing the front of the filter & driptray)
  3. Tighten hand wheels. You may have to retighten after the first gallon has gone through.
  4. The small 2″ tube attaches the plate part to the pump part (left hand side of the motor).
  5. The tube with the wire in it & red anti-sediment tip is the intake. It will go into the full (unfiltered) carboy of wine.
  6. There are two tubings remaining. A large diameter out-tube (where the wine flows out to your empty container) and a smaller diameter driptray tube (run this into an empty bottle to refilter when finished).
  7. Plug in the minijet.


  1. Most people prefer to filter ½ gallon of water first – to wash the paper taste off the pads & make sure that everything is set up OK.
  2. Place intake tube into full carboy of wine (start half-way down to avoid sediment). Keep the tip out of the sediment at all times.
  3. With out tubes in place, turn on motor. If you ran water through the pads first, it may take 500mls before the wine comes through.
  4. Filtering should take no more than 15 minutes. Run water through the pump when finished. This will push the remaining 300-500 mls of wine out so that you don’t lose any.
  5. Please clean up pump & wash out hoses before returning filter for someone else to use. You’ll appreciate it when they have done the same for you.

Filter Pads

  1. Coarse pads – for first filtrations and beer. For wine, refilter with #2 or #3 after.
  2. Medium pads – recommended fo red and white wine.
  3. Extra Fine pads – for polishing a wine filtered with #1 or #2 already.


The pump won’t draw the wine, but the motor is running. What’s wrong?
Try disconnecting the 2″ tube from the plate (leave attached to the pump side though). This ought to remove the vacuum or bubble. Be ready to reconnect when the wine starts flowing through!

Why is wine coming through the top of the pads & leaking a lot?
Check that the wheels are tightened. Secondly, are the pads in right? The holes in the pads should be lined up with the holes in the plates. It could be that they’re not lined up exactly. Otherwise, the pads have become clogged with sediment (either from the dregs at the bottom or from suspended particles in the wine. Replace the pads and continue, or let the wine sit for a day or two.. maybe add a clearing agent. Wine should be clear before filtering.

There is a lot of foam… why?
There is a lot of gas trapped in the wine (insufficient stirring in later stages) It’s hard to tell how much stirring is enough, but regardless, the wine’s OK… just let the foam subside before bottling. Check all connections for good seal, too. If the port fittings aren’t sealed, they’re drawing in air along with the wine, and pushing it through.

What are the different grades of pad (what are they for)?
#1 in the blue package is a COARSE pad… use for clear beer for kegging, or prior to filtering with a #2 medium or #3 extra fine pad.
#2 in the red package is a MEDIUM pad… use for all wines, but only if wine is fairly clear (or clearing) already. It is a fine filtration pad.
#3 in the green package is a STERILE (or extra fine) pad… use on very clear or coarse filtered whites for ultra clarity, or on filtered reds that have been put through a #2 pad. Also okay for clear liquors.

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Beer Making – Basic

The first step in making beer from kits should be to throw away the instructions that come with the kit. Generally speaking, their instructions are designed to fit on a little pamphlet, and therefore may leave out important information.

Most 5 imperial gallon beer kits require 1.0 to 1.2 kilograms of dextrose (corn sugar) for the fermentation part of the process, and a further 0.2 kilograms (1½ cups) for bottling. Don’t use table sugar. A homebrewer should have a total weight of fermentable ingredients around 3.0 kilograms. This will ensure a final alcohol content of around 5%. Add the weight of the can + the sugar. If you are lower than 3.0 kg you will have a lower alcohol beer (like 4% to 4.5%).

A homebrewer can always add more malt to his/her kit to bring up the weight, or substitute wholly malt for the sugar mentioned above. As will be noted in Intermediate Brewing, malt gives a beer more colour, more body, more flavour!, better head-retention and more. If you’re serious about making quality beer, you already know what malt can do for you, and what sugar can’t.

  1. Onward! Place the unopened can of malt extract (and any other malt) into a sink of hot water. This will soften the contents after 10 minutes. (Remove yeast packet from under the lid).
  2. Meanwhile in your clean, sterilized pail, add some hot water & then the required sugar (or malt) and stir well to dissolve.
  3. Now add the can of malt extract. Stir & add cold water. If adding extra hops for added bitterness/flavour add them now. Keep adding warm & cold water until you reach the 5 gallon mark. Stir it all in and add yeast if the temperature of your wort is between 65ºF & 85ºF.
  4. If using a hydrometer, original gravity should be 1.035 to 1.045.
  5. Cover fermenter with a lid & airlock (half-filled with water) or tie down a plastic sheet loosely to let gasses escape but not to let dust in. Set in a constant-room- temperature place for 4 days to ferment.

Day 4 (when the foam dies down)

  1. Once your specific gravity has reached 1.010 or less, you can rack (syphon) your beer into the (sterilized) carboy. Without disturbing the sediment, lift pail to a counter & place the bottom of the racking tube tube near the bottom of the pail and place the other end into the carboy. Suck on the end to start the flow. Avoid splashing the beer.
  2. Attach airlock (half filled with water) to bung and place in opening of carboy to seal. Over the next 10 days your beer will finish fermenting and clear. Top up carboy with cooled boiled water if there is excess air space (oxygen can ruin your beer at this point).
  3. Set in a dark place to finish.

Day 14 (bottling)

  1. Your specific gravity should be stable for three consecutive days before you attempt to bottle. If the fermentation is not complete, you’ll have either excessively carbonated beer or bursting bottles. Gravity should be stable between 1.001 and 1.006 for light beers made with sugar or 1.004 and 1.010 for beers made with malt or for dark beers (you’ll get a feel for ending gravities as you go).
  2. Have a taste…it should taste like warm, flat beer (yum). This is what the bottling sugar set aside on day 1 is for. Dissolve the sugar in 1 cup of water & put into an empty fermenter. Syphon the beer into the fermenter & stir well to ensure even carbonation in all bottles.
  3. Assemble 48 x 500ml plastic bottles or 66 x 341ml glass bottles & fill up to about 1″ from the top. Cap them & place in a warm place for 7 days. After that, they should be carbonated, and you can then move them to a cooler place if you wish, to condition & age. Beer is usually ready to drink after 14 to 21 days in the bottle, but will improve for 6 to 9 months.
  4. Put on your next batch, because running out would be a shame.

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Beer Making – Intermediate

Enhancing Beer Kits

To add grains to a kit, crack them (use a grain mill if possible – or we’ll crack them here for you) first. Don’t pulverize them to dust, but separate the husks. An easy way to use grains with a kit is to add the crushed grain to a Pyrex container (250 grams to 500 grams of grain is sufficient) and add 100mls of boiling water for each 100 grams of grain. Let sit 15 minutes, strain, and add the grain ‘juice’ to your primary fermenter.

To add (extra) hops to a kit, boil and cool 3 gallons of water the night before and refrigerate. This will be used to reduce the temperature of your boiled wort.

  1. Place a pot with 2 gallons of cold water on the stove. Add any crushed grains now (contained in a muslin bag).
  2. Steep any specialty grains (see chart) as your water comes to (but does not reach) a boil. Remove at about 170ºF and rinse grains with a couple cups of water over the pot to remove all the goodness.
  3. Boil up the 2 gallons of water. In a sink, immerse malt extract in hot water to soften contents. When softened (3 minutes) add to boiling water.
  4. Stir in malt well to dissolve.
  5. Boil for up to 45 minutes. Don’t let it boil over!!! Add flavouring hops during the last 5 minutes of the boil. Use chart below for how much to use.
  6. After the boil, remove hops, or let them settle out in the pot. Take care to not transfer to the primary. Carefully pour all the wort into the primary – be careful – it’s very hot!
  7. Add the reserved cold water & top up to the 23L mark. Add yeast.
Flavour & Aroma Amount of hops
Low to Medium 1/4 oz pellets (low alpha %)
Medium 1/2 oz pellets
High 1/2 oz to 1 oz (higher %)

Using your Own Malt & Hops

Malt and hops are the only two things in a beer kit. You can essentially make your own kit by putting the two together yourself.

  1. Follow steps 1 through 5 above.
  2. When boiling, add bittering hops (as per recipe). Usually leaf hops are better (fresher) to use – pellets work fine too. Usual boil time is 45 minutes. If you can, contain all leaf hops in a muslin bag for ease of removal.
  3. Add flavouring hops (as per recipe). Usual boil time is 15 minutes.
  4. During last 5 minutes add aroma hops (see chart above).
  5. Once boil is over, and hops removed, carefully (it’s hot!) pour liquid into primary fermenter & add reserve cold water. Add yeast if temperature is less than 80ºF

Grain Description Chart

Choosing Malts

Lager Style Lightest in colour – use 2.8 to 3.5 Kg
Amber Malt Reddish (good for bitters) – use 2.8 to 3.5 Kg
Dark Malt Dark (black beers; stouts etc.) – use 3.0+ Kg

Choosing Specialty Grain

Crystal Malt Grain Reddish colour; most popular. Increases residual sweetness, mouth-feel, & head retention.
Pilsner Grain Light – best used for mashing. Similar to pale malt – use as grain base in all-grain pilsners.
Pale Malt Light – use for all grain beers. Use as grain base in ales.
Lager Malt Light – use for all- grain lagers. Use as base grain or up to 400g as addition to kit or malt base.
Chocolate Malt Nutty, coffe-like flavour. Dark! Use sparingly in beers other than stouts & brown ales.
Black Patent Malt Very crisp; burnt. Charcoal colour. Great with stouts. Use on black beers unless dark colour desired.
Roasted Barley French roast coffee In small amounts can give reddish hue.

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