Winemaking FAQ

We’ve been in the winemaking business for decades. And we’ve racked up a lot of knowledge and expertise – which we are always happy to share.

Following are some of the commonly asked questions we receive. If you have a question not listed here, please send us an email at ( or call us at 412.232.4507.

What do I need to get started making wine with fresh juice?

Here is a list of all the basic equipment you need to craft your own wines at home. The easiest and most cost-effective way to begin is with a starter kit.

  • Brew belt
  • Camden tablets
  • 30 corks
  • Air lock with bung
  • Funnel with strainer
  • Hydrometer with test jar
  • 5 gallon carboy
  • Fast fill siphon kit
  • Floating thermometer
  • Hand corker
  • 8oz B Brite cleanser

Why is my wine fizzy?

The most likely explanation is trapped carbon dioxide. Prevention is the best solution. If making wine with juices, stir your juices vigorously and frequently during your primary fermentation. If using grapes, punch down thoroughly and more frequently. These practices will displace the carbon dioxide being produced in fermentation.

If your wine is already in a storage vessel and all fermentation is completed, remove a small amount of wine and stir gently with a wine whip to displace the CO2. Resulfite immediately. The best method is to sparge (or flush) with nitrogen and a sparging stone. If these methods do not resolve your problem, you most likely have a microbial problem, which no amount of degassing will correct.

What is the best way to sanitize my equipment?

Once your equipment is clean, you can sanitize with a simple mix of potassium metabisulfite, water, and citric acid.

Mix 1 gallon of water, 1/8 ounce of potassium metabisulfite, and 1/2 ounce of citric acid. Spray the solution on equipment and let stand for 10 minutes. Rinse with clear, clean water.

CAREFUL: Mix this in a well-ventilated area. Wear protection over your eyes and do not inhale. If you are sensitive to sulfite, try 100 proof grain alcohol instead. 

What's the best way to add sulfite to my wine?

We recommend Potassium Metabisulite in the powdered form. It dissolves easily in a small amount of wine and can then be added directly to the mother vessel. Winemaker magazine has a great sulfite calculator to ensure your using the proper amount.

Learn more at

Do I add sugar?

Always measure your sugar levels using a hydrometer prior to initiating your primary fermentation with both grapes and juices.  All of our juice pails contain a standard of 21 to 23 brix (the percentage of sugar by weight in a solution) when produced. This level enables you to produce wines with 12 to 13 percent alcohol. Grape sugar levels vary, and should always be checked. Levels from 22 to 26 brix are ideal. 

You can add sugar if you prefer wines with higher alcohol content, but it is not necessary. If you prefer your wines sweet, complete your fermentation then add potassium sorbate in proper proportion before adding additional sugar. Also be sure you have added sufficient sulfite levels. A good rule of thumb for addition is 1.5 ounces of sugar in a gallon of liquid will raise brix by 1 degree. Use a 1-cup measuring cup and make small trial batches to find the correct level for your taste.  

Do I add yeast?

Yes!! A healthy biomass will help ensure a healthy fermentation. Not all native yeast strains are favorable to the finish quality of wine. Take charge of your wines fate!!

What temperature should my juice be before yeast is added?

Room temperature of 68 to 70 degrees is ideal in most cases.

Should I fill my vessel / barrel / carboy to the top?

Always fill any container you store bulk wine in as close to the top as possible. Head space invites bacteria and air allows them to grow. Use appropriate sized vessels for the volume of bulk wine being stored.

When should I bottle?

We recommend at least three months of bulk aging for whites and country style wines. Eight months of bulk aging for red vinifera. Hybrid red varieties vary, but generally require less aging as they are stylistically sweet wines.

How long can I keep my wine?

Sound practices and methods will allow any home winemaker to craft wines that can age for many years or through full maturity. Proper cleaning and proper sanitation are two very important principles to employ. Proper acidity and pH profiles, with appropriate sulfite levels are vital aspects as well. You get out what you put in.

Should I rinse my corks?

If you are using natural cork, always source them from a reputable supplier that handles them properly. It is a perishable product. Assuming you have well sourced corks, and you’re working in a clean environment with sanitized equipment, no rinsing would be required. If you have any doubts about how they were handled, a simple potassium sulfite solution 20 ppm would be sufficient for rinsing. Allow them to dry before inserting them into bottles to avoid discoloration. 

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