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I'll buy no kits before it's time.
June 8, 2009 3:00 PM   Subscribe

Wine- (and beer-) making without buying a kit: What kind of equipment to buy, and where?

Beer- and wine-making hardware seems to consist mainly of buckets and tubing. Can't I get that stuff at a restaurant supply + hardware store, without purchasing one of those kits for dummies? The lid with the airlock seems to be the biggest catch. Couldn't I just buy food-grade buckets through a restaurant supplier, and then purchase the lid + gasket thingy from a homebrew supplier?

What other accessories might I need to pick up, piecemeal? Am mostly thinking of doing ciders and berry wines right now. Beer in the winter, maybe. It just seems like this stuff is pretty basic to make, and I'm not really trusting the places that want me to buy a kit for $120 or more, when the kit basically looks like buckets and tubing that I can acquire elsewhere.

Assume that I already have bottles, because I do.

And a bonus cider recipe for those reading the question.
posted by mudpuppie to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Indeed you can. In fact I think using a turkey friar is an excellent way to cook up the wort.
posted by sanka at 3:05 PM on June 8, 2009


Making cider is fun!

Most of the kits are crap, unless it's something the homebrew store puts together - it's way better to put together the stuff you really want.

You can get away with food grade buckets + airlock, or you can usually pick up glass carboys used at the homebrew store for fairly cheap. If you go the carboy way, you'll need tubing for blow-off and rubber stoppers.

You need a good thermometer and a hydrometer. Long lengths of tubing for siphoning. A funnel is handy. Sanitizer for all of it. And if you don't have a big (5+ gallon) stainless steel or enameled stockpot, you need one - check out thrift stores or buy a cheap canner or crab pot at the hardware store.

Stuff you might want: a bottle washer makes life a LOT easier - the kind you just screw into your faucet works just fine. You'll need a capper, and real caps - the oxygen-sealed kind are nice for cider, which might need to mellow for a loooong time. And if you want to do any champagne-type cider (really good!) you'll probably want to rent a tabletop or floor corker for a weekend.

Optional ingredients: fining agents are nice to have if you want clear cider - gelatin works like a champ.

Have fun!
posted by peachfuzz at 3:18 PM on June 8, 2009


Add to the nice to have list: an autostart for the siphon. It's like a long rigid tube you pump to get the liquid going - good because 1) you don't need to get your mouth on it and undo all your sanitizing (though swishing with vodka before siphoning was always fun...) and 2) the end that goes in the old container usually has a filter at the end that helps keep you clear of the sediment layer on the bottom. With murky opaque stuff it can be helpful.

Also nice - a bottling wand to stick on the end of your bottling hose. Makes bottling actually pleasant and fun, not messy and stressful.
posted by peachfuzz at 3:23 PM on June 8, 2009


God. Three comments in a row is a little ridiculous, eh? On non-preview, I enthusiastically agree with sanka - a reasonably strong propane burner is a smart, smart way to go. With most ciders, you're just pasteurizing and not actually cooking (and pretty much everyone agrees cider must smells good, where cooking beer wort can be overpowering indoors), but it's still a big job for many home stoves to get four or five gallons of liquid up to 180 F.
posted by peachfuzz at 3:27 PM on June 8, 2009


Add to the nice to have list: an autostart for the siphon. It's like a long rigid tube you pump to get the liquid going - good because 1) you don't need to get your mouth on it and undo all your sanitizing (though swishing with vodka before siphoning was always fun...) and 2) the end that goes in the old container usually has a filter at the end that helps keep you clear of the sediment layer on the bottom. With murky opaque stuff it can be helpful.
Autosiphon is not necessary. What you really need is a racking cane. This is what you use to transfer liquid from one container to another without splashing it. Racking cane should come with the little black nubby filter attachment peachfuzz refers to.

Siphoning is not that difficult. Do not use your mouth. Just fill the cane + tubing up with water and tick one end in the liquid which you want to transfer, and the other end below the level of the liquid in the bucket you want to transfer to.

I would buy the tubes and stuff from the homebrew shop because then you should be getting the right sizes, and they are food grade.

Here is all the info you need.
posted by goethean at 3:36 PM on June 8, 2009


tick -> stick
posted by goethean at 3:36 PM on June 8, 2009


Food-grade 5-gallon buckets will do just fine for primary and secondary fermenting. You can use the lids that come with them (if they seal) and just buy the airlock via mail order for like $3.

Turkey fryers will work just fine. If you can get steel rather than aluminum, go for it (I've read that aluminum will taint the taste of the beer).
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 3:42 PM on June 8, 2009


(I've read that aluminum will taint the taste of the beer).
That's not true. Aluminum is fine, although SS is better.
posted by goethean at 3:47 PM on June 8, 2009


Thanks for the tips -- especially regarding the propane stove. (I've got a powerful propane camp stove that I never remember to use for other things.)
posted by mudpuppie at 4:02 PM on June 8, 2009


Aluminum cans and bottles don't taint the beer sold in them only because they are lined with a very thin layer of plastic. Do not cook your wort in aluminum. The low pH will interact with the metal. You really do need a brew kettle that is made of either stainless steel or unchipped enamel-coated steel. Stainless steel lasts many times longer, since enamel inevitably gets chipped.
posted by Ery at 4:14 PM on June 8, 2009


Cider is easier and takes less equipment than beer (because you don't need to boil wort and then cool it down). Do note that there are beermaking "kits" that are mainly malt extract that you probably will want to look into if you're making beer, since making it the old-fashioned way is more complicated and will require even more equipment.

Cider, however, is dead easy. I've been making 4.5-gallon batches in food-grade 5-gallon plastic buckets with a plastic spigot attached. Both spigots and airlocks should be dirt cheap at your local brewing supply store. While you're there, get sanitizer as well (the one I use is called OneStep). You can also use a racking cane (I use the autosiphoner, it's dead easy and not too expensive) in lieu of attaching a spigot to the bucket. Yeast is another necessity that can't be improvised (unless you're really into krausening, I suppose).

Depending on the situation, you might want to look into getting a Cornelius keg for dispensing, instead of bottles. If you can find the keg for cheap, the regulator + CO2 tank + tubing should only run you $100 or so. The advantage here is that it's much less of a pain to force-carbonate than it is to bottle-condition. Faster, too, if you're the impatient type. (I am!)
posted by neckro23 at 4:32 PM on June 8, 2009


Oh yes, and I imagine all of this applies to wine too, although I've never done wine. Except for the bit about kegging, heh.
posted by neckro23 at 4:34 PM on June 8, 2009


The advantage here is that it's much less of a pain to force-carbonate than it is to bottle-condition.

It's also damn near impossible to do cider without force carbonating. Almost all of the sugars in apple juice are fermentable so you usually end up with a really dry product(<1>
Unfortunately, things aren't so easy when you're bottling.

In order to get natural carbonation, you'll need to have some active yeast left in suspension to eat the priming sugar you're about to add. But the rub is that the bits of yeast that stick around to help you carbonate are also going to eat any of the sugars you add for backsweetening.

So in the end you're in a bit of a goldilocks situation with three choices. Bottle and have fizzy fizzy fizzy dry dry cider, bottle and have still sweet cider, or invest in kegging and be juuuuust right....

Also I have a _killer_ cider recipe. Shoot me a mefimail if you're interested.
posted by esch at 7:05 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Alton freaking Brown
posted by hal_c_on at 12:54 AM on June 9, 2009


Buy a bottle of commercial apple juice. Anything will do. Take off the lid, pour out about half a cup, then add the yeast and a lid from this pack. After a couple of days, refrigerate, then put the old lid back on. Voila - half a gallon of perfectly carbonated apple cider that tastes fantastic. No fermenters, no racking, no bottling, no carbonation, nada. Same works for grape juice to make an easy 24 hour lambrusco to go with pizza.

If you're in the US, just get it off eBay (search for 'oztops') - $20 for the kit, enough to make 50 litres / 13 gallons of wine or cider.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:58 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


> Alton freaking Brown

People have said that he gets a lot wrong in that eipsode. I havent watched it though.
posted by goethean at 3:20 PM on June 9, 2009


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