Are you new to home wine making? It’s easy to get started once you have the basic wine making equipment. And you don’t need to have everything at once. You can start simple and add on as you go. Here’s our wine making equipment list for home wine brewing for beginners.
When starting wine making, the basic wine making equipment can be purchased for about the cost of a nice dinner out for two. Some of the items, like measuring spoons and pots are most likely already in a well-equipped kitchen, but the rest can be found in any home-brewing store or bought online.
When starting out, I would recommend purchasing only the minimum equipment needed. You can always add on as you go.
Basic Wine Making Equipment List:
• Primary Fermenter with Lid
• Secondary Fermenter
• Air Locks
• Racking Tube
• Wine thief (optional but very useful – buy one that will work with your hydrometer)
• Hydrometer (optional but very useful – buy one that will work with your wine thief)
• Measuring spoons
• Boiling Pot
• Nylon straining bag
Where to Begin?
First, determine how much wine you plan to make. I usually make one-gallon batches of wine at a time. That makes it easier for me to experiment with different wines to see which recipes I like and which I don’t. I’d hate to make a five-gallon batch with all the time and effort involved just to decide later that I hate it. Plus, the one-gallon jugs and two-gallon fermenters are lighter and easier to handle.
The primary fermenter is basically a food grade plastic bucket with a lid. This is used in the first stage of fermentation which usually takes about a month. Don’t be alarmed by the small hole in the lid. That’s intentional – it’s for the air lock. (The air locks come separately.)
If you’re just starting out, I would recommend the 2-gallon fermenter for making a gallon of wine. When making wine from fruit, you will have bags of fruit pulp instead of juice. The wide neck of the bucket allows you to stir the contents as needed and the extra depth allows for the bags of pulp.
The secondary fermenter is a glass or plastic jug with a narrow neck. This is used after racking the wine and before bottling it. The narrow neck limits the amount of air exposure to the wine and the clear sides allow you to check the clarity of the wine and the amount of sediment on the bottom (so you know when to rack it again.)
An air lock is an interesting little contraption that allows carbon dioxide to escape during the fermenting process while limiting the amount of air that reaches the wine. It looks a little like a clear prescription bottle on a hollow stem with a little floating cap on the inside. If you’re at the brewing store and see something that looks confusing, then that’s it.
You fill the inside of the air lock with a metabisulfite solution and drop the little cap over it so the cap floats on the water. Next, snap the lid on the top of the air lock. The air lock will fit into the top of your primary fermenter or into a bung on the secondary fermenter.
It’s a tight fit and you made need to wiggle it a bit to get it properly seated. Just be careful not to slosh or spill the liquid inside the air lock. The whole process sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is.
A bung is a little rubber seal that is used to hold the airlock in the secondary fermenter. When buying the bung, make sure it will fit into your secondary. There are different sizes. If you’ve spent ten minutes trying to get it to fit, or if it falls into the fermenter, then you’ve got the wrong size. Don’t ask me how I know…
The racking tube is simply a long piece of clear plastic tubing. You will need at least a couple feet. Basically, you’re siphoning the liquid from one container and into the other. It helps if one is on the counter and the other is lower so that gravity works with you.
When racking the wine, you will have one end of the tube in the fermenter on a countertop with the other end flowing into either your secondary fermenter or bottle.
To reach down to the floor you will probably need about five or six feet. My tube is about four feet long and I have to use a chair when racking. (I put the bottles in the chair – I’m tall enough to reach the counter on my own.)
Wine Thief and Hydrometer
To me, the wine thief and hydrometer go together. The wine thief (I love that name) is basically a long tube with a catch at the end. It’s used with the hydrometer to measure the amount of sugar and potential alcohol in your wine. This helps to determine if your wine will have the desired alcohol content.
The hydrometer looks like a thermometer with a heavy weight on one end and a lot of different scales on the sides. My hydrometer actually does have a thermometer built into it which is nice. Different hydrometers have different scales so it helps to study the directions that come with it.
How do they work?
The hydrometer fits inside the wine thief. You fill up the wine thief about one half to two thirds full with wine. Then you drop the hydrometer into it. The hydrometer should float. If it doesn’t float and you have room to put more wine into your hydrometer, then do so. The goal is to get that sucker to float.
Usually, the scales on the hydrometer will tell the specific gravity (SG) and the potential alcohol (PA). These readings will change depending on the temperature of the wine, so having a thermometer built into your hydrometer is a plus.
A decent set of sturdy kitchen scales come in very handy for wine making. Between measuring out pounds of fruit and pounds of sugar, good scales can make the job a lot easier.
Measuring spoons are very important. When measuring other ingredients such as tannins, acid blends, enzymes, etc. you really need accurate measurements or you can quickly ruin what would otherwise be a great bottle of wine.
A two-gallon boiling pot comes in very handy. I don’t have one yet and find myself making wine with two one gallon pots, which work, but take up a lot of room on the stove.
And of course, what would wine be without a good bottle? If you have a friend who works in a restaurant or bar, you can probably get all the bottles you want. If not, then you have to get them like the rest of us, which is anywhere you can. Whenever I buy wine in the store, I’ve gotten into the habit of always buying wine with corks so I’ll be able to re-use the bottles.
And what’s a bottle without a cork? Corks keep the wine in the bottle (when the bottles aren’t blowing their corks). Corks come in different sizes, too. When in doubt, bring your bottle to the brewing store and let them size it for you.
It can be nearly impossible to get a cork out of a bottle once it’s slipped inside. Of course, that way you know you need a larger size. If you do end up with a cork inside your bottle, check out this video for a surprisingly easy way to get the cork back out:
A bottle brush helps to keep your bottles as clean as possible. They don’t cost much and last forever.
Nylon Straining Bag
A nylon straining bag is very useful for fermenting on the fruit. I’ve been meaning to get one for the longest time and fully intend to at some point. In the meantime, though, I’ve been using extremely clean and sanitized pantyhose instead. Whatever you use, it is far easier to keep the fruit in a bag to start with than it is to try to strain it out later.
With this wine making equipment list, you’ll know just what you need to make just about any wine you want. With proper care, your equipment should last you quite some time. Of course, once you get started there are all sorts of other extras that can be added but this should be enough to get you going. And for an easy homemade wine recipe, check out our beginners guide to making wine from fruit juice.