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First Fresh Grape Batch! ?Questions?

Howdy everyone…long time brewer, a bit newer to the wine game. I’ve made a few kit wines, suddenly I am lucky enough to get some fresh Chilean grapes, but I’m afraid the cart has come before the horse!! Meaning I’ve got plenty of beer equipment and basic wine equipment, but I don’t have a grape crusher or press :oops:

I have Merlot and Sav Blanc grapes coming to me tomorrow, 5 gal batch worth of each…smaller batch size might work to my advantage on some of the below I hope.

So, here go some questions and/or reassurances needed:

Crushing: People use their feet to crush grapes, I’m fine going with any other manual method? Potato masher, etc?

Pressing: As for a press, I’ve seen some bucket in bucket car jack type setups…I’m thinking I can go with this before spending a few hundred on an official press? Worth even going through a DIY solution if I can push down manually? I’ve read that the yield from the crush would be nominal compared to the free run amount…your thoughts?

Temps: I’m used to keeping beer at lower temps in the basement…reading that now I need to keep wine in the 70s…main floor hovers around 70, but it seems like mid-70s is preferred…something like a brew belt heater needed? Or should I be within an OK range…? Last couple batches have been done at this range, but now that I’m putting everything into question…

Primary: noting the batch size, would the standard 6-ish gal wine buckets be big enough? Or do I need bigger tubs of some sort?

Most Importantly*
Bad Timing: I get grapes tomorrow (Fri 5/2) and plan to crush immediately (Sav Blanc possibly 5/3 if I need to construct/fabricate a press)…I leave in one week (next Fri 5/9) for 8 days (return Sat 5/17)…think I can make this work? Assuming I have to use the grapes immediately (they probably can’t last 2 weeks unused)?

Crush Fri 5/2 & Ferment in primary
Press Wed or Thu 5/7-5/8 → transfer to carboys
5/9 - 5/17 worry my wine isn’t ruining itself along with my vacation *unfortunate/unplanned timing
5/17 (or when gravity reached) transfer again (will the wine be OK if it gets to gravity ahead of time)?

Cutting this too tight?

Well…there it is…talk about sounding like a nervous nelly! Think I asked enough questions? :roll:

Hope the eagles here can chime in with some sage advise…

Tell me I’m crazy for stressing everything or should I just plan on giving out home made vinegar! :cheers:

Good luck, this is going to be difficult.

You can crush with pretty much anything as long as it is gentile enough to not crush the seeds. I’ve had kids stomping the grapes; I’ve also crushed them by hand and used a potato masher.

The free-flow is significantly more volume than the press AFTER it is mostly fermented. Pre-fermentation you are going to loose a lot of juice if you don’t press it well. Thus, you might get 80% of your Merlot without pressing, but you will loose at least half of your sauv blanc, as you need to separate the juice from the skins before fermenting it. A home made press might work, but it won’t be easy. Even with the basket press I used to have, it was a job to do.

For temperatures, you want to ferment most white wines between 55 and 65F. Red wines vary more depending on style, but around 70 or slightly higher would work well for Merlot.

Fermentor size: should be about 15-20% larger than the volume. 6 gallons is big enough for the sauv blanc, but is borderline for the merlot.

Timing: shouldn’t be a problem for the white, but you’ll want to press your merlot before you leave.

As a general comment: I’ve found that reds are easier to deal with than whites if you are starting with grapes. It’s like the difference between brewing stouts and light lagers. Any problems or flaws stand out in the more delicate beverage.

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