Primary Fermenters: What size do you need?

I’m excited about making red wine from grapes this year. It will be my first red, and I needed some new equipment. My largest fermenter has a ten gallon capacity, which is enough for five or six gallons of white wine, but too small for five gallons of red wine. Red wine is fermented on the skins, so you have a larger volume of must than for the same amount of white wine. All that skin and pulp gets forced to the surface, by CO2, forming a “cap.” So the fermenter has to be bigger than the amount of finished wine, to handle the skin and pulp and to contain the cap. How much bigger? A good rule of thumb is that every 5 lb of grapes require 1 gallon of capacity (0.6 kg/liter). For 100 lb (45.5 kg) of grapes, then, I’ll need a 20 gallon (75 liter) fermenter. My local homebrew shop carries 24 gallon (90 liter) fermenters. It’s ok to have a little more room than you need, but it’s a little messy if you’re short so I bought one. All I need now are some grapes!

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