Tomato Wine: Defrosted, Crushed, and Pressed

Collecting Free Run Tomato Juice

I started with about 18 lb (8.2 kg) of frozen cherry tomatoes that came up to the 4-gallon (15 liter) mark of the bucket. After they thawed, I lightly crushed them with a long spoon. That left me with about 2.25 gallons of must, which I loaded into my three-bucket press. A few hours later, I had 1.67 gallons (6.3 liters) of juice. My initial measurements were:

Specific Gravity (SG): 1.024, pH: 4.23, Titratable Acidity (TA): 4 g/L

That ain’t grape juice

Because it will change the volume significantly, it’s best to adjust the sugar first. And it will be a big adjustment. A wine with 12% alcohol starts with juice at an SG around 1.090. Dissolving sugar in boiling water is a great way to sanitize it and make sure it mixes well with the juice. I’ll be adding so much I’m going to concentrated it to an SG of 1.180. That’s close to one part sugar and one part water. Any more sugar and I might have trouble dissolving it.

How much syrup? How much acid?

Ok, if you’ve got 6.3 liters of juice with an SG of 1.024, adding 4.6 liters SG 1.180 syrup should yield almost 11 liters of SG 1.090 juice. That initial 6.3 liters of juice had 4 g/L, about 25 g, of acid. To get 6 g/L in our final 11 liters of juice, we need to add about 40 g. Sometimes pressing takes longer than you think. Sometimes schedules get out of whack. By the time I had my estimates for sugar and acid additions, it was past midnight. I decided to add the acid right away, as that would push down the pH and help protect the juice from spoilage, and go to bed. We’re nearly there, and tomorrow, I’ll pull this all together into a recipe for tomato wine!

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2 thoughts on “Tomato Wine: Defrosted, Crushed, and Pressed

  1. Aaron

    Hi Erroll,
    I have a couple more ignorant questions. First, why only lightly crush the tomatoes? It seems naively that the more you crush the more juice you’d extract and that is the end goal. Is there something that you don’t want to extract? And what are you straining in? It looks like a nylon bag inside a bucket with holes drilled in it inside a bottling bucket, is there an advantage to using the bucket with holes as opposed to just putting the straining bag inside the bottling bucket. Keep us posted on the progress of the tomato wine.


  2. Erroll Post author

    Hello Aaron,

    Freezing and thawing ruptures the cell walls in the fruit, so a light crush is all I needed. In fact, I might have been able to just load the defrosted tomatoes right into the press without crushing.

    I made a press out of three plastic buckets that fit inside each other. The bucket with holes (strainer) fits inside the catch bucket (bucket with a spigot). The photo shows them after I loaded the tomatoes into the strainer (lined with a nylon bag). The next step, which I didn’t show, was fitting the press bucket into the strainer. I fill press bucket with water and let it squeeze the fruit.

    Pressing Tomatoes

    This photo shows the three-bucket press fully assembled. The water in the press bucket is heavy enough to press the fruit. One thing to keep in mind is that it’s easy to put fit the press bucket in and fill it with water, just don’t try to lift it up and out. Instead, siphon the water out, then remove the bucket.

    Thanks for asking. I really should have been more clear in my writeup. Hmmm, maybe I should write an article on the three-bucket press.


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