Category Archives: Recipes

A list of recipes for homemade wine, mead, cider, and liqueur – a great place to start.

Rhubarb Wine Recipe

I’ve been anticipating this since May, and now it’s finally time to make Rhubarb Wine. I grow the rhubarb in my garden, harvest several times (freezing each harvest), and make a gallon or two of wine every year. Here’s how I do it:

Ingredients For 1.5 gallons (about 5.7 liters) of must

3-4 lb (1.4-1.8 kg) rhubarb
Sugar to specific gravity 1.090 – up to 4 lb (1.8 kg) sugar
0.125 tsp (0.3 g) tannin
1 tsp (5 g) diammonium phosphate (DAP)
1 tsp (2.3 g) pectic enzyme
sulfite to 50 ppm (equivalent to 1.5 campden tablets)

How do you juice rhubarb?

I’ve tried things like cutting it up and putting it in a blender and soaking in water. The best ways to “juice” rhubarb are freeze/thaw and sugar extraction. I usually do both. As you harvest the rhubarb, wash it and cut it up into 0.5 inch (1.25 centimeter) pieces and freeze them. When you are ready to make wine, thaw the rhubarb and put it in a strainer. I usually get 2/3 – 3/4 cup/pound (350-400 ml/Kg) of rhubarb juice this way. Once you’ve strained the juice, sulfite it. Next, place the rhubarb in a container and cover with about 1 lb (about 450 grams) of sugar. Let it sit until the sugar has dissolved (about two or three days), then strain off the liquid. Place the rhubarb back in the container and cover with water for a few hours or overnight. This is a rinse to get every last bit of “rhubarbness.” Strain the liquid and discard the spent rhubarb. At this point, I dissolved the tannin, DAP, and pectic enzyme in 0.25 cups (about 60 ml) of water and added it to the liquid.

Measure then adjust the sugar

I repeated the sugar extraction step, so I used 2 lb (about 825 g) of sugar, and ended up with 2.36 quarts (2.23L) of SG 1.114 liquid. I’m going to switch to metric measures, because calculations are easier, and report numbers with much more precision than I can measure so that I don’t carry rounding errors from one step to the next. I’m aiming for 5.68L of must with an SG of 1.090. Adding 3.568L of SG 1.075 sugar water will yield 5.8L of 1.090 must. An SG of 1.075 implies 232 g of sugar in each liter of solution (not 232 g added to 1L of water!). So 3.568L at 232 g/L means 828 grams of sugar. I boiled 1L of water, took it off heat, dissolved the sugar, and brought it back to a boil. Once it was boiling, I took the pan off the heat and cooled it in a water bath for 15 minutes. I used a measuring cup to determine the volume of sugar water (1.45L) and added it to my fermenter. Then I added tap water until I reached 3.568L total.

I added the sugary rhubarb juice to the sugar-water in the fermenter and measured the specific gravity. I should have 5.8L of SG 1.090 must, and I measured the SG as 1.095 – my kitchen scale and measuring cups were never going to be very accurate, so I’m calling that good!

What about the pH and titratable acidity?

If you’ve read many of my posts, you’re probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned the acidity of the must. I’m always going on about how important pH is to stability and titratable acidity (TA) is to taste. What’s going on? I’ve made rhubarb wine for years, and I’ve found that using rhubarb at a rate of 1.5-3 lb/Gallon (180 – 360 g/L) of must consistently gets me close to 6 g/L acidity. So I’ve decided to wait until it ferments out, then measure the acid and make any corrections.

Isn’t the oxalic acid dangerous?

Some wine makers neutralize virtually all the acid in rhubarb, then add back acid (tartaric, citric, or a blend). They do this to remove the oxalic acid, which is toxic and present in rhubarb. Removing the oxalic acid will change the wine; I think it detracts from rhubarb’s unique character. Most of the oxalic acid is in the leaves, and I make rhubarb wine with the stalks only (so should you!). It’s true that the stalks contain some oxalic acid, and while I don’t know what the precise amount is or exactly how much of this acid can be dangerous, I can tell you that I’ve made – and consumed – rhubarb wine this way for years with no ill effects. Obviously, I wouldn’t be doing this if I thought it was harmful, but you’ll have to make your own judgment about that.

With nothing left to do, it’s time to pitch the yeast. They’re the real wine makers, and they should have this must turned into wine in the next week or so. Then I’ll rack as needed, and bottle in about a year. It’ll be drinkable soon after that, but it ages very well, so keep a few bottles if you can.

Tomato Wine Recipe

I sowed seeds that sprouted into seedlings. I transplanted the seedlings to beds. I fussed over the tomato plants. I planned. I harvested. Now, at last, I’m finally making tomato wine!


Juice from 18 lb (8.2 kg) tomatoes – about 1.67 gallons (6.3 liters)
4.84 lb (2.2 kg) sugar
2.5 quarts (2.4 liters) water
8 tsp (40 g) tartaric acid
2 tsp (10 g) diammonium phosphate
1 tsp (2.3 g) pectic enzyme
sulfite to 50 ppm (equivalent to two campden tablets)
premier cuvee yeast


Make a yeast starter and set it aside to grow. Juice the tomatoes and pour it into the fermenter. Dissolve the sugar in the water, boil, cool, and add to fermenter. Add sulfite, pectic enzyme, diammonium phosphate, and tartaric acid. Pitch the yeast starter when it is active.

Adjusting the sugar

I measured the pressed juice at:

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

Based on those measurements, I decided to add 4.6 liters of SG 1.180 sugar syrup to the tomato juice. That’s 2.2 kg of sugar dissolved in 2.4 liters of water, and it ought to leave me with almost 11 liters of SG 1.090 juice. To determine how much sugar syrup to add in your own recipe, you can use this formula:

x = ( V * (TG – SG) ) / (1.180 – TG)

where x is the amount of sugar water, in liters, to add
V is the volume of must, in liters (6.3, in my case)
TG is your specific gravity target (1.090)
SG is the current specific gravity of your must (1.024)

The 1.180 is the SG of the sugar syrup (I was running out of variable names!)

Adjusting the acid

Once I adjusted the sugar, I knew what the final volume of the must was going to be, about 11 liters. Dry white wine musts are normally between 7 – 9 g/L TA, but I decided to aim a little low at 6 g/L. I wanted to add some acid to get the pH down, but not down so much that it would inhibit fermentation. It’s easy to add more later, and I expected to do just that. At any rate, I already had about 25 g (6.3 liters of juice at 4 g/L), and I was targeting 66 g (11 liters of must at 6 g/L), so I needed to add about 41 g. After the additions, I measured again:

SG: 1.104, pH: 3.02, TA: 6.5 g/L

My actual sugar and acid levels came out a little higher than I predicted, probably because my weight and volume measurements are imprecise – close enough. Now I’ve got a little under three gallons of sweet acidic tomato juice. I don’t know what tomato wine is going to taste like, but this juice is really odd. There is a strong flavor of tomato, which I like but is completely out of place in such a sweet juice. I hope the yeast like it, because I just pitched the starter.

Update 2/28/2008: Too much acid!

After fermentation, I measured the TA at 9-10 g/L. An error in my measurements might explain the apparent jump. I took two measurements just before pitching the yeast, however, and they were consistent with each other. I took two more measurements after it had fermented out, and they were both showed an increase of 2.5-3.5 g/L. I know that some acid forms during fermentation, but this much? I’m not sure what happened here, but I think the lesson is to wait until your wine is fermented out before you adjust your acid.

Apple Wine Recipe

I got my start in winemaking by fermenting apple juice. I bought 1-gallon glass jugs, filled with juice, for less than homebrew shops were selling them empty. This got me a collection of small secondary fermenters and some nice dry white wine. I still make apple wine, almost every year, from my own apple trees and store bought juice. The apple juice will be low in acid and fermentable sugar, so I’ll have to add both. I’m using honey as my sugar source this year, but ordinary table sugar works too.

Apples on a kitchen scale reading just over 4 lb and Trader Joe's Gravenstein apple juice. The main ingredients of my apple wine.


4 lb 1.5 oz Liberty & Akane apples
1 Gallon Trader Joe’s Graventein Apple Juice
0.5 tsp tanninTannin is optional, but no more than 0.25 tsp/gallon
honey to SG 1.090
acid to 6-7 g/L in the finished wine
sulfite to 50 ppm (equivalent to 1 campden tablet)
1 tsp pectic enzyme
Premier Cuvee yeast from starter


Since the Gravenstein juice is pasteurized, there’s no threat from microorganisms. So I’ll chop & juice the apples and add all the sulfite to this juice, where it’s needed most. I’ll add the pectic enzyme to the Gravenstein juice, combine them, and measure the SG, pH, & TA. I’ll raise the SG to 1.090 by adding honey.

Juice from 4 lb of apples fills a plastic measuring cup to the 4-cup line.

Here’s where the juicer that I used making my Produce Department Chablis came in handy. It made short work of the 4 lb of apples I threw at it. It does clog often, but it’s so much better than the other methods I’ve tried (sugar extraction, blender, mill & press without an actual mill or press, chop & toss in the fermenter).

Measure sugar & acid and add the honey

The apples yielded 1 quart (just under 1 liter) of juice. Adding it to the one gallon of Trader Joes juice gave me 1.25 gallons. This combined juice had an SG of 1.050, a pH of 3.52, and a TA of 5.5 g/L. Added a cup of this juice to the 2 cups of starter (Niagra juice with Premier Cuvee yeast that I used to start the Merlot and Chardonnay).

Honey, with 18% water, has an SG of 1.417. Converting my 1.25 gallons to metric measures, I have 4.7312L of 1.050 must. Adding 0.5785L honey will yield 5.31L of SG 1.090 must. I’ll round and call it 0.6L honey.

I’ll wait to add the acid

My 4.7L of juice had 5.5 g/L of titratable acidity, or about 26 grams of acid in total. Adding 0.6L of honey brought the total volume to 5.3L. A typical white wine must would have about 8 g/L, so my 5.3L ought to have about 42 grams of acid. Assuming no contribution from the honey, I would need to add about 16 grams of acid to reach my goal. I think I’ll wait for it to ferment out, take another reading and adjust the acid then. Acidity often drops during fermentation, and I’ll aim for 6-7 g/L, as tartaric, in the finished wine.

Other apple wine recipes

Growing your own apples gives you more control (you pick the varietal, decide when to harvest, and so on). Here’s an apple wine recipe using 100% home grown apples!

On the other hand, making wine from store-bought juice is quicker and easier. Much quicker and easier. So if you’re just starting out or you just want great apple wine with less work and cleanup, try my apple wine recipe from store-bought juice.

Pumpkin Wine Recipe For Halloween

How much pumpkin and acid?

This isn’t a common wine to make, even for a country wine, but I did find some recipes. Every single one of them agreed on using 5 lb/Gallon (600 g/L) of pumpkin, but they were very different in the amount of acid and sugar. I think it makes sense to use the 5 lb/Gallon of pumpkin, but aim for the acid and alcohol profile of a white wine. That means aiming for a specific gravity of 1.090 and a titratable acidity of 7-9 g/L. Adjusting the acidity will be pretty easy. After preparing the must, titrate a sample to get the TA, then add enough acid to bring it into the desired range. I can’t do the same thing with the sugar, though, because I’ll have to add so much of it. The 2-3 lb/Gallon (250 – 350 g/L) I expect to add, and the 2-3 cups/Gallon (125 – 200 ml/L) of water to dissolve it in, will increase the volume of must by 40 – 55%.

How much sugar?

That means I need to work backward from the total amount of sugar I want in the must. An SG of 1.090 implies 2 lb 6 oz of sugar per Gallon (284 g/L) of must. So if I knew how much sugar was in 5 lb of pumpkin flesh, I would subtract it from the total. How much sugar is in pumpkin flesh? On average about 4 – 6% by weight, so our 5 lb would contain about 3.2 – 4.8 oz (90 – 135 g) of sugar – lets call it 4 oz (110 g). Mashing the pumpkin will probably double that to 8 oz. That’s low enough that we could ignore the pumpkin’s contribution and still get pretty close, but now that we know let’s take that into account. For every gallon (3.785 L) of must, we’ll need 1 lb 14 oz (850 g) of sugar.

Putting it all together

In order to get a gallon of finished wine, I like to make my “1-gallon batches” anywhere between 1.25 and 1.5 gallons. You’ve heard of a “bakers dozen?” Think of this a the “winemaker’s gallon.” For 1.25 gallons (4.7 liters) of must, we’ll need 6.25 lb (2.8 kg) pumpkin flesh and 2 lb 6 oz (1075 grams) of sugar.


6.25 lb (2.8 kg) pumpkin flesh
2 lb 6 oz (1.075 kg) sugar
tartaric acid to 8 g/L
2 tsp (10 grams) DAP
0.25 tsp (0.6 grams) tannin
1.25 tsp amylase enzyme
1.25 tsp pectic enzyme
sulfite to 50 ppm (equivalent to 1 campden tablet)
Premier Cuvee yeast


Remove the seeds from a pumpkin and peel it to get the flesh. Grate the flesh and bake at 350F (177C) for 30 minutes. Transfer to a pot and add amylase enzyme and enough water to cover. Heat to 150F (66C) and hold for 30 minutes.

While the pumpkin is baking/mashing, dissolve sugar in about a quart or a liter of water. Boil, then cool.

Strain the mash into your primary fermenter, add the sugar-water, then add cool enough water to bring it up to 1.25 gallons (4.7 liters). Add sulfite equivalent to one campden tablet.

When the must has cooled to about 70F (21C) or cooler, draw off a sample for testing. Measure the specific gravity (SG), the pH, and the titratable acidity (TA). Make a note of the SG.

Since we’re targeting a TA of 8 g/L, subtract the TA you measure from 8. Then multiply that number by the volume of must, in liters – 4.7 in this case. That will give you the amount of tartaric acid, in grams, to add to the must. There are about 5 grams of tartaric acid in a teaspoon, so you can divide the grams of tartaric acid by 5 to get the number of teaspoons. For example, if the TA is 2 g/L, then you would subtract 2 from 8 and get 6 g/L. Multiply this by 4.7L to get 28.2 g. Divide that by 5 g/tsp to get 5.64 teaspoons. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a “0.64 tsp” measuring spoon, so we can round that to 5.5 tsp.

Thoroughly dissolve the tartaric acid, pectic enzyme, tannin, and DAP in a little water and add it to the must. Measure and record the pH. The TA should be 8 g/L. Cover and wait three hours for the pectic enzyme to work, then pitch the yeast.

It’s a bit more involved than other wines, but now that you know how, don’t you want to pour some pumpkin wine on Halloween?

Raspberry Wine Recipe

I made raspberry wine last year. I haven’t talked about it before because I made it and racked it before I started blogging. I also made it before I owned a pH meter or an acid test kit, so I was really flying blind. How do you make raspberry wine without measuring the acidity? I measured what I could, then I consulted Ben Rotter’s table of fruit data. It’s a goldmine of data about sugar, acid, and tannins in fruit as well as juice yield.

Raspberry Wine Recipe

My 10.75 lb (4.9 kg) of raspberries yielded 3 quarts (2.8 liters) of SG 1.050 juice. My notes show that I expected a TA of 14-18 g/L, though when I look at the table now that seems low. I picked the fruit at a U-pick farm after some unusually hot weather. My notes don’t say, but maybe I was expecting the hot weather to lower the acid. At any rate, I dissolved 3 lb (1.4 kg) sugar in 3.3 quarts (3.1 liters) of water. I treated with sulfite, pectic enzyme, and nutrient then pitched the yeast. It fermented to dryness in less than two weeks.

More on raspberry wine

Promising, but too acidic

I did some measurements recently:

SG = 0.992
TA = 14 g/L
pH = 2.96
volume = 1.5 gallons (5.7 liters)

It tasted tart, but it wasn’t the undrinkable firewater you might expect. There was a very nice flavor in there, and it complemented the raspberry aroma very well. I decided to use potassium bicarbonate (KHCO3), to take down the acid a notch, at a 1.5 tsp/Gallon (2.4 g/L) rate. I’m hoping to reduce the acid by 2-3 g/L. I’ve set it aside, with the cherry wine, and intend to taste them both in a few months. Maybe that’s all the raspberry wine needs, or maybe the acidity will still be too much. If so, it’ll be time to sweeten it a little.

Do as I say, not as I do!

I think this is going to have a happy ending, but you really should do your own measurements. Bookmark Ben’s site, and not just for the fruit data, and use it to help make your own recipes, but make final decisions about acid and fruit proportions based on accurate measurements of the fruit you are using.

Update 12/9/2008 – It needed sweetening

It’s still too tart, even after neutralizing some of the acid, so I sweetened my raspberry wine.

Produce Department Chablis

Welch’s wine? While you’re at the grocery store, head over to the freezer section for some frozen grape juice concentrate. Then try my Welch’s wine recipe and see how it compares.I’ve always wanted to make wine from grocery store grapes. It’s not that I’m expecting greatness, but that I’m really curious. Grapes were on sale for $0.88/lb. One variety was Thomson Seedless, the others were just called “red” and “black”. They were all seedless, and they all tasted the same to me. I ended up buying roughly equal amounts of all three, 20.34 lb total, to make wine with. Here’s how I did it:


About 20 lb (9.2 kg) of seedless table grapes
1 tsp pectic enzyme (approximately 2.3 g)
sulfite to 50 ppm (equivalent to 1.5 campden tablets)
sugar to SG 1.090 (about 0.375 lb or 170 grams in my case)
Premier Cuvee yeast

Sort and destem, then extract the juice

After discarding the moldy ones and destemming the rest by hand, I had 19.4 lb (8.835 kg) of grapes.

Red, green, and black seedless grapes half-filling their own 2-gallon buckets

There’s more than one way to juice grapes. I’ve used grape crushers and bladder presses when I bought wine grapes. I’ve crushed cherries with my feet when I made cherry wine. I’ve even built a simple press out of three plastic buckets. This time I ran my grapes through a juicer that I’ve been meaning to try.

Juicing the grapes with a Juiceman 210

It worked pretty well, though I did have to stop and clean the filter screen a few times. I ended up with about 5.44 quarts (5.15 liters) of juice which works out to one gallon from 14.25 lb of fruit (one liter from 1.7 kg). That is almost exactly what I got from Riesling grapes when I used a crusher and bladder press (one gallon from 14.29 lb of fruit).

Measure the sugar and acid

Up to this point, I kept each batch of grapes and their juice, separate. I was curious if I’d notice a difference in flavor or yield. I also wondered how much color the red and black juice would have. Well the yield was nearly identical and they tasted the same to me, but the red and black grapes did yield colored juice. This may end up as a blush or rose if that color persists in the finished wine. It would have been a little tedious to ferment them as three separate batches, so I combined them and added the sulfite and pectic enzyme. Next, I needed to measure the sugar and acidity, to know what adjustments to make.

Red, green, and black grape juice each half filling a 1-gallon jug

It was easy enough to draw a sample and measure the acidity. The pH was 3.35 and the TA was 7 g/L, as tartaric. Dry white wine musts are normally 7 – 9 g/L TA and 3.1 – 3.4 pH, so no need to adjust the acidity.

The suspended solids in the juice were going to make it difficult to measure the sugar. To get an idea of how much sugar there is, I measure the specific gravity with a hydrometer. Suspended solids in the juice will raise the SG, making it look like the sugar content is higher than it really is. So I decided to let the must sit overnight. This would let the pectic enzyme do it’s work and allow many of the solids to settle out. With luck, I could get a clear sample and get a meaningful SG reading.

I always worry about my must when I have to let it sit for any length of time. Yes, the sulfite will protect it, but I’d feel better if the yeast were busy. Having them dominate a must, and ferment to dryness quickly, is a great defense against spoilage organisms. So I decided to make a starter. I didn’t follow my own careful instructions, here, rather I just added the rehydrated yeast to 0.5 cups (120 ml) of must and let it go overnight.

Measure and adjust the sugar

By morning, the starter was happily bubbling and I checked in on the must. It’s not as though all the solids dropped to the bottom and I had a gallon of crystal clear juice to sample, but with some care I was able to coax 0.5 cups of clear pink juice into my test jar. The SG was about 1.078, and I’m aiming for 1.090. So I need to add sugar. How much? The short answer is that 0.375 lb (170 grams) of sugar dissolved in just under 0.5 cups (100 ml) of water (boil and cool the sugar water to keep out the nasties) will bring the SG up to 1.090. You can use this formula to calculate how much sugar water (2 parts sugar, by volume, and 1 part water) to add to your own must:

x = ( V * (TG – SG) ) / (1.310 – TG)

where x is the amount of sugar water, in liters, to add
V is the volume of must, in liters (5.15, in my case)
TG is your specific gravity target (1.090)
SG is the current specific gravity of your must (1.078)

If you’re wondering where the 1.310 came from, it’s the specific gravity of sugar water. So make sure you use 2 parts sugar (by volume) to 1 part water or the above formula won’t work. In my case x was equal to 0.281 liters. To make the math and the measurements easier, I rounded that to 300 ml. That means I needed 200 ml of sugar, which weighs about 170 g, dissolved in 100 ml of water.

I added the sugar, pitched the starter, and noticed vigorous fermentation in hours. Wine from produce-section grapes! Who knows how it will taste, but pretty cool, huh?

Update 7/27/2009 – Sugar additions the easy way!

If you’re put off by the math I used to adjust the sugar, check out my new Wine Recipe Wizard. I wanted to make sugar and acid adjustments easier by just having you type in the volume of juice you have, your hydrometer reading, and (optionally) your titratable acidity. Then just type in what you want the sugar and acid to be and the wizard will tell you what to add. I hope this helps – let me know if you have trouble using it.

Update 11/15/2009 – Disappointing

I don’t think I ever had high expectations for this wine. I never imagined comparing it to an aged Premier Cru Chablis, but I was hoping for a nice table wine. I didn’t get that. The wine is balanced, there are no faults, but there is no flavor either. I’m starting to think about how to improve the procedure, but until that stroke of genius hits, I had to say that wine from grocery store grapes is bland.

Update 12/3/2009 – Save it by making mulled wine?

When produce department grapes give you something bland, make mulled wine! I’m hoping that traditional mulling spices like cinnamon and clove along with citrus zest will add some life to this wine. This will be my first time making mulled wine, so I’m excited!

Cherry Mead Recipe

Country wine, second wine, and melomel

Cherry mead, often called “cherry melomel”, is usually made like a country wine. You make a country wine with small amount of fruit, 2-6 lb, per gallon of water (250-750 g/L) with enough sugar to bring the alcohol up to 12% and acid to balance. You would do something similar to make a conventional cherry mead, but use honey instead of sugar. Also fruit would be at the low end of the range. I’m not going to do that.

After pressing a conventional wine, the pressed fruit (called “pomace”) often has some color, flavor, and other “goodies” left in it. By adding water, sugar, and acid, you can make a light bodied enjoyable wine. That’s the way I’m going to make cherry mead.

How much honey? How much water?

The more water you use, the less impact the fruit will have. In deciding exactly how much, consider the amount of wine. You shouldn’t make more second wine than original wine, and maybe only half as much. Since I estimate three gallons of finished cherry wine, that leaves a 1.5-3 gallon range for my cherry mead. I decided on the high end of that range because fruit meads are often made with less fruit than comparable wines. The amount of honey depends on your alcohol target.

I’m aiming for a low alcohol (8-9% ABV) fruit mead, because I think this would suit a second wine better. If you prefer a higher alcohol content, then you could use more honey or less water. Using 2.5 gallons (9.5 liters) of water, for example, would raise the potential alcohol to 11% or so. In these calculations, I’m assuming no contribution from the pomace. There will probably be some sugar, though, so the actual amount of alcohol will be a little higher. To get more precise control over the alcohol, you could place the pomace in a clean bucket, mix up the other ingredients, then take a gravity reading. You could then nudge it up or down, to your target gravity, by adding honey or water. Such precise control wasn’t important to me, so I skipped that step.


Pomace from cherry wine
3 gallons (11 liters) water
6 lb (2.7 kg) honey
1 tsp tannin


1) Place the pomace in a clean fermenter.

2) Heat one gallon of water to a boil, take off heat, and dissolve honey. Cool in a water bath.

3) Measure out another gallon of water. Use a little bit to dissolve the tannin and add it to the fermenter. Use some more to rinse out the honey container, to get the honey that didn’t pour out, and add it to the fermenter.

4) Add one gallon of water, plus any unused water from step 3, to the fermenter. At this point, you should have used three gallons of water including one gallon to dissolve the honey in step 2. The point here is to use three gallons (11 liters), so the exact amount in each step isn’t important. Just keep track.

4) Add the honey-water mixture to the fermenter when cooled (less than 100 Fahrenheit or 40 Celsius).

There’s plenty of yeast in the pomace, so no need to pitch any more. I noticed signs of fermentation the same day. The CO2 from fermentation will push the fruit to the top. This is called a cap, and you need to stir it in every day. If you’ve every heard a winemaker talk about “punching down the cap,” this is what he was talking about.

The cherry wine is still going, the cherry mead just got started, now it’s time to think about raspberries!

Cherry Wine Recipe

I made the case for white wine from cherries a while back, but when I made cherry wine yesterday it was a red. I bought 43 or so pounds of Bing Cherries, and after setting aside 4.5 lb for cherry liqueur, I had about 38 lb left for wine. They’re dark skinned cherries with red flesh, so they wouldn’t do for a white. Here’s how I started my red:


38 lb (about 17 kg) Bing Cherries
3.5 lb (1.6 kg) sugar
3 quarts (2.8 liters) water
3 tsp pectic enzyme (approximately 7 g)
sulfite to 50 ppm (equivalent to 3 campden tablets)
0.5 tsp tannin (about a gram)
Premier Cuvee yeast

Cherry crush

I destemmed, sorted, and nibbled, by hand. It took a while, but Marsha and I did it together and that made it fun. The result: seven gallons of destemmed cherries ready to crush. An ordinary grape crusher would probably work, though you would need to adjust the rollers to accommodate the cherry pits. I used an older method …

Crushing cherries in a chest cooler with bare feet

Crushing the cherries with my bare feet worked well. I could feel the pits but they didn’t hurt, and I got through all the cherries quickly. Last year, I tried a potato masher. It was too flimsy, so I ended up crushing each cherry between my thumb and forefinger. I don’t recommend it. Anyway, at this point I added sulfite and pectic enzyme. Now I had to add water, sugar, and possibly acid to prepare the crushed cherries for fermentation.

Dilute with water?

Most traditional cherry wine recipes dilute with water. For every gallon of finished wine, you might use four to six pounds of fruit (500 to 750 g/L). That can be tempting on economic grounds alone. Even though I got a good deal on these cherries, an undiluted wine would cost between $5 and $6 per bottle, just in cherries. That’s a great price for commercial wine at retail, but high for homemade wine. In the end I decided that I really wanted to stay as close to conventional red wine as I could, so I did add water, but only a tad more than needed to dissolve the sugar.

Adjusting the sugar

And I did need to add sugar. To know how much, I first had to determine how much was in the cherries. I needed a clear sample of the juice, and that was harder to get than you might think. First I scooped a bunch of crushed cherries+juice through a strainer, and I measured the SG as 1.070. That’s high for cherry juice. What’s happening is that dissolved solids in the juice make it thicker, and that will push the SG higher, so I ran this juice through a coffee filter.

Filtering cherry juice with a funnel and a coffee filterThe filter quickly clogged and when I tried to get it going again, I tore it. I did better the second time. I was patient (didn’t know I had it in me!) and I changed the filter every time it clogged. It still took a long time, over an hour, but I got 0.5 cup (about 120 ml) of filtered juice with an SG of 1.065. I suspect that there’s less sugar than that, but I decided to use that number and target an SG of 1.090. If the sugar was indeed low, my actual SG would be a little less, but anything down to 1.075 would be ok with me. I created a spreadsheet to help me with sugar and acid additions, and after plugging in what I know (SG = 1.065), what I think (estimated liquid volume of the cherry juice of about 2 gallons), and what I’m aiming for (target SG = 1.090), I got back a suggestion to dissolve 3.5 lb of sugar in 3 quarts of water (roughly 1.6 kg sugar and 2.8 liters water).

Pitching the yeast now and adjusting the acid later

The dominant acid in cherries is malic, and Ben Rotter reports that Bing cherry juice often analyzes to 4.7 g/L, as malic. I have a simple acid test kit, but no pH meter. That makes measuring the TA of red juice difficult, so I’ve decided to wait until the wine has fermented out to adjust the acid.

The last step is to pitch the yeast. I had rehydrated it by pouring the yeast packet into 0.25 cups of warm water. After five minutes I added 0.25 cups of cherry juice. I added the tannin and another 0.25 cups cherry juice after it started foaming (about an hour), and I pitched it into the fermenter two hours later. Bottling is still a year or two a way, but I’m excited already!

Update 7/31/07: Sugar and acid

I have since bought a pH meter, and measured the acidity of my cherry wine. It was too high, but so was the pH and that made me reluctant deal with the problem by neutralizing some of the acid. So I’ve decided to balance the acidity by sweetening the wine. I think the high acidity is part of buying cherries at the grocery store; the cherries were just a little under ripe. I’m growing my own cherries, and once my bonsai orchard is producing I’ll have nice ripe fruit that’s not so acidic. In the meantime, I’ll try a different yeast: 71B by Lalvin. It metabolizes malic acid, and that should make it especially suitable for cherry wine.

Update 5/25/2009: Bottled!

Some have told me that it can’t be done, and it is difficult. But you can make a conventional red wine from cherries! It’s an enjoyable red wine and I would recommend it to anyone interested in this approach.

Oregano Wine Recipe

And you thought tomato wine sounded strange! Years ago I started an oregano bush from seed. Each year I harvest a little for cooking, but it’s huge and most of it goes to waste. What’s a winemaker to do? Use this recipe from Terry Garey’s Joy of Home Wine Making, my first winemaking book. It’s a great way to start – it’s how I got started – making your own wine.


4-6 cups (1-1.5 liters), packed lightly, of fresh herbs
1 gallon (3.785 liters) water
3 lb (1.4 kg) sugar or 3.5 lb (1.6 kg) honey
1 tsp (5 grams) yeast nutrient
0.125 tsp (0.3 grams) tannin
3 tsp (15 grams) acid blend
sulfite to 50 ppm (equivalent to 1 campden tablet)
wine yeast


Initially, you will need a fermenter, hydrometer, thermometer, stirring spoon, measuring spoons, and a couple of pots. Later, we’ll use a gallon jug, a racking cane, some siphon hose, and pH papers.


Simmering Oregano
Start by sanitizing the clean equipment by immersion in boiling water or sanitizing solution. Harvest about 6 cups (about 1.5 liters), lightly packed, of oregano. Then remove dead leaves and any other plants that have gotten mixed in. After a quick rinse in cold water, place the oregano in a 2 quart (2 liter) saucepan, add 1 quart (1 liter) water, and bring to a simmer. As soon as it started simmering, take it off the heat and let sit for 1-2 hours. In the meantime, I dissolve the sugar in boiling water.

Pouring the oregano infused water through a strainerStrain the oregano and add the sugar water. Next, I dissolve the tannin and nutrient in water and add to the fermenter. Wait until fermentation is complete before adding the acid because the pH could drop too much during fermentation and inhibit the yeast. Finally, I add 1 tsp of sulfite solution (equivalent to 1 campden tablet).

Always take a hydrometer reading before pitching the yeast. I recorded a specific gravity of 1.108 @ 82 Fahrenheit (about 28 Celsius) when I made this recipe. My hydrometer is calibrated to work at 60F (15.5C), and I adjusted for the higher temperature with a lookup table. The adjusted SG was 1.110, so the potential alcohol was 15%. I thought it might turn out to be high, but I like to follow recipes closely the first time. I’ll probably cut the sugar and aim for and SG of 1.090 (12% alcohol) the next time.

At this point, turn if over to the yeast. Once fermentation subsides, rack the wine to an airlocked glass jug. When fermentation is complete (check with a hydrometer), add the acid.

A Simple Mead Recipe

After writing about mead yesterday, I decided to make one. Here’s how I did it:

Ingredients for mead:

  • 1 gallon (12 lb) of wildflower honey
  • 5 gallons water
  • 5 tsp diammonium phosphate (aka “DAP”)
  • 5 tsp cream of tartar
  • yeast (I used Red Star’s Premier Cuvee)

Basic mead making equipment:

A fermenter, stirring spoon, 3+ gallon stockpot, and a hydrometer are needed today. A 5-gallon carboy, 1-gallon jug with drilled bunges to fit, airlocks, siphon hose, and racking cane will be needed later. This is available at any homebrew/winemaking shop.

Procedure – how to make mead:

Measuring honeyAll your equipment (fermenter, stirring spoon, stockpot) should be clean. It’s also a good idea to sanitize your equipment by immersion in boiling water or sanitizing solution. You can buy a commercial sanitizer at any homebrew shop, or make your own. Measure one gallon of honey and dissolve into 2 gallons of water. In the photo, I’m pouring honey from a 5-gallon bucket into a stockpot. The stockpot has markings at the 8 quart and 12 quart levels. I filled it with hot (just off the boil) water to the 8 quart line, then poured in honey until it reached the 12 quart line. So I’m using the stockpot as a large measuring cup. I used hot water so that I could dissolve the honey more easily.

Filling the fermenterNext, fill the fermenter. In the photo at left, I’m pouring the 3 gallons of honey-water into my fermenter. After that, I dissolved the DAP and cream of tarter in a little water and stirred it in. Finally, I added 3 gallons of cold water and gave the whole thing a good stir.

Take a sample to measure the specific gravity with your hydrometer. Make a note of this so you can compare it to the specific gravity of the fermented mead and estimate the alcohol content. Here I measured the SG as 1.080, which means the potential alcohol is about 11% by volume. A pH measurement can be useful too, but the total acidity that winemaker’s often measure is much less useful in mead.Once you’ve taken your sample, you can pitch the yeast. I made a starter the day before with about a quarter cup honey dissolved in a cup of water with a pinch of DAP and cream of tartar. This gave my yeast a head start, and I poured the starter into my fermenter after I drew my sample.

Mischievous meadmaker tasting his honeyIt’s vital to stay focused and diligent. Due care must always be taken to perform each step with rigor and precision. Never forget the seriousness of your task 🙂

Update 5/28/07 – clarifying the mead with bentonies

I racked the mead into a new carboy and fined with bentonite.

Update 11/8/07 – aging the mead in oak

I racked off the bentonite sediment and onto some oak chips. I also adjusted the acidity.

Update 1/27/08 – different ways to make mead

There are many different ways to make mead, and in June 2007 I briefly discussed three of my other meads as well as an apple wine. I bottled all four that day, including some of the first mead I ever made, a mead in honor of Brother Adam, and the most wine-like mead I ever made.

Wildflower Mead

Update 3/23/2009: Bottled – the mead tastes great!

This is a simple recipe that turned out great – the only hard part was waiting. It was definitely worth the wait, and I would recommend this recipe to anyone interested in, or curious about, mead.