A Canadian’s Guide to the Basics of Alcohol Fermentation Equipment

The equipment is pretty basic and affordable, which you can get either online or at a home brew store. Here’s the list:

Sanitizer: You can go about sanitizing your equipment a few ways. One old standard is diluted bleach. Bleach is basically a stabilized version of chlorine. There are other brew-specific chlorine-based sanitizers like Diversol, which I use. It’s a practical concentrated powder. There are fancier sanitizers for higher end winemaking, but I don’t find they’re necessary for casual home brews.

Tubes for transferring: You’ll need food-grade plastic tubes for transferring liquid from container to container. There are also convenient “racking” tubes that are made of harder plastic that you can use to easily siphon liquid. You can connect these pieces together with rubber bungs that you also use for your air locks (see below).

7+ Gallon (30L) Plastic Pail with Lid: If you’re going to be making the standard 6 gallon batch of wine, you’ll want a slightly larger pail for fermenting.

Red wine in the making
Red wine in the making

Carboy with airlock: You can get a glass or food-grade plastic 6 Gallon (23L) carboy, which is basically a large bottle. This is where your wine is cleared and degassed. Wine kits will come with various additives to speed these tasks along. The carboy has a small opening that you can easily seal with an airlock vent carbon dioxide and keep out particles.

Airlock
Airlock

Stirring stick: You’ll need a stirring stick to stir up the additions mentioned above. But you want to try to avoid stirring up the yeast sediment at the bottom of the carboy.

White wine in the making
White wine in the making

Thermometer: Temperature control is important because yeast thrives in a certain range. Too low and the yeast will hibernate. Too high and the yeast will die. And you want those yeast to be very active to outcompete any unwanted fungus or bacteria.

Hydrometer with a test jar: The hydrometer measures the displacement of the liquid. If you record at least two readings, you can judge the change in density and calculate the amount of alcohol that was produced. Basically, you measure the “gravity” of your wine at different points during the brew process to then calculate the % using a formula or online calculator. You can skip this step if you just care about making wine rather than tracking the alcohol content.

Bottles: You’ll need bottles of course, which are expensive to buy empty, but that you can collect over the years for cheap. Just make sure to rinse them thoroughly after each use.

Corks and corker: Agglomerated corks are cheap corks of pressed cork wood. Solid cork and plastic will hold up better over time, but we’re talking years and years at this point. If you’re only going to keep your home brew around for a few years, the agglomerate corks are perfectly good.

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