In my last post I talked about sourcing local grapes for making wine at home in the Adirondacks.
After crushing and fermenting, it was time to press.
So this week I wanted to show you how I pressed the grapes using a home-made wine press.
Pressed for Time?
Pressing the grapes, which separates the juice from the must (the skins and other solids), is an important step in the wine making process.
Having a commercially-made wine press is nice, but they are not cheap.
Plus I needed one quickly.
The La Crosse white wine should only stay on the skins for a day or so before being pressed.
When inexpensive and quick are in demand – that usually means a DIY solution for me.
Pressing juice from grapes is an age old practice that goes back thousands of years and in reality, it’s not all that complicated.
You want to squeeze every last drop of juice from the skins.
So you need something to create pressure and something to act as a filter.
Full credit for helping me get started goes to Five Gallon Ideas.
I did have to remix their directions a bit and use my own plans for the materials I had readily available.
The Scrappy Build
Free is always good and luckily I had enough stuff to make use of.
The only thing I had to buy was $4.25 worth of hex bolts and nuts.
Using scraps of lumber, a car jack and some 5 gallon buckets produced a decent DIY wine press.
I had an old car jack laying around and using it inverted is what I used to create the pressure.
A 5 gallon bucket and cheesecloth would act as the filter.
I drilled 1/2″ holes all around the bucket.
I attached the car jack to the top brace using the hex bolts.
The car jack alone would not do the job completely, so I created what is typically in a commercial press, a platen.
This bottom of the platen (the round piece of plywood) matches the diameter of the 5 gallon bucket used.
When lined up underneath the car jack, this fit nicely on top of the grapes to be squeezed.
Ready to Impress
Here it is assembled.
I clamped the bottom brace to a table.
I used a cordless drill with a bit large enough to turn the car jack.
And here is the DIY wine press in action:
An aluminum cooking tray placed underneath on a slight angle helped to direct the juice below as it ran out of the holes drilled in the 5 gallon bucket.
Using cheesecloth made clean up very easy.
You can see the spent skins in the bucket on the side.
After pressing, I filled a 6.5 gallon carboy and two smaller one gallon growler jugs which I will use to top up the carboy as it condenses and ages.
In total, I was able to capture about 8.5 gallons juice from over 100 pounds of grapes.
Thoughts for the next press
Overall, it worked pretty well considering the time constraints I was under.
I think for next time I would drill some more holes in the bucket to increase air flow and the flow of juice.
When I pressed the Frontenac grapes it flowed really well, but I think it could be better.
Another thing I noticed was that my braces needed some extra reinforcing.
When I had the car jack maxed out, it was pushing the top wooden brace up away from the legs a bit.
A press like this could also be used with apples for making hard cider, which is logically next in our fermentation trails.
Probably won’t get in any cider this year as getting the tiny house completed before Winter is top priority now… in the journey!