Winemaking 101 – Episode 3 – My Purchase
Welcome to Episode 3! Before getting into fermentation, I’ll talk about a purchase I made, which in movie terms is a prequel.
I got REALLY enthusiastic about making wine from fresh grapes. I haven’t done that in 20 years and I’ve never used West Coast grapes.
So my enthusiasm blotted out a key point — once fermentation is done, the grapes must be pressed. Sure, I can finagle a press with a couple of 2×4’s, a sheet of plywood, and a sturdy hinge — but it doesn’t do a good job of pressing. So I quickly investigated getting a press.
Amazon displayed a number of Chinese made presses. But as is typical with Chinese made products — everything was cheap ($100-$150 USD for a 5 gallon press) and the reviews all had a large percentage of bad review where the unit arrived damaged, paint was chipping, parts were missing, parts did not fit together correctly, etc. Not good.
An Italian made press (5 gallon capacity) retails for $425. <COUGH>!
Craig’s List turned up nothing within 3 hours drive, but Facebook Marketplace had a few contenders. A couple from up north were out of wine making and wanted to get rid of their hardware. I got a used Italian-made 18 gallon capacity press, a 25 liter demijohn (6.6 gallon glass container), a 54 liter demijohn (14.25 gallons), and various other items for significantly less than the cost of a new Italian press. YOW!
The only problem is that the press’ spout is 12″ off the ground. No way to get a bucket under that — so I had to build a frame to bolt it on.
Being frugal, I grabbed a couple of pallets from the grape shipment. [That is my crusher in the background, it’s clear how small it is.]
There’s my stand! [It’s like Ikea, some assembly required.]
So I tore it apart:
A lot of the boards were in rough shape, but I found enough 2×4 in good shape to form the legs. The other boards were a mixed bag. Some were in great shape! And some were not …
I trimmed one edge of each board on the tablesaw to ensure a clean edge. Then I ripped the board at 3.5″ wide.
Next I screwed the frame together, leaving a gap at the front to facilitate the bucket. I built it higher than my tallest bucket, in case I buy a larger one.
After pressing is all done, I’ll take a router to it and smooth the edges — some for aesthetics … and some to help avoid splinters and other painful things.
But it was ready to rock!
Note: Presses like mine require that blocks be placed between the grapes and the ratchet. The ratchet only goes down as far as the top of the barrel, and the grapes are usually below that level.