Quick Tip – Economy of Scale

March 15, 2008 at 6:39 pm (Quick Tips, Thoughts, Winemaking, Winemaking Tips) (, , , , , , )

I make wine six-gallons at a time. I’ve tried more, I’ve tried less. Six-gallons is perfect, although five-gallons is almost as perfect.

Basically, it comes down to equipment and efficiency. My first batch of blackberry wine was three or four gallons. I fermented what I had in berries. I racked from the fermenter to one-gallon wine jugs and half-liter bottles. I think I had three one-gallon jugs and a half-liter wine bottle after my first racking. The next racking was a pain, the auto-siphon didn’t fit in anything. I racked to more small bottles. It was a lot of work and in the end it yielded only about 15 bottles of wine. But the wine came out great and I wished I had made more.

It’s just so much easier to do one big batch. I can carry a six-gallon carboy. It’s heavy, but I can lift it to the counter siphon to another carboy. It gives me a nice batch of about 30 bottles of wine. That’s two full cases for me and six bottles to give away.

I still keep those one-gallon jugs in case I want to make a small batch of something, but usually I just purchase enough fruit to make the full six gallons.



  1. Craig Justice said,

    When I was about to make my first batch of wine from grapes, my mentor Lum Eisenman advised, “Don’t make a small batch — it’s easier to spoil.” So we went out and bought a 1/2 ton of grapes and ended up with 70 gallons. That was a bit much!
    For me, 15 gallons (or about 200 lbs. – 250 lbs) is the perfect micro batch size. Here’s why: 1) I can fit 200 – 250 lbs of grapes in my car (I don’t have a pick up truck) 2) 15-gallons fits into a beer keg (which is easy to wheel around); 3) 200 – 250 lbs. of must (crushed grapes) fits into one 33-gallon food grade Brute fermenter. 4) I can divide the batch into 3 @ 5-gallon carboys if needed (as you mention — easy enough to lug around). I’ve found that making a 15-gallon batch is “fun” — whereas a 200 gallon batch “is a lot of work.” Craig Justice, Blue-Merle Winery.

  2. Scott said,

    Thanks for the comments. You didn’t mention that the cost of the equipment for making 70 gallons. You are now in a completely different league for everything. My $10 plastic fermenter would need to be replaced with a stainless steel conical or some other pricey space hog.

    I’m even thinking of scaling down to 5-gallons because 6-gallons is pretty heavy and my back has been giving me problems.

    By the way, Lum had published a winemaking guide that was available free online. I found it very helpful in my beginning days. I just did a quick search and it’s still there at http://www.geocities.com/lumeisenman/. (You probably knew this, I mentioned it for my other readers.)

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