The Vacuum Pump – A Winemaker’s Best Friend!
When I first started making wine, I never would have imagined that a Vacuum Pump would end up being one of my most treasured pieces of wine making equipment. After using it I have to wonder what I ever did without it. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that a vacuum pump is required for wine making. I just makes the process a lot more pleasurable. Allow me to explain.
Some of the areas of difficulty in wine making are lifting heavy containers of wine and degassing. A vacuum pump setup, like the one I will show you how to build, can make these tasks much easier. In fact, you may never have to lift up a heavy carboy of wine again.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Only use the with GLASS Carboys. Plastic Carboys WILL CRUSH UNDER THE PRESSURE!
Vacuum pumps are used by people in the medical respiratory industry and by folks who work on air conditioners. They plug into your standard electrical outlet using household current. A standard basic vacuum pump will work just fine for this application.
You can find vacuum pumps HERE.
Do make sure you fill it with the appropriate oil specifically designed for Vacuum Pumps.
Wait, Did You Say A Vacuum Pump Can Save My Back In Wine Making?
Yes I did! As you probably already know, a six gallon carboy of wine can be quite heavy. In order to rack or transfer the wine using a siphon, you need to have one carboy physically at a higher elevation than the other. This usually involves lifting a heavy jug of wine that you want to transfer to a counter top. Doing so can agitate sediment while you are lifting and moving the wine. It also can be hard on the back! When racking with a Vacuum Pump however, you don’t need to rely on gravity to transfer the wine with a siphon. In fact, you can easily transfer the wine in the opposite direction or simply have both carboys on the same level.
Another benefit of using a vacuum pump setup when making wine is that it really does an excellent job degassing the wine. In fact, when I transfer the wine, it does most of the degassing at the same time! How cool is that! Check out my latest wine making videos to see it in action! I believe you can get more CO2 out of the wine using vacuum degassing than using any other method.
As a side note, degassing wine is very important. Most wines are supposed to be completely flat, meaning no bubbles. In order for many wines to clear properly the wines need to be completely degassed. You can degas your wine by:
- Stirring with a long handled spoon – Very labor intensive and about as much fun as walking uphill to school in the snow. This is a great way to build up your arm muscles if you want to forgo that gym membership.
- Using a drill mounted whip or mix-stir – Works well, but still requires a lot of stirring.
- Using a Vacuum Pump setup like this one – Works very well with next to no effort.
The Sicilian Prince Vacuum Pump Setup For Wine Making
This is my setup. It was inspired by a similar design I read about in a book by Stephen Hughes. I highly recommend that book for wine making do it yourself projects. My vacuum pump setup is a little different then Steve’s. I believe that while his is probably better, mine is a bit easier to build.
Parts for the Vacuum Pump Setup
- A Vacuum Pump
- Two Racking Canes
- Carboy Cap
- 3 Valves
- Barb connectors the fit you hose and valves ( I used 1/4″ Barbs)
- A 1/4″ barb – 1/4″ Barb straight fitting
- A 1/4″ barb T Fitting
- Two 1/4″ barb Elbow Fittings
- A 1/4″ barb fitting that will allow you to connect hose to your Vacuum Pump
- A Jar with a Lid
- Some Creativity
Assemble the Vacuum Pump system as you see in the picture. The blue lines are where the hoses connect. Be sure to pick one racking cane that is skinny enough to fit in your carboy cap. Cut the bottom off so that only 8 or so inches goes down into the carboy that will be receiving the wine.
Take care to use the Overflow Jar. If wine backs up into the vacuum pump, it will break.
Please look at this video that I made to see how I built that Overflow Jar.
A piece of hose need to be inserted in the jar on the side that connects closest to the carboy. Make sure that hose goes to about a 1/2 inch from the bottom of the jar. This will direct overflow wine to the bottom of the jar.
When using the vacuum pump system, be sure to have all of the valves open except the one marked “Valve to release pressure from the system”. That valve needs to be closed while the vacuum pump is turned on. After shutting off the pump, there will still be vacuum pressure in the system. If you need to relieve that pressure, simply open the valve.
If you need to control the overall pressure in the system, use the valve marked “Valve to control pressure”. Most of the time, I use this completely open. But if the bubbles are getting too close to the top of the carboy while it degasses, you may want to adjust this to reduce the pressure.
Finally, there is the other valve that is between the carboys. While it is open, you will transfer wine from one carboy to the other. If you close it, you will be in degassing mode. You may also want to close it after transferring wine if the receiving carboy is physically higher than the sending carboy. This will prevent a reverse siphon from starting.
Before using the vacuum pump setup, I run a gallon of B-Brite solution thru it to clean the complete system. After scrubbing and cleaning the carboy and cap, I pour out the cleanser and pump about two gallons of clean water thru the system to rinse it out. After doing so, I am ready for my wine making adventure. When complete, I clean the system by doing the same procedure again.
It is important to understand that I have next to no plumbing experience. There may be other ways to make this vacuum pump setup that use cheaper parts. I bought most of the parts in the hardware section of Lowes, but I am sure that any hardware store probably stocks these parts as they are commonly used in plumbing.
Well, that is my complete Vacuum Pump Wine Making System! I hope you enjoy it and perhaps decide to make one. If I can make one, just about anyone can. If you make a lot of wine, you will want one.