Contrary to popular belief, a wine thief is not a person who is out to steal your wine. Rather, the wine thief is an invaluable tool that will simplify the process of testing your wine.
This handy little contraption allows you to "steal" a bit of liquid from your evolving wine, thus the name, wine thief.
A wine thief is a tube shaped tool that you can dip into your carboy, primary fermenter, or barrel and extract a portion of your developing wine. This tool is typically 12 - 24 inches in length, has an opening on the top for easy testing access, and a valve at the bottom that will allow the wine to flow when depressed.
There are several varieties of wine thief available, but I find that the food grade plastic version is perfectly suited to the home wine maker.
It's inexpensive ($7-$10 USD), works well for its intended purpose, and (most importantly) it won't break if you happen to drop it!
Wine making requires a variety of tests to ensure that your finished product is exactly what you hoped for - a delicious wine.
Each of the following test efforts will require a bit of your wine to be drawn from the batch:
You could certainly attempt to pour wine from your primary or carboy into a test jar, but I assure you that it will be quite an effort to do so. A 6 gallon carboy, filled with your aging wine will be nearly impossible to tilt and pour.
Having a wine thief and test jar available will make your testing easier and less time consuming.
Using your wine thief is a very simple process:
If you are working with a one gallon batch of wine, it may be easier to simply pour wine into your test jar. If you are testing the specific gravity, a wine thief may still be helpful when trying to float a hydrometer
While a wine thief is an entirely optional piece of wine making equipment, I find it to be well worth having one in my collection.
It will serve you well in your testing efforts by making your job a whole lot easier, and most importantly allowing you a taste of your evolving wine every now and again!