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Muscadine Wine 2016

Time to make some wine.

Time to make some wine.

From the bucket of muscadine grapes that I picked from my niece’s grape arbor recently, I am making a batch of wine. I am starting with 11lbs, 5oz of grapes. You could use more or less, from what I have read; recipes vary greatly. I wouldn’t use less than 10lbs.  I have chosen a yeast that I hope will leave me with a “half sweet” wine. Not bone dry, but not too sweet. So, pulling together what I have learned from two previous batches of wine and the reseach I did for those, this is the recipe I’ve put together…..

Muscadine Wine

11 pounds, 5 oz Muscadine Grapes

3-4 gallons water (top up later, as needed)

sugar (up to 9lbs, dissolved in water for hydrometer or refractometer reading 1.090)

Cote des Blancs yeast

5 Campden tablets, crushed (1 per gallon)

5 teaspoons yeast nutrient

Acid blend to increase acid or

calcium carbonate (or potassium bicarbonate) to reduce acid (if needed)

(Acidity should be more than 0.55% and no more than 0.70%, there is a test kit available at wine/brew shops)

1-1/4 teaspoons Pectic enzyme

Make sure all utensils and containers are sanitized. I use a product called Starsan. Crush the grapes and add to a mesh straining bag (available at brew shops).

Crushed grapes in strainer bag, with juice.

Crushed grapes in strainer bag, with juice.

Pour the juice into a fermentation container (bottling bucket works well) and add the bag of grape skins/pulp.

Bottling bucket...good for primary fermentation of 5 gallon wine batch.

Bottling bucket…good for primary fermentation of 5 gallon wine batch.

Test the specific gravity of the juice. Use a calculation tool to figure out how much sugar to add for a 5 gallon batch. Dissolve the sugar in some hot water. Add to the juice/grapes and top off to 5 gallons. Verify the SG is in the correct range, around 1.090…it may require preparation of additional sugar/water solution. Add the crushed Campden tablets and yeast nutrient. Stir well and allow to sit for 10-12 hours, sealed and fitted with an airlock.

Test the acid and SG again. Adjust acid as needed.  Add pectic enzyme.  Rehydrate yeast as package directs. Pitch yeast and reseal.

Open the container and push the bag of grape must down and stir well with the juice…do this twice a day for the next 5 to 7 days. Check  for the SG to drop to around 1.030 and then remove the strainer bag. Squeeze to get any additional juice and then discard (or compost!). Rack to a carboy, leaving the sediment (lees) behind and continue fermentation until complete. Rack again a couple more times at 2 months intervals, until clear. Add 1 crushed Campden tablet each time the wine is racked. Stabilize and wait for any suspended yeast to fall. Bottle and age at least 1 year and up to 3 years.

Process this time: I crushed the grapes in a sanitized bucket, using a sanitized aluminum baseball bat.

Crushed muscadine grapes.

Crushed muscadine grapes.

I used a refractometer to check the juice SG and it came in at 1.058. I tried figuring out the sugar amount to add using Brewer’s Friend online tool. I found out that this process is called “chapitalization”. Unfortunately, I did it wrong. I mixed the sugar with the water and added it to the grape must. Once I added the water up to 5 gallons, the the SG was only 1.045.

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Grape must in strainer bag, with water, sugar, Campden tablets, and yeast nutrient.

So, I went back to the calculator tool and entered the new figures and recalculated the additional sugar needed. Altogether, the amount of sugar added was exactly 8lbs and the new SG reading is 1.091. Being off .001 is acceptable. I also added the 5 crushed Campden tablets and 5 teaspoons of yeast nutrient. Now it sits until tomorrow morning.

9/12/16: Okay., I added the pectic enzyme. Now we get to the part that I’m less confident about, but I’m going to do the best I can: measuring the acid. I have a kit that contains two chemicals. You measure and add one to a test tube (if it came with one, I’ve lost it, so I improvised), add some water. Then you measure some of the other and start adding it drop by drop to the test tube. When the color changes, without being able to swirl it clear again, you stop. You figure out how much you used and plug that into a formula and get a number that represents the acid content. Then you compare that to a range you should be in. That will determine if you need to raise the acid content or reduce it. From what I have read, muscadines are high acid, so I anticipated that I may have to reduce them…and I had not bought the right stuff to do that. Turns out, the acid is quite low. The 2oz of Acid Blend that I bought will not be enough. The figure I came up with was 1.2 ppt sulfuric (or 0.1875 % tartaric). Pretty much Greek to me, but I found the way to figure out the amount of acid blend needed was easier using the ppt sulfuric method. At 1.2 , I needed to add 1 oz to 5 gallons for each 1.1 increase. I had 2oz on hand, so that got me up to 3.4 ppt sulfuric. The range I need to be in for this wine is 3.9 to 4.2…a half ounce more would put be at the minimum, and an ounce would put me at 4.5, a little over. I need just under 3/4oz (4.225). 0.70oz will be 4.17. So, I need to find some acid blend today…my closest store isn’t open on Mondays, so I may have to drive a bit. I know this may sound like a bunch of confusing junk, but I’m trying to get a decent end product, so I’m going to deal with it. My biggest fear is that the wine will not have enough flavor…maybe I should have used more grapes? Crossing fingers. I will be pitching the yeast late tonight.

9/12/16: 9:00 p.m. Double checking test numbers after adjustments. ppT Sulfuric looks like 4.0 and % Tartaric looks like 0.625…these numbers are right where I would want them. The pH test is a little harder to judge. I was hoping it would be more than 3.0. The color on the test strip is defininately darker than 2.8 and lighter than 3.2, but there is no color reference in between. I guessed 3.0 before and maybe it’s a little darker…just hard to judge. I’m going to go by the acid test and assume I’m good. I did take another refractometer reading and got 1.086…ugh! So, I ran it again and got 1.091…whew! Starting the rehydration of the yeast and that will be pitched shortly.

9/12/16: 11.45 p.m. Yeast pitched. Cote des Blancs from Red Star. Decription: “Cote des Blancs is also known as Epernay II. It is recommended for Chardonnay, Riesling, mead and cider, as well as fruit wines, particularly apple. it imparts a fruity aroma in both red and white wines. A slow fermenter that works best between 50 and 80 degrees. This strain will not ferment to a dryness at the low end of the range, leaving residual sugar resulting in a sweeter wine.”

9/16/16: Removed grape must added a little water and removed hydrometer sample. 73.4 F and 1.040 on hydrometer = SG 1.041 . I’m going out of town and won’t be available to stir for a few days, so I went ahead and pulled the bag and drained.

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Brew Day: Railer’s Pale Ale

Brew in a Bag set up (BIAB)...draining the grains

Brew in a Bag set up (BIAB)…draining the grains

A friend recently asked if I would be interested in joining her in providing a homebrew for an event. The event is just prior to the local soccer team’s game. The team is the Carolina Railhawks, so I’m making a beer I’m calling Railer’s Pale Ale. Hopefully, my friend will be able to get my beer into a keg and we will set up beside each other to serve our beers. If the keg doesn’t work out, I can always bottle.

I used an online recipe building program, armed with a basic idea that I wanted to use some frozen, vacuum sealed Cascade hops for the bittering/background “canvas”, with a combination of Mosaic and Citra hops for flavor and aroma. The Mosaic add a resinous flavor and the Citra are, surprise! citrusy.

Cascade whole hops that had been vacuum sealed and frozen.

Cascade whole hops that had been vacuum sealed and frozen.

Starting the 60 minute boil with the Cascade hops.

Starting the 60 minute boil with the Cascade hops.

The base grain is an American 2-row. In playing with other grains to get the right alcohol ABV and the right color, I picked a few specialty grains. Then, after a little research, Wyeast American Ale II 1272 “smack pack” for the yeast. At the lower recommended temperature range, it is supposed to produce a clean, crisp result that accentuates the citrus componants. I went ahead and took the yeast out and activated it early on.

I put my recipe out for some fellow brewers to look at, but didn’t get any feedback before I had to go pick-up the ingredients. After I milled the grains and came home, I see a note from an experienced brewer who said I had too much specialty grain (28% of the grain bill) and should cut them in half and make up the difference with more 2-row. Ugh. The comment is that the beer will be too sweet. Well, I’m kind of stuck now. I can’t waste the time or money on buying more grain for a beer that is going to be given away. Ah, well. I hope that the hop selections will help counteract some of the sweetness that I’m being told is going to be there. At the very least, it will be beer, and it should be drinkable. Mine may not be picked by the fans as the best one there, but I’m not expecting to be in that group anyway…I’m probably the novice of the group.

So, without going through all the individual brew steps here, I’ll hit just a few points. The brew went pretty well as far as the step go. The mash temperature was overshot, as I usually do, not matter how careful I try to be. I used a little Culligan water, cold, to bring the temperature down into my target range. And flies and bees started showing up to check out the wort. Really got to be irritating! Otherwise, no problem with my little modified sparge or the boil.

My little modified sparge set-up.

My little modified sparge set-up.

I do need to note, that being a Liberal Arts guy, “brewhouse efficiency” and some of the more technical calculations in the process are pretty much a guessing game for me. I had the efficiency at 63% in the recipe, based on a previous brew that seemed fairly accurate. When I checked the specific gravity (SG) between the mash and the boil, I got 1.054. The post boil gravity was only supposed to be 1.052, so my efficiency was more like 71%. I adjusted it in the recipe, and the end result will be just a little higher alcohol content,,,but not crazy. It will still only be (estimated at this point) 5.15% ABV. That should be fine.

I chilled with an immersion coil. The tap water temperature is 71F, so I knew I wouldn’t get the wort down into the low 70’s.

Stainless steel coil immersion chiller in use.

Stainless steel coil immersion chiller in use.

I managed 83F and transferred to the carboy…started off using siphon, but the whole hops were a challenge and I wound up having to hand-pour about 1/3. A bit messy, but couldn’t be helped.

Siphoning wort into the carboy (on top of my little chest freezer converted to fermentation chamber.

Siphoning wort into the carboy (on top of my little chest freezer converted to fermentation chamber).

I put the wort in my fermentation chamber with an airlock installed, and placed the package of yeast in as well. I let the wort continue to cool for a few hours and then pitched the yeast.

After a couple of hours, I realized the temperature was a little low, so I turned the thermostat up a few degrees and left the lid up on the box to bring the temperture up for awhile. Six hours later, I see the slightest indication that the yeast may be active. A few hours later, I closed the lid to keep the temperature in the range I want, which would be around 65-68F. Now we wait to see if it really takes off…and how it turns out.

Update: 7/23/16    Checked on the progress around noon and we have a good fermentation in progress!

Success!

Success!

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You Get Lazy, You Don’t Document, You Make Something Incredible

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A few months ago, I started a single gallon batch of something similar to “Joe’s Ancient Orange Mead” also know by it’s acronym: JOAM. I say similar, because I know I substituted something, was short on honey…something. I remember when I racked to secondary, I added more honey that I had dissolved into some more water. I don’t know those details or when exactly I started this batch, because I got lazy and didn’t document it here. Probably December sometime is the best I can do.

JOAM is basically a very popular homebrew recipe for a fruit mead. Oranges, plus honey, plus water, plus yeast, plus time, equals JOAM. It’s very simple—even uses bread yeast. Yes, other yeasts have been tried. No, they did not taste better. (That’s the story, anyway. I haven’t compared, but plenty of people have, I guarantee. Here’s the recipe, if you want to give it a try:

Joe’s Ancient Orange Mead

1 gallon batch
* 3 1/2 lbs Clover or your choice honey or blend (will finish sweet)
* 1 Large orange (later cut in eights or smaller rind and all)
* 1 small handful of raisins (25 if you count but more or less ok)
* 1 stick of cinnamon
* 1 whole clove ( or 2 if you like – these are potent critters)
* optional (a pinch of nutmeg and allspice )( very small )
* 1 teaspoon of bread yeast ( now don’t get holy on me— after all this is an ancient mead and that’s all we had back then)
* Balance water to one gallon
Process:

Use a clean 1 gallon carboy

Dissolve honey in some warm water and put in carboy

Wash orange well to remove any pesticides and slice in eights –add orange (you can push ‘em through opening big boy — rinds included — its ok for this mead — take my word for it — ignore the experts)

Put in raisins, clove, cinnamon stick, any optional ingredients and fill to 3 inches from the top with cold water. (Need room for some foam — you can top off with more water after the first few day frenzy)

Shake the heck out of the jug with top on, of course. This is your sophisticated aeration process.

When at room temperature in your kitchen. Put in 1 teaspoon of bread yeast. ( No you don’t have to rehydrate it first– the ancients didn’t even have that word in their vocabulary– just put it in and give it a gentle swirl or not) (The yeast can fight for their own territory)

Install water airlock. Put in dark place. It will start working immediately or in an hour. (Don’t use grandma’s bread yeast she bought years before she passed away in the 90’s)

(Wait 3 hours before you panic or call me) After major foaming stops in a few days add some water and then keep your hands off of it. (Don’t shake it! Don’t mess with them yeastees! Let them alone except it’s okay to open your cabinet to smell every once in a while.

Racking — Don’t you dare
additional feeding — NO NO
More stirring or shaking – You’re not listening, don’t touch

After 2 months and maybe a few days it will slow down to a stop and clear all by itself. (How about that) (You are not so important after all) Then you can put a hose in with a small cloth filter on the end into the clear part and siphon off the golden nectar. If you wait long enough even the oranges will sink to the bottom but I never waited that long. If it is clear it is ready. You don’t need a cold basement. It does better in a kitchen in the dark. (Like in a cabinet) likes a little heat (70-80). If it didn’t work out… you screwed up and didn’t read my instructions (or used grandma’s bread yeast she bought years before she passed away). If it didn’t work out then take up another hobby. Mead is not for you. It is too complicated.

If you were successful, which I am 99% certain you will be, then enjoy your mead. When you get ready to make a different mead you will probably have to unlearn some of these practices I have taught you, but hey— This recipe and procedure works with these ingredients so don’t knock it. It was your first mead. It was my tenth. Sometimes, even the experts can forget all they know and make a good ancient mead.

Enjoy, Joe

 

So, my little gallon has been sitting on the counter in the kitchen for months and it is nice and clear. There’s a little sediment on the bottom. I tried moving it once and the sediment started getting agitated very easily, so when I bottle it, I’m going to need to be careful not to disturb it or siphon any of it.

I carefully took a sample tonight…probably an ounce. I could smell the citrus (and maybe the honey?), but it wasn’t like juice. It was more like the zest. The flavor was the same way. Zest. Citrus oil. Then warmth. Since I didn’t document anything, I have no clue what the ABV is…probably around 13-15%? But it didn’t burn. It was just warming. I think a rest for several months in bottles and, by Thanksgiving and Christmas, this will be a real treat! I’m usually good about documenting everything, I can’t believe I didn’t this time. Lesson learned. Like the title says: “You Get Lazy, You Don’t Document, You Make Something Incredible”. Then you have no way to exactly duplicate it again. Ugh. I will definitely follow the JOAM recipe again!

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2014 Muscadine Wine Tasting

Muscadine Wine, my first wine, bottled October 2014

Muscadine Wine, my first wine, bottled October 2014

My last taste of this wine was a little over a year ago, in February 2015. It was my first attempt at wine. I began the batch with foraged muscadine grapes in August of 2014 and was bottled about 2 months later. The ABV, if I read the hydrometer correctly, was right on 16%. It was fairly hot at bottling. I opened a bottle in February, 2015 when it was about 3-1/2 months in the bottle and the notes were basically that it was still kind of hot, but had a nice color, light body, and fairly dry flavor that I would not have guessed was muscadine.

It is now March 4, 2016, so the wine has been bottled for almost a year and a half. While still slightly warm with alcohol and a little tannin, the nose and color are still nice and the body light. The thing that really jumps out immediately, though, is that the flavor has very noticeably softened. It is definitely more drinkable now! I don’t expect muscadine wine to last a decade, but this one is improving and I think it may benefit from even a little more time…but I have no idea when it will “peak” or turn the corner and head downhill. Tonight, however, I’m having a glass of wine that I’m pretty happy with!

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Bottling and Corking Muscadine-Blueberry Wine

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First bottle of blueberry-muscadine wine. (I adjusted it a little more after photo to be flush with top of bottle.)

I have 5 gallons of blueberry-muscadine wine that I started in late August of this year (2015). You can read through the previous posts for the process. My previous wine attempt was a straight muscadine wine that was about 2 gallons and just bottled it in beer bottles. So this is my second wine, but, since I had 5 gallons, I decided to go ahead and put it in actual wine bottles with corks!

5 gallon carboy of blueberry-muscadine wine.

5 gallon carboy of blueberry-muscadine wine.

First, since my brief trend is to make wine once a year, I really didn’t want to invest in a corker. Unfortunately, I do not know anyone that has one I could borrow, either. I do, however, have a friend that had the valuable knowledge that a local home brew shop rents a floor model corker for $5/day! I stopped by today and bought 2 cases of green wine bottles (total of 24 bottles), and a 30 count bag of corks.

Floor model wine bottle corker. Easy to use and adjust.

Floor model wine bottle corker. Easy to use and adjust.

I bought #9 corks, because they are for wines expected to be around something like 5 to 7 years. The #7 and #8 corks were for shorter term storage. The blueberry-muscadine wine is fairly light body and about medium on the dry scale…maybe a little more towards dry. I don’t expect it to last for many years, but there’s a chance a few bottles may wind up getting stashed and discovered sometime in the future…so, better to have a little excess time.

I pulled a sample of the wine for the hydrometer test. Checked the temperature. I got an FG (final gravity) of 0.993. The OG (original gravity) of 1.111 means that we have a wine with 15.49% ABV. Really? It’s hidden pretty well! Pretty color, too, by the way.

Hydrometer sample.

Hydrometer sample.

I went ahead and rinsed and sanitized the bottles and my tubing and bottling wand. I researched cork preparation a little and the consensus seems to be that the type of cork I’m using does not need any soaking, boiling, sanitizing, etc. I filled a test bottle and tried the corker. Very easy. And there is a little threaded washer that can fine-tune the depth that the cork is pushed. It was simple to adjust and get the cork flush. I got a yield of exactly 24 bottles,

First of two cases.

First of two cases.

with just a little extra for enjoying tonight.

Nice color...and little sample for the winemaker.

Nice color…and little sample for the winemaker.

I have to say, it’s very satisfying to see my wine in real deal, bona fide wine bottles! Now…how long before I start giving them away? Just a couple weeks until Christmas…maybe hang on to most of them for a year? Oh…and I need to look into labeling. I mean it IS my first wine in corked bottles, after all!

 

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There Gose Sea Breeze

Brew Day!!! Adding the grain to the heated water. or "mashing in".

Brew Day!!! Adding the grain to the heated water. or “mashing in”.

So, two days ago (Thursday, October 24, 2015), my wife asked me, “If you brew a batch of beer tomorrow, will it be ready in time for Thanksgiving?” I figured it would, as long as it wasn’t something that needed a long time to ferment or bottle condition. Maybe an IPA? Well, she was going to be taking kids to the NC State Fair…all day…so I was authorized to brew. That night, I did some research for holiday beers and everything seemed to be porters and stouts. IPA’s were recommended by some sources, but so many hops and dry hopping…just didn’t feel it. Then I thought, “How about a refreshing gose style? That’ll cut through the heavy foods.” I brewed a gose before and, while mushroom was not the most successful flavor choice, it was technically very good.

Okay, so the next decision: how do I want to flavor it? I immediately thought about cranberries…tart, refreshing, a little citrusy. So, I did a little research on cranberries. It turns out that cranberries present a problem for brewing: they float. And raw, floating berries don’t ferment well or add much flavor. Even chopped, they don’t do much better. If you cook them, the flavor changes and the pectin comes out. That presents more problems. How about cranberry juice? I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find pure juice, without additives. Not for a reasonable price, anyway. In my research, someone recommended dried hibiscus flowers as an alternative…very similar to the flavor of cranberries and great color. I used them in a previous recipe very successfully and, in fact, still have a supply! Hibiscus it is.

Dried Hibiscus F;owers

Dried Hibiscus F;owers

I pulled out my previous gose recipe and began working on it. Substitute hibiscus for the mushrooms, up the salt from .75 oz to 1.25 oz, and add .25 oz ground coriander. The coriander is traditional, but needs to be restrained. I bought a fresh bottle and smelled it. Surprisingly, it reminded me of hops.

Hops. coriander, sea salt, and Irish moss additions.

Hops. coriander, sea salt, and Irish moss additions.

I also decided to go with a traditional hop choice: Saaz. As I was putting together the recipe, I happened to run across a cranberry cocktail called “Sea Breeze”. It is made with cranberry juice, vodka, grapefruit juice, salt and a lime garnish.

Sea Breeze Cocktail (Photo via Wikipedia)

Sea Breeze Cocktail (Photo via Wikipedia)

Well, since we are going to be drinking this at the beach, I figure…add some grapefruit zest, sanitized in vodka, and There Gose Sea Breeze!

Grapefruit zest from 3 grapefruits.

Grapefruit zest from 3 grapefruits.

Lime garnish optional. I got all the information plugged into the recipe and it looks good! You can get the recipe here: http://www.brewersfriend.com/homebrew/recipe/view/289756/there-gose-sea-breeze

Before I could brew, I had a lot of cleaning, preparation, sanitizing, to do. Plus a run to the grocery store and local home brew shop. Then I had to organize and set up for the brew. I think I finally started brewing about 1:15 pm. Steps went fine. I overheated the strike water, but not too badly.  The special grain, the acidulated malt, is added after the first 60 minutes and takes an extra 45 minutes to mash…it adds a lightly sour component to the beer. After the mash, I added an additional gallon of water for the boil. Everything else went smoothly and I wound up with a carboy full of wort!

That's a full carboy!

That’s a full carboy!

Checkiing the Specific Gravity(SG) with a refractometer and a hydrometer, I determined the Original Gravity(OG) to be 1.063. The Final Gravity(FG) is anticipated to be around 1.014, which would put the ABV at 6.3%. I pitched the yeast, finally, at about 6:30 pm.

I put a blow tube on this morning, after having to do a little floor cleaning. The good news is that the yeast is alive and active!

Blow off tube...should have put on at the start.

Blow off tube…should have put on at the start.

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Update/Additional Racking Blueberry-Muscadine Wine

Blueberry-Muscadine Wine sample.

Blueberry-Muscadine Wine sample.

A very brief update on the Blueberry-Muscadine Wine. I racked the wine again (with a Campden Tablet to help insure no contamination), so that I could use the plastic carboy that it was in for a beer project. The wine is now in a slightly smaller, glass carboy. To decrease the head space a little, I added about a gallon of Culligan bottled water.

Racking the wine.

Racking the wine.

There’s plenty of alcohol, so that’s no problem. (ABV, after checking the SG with a hydrometer looks to be about 15.49%!) The flavor is actually pretty good already…not too “hot” or “green”. The color is beautiful and clarity is good. After a few sips, I added a little Sierra Mist soda to the glass…yeah, I know, but I did anyway, and it was really tasty! I will definitely bulk age this wine a little longer and then bottle condition for awhile; but I may just fill a bottle and take on our Thanksgiving trip to the beach and see what people think.

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