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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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Racking There Gose Sea Breeze and Blueberry-Muscadine Wine

Racking the gose base onto the grapefruit zest.

Racking the gose base onto the grapefruit zest.

Fermentation seems to have slowed way down on the “There Gose Sea Breeze” beer and I’m trying to get it done for Thanksgiving, so I racked it today. Problem: my Blueberry-Muscadine Wine is in my other carboy. I need a third to make this process work. So, I went to a local home brew shop to check out my options. I decided to go with a 5 gallon Better Boy brand plastic carboy with a port on it for a tap. That will allow me to use it like a bottling bucket, rather than having to use a siphon. Maybe this will reduce the chance for infection by one more function…maybe. Seems like a good system, but the tap is a bit tricky to install and it ain’t cheap. The carboy itself was about $28. Then, the tap comes as two separate pieces that add up to about another $30. Then, I needed the special size of stopper for the top, some 1/2″ tubing and a 1/2″ diameter bottling cane. Altogether, with tax, it was about $85.

After I got everything organized, cleaned, put together, and sanitized, things went pretty smoothly. I went with the 5 gallon Better Boy because I plan to generally use it for secondary fermentations and, at that point, usually I’m down in that range. When I racked the wine, I got a nice, full 5 gallons.

Blueberry-Muscadine Wine racked for some bulk conditioning.

Blueberry-Muscadine Wine racked for some bulk conditioning.

I then squeaked out about another quart, into a half gallon glass jug. I may go ahead and bottle that in a 22 oz bomber, when I get a chance. There’s too much head space there and I don’t want it to oxidize.

Once the wine was transferred and the glass carboy it was in was cleaned and sanitized, I prepared to rack the beer into it. I set-up the siphon and hose. Next, I added the grapefruit zest and vodka from the freezer to the carboy and began racking the beer onto it.

Grapefruit zest and vodka from the freezer.

Grapefruit zest and vodka from the freezer.

Once that was all squared away, I started making the hibiscus tea.

Unsweetened, dried hibiscus flowers.

Unsweetened, dried hibiscus flowers.

I used a quart of hot Culligan (bottled) water and 5 oz of dried hibiscus flowers to a 2 quart stainless steel sauce pan.

Steeping to a beautiful concentrate.

Steeping to a beautiful concentrate.

Since I didn’t have one a bit bigger, I went ahead and brought another quart of the water to a boil in a big stainless stock pot. After the hibiscus flowers were brought to a boil, I covered them and turned off the heat. The other water boiled for a few minutes and, after the flowers steeped for 10 minutes, I strained the tea concentrate into the boiling water. I cleaned the smaller pot and then strained the entire amount of liquid back into it and it just did manage to fill it completely. Note here…steeped hibiscus flowers don’t do well in a garbage disposal unit. I should have composted them. Live and learn. After a little disposer cleaning, I got back to my hibiscus concentrate and funneled it into a sanitized glass container, covered it with sanitized plastic wrap and stuck it in the refrigerator to cool overnight.

Bringing the temp down on the hibiscus tea concentrate.

Bringing the temp down on the hibiscus tea concentrate.

 

 

 

 

The final thing I wanted to accomplish tonight was to attempt to harvest some yeast. If I like the result in this gose, I wouldn’t mind making another gose or a maybe try making a kolsch, before the really cold weather starts coming around. So, for tonight, I poured off some of the trub that was left behind in the carboy that I racked out of and funneled it into a sanitized 1/2 gallon glass jug.

Attempting to harvest some yeast for future use.

Attempting to harvest some yeast for future use.

I topped that off with Culligan bottled water and added a sanitized cap. I’ll let that sit out overnight and separate. I’ll update here tomorrow when I add the hibiscus tea concentrate and further separate the yeast.

11/2/15 update: Added the hibiscus tea to the gose and it looks like a giant jar of cranberry sauce!

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I also decanted the liquid off of the yeast I’m trying to harvest. My understanding is that the yeast is the thin whitish layer on the top of the sediment. I transferred that to a pint jar and added water, We’ll see how that settles.

Transferred yeast to smaller jar and added water.

Transferred yeast to smaller jar and added water.

Yeast settled for harvest.

Yeast settled for harvest.

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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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Blueberry-Muscadine Wine, Adjustments and Yeast

24 hours after Campden Tablets added. Sugar, water, blueberries and muscadines.

24 hours after Campden Tablets added. Sugar, water, blueberries and muscadines.

Day 2 for the Blueberry-Muscadine Wine project…time to check the OG(Original Gravity), check the acid, add the yeast nutrient, pectic enzyme, and pitch the yeast. I started with the refractometer and got a couple different readings from the sample I took after stirring the must. (Of course, I sanitized everything that touched the must). Anyway, I felt like I was at the 1.090 range,but wasn’t confident, so I took a larger sample to check with the hydrometer later.

Sample for testing acid and getting hydrometer reading.

Sample for testing acid and getting hydrometer reading.

From the sample, I removed 3ml to test the acid. Following the instructions for the acid test kit, it looks like I was at a reading of 0.225; shooting for the range between 0.55 and 0.65. The recipe called for 2-1/2 teaspoons of the acid blend, but I needed the full 2 ounces that I purchased to get to 0.565. At the minimum of the range, but okay. I also added 2-1/2 teaspoons of pectic enzyme and 3 teaspoons of yeast nutrient. Added to the must and stirred in. Then I sanitized the yeast packet and scissors, and pitched the yeast, gently stirring it in.

I resealed the fermentation bucket and cleaned my utensils. Next, I used the rest of my sample to take an OG reading with a hydrometer. It looks like I have a reading of 1.110 at 71.6F, which adjusts for temperature (hydrometer calibrated to 60F) to OG 1.111.

Hydrometer reading.

Hydrometer reading.

I guess I should not have added all the sugar at once, so this is going to be a higher alcohol wine than I wanted, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I just hope it tastes good! Montrachet yeast is supposed to have an alcohol tolerance of 13%, so if my FG comes in around 1.01-ish, it should be stopping anyway. (The color is good. The unfermented product is so sweet, it’s hard to get a real feel for flavor…but I think it will be good.)

***Update 8/27/15: Continuing to stir every evening, to break up the fruit floating at the top and submerge it all. Getting a nice steady action in the airlock. All appears to be on track. Obviously, it’s still extremely sweet; however, a small sip does have a little more fruit flavor than before, and a little taste of the fermentation.

After stirring down the fruit.

After stirring down the fruit.

Before stirring the floating fruit.

Before stirring the floating fruit.

Update 8/29/15: Stirred down the fruit in the fermentation bucket and noted that the appearance is pretty much the same as the above photos. I wonder if the blueberries that didn’t get crushed are fermenting? They don’t seem to be changing color…hmmm. The sample spoonful definitely has a flavor that has dropped in sweetness another notch.

Update 8/29/15: Continuing to convert sugar to alcohol…definitely a little more tannic feel in the mouth, more alcohol, and drier. I continue to note that the wine is still sweet, but what a difference! I like where this is going…at least, so far.

Again, before stirring down the fruit.

Again, before stirring down the fruit.

 

After stirring down the fruit.

After stirring down the fruit.

Sample for flavor and color.

Update 9/2/2015: Now tasting more like wine and less like sweet, fermenting juice. Photos aren’t showing any real difference, but the flavor is telling the tale!

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Starting Blueberry-Muscadine Wine

Day one: Blueberry-Muscadine Wine, ready for the 24 hour rest.

Day one: Blueberry-Muscadine Wine, ready for the 24 hour rest.

During the height of blueberry season, I got an amazingly good deal on a case of them. We ate some, I made an experimental, very small batch of jam, and then I stuck the rest in the freezer. Now that we are at the height of muscadine grape season, I have foraged several pounds of wild grapes. In doing a little research, I found this article: https://winemakermag.com/461-making-blueberry-wine-tips-from-the-pros  The majority of what I am doing comes directly from their recipe, so go read their article. If you are really interested in winemaking, you might like their magazine.

This is my second attempt at wine. You can find my entries on my first wine on this blogs entries starting about this time last year. It was a straight muscadine wine and I used Montrachet yeast for that batch…as I am using for this batch. The result, is a surprisingly dry, medium to light body wine that is a bit heavy on the alcohol (I overdid the sugar a bit), but not nearly as sweet as you normally find in wines made from muscadines. The color is between a blush and a red. I am pretty pleased with it. So, for my second wine, where I am going to change from the referenced recipe slightly, I’m using 3 pounds of wild muscadine grapes, instead of grape concentrate, and I’m using 11 pounds of blueberries. The blueberries were almost completely thawed, but still cold.

In preparing for the recipe, I did purchase an acid test kit ($8.95) and some blended acid powder from the local homebrew shop (LHBS). I also bought a package of Montrachet yeast. I did not add citric acid to the sugar water and I am not using the teaspoon of tannin. I am also substituting Campden Tablets, crushed, rather than the powdered sodium metabisulfate. The tablets are easy…add one per gallon, so five in this batch.

One tablet per gallon: 5 tablets. Easy!

One tablet per gallon: 5 tablets. Easy!

Campden Tablets to kill off any resident bacterias and wild yeasts.

Campden Tablets to kill off any resident bacterias and wild yeasts.

Capmpden Tablets, crushed in a mortar & pestle.

Capmpden Tablets, crushed in a mortar & pestle.

I’m also skipping the potassium sorbate. I may be wrong, but the Campden Tablets are potassium metabisulfate, and I think using them covers it. (As well as the sodium metabisulfate.) Theses chemicals can get to be a little confusing for those of us who were Liberal Arts majors, rather than Chemistry majors! Anyway, I think I have things covered.

Today was all about crushing blueberries,

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crushing muscadine grapes,

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mixing 9 pounds of sugar with hot water,

Sugar and water.

Sugar and water.

…and then adding the crushed Campden Tablets. I added enough water to rinse the crush bucket and bring the total volume to 5 gallons. (Top photo)

Tomorrow, I will deal with the yeast nutrient, pectic enzyme, test the acid and adjust it, if needed. Then I will pitch the yeast. After that, over the course of the primary fermentation, I will need to stir the “must” at the top of the bucket down into the liquid twice daily. I don’t plan on making a separate entry everyday, just to say that I stirred the must! I will document tomorrow, and when I rack, bottle, and eventually taste the wine. So, I’ve done the steps required for today. I’ll be back!

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