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Day 118 Hydrometer Checks

Gettin' fizzy wit it!

Gettin’ fizzy wit it!

Tepache is fizzing nicely now. The hydrometer reading is 1.075…I didn’t check the OG, but first batch was 1.090; so, I’m guessing this was roughly the same. That would put the current alcohol level at about 2%. I’m going to give it another day  and then strain and add the beer (one 12 oz).

The American Wheat RyePA  is at 1.013 and the recipe states that estimated FG is 1.008 to 1.013. I’m going to check it again tomorrow and see if it’s time to rack onto the citrus zest and vodka. If this is where it stays, the ABV should come in at 4.46%; a nice Summery sessionable beer! I like what I’m smelling and tasting in this beer. The citrus zest will be a great addition!

Hydrometer sample...going into the fridge, for tasting.

RyePA Hydrometer sample…going into the fridge, for tasting.

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Day 116 Opening a Pineapple Tinker, Updates

Pineapple Tinker

Pineapple Tinker

On the evening of December 10, 2013, I began a little experiment with a pineapple, some honey, sugar and brown sugar. It was kind of a melomel, a fruit mead, but it wasn’t sweetened entirely with honey. As my little experiment progressed, I included some vanilla bean and some untoasted American oak chips. I called it Pineapple Tinker. As the pineapple was fermenting, I was discouraged, because it smelled AWFUL. I was sure that it was going to have to be thrown out. With a little research, I found others  that had similar feelings about their fermenting pineapple, but had waited and were amazed at how good it turned out to be. So, I decided to stick it out.

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According to my notes, the OG was 1.112 and the FG was 1.000. That would make a 14.70% ABV final product. Is that even possible with S-04 yeast?! I would have thought the yeast would have died off before that. If there’s that much alcohol in this Tinker, that’s dangerous! There’s no burn…maybe a little warmth lingering in the throat. Anyway, bottled this small batch on January, 20, 2014. What I have now, is a beautiful pale yellow crystal clear color with a definite pineapple aroma. It is very well carbonated with fine, Champagne-like bubbles, a dry, but not bone dry, clean pineapple flavor. A little more sweetness in this would be nice, but I’m pretty impressed! All honey for sweetening would have been nice. And maybe back sweetening with a little something non-fermentable would have been a good addition, but for a first “Tinker”, I’m happy!

Still no real sign of life in the pineapple tepache. Pineapple-mango melomel should be an interesting contrast to the Tinker…it continues to carboy condition. And the American Wheat RyePA is at a crawl in primary fermentation. I did get some vodka today and zested two lemons and two oranges…combined in a covered storage container in the fridge until ready to go to secondary with the RyePA. That should happen over the weekend, sometime.

Ready to cover and refrigerate.

Ready to cover and refrigerate.

Citrus to be zested and vodka for soaking, sanitizing and extracting flavors.

Citrus to be zested and vodka for soaking, sanitizing and extracting flavors.

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Day 114 Ginger Bug Pineapple-Mango Soda, Tepache #2

The ginger-mint “bug” appears to be ready…nice and bubbly. I picked up a pineapple today and already had a couple of mangoes. I got some extra ginger while I was at it. So, tonight I used my little countertop extractor to juice the fruits and about a half ounce or so of ginger and wound up with about 32 oz of juice. I added 2 cups/16 oz of water for a total of 48 oz. Then I added 1/4 cup of strained “bug” and stirred well.

Little countertop juice extractor.

Little countertop juice extractor…before I cleaned the ginger out of it.

Next, I sanitized utensils and 4 bottles and caps. I bottled the juice and capped it and had a little left over, so I put it in a small canning jar with a lid. I’ll use that as a tester. Directions say to refrigerate when carbonated to desired amount…1 to 3 days. I know there’s a LOT of sugar in there, so I think I will pasteurize the bottles when ready, just to be safe. That’s a fair amount of work for four bottles of soda! But I’m hoping it will be worth it! I might try a commercial juice for the next batch, though.

Ginger bug, 4 bottles of Pineapple-Mango Soda and a l;ittle tester jar to check carbonation. (Tepache in fermentation bucket in the background.)

Ginger-mint bug, 4 bottles of Pineapple-Mango Soda and a little tester jar to check carbonation. (Tepache in fermentation bucket in the background.)

Since I was doing a pineapple for the soda, I went ahead and peeled and cored it for a batch of tepache. I only had a few ounces of the piloncillo Mexican raw sugar, so I made up the bulk of the sugar with regular old brown sugar. So, at least I’m multi-tasking and getting another product started for all my efforts! My American Wheat/RyePA was chugging along this morning. Later in the afternoon it had slowed quite a bit. It pretty slow tonight. I’ll probably go ahead and replace the blow-off tube with a regular airlock  in the morning. And, as ever, the pineapple-mango melomel continues to condition in a carboy and looks beautiful. Can’t wait to drink it…in November 2016.

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Day 68 Nothing Brewing…Feels Weird

Since I bottled my hefeweizen, and scrambled for bottles to do it, I have nothing brew-related going on. Everything is in the bottle conditioning phase. It just feels weird! I did open a few bottles tonight…um…just to check their progress. Yeah, that’s it. Anyway, I started off with my Nut Brown Ale that I received as a Christmas gift-kit. It was bottled 10 days ago and is surprisingly drinkable already. Compared to my previous English Nut Brown Ale, A.K.A. Fawlty Brown Ale, it is a bit more bitter. The color and clarity are good and the carbonation may get better, but is pretty good already. In addition to the kit, I also received some Irish moss and gypsum. I believe they did their jobs! No doubt that this beer will improve with another couple of weeks in the bottle, but my first bottle out of this batch says it’s a success.

Nice clarity and color

Nice clarity and color

Nut Brown Ale

Nut Brown Ale

The second bottle of the evening was a 22 0z bottle of the Belgian Strong Dark. I believe my last taste of this beer was described as having a fruity component and maybe caramel, but not the roasted coffee or chocolate flavors. This beer has been in the bottle for 24 days and has since mellowed a bit on the caramel and it has lost that fruit from before. I’m not an expert at the critique thing for beer and I don’t have the right words to describe this flavor. Is this what people describe as “biscuit”? I will need to get some more experienced feedback on this one, but whatever it is, it’s good…at least, I think so!

Belgian Strong Dark...interesting.

Belgian Strong Dark…interesting.

The final bottle I opened this evening is the Watson’s Cider…in honor of John Hamish Watson’s nuptials on Masterpiece Theater tonight! Side note: awesome episode. ‘Nuff said. The cider, unfortunately, is not doing so well. This is an all-crabapple (foraged) sparkling cider. This is the only beverage that I have pastuerized, so far. I also was trying to retain some sweetness by not letting it ferment quite all the way out. In the process, I did not let it clarify long enough and too much lees came along for the ride. It’s a little sour in the nose…like mild vinegar. The carbonation is a bit week. If I went back through my notes, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the carbonation is actually going down some. There was quite a bit of sediment in the bottle and the color of the cider is a medium golden, but with a little haze. I know it sounds weird, but the best way to describe it is as if someone drop one or two drops of skim milk into the glass before adding the cider. I did have fun with the label. Since calling it a “cyser”, I have seen the error in my ways…but the labels were expensive and already printed. Plus, “Watson’s Cider” sounds like a personal question.

One of my less successful beverages, but not ready to dump it yet!

One of my less successful beverages, but not ready to dump it yet!

As for the flavor, I definitely get that slight sourness/vinegar taste with an almost dry finish. These days, some people think it’s good for you to drink vinegar, so they’d probably think this was really mild and tasty! I’ll keep pulling one out, now and then to see what’s happening. I’m not ready to dump it yet, but we’ll see what happens over time. If I get desperate for a few bottles to use for something else, these are at the top of the expendable list.

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Day 62 Still Making Cider Baguettes

First, let me get the liquids update done: The Pineapple Tinker is on untoasted American oak chips and I think I’ll let them go another day or two. The Murray’s Super Easy Cider is still popping off a bubble now and then, so no rush there…but it could be a busy weekend, because both of these will probably need racking by then, plus the nut brown ale is slowing considerably now. It’s down to about 30 second intervals on the blow-off tube, so I may be bottling that batch by Sunday!

9:30 pm I opened a 22 oz Crabapple/Fuji Cider and was happy to find that the carb was up a little bit more than last time. It’s light and may not get much better than this…but this is really tasty!

Crabapple/Fuji Cider

Crabapple/Fuji Cider

Here I am about 2-1/2 months since my first entry with (crabapple) Cider Batch #1 on October 28th, I believe it was…and I’m still using the starter I made from that cider’s lees (Champagne yeast based) to make bread. I took about 8 loaves to the Thanksgiving vacation, having made and frozen several batches at that point, 2 loaves per batch. I keep the starter in a pint canning jar in the refrigerator, not too full and with the lid screwed down just to fingertip tightened (because it can build pressure otherwise). The starter can be left unattended for weeks at a time. You will see it separate. Before making a batch of bread, I remove the jar, tighten the lid and shake it to mix thoroughly. I  use 1/2 c. starter to 1-1/2 c. water and 1-1/2 c. unbleached all purpose flour, blended well.

Proofed starter.

Proofed starter.

Starter added to flour and water, covered.

Starter added to flour and water, covered.

That mixture stays in a mixing bowl, covered with plastic wrap, to proof for a couple to several hours. I have read that making bread from beer lees is not good because of the bitterness, but the cider lees worked fine! I have also since read that I could have used less sediment and more liquid to make the starter, as there was probably plenty of yeast in the liquid. The sediment was unnecessary…but it may have added some character. Who knows? Anyway, after I measure out what I need for the recipe, I replace the amount removed from the starter jar and stick it back in the fridge.

Topped back off the starter...ready to go back in the fridge.

Topped back off the starter…ready to go back in the fridge.

This recipe makes baguette loaves with a denser texture and smaller bubbles than the traditional french loaves, but with a nice, crunch to the crust and a nice chew.

If you are a cider fermenter and also like to bake, check out my post from Day 9 and Day 10 to read about making the starter. When I am ready to bake a batch of bread, I use the mix as stated above…flour, water and starter, proofed…and proceed with the recipe:

Sourdough Cider Baguettes

Ingredients

2 c. proofed Sourdough Starer

1 t. Salt

1/2 c Water (+ a tablespoon or 2 more, depending on humidity)

4 c. Bread Flour

2 T. White Cornmeal

Directions

Put the ingredients, in the order listed, into the pan of a bread machine and use the “Dough” cycle to mix and knead. You may need to scrape down the sides and add the extra water, if required.

Using the "Dough" cycle of my bread machine to do the hard work.

Using the “Dough” cycle of my bread machine to do the hard work.

Alternately, you could use a mixer with a dough hook (allow dough to rest 10 minutes after using a mixer) …or mix and knead by hand, if you’re a real masochist! Form dough into a ball. Spritz a bowl with a little Pam Spray or a little oil. Cover the dough in the bowl to rise until it has doubled in size. [I forgot this first rise and my loaves were a little less risen in the final stage than I would have liked…that may have been the problem.] Have some extra flour on hand for handling the dough. Dust your surface and the dough with a little flour. Divide the dough into two equal portions. I use a digital kitchen scale, but a good guesstimate is okay. Shape into ovals and use your hands to roll out each portion into a long, fat rope.* Sprinkle a little cornmeal on a baking sheet or baguette pans and place loaves. Using a sharp knife, cut 2 or 3 slashes horizontally on each loaf to allow for rise. Cover loosely and set aside in a warm, draft free location until about doubled in size.

Cover to rise

Cover to rise

Shaped and on the baguette pan

Shaped and on the baguette pan

Preheat oven to 375F. On the bottom of the oven, place a small pan of boiling water. Prepare a clean spray bottle with water for misting. When the loaves go in the oven, mist them directly with the water and also mist  the sides of the oven and quickly close the door. Repeat the misting 3 more times at one minute intervals. Set a timer for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, remove the pan of water. [Forgot to pull the water pan after 15 minutes…this may also have affected my final product this time.] Set the timer for another 25 minutes. Check the bread for an internal temperature of 190-200F or tap to see if it sounds almost hollow. It could need a few more minutes. Cool on wire racks. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cooled loaf, wrapped for freezer.

Cooled loaf, wrapped for freezer.

*On a personal note, I have tried a couple of methods for forming the loaves into baguette shapes. I have tried flattening them with a rolling pin, then rolling them lengthwise and pinching the seams. I have tried rolling the rope shape out with my hands. I’m not an accomplished bread baker, so some come out better than others. I have had some split down the sides, lengthwise, as they did this time. They taste great, no matter the shaping technique…might be a little harder to slice. If you’re an expert baguette shaper…more power to you! If not, don’t let it stop you! Enjoy!

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Welcome Beginners!!! Cider Fermenting and Home Beer Brewing from Day One!

My first beer...a success!

My first beer…a success!

Welcome! My name is Matt and I am a beginner at home brewing beer and fermenting cider. I have been keeping a daily journal of my experiences that I hope will be helpful to other beginners. I am currently about 2 months in as I write this. I began on October 28th, 2013 with crabapple cider. I have crabapple trees on some property that is a common area shared with neighbors. Nobody else uses them…they are treated as ornamental. I started making apple jelly and apple butter out of them last year. I did the same this year and decided to try making alcoholic crabapple cider. It has been a real challenge! Since I had the equipment, I decided to try beer as well. Both are exercises in patience, but are fairly simple.

I encourage you to read through my journal and note where I had questions and small mishaps. These may answer many of your questions and help you avoid some mistakes of your own. I began numbering my entries with “Day 1” and went from there. I did not write an entry on days where I did not have to do anything related to fermenting or brewing, so there are less entries than there are actual elapsed days.  I still consider myself to be a rank amateur, but I’m more confident now and I continue to learn, experiment and pursue advice. I strongly suggest doing some reading on a home brew website as well. There are many out there. I recommend http://www.homebrewtalk.com . It  covers from beginners to seasoned pros and everything in between. Find a local home brew supply store, if you have one and talk to the people there. Eventually, you may want to see if you have a local club to join where like-minded folks  get together and exchange ideas and maybe sample each other’s brews.

The main thing to do is get started! Buy a beginner’s start-up kit and just do it!

Constructive comments, advice and questions are always welcome.

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Day 40 Stout Racking, Checking Cider Batch #4

6:00 pm   Dry Stout batch SG is still reading 1.012 at 69F. Decided to rack to carboys.

From primary (bottling bucket) to carboys

From primary (bottling bucket) to carboys

I filled two 1 gallon carboys and partially filled an amber growler. The color is excellent!

2 gallons plus a growler up to the green pen cap.

2 gallons plus a growler up to the green pen cap.

Another few drops sampled after the hydrometer check was good. If the SG, after adjusting for hydrometer calibration, stays at 1.013 and the OG was 1.037, then the ABV will be 3.15%. If it drops to 1.010, it would be 3.54%. Low, either way, but satisfying and a good session brew. When I racked the stout, I saw an airlock bubble, but they were few and far between. The SG didn’t change since yesterday, so we’re probably going to stay at 1.013. I’m going to bottle either tomorrow or Tuesday, depending on when I have time. My big hope now is for appropriate carbonation, good body and a nice head. Lees were pretty thick. The partial growler amount may have a bit left in it. I’ll be careful when I rack for bottling.

Bottom of the primary

Bottom of the primary

10:30 pm   Drank some stout previously home brewed by an aquaintence.

Barely perceptible "stout 'stache". The real thing kind of masks it.

Barely perceptible “stout ‘stache”. The real thing kind of masks it.

He gave us 2 bottles last week and this was the second. It was good. From what I have tasted of my batch, I think it is going to be similar. I hope so! What we were given was brewed by a very experienced home brewer.

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Flip-top test bottle…not yet pasteurized. Just starting to detect some carb!

I just opened my flip-top test bottle of cider batch #4 and  checked on it. I heard a little “pfft” when I popped it. I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t get my hopes up. I poured a very small amount and tasted it and…woo hoo! There was a *little* detectable effervescence! The flavor is good…a little sweetness and apple flavor, but not yeasty. If this one carbs up some more, it will be the best yet! (This is the one that has mostly crabapple, but also has Fuji apple juice, commercial Murray’s Cider, a little brown sugar and a little honey in it.

Now, the trick is going to be figuring out if I need to pasteurize it or if it will ever carb enough to worry about it. The flip top has been de-pressurized about 3 times now for testing. The question is: are the capped bottles more carbed than the flip-top? The reasonable expectation is that they would be, but how much more? At some point, I’ll need to open one and see. They are 22 oz bottles, though and I don’t want to waste more than one, if possible. Well, okay, I won’t be wasting it. I will drink it! But you know what I mean. If these don’t get a lot of carbonation, I might just stick them in the refrigerator when I think they’re ready. Maybe outside overnight on a cold night to “cold crash” and then into the fridge. The headline of the story is that there’s a glimmer of sparkly hope!

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