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Racking Muscadine Wine 2016

Time to make some wine.

Time to make some wine.

 

Well, I racked the muscadine wine. Unfortunately, one of my plastic carboys in missing in action, so I racked it into my glass one. I added one crushed Campden tablet to the new carboy and away we went…from the bottling bucket in which I did primary fermentation to the glass carboy.

Racking to the carboy.

Racking to the carboy.

My carboy is over 5-1/2 gallons and racking left me a little under 5 gallons. In order to prevent oxidation, I topped off with about 1.25 gallons of Culligan bottled water. I know it will drop the alcohol a bit and dilute the wine, but I actually want something lighter than the wine from last couple of years. I might even backsweeten a little after fermentation is complete and the wine is stabilized.

Nice color. Topped up with Culligan bottled water.

Nice color. Topped up with Culligan bottled water.

The color is nice…a kind of purple version of a rose’. The flavor still has a little muscadine flavor. I’m hoping when conditioning is done and I backsweeten and bottle, I will have an easy-drinking wine that will be a “half-sweet” wine that will be ready to drink in a year.

Update 10/18/16: Okay, I racked the wine off of the lees and it’s really nice and clear. I wound up with a little under a half of a gallon excess…might use it to experiment with backsweetening. Also took a hydrometer sample…looks like 1.001, after adjusting for temperature. So, it’s pretty dry, at the moment. Once I’m sure it’s stable and won’t start fermenting again, I’ll adjust the sweetness. I did add another crushed Campden tablet to hopefully achieve stabilization…it may take an overnight outside on a cold night…but there’s plenty of time. I’d just rather not add Campden after this point. A quick sip reveals that it doesn’t taste bone dry, which is good! And it’s a light body. This one may actually be ready to drink next Summer.

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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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Racking Muscadine-Blueberry Wine

Racking wine to secondary fermentation.

Racking wine to secondary fermentation.

I’ve let the muscadine-blueberry wine go as long as I want now, so I racked it to a carboy tonight. It was in a bottling bucket for primary fermentation, so I tried to pull a sample from the spout to test the SG, but there was too much trub. To rack, I had to use a siphon and penetrate the fruit layer.

I added a crushed Campden Tablet to the carboy and started the racking process. The Campden will hopefully start knocking off the yeast that’s still active. I did get a sample and the SG is at 0.991 (0.990 @70.3F)…I would think the yeast would be done!

SG reading

SG reading

But there is still some airlock activity. After racking, it looks a little lower in volume than I thought, but there was about 14 pounds of fruit, so it shouldn’t be surprising.

A little below volume, but high on alcohol, so I added a gallon of bottled water.

A little below volume, but high on alcohol, so I added a gallon of bottled water. (This is before water addition.)

I decided to add another gallon of Culligan water with a crushed Campden Tablet to bump the volume a little. The ABV is 15.75%, prior to the water addition, so I’m not worried about diluting it a little! The color and flavor are nice, so a couple more months of racking and then a few more in the bottles and I think it will be pretty good.

Looking good...dry, but not bone dry.

Looking good…dry, but not bone dry.

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Brew Day! National Homebrew Day! Big Brew Event!

Let's Brew!

Let’s Brew!

Today was National Homebrew Day and I celebrated by brewing at Atlantic Brew Supply’s “Big Brew” event in the Raleigh Brewing Company’s brewery. The recipe I chose is a Saison called Legends Never Die and the 1/2 price deal came up to just over $15 for a 5 gallon recipe. As has been usual for awhile now, I used the Brew in a Bag (BIAB) method. The grain bill is North Carolina sourced, the yeast is Belle Saison, and the hops are an ounce of Cascade @20 minutes, a half ounce of Nugget @ 10 min and again @ 5 min. A final 1 ounce dry hop addition is done at secondary fermentation for 10 days.

Raleigh Brewing Company/Atlantic Brew Supply Big Brew

Raleigh Brewing Company/Atlantic Brew Supply Big Brew

The brewing process went pretty smoothly. The brewery hot water was already above 130F, so strike water reached temperature quickly. As usual, I went over my target temperature for mash in, but I added a little cold water and got it right within a few minutes.

My stuff.

My stuff

I did a mash-out this time to 172F for 10 minutes and sparged with 2 gallons of the brewery hot water.  When I was ready to boil, it seemed to be taking a little time, so I started making some notes…next thing I knew, I had a little boil-over. On the plus side, it provided a pretty clean break and I had a nice boil for the rest of the time.

Ready to boil

Ready to boil

I did get a little pop while stirring and got a mild burn on my right hand. It really only hurts when exposed to steam or warm water. I have found that stirring enough to create a whirlpool in the wort while it’s boiling, creates these pops of hot wort that can splash out of the kettle. I used my refractometer to check the specific gravity (SG) and is a little under the projected 1.063…I got 1.058. I’m good with that for my original gravity (OG). A friend had to add a pound of DME (Dry Malt Extract) to get to 1.060, so I don’t feel too bad.

After the boil, I used one of the brewery’s wort chillers and brought the temperature down to about 72F…took about 15 minutes or so. Then I siphoned the wort into my plastic carboy, aerated it with the oxygen cannister for about two minutes, and then pitched the yeast.

Done! Time for clean-up.

Done! Time for clean-up.

Clean up went pretty quickly and I strapped my carboy into my van for the trip home. Done! I arrived at the brewery at 9 a.m. and left right at 2 p.m. Five hours on the button.

Strapped in for the ride home. Click it or Tip it!

Strapped in for the ride home. Click it or Tip it!

I checked on the carboy around 7 p.m. and didn’t see much action, but it looked okay. An hour later, the krausen had literally created a layer on the top of the wort that was about a finger thick!

Belle Saison yeast is a monster!

Belle Saison yeast is a monster!

Time to install a blow-off set-up, before it fouls the airlock!

Blow-off set-up installed.

Blow-off set-up installed.

And it’s time for some Aleve. Happy National Homebrew Day!

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Belgo Paleo Moved to Secondary

BelgianPale

Tomorrow is a brewing event at my local homebrew shop (LHBS) and I’ve decided to participate and brew a saison with mostly North Carolina sourced ingredients.

North Carolina Water and Grain Bill. (A little harder to get NC yeaast and hops...this time.

North Carolina Water and Grain Bill. (A little harder to get NC yeast and hops…this time.)

So, I needed to rack the Belgo Paleo to secondary fermentation while I have an empty carboy. Then I needed to rack it back into the first carboy, so I could use the second one tomorrow. The reason is that the first carboy is glass and the second is plastic. The plastic one will be much easier to handle and transport.

Racking to plastic carboy. (Then back to glass, after cleaning.)

Racking to plastic carboy. (Then back to glass, after cleaning.)

I pulled a sample to check with the hydrometer and it looks like the same as my last sample: 1.017. I don’t think it’s going to go down anymore…1.009 is just not happening.

Hydrometer reading: 1.016? 1.017?

Hydrometer reading: 1.016? 1.017?

The taste is good, in my opinion, though. I will let it go a few days in secondary to see if fermenation kicks back up at all. Then I will go for the dry hop addition. Overall, I think we’re okay. The beer will be a bit lower ABV than projected, but that’s not a huge deal.

Update 5/3/15: Dry hop addition of 1 oz Saaz hop pellets are in. I sanitized a small muslin bag for the hops to go in and worked it into the carboy.

Update 5/7/15: Okay…so, the Belgo Paleo is in secondary and off the trub. Dry hops added 4 days ago…everything sanitized. Now, we have signs of additional fermentation. Bubbling in the airlock…not strong or frequent, but fairly regular. Signs also on the surface. Good thing I’m not in a hurry, but I have a lot going on over the next couple of weeks, including a nose surgery and recovery, so I guess this won’t get bottled until late May, if not sometime in June.*sigh*

Sanitized hops bag, surface action...what?

Sanitized hops bag, surface action…what?

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Kombucha Report

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A couple of days ago, I transferred my kombucha batch from March 9th to my refrigerator jug and started a new batch. (I bought more green tea last week at the grocery store.) I tasted the batch I made with half green tea and half Earl Grey…it definitely has a different flavor. I’m not sure I like it, but I’m not sure I don’t…it may grow on me. I was warned by another kombucha maker online, to be careful using the Earl Grey tea, because the added “oils and flavorings” may compromise the health of the SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria/Yeast). The label on the Earl Grey tea says that it’s ingredients are just 100% tea and it seems to be doing okay, so far. That batch was started on March 12th.

Half Earl Grey/half green tea SCOBY.

Half Earl Grey/half green tea SCOBY.

Original green tea SCOBY.

Original green tea SCOBY.

Speaking of SCOBY’s, they seem quite healthy. When I transferred the batch to the refrigerator yesterday, I could not get the SCOBY out of the narrow neck and opening in the 1-gallon glass carboy. I did manage to get a little baby disk out, but the main SCOBY stayed in the carboy. So, I made the new batch of tea and added the cup of sugar. I topped with cool water to bring the temperature down from brewing, and poured into the carboy. I then topped off the carboy, below the neck, with cool water. The SCOBY floated mostly to the top and eventually leveled off. I put the baby SCOBY disk in a glass bowl with a little kombucha and covered it with plastic wrap. The SCOBY in the Earl Grey batch seems to be doing well. I do get some dark green stuff sometimes…not sure why, but from what I’ve read, it’s okay and doesn’t hurt anything. When I’m transferring SCOBY’s, I do try to rinse off some of the green, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

Some green stuff...doesn't seem to bother anything according to my research.

Some green stuff…doesn’t seem to bother anything according to my research.

This evening, I went out to a store for unrelated shopping and wound up finding a couple of one gallon glass containers with wide mouths…one with a spigot. I had bought a two gallon container with a spigot recently, but decided it was just too big. I transferred the remainder of the kombucha in the refrigerator from the cheap, plastic jug to the new glass jar without the spigot. It fits in the refrigerator door perfectly! In the new jar with the spigot, I began a new batch of green tea kombucha, using my little baby SCOBY disk.

New wide mouth jar with spigot. I like it!

New wide mouth jar with spigot. I like it!

It had already grown a thin layer to cover the surface in the bowl. It sank to the bottom, but I’m not concerned…they seem to rise, over time. If not, I will find a way to harvest some from the other green tea batch and add it to the newest batch. The reason I am using the jar with the spigot for fermentation, is so that I can draw off the “boocha”, and leave just about the right amount for starter in the bottom. The SCOBY won’t even have to be touched, unless I want to clean it up a bit, now and then.

I’ll probably reduce my batches to just enough to keep supplied over the next month, but I don’t need to have three batches going at a time! I did run out once, but just for a few days. The Earl Grey batch will not need to be replaced as I use it up (unless it really grows on me).  I think I’ll be buying another wide mouth jar with a spigot…seems like they are going to be a convenient part of my evolving set-up.

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Day 159 Racking Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale and Crab Apple/Pear/Apple Cider

Racking Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale...again.

Racking Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale…again.

When I last racked the Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale, I was surprised at how much trub settled so quickly. Yes, I added more pumpkin, but there was still more than I expected. It’s only been four days, but I decided to go ahead and rack it again. I prepared a bottling bucket…my usual choice for fermentation…and racked the pumpkin ale from my glass carboy to the bucket.

Racking to the bottling bucket.

Racking to the bottling bucket.

I pulled out the vanilla bean pod, rinsed it and put it in a small container with enough vodka to cover. I may use that in something else, later. I got about 4.25 gallons into the bucket.

Close look shows a little over 4 gallons.

Close look shows a little over 4 gallons.

I might just top it off to 5 gallons before I bottle it. I think there is plenty of alcohol and enough body in this beer to handle it. I’m going to let it sit and clear for now.

While I had the carboy empty, I cleaned it very well and sanitized it. Next, I decided to mark the carboy with gallon and half-gallon lines with a black Sharpie marker. I used a half gallon jug to pour water into the carboy and I marked the lines each time. I decided to do this because I wasn’t sure how much pumpkin ale I had there and it was frustrating!

Marked carboy

Marked carboy

After the carboy cleaning and marking project was done, I racked the crab apple/pear/apple cider to secondary. Still very “green” and with substantial…what I am assuming is tannin.

Racking Crab Apple, Pear and Apple Cider.

Racking Crab Apple, Pear and Apple Cider.

This one will bulk condition for a long time, I’m thinking. At some point, I ‘ll need to decide if I want to back sweeten and/or carb this cider. I haven’t decided yet. There are currently a little under 2-1/2 gallons there.

Now I can tell how much is in there!

Now I can tell how much is in there!

I’ll let it settle awhile and then rack to smaller glass carboys/jugs for the bulk aging, and reclaim the big carboy. I’ll be brewing a porter soon and need the space for fermenting.

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