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Kombucha Experiment

This is what I am experimenting with to see if I can grow a SCOBY. I am in no way affiliated with this brand of soda...but the root beer is interesting!

This is what I am experimenting with to see if I can grow a SCOBY. I am in no way affiliated with this brand of soda…but the root beer is interesting!

Kombucha…odd sounding. And when you hear the description, it’s gets kind of weird. So, you brew up some sweet tea, right? Okay, any good Southerner would be good with that. Then, you take something called a “SCOBY” (or affectionately referred to as the “mother”) and you chuck some of that in the tea. It looks like a slimey, spongy, white mass floating on the top of a previous batch of kombucha. SCOBY stands for “Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria/Yeast”. Mmm MMM!!! So, then you cover with cheesecloth and a rubber band, let that ferment for a while, eating the sugar in the tea, and BOOM! You have a tangy, fermented tea drink with lots of healthy probiotics, like yogurt does, but even better! Are you still with me? Okay, then you start a new batch, throw your SCOBY in and put your Kombucha in clean jars in the fridge…or you can add a little more sugar and seal and let ferment at room temperature and you get kombucha soda! Here’s a Wikipedia link, if you want more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kombucha

Disclaimer! There are some risks with fermented products. Please read the Wikipedia article and, especially if you have any ongoing health issues or possible medication interactions, please, please consult your doctor before making and consuming any fermented products! And always sanitize the crap out of EVERYTHING! Constantly!!! Okay, moving along….

I have to admit, I’m not a big tea drinker. Never really cared for iced tea. But green tea is pretty mild and I like experimenting with fermented things, so here we go! I found a “LIVE Soda” at a store today. This brand is a “raw, organic, kombucha soda and comes in a few flavors. I decided to try a root beer flavor. The bottle instructs you to not shake…besides spewing all over you…it would disturb the dregs that have settled on the bottom of the bottle. That’s what I’m going to use to attempt to generate my own SCOBY. I have read that using a bottled product is not usually successful because of some change that was made in much of the industry a few years ago; however, this brand doesn’t seem to have any additives and its raw/organic status gives me hope. If it doesn’t work, I can go to my local home brew shop and pick up a starter for $8 and salvage my experiment.

What I did was, I brewed 8 teabags of green tea in 3 cups of Culligan bottled water from the “hot” side of my dispenser. (You could bring water to a boil for 10 minutes to sanitize, if you don’t have a hot water spigot/bottled water dispenser and then add your teabags). Next, I added a cup of sugar to a sanitized 1 gallon carboy. A wide mouth gallon jar would be better for removing the SCOBY, but I didn’t have one. Anyway, I poured the hot tea onto the sugar in the carboy and then topped up to a little under a gallon, leaving room for the mother to grow. The cold water brought the temperature down to about 90F (checked with a sanitized pocket thermometer). I put some ice in a mixing bowl and added some cold tap water and put the carboy in the bring the temperature down, so I wouldn’t kill off the SCOBY critters.

Green tea, sugar...bring the temperature down.

Green tea, sugar…bring the temperature down.

Then, I poured off about 2/3 of the LIVE Soda into a glass to drink…the rest was then swirled to suspend the dregs in the remaining soda, and poured into the tea. I topped the jar with a piece of sanitized cheesecloth and a rubber band and now we wait to see if it works.

Let's see what happens!

Let’s see what happens!

It will probably be a month, give or take a week, to know if a SCOBY is going to form. If it does, the next batch should go faster.

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Day 152 Started Another Batch of Cider

Washed and sorted crab apples. Over 20 lbs. Gotta use 'em!

Washed and sorted crab apples. Over 20 lbs. Gotta use ’em!

Realizing that I have a bunch of foraged crab apples left to use and the clock is ticking, I started another batch of cider today. I started with the juice from about 5 lbs of crab apples and then added juice from 5 pears, 3 Ginger Crisp apples and 4 Pink Cripps apples and a little bottled lemon juice to keep the apple and pear juices from browning too much. Altogether, I got about 3/4 gallon of juices.

Blend of juices from crab apple, pear, Pink Cripps apples and Ginger Gold apples

Blend of juices from crab apple, pear, Pink Cripps apples and Ginger Gold apples

I put that juice into a 5 gallon bottling bucket with the pommace from the crab apples, tied in a cheesecloth bag. I didn’t have enough cheesecloth on hand to fit the apple/pear pommace in, but that’s okay.

Juice, water, sugar, cinnamon, yeast nutrient, campden tablets and pectic enzyme.

Juice, water, sugar, cinnamon, yeast nutrient, campden tablets and pectic enzyme.

I stirred in 5 lbs of sugar, 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 teaspoons of yeast nutrient, 2 crushed campden tablets and a 1/2 teaspoon of pectic enzyme. Then I added a gallon plus 6 cups of water and stirred. It was so close to 3 gallons that I decided to top up…just a couple of extra cups. I checked the SG and it’s around 1.110-ish. I’ll get the official OG tomorrow, before I pitch yeast. Sometimes the sugar isn’t completely dissolved at this point and the reading could be off. I sealed the bucket and set it aside.

My next step was to begin a yeast starter from my harvested Edinburgh yeast.

making starter wort for yeast.

making starter wort for yeast.

I boiled a 1.040 wort for 10 minutes made from light DME and chilled it to about 77 F.

Chilling the starter.

Chilling the starter.

I then added about half of the contents of my 1/2 pint jar of yeast slurry to the starter. I’m out of yeast nutrient, so I hope the yeast is healthy enough without it! I’ll see where the progress on the yeast starter is tomorrow morning.

Ready to build that yeast!

Ready to build that yeast!

Update: 9/8/14   Cold crashed the yeast starter early this evening. About 9 pm, I drained off the excess liquid, opened the lid on the cider, removed and squeezed the cider out of the cheesecloth bag of pommace  and drew off a hydrometer sample. The OG is 1.096 at 72.9 F, so corrected =1.097. I pitched the Edinburgh Ale yeast, stirred and resealed the lid. I refrigerated the hydrometer sample to sip later. Very sweet, as expected. As of midnight, no visual on airlock activity. I will check it in the morning. Pretty sure it will be rockin’ soon. Starter was vigorous, as was the batch I harvested it from.

Update: 9/9/14   Airlock bubbles in latest cider batch at 10 a.m. Not very aggressive yet, but it’s going. By the way, tasting the hydrometer sample that I had chilled leads me to believe that this is going to be a nice clean, crisp cider after the sugar is converted.

Refrigerated cider blend OG sample. Clean and bright! 1.096

Refrigerated cider blend OG sample. Clean and bright! 1.097

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Day 146 First Cider of the Season

 

Crabby Cripps Cider. Ready to seal for 24 hours, then pitch yeast. Floater is cheesecloth bag of pulp.

Crabby Cripps Cider. Ready to seal for 24 hours, then pitch yeast. Floater is cheesecloth bag of pulp.

My neighbor, who still has a crab apple tree, said I could have as many crab apples as I wanted. So, today I filled a two gallon fermentation bucket pretty quickly. When I got home, I measured the weight and it came out to 12 pounds and over 15 ounces…so, a few crab apples short of 13 pounds.  Referring back to Day 1, I weighed out 4-1/2 lbs  of crab apples.

Crab apples...still have more than enough for a batch of jelly!

Crab apples…still have more than enough for a batch of jelly!

Knowing now that crab apples, by themselves, produce a plain, dry and sharp cider, I am adding 2 lbs 12 oz of Cripps Pink apples. Each of the weights produced about 4 cups of juice from each type of apples. Obviously, bigger apples yield more juice per pound. I used the same little countertop juicer that I used last year. It’s struggling, but still getting the job done. I used a couple of caps full of bottled lemon juice to reduce browning of the juice.

Once I had my juice, I filtered it through cheesecloth and I added it to a 2 gallon fermentation bucket. I made a bag out of the cheesecloth and put the pulp from the juicer into it, tied it closed and dropped it in the bucket, as well. Next, I added a gallon of water, 2 teaspoons of yeast nutrient, 1 teaspoon of pectic enzyme and 2 crushed campden tablets and stirred. Finally, I added 3-1/2 lbs of white sugar and stirred again. I popped on a lid and an airlock and it’s good to go for 24 hours…so, about 1:30 tomorrow afternoon. At that point, I’ll check the SG and add more sugar, if necessary. I may try molasses or raw sugar, if needed. The goal is around 1.090 or a little higher. I may also throw in a couple of sticks of cinnamon and a few cloves.

Update on Muscadine Wine: Airlock was slow to build, but it’s chugging along pretty well now. Supposed to stir every day while the fruit is in the bucket. The bag was floating on top.

Stirring the wine...nice color!

Stirring the wine…nice color!

Crushed grape in the bag...floating on top.

Crushed grape in the bag…floating on top.

 

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Day 144 Muscadine Wine

Crushing foraged wild grapes.

Crushing foraged wild grapes.

I foraged a little over four pounds of wild muscadine grapes yesterday. I have decided to try my hand at wine making this year, instead of jelly…at least with this first round. After a little research on the internet, I am combining a couple of different recipes to adapt to what I have to work with. I have put together 2 quarts of crushed muscadine grapes, skins and all.

Crushed grapes.

Crushed grapes.

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I am going to have to run to the home brew shop for some supplies…a mesh bag and yeast. I may need more sugar from the grocery store. The plan is to combine the fruit (in mesh bag) with 6 quarts of water in a 2 gallon fermentation bucket, add enough sugar syrup to boost the SG to at least 1.090 and then add 2 crushed campden tablets, 1/2 t. pectic enzyme (scant), and 2 t. yeast nutrient. That will be covered with cheesecloth and sit for 24 hours. I guess I’m not supposed to seal the bucket yet, as the campden tablets cause a sulfur gas to be released and it needs to be allowed to dissipate. Yeast is to be pitched tomorrow…instructions say to leave covered with cheesecloth again, for 5 to 7 days, stirring daily. After that, it is strained and sealed with an airlock in place and given around 6 weeks to ferment out. Then it gets racked, probably a few times, to clear. Then it gets bottled and ages for at least two years! I’ll probably bottle in beer bombers…I don’t anticipate making enough wine to justify buying a corker and wine bottles/corks. I haven’t seen anyone express concerns with beer bottles. I might want to use the special oxygen absorbing caps, to reduce the risk of oxidation.

So far, I have boiled 3 cups of sugar with enough water to dissolve it…boiled until clear and set aside to cool…we’ll see if that’s enough to get me to 1.090 or better. The first quart of grapes that I crushed have a natural SG of about 1.048, according to my spectrometer. I’ll discuss yeast at the brew shop. The most likely candidates are Champagne yeast or Montrachet, but I’m open to suggestions.

Okay, after a trip to the brew shop and the grocery store, I was ready to proceed. I got a mesh bag, a packet of Montrachet yeast and a 10 pound bag of sugar. I sanitized the bag and a string and added the grape skins/pulp/juice to the bucket and tied off the bag.

Crushed grapes in the bag.

Crushed grapes in the bag.

Next I added the sugar syrup that I had prepared and I was still way low on the SG. I also realized that I was running out of room in the 2 gallon bucket, so I prepared a 5 gallon bottling bucket and transferred the grape mixture into it. Then, I weighed out five pounds of sugar and added enough water for it to dissolve into and brought that to a boil, removed it from the heat.

Making sugar syrup

Making sugar syrup

I tried adding in a couple of steps and it wasn’t getting close to SG 1.090 very quickly…but the final addition bumped it up to OG 1.113…oops. Oh well. And my volume is up to almost three gallons…I probably should add more grapes, but I’m out.

Volume at almost 3 gallons. Need to find more grapes? We'll see if I get a chance to pick more.

Volume at almost 3 gallons. Need to find more grapes? We’ll see if I get a chance to pick more.

I’ll see what it looks like later…I could add more grapes and another campden tablet tomorrow. That would push back the yeast pitch a day, but in a minimum 2 year process, another day is nothing and could make a huge difference in the finished product. Anyway, I put the lid on and sealed it and popped on an airlock. The brew shop guy thought it would be fine to seal and airlock the bucket rather than do the covering with cheesecloth thing…just seemed more risky.

Ginger beer note: the SG dropped to 1.057, so it’s moving…slowly. I thought all the Champagne yeast that I added to it would start it really chugging. It’s popping the airlock about every 10 seconds, but it’s not very aggressive. I guess it’s just going to take more time and patience than I was anticipating for this little side project.

Update 8/22/14,  10:00 a.m.: I went and foraged another 1 pound and 9 ounces of wild muscadine grapes this morning. After crushing them, there was a little less than a full quart jar.

Added additional crushed grapes and Campden tablet.

Added additional crushed grapes and Campden tablet.

I crushed an additional campden tablet and threw it in with the grapes. I opened the fermentation bucket, untied the bag and poured in the grapes and crushed campden. I re-tied the bag and gave a good stir. Refractometer reading gives a 1.109 updated OG, with a volume now of just over 3 gallons.

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Day 82 Working Out Details on Costa Cocoa Milk Stout

I got this kit for my birthday. I’ve never used a couple of the ingredients in this recipe before…Costa Rican cocoa husks & cocoa nibs, and lactose (milk sugar). Sounds good, though! While doing some reading, I came across information regarding hazelnut extract…I’m thinking Nutella Stout. After mulling it over a bit, I decided to skip the trip to the brew shop for the extract because I thought it might just get to be too sweet and might not taste natural.

After some more thought…and realizing that I had a bunch of whole bean coffee on hand that I got on sale…I started looking into using coffee as an additional ingredient. Natural, not adding more sweetness, adding caffeine and making this recipe a “mocha”. Yup. That’ll do! So, I sent a message to some local brewery people for advice. They suggested making a cold brew coffee concentrate and using about an 8% by volume at bottling. I never would have thought of that! I’m actually going to go about 4 cups of concentrate, rather than 6 cups…I can always add more, but I want the chocolate to still come through.

Everthing sanitized! Coarsely ground Kona blend coffee going into Culligan water for 15 hours.

Everthing sanitized! Coarsely ground Kona blend coffee going into Culligan water for 15 hours.

I found a cold brew coffee recipe online from Bon Apetite  (giving credit, where due!). I adapted it to brew in a gallon carboy with an airlock, instead of some other container covered with cheesecloth. I coarsely ground 12 oz of Kona blend coffee and added it to a sanitized carboy and capped it.

Ready to cap it and swirl it.

Ready to cap it and swirl it.

Shook it up and swirled to get as much of the grounds off of the bottle as I could and then replaced the cap with a sanitized  airlock. After 15 hours at room temperature, I’ll strain out the grounds and then filter the liquid through multiple layers of cheesecloth. (If I were concerned about it being crystal clear, I would filter it through a coffee filter…slowly. I think going through a sieve and then through thick cheesecloth will be fine.) I am going to use a teaspoon of Irish moss in the boil, just to help the beer clear a little, but I’m not expecting to see through it…it IS stout, after all.

Brewing...of a different kind!

Brewing…of a different kind!

So, what I’ll be brewing will be a “Costa Kona Mocha Milk Stout”. I’m sure I’ll be sampling it as soon as I can, but I think this one might need to age until next December-ish. I think the caps that came with the kit are the “oxygen absorbing” kind…good for longer storage. Brew Day tomorrow, if I can fit it in!

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