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Making a Starter to Boost the Apple Cider

Boiling DME for a starter.

Boiling DME for a starter.

It seems like my little apple cider experiment might not have had enough East Coast Ale yeast  to do the job, so I’m making a starter with some harvested British Ale yeast that I hope has survived in the refrigerator since mid-October. Harvesting yeast is not always an 100% successful proposition.

British Ale yeast starter

British Ale yeast starter

I started with about 800 ml Culligan bottled water in my flask and added a few spoons of DME and a pinch of yeast nutrient and boiled that for 15 minutes. Chilled that in an ice bath to 75F and added the British Ale yeast. I covered that with sanitized foil and we’ll see what we have tomorrow.

Update 11 pm: No action in the starter yet…at this rate, I may not find out if it’s going to take off until sometime next year.

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Day 169 Racking the Eastern Cascade Waterfall Amber (Hops Experiment)

Trub in the bottom of primary fermentation bucket after racking.

Trub in the bottom of primary fermentation bucket after racking.

It’s Sunday and the Eastern Cascade Waterfall American Amber has slowed way down on fermentation action, so I racked to secondary. The hops experiment continues. I used 1/2 oz fresh Cascade hops that were vacuum sealed in jars and frozen…that went in the thirty minute boil at the beginning. Then, I added 1 oz fresh Cascade hops that partially dried on the bines and finished drying in my attic at the 15 minute point. Now, I’ve added another ounce of the dried ones to secondary for dry hopping.

Racked onto 1 oz dried Cascade hops.

Racked onto 1 oz dried Cascade hops.

I’m anticipating a 5 day dry hop and either bottling or racking and another couple of days to settle. I’ll make that decision after the dry hop.

I took a sample to check the specific gravity (SG) and the reading was 1.014 at 68.2 F, so it would be 1.015 after adjustment for temperature.

Hydrometer sample.

Hydrometer sample.

That is exactly the estimated FG for the recipe. The color looks good…nothing off in the aroma. I refrigerated the sample to settle and chill and I’ll try it again later, but the initial sip of the sample seems pretty good. I’m not expecting a WOW! beer from a mostly DME brew (dry malt extract), but it seems pretty good.

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Day 168 Brew Day! Partial Mash with Cascade Hops Experiment

Ingredients for an experimental partial mash brew, with DME, grain steep and whole frozen hops and dried hops.

Ingredients for an experimental partial mash brew, with DME, grain steep and whole frozen hops and dried hops.

I have a friend whose son started planting Cascade hops in her garden four years ago. This year, he got a job at a brewery, out of town and wasn’t going to be around to harvest the hops. I was invited over to pick some. Fresh hops! What to do, what to do? I wasn’t ready to use them. I had never used fresh hops before and had no clue how to handle them. Thinking that the best thing was to have them as fresh as possible, I vacuum sealed them in canning jars and put them in the freezer.

Jar of whole hops that was vacuum sealed and frozen.

Jar of whole hops that was vacuum sealed and frozen.

I subsequently heard from a number of people that freezing fresh hops was not a good decision. They would likely become soft and slimey. Flavor was a  big question. One recommendation was to keep them frozen right up until putting them into the boil. So, that’s what I did…right into a little nylon bag and tossed right into the boil.

Some time later, my friend said I should come pick some more. When I arrived this time, instead of big, green cones, most of the hops were drying and turning brown. In addition, it was misty that morning and the “dry” hops were damp. I brought them home and put them in a large cardboard box and put them in the attic to finish drying. After several days, they were nice and dry, but I was concerned about the browning. They had plenty of appropriate aroma, though.

Since I have recently finished up some projects and had some Dry Malt Extract (DME) and a couple kinds of yeast on hand, I decided to try a smaller batch of beer and use some of each of the styles of Cascade hops, vacuum sealed frozen and vacuum sealed dried. I worked on a partial mash recipe and created an American Amber Ale that I’m calling Eastern Cascade Waterfall Ale. The yeast is a White Labs East Coast Ale yeast.

Boiling with the bags of hops...this is just after the 15 minute addition.

Boiling with the bags of hops…this is just after the 15 minute addition.

Eastern Cascade Waterfall Ale (American Amber, Single Hop, Partial Mash)

Batch size 3 gallons, 30 minute steep, 30 minute boil

Fermentables:

3 lb DME-Pilsen, boil 30 minutes

8 0z DME-Light, boil 30 minutes

1 lb American-Caramel/Crystal 60L, Grain sock steep 30 minutes @150F in 3.5 gallons strike water

Hops:

0.5 oz Cascade Fresh/Wet (Note: I used frozen, vacuum sealed in a jar.) Boil 30 minutes (in nylon bag)

1 oz Cascade Dried, Whole/Leaf,  Boil 15 minutes (in nylon bag)

1 oz Cascade Dried, Whole/Leaf, Dry hop (in nylon bag) in secondary, 5 days

Other:

Irish Moss (fining) Boil 15 minutes

Yeast: White Labs East Coast Ale Yeast, 1 vial, Optimum temp. 68-73F, 72.5% attenuation    (Note: I used harvested yeast and prepared a starter.)

Original Gravity: 1.053,      Final Gravity: 1.015,       ABV 5.04%     IBU (tinseth) 36.99     SRM (morey) 12.69

After the boil, I chilled to 68F in an ice water bath and tranferred to a bottling bucket for primary fermentation. I had a little under 3 gallons of wort, so I added enough Culligan bottled water to top it off to 3.25 gallons. The plan is to have 3 gallons to bottle after racking to secondary. I aerated with an oxygen stone for 2 minutes (or you could agitate/rock for 5 minutes).  Yeast pitched and fermentation bucket sealed and an airlock was installed at 1:05 pm.  As of 8:30 pm, signs of activity were evident in the airlock, though not aggressive. Unfortunately, I have no idea of the pitch rate. That’s one area (of several) that I have had no experience with figuring out.

Initial impression was positive…no weird or off flavors or aromas were noticeable. Color is a nice brown; perhaps a little darker than I anticipated, but all the indicators match the American Amber style, according to my recipe calculator. I did hit my Original Gravity (OG) number pretty closely. The recipe calls for 1.053 and I measured mine at 1.055 on my refractometer. Good brew day!

One update: the Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale has been in the bottles for 11 days now. I opened one of my two test bottles, at room temperature, and poured a small sample. The sample looked clear and, frankly, the aroma and flavor are amazing.

Finshed the chilled bottle later.

Finshed the chilled bottle later.

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale sample.

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale sample.

I recapped the bottle and stuck it in the refrigerator for later. I did open and drink the rest of the bottle tonight and my assessment stands. It is low on the carbonation, though not flat.  I hope that the carb will continue to improve over the next few weeks.

Update on the Eastern Cascade Waterfall: By 8 pm, there was sign of action in the airlock, but it was slow. By the morning after brew day, the airlock is happily chugging away, so my yeast starter appears to be a success!

Update 10/30/14: Eastern Cascade Waterfall Amber airlock action is slowing to a crawl. Probably going into secondary Sunday. Might just get it bottled by middle or end of next week. Lots of choices for Thanksgiving this year!

 

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Day 158 Yeast Harvest Fail, Try Another

 

Got my starter all ready and aerated. Pitched harvested Edinburgh Ale yeast...nothing.

Got my starter all ready and aerated. Pitched harvested Edinburgh Ale yeast…nothing.

I attempted to harvest the Edinburgh Ale yeast from my Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale, after I racked it to secondary. I collected some trub and tried “washing” it and adding it to a beaker of DME boiled with water for ten minutes. No luck after about 24 hours. So, I decided to pitch another expired yeast that I picked up after the yeast class I took awhile back. I shook a vial of American Ale yeast  and pitched it in the same starter beaker.

Overnight, it was showing signs of growth. I swirled it down a few times today.

Success with expired American Ale yeast.

Success with expired American Ale yeast.

This evening, I put the beaker in the refrigerator to crash it. Tomorrow, I’ll transfer it to a jar and keep it refrigerated until I need it. Actually, my next brew is likely to be a porter, so I will have to buy some yeast for that batch. Then, maybe I’ll use the frozen fresh hops I have to do  “wet hops” beer. That will require a little research to find an appropriate recipe to try.

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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 147 Bottling Fermented Ginger Beer, Picking Crab Apples, Wine & Cider Updates

 

10 bottles of a fermented pain the the butt ginger beer!

10 bottles of a fermented pain the the butt ginger beer!

This little project has been a real pain in the butt! From the heating pad to off the heating pad. From adding Champagne yeast to moving it on the heating pad and overheating it and killing the yeast to pitching more yeast…yadda, yadda, yadda. And the SG doesn’t make sense…it’s went from 1.061 to 1.030 to 1.34 to 1.036…and then it reads 1.022 and starts floating up, slowly,  to 1.036. I even tried my back up hydrometer and it did the same. I’m tired of screwing around with it. I decided to bottle it and be done with it. My best guess is that the ABV is around 3.0 to 3.25%, but who knows?! Tomorrow night I’ll check the carb and pasteurize the bottles if they are ready. The gallon yielded 10 bottles and I may have to sacrifice one for the carb check.  Whew!

The wine continues to chug along very regularly. I opened the lid and stirred down the bag of crushed grapes. There was lots of sparkly effervescence and the color is a bright red, but not a deep, dark color and certainly not clear. It appears to be right on track, though.

Stirring the wine...snap, crackle, pop!

Stirring the wine…snap, crackle, pop!

My neighbor that has the remaining crab apple tree called and told me to come pick some more today, because they are having them pruned tomorrow and the ones that are easy to reach now will be gone. So I took a 5 gallon bucket over and almost filled it. Based on yesterday’s 2 gallon bucket weighing almost 13 pounds, I’m guesstimating that I have around 30 pounds…quite possibly more.

Big bucket o'crabs!

Big bucket o’crabs!

Maybe I’ll get around to weighing them tomorrow. I may need to find a more efficient way to extract the juice…my little countertop extractor can only handle so much.

As for the batch of cider already underway…

About 3 gallons of wine in the back and two gallons of cider in the front.

About 3 gallons of wine in the back and two gallons of cider in the front.

…I’m waiting for the Edinburgh Ale Yeast starter to be ready. I stuck it in the refrigerator tonight and should be able to pour off the DME “wort” and pitch it in the morning. I’ll get the OG before adding the yeast, throw in some cinnamon and cloves…maybe a little molasses, if it can stand it. Pink Cripps and Crab Apples. I’m looking forward to seeing how this turns out.

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Day 90 Tasting Strawberry Blonde & Plain Jane

If you look back through the journal, you will see the lengths to which I went to try and make the Strawberry Blonde a successful brew. Alas, I believe it was all for naught. The Strawberry Blonde is lacking in hops, either in aroma or bittering. The strawberry flavor is best described as musky and muddled, hiding any hint of malt. But the extract sweetness is there. I don’t think aging will help, but I’ll give it a little more time. I compared with a commercially produced strawberry wheat beer produced by Lancaster Brewing Co. and, while I didn’t really like the commercial product either, it was generally better than mine. It did have a strawberry cream soda like flavor to it from the strawberry flavoring.

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A pleasant surprise, on the other hand, was the “Plain Jane Blonde”, small batch.

Plain John Blonde...surprisingly drinkable!

Plain John Blonde…surprisingly drinkable!

It has, by way of the attempt to up the OG, a little strawberry essence to it…just barely. While there are no hops in the aroma, they are there with a slight bitterness. The malt comes through and there is a little sweetness, but it isn’t cloying. It’s actually a pretty drinkable beer! Not my best offering, but not bad. If I were to attempt this recipe again, I would 1) Measure the water more accurately!, 2) Decrease the strawberries from 6 lbs to my original thought of around 2 to 3 pounds and, 3) Add the fruit in secondary, instead of after flameout at 170F.

I also used a free, simple beer label maker program to create a label for the Costa Kona Mocha Latte stout that I think looks passable. I kind of did a similar thing using a different program and printed it on plain paper, cut it out, moistened the back with milk and applied it to a bottle. Oddly enough, it works! Cheers!

BeerLabel Costa Kona

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Day 84 Bottling Plain Jane Blonde, Small Batch

Plain Jane Blonde Ale, opening after secondary.

Plain Jane Blonde Ale, opening after secondary.

I had a little time this evening and decided to go ahead and get the bottling chores done for the Plain Jane Blonde Ale. There’s about a gallon and a half…looks nice and clear. When I got closer to the bottom, I could see that I could bottle just about every bit. There wound up being just a film of trub on the bottom of the bucket. Taste is pretty good, as far as I can tell…just had a very small taste. I didn’t want to waste any, since there is so little. Color is clear, but  a tad dark for the style, due to the late addition of extra DME to bump the weak OG, the day after brewing.

End of the batch in the bottling bucket, with flash, so you can see color

End of the batch in the bottling bucket, with flash, so you can see color

(This little plain blonde batch is the result of not measuring my water properly on brew day and I wound up with too much wort for the strawberry blonde that I had planned. So, it’s a bonus batch, but it weakened the OG. To review, I added 1 gallon of the strawberry blonde wort to 3lbs DME and boiled 15 minutes. Of the 17 cups that resulted, 13-1/2 cups went back to the strawberry batch and 3-1/2 cups went into the plain batch. The OG went up to about 1.041; still short of the target, but with a FG of 1.010, I got a decent session beer range of 4.07 % ABV.

I prepared 1.5 oz corn sugar dissolved in about 6 oz hot water, put that in my bottling bucket and racked onto it. I came up with the 1.5 oz amount using an online calculator. I hope it comes out right. Since this is a small batch and I anticipated very little sediment, I racked into another 2 gallon bucket, using a siphon.

Three six packs...not bad.

Three six packs…not bad.

Bottling went smoothly, using the siphon and bottling cane. I did have to quickly sanitize 3 more bottles/caps, because I had a little more than I anticipated. I finished up with eighteen 12 oz bottles.

The strawberry Blonde batch…almost 6 gallons…is in a glass carboy and clearing. It should be ready to bottle this weekend. The Costa Kona Mocha Latte stout should be ready to rack onto the cocoa nibs for secondary by Sunday.

Ingredients for Costa Kona Mocha Latte Stout (except for the cold brewed coffee extract).

Strawberry Blonde Ale, secondary for clarification.

Strawberry Blonde Ale, secondary for clarification.

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Day 78 Update on Blondes, More Murray’s

Primary Fermentation Buckets: 6 gallon with blow off and strawberries; 1-1/2 gallons plain with airlock.

Primary Fermentation Buckets: 6 gallon with blow off and strawberries; 1-1/2 gallons plain with airlock.

The blonde ales are in primary fermentation, about 6 gals are fermenting with 6 lbs of whole, frozen strawberries with a smack pack of Denny’s Favorite #50 yeast.  The other 1-1/2 gals are plain and are pitched with an almost full package of Safale S-04. The strawberry blonde is still steadily putting off bubbles, though not as vigorously as before.

Blow off on strawberry blonde.

Blow off on strawberry blonde.

The plain blonde has been slow…a bubble every minute or so. I doubt that it could be that close to done, especially after the addition of the extra DME fortified wort. I’m hoping it doesn’t get stuck, but I’m keeping an eye on it and will probably need to do an SG check in a day or two.

I also did some grocery shopping today and picked up two 1/2 gallon containers of  Murray’s Apple Cider. I was so happy with my test batch of the Murray’s Super Easy Cider, that I want to make more!

Murray's Apple Cider...for super easy, delicious hard cider!

Murray’s Apple Cider…for super easy, delicious hard cider!

 

 

 

At $5.69 per 1/2 gallon, a 5 gallon batch would be about $60 and I don’t need ten 1/2 gallon glass carboys…even if they ARE free. So, I may have to research alternatives…bigger containers, case prices. Something. But it IS good and DO need to make some more!

UPDATE: 2/27: A quick note…not worthy of a separate “Day” entry…but I checked the SG on the plain blonde and it is 1.014. So it has had significant movement. Maybe it’ll go down more. ABV currently is a little over 3%. I could always move to a secondary and pitch a different yeast…but the batch is so small, I really don’t want to lose much more of it to testing and racking.

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Day 77 Goosing the Strawberry Blonde and Bottling the Wheat Citra Citrus

Opened strawberry blonde after 24 hours to inspect. (I drew off the gallon for DME addition from the spigot.)

Opened strawberry blonde to add DME wort. (I drew off the gallon for DME boil from the spigot.)

A busy day today. On the recommendation of some people on http://www.homebrewtalk.com, I decided to make a run back to the brew shop and get some dry malt extract (DME) to bump the specific gravity of the strawberry blonde and plain blonde brews that I did yesterday. The specific gravity was 1.034 at 75F (1.035)…well below the target of 1.053. I’ve done this enough now that I think I’m taking the measurement correctly and it could be due to the higher volume that I wound up with…a total of about 7-1/2 gallons. There’s 1-1/2 gallons of plain blonde ale and about 6 gallons of strawberry blonde (including the 6lbs of strawberries). As of late morning, the main bucket was gurgling nicely and the blow off is seeing some action, but not out of control. The plain blonde in the small bucket is just starting to see some action.

At the home brew shop, they crunched the number for me and concurred that 3 lbs of DME should put me back on target and, using some of the existing wort, will lover my yeast count a little, but will keep me from increasing the already high volume in the main bucket.

So, at home again, I sanitized a 1 quart measure and removed a gallon of wort form the strawberry blonde. I put the wort into a stock pot and brought it to a boil. I added the DME, while stirring, until it was dissolved and incorporated. Watching carefully for boil over, I boiled for 15 minutes.

Drew off 1 gallon of strawberry blonde wort. Added 3 lbs DME at boil.

Drew off 1 gallon of strawberry blonde wort. Added 3 lbs DME at boil.

I skimmed off a few suds and then chilled the DME wort to 75F in an ice bath in the kitchen sink.

Ice bath chill.

Ice bath chill.

I measured the wort at 17 cups and divided that between a total of 7-1/2 gallons of wort (I just realized that I didn’t account for the gallon that I took out…dang. Shouldn’t matter too much, though.). I put 13-1/2 cups of the DME wort into the strawberry blonde fermentation bucket and 3-1/2 cups in the plain blonde bucket. The only problem is that the SG …what I will be using for my OG is still under what we worked out. It is just 1.040 @ 75F (1.041)…and I’m second guessing my abilities on the hydrometer reading thing. If I’m accurate though, and I attain the 1.010 that is estimated, then the ABV will be 4.07%. It’s not optimal, but it is acceptable. The sample looked and tasted pretty nice.

Strawberry blonde hydrometer sample

Strawberry blonde hydrometer sample

A little muddy at this point, but I think fermentation and the process will clear it up nicely.  Cleaned up and prepared for bottling my American Wheat Citra Citrus. The fermentation resumed pretty quickly on the blonde ales.

Blow off action.

Blow off action.

On to the bottling…all the usual bottle washing/sanitizing, equipment sanitizing. I’m using some of my newly acquired bottles.

Nice, clean bottles.

Nice, clean bottles.

Thankfully, they are in decent boxes with six-pack holders for dividers. The box flaps and handles are in a little rough shape on some, but not destroyed…definitely usable. I could use an empty bottle box or two for the loose bottles that I have. I should ask at the brew shop if they sell the boxes only, next time I go there.

Anyway, the bottling went smoothly. I filled a case and capped it and then did the second one and capped it. I did get a yield of exactly two cases…the last bottle was a struggle.

First case of the American Wheat Citra Citrus.

First case of the American Wheat Citra Citrus.

I marked it, just in case it had any trub in it. Because I racked pretty carefully a couple of days ago though, it was all rather clear.

Nice and clear American Wheat Citra Citrus...ready to bottle.

Nice and clear American Wheat Citra Citrus…ready to bottle.

The color looks good…a little dark, but it IS an extract recipe, so that’s expected. The flavor has a great citrus punch with a really nice hop bitterness…not overpowering, though.

Sample of American Wheat Citra Citrus...very encouraged!

Sample of American Wheat Citra Citrus…very encouraged!

And the aroma is a-maz-ing!!! The combination of the citra hops late additions and the citrus work very well together! I am VERY much looking forward to the first bottle of this batch! I didn’t check the SG before bottling, but I did check it at the final racking and I don’t think it would have changed since then. It was 1.010@72F (1.011) at that time. I’m going with that as the FG. The OG was 1.044@75F (1.045), so the ABV would be 4.46%, which is very close to the estimated 4.4% ABV.

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