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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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Raleigh Brewing Company Free Wort Giveaway; Railer’s Pale Update

 

Raleigh Brewing Company wort.

Raleigh Brewing Company wort.

I picked up 5 gallons of free wort from Raleigh Brewing Company today…was supposed toget some awhile back, but they ran out. They were nice enough to make more specifically for the people that missed out, so I got some today! The recipe is not exactly known, but it is basically 2-row malt and a little Crystal 10L, from what I was told, with 3 additions of Willamette hops. I’m using Wyeast American Pale Ale 1272 yeast again and fermenting in the mid to upper 60’s F range. Pitched the yeast at about 3;45 pm. I’m going to keep this one simple. No adjuncts, no racking until bottling. And back to corn sugar for priming, to make sure I’m getting it dissolved well…could be an issue with table sugar priming. I think I’ll boil water to dissolve it in first and rack onto it, just to be sure the primer is evenly dispersed.

Update on Railer’s Pale Ale: kegged for the event. I put it in a friend’s keg, who will be donating to the event as well, and helping me with mine…since I know nothing about kegging. The event is Sept 24, for the Carolina Railhawks Soccer fans. “Soktoberfest”. There is a small (I hope) issue…there was a thin “skin”on top of the beer that had just formed in the last couple of days…signs of infection. It tasted okay though, and after discussing it, my friend said she would go ahead and keg it. We will keep our fingers crossed. One possible cause is that the hose I racked with was too short and allowed too much oxygen into the beer at racking, which would encourage an infection. So, I bought some longer tubing at the home brew shop today.

Update 10/8/16: Railer’s Pale Ale: A.L.E. decided that, despite the fact that this event has been done for 3 years, this year they won’t allow it. “Homebrew beer is for at home.” So, now I have about 4-1/2 gallons of beer with no plans, and it’s kegged at a friend’s house. No idea what to do with it. Probably bottle a little bit from the keg and screw the rest. I have too much taking up space as it is. And, in the fermentation chamber, the wort I got two months ago from Raleigh Brewing Co., seems to be continuing to ferment. WTF?! Possible infection, but it tastes okay and there’s no pellicle…just some bubbles. It’s a little bitter for a pale ale, but otherwise okay. I wasn’t planning on messing with it, but it might benefit from some dry hopping with something like Citra, to cut that bitterness and give it a little more aroma and flavor. At some point, I may have to cold crash it…worried about priming/bottling and creating bottle bombs…Hell, I may just dump  it and skip brewing for awhile. Maybe get some new hardware and reduce the threat of infections via tubes, siphons, buckets, carboys, etc., that I’ve had for a few years now. I was excited to get the fermentation chamber set up, but nothing has really been successful in awhile. Kind of depressing. I feel a purge coming before I brew again.

Update 10/18/16: Free pale ale wort from Raleigh Brewing: Racked to new carboy. Not clear at all, but it’s at 1.002 SG, so it’s probably done…just not sure, since it took so long and still had bubbles on the surface. OG was 1.053, according to the brewer, so that would make the ABV 6.69%. Looks and smells okay. Still bitter and not very  “interesting”, so I’m going to let it sit for a week or two and then dry hop with some Citra and maybe some Cascade. Should I put some “holiday spice” in it? I don’t know….

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Racking Fluffernutter Sammie Stout to Secondary

Racking the Fluffernutter Sammie Stout.

Racking the Fluffernutter Sammie Stout.

It’s Memorial Day…respect to all who served. I racked my Fluffernutter Sammie Stout to secondary fermentation today. I began by cleaning and sanitizing a carboy and adding my Everclear-soaked vanilla beans to it. Then, I brought a gallon of water to boil and whisked in 2 packages of peanut butter powder, 6.5 oz each, JIF brand. I boiled the peanut water for 10 minutes and then cooled it in a water and ice bath. Once down to about 73 F, I poured it through a sanitized funnel, into the carboy. Next, using a siphon and tube, I racked the beer onto the peanut water and vanilla beans.

I left most of the original trub behind, and wound up with 5-1/2 gallons in the secondary carboy.

5-1/2 gallons into secondary fermentation.

5-1/2 gallons into secondary fermentation.

I took a hydrometer sample after racking and came up with a current SG of  1.031. (Adjusted for sample temperature of about 70 F.) I’m still guessing it may go down to 1.028, but we will see where it is after 10 more days and monitor it from there, to determine when it is ready to bottle.

Hydrometer sample, trub from primary fermentation.

Hydrometer sample,  trub left in primary fermentation.

The color looks nice. The flavor is obviously “in your face” peanut right now. Hopefully, the vanilla will bloom and the peanut will tone down, as anticipated. I may have to up the vanilla, though…possible some extract at bottling. I’ll have to make a judgement call later. So, back into the fermentation chamber…which has been working out very nicely!

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Bottling There Gose Sea Breeze and Wine Update

Racking the gose to a bottling bucket.

Racking the gose to a bottling bucket.

With two weeks and one day to go until Thanksgiving, I’m counting on the “There Gose Sea Breeze” being done with fermentation, so I can bottle it. I did do an SG check and it was 1.015 still,

FG is 1.015 after temperature correction.

FG is 1.015 after temperature correction.

so…fingers crossed. I bought new bottles and made sure everything was washed well, and sanitized. I hope it carbs reasonably for Thanksgiving. I’m sure I’ll have plenty left for Christmas and New Year’s Eve…there’s 49 twelve ounce bottles.

Bottled and ready to carb!

Bottled and ready to carb!

I did the calculations for priming sugar a bit low, on purpose…I have a history of overcarbing. Instead of over 3.0 vols, which is supposedly what the style should be, I went with 2.4 vols and 4 ounces of sugar.

Two other quick notes: First, I worked up a recipe for what I want my next project to be: Fluffernutter Sandwich Stout. Looking forward to trying to brew it between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. That way, it should be ready to drink starting late January. I will be posting the recipe and results here when I get to it.

Second, I took the small jug of Blueberry-Muscadine Wine and topped off the 5 gallon carboy, to reduce the head space.

Making the head space smaller.

Making the head space smaller.

The rest of the jug was bottled in a 22 oz “bomber”. The bulk will go for longer term conditioning. When I topped it off though, it got kind of fizzy, so I added another crushed Campden Tablet to it. I also double-checked the airlock to make sure it wasn’t stuck.  There’s even a little left over for me!

Sample!

Sample!

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Checking the Specific Gravity on There Gose a Sea Breeze

Hydrometer Sample

Hydrometer Sample

After I racked to secondary, added the grapefruit zest and hibiscus tea concentrate, there seemed to be some additional fermentation happening. It wasn’t much…in fact, I was afraid the little white bubbles were going to turn out to be an infection. However, they did eventually fade away.  The OG was supposed to be 1.062, and it came in at 1.063. The current SG reading is 1.014 with a temperature of 72.8F.

Hydrometer reading.

Hydrometer reading.

After temperature correction for the hydrometer, the actual SG is 1.015, which is .001 above expected FG. Considering that the OG was .001 high, fermentation could be done.

The thing is, I really want this beer to be carbed and ready to drink by Thanksgiving, which is about 2-1/2 weeks away and carbing will likely take at least 10 days. I’d rather give it a month, but it is what it is. So, just in case the fermentation isn’t COMPLETELY done, and, considering my history with over-carbonation…I think I will bottle in new bottles, underestimate the priming sugar, and cross my fingers.

Regarding the beer’s other characteristics, I am hopeful. The sample is a pretty cranberry color, the front end is appropriately a little salty (but not overly so), then there’s tart, followed by a little sour in the finish. The thing is, I don’t know how to describe the aroma or the flavor. I think the hibiscus is giving it a little cranberry character, but I’m not sure how the coriander and grapefruit zest are influencing the flavor. There’s obviously a blended flavor there. I just don’t have the palate and experience to put it into “proper” tasting terminology. But I like it. I really look forward to getting some feedback from some more experienced brewers.

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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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There Gose Sea Breeze

Brew Day!!! Adding the grain to the heated water. or "mashing in".

Brew Day!!! Adding the grain to the heated water. or “mashing in”.

So, two days ago (Thursday, October 24, 2015), my wife asked me, “If you brew a batch of beer tomorrow, will it be ready in time for Thanksgiving?” I figured it would, as long as it wasn’t something that needed a long time to ferment or bottle condition. Maybe an IPA? Well, she was going to be taking kids to the NC State Fair…all day…so I was authorized to brew. That night, I did some research for holiday beers and everything seemed to be porters and stouts. IPA’s were recommended by some sources, but so many hops and dry hopping…just didn’t feel it. Then I thought, “How about a refreshing gose style? That’ll cut through the heavy foods.” I brewed a gose before and, while mushroom was not the most successful flavor choice, it was technically very good.

Okay, so the next decision: how do I want to flavor it? I immediately thought about cranberries…tart, refreshing, a little citrusy. So, I did a little research on cranberries. It turns out that cranberries present a problem for brewing: they float. And raw, floating berries don’t ferment well or add much flavor. Even chopped, they don’t do much better. If you cook them, the flavor changes and the pectin comes out. That presents more problems. How about cranberry juice? I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find pure juice, without additives. Not for a reasonable price, anyway. In my research, someone recommended dried hibiscus flowers as an alternative…very similar to the flavor of cranberries and great color. I used them in a previous recipe very successfully and, in fact, still have a supply! Hibiscus it is.

Dried Hibiscus F;owers

Dried Hibiscus F;owers

I pulled out my previous gose recipe and began working on it. Substitute hibiscus for the mushrooms, up the salt from .75 oz to 1.25 oz, and add .25 oz ground coriander. The coriander is traditional, but needs to be restrained. I bought a fresh bottle and smelled it. Surprisingly, it reminded me of hops.

Hops. coriander, sea salt, and Irish moss additions.

Hops. coriander, sea salt, and Irish moss additions.

I also decided to go with a traditional hop choice: Saaz. As I was putting together the recipe, I happened to run across a cranberry cocktail called “Sea Breeze”. It is made with cranberry juice, vodka, grapefruit juice, salt and a lime garnish.

Sea Breeze Cocktail (Photo via Wikipedia)

Sea Breeze Cocktail (Photo via Wikipedia)

Well, since we are going to be drinking this at the beach, I figure…add some grapefruit zest, sanitized in vodka, and There Gose Sea Breeze!

Grapefruit zest from 3 grapefruits.

Grapefruit zest from 3 grapefruits.

Lime garnish optional. I got all the information plugged into the recipe and it looks good! You can get the recipe here: http://www.brewersfriend.com/homebrew/recipe/view/289756/there-gose-sea-breeze

Before I could brew, I had a lot of cleaning, preparation, sanitizing, to do. Plus a run to the grocery store and local home brew shop. Then I had to organize and set up for the brew. I think I finally started brewing about 1:15 pm. Steps went fine. I overheated the strike water, but not too badly.  The special grain, the acidulated malt, is added after the first 60 minutes and takes an extra 45 minutes to mash…it adds a lightly sour component to the beer. After the mash, I added an additional gallon of water for the boil. Everything else went smoothly and I wound up with a carboy full of wort!

That's a full carboy!

That’s a full carboy!

Checkiing the Specific Gravity(SG) with a refractometer and a hydrometer, I determined the Original Gravity(OG) to be 1.063. The Final Gravity(FG) is anticipated to be around 1.014, which would put the ABV at 6.3%. I pitched the yeast, finally, at about 6:30 pm.

I put a blow tube on this morning, after having to do a little floor cleaning. The good news is that the yeast is alive and active!

Blow off tube...should have put on at the start.

Blow off tube…should have put on at the start.

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