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Update Kombucha and Fruit Cider/Wine

Kombucha getting started.

Kombucha getting started.

Following up on the two little side fermentation projects that I have going on: kombucha and a mixed fruit cider/wine thing….

First, on the kombucha, I have reached out to some folks online regarding my progress, because I don’t really know how this is supposed to look. I’m using 1 gallon of green tea, a cup of sugar, and the dregs from a bottle of kombucha soda. After a couple of days, I have some bubbles around the perimeter of the carboy, a small “island” in the middle, and a few floaters that appear to be dark green and hang down like a “beard”.

perimeter bubbles and "beard" floater.

perimeter bubbles and “beard” floater.

There’s a little more sediment at the bottom than I started with, too. The little floaters are my biggest concern…all the pictures that I’ve seen online show the “SCOBY” (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) are off-white to tan in color. A little further research shows the floaters to be common…need to watch out for mold growing on top. That would be mean throwing out the batch. Also, it sounds like I may need to make a “baby” SCOBY and start another batch to grow a “mother” SCOBY? It’s a learning experience, that’s for sure!

Moving on to my mixed fruit little experiment: I racked the juice and it was still pretty thick on the bottom. After racking, I have just a little under a gallon.

Ready for first racking.

Ready for first racking.

I may only get a half gallon by the time this batch is racked and aged enough. So, I took some juice from the dregs and strained it to use for a hydrometer sample…I hope any “body” in the juice isn’t affecting the hydrometer’s measurement.

Taking hydrometer and temperature reading.

Taking hydrometer and temperature reading.

The hydrometer reading is 0.998 at 70F, so that is 0.999 corrected. With the OG of 1.073, that puts it at 9.71% ABV. It’s still on the border between cider and wine…not sure what will end up being. (Other than delicious, I hope!)

Update 1/19/15:

Racking with a little mesh bag on siphon.

Racking with a little mesh bag on siphon.

Racked the mixed fruit cider to a 1 gallon glass carboy. I strained the dregs and took a hydrometer reading of 0.996@69F.

Transferring

Transferring

I’m thinking I may top off with Culligan bottled water next time I rack, so I have a gallon. Currently, it’s a little under a gallon…maybe 10% short? Looks good though and over 9% ABV, so a top-off won’t hurt it.

A little under a gallon of mixed fruit cider.

A little under a gallon of mixed fruit cider.

The Kombucha is coming along…looks like a pretty decent skin is forming…almost covering the surface. Now.let’s see if it thickens. The jug has a small neck, so I’ll need to figure out removing the SCOBY and find a new, more appropriate container.

Early SCOBY signs! Day 11.

Early SCOBY signs! Day 11.

Probably one of those 1 gallonlemonade/iced tea dispensers with the spigot. The smell is a little tangy…haven’t attempted a taste yet. I’m not sure whether this first batch is supposed to be drinkable or not. We’ll see when I remove the SCOBY…somehow.

Update 2/24/15:  Okay, so, I’ve been been saving some of a hydrometer sample of the mixed fruit cider, in the refrigerator. I’ve been taking a little sip every couple of days. It has settled nicely and the flavor is not agressive, but it IS distinct from straight apple cider. The jug is looking good…still needs more clearing. I’ll let it go another week and rack it onto just enough clean water to top it off…should only take about 2-3 cups.

Now for the kombucha: pretty much “Wow”. I sanitized a turkey baster to retrieve a sample. (I need a new wine thief!) I had  to nudge the SCOBY aside…it is definitely holding together as a solid raft. I may go ahead and go to the next batch soon! The sample that I removed was tart and tasted “lemony”. I’m not a huge tea fan, but this stuff is really good! Not much tea flavor…just a little. I’m glad I used green tea. So, thumbs up! Let’s see if it will continue with the next round.

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Day 20 Fairly Uneventful Day for Brewing

Not much to report today for brewing. Crabapple cider batch #3 is still perking away. The intervals on airlock bubbles has slowed slightly, down from every 4 seconds back to every 7 seconds.

Yesterday, I re-bottled my green test bottles from #1 & #3 ciders. I added 1 CarTab back to each to replenish any lost carbonation. In the #2 bottle, I saw more floaters after awhile…maybe from the CarTabs? Maybe I’ll try a different primer next time. Anyway, I strained and bottled it again. I decided that, since the level was now at the bottom of the bottle’s neck, that I would refrigerate it and drink it today to evaluate it. While it looked good in the bottle and the alcohol and flavor are pretty good, it was completely flat.

Awww...it's flat!

Awww…it’s flat!

So, here’s where I go a little crazy and defy all brewers’ advice and added some warm tap water to the bottle to bring the volume back halfway up the neck…maybe slightly higher. I probably added about an ounce. I tossed in 4 more CarTabs and popped on a new cap and put the bottle back on the counter. This is definitely going to be experimental, but it won’t hurt me and what’s the worst case? I pour it down the drain.

No response from @JohnCleese on the Fawlty Brown Ale tweets…yet!

Cider batch #3: Stirred the contents of the PFB and checked SG. The hydrometer reading was 1.020 at 71 degrees room temperature.  That’s 1.021 adjusted for 60 degree hydrometer calibration. Beginning SG was 1.053, so current ABV is about 4.2%. The aroma is very much a fresh, sweet apple scent and a sample sip definitely had a mild alcohol content. If I can get this batch down to 0.990 SG, then the ABV would be over 8%. Maybe I’ll investigate backsweetening this batch…not too much, but make it a little sweeter to offset any harshness from the alcohol content. Time to research some more.

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Day 19 Re-Racking some of Cider Batch #2 And Beer Labels!

On the advice of an experienced cider brewer, I am racking the cider batch #2, 2nd carboy to a growler because the carboy had too much head space. I also sanitized a couple of bottles in advance and wound up using them, after filling the growler.

From an underfilled carboy to a growler and two bottles!

From an underfilled carboy to a growler and two bottles!

So, cider batch #2 now includes one almost full one gallon carboy, one full growler, one green bottle that was primed and capped on 11/9/13 and two brown bottles that were primed and capped today, 11/13/13.

My brews, so far!

My brews, so far!

Additionally, I have one almost full one gallon carboy from cider batch #1 and one green bottle that was primed and capped on 11/6/13. Plus, I have 12 bottles of English Nut Brown ale primed & bottled 11/12/13 and one flip-top that was primed and bottled on 11/11/13.

Finally, I have cider batch #3 in a PFB, happily bubbling away at about every 4 to 5 seconds!

Now, for concerns: my two green bottles of cider, one each from batches #1 and #2. I think I was scared to put enough pressure on the bottle caps when I capped them. I fear that they may not be properly sealed. Also, there are some white floaters suspended in the bottle from batch #1 that won’t fall out.

White floaters in my test bottle for Cider batch #1.

White floaters in my test bottle for Cider batch #1.

I think the best course, if I don’t decide to pour them out, would be to prime and cap them again. That may be sufficient for #2, but I may sanitize a strainer and run #1 through it before priming and capping again.

Update: I decided to strain and prime/bottle both green test bottles of cider. When I poured the batch #2, I noticed more stuff come dislodged near the top of the bottle, so I ran it though a couple layers of sanitized cheesecloth when I returned it to the bottle. They both had carbonation when I opened them…that made me comfortable enough to save them. I dribbled literally a couple of drops out of the first bottle into a glass and was just able to feel some fine bubbles. I didn’t want to create bottle bombs, but I decided that opening them and going between bottles was enough agitation that I could add one more Munton’s CarTab to each bottle. New caps securely in place…good to go!

At this point, everything is in a holding pattern except for cider batch #3. My Fawlty Brown Ale is bottled. Cider batches #1& #2 are racked for extended clarification and aging. I should be getting to racking cider batch #3 in a few days and maybe a second time before Thanksgiving. If not, it can sit an extra week. I plan on taking my beer to the beach for Thanksgiving, as well as the test bottles. Mmm…home brew at the beach, watching the sunset. I’m looking forward to THAT!

9:00 pm  I went to Staples late this afternoon and found a label to use on the bottles. It isn’t “removable”, but “Goo-Gone” can deal with that later. It is waterproof, though, so it should be okay in the fridge without the ink running. I wish I had the software I used to use when I was doing professional printing, but I struggled through with a template and Microsoft Office Word 2007. Ugh. Anyway, My “English Nut” Brown Ale is all labeled as “Fawlty Brown Ale” by Lakeway Brewing Works, Cary, North Carolina.  Recognize my favorite “English Nut”?

Fawlty Brown Ale, the first bottle!

Fawlty Brown Ale, the first bottle!

The label actually looks better after I figured out how to get the background color to print, but at over a $1.00 a sheet, I didn’t waste them!

Fawlty Brown Ale with the background color on the label. On the right, my prototype flip top test bottle.

Fawlty Brown Ale with the background color on the label. On the right, my prototype flip top test bottle.

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