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Day 166 Bottling Muscadine Wine

Muscadine wine...nice and clear.

Muscadine wine…nice and clear.

Finally bottled my muscadine wine! I started with grapes that I foraged from wild vines and now I have my first wine in the bottles! The wine has been bulk aging  in two 1 gallon carboys and one 1/2 gallon carboy.

Bulk aging the wine.

Bulk aging the wine.

I combined them all into a bottling bucket to make sure the wine is all consistently blended and to facilitate the bottling.

Transferred to a bottling bucket.

Transferred to a bottling bucket.

I used the Brewer’s Friend online bottling calculator to figure out how many bottles I would need…calculation is twenty-six 12 oz bottles, plus 8 oz left over, which would be good for a hydrometer reading and sample.  So, I sanitized 26 bottles and all the bottling equipment and supplies.

Sanitized equipment and bottles.

Sanitized equipment and bottles.

I’m using oxygen absorbing caps for the wine bottling. I have read that a lot of homebrewers think they are useless for beer, but this is wine. Some mead makers think they are absolutely worthwhile. The thing is, the caps are recommended for things that are going to be bottled for 2 years or more. Most beers, other that barleywine, aren’t aged more than a year. There are a few exceptions. Anyway, I’ve decided to use them…several bottles of my wine may very well be around for a couple of years or more.

The clarity on the wine is beautiful and the color is a nice blush. The FG is 0.991 and the OG was 1.113, so we have a 16.01% ABV!

Taking the hydrometer reading.

Taking the hydrometer reading…look at the clarity!

The aroma and flavor are definitely that of a young red wine with a heavy amount of alcohol, but it certainly is not your typical North Carolina sweet muscadine wine.

Pretty!

Pretty!

I can definitely drink the sample, but I probably won’t open a bottle for at least a year and probably longer for most of them. The bottling calculator was spot-on, by the way. I filled exactly 26 bottles.

Filling the bottles.

Filling the bottles.

I’m hoping they will mellow and become something special with time. But this is my first real wine, so it’s pretty special to me already!

Twenty-six 12 oz bottles of wine...ready for storage.

Twenty-six 12 oz bottles of wine…ready for storage.

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Day 160 Racking Crab Apple/Pear/Cripps/Ginger Gold Cider for Long Term and Pumpkin Ale

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I needed to free up a fermentation bucket, and the cider that I made from crab apples, pears, Pink Cripps and Ginger Gold apples looked pretty clear, so that’s the one I decided to deal with. I racked from the 5 gallon glass carboy into a bottling bucket. From there, I racked to four 1/2 gallon glass carboys, filled to leave as little head space as possible, and capped. These containers were moved to an out of the way dark corner for bulk conditioning/aging.

I wasn’t too aggressive in getting every last drop, since I knew I was nowhere near having enough to fill another container. As a result, I got a good hydrometer sample and a little drinking glass sample. After I took and SG reading, both samples went into the refrigerator for additional tasting later. The immediate taste at room temperature pleasantly seems to have eased up on the tannin astringency that I tasted last time I was able to try a sample. It still needs some time, but it’s pretty nice. It also packs a wallop! The OG for this batch was 1.097 and it is currently at 0.993, which I’m confident will be the FG. That puts the cider at 13.65% ABV! Whew!

I also racked my Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale to the big glass carboy for some final clearing and making sure it’s absolutely finished fermenting before I bottle it.

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale.

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale.

I have still seen a bubble in the airlock up until recently and I don’t want to rush it. I really want to nail the carb on this beer. If I do, I think it’s going to be phenomenal! The body if full, the aroma is awesome, the spice is well blended and not overpowering. Love the color…it does, as my son suggested when he smelled it, remind me of a ginger snap cookie, but not as sweet.

Sample for checking SG with a hydrometer. (And for tasting!)

Sample for checking SG with a hydrometer. (And for tasting!)

The ABV is 7.74% and my volume is only 4 gallons. This may horrify some homebrewers, but I would rather sacrifice a tiny amount of alcohol by volume and have 5 gallons, instead of 4, so I added a gallon of bottled Culligan water. I’m having samples of the cider and the ale as I write this and I’m very happy…and have a nice little warm feeling. >grin<

Samples: Pumpkin left, cider right.

Samples: Pumpkin left, cider right.

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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 149 Spent Grain Muffin Loaves, Muscadine Wine & Cider Still Going

Spent Grain Peanut Butter and Banana Mini Loaf

Spent Grain Peanut Butter and Banana Mini Loaf

I had a small bag of spent grain left from my most recent batch of dog treats, so I found a recipe for banana & peanut butter muffins and gave it a try. I have some mini loaf pans and I decided to use them, instead of muffin tins.  Here’s the recipe:

Banana Peanut Butter Spent Grain Muffins
Adapted by Chef Lisa at http://cheflisa.lisahartjes.com/2009/09/banana-peanut-butter-spent-grain-muffins/

from: Eat Me, Delicious (http://www.eatmedelicious.com/2009/09/banana-peanut-butter-oatmeal-muffins.html)

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups spent grains
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup mashed banana (about 2 med.)
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1 cup light buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, spent grains, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Dry ingredients

Dry ingredients

In a medium bowl, whisk together vegetable oil, brown sugar, eggs, mashed banana, peanut butter and buttermilk until very smooth, making sure all egg has been well-incorporated. Pour into flour mixture and stir until no streaks of flour remain.

Wet ingredients

Wet ingredients

Divide batter evenly into prepared muffin tin, filling each just about up to the top.

Bake for 16-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the top springs back when lightly pressed.

Remove muffins from tin and cool on a wire rack.

Makes 12.

So, I got 5 mini loaf pans, filled about 2/3, using a #12 disher (most commonly referred to as an ice cream scoop). Two scoops puts about 5-1/2 to 6 oz per pan.

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Banging the pans flat on the counter a few times levels out the top. I placed the pans on a sheet pan and baked in the middle of the oven for about 28 minutes and they tested done. I let them cool awhile and then removed the loaves from the pans and finished cooling on a wire rack.

Cooling on a wire rack

Cooling on a wire rack

Well…one didn’t make it to room temperature! I get the peanut butter and banana…and I like it. The wife probably won’t get past the fact that the grains were used to make beer and dog treats…more for me!

Mmm...warm quick bread with spent grains, peanut butter and bananas.

Mmm…warm quick bread with spent grains, peanut butter and bananas.

Quick update on the crab apple & pink cripps cider and the muscadine wine: they are both slowing down in activity, but still going. I opened the wine bucket and stirred down the bag. Again, a small sample from the spoon is sweet, but less so than it was…definitely young muscadine wine! They both probably have another couple of days until their first racking and the bag of crushed grapes will be squeezed out and removed.

Muscadine Wine...gettin' there!

Muscadine Wine…gettin’ there!

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Day 148 Pitching the Yeast in Crab Apple/Pink Cripps Cider

Opening cider bucket to pitch the yeast.

Opening cider bucket to pitch the yeast.

Edinburgh yeast starter…pulled from the fridge and decanted. Opened the cider bucket and removed the cheesecloth bag of apple/crab apples pulp and squeezed out the juice. I will compost this material.

Apple/Crab Apple "must"...pulp, fiber, stems, etc.

Apple/Crab Apple “must”…pulp, fiber, stems, etc.

I added the yeast slurry to the cider and stirred well. I did pull a hydrometer sample and it is very sweet and reads 1.100 at 78.2F, so that comes out to an OG of 1.102. I tossed in a couple cinnamon sticks and 8 whole cloves that I had sanitized with Star-San.

Cider bucket and flask with yeast starter.

Cider bucket and flask with yeast starter.

Cider with cinnamon, cloves, molasses and yeast added.

Cider with cinnamon, cloves, molasses and yeast added.

I also added about 1/4 cup of molasses…just a touch. The time was about 9:15 a.m., so let’s see if the Edinburgh Ale Yeast  takes off and when.

I also checked on the muscadine wine. The aroma when I opened the bucket was less appealing than it has been.

Muscadine wine fermentation bucket.

Muscadine wine fermentation bucket.

Still a lot of effervescence and nice color. I stirred the bag under and mixed the liquid well. I took a small sample in the stirring spoon and resealed the lid. The sample did not have any off-odor, still tasted of muscadines and is sweet; however, the alcohol level is definitely rising!

Stirring things up.

Stirring things up.

By 2 pm, I noticed airlock action in the cider bucket, so I guess my revival technique was successful and the subsequent starter that I made worked. as well. Sweet! As of tonight, it’s a fairly regular slow heart beat type of bubbling.

The muscadine wine continues a fairly vigorous activity.

Update, morning 8/27/14: I opened and stirred down wine again…same as yesterday. No problem. I also opened the cider bucket and saw more krausen than I expected.

Stirred the krausen down.

Stirred the krausen down.

Crab Apple/Pink Cripps Cider...quite a bit a krausen!

Crab Apple/Pink Cripps Cider…quite a bit a krausen!

I stirred it down and resealed the lid. About an hour later, I found that the yeast had kicked in in big time! The airlock was fouled, so I immediately set up a blow off to remedy the situation.

Blow off set-up on the cider bucket.

Blow off set-up on the cider bucket.

 

 

 

 

 

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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 68 Nothing Brewing…Feels Weird

Since I bottled my hefeweizen, and scrambled for bottles to do it, I have nothing brew-related going on. Everything is in the bottle conditioning phase. It just feels weird! I did open a few bottles tonight…um…just to check their progress. Yeah, that’s it. Anyway, I started off with my Nut Brown Ale that I received as a Christmas gift-kit. It was bottled 10 days ago and is surprisingly drinkable already. Compared to my previous English Nut Brown Ale, A.K.A. Fawlty Brown Ale, it is a bit more bitter. The color and clarity are good and the carbonation may get better, but is pretty good already. In addition to the kit, I also received some Irish moss and gypsum. I believe they did their jobs! No doubt that this beer will improve with another couple of weeks in the bottle, but my first bottle out of this batch says it’s a success.

Nice clarity and color

Nice clarity and color

Nut Brown Ale

Nut Brown Ale

The second bottle of the evening was a 22 0z bottle of the Belgian Strong Dark. I believe my last taste of this beer was described as having a fruity component and maybe caramel, but not the roasted coffee or chocolate flavors. This beer has been in the bottle for 24 days and has since mellowed a bit on the caramel and it has lost that fruit from before. I’m not an expert at the critique thing for beer and I don’t have the right words to describe this flavor. Is this what people describe as “biscuit”? I will need to get some more experienced feedback on this one, but whatever it is, it’s good…at least, I think so!

Belgian Strong Dark...interesting.

Belgian Strong Dark…interesting.

The final bottle I opened this evening is the Watson’s Cider…in honor of John Hamish Watson’s nuptials on Masterpiece Theater tonight! Side note: awesome episode. ‘Nuff said. The cider, unfortunately, is not doing so well. This is an all-crabapple (foraged) sparkling cider. This is the only beverage that I have pastuerized, so far. I also was trying to retain some sweetness by not letting it ferment quite all the way out. In the process, I did not let it clarify long enough and too much lees came along for the ride. It’s a little sour in the nose…like mild vinegar. The carbonation is a bit week. If I went back through my notes, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the carbonation is actually going down some. There was quite a bit of sediment in the bottle and the color of the cider is a medium golden, but with a little haze. I know it sounds weird, but the best way to describe it is as if someone drop one or two drops of skim milk into the glass before adding the cider. I did have fun with the label. Since calling it a “cyser”, I have seen the error in my ways…but the labels were expensive and already printed. Plus, “Watson’s Cider” sounds like a personal question.

One of my less successful beverages, but not ready to dump it yet!

One of my less successful beverages, but not ready to dump it yet!

As for the flavor, I definitely get that slight sourness/vinegar taste with an almost dry finish. These days, some people think it’s good for you to drink vinegar, so they’d probably think this was really mild and tasty! I’ll keep pulling one out, now and then to see what’s happening. I’m not ready to dump it yet, but we’ll see what happens over time. If I get desperate for a few bottles to use for something else, these are at the top of the expendable list.

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