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Day 142 Ginger Beer and Citra Belle Saison updates

I drew just a couple of ounces from the Citra Belle Saison…the flavor has approved since I racked to secondary on an ounce of Citra hops. Needs a couple more days…should bottle Sunday or Monday.

The ginger beer that I bottled previously hasn’t really taken off in the carbing department. In fact, I considered dumping the bottles back into the “second runnings” batch and combining them. However, I checked a bottle yesterday and it had a small amount of carb. Not much, but enough that I have decided to leave the bottles and watch them to see if/when they need to be pasteurized.

The “second runnings” batch is taking a long time to really get fermentation going. I had it off the heating pad for awhile. When the weather cleared, I gave it some time in the sun for a couple of days, but then the temp dropped, so I put it back on the heating pad and covered it with the space blanket and the fermentation picked back up. It’s coming along slowly, but today was the first time that I believe I detected alcohol in the aroma when I opened the lid. So, while a longer process than I anticipated, the plan remains as originally envisioned: virgin batch is to be non-alcoholic and the “second runnings” batch will be fermented out for an alcoholic version. No photos for this update…nothing really interesting to see,  just an update.

Additional update 8/16 10:15pm : I guess I was wrong on my second runnings ginger beer. I just took a SG reading and it looked like 1.066 when corrected for temperature and the OG was 1.062. So, either the the sugar is increasing in this bucket (not likely) or one of the measurements was off. I’m betting tonight’s measurement could be a tad off, due to some bits of ginger solids in the hydrometer sample. Would that affect it? I don’t know…seems like it might. At any rate. I’m thinking that there is no fermentation really going at it here, so I’m making an executive decision to add 1/8 teaspoon of dry Champagne yeast to the mix, after I strained it through cheesecloth and made sure I have at least a gallon of liquid left, which I do. With Champagne yeast at work, I will have to keep a close eye after I bottle it and definitely pasteurize; otherwise, the yeast won’t stop until it is bone dry and bottle bombs!

8/18…I had seen some activity with the addition of Champagne yeast to my Second Runnings Ginger Beer, but it seems to have stopped. I checked the temperature and it was over 100F. I guess a two gallon plastic bucket heats a lot more on a heating pad and wrapped in a space blanket than a 6 gallon glass carboy and I’m sure the yeast must be dead. I Googled and found “This strain tolerates fermentation temperatures ranging from 50° to 86°F….”.  So the plan is to get the temperature down and pitch the yeast again…and no additional heat. The house is usually around 74F this time of year. Still trying! And I missed buying bottles yesterday and the home brew shop is closed today. I guess my Citra Belle Saison is going to dry hop a little longer that anticipated.

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Day 140 Pasteurizing Tepache, Bottling Ginger Beer, Racking Cherry Belle Saison

Pasteurizing.

Pasteurizing.

 

I decided to go ahead and pasteurize the Peach-Pineapple Tepache. The test bottle was pretty hard. The sample I tasted was lightly carbonated, but I didn’t want to take a chance of overcarbing. I filled my pressure canner body, with the false bottom, with hot water. I used the bottles to be pasteurized as a measure of how much water to use. This served an additional purpose: warmed the bottles a little before pasteurization. I removed the bottles and put the pot on the stove. I brought the water up to 180F and removed the pot from the heat, placed the bottles in, partially covered with the lid, and set a timer for ten minutes.

Lid mostly covering the bottles.

Lid mostly covering the bottles.

Bottles in, off heat, at 180F

Bottles in, off heat, at 180F

When time was up, I removed the bottles to a towel on the counter to cool.

Pasteurized bottles, cooling.

Pasteurized bottles, cooling.

My next project was to bottle the non-alcoholic ginger beer.

Strained ginger beer (non-alcoholic)

Strained ginger beer (non-alcoholic)

I strained the solids out through a cheesecloth and the used a siphon and bottle wand to fill cleaned/sanitized bottles and capped them. They will need to carb for at least 24 hours and then be pasteurized.I believe this batch is too sweet, but I followed the recipe. I put the ginger and spices back into the fermentation bucket. Since they only sat for 24 hours, I feel like there is more flavor to give. So, I’m making a “second runnings” ginger beer that I am going to allow to ferment and produce alcohol.

"Second Runnings"

“Second Runnings”

I added 4 cups of water and measured the OG at 1.062. I may reduce the sugar a little in future batches.  Anyway, I put the bucket back on the heating pad and wrapped it in the Space Blanket.

Next, I got a quart of Culligan bottled water and boiled it for ten minutes and, while it was boiling, I siphoned the the Cherry Belle Citra Saison into a 1 gallon glass carboy for a tertiary stage, leaving behind the cherries and a little sediment.

Secondary leftovers from the Cherry Belle Citra Saison

Secondary leftovers from the Cherry Belle Citra Saison

The color is really nice and the cherry flavor is good. I think this will benefit from a little aging. After the boiled water chilled in the refrigerator, I topped off the saison to a gallon. It didn’t take the whole quart…maybe a pint. I’ll let this settle for a couple of days and then bottle it.

Racked Cherry Belle Citra Saison, before top-off.

Racked Cherry Belle Citra Saison, before top-off.

As for the main batch of Belle Citra Saison, I did an SG check and it was 1.000 at 83F. That’s 1.003, corrected for temperature. This should be ready to rack to secondary any time. When I do rack it, I’ll be dry hopping with an ounce of citra pellets.

Main Belle Citra Saison hydrometer sample.

Main Belle Citra Saison hydrometer sample.

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Day 135 Micro-Batch Cherry Belle Saison

Micro Batch Citra Saison

Micro Batch Citra Saison

I currently have a Citra Saison batch in a 6 gallon carboy going through primary fermentation. When I brewed that batch last Monday, I wound up with an extra gallon. I decided to process that in a 1 gallon carboy and create a “Micro Batch” of Citra Saison with vodka soaked cherries. Since this batch is made using a Belle Saison yeast that I harvested from my Hi-Nelson Saison w/Hibiscus. I’m calling the micro batch “Cherry Belle Saison”. The full batch was hopped at 30 minutes and 10 minutes with Citra hops. The big carboy isn’t ready to rack yet, but will get dry hopped with Citra when it’s time.

Both carboys on the heating pad and with the Space Blanket open.

Both carboys on the heating pad and with the Space Blanket open.

This micro batch will not be dry hopped…I’m thinking that the dry hop would be too much to let the cherry flavor come through. Also, hop flavor fades over time and I think I may age the micro batch a little longer than the main batch…maybe 4 or 5 months. I’m anticipating getting about 9 bottles out of this batch and I’ll probably taste one after about a month, so I should have 8 bottles to age.

This carboy was looking pretty clear and it doesn’t really need to wait for the big batch. Plus, I’m pretty sure that the natural sugar from the cherries is going to restart the fermentation process, so I didn’t really have to make sure that it was completely done with primary fermentation. Finishing secondary and a brief tertiary stage will be important for this one.

The cherries, 1 pound, were soaked in about 1/2 cup of vodka and kept in the freezer since Monday.

Frozen cherries with vodka

Frozen cherries with vodka

I added those to a two gallon fermentation bucket with the vodka, and racked the small carboy of saison onto them.

racking onto the cherries and vodka in the 2 gallon bucket.

racking onto the cherries and vodka in the 2 gallon bucket.

The I sealed the bucket and added an airlock. I put the bucket back on the heating pad and Space Blanket wrap with the big batch and I’m done for tonight, except for the clean-up.

I got a hydrometer sample from the bottom of the 1 gallon carboy and checked it. It was 1.003 at 84F, so, corrected for temperature variation with the hydrometer, it comes out to 1.006 SG.  I’ve stuck the sample in the fridge to cold crash, so I can check the clarity and flavor later. The clarity looked pretty good before I racked it. After racking, I’m just under a gallon. DSC05204

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Day 133 Brew Day! Citra Saison with Harvested Yeast Starter

Setting up for brewing

Setting up for brewing

This was an uncharacteristic brew day for me. I usually don’t brew on weekdays. Certainly not Mondays. But the starter I had hoped to pitch in a Citra Saison pushed me back a day. I have never harvested yeast and never made a starter before now and I was afraid that the starter was going to be too weak. I worked out a boost for the starter (see previous post) and moved the brew back a day.

After I got everything all set up and ready to go, I got my BIAB (Brew In A Bag) in place and heated my strike water, 6 gallons.  The goal was 150F…water went to 154F and I mashed in. The water only dropped 1/2 degree though. I turned off the heat and made a run for ice. When I returned, the temp was 150.2F. Over the next 45 minutes, I tried my best to maintain the target temperature of 150F; however, it was probably more consistently in the 153F range.

After the BIAB (Boil In A Bag) steep and "sparge"

After the BIAB (Boil In A Bag) steep and “sparge”

Here is where I will talk about my changes to the original recipe that I found online. First of all, I decided to do Pale Malt 2 row, instead of Pilsner. Two reasons: sale on Pale and 60 minute boil instead of 90 minute. (Some recommend Pilsner boil for 90 to reduce chance of off flavors.) Next, I added 1 teaspoon of Irish Moss at 15 minutes left in the boil to aid clarity. I also realized that I had forgotten to buy 1 pound of Belgian Clear Candi Syrup…made a run to the closest brew shop, only to find that they are closed on Mondays. Aaaargh! So, I substituted a pound of raw North Carolina honey, instead (at 10 minutes left in the boil). I am also planning on adding a dry hop step to secondary. The recipe calls for Citra hops to be added 1/2 oz at 30 minutes and 1/2 oz at 10 minutes left in the boil. I am a big Citra fan, so I am going to add an ounce in secondary.

Okay, back to the procedures: After the 1 hour mash in, I did my usual “tea bag” style dunking and draining of the bag, using a large pizza screen over the pot for support. I then set up a bottling bucket with 2 gallons of sparge water at about 150F and used the spigot with some hose on it to do an improvised sparge. I’ve used this method that, as far as I know, I made up, a few times and I think it helps a little. This left me with a rather full kettle, so the boil was a challenge and had to be monitored pretty carefully.

The pizza screen was helpful in the tea bag style sparging and in helping keep bugs and debris out.

The pizza screen was helpful in the tea bag style sparging and in helping keep bugs and debris out.

I set timers for my additions and all of that went well. Did my usual ice bath chill and managed to get the temperature of the wort down to about 90F, pretty quickly…good temperature for Belle Saison yeast.

Now, I wanted to use my glass carboy for primary fermentation, so I could have a visual on activity. The problem is getting 7 gallons of wort from a stock pot into a heavy glass 6 gallon carboy using a funnel. I struggled and spilled a bit, trying to figure out a grip and pouring into a small target that filled quickly. I could see that wasn’t going to cut it, so I poured about 3/4 of the wort into the bottling bucket I had used for the sparging, and then went through the spigot and hose into the carboy. Obviously, I was going to have too much wort, so, rather than toss it, I grabbed and sanitized a one gallon carboy and put the rest of the wort into it.

I used my oxygen tank to oxygenate the big carboy for two minutes and the little one for one minute. Between the refractometer reading of 1.048 and the hydrometer reading, corrected for temperature to 1.044, I’m  going to estimate 1.046 OG.* Rather than try to decant my yeast starter, I decided to swirl the flask to mix it well and pitch the whole thing…guesstimating some for the smaller batch. The starter wort used pale DME (Dry Malt Extract), so it shouldn’t hurt the flavor of the beer. The recipe doesn’t give a projected FG, but Belle Saison is pretty aggressive, so I’m betting on around 1.002 for the big batch. So, maybe a 5.78% ABV? I would be happy with that.

Here's the volume of wort I wound up with.

Here’s the volume of wort I wound up with and my flask of starter yeast.

I have no clue what to expect for the one gallon batch, because I’m going to add one pound of fresh cherries to secondary fermentation, rather than dry hopping it, and the sugar in the cherries will surely kick fermentation back into gear. I currently have the whole cherries in the freezer with some vodka. When it comes time to rack the small batch, I’ll crush the cherries into the vodka a little to release some juice and add it all. I’ll probably use a 2 gallon bucket that I use for ciders to do the small batch secondary, so I have a wide opening with which to work.

The recipe calls for a week each for both primary and secondary; however, my Hi-Nelson Saison needed a little over two weeks for primary and then a week for secondary. And the small batch may go longer in secondary. I’ll probably even rack the small batch to a tertiary stage to clarify once it’s off the fruit. Probably back into a glass carboy again so I can judge the clarity.

The big question mark is whether my yeast starter was going to work. The yeast was pitched at 3:15 p.m. and the carboys were set on a heating pad, on the lowest setting. At 6:30, there was no activity evident and the glass felt pretty cool.

Carboys on the heating pad.

Carboys on the heating pad. (Beside some Hi-Nelson Saison with Hibiscus and some Diet Root Beer (Truvia)

I upped the heating pad to medium and wrapped the carboys in a “Space Blanket”. By 9:30 p.m., they were both chugging along in the airlocks…not violently, but good, frequent bubbles every second or two. Success!!! Woo hoo!!!

Heating pad AND Space Blanket...now we're chugging!

Heating pad AND Space Blanket…now we’re chugging!

I cold crashed the hydrometer sample just to see what it looks like and how it tastes at this stage. Obviously malty and sweet at this point, but it seems like it will be nice and clean, light bitterness and the hops should shine through on the main batch and the Belle Saison should add a little spice and funk. The little cherry batch should be really interesting!

Hydrometer sample, cold crashed and easier to get a read. And a taste for evaluation.

Hydrometer sample, cold crashed and easier to get a read. And a taste for evaluation.

*I also let this sample come to room temperature and took another hydrometer reading. at 74.2F and 1.046, adjusted to 1.047, so that will be my new OG to go with. I read the hydrometer with no contacts or glasses and it was much easier to get a good read, so I feel confident with that figure. (An additional refractometer reading, of course, calls it 1.048, so…whatever!) Could be around 6% ABV…anywhere in that  5.75 to 6.05% range is close enough.

For the original version of the recipe, go to this link or cut and paste into your browser:

http://www.danielshomebrew.blogspot.com/2014/01/citra-saison.html

Always give credit where due!

Update: Okay…the following morning, the airlocks were fouled. I quickly set up blow offs and the yeast is going at it, big time! Definitely had enough yeast!

 

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Day 131 Making My First Starter!

 

I’m planning on purchasing supplies tomorrow to make a Citra Saison and attend a “class” put on by SouthYeast Labs. So this evening, I’m trying to make a yeast starter from the Belle Saison yeast that I’m hoping to have successfully harvested recently. I prepared a small wort using a half cup of old liquid extra pale liquid malt and a quart of water. I boiled the wort for ten minutes. The SG is about 1.045. After the boil, I cooled the wort to about 85F and transferred it to a sanitized half gallon carboy, into which I had sprinkled about a half teaspoon of yeast nutrient. Of course, all utensils are sanitized.

Small batch of wort plus a little yeast nutrient.

Small batch of wort plus a little yeast nutrient.

The next step was to pour off much of the liquid from the jar of harvested yeast, give the remains a swirl, and add the yeast to the wort. I then used my oxygen tank to oxygenate the wort for about a minute. [Edit: I know know that I should oxygenate BEFORE adding the yeast to keep from breaking up the yeast buds. Thanks, SouthYeast guy! And the SG shouls be between 1.032 and 1.040…mine was a bit over.]

Oxygenating the wort, after pitching the yeast.

Oxygenating the wort, after pitching the yeast.

I then installed an airlock and moved the carboy to a heating pad set on “low”…the same temperature at which the beer will be fermenting. This is supposed to help the yeast acclimate. A short time will tell if the yeast harvest was successful.

Ready for a little yeast building on the warm heating pad.

Ready for a little yeast building on the warm heating pad.

The day before I brew, I plan to cold crash (refrigerate) to get the yeast to flocculate (fall out of suspension), so I can pour off most of the starter wort and pitch mostly yeast (This limits the impact of the starter wort flavor on the beer). I hope this process is successful. I’m a bit anxious…new milestone!

1:00 a.m.  The starter bottle seemed a little cool to the touch, so I wrapped the heating pad around, it like a jacket, so it gets more surface area contact. I also drew off a sample of the Hi-Nelson Saison w/Hibiscus and ran it from the little sample glass to a 12 oz beer glass, back and forth a couple of times to open up the aroma. Nice color, good nose and it drinks like a nice wine in it’s uncarbed state.

Sample of Hi-Nelson Saison w/Hibiscus held to the light.

Sample of Hi-Nelson Saison w/Hibiscus held to the light.

8:30 a.m.   following morning. Encouraging sign…airlock activity on my starter! Now the question is: How do I determine the number of yeast and if I have enough to pitch a 5 gallon batch of beer? Sanitized my oxygen hose and gave the starter about a 30 second infusion.

7:15 p.m.    Sanitized a cap and around the top of the starter carboy and replaced the airlock with the cap, loosely. The starter went into the refrigerator to cold crash. The procedure is supposed to cause the yeast to flocculate (fall to the bottom). So, now the question is: Did enough additional yeast form or should I repeat this step tomorrow and push my brew day back?

12 Noon third day: decided to use some new knowledge from a yeast class and see if I can give my harvested Belle Saison yeast a stronger growth cycle. I have made a new starter wort, added a half teaspoon of yeast nutrient and chilled it down into the mid 80’s F. I oxygenated the new wort. Drained most of the previous starter wort and pitched the yeast into the new wort. I also grabbed a second washed yeast jar from the fridge and drained most of the water off of it, swirled and pitched that yeast. This new batch is in my new flask with sanitized foil on top and set on the heating pad on the lowest setting.

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