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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 163 Tasting Fermentation Samples

 

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale, just a little evidence of activity on top.

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale, just a little evidence of activity on top.

This evening, I replaced the blow-off tubes on the fermentation bucket and one gallon carboy of McQuinn’s Robust Porter. While I was at it, I decided to take a small sample of the  Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale and the porter. I am trying to continue learning to evaluate the potential of a beer “in process” by looking at, smelling and tasting  samples. It continues to be a challenge, as I learn how the different styles of beer are supposed to look, taste, and smell.

I am more familiar with some than others. I have preferences that affect my evaluation. These are challenges that I need to work on. For instance, I have never had a Scottish pumpkin ale. I have had a few pumpkin ales and a couple of Scottish Ales, but not enough of either to evaluate them beyond my own opinion. The same goes for the porter. I don’t think I have had a porter since I started homebrewing. I have brewed a couple of stouts and a couple of nut brown ales, but this is my first porter. And the stouts and browns were extract brews, not whole grain.

That being said, the Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale looks like it will be okay to bottle this weekend. There was just a little evidence of fermentation…just about done. (see above photo) The color is a nice amber and it appears to be fairly clear.

Scottish pumpkin ale sample held to light. Nice.

Scottish pumpkin ale sample held to light. Nice.

The alcohol is forward in the smell and flavor; however, the aroma has a nice spice component and the flavor and body are very good. I expect the alcohol warmth will tone down in the bottle conditioning process and the flavor will shine through a little more. The spice and pumpkin are not overpowering, but are well balanced. Now I just have to imagine getting the carb right. So, while I don’t have any experience tasting a Scottish pumpkin ale, I can reasonably predict that this brew should be pretty amazing. (I hope I’m right!)

As for McQuinn’s Robust Porter, I’ve done a little research on the style and I think I have an idea what it should be like when ready to drink. At this point though, with only a few days in fermentation, it’s hard to make a judgement. I think the color is in the right range, the aroma is pretty good…I get the roasty grains.

Porter with a little light...obviously still murky. But it's promising!

Porter with a little light…obviously still murky. But it’s promising!

A small sample of McQuinn's Robust Porter.

A small sample of McQuinn’s Robust Porter.

I enjoyed the taste, but it’s so early, it’s hard to get where it will end up. I feel pretty confident that it will from the one gallon glass carboy, using a sanitized baster, without the rubber bulb. When I opened the top, the was a mass, resulting from the krausen, in the neck that appears to have drained and dried out somewhat. When I tried to go through it for the sample, it dropped into the beer. I assume it will disintegrate and settle as part of the trub.

I still have my crab apple/pear/apple cider bulk aging  and I anticipate that continuing for a couple of months. I also have my muscadine wine bulk aging and I think I may be bottling that within a week or two.

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