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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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Day 81 Racking the Blondes!

Racking from PFB to secondary glass carboy.

Racking from PFB to secondary glass carboy.

I started off the day with some cleaning and sanitizing chores and had my blondes racked to secondary before 10 a.m. I opened the box with my new 6 gallon glass carboy in it, took it out, washed it and sanitized it. Next, I fitted it with the nylon brew carrier and prepared an airlock.

For the strawberry blonde, I sanitized around the airlock and I prepared a hose to fit the spigot (primary fermentation was done in a bottling bucket). With the strawberry blonde on a table and the new carboy on the floor, I attached the hose to the spigot and dropped the other end down in the glass carboy. Next, I removed the airlock from the lid of the bottling bucket, so a vacuum would not be created. I opened the spigot and let the strawberry blonde flow into the carboy.

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I do like seeing the liquid in the glass…last time was with my little pineapple experiment, “Pineapple Tinker”…which is still bottle conditioning. The convenience of the spigot on the bottling bucket is nice, but siphoning isn’t so bad.

Strawberry blonde, racked to secondary for clarification.

Strawberry blonde, racked to secondary for clarification.

The strawberry blonde has an interesting pinkish color to it; however, it is very murky at this point. I am very interested in what the beer will look like when it (hopefully) clears. I did manage a sample to double check the SG and it is dead on 1.010 according to the hydrometer, so that should be an FG of 1.011 with adjustment for temperature, assuming no further fermentation in secondary.  Never one to pass the opportunity to taste a hydrometer sample, I indulged to further educate my beginner’s palate! The flavor is…interesting, at this point. I would not expect a burst of fresh strawberry flavor. It definitely tastes of fermented fruit…sort of  a musty, winey flavor. From what I have read from other’s experiences, I’m hopeful that this flavor will clean up and back down a little with clarification and bottle conditioning. I do get some hop bitterness, but not overpowering…it’s there right at the front and then again in the finish. I think I’m getting kind of a strawberry jam-like aroma…nice.

The trub in the strawberry blonde PFB looked nasty…but then, they always do. This batch with the strawberries, though, was weird…it was like a strawberry vampire had sucked the color out of them!

Mmm...fermented strawberries!

Mmm…fermented strawberries!

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After some cleaning chores to finish up the strawberry blonde process for today, I turned my attention to the “Plain Jane” blonde. For this one, I prepared and sanitized another 2 gallon primary fermentation bucket (PFB) and airlock. I also sanitized a hose and my siphon, since there is no spigot on the PFB’s. When I opened the bucket, the plain blonde was, not unexpectedly, more clear than the strawberry blonde.

Plain Jane Blonde in PFB

Plain Jane Blonde in PFB

I siphoned into the new PFB and noted that the color looked good. Being an extract brew, it is a dirty blonde…but who doesn’t like their blonde to be dirty? (Ahem) Moving along. I am missing my little racking tip that helps keep the end of the siphon tube off of the bottom of the bucket, so I had to be careful not to pick up any trub off the bottom. Thankfully, the trub (lees?) was pretty thick and settled. Would it be the correct use of the terminology to say that the trub had excellent “flocculation”? Anyway, siphoning was a snap and i was able to drag my finger through about 1/3 to 1/2 in sludge on the bottom without the path collapsing on itself for several seconds.

Plain Jane trub

Plain Jane trub

I did not want to waste any of this beer on hydrometer sampling, since it’s only about a gallon and a half, but it looked and smelled good. Sealed the lid and installed the airlock and finished my clean-up duties.

I’m betting that the strawberry blonde will take longer to clear than Plain Jane, but I will probably wait to bottle them both at the same time, for convenience. Stay tuned! Next brew will be a Chocolate Milk Stout with Costa Rican cocoa nibs and husks and lactose.

7:45 p.m.   Drinking a Citra Citrus American Wheat. This has got to be my greatest addition to the world of brewing to date! Everything is just right…aroma, color, bitterness, citrus …everything. This one MUST be done again. Soon.

Citra Citrus American Wheat...oh YES!!!

Citra Citrus American Wheat…oh YES!!!

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Day 74 American Wheat Still in Secondary, Tasting Murray’s

I still have my American Wheat with Citrus/Citra in secondary sitting on dried sweet orange peel and rum soaked lemon zest. I am planning on letting that go another week.

The highlight tonight is tasting Murray’s Super Easy Cider for the first time. I fermented a half gallon (in the glass carboy in came in) and got a 12 oz bottle and two 22 oz bottles out of it. The ABV is around 5-1/4%. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I heard a little carb release upon opening the bottle! At this point, the cider has been in the bottle for about 3 weeks. The color is nice and golden, the clarity is great, and the flavor is fairly sweet with a bunch of apple flavor.

Murray's Super Easy Cider

Murray’s Super Easy Cider

The carb is light, but present and the cider is dangerously easy to drink! The aroma is straight apple cider and the flavor barely tastes fermented. I will be doing more of this and multiple jugs at a time!  It is literally about sanitizing equipment and pitching yeast. Add an airlock and a week and …boom! Rack for a couple days and bottle. Love it!

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Day 63 Final Racking for Murray’s and Pineapple Tinker

Racking between carboys

Racking between carboys

I decided to go ahead and rack the Murray’s Super Easy Cider off of the lees and rack the Pineapple Tinker off of the untoasted American Oak chips.

The Murray’s is fairly clear, but with a fair amount of lees. I’m going to let that settle for a couple of days and it should be ready to bottle. The SG on it is currently 1.014. I’m just a few ounces short of a half gallon.

Murray's Super Easy Cider

Murray’s Super Easy Cider

The Pineapple Tinker is pretty clear, also. I am basically just removing the oak and, like the apple cider, just needs a couple of days to settle and then I’ll bottle it, too. I have a full half gallon plus about another 6 oz. I don’t like leaving too much air space in a bottle, but it is just for a couple of days. The SG on the Pineapple Tinker is 1.000 and it tastes very light and has no alcoholic burn at all. After the first racking, I never would have thought this stuff would ever be palatable, if I had not heard others express the same experience with theirs!

Pineapple Tinker

Pineapple Tinker

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Day 61 Nut Brown Ale Chugging in Primary

The nut brown ale is going to town! The blow off is working great. I don’t see anything in the tube, so I may not have needed it; however, the bubbling is less than a second apart…so, didn’t hurt. This is my first experience with Nottingham dry yeast…seems to be effective!

On the cider and melomel fronts…nothing much to report.  Added oak last night to the Pineapple Tinker. Shouldn’t have to do anything there again for a few days. The Murray’s cider is still bubbling at about a minute intervals. It’s not strong action and never has been, but keeps going. I should have rehydrated the yeast, I guess. Some is clinging in the neck of the carboy. I think I used plenty of yeast and the OG was 1.050, so I don’t think adding sugar or other fermentables would have boosted anything but the alcohol, in the long run. Again, I was going for a simple as possible to see how easy it could possibly be. Rehydrating the yeast would still be simple, but I don’t know if that would speed the process up overall…other than the initial start of the fermentation. Anyway I’m going to just let it go a few more days. I want to get it off the lees, but I don’t want to jump the gun either.

I didn’t get the wiesse beer brewed today. Brewing two days in a row?  That’s just crazy! Maybe tomorrow…just had a nagging headache today. Got some other things done off the “to do” list, though. I should be able to brew within the next couple of days.

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Day 40 Stout Racking, Checking Cider Batch #4

6:00 pm   Dry Stout batch SG is still reading 1.012 at 69F. Decided to rack to carboys.

From primary (bottling bucket) to carboys

From primary (bottling bucket) to carboys

I filled two 1 gallon carboys and partially filled an amber growler. The color is excellent!

2 gallons plus a growler up to the green pen cap.

2 gallons plus a growler up to the green pen cap.

Another few drops sampled after the hydrometer check was good. If the SG, after adjusting for hydrometer calibration, stays at 1.013 and the OG was 1.037, then the ABV will be 3.15%. If it drops to 1.010, it would be 3.54%. Low, either way, but satisfying and a good session brew. When I racked the stout, I saw an airlock bubble, but they were few and far between. The SG didn’t change since yesterday, so we’re probably going to stay at 1.013. I’m going to bottle either tomorrow or Tuesday, depending on when I have time. My big hope now is for appropriate carbonation, good body and a nice head. Lees were pretty thick. The partial growler amount may have a bit left in it. I’ll be careful when I rack for bottling.

Bottom of the primary

Bottom of the primary

10:30 pm   Drank some stout previously home brewed by an aquaintence.

Barely perceptible "stout 'stache". The real thing kind of masks it.

Barely perceptible “stout ‘stache”. The real thing kind of masks it.

He gave us 2 bottles last week and this was the second. It was good. From what I have tasted of my batch, I think it is going to be similar. I hope so! What we were given was brewed by a very experienced home brewer.

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Flip-top test bottle…not yet pasteurized. Just starting to detect some carb!

I just opened my flip-top test bottle of cider batch #4 and  checked on it. I heard a little “pfft” when I popped it. I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t get my hopes up. I poured a very small amount and tasted it and…woo hoo! There was a *little* detectable effervescence! The flavor is good…a little sweetness and apple flavor, but not yeasty. If this one carbs up some more, it will be the best yet! (This is the one that has mostly crabapple, but also has Fuji apple juice, commercial Murray’s Cider, a little brown sugar and a little honey in it.

Now, the trick is going to be figuring out if I need to pasteurize it or if it will ever carb enough to worry about it. The flip top has been de-pressurized about 3 times now for testing. The question is: are the capped bottles more carbed than the flip-top? The reasonable expectation is that they would be, but how much more? At some point, I’ll need to open one and see. They are 22 oz bottles, though and I don’t want to waste more than one, if possible. Well, okay, I won’t be wasting it. I will drink it! But you know what I mean. If these don’t get a lot of carbonation, I might just stick them in the refrigerator when I think they’re ready. Maybe outside overnight on a cold night to “cold crash” and then into the fridge. The headline of the story is that there’s a glimmer of sparkly hope!

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Day 38 Airlock Slowing on Dry Stout (and tasting some stuff!)

8:30 am   The airlock on my Dry Stout batch is slowing to about a bubble every 10 seconds. Getting there! Another 2 or three days and it should be ready to rack to bottle. I’m debating racking to carboys first for clarity. I probably will…let it sit for a few hours and then add priming sugar to a clean bottling bucket and rack on top of that and bottle the stout. I’m thinking Christmas is too early to drink this one…New Year’s Eve is going to be a little early too. I think sampling will begin in mid January.

2:00 pm   I checked intervals between airlock bubbles on the stout in primary fermentation and both times I counted exactly 37. Odd number to come up with, but there ya go. Note: Everything I read says that airlock bubbles are not an indication of fermentation and that the only way to truly tell your beer has finished fermenting is to check the specific gravity. If it hasn’t changed in two days, then it’s ready. Personally, I can’t help but see the airlock bubbles as a pretty good indicator. I really don’t want to expose my brew to open air any more than necessary. If the SG is in expected target range once bubbles have subsided for a couple days, I feel pretty confident.

3:30 pm   Opened the flip top test bottle of cider batch #4. I thought I heard a little release when I popped the top, but I could not detect any carbonation in the small sample that I poured. The sweetness and flavor are very nice, though. I guess I can let it go for awhile before I check it again.

8:30 pm   Well, it IS Friday night, so I decided to pop a top on a Fawlty Brown Ale. It has had another week in the bottle since I last tried one. It was in a back room, where the temperature was in the upper 60’s and the bottle felt cool, so I went ahead and opened it without additional refrigeration. The carbonation has definitely increased and I think the beer is quite good. More time won’t hurt, but it’s good.

Fawlty Brown Ale...carbonation is better this week.

Fawlty Brown Ale…carbonation is better this week

11:30 pm   Alright, the kids are at sleepovers and I shouldn’t have to go anywhere; so, I pulled out a bottle of Watson’s Cyser. (If I had used the right terminology on the label, it would have been “Watson’s Cider”…say it again…I know; funny, right?)

Watson's Cyser (Actually, a sparkling cider). A bit cloudy, too much lees in the bottle.

Watson’s Cyser (Actually, a sparkling cider). A bit cloudy, too much lees in the bottle.

This cider has actually got positives and negatives. The positives are that it retains some sweetness and some crabapple character and the carbonation is about where I like it. The negatives are that I left a little too much sediment in the bottling. I don’t mind the lack of crystal clarity, but the lees are allowing a bit of a yeasty flavor. IMAG2000Getting it just right is trickier than I thought! I need to rack longer for clarity, but not ferment the sugar all the way out and completely lose the yeast; otherwise, it won’t carb. The experiments are interesting, but I’m glad they aren’t huge batches!

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