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You Get Lazy, You Don’t Document, You Make Something Incredible

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A few months ago, I started a single gallon batch of something similar to “Joe’s Ancient Orange Mead” also know by it’s acronym: JOAM. I say similar, because I know I substituted something, was short on honey…something. I remember when I racked to secondary, I added more honey that I had dissolved into some more water. I don’t know those details or when exactly I started this batch, because I got lazy and didn’t document it here. Probably December sometime is the best I can do.

JOAM is basically a very popular homebrew recipe for a fruit mead. Oranges, plus honey, plus water, plus yeast, plus time, equals JOAM. It’s very simple—even uses bread yeast. Yes, other yeasts have been tried. No, they did not taste better. (That’s the story, anyway. I haven’t compared, but plenty of people have, I guarantee. Here’s the recipe, if you want to give it a try:

Joe’s Ancient Orange Mead

1 gallon batch
* 3 1/2 lbs Clover or your choice honey or blend (will finish sweet)
* 1 Large orange (later cut in eights or smaller rind and all)
* 1 small handful of raisins (25 if you count but more or less ok)
* 1 stick of cinnamon
* 1 whole clove ( or 2 if you like – these are potent critters)
* optional (a pinch of nutmeg and allspice )( very small )
* 1 teaspoon of bread yeast ( now don’t get holy on me— after all this is an ancient mead and that’s all we had back then)
* Balance water to one gallon
Process:

Use a clean 1 gallon carboy

Dissolve honey in some warm water and put in carboy

Wash orange well to remove any pesticides and slice in eights –add orange (you can push ‘em through opening big boy — rinds included — its ok for this mead — take my word for it — ignore the experts)

Put in raisins, clove, cinnamon stick, any optional ingredients and fill to 3 inches from the top with cold water. (Need room for some foam — you can top off with more water after the first few day frenzy)

Shake the heck out of the jug with top on, of course. This is your sophisticated aeration process.

When at room temperature in your kitchen. Put in 1 teaspoon of bread yeast. ( No you don’t have to rehydrate it first– the ancients didn’t even have that word in their vocabulary– just put it in and give it a gentle swirl or not) (The yeast can fight for their own territory)

Install water airlock. Put in dark place. It will start working immediately or in an hour. (Don’t use grandma’s bread yeast she bought years before she passed away in the 90’s)

(Wait 3 hours before you panic or call me) After major foaming stops in a few days add some water and then keep your hands off of it. (Don’t shake it! Don’t mess with them yeastees! Let them alone except it’s okay to open your cabinet to smell every once in a while.

Racking — Don’t you dare
additional feeding — NO NO
More stirring or shaking – You’re not listening, don’t touch

After 2 months and maybe a few days it will slow down to a stop and clear all by itself. (How about that) (You are not so important after all) Then you can put a hose in with a small cloth filter on the end into the clear part and siphon off the golden nectar. If you wait long enough even the oranges will sink to the bottom but I never waited that long. If it is clear it is ready. You don’t need a cold basement. It does better in a kitchen in the dark. (Like in a cabinet) likes a little heat (70-80). If it didn’t work out… you screwed up and didn’t read my instructions (or used grandma’s bread yeast she bought years before she passed away). If it didn’t work out then take up another hobby. Mead is not for you. It is too complicated.

If you were successful, which I am 99% certain you will be, then enjoy your mead. When you get ready to make a different mead you will probably have to unlearn some of these practices I have taught you, but hey— This recipe and procedure works with these ingredients so don’t knock it. It was your first mead. It was my tenth. Sometimes, even the experts can forget all they know and make a good ancient mead.

Enjoy, Joe

 

So, my little gallon has been sitting on the counter in the kitchen for months and it is nice and clear. There’s a little sediment on the bottom. I tried moving it once and the sediment started getting agitated very easily, so when I bottle it, I’m going to need to be careful not to disturb it or siphon any of it.

I carefully took a sample tonight…probably an ounce. I could smell the citrus (and maybe the honey?), but it wasn’t like juice. It was more like the zest. The flavor was the same way. Zest. Citrus oil. Then warmth. Since I didn’t document anything, I have no clue what the ABV is…probably around 13-15%? But it didn’t burn. It was just warming. I think a rest for several months in bottles and, by Thanksgiving and Christmas, this will be a real treat! I’m usually good about documenting everything, I can’t believe I didn’t this time. Lesson learned. Like the title says: “You Get Lazy, You Don’t Document, You Make Something Incredible”. Then you have no way to exactly duplicate it again. Ugh. I will definitely follow the JOAM recipe again!

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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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Tropical Fruit Cider/Mead?

I had some fruit that I needed to use before it was no longer suitable for anything but compost. I bought a couple of star fruits (carombola) and a mango on markdown at the grocery store and I had a couple of pears that were getting overripe. Also on hand were 3 large apples…Gala, I think. Might have been Fuji. I ran all the fruit through my juicer and added the juice of about 1/2 a lime and a dribble of bottled lemon juice, just to keep it all from turning brown. This all equalled about a half gallon of pretty thick juice. So, I added enough water to bring the volume up to a little over a gallon and the SG reading on the refractometer was about 1.022. To bump that up, I added about 12 oz honey mixed with hot water to dissolve. That brought the SG up to about 1.052. I finally settled for an OG of 1.073 after adding 2 cups of white sugar.

I’m in kind of a gray area between cider and melomel (fruit mead). The mix of honey and sugar, plus the relatively low alcohol potential, probably pushes it more toward cider. I also added 1/2 tsp  of pectic enzyme, 1 teaspoon yeast nutrient, and 1 crushed campden tablet. This will sit for 24 hours and then I’ll have to decide what yeast to pitch. Need to think about that one.  The final starting volume looks like approximately 1-1/3 gallons. I’m assuming that I’ll wind up bottling a little under a gallon when finished. I didn’t take any pictures yet…just jumped into it. I’ll snap some tomorrow when I pitch the yeast.

24 hours after adding nutrient, pectic enzyme and Campden tablet.

24 hours after adding nutrient, pectic enzyme and Campden tablet.

Update: Looked over the available yeast at the local home brew shop and decided to try a yeast made by Vintner’s Harvest, simply called Premium Wine Yeast CY17.

C17 Premium Wine Yeast

CY17 Premium Wine Yeast

It says “For full bodied, rich fruity aromatic white/blush and dessert wines. Excellent strain for white country fruit & flower wines.” It does say that it is a slow fermenter, but I’m in no rush. Pitched the yeast early this afternoon…no sign of airlock activity as of 7:45 pm.

6:40 pm  Earlier today, I noticed a slow bubble action in the airlock. This yeast is said to be a slow fermentor…I guess so. It’s definitely not taking off with a rhino fart aggressiveness…but it’s going!

2/10/15 Airlock action seems to have stopped after about 7 days…in fact, may have ceased a day or two ago. There’s no rush, but when I get around to it, I’m going to do the first racking.

 

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Day 123 Finally Bottling Pineapple-Mango Melomel

Setting up to bottle the Pineapple-Mango Melomel. Nice color!

Setting up to bottle the Pineapple-Mango Melomel. Nice color!

I decided it was time to go ahead and bottle the Pineapple-Mango Melomel. It was started on April 3rd, so about 2-1/2 months to this point. I love the color of it, like a golden late harvest Riesling or an ice wine. The ABV is at 15.09%. The flavor is hot with alcohol, but the pineapple is very evident. Hopefully, it will mellow over time and the mango will come out too. I got ten 12 oz bottles to put away for a year and a half or so…maybe November, 2015?

I like the Boulevard Brewery bottle in the foreground.

I like the Boulevard Brewery bottle in the foreground.

I may hold some until Nov./Dec. 2016. I also had enough to fill probably about  9 oz in another bottle, so I added a little bottled water and capped it with my fingers crossed. I used oxygen absorbing crown caps and I marked that last one with a black X. I’ll open that one sometime next Spring just for fun…and hope it isn’t bad!

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Day 116 Opening a Pineapple Tinker, Updates

Pineapple Tinker

Pineapple Tinker

On the evening of December 10, 2013, I began a little experiment with a pineapple, some honey, sugar and brown sugar. It was kind of a melomel, a fruit mead, but it wasn’t sweetened entirely with honey. As my little experiment progressed, I included some vanilla bean and some untoasted American oak chips. I called it Pineapple Tinker. As the pineapple was fermenting, I was discouraged, because it smelled AWFUL. I was sure that it was going to have to be thrown out. With a little research, I found others  that had similar feelings about their fermenting pineapple, but had waited and were amazed at how good it turned out to be. So, I decided to stick it out.

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According to my notes, the OG was 1.112 and the FG was 1.000. That would make a 14.70% ABV final product. Is that even possible with S-04 yeast?! I would have thought the yeast would have died off before that. If there’s that much alcohol in this Tinker, that’s dangerous! There’s no burn…maybe a little warmth lingering in the throat. Anyway, bottled this small batch on January, 20, 2014. What I have now, is a beautiful pale yellow crystal clear color with a definite pineapple aroma. It is very well carbonated with fine, Champagne-like bubbles, a dry, but not bone dry, clean pineapple flavor. A little more sweetness in this would be nice, but I’m pretty impressed! All honey for sweetening would have been nice. And maybe back sweetening with a little something non-fermentable would have been a good addition, but for a first “Tinker”, I’m happy!

Still no real sign of life in the pineapple tepache. Pineapple-mango melomel should be an interesting contrast to the Tinker…it continues to carboy condition. And the American Wheat RyePA is at a crawl in primary fermentation. I did get some vodka today and zested two lemons and two oranges…combined in a covered storage container in the fridge until ready to go to secondary with the RyePA. That should happen over the weekend, sometime.

Ready to cover and refrigerate.

Ready to cover and refrigerate.

Citrus to be zested and vodka for soaking, sanitizing and extracting flavors.

Citrus to be zested and vodka for soaking, sanitizing and extracting flavors.

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Day 112 IPA Sample and Soda Bug Progress

Major Nelson's IPA test bottle.

Major Nelson’s IPA test bottle.

I chilled my partial “tester” bottle of IPA earlier today. This evening, I opened it and poured it slowly through a cheesecloth lined sieve into a glass. I think that process pulled most of the carb into the head, because there was a big head and little carb. The reason for the filtered pour is because it looked like there were some floaters in the beer. Anyway, the aroma and flavor were both good. I’m looking forward to the final product!

The ginger starter for making soda seems to be coming along okay. I did add more water with the second ginger and sugar addition. I made a third ginger and sugar addition today.

Giving the "bug" a swirly every now and then.

Giving the “bug” a swirly every now and then.

Getting s few bubbles in the "Ginger-Mint Bug" for making soda.

Getting s few bubbles in the “Ginger-Mint Bug” for making soda.

The pineapple-mango melomel continues to carboy condition. All seems steady…nice and clear…pretty color. Maybe another month to bottling.

Pineapple-Mango Melomel (Fruit mead). Look at that color!

Pineapple-Mango Melomel (Fruit mead). Look at that color!

I’m hoping to brew this weekend…maybe tomorrow. I’d like to do a Scotch Ale, but the fermentation temperature requirements may be too low for me to control. I’ll consult the home brew shop…maybe a rye of some kind?

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Day 102 Tepache at 48 Hours, Updates on Others

(Pineapple) Tepache at 48 hours.

(Pineapple) Tepache at 48 hours.

 

Okay, at 48 hours, I am just barely starting to see minimal signs of fermentation beginning in my tepache. The liquid is very sweet and dark from the piloncillo, raw Mexican sugar.

If I want this to be alcoholic at all, I need to let it go longer. I have been doing some reading and have heard others talk of allowing their tepache to ferment from a week to over a month. Some say that it will tern to a spiced pineapple vinegar if you leave it in the refrigerator for a long time. The home brewer that let his ferment for over a month, like a beer wort in primary fermentation, said his fermented out dry and tart. So, it sounds like the trick is to check it regularly until it is the flavor you prefer. For me, I’m guessing about a week.

I’ve also heard people debate adding beer to the mix. Several said they did not prefer it…some said it was too bitter. I still think I want to try it with my strawberry blonde. It isn’t too hoppy or bitter, but I think it might cut the sweetness a bit. I’m estimating Sunday or Monday will be in the range to take the next step. That will be to strain, add some water and a beer and then let it go until around Wednesday? Then, it’s into a pitcher in the fridge.

Moving on to my longer term projects. The pineapple-mango melomel is nice and clear and conditioning in a one gallon glass carboy with very little head space. I’m going to let that continue…I don’t know…another 6 or 7 weeks? My plan is to then bottle it and age until the Fall of 2016. That’s a looooong term little project.  The other in-process project is another Murray’s Super Easy Cider, 1/2 gallon. It seems to be going slowly, but it keeps going. I can still see little bubbles at the top of the cider and rising from the bottom. The liquid is pretty clear, so as soon as it stops with the bubbles, I’ll get it bottled.

Pineapple-Mango Melomel (left) and Super Easy Murray's Cider (right)

Pineapple-Mango Melomel (left) and Super Easy Murray’s Cider (right)

I’m hoping to participate in the “Big Brew” this weekend, which will coincide with a national event. I plan on doing an all grain BIAB IPA (India Pale Ale). I’m looking forward to that!

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