Racking Muscadine Wine 2016

Time to make some wine.

Time to make some wine.


Well, I racked the muscadine wine. Unfortunately, one of my plastic carboys in missing in action, so I racked it into my glass one. I added one crushed Campden tablet to the new carboy and away we went…from the bottling bucket in which I did primary fermentation to the glass carboy.

Racking to the carboy.

Racking to the carboy.

My carboy is over 5-1/2 gallons and racking left me a little under 5 gallons. In order to prevent oxidation, I topped off with about 1.25 gallons of Culligan bottled water. I know it will drop the alcohol a bit and dilute the wine, but I actually want something lighter than the wine from last couple of years. I might even backsweeten a little after fermentation is complete and the wine is stabilized.

Nice color. Topped up with Culligan bottled water.

Nice color. Topped up with Culligan bottled water.

The color is nice…a kind of purple version of a rose’. The flavor still has a little muscadine flavor. I’m hoping when conditioning is done and I backsweeten and bottle, I will have an easy-drinking wine that will be a “half-sweet” wine that will be ready to drink in a year.

Update 10/18/16: Okay, I racked the wine off of the lees and it’s really nice and clear. I wound up with a little under a half of a gallon excess…might use it to experiment with backsweetening. Also took a hydrometer sample…looks like 1.001, after adjusting for temperature. So, it’s pretty dry, at the moment. Once I’m sure it’s stable and won’t start fermenting again, I’ll adjust the sweetness. I did add another crushed Campden tablet to hopefully achieve stabilization…it may take an overnight outside on a cold night…but there’s plenty of time. I’d just rather not add Campden after this point. A quick sip reveals that it doesn’t taste bone dry, which is good! And it’s a light body. This one may actually be ready to drink next Summer.


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.


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.


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.



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.


Day 154 Brew Day! Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale

Samhain label...no artist to credit, but it's beautiful!    Not for sale, so I guess it's okay.

Samhain label…no artist to credit, but it’s beautiful! Not for sale, so I guess it’s okay.

After I picked up a new oxygen canister and some bags of ice, I set up for brewing my Scottish Pumpkin Ale that I’m calling “Samhain”, which is the Celtic version of Halloween and is pronounced “so-win”.

The recipe is a modification of a Scottish Ale recipe from a member at www.Homebrewtalk.com. I put the recipe together like this (but note the changes as I brewed!):

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale

Original Gravity: 1.068 Final Gravity: 1.019 ABV (standard): 6.49%

IBU (tinseth): 30.47 SRM (morey): 19.58


Amount Fermentable PPG °L Bill %

14 lb United Kingdom – Maris Otter Pale 38 3.75 73.7%

1 lb American – Caramel / Crystal 80L 33 80 5.3%

0.75 lb United Kingdom – Brown 32 65 3.9%

4 oz Molasses 36 80 1.3%

3 lb Dry Malt Extract – Light 42 4 15.8%***

19 lb Total


Amount Variety Type AA Use Time IBU

1 oz East Kent Goldings Pellet 5 Boil 60 min 19.79

0.5 oz Fuggles Pellet 4.5 Boil 60 min 8.91

0.5 oz Fuggles Pellet 4.5 Boil 5 min 1.78

Hops Summary

Amount Variety Type

1 oz East Kent Goldings Pellet 5

1 oz Fuggles Pellet 4.5

Mash Guidelines

Amount Description Type Temp Time

5.5 gal BIAB Infusion 158 F 60 min

2 gal modified sparge Fly Sparge 168 F —

Other Ingredients

Amount Name Type Use Time

29 oz Pumpkin, canned, roasted 30 minutes at 425F,  Boil 15 min

29 oz Pumpkin, canned, roasted Other Secondary 0 min

2 tbsp Pumpkin Pie Spice Spice Boil 0 min

1 each Vanilla Bean, split Flavor Secondary —

2 oz Vodka, to soak vanilla bean Other Secondary —


White Labs – Edinburgh Scottish Ale Yeast WLP028

Attenuation (avg): 72.5% Flocculation: Medium

Optimum Temp: 65 – 70 °F Starter: Yes

Fermentation Temp: 70 °F Pitch Rate: 1.25 (M cells / ml / ° P)

393 B cells required (Guess…I have no experience calculating this.)


Method: Corn Sugar CO2 Level: 2.4 Volumes

Target Water Profile: Cary Town Water

Method: BIAB

Style: Holiday/Winter Special Spiced Beer

Boil Time: 60 min

Batch Size: 5 gallons (fermentor volume)

Boil Size: 7.5 gallons

Boil Gravity: 1.045 (recipe based estimate)

Efficiency: 35% (brew house)*** 

Source: Matt Miller

Non-grain fermentables added at 60 minutes.

Irish Moss added at 15 minutes.


***So, there were a couple of issues that required some changes. The efficiency that was the default in the recipe builder for Brew in a Bag (BIAB) brewing was 34%  and I evidently get double that.

Sparging...kind of.

Sparging…kind of.

Set up for a rigged "sparge". Seems to do the job.

Set up for a rigged “sparge”. Seems to do the job.

After the mash, I had an SG of 1.075, which was already better than projected and I had not yet added the 3 lbs of DME I thought I would need to add to the boil…so I omitted it entirely.

The process went smoothly. If anyone is interested, there are other posts that go through the process. The color is really nice!

Nice color!

Nice color!

Sorry the photos aren’t better…*someone* took my camera to use at a Demi Lovato concert and didn’t bring it back in time. I had to use my phone’s camera. I did chill the wort down to 76F, using an ice bath.

Ice bath chill

Ice bath chill

Then I pulled a sample, oxygenated the wort for 2 minutes using a sanitized oxygen canister and “oxygen stone” set-up and pitched my Edinburgh Ale Yeast (that I harvested from a previous batch of cider). I had prepared a starter for the yeast in advance and it was very active. I don’t have experience with “pitch rates”, but I believe I have plenty of yeast cells for the job. Since the volume I wound up with is about 6 gallons, in a standard fermentation bucket, and I have seen this yeast ferment very aggressively, I went ahead and set up a blow-off tube  to keep from fouling the airlock.  The yeast was pitched around 5:10 pm. As of 9:45 pm, I’m hearing a little action in the blow-off tube.

Blow-off tube.

Blow-off tube.

Now, aside from the process, let’s talk about the sights, smells, and flavors! I made my own pumpkin pie spice blend, using cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. I did freshly grate the nutmeg. Also, the ginger has been around along time, so I supplemented it with a little grated fresh ginger. I roasted a can of Libby’s Pumpkin, spread on some parchment paper, on a baking sheet, at 425F for about 30 minutes. It wasn’t particularly pretty, but it picked up a few dark spots from caramelization and lost a lot of water. I kept the pumpkin in a sanitized storage container until I was ready for it.

Roasted, canned pumpkin

Roasted, canned pumpkin

The wort took on a great brown color with a dark orange-ish shade to it. Really nice! And the aroma and flavor from the pumpkin and spices are very good, too. I think this is going to be a VERY good beer.

Using the hydrometer sample, the OG came in at 1.083 and, if the attenuation rate is accurate, the ABV will be 7.91%; however, in my experience, the SG isn’t going to stop at 1.023…so, the ABV will likely be over 8%. And, this sample was also the basis for the flavor and color evaluations.

Hydrometer sample...settling a little.

Hydrometer sample…settling a little.

An update on the ciders and muscadine wine: the wine is basically bulk aging and clearing nicely. I’ll eventually rack it…maybe a couple more weeks, and let it go a few months, before I bottle it. The Caramel Cider made with crab apples and Cripps apples is pretty much bulk, aging as well. It did have a little airlock activity going on for a while after racking…not regular or often, though. It has almost stopped now, I think, so I’ll probably rack that a final time in about a week. Maybe bottling in two weeks. The crab apple, pear and Cripps apples cider…no name for it yet…is still bubbling pretty regularly in the airlock. It probably won’t be bottled for a month.

I think I’m learning that it pays to take a little extra time. Excess sediment in the bottom of bottles seems to be messing with my carbonation after bottles have been around for a couple of months. And I like my ciders to have very good clarity…not as huge a deal for all beers, but some. (For instance, wheat beers are actually supposed to be a little hazy.) So, slow down…get it right. Give it another week. It can only help!

Update: 9/15/14  Getting very good action in the blow-off on the Samhain Pumpkin Ale. It hasn’t fouled and it isn’t quite what I have heard some describe as “Rhino farts”, but it is almost constant bubbling.

Update:  9/15/14  Opened the test bottle of the caramel cider to see what it’s doing. No carb at all. The ABV is a hefty 10.89%, though and the flavor is nice. Color is good. Finished product will be more clear.  Alcohol may have pushed the Edinburgh Ale yeast past its tolerance…may have to explore options, if I want to carb.

Caramel Cider tester bottle...no carb; lots of alcohol.

Caramel Cider tester bottle…no carb; lots of alcohol.