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Kombucha Experiment

This is what I am experimenting with to see if I can grow a SCOBY. I am in no way affiliated with this brand of soda...but the root beer is interesting!

This is what I am experimenting with to see if I can grow a SCOBY. I am in no way affiliated with this brand of soda…but the root beer is interesting!

Kombucha…odd sounding. And when you hear the description, it’s gets kind of weird. So, you brew up some sweet tea, right? Okay, any good Southerner would be good with that. Then, you take something called a “SCOBY” (or affectionately referred to as the “mother”) and you chuck some of that in the tea. It looks like a slimey, spongy, white mass floating on the top of a previous batch of kombucha. SCOBY stands for “Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria/Yeast”. Mmm MMM!!! So, then you cover with cheesecloth and a rubber band, let that ferment for a while, eating the sugar in the tea, and BOOM! You have a tangy, fermented tea drink with lots of healthy probiotics, like yogurt does, but even better! Are you still with me? Okay, then you start a new batch, throw your SCOBY in and put your Kombucha in clean jars in the fridge…or you can add a little more sugar and seal and let ferment at room temperature and you get kombucha soda! Here’s a Wikipedia link, if you want more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kombucha

Disclaimer! There are some risks with fermented products. Please read the Wikipedia article and, especially if you have any ongoing health issues or possible medication interactions, please, please consult your doctor before making and consuming any fermented products! And always sanitize the crap out of EVERYTHING! Constantly!!! Okay, moving along….

I have to admit, I’m not a big tea drinker. Never really cared for iced tea. But green tea is pretty mild and I like experimenting with fermented things, so here we go! I found a “LIVE Soda” at a store today. This brand is a “raw, organic, kombucha soda and comes in a few flavors. I decided to try a root beer flavor. The bottle instructs you to not shake…besides spewing all over you…it would disturb the dregs that have settled on the bottom of the bottle. That’s what I’m going to use to attempt to generate my own SCOBY. I have read that using a bottled product is not usually successful because of some change that was made in much of the industry a few years ago; however, this brand doesn’t seem to have any additives and its raw/organic status gives me hope. If it doesn’t work, I can go to my local home brew shop and pick up a starter for $8 and salvage my experiment.

What I did was, I brewed 8 teabags of green tea in 3 cups of Culligan bottled water from the “hot” side of my dispenser. (You could bring water to a boil for 10 minutes to sanitize, if you don’t have a hot water spigot/bottled water dispenser and then add your teabags). Next, I added a cup of sugar to a sanitized 1 gallon carboy. A wide mouth gallon jar would be better for removing the SCOBY, but I didn’t have one. Anyway, I poured the hot tea onto the sugar in the carboy and then topped up to a little under a gallon, leaving room for the mother to grow. The cold water brought the temperature down to about 90F (checked with a sanitized pocket thermometer). I put some ice in a mixing bowl and added some cold tap water and put the carboy in the bring the temperature down, so I wouldn’t kill off the SCOBY critters.

Green tea, sugar...bring the temperature down.

Green tea, sugar…bring the temperature down.

Then, I poured off about 2/3 of the LIVE Soda into a glass to drink…the rest was then swirled to suspend the dregs in the remaining soda, and poured into the tea. I topped the jar with a piece of sanitized cheesecloth and a rubber band and now we wait to see if it works.

Let's see what happens!

Let’s see what happens!

It will probably be a month, give or take a week, to know if a SCOBY is going to form. If it does, the next batch should go faster.

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Opening a Bottle of Muscadine Wine

Opening my first bottle of  Muscadine Wine!

Opening my first bottle of Muscadine Wine!

I was not really planning on opening a bottle of my first wine until at least August and maybe Thanksgiving. It’s a muscadine wine made from foraged wild grapes. Now, this isn’t the typical Southern sweet muscadine wine. A previous taste, at bottling, was fairly dry and had a nice deep blush color with a light body. With a 16.01% ABV, it was a little boozy. Muscadine wine is not generally considered a wine to age indefinitely, so I just decided I want to try one. I’m also going to take a bottle to my mother to try and she’s almost 85 years old…so why wait!? But I want to try it before I give any away. It’s a Friday night though…and I’ve been drinking beer…so 12 oz of 16% ABV wine might be a wise move! I may just do a small pour and recap and refrigerate the rest. The wine was started on August 20th of 2014 when I picked the wild grapes. Bottling was about 2 months later, on October 22, 2014. The wine has been in the bottle for about3-1/2 months.

Pretty blush color, high alcohol, nice aroma and finish, light body.

Pretty blush color, high alcohol, nice aroma and finish, light body.

So…after a small pour, swirl, smell and taste…dang! Not bad! I don’t think I would be able to identify this as a muscadine wine. Perhaps a person with a trained palate could. It’s still a little young, maybe. I’m not a wine person. I have some experience with Reislings and Rhine wines from Germany…a little Merlot, a little Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon…but not to the point that I would consider myself competent to critique any wine. My best attempt would be to say that it’s still a little boozy up front, but the aroma and the finish are pretty nice. I’ll see what Mom thinks…and then I’ll seek some more opinions this Fall. Cheers!

 

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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 100!!! Racking Pineapple-Mango Melomel for Bulk Conditioning

Clear pineapple-mango melomel...but concerned about head space.

Clear pineapple-mango melomel…but concerned about head space.

The Pineapple-Mango Melomel cleared quickly after the last racking, a few days ago. It looked like the right time to rack it off the rest of the sediment and begin the longer bulk conditioning in a one gallon glass carboy.

Sediment left after racking.

Sediment left after racking.

I was pretty careful to keep the racked melomel nice and clear. The issue, though, is that the volume in the carboy is down to the shoulder. I really don’t want to have that much head space for a long time. I did siphon off another pint and I covered it and stuck it in the refrigerator to see how it looks when it settles.

a pint that needs to settle and see if it's worth trying to salvage any to add to the carboy.

a pint that needs to settle and see if it’s worth trying to salvage any to add to the carboy.

If it looks worthwhile, I will try to carefully pour it off into another sanitized  container. If I’m successful with that, I’ll add it to the carboy through a sanitized funnel. That should reduce the head space considerably. If that does NOT work out, I’ll seek suggestions from some experienced mead makers online. Adding water is probably not a good idea. Maybe re-rack to a half gallon carboy and a smaller bottle or two? We’ll see in a day or two. The Murray’s Super Easy Cider #3 continues to slowly progress through primary fermentation. Update: evening, same day. The Pineapple-Mango Melomel the I had in a pint jar in the fridge cleared, so I poured it off and added it to the carboy.

Cleared a little more melomel.

Cleared a little more melomel.

I also did some reading and it sounds like adding a little water to close the head space is acceptable. I sanitized a glass measuring cup and used it for the transfer of the additional melomel…then I sanitized it again and used bottled water to top off the carboy. The amount of water added was only about a cup, so it shouldn’t really affect the SG/ABV much at all.DSC04560

Nice, close head space.

Nice, close head space.

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Day 99 Racking the Pineapple-Mango Melomel

Pineapple-Mango Melomel, ready to rack out of primary fermentation.

Pineapple-Mango Melomel, ready to rack out of primary fermentation.

I racked the Pineapple-Mango Melomel today. Because there was so much pulp in the liquid, I put a small, fine-meshed bag over the siphon tip.

Siphon tip with mesh bag.

Siphon tip with mesh bag.

This worked well, to a point. Unfortunately, when I got about 2/3 down, the siphoning practically stopped and there was obviously quite a bit of liquid left.

Siphoning with the bag.

Siphoning with the bag.

So, I sanitized a bowl and a grain sock and strained the rest. I then siphoned the rest into the carboy.

I wound up with a nice, full gallon.

One gallon of strained Pineapple-Mango Melomel.

One gallon of strained Pineapple-Mango Melomel.

It’s cloudy, but it should clear eventually. I did get a small sample and stuck it in the refrigerator to clear and chill…I’ll taste it later.

Chilled sample...nice flavor. Good pineapple color.

Chilled sample…nice flavor. Good pineapple color.

I put an airlock on the carboy and I labeled it with the name and today’s date. I was thinking I would be leaving it for several weeks, but after a couple of hours, there are clear layers forming on the bottom. It might be that I let it clear for a week and then rack it again for the longer term.

Sediment layers forming quickly.

Sediment layers forming quickly.

I also checked on the Murray’s Super Easy Cider (third 1/2 gal batch) and it is still seeing action in the airlock, as well as visible action in the bottle. I can see effervescence at the top of the liquid and bits rising from the bottom and falling from the top.  I guess  the cider has several more days to go.

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Day 96 Bottling Pole Vault Pale Ale

Well…this was fun. After having more trub than expected, I thought I would be bottling around 4-1/2 to 4-3/4 gallons. Unfortunately, I made a silly, rookie mistake. When I set up the bottling bucket, I didn’t check to make sure the valve was closed.

siphoning to bottling bucket.

siphoning to bottling bucket.

Oh, yes. That’s right. When the liquid reached the valve, it came pouring out. And worse, I didn’t notice it immediately.

Nice color...only one problem. See that spigot? It's open. Yeah.

Nice color…only one problem. See that spigot? It’s open. Yeah.

So, because of THAT mishap, my 4-3/8 oz of corn sugar is probably going to be too much. Great. Another over-carbonated beer. Well, we’ll see in a month. My yield was 39 twelve oz bottles. (3.656 gallons). What did get bottled, looks good…sample has good color and flavor.

sample, despite the mishap, is good!

sample, despite the mishap, is good!

I think the aroma is good, but Spring allergies are preventing an accurate read on that one. Overall, I’m pleased with my first all-grain effort. The mishap at the end was the only real problem.

I still have some clean-up work to do and it’s almost 10 p.m. I guess I better get to it.

The pineapple-mango mead is still going at a steady pace. About every 5 or 6 seconds, a bubble goes off in the airlock.

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Day 94 Pole Vault Pale Ale SG Check

First, I will mention that the pineapple mead is progressing with a fairly steady airlock bubbling action.

Now, I carefully pulled a sample from the pale ale bucket, using sanitized equipment. The bottom was a little too thick with trub to flow through the spigot, so I had to siphon a sample from the top into a hydrometer sample beaker.

Hydrometer reading, Pole Vault Psale Ale.

Hydrometer reading, Pole Vault Pale Ale.

The SG reading of 1.053, after temperature correction, is right on for the recipe target! So, the FG, is likely to be right on target, giving an ABV of 5.64%.

As you can see from the photo, the color is quite nice.

Pole Vault Pale Ale, nice color.

Pole Vault Pale Ale, nice color.

The sample has an interesting flavor with an aggressive hoppiness and bittering. Seems to be a good one. I’ll rack it tomorrow, from the top, and let it settle another day before bottling.

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