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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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Brew Day: Railer’s Pale Ale

Brew in a Bag set up (BIAB)...draining the grains

Brew in a Bag set up (BIAB)…draining the grains

A friend recently asked if I would be interested in joining her in providing a homebrew for an event. The event is just prior to the local soccer team’s game. The team is the Carolina Railhawks, so I’m making a beer I’m calling Railer’s Pale Ale. Hopefully, my friend will be able to get my beer into a keg and we will set up beside each other to serve our beers. If the keg doesn’t work out, I can always bottle.

I used an online recipe building program, armed with a basic idea that I wanted to use some frozen, vacuum sealed Cascade hops for the bittering/background “canvas”, with a combination of Mosaic and Citra hops for flavor and aroma. The Mosaic add a resinous flavor and the Citra are, surprise! citrusy.

Cascade whole hops that had been vacuum sealed and frozen.

Cascade whole hops that had been vacuum sealed and frozen.

Starting the 60 minute boil with the Cascade hops.

Starting the 60 minute boil with the Cascade hops.

The base grain is an American 2-row. In playing with other grains to get the right alcohol ABV and the right color, I picked a few specialty grains. Then, after a little research, Wyeast American Ale II 1272 “smack pack” for the yeast. At the lower recommended temperature range, it is supposed to produce a clean, crisp result that accentuates the citrus componants. I went ahead and took the yeast out and activated it early on.

I put my recipe out for some fellow brewers to look at, but didn’t get any feedback before I had to go pick-up the ingredients. After I milled the grains and came home, I see a note from an experienced brewer who said I had too much specialty grain (28% of the grain bill) and should cut them in half and make up the difference with more 2-row. Ugh. The comment is that the beer will be too sweet. Well, I’m kind of stuck now. I can’t waste the time or money on buying more grain for a beer that is going to be given away. Ah, well. I hope that the hop selections will help counteract some of the sweetness that I’m being told is going to be there. At the very least, it will be beer, and it should be drinkable. Mine may not be picked by the fans as the best one there, but I’m not expecting to be in that group anyway…I’m probably the novice of the group.

So, without going through all the individual brew steps here, I’ll hit just a few points. The brew went pretty well as far as the step go. The mash temperature was overshot, as I usually do, not matter how careful I try to be. I used a little Culligan water, cold, to bring the temperature down into my target range. And flies and bees started showing up to check out the wort. Really got to be irritating! Otherwise, no problem with my little modified sparge or the boil.

My little modified sparge set-up.

My little modified sparge set-up.

I do need to note, that being a Liberal Arts guy, “brewhouse efficiency” and some of the more technical calculations in the process are pretty much a guessing game for me. I had the efficiency at 63% in the recipe, based on a previous brew that seemed fairly accurate. When I checked the specific gravity (SG) between the mash and the boil, I got 1.054. The post boil gravity was only supposed to be 1.052, so my efficiency was more like 71%. I adjusted it in the recipe, and the end result will be just a little higher alcohol content,,,but not crazy. It will still only be (estimated at this point) 5.15% ABV. That should be fine.

I chilled with an immersion coil. The tap water temperature is 71F, so I knew I wouldn’t get the wort down into the low 70’s.

Stainless steel coil immersion chiller in use.

Stainless steel coil immersion chiller in use.

I managed 83F and transferred to the carboy…started off using siphon, but the whole hops were a challenge and I wound up having to hand-pour about 1/3. A bit messy, but couldn’t be helped.

Siphoning wort into the carboy (on top of my little chest freezer converted to fermentation chamber.

Siphoning wort into the carboy (on top of my little chest freezer converted to fermentation chamber).

I put the wort in my fermentation chamber with an airlock installed, and placed the package of yeast in as well. I let the wort continue to cool for a few hours and then pitched the yeast.

After a couple of hours, I realized the temperature was a little low, so I turned the thermostat up a few degrees and left the lid up on the box to bring the temperture up for awhile. Six hours later, I see the slightest indication that the yeast may be active. A few hours later, I closed the lid to keep the temperature in the range I want, which would be around 65-68F. Now we wait to see if it really takes off…and how it turns out.

Update: 7/23/16    Checked on the progress around noon and we have a good fermentation in progress!

Success!

Success!

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Racking Fluffernutter Sammie Stout to Secondary

Racking the Fluffernutter Sammie Stout.

Racking the Fluffernutter Sammie Stout.

It’s Memorial Day…respect to all who served. I racked my Fluffernutter Sammie Stout to secondary fermentation today. I began by cleaning and sanitizing a carboy and adding my Everclear-soaked vanilla beans to it. Then, I brought a gallon of water to boil and whisked in 2 packages of peanut butter powder, 6.5 oz each, JIF brand. I boiled the peanut water for 10 minutes and then cooled it in a water and ice bath. Once down to about 73 F, I poured it through a sanitized funnel, into the carboy. Next, using a siphon and tube, I racked the beer onto the peanut water and vanilla beans.

I left most of the original trub behind, and wound up with 5-1/2 gallons in the secondary carboy.

5-1/2 gallons into secondary fermentation.

5-1/2 gallons into secondary fermentation.

I took a hydrometer sample after racking and came up with a current SG of  1.031. (Adjusted for sample temperature of about 70 F.) I’m still guessing it may go down to 1.028, but we will see where it is after 10 more days and monitor it from there, to determine when it is ready to bottle.

Hydrometer sample, trub from primary fermentation.

Hydrometer sample,  trub left in primary fermentation.

The color looks nice. The flavor is obviously “in your face” peanut right now. Hopefully, the vanilla will bloom and the peanut will tone down, as anticipated. I may have to up the vanilla, though…possible some extract at bottling. I’ll have to make a judgement call later. So, back into the fermentation chamber…which has been working out very nicely!

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Fluffernutter Sammie Stout Update

Fluffernutter Sammie Stout, out of the fermentation chamber briefly to ease the temp up a bit.

Fluffernutter Sammie Stout, out of the fermentation chamber briefly to ease the temp up a bit.

Update 5/24/2016: An unexpected little run of cooler temperatures had me worried that the beer was not fermenting. I know it did for a couple of days, albeit a bit slowly…never really started “chugging”, but going. Then the cool weather, and my little fermentation chamber is outside. It is only able to cool, not warm, so this could be a problem. Since the overnight low last night was going into the mid to lower 50’s, I decided to bring the carboy inside.

I took a sample and did a temperature and hydrometer reading. The temp was 62.5, so it wasn’t terrible…a little under optimum range, but should not be low enough to have caused any harm. The hydrometer has the specific gravity at 1.030, so it definitely was fermenting. That’s good! Adjusting for the lactose, I think it will likely only go to 1.028 or so.

Hydrometer sample for evaluation...specific gravity, temperature and flavor.

Hydrometer sample for evaluation…specific gravity, temperature and flavor.

The flavor of the sample has my hopes up! The color may be a tad light, but it’s a little darker than the sample shows, because of the camera flash and the particles had not settled out yet. I could definitely taste the peanut flavor, especially in the finish. Nice malty sweetness. After the sample chilled overnight, the peanut flavor is more muted. With that and the consensus from others that the peanut flavor will start fading after a couple of months in the bottles, I do plan to add more peanut powder to secondary via boiling it with water and cooling it…probably a gallon and then racking onto it and the vanilla beans. I’m going to skip the marshmallow Fluff in secondary and rely on the vanilla for that flavor, so I’m not adding much more fermentable sugars. I may try adding some to the boil in a future batch, but not this time. I have a feeling that this beer’s flavor will improve as it loses some of its chill, after pouring.

The temperature on the carboy strip thermometer reads around 66-68F, so I’ll be putting it back in the fermentation chamber later today.

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Brew Day: Fluffernutter Sammie Stout

Set up to brew.

Set up to brew.

 

Finally! For the first time in 7 months, I brewed some beer! I created this recipe months ago and tweaked it some, but just didn’t want to brew again until I was able to control my fermentation temperatures. I have had ongoing issues with over-carbonation and I have had some off-flavors, particularly with darker beers…some are metallic or just very one dimensional. I have addressed everything I can, except fermentation temperature and yeast selection. For this sweet stout, I decided to go with Wyeast 1968. Optimal temperature range is around 64 to 70F. So, instead of my normal household room temperature of around 72F, with wort temps reaching 75 to 78, I now have a small chest freezer with controls to regulate the temperature. I have it set at 63-64F. I’m hoping this will at least help the flavor of the beer. If it helps with the carbonation issue, too, then that would be awesome!

Small chest freezer. Perfect fit for a single carboy and a blow-off container.

Small chest freezer. Perfect fit for a single carboy and a blow-off container.

http://www.brewersfriend.com/homebrew/recipe/view/295261/fluffernutter-sammie-stout

I did have to make some minor changes based on homebrew shop ingredients availability…nothing major. Brew day went very smoothly, except for mash temperature climbing to 160F, instead of 155F. With about 25 minutes left, I removed the insulation/lid and started stirring to lower the temperature. With 10 minutes left, it was down to 156-157.

Brew in a bag...the "mash in".

Brew in a bag…the “mash in”.

My understanding is that the effect would be less fermentable sugars and possibly a little sweeter finish. I also added lactose with 10 minutes left in the boil. The end of the boil was fine, except the OG was high. I have a feeling that the lactose is not figured into the refractometer/hydrometer readings, because otherwise, it looks fine.

The boil is done.

The boil is done.

As a result of being able to drop the temperature to 71-72F, pitch the yeast and drop the carboy in a 64F fermentation chamber, the “take-off” for the yeast was barely noticeable 20 hours later. There was just a ring of bubbles around the top inside of the carboy. Now, at about 26 hours, there is audible bubbling and more visible signs of fermentation.

Controls to convert the freezer to a fermentation chamber.

Controls to convert the freezer to a fermentation chamber.

My concerns, at this point, are whether or not I added enough peanut powder to be noticeable in the final product, and if the vanilla planned for secondary will give the marshmallow flavor. A couple little sips of the wort towards the end of the boil did not really convince me on the peanut powder…and what IS marshmallow flavor? Marshmallows are basically corn syrup, sugar, gelatin, and vanilla. I’ll investigate some more and see if peanut powder can be effectively added during primary or secondary fermentation, as well as exploring the marshmallow flavor a bit more. If I make changes, I will definitely update the recipe. For tonight, it’s reading, while the fermentation builds.

 

 

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Bottling and Corking Muscadine-Blueberry Wine

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First bottle of blueberry-muscadine wine. (I adjusted it a little more after photo to be flush with top of bottle.)

I have 5 gallons of blueberry-muscadine wine that I started in late August of this year (2015). You can read through the previous posts for the process. My previous wine attempt was a straight muscadine wine that was about 2 gallons and just bottled it in beer bottles. So this is my second wine, but, since I had 5 gallons, I decided to go ahead and put it in actual wine bottles with corks!

5 gallon carboy of blueberry-muscadine wine.

5 gallon carboy of blueberry-muscadine wine.

First, since my brief trend is to make wine once a year, I really didn’t want to invest in a corker. Unfortunately, I do not know anyone that has one I could borrow, either. I do, however, have a friend that had the valuable knowledge that a local home brew shop rents a floor model corker for $5/day! I stopped by today and bought 2 cases of green wine bottles (total of 24 bottles), and a 30 count bag of corks.

Floor model wine bottle corker. Easy to use and adjust.

Floor model wine bottle corker. Easy to use and adjust.

I bought #9 corks, because they are for wines expected to be around something like 5 to 7 years. The #7 and #8 corks were for shorter term storage. The blueberry-muscadine wine is fairly light body and about medium on the dry scale…maybe a little more towards dry. I don’t expect it to last for many years, but there’s a chance a few bottles may wind up getting stashed and discovered sometime in the future…so, better to have a little excess time.

I pulled a sample of the wine for the hydrometer test. Checked the temperature. I got an FG (final gravity) of 0.993. The OG (original gravity) of 1.111 means that we have a wine with 15.49% ABV. Really? It’s hidden pretty well! Pretty color, too, by the way.

Hydrometer sample.

Hydrometer sample.

I went ahead and rinsed and sanitized the bottles and my tubing and bottling wand. I researched cork preparation a little and the consensus seems to be that the type of cork I’m using does not need any soaking, boiling, sanitizing, etc. I filled a test bottle and tried the corker. Very easy. And there is a little threaded washer that can fine-tune the depth that the cork is pushed. It was simple to adjust and get the cork flush. I got a yield of exactly 24 bottles,

First of two cases.

First of two cases.

with just a little extra for enjoying tonight.

Nice color...and little sample for the winemaker.

Nice color…and little sample for the winemaker.

I have to say, it’s very satisfying to see my wine in real deal, bona fide wine bottles! Now…how long before I start giving them away? Just a couple weeks until Christmas…maybe hang on to most of them for a year? Oh…and I need to look into labeling. I mean it IS my first wine in corked bottles, after all!

 

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Bottling There Gose Sea Breeze and Wine Update

Racking the gose to a bottling bucket.

Racking the gose to a bottling bucket.

With two weeks and one day to go until Thanksgiving, I’m counting on the “There Gose Sea Breeze” being done with fermentation, so I can bottle it. I did do an SG check and it was 1.015 still,

FG is 1.015 after temperature correction.

FG is 1.015 after temperature correction.

so…fingers crossed. I bought new bottles and made sure everything was washed well, and sanitized. I hope it carbs reasonably for Thanksgiving. I’m sure I’ll have plenty left for Christmas and New Year’s Eve…there’s 49 twelve ounce bottles.

Bottled and ready to carb!

Bottled and ready to carb!

I did the calculations for priming sugar a bit low, on purpose…I have a history of overcarbing. Instead of over 3.0 vols, which is supposedly what the style should be, I went with 2.4 vols and 4 ounces of sugar.

Two other quick notes: First, I worked up a recipe for what I want my next project to be: Fluffernutter Sandwich Stout. Looking forward to trying to brew it between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. That way, it should be ready to drink starting late January. I will be posting the recipe and results here when I get to it.

Second, I took the small jug of Blueberry-Muscadine Wine and topped off the 5 gallon carboy, to reduce the head space.

Making the head space smaller.

Making the head space smaller.

The rest of the jug was bottled in a 22 oz “bomber”. The bulk will go for longer term conditioning. When I topped it off though, it got kind of fizzy, so I added another crushed Campden Tablet to it. I also double-checked the airlock to make sure it wasn’t stuck.  There’s even a little left over for me!

Sample!

Sample!

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