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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.

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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: 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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Racking Muscadine-Blueberry Wine

Racking wine to secondary fermentation.

Racking wine to secondary fermentation.

I’ve let the muscadine-blueberry wine go as long as I want now, so I racked it to a carboy tonight. It was in a bottling bucket for primary fermentation, so I tried to pull a sample from the spout to test the SG, but there was too much trub. To rack, I had to use a siphon and penetrate the fruit layer.

I added a crushed Campden Tablet to the carboy and started the racking process. The Campden will hopefully start knocking off the yeast that’s still active. I did get a sample and the SG is at 0.991 (0.990 @70.3F)…I would think the yeast would be done!

SG reading

SG reading

But there is still some airlock activity. After racking, it looks a little lower in volume than I thought, but there was about 14 pounds of fruit, so it shouldn’t be surprising.

A little below volume, but high on alcohol, so I added a gallon of bottled water.

A little below volume, but high on alcohol, so I added a gallon of bottled water. (This is before water addition.)

I decided to add another gallon of Culligan water with a crushed Campden Tablet to bump the volume a little. The ABV is 15.75%, prior to the water addition, so I’m not worried about diluting it a little! The color and flavor are nice, so a couple more months of racking and then a few more in the bottles and I think it will be pretty good.

Looking good...dry, but not bone dry.

Looking good…dry, but not bone dry.

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Starting Blueberry-Muscadine Wine

Day one: Blueberry-Muscadine Wine, ready for the 24 hour rest.

Day one: Blueberry-Muscadine Wine, ready for the 24 hour rest.

During the height of blueberry season, I got an amazingly good deal on a case of them. We ate some, I made an experimental, very small batch of jam, and then I stuck the rest in the freezer. Now that we are at the height of muscadine grape season, I have foraged several pounds of wild grapes. In doing a little research, I found this article: https://winemakermag.com/461-making-blueberry-wine-tips-from-the-pros  The majority of what I am doing comes directly from their recipe, so go read their article. If you are really interested in winemaking, you might like their magazine.

This is my second attempt at wine. You can find my entries on my first wine on this blogs entries starting about this time last year. It was a straight muscadine wine and I used Montrachet yeast for that batch…as I am using for this batch. The result, is a surprisingly dry, medium to light body wine that is a bit heavy on the alcohol (I overdid the sugar a bit), but not nearly as sweet as you normally find in wines made from muscadines. The color is between a blush and a red. I am pretty pleased with it. So, for my second wine, where I am going to change from the referenced recipe slightly, I’m using 3 pounds of wild muscadine grapes, instead of grape concentrate, and I’m using 11 pounds of blueberries. The blueberries were almost completely thawed, but still cold.

In preparing for the recipe, I did purchase an acid test kit ($8.95) and some blended acid powder from the local homebrew shop (LHBS). I also bought a package of Montrachet yeast. I did not add citric acid to the sugar water and I am not using the teaspoon of tannin. I am also substituting Campden Tablets, crushed, rather than the powdered sodium metabisulfate. The tablets are easy…add one per gallon, so five in this batch.

One tablet per gallon: 5 tablets. Easy!

One tablet per gallon: 5 tablets. Easy!

Campden Tablets to kill off any resident bacterias and wild yeasts.

Campden Tablets to kill off any resident bacterias and wild yeasts.

Capmpden Tablets, crushed in a mortar & pestle.

Capmpden Tablets, crushed in a mortar & pestle.

I’m also skipping the potassium sorbate. I may be wrong, but the Campden Tablets are potassium metabisulfate, and I think using them covers it. (As well as the sodium metabisulfate.) Theses chemicals can get to be a little confusing for those of us who were Liberal Arts majors, rather than Chemistry majors! Anyway, I think I have things covered.

Today was all about crushing blueberries,

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crushing muscadine grapes,

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mixing 9 pounds of sugar with hot water,

Sugar and water.

Sugar and water.

…and then adding the crushed Campden Tablets. I added enough water to rinse the crush bucket and bring the total volume to 5 gallons. (Top photo)

Tomorrow, I will deal with the yeast nutrient, pectic enzyme, test the acid and adjust it, if needed. Then I will pitch the yeast. After that, over the course of the primary fermentation, I will need to stir the “must” at the top of the bucket down into the liquid twice daily. I don’t plan on making a separate entry everyday, just to say that I stirred the must! I will document tomorrow, and when I rack, bottle, and eventually taste the wine. So, I’ve done the steps required for today. I’ll be back!

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Brew Day! Mowing Ranier

The set-up. Mashing in and maintaining temp with a blanket and a "space blanket".

The set-up. Mashing in and maintaining temp with a blanket and a “space blanket”.

 

It took awhile to get organized this morning, but eventually, I got started. I began with 6.25 gallons of strike water heated to 149F…but it overshot a little. After I added the grains, the water came down to 150.8, but that’s okay. The mash went for 60 minutes. I checked it at 30 minutes and it was still 150.6F.

Next, I raised the temperature to 170F and did a mash-out for a few minutes and then did my usual rigged sparge with 2 gallons of water at 170F.

My McGyver sparge set-up.

My McGyver sparge set-up.

That put my boil at about 7 gallons. The pre-boil specific gravity reading was 1.035…a little lower that expected. Looking at my grain, I don’t think the brew shop double-milled the grain for “brew in a bag” (BIAB), as I requested and it looks like my efficiency is suffering for it.

After the sparge...looks like a pretty coarse crush.

After the sparge…looks like a pretty coarse crush.

I’m not really hung up on the ABV, though. It’s supposed to be a “lawn mower” style beer anyway; this the name. If you aren’t familiar with the term, it means a beer suitable for after mowing the lawn. Lighter body, lower alcohol, refreshing. Plus this one has Mt. Ranier Cherries (I had to add a few regular ones to make up a pound), stems removed, pitted.

Mostly Mt Ranier cherries, stemmed and pitted.

Mostly Mt Ranier cherries, stemmed and pitted.

When I move it to secondary fermentation, I’ll be adding about a pound (minus a couple samples!) of dried Mt Ranier cherries. Have to make sure to get ones NOT processed with sunflower, or any other, oil.

So, after the sparge, I started the boil. I did remove about a gallon of wort to reduce the chance of boil-over. Once the boil was going, I added the first 1/2 oz of Citra hops. After 15 minutes, I added back the excess wort. I did get one small boil-over, but I reacted quickly and didn’t really lose much at all. After 45 minutes, I added the next 1/2 oz of Citra hops and 1 teaspoon of Irish Moss (to facilitate clearing). At 55 minutes, I added another 1/2 oz of Citra hops (the last hops addition will be a dry hop in secondary). At 3 minutes, I added the cherries.

Just about done with the boil.

Just about done with the boil.

Then it was time to use the wort chiller. Unfortunately, with the temps in the mid nineties daily, the water temp coming from the hose is 80F+. I was only able to get the wort down to about 84F. So, I brought the wort inside and transferred it to a carboy. Unfortunately, again, it’s difficult to transfer from a stock pot to a carboy…especially with cherries in the wort! I did sanitize everything, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there was no contamination. I used a stainless steel Kitchenaid mixing bowl and a rigged paper cup funnel to dip and pour the wort into the carboy. I could really use a brew kettle with a valve/spout. I wound up with about 5-1/2 gallons of wort in the carboy and about 3/4 gallon in a separate, small fermentation bucket. I think I’ll use the extra for a blackberry experiment.

I let the wort sit for awhile to cool a little more and then added the US-05 yeast. I sprinkled enough on the small batch to cover the top and the rest went into the carboy. I’m afraid the temp was still around 80-81F…thought I killed the yeast. But, the yeast survived! The next morning, there was good action going on.

It's alive! It's alive!

It’s alive! It’s alive!

There is a possibility, at the higher temperatures, that some “fruity esters” will develop. They’re considered undesirable in most beers, but in a fruit beer, may be okay. If they do develop…meh. Maybe they’ll compliment the cherries. I’m not sure I would pick them out, anyway. Oh, and after I finished and cleaned everything up, I made two batches of spent  grain dog treats. That should last awhile…it’s over 3 pounds. The rest of the  used grain is feeding my compost bin.

Spent grain.

Spent grain.

Spent grain doggie treat dough, patted out and cut...ready for oven.

Spent grain doggie treat dough, patted out and cut…ready for oven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four bags of doggie treats, about 12 to 13 ounces each.

Four bags of doggie treats, about 12 to 13 ounces each.

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I’m a Grandpa! (And General Update on Brews)

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Let’s just get this out of the way: Yes, I’m a Grandpa! My grandson was born on April 17, 2015 @11:23 p.m. and weighed in at 7 lbs 13 oz. I’m as proud as I can be!

Okay, back to brewing and fermenting stuff. Three things: Steinpilz Gose, Belgo Paleo Pale Ale, and kombucha.

The Steinpilz Gose has been in the bottles for a couple of weeks now an my friend picked up the rest for kegging  a little over a week ago. I have opened a bottle and tried it and she has tried it from the keg. Unfortunately, she does NOT like mushrooms, so it isn’t really her “thing”, but she said that it is “technically” good. Haha…I’ll take it. I think the bottled version needs more carbonation, but it is not bad. There’s not much aroma, but what I get is that German wheat beer smell with the earthiness from the mushrooms. The flavor is good…definitely has the German character. As for the gose style, I thing the tartness is good, but it could use just a little more salt. The earthy mushroom flavor is very present, but not overpowering. I look forward to trying the kegged version and getting some feedback from some more people (that like mushrooms, hopefully!).

Steinpilz Gose from the bottle after about 2 weeks.

Steinpilz Gose from the bottle after about 2 weeks.

Belgo Paleo. This has been an odd start. The home brew shop guy said the yeast, Safbrew Abbaye, is the one some brewers use for Belgian trippels and quads, so to not let it go crazy…maybe put it in my spare shower and run some cold water into the tub to lower the temperature a little. The first two days, the yeast ripped into the wort…it actually seemed finished after three days. Late at night on day 2, I replaced the blow-off tube with an airlock and moved the carboy to the shower and added water to the tub. The initial temps were around 70-72F. The tub water slowly leaked out over the course of a week. Last night, I took a sample for hydrometer testing and the temp was 68.5F. The thing is, the SG is 1.020 and it is supposed to get down to 1.009. I reached out to my online brewing friends and it was suggested that I should have increased the temperature after the first day or two…exactly opposite of the advice from the LHBS guy. *steam* I have brought the carboy back into the kitchen and need to check it in another week.

Belgo Paleo at S.G. 1.020

Belgo Paleo at S.G. 1.020

Kombucha…I have SCOBY’s to spare and plenty to share! The 1 gallon jars with spigots are working out great for draining off the ready-to-drink kombucha.

Fresh batch, ready to start fermenting.

Fresh batch, ready to start fermenting.

SCOBY Hotel

SCOBY Hotel

Fresh batch, ready to start fermenting.

Fresh batch, ready to start fermenting.

Now I can add the tea, sugar, and water back without having to remove the SCOBY and extra starter kombucha to start the next batch. I am on a fairly regular staggered schedule 2 batches fermenting and 1 batch in the fridge to drink.

In the fridge to drink.

In the fridge to drink.

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