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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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Brief Update: Fluffernutter Sammie Stout and Railer’s Pale Ale

Railer's Pale Ale, floating whole Cascade hops.

Railer’s Pale Ale, floating whole Cascade hops.

Tried a bottle of the Fluffernutter Sammie Stout a couple of days ago. There was no head…like pouring a soda with no ice. It bubbled when pouring and immediately dissipated. The carbonation is better than last try, but could still be better. I’m hoping this isn’t the best it’s going to get, or I’m disappointed. Flavor is not bad, but would certainly be more enjoyable with head and a little more carb. Maybe I just need to try another established recipe, without doing anything “interesting” to it. I might just do better with an ESB.

The Railer’s Pale Ale is coming along nicely. The Wyeast II 1272 yeast has performed very well…nice krausen, but no need for a blow-off tube. At this point, I think fermentation is done; but I’m giving it a little more time. I may take a hydrometer sample soon to start the verification process. I’m hoping to be able to keg this beer, with equipment belonging to a friend, for the Railhawk’s Soktoberfest event September 10th. The whole Cascade hops are floating …at least some of them. I’m hoping they will drop, but either way, I’m planning to rack to another carboy, using a strainer bag on the siphon. I’m optimistic with this beer…as long as it isn’t too sweet…but it will be consumed.

I just wish I could pull off a good stout with a nice head.

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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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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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Racking There Gose Sea Breeze and Blueberry-Muscadine Wine

Racking the gose base onto the grapefruit zest.

Racking the gose base onto the grapefruit zest.

Fermentation seems to have slowed way down on the “There Gose Sea Breeze” beer and I’m trying to get it done for Thanksgiving, so I racked it today. Problem: my Blueberry-Muscadine Wine is in my other carboy. I need a third to make this process work. So, I went to a local home brew shop to check out my options. I decided to go with a 5 gallon Better Boy brand plastic carboy with a port on it for a tap. That will allow me to use it like a bottling bucket, rather than having to use a siphon. Maybe this will reduce the chance for infection by one more function…maybe. Seems like a good system, but the tap is a bit tricky to install and it ain’t cheap. The carboy itself was about $28. Then, the tap comes as two separate pieces that add up to about another $30. Then, I needed the special size of stopper for the top, some 1/2″ tubing and a 1/2″ diameter bottling cane. Altogether, with tax, it was about $85.

After I got everything organized, cleaned, put together, and sanitized, things went pretty smoothly. I went with the 5 gallon Better Boy because I plan to generally use it for secondary fermentations and, at that point, usually I’m down in that range. When I racked the wine, I got a nice, full 5 gallons.

Blueberry-Muscadine Wine racked for some bulk conditioning.

Blueberry-Muscadine Wine racked for some bulk conditioning.

I then squeaked out about another quart, into a half gallon glass jug. I may go ahead and bottle that in a 22 oz bomber, when I get a chance. There’s too much head space there and I don’t want it to oxidize.

Once the wine was transferred and the glass carboy it was in was cleaned and sanitized, I prepared to rack the beer into it. I set-up the siphon and hose. Next, I added the grapefruit zest and vodka from the freezer to the carboy and began racking the beer onto it.

Grapefruit zest and vodka from the freezer.

Grapefruit zest and vodka from the freezer.

Once that was all squared away, I started making the hibiscus tea.

Unsweetened, dried hibiscus flowers.

Unsweetened, dried hibiscus flowers.

I used a quart of hot Culligan (bottled) water and 5 oz of dried hibiscus flowers to a 2 quart stainless steel sauce pan.

Steeping to a beautiful concentrate.

Steeping to a beautiful concentrate.

Since I didn’t have one a bit bigger, I went ahead and brought another quart of the water to a boil in a big stainless stock pot. After the hibiscus flowers were brought to a boil, I covered them and turned off the heat. The other water boiled for a few minutes and, after the flowers steeped for 10 minutes, I strained the tea concentrate into the boiling water. I cleaned the smaller pot and then strained the entire amount of liquid back into it and it just did manage to fill it completely. Note here…steeped hibiscus flowers don’t do well in a garbage disposal unit. I should have composted them. Live and learn. After a little disposer cleaning, I got back to my hibiscus concentrate and funneled it into a sanitized glass container, covered it with sanitized plastic wrap and stuck it in the refrigerator to cool overnight.

Bringing the temp down on the hibiscus tea concentrate.

Bringing the temp down on the hibiscus tea concentrate.

 

 

 

 

The final thing I wanted to accomplish tonight was to attempt to harvest some yeast. If I like the result in this gose, I wouldn’t mind making another gose or a maybe try making a kolsch, before the really cold weather starts coming around. So, for tonight, I poured off some of the trub that was left behind in the carboy that I racked out of and funneled it into a sanitized 1/2 gallon glass jug.

Attempting to harvest some yeast for future use.

Attempting to harvest some yeast for future use.

I topped that off with Culligan bottled water and added a sanitized cap. I’ll let that sit out overnight and separate. I’ll update here tomorrow when I add the hibiscus tea concentrate and further separate the yeast.

11/2/15 update: Added the hibiscus tea to the gose and it looks like a giant jar of cranberry sauce!

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I also decanted the liquid off of the yeast I’m trying to harvest. My understanding is that the yeast is the thin whitish layer on the top of the sediment. I transferred that to a pint jar and added water, We’ll see how that settles.

Transferred yeast to smaller jar and added water.

Transferred yeast to smaller jar and added water.

Yeast settled for harvest.

Yeast settled for harvest.

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