Uncategorized

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.

img_20160911_190510847

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.

Standard
Uncategorized

There Gose Sea Breeze

Brew Day!!! Adding the grain to the heated water. or "mashing in".

Brew Day!!! Adding the grain to the heated water. or “mashing in”.

So, two days ago (Thursday, October 24, 2015), my wife asked me, “If you brew a batch of beer tomorrow, will it be ready in time for Thanksgiving?” I figured it would, as long as it wasn’t something that needed a long time to ferment or bottle condition. Maybe an IPA? Well, she was going to be taking kids to the NC State Fair…all day…so I was authorized to brew. That night, I did some research for holiday beers and everything seemed to be porters and stouts. IPA’s were recommended by some sources, but so many hops and dry hopping…just didn’t feel it. Then I thought, “How about a refreshing gose style? That’ll cut through the heavy foods.” I brewed a gose before and, while mushroom was not the most successful flavor choice, it was technically very good.

Okay, so the next decision: how do I want to flavor it? I immediately thought about cranberries…tart, refreshing, a little citrusy. So, I did a little research on cranberries. It turns out that cranberries present a problem for brewing: they float. And raw, floating berries don’t ferment well or add much flavor. Even chopped, they don’t do much better. If you cook them, the flavor changes and the pectin comes out. That presents more problems. How about cranberry juice? I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find pure juice, without additives. Not for a reasonable price, anyway. In my research, someone recommended dried hibiscus flowers as an alternative…very similar to the flavor of cranberries and great color. I used them in a previous recipe very successfully and, in fact, still have a supply! Hibiscus it is.

Dried Hibiscus F;owers

Dried Hibiscus F;owers

I pulled out my previous gose recipe and began working on it. Substitute hibiscus for the mushrooms, up the salt from .75 oz to 1.25 oz, and add .25 oz ground coriander. The coriander is traditional, but needs to be restrained. I bought a fresh bottle and smelled it. Surprisingly, it reminded me of hops.

Hops. coriander, sea salt, and Irish moss additions.

Hops. coriander, sea salt, and Irish moss additions.

I also decided to go with a traditional hop choice: Saaz. As I was putting together the recipe, I happened to run across a cranberry cocktail called “Sea Breeze”. It is made with cranberry juice, vodka, grapefruit juice, salt and a lime garnish.

Sea Breeze Cocktail (Photo via Wikipedia)

Sea Breeze Cocktail (Photo via Wikipedia)

Well, since we are going to be drinking this at the beach, I figure…add some grapefruit zest, sanitized in vodka, and There Gose Sea Breeze!

Grapefruit zest from 3 grapefruits.

Grapefruit zest from 3 grapefruits.

Lime garnish optional. I got all the information plugged into the recipe and it looks good! You can get the recipe here: http://www.brewersfriend.com/homebrew/recipe/view/289756/there-gose-sea-breeze

Before I could brew, I had a lot of cleaning, preparation, sanitizing, to do. Plus a run to the grocery store and local home brew shop. Then I had to organize and set up for the brew. I think I finally started brewing about 1:15 pm. Steps went fine. I overheated the strike water, but not too badly.  The special grain, the acidulated malt, is added after the first 60 minutes and takes an extra 45 minutes to mash…it adds a lightly sour component to the beer. After the mash, I added an additional gallon of water for the boil. Everything else went smoothly and I wound up with a carboy full of wort!

That's a full carboy!

That’s a full carboy!

Checkiing the Specific Gravity(SG) with a refractometer and a hydrometer, I determined the Original Gravity(OG) to be 1.063. The Final Gravity(FG) is anticipated to be around 1.014, which would put the ABV at 6.3%. I pitched the yeast, finally, at about 6:30 pm.

I put a blow tube on this morning, after having to do a little floor cleaning. The good news is that the yeast is alive and active!

Blow off tube...should have put on at the start.

Blow off tube…should have put on at the start.

Standard
Uncategorized

Blueberry-Muscadine Wine, Adjustments and Yeast

24 hours after Campden Tablets added. Sugar, water, blueberries and muscadines.

24 hours after Campden Tablets added. Sugar, water, blueberries and muscadines.

Day 2 for the Blueberry-Muscadine Wine project…time to check the OG(Original Gravity), check the acid, add the yeast nutrient, pectic enzyme, and pitch the yeast. I started with the refractometer and got a couple different readings from the sample I took after stirring the must. (Of course, I sanitized everything that touched the must). Anyway, I felt like I was at the 1.090 range,but wasn’t confident, so I took a larger sample to check with the hydrometer later.

Sample for testing acid and getting hydrometer reading.

Sample for testing acid and getting hydrometer reading.

From the sample, I removed 3ml to test the acid. Following the instructions for the acid test kit, it looks like I was at a reading of 0.225; shooting for the range between 0.55 and 0.65. The recipe called for 2-1/2 teaspoons of the acid blend, but I needed the full 2 ounces that I purchased to get to 0.565. At the minimum of the range, but okay. I also added 2-1/2 teaspoons of pectic enzyme and 3 teaspoons of yeast nutrient. Added to the must and stirred in. Then I sanitized the yeast packet and scissors, and pitched the yeast, gently stirring it in.

I resealed the fermentation bucket and cleaned my utensils. Next, I used the rest of my sample to take an OG reading with a hydrometer. It looks like I have a reading of 1.110 at 71.6F, which adjusts for temperature (hydrometer calibrated to 60F) to OG 1.111.

Hydrometer reading.

Hydrometer reading.

I guess I should not have added all the sugar at once, so this is going to be a higher alcohol wine than I wanted, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I just hope it tastes good! Montrachet yeast is supposed to have an alcohol tolerance of 13%, so if my FG comes in around 1.01-ish, it should be stopping anyway. (The color is good. The unfermented product is so sweet, it’s hard to get a real feel for flavor…but I think it will be good.)

***Update 8/27/15: Continuing to stir every evening, to break up the fruit floating at the top and submerge it all. Getting a nice steady action in the airlock. All appears to be on track. Obviously, it’s still extremely sweet; however, a small sip does have a little more fruit flavor than before, and a little taste of the fermentation.

After stirring down the fruit.

After stirring down the fruit.

Before stirring the floating fruit.

Before stirring the floating fruit.

Update 8/29/15: Stirred down the fruit in the fermentation bucket and noted that the appearance is pretty much the same as the above photos. I wonder if the blueberries that didn’t get crushed are fermenting? They don’t seem to be changing color…hmmm. The sample spoonful definitely has a flavor that has dropped in sweetness another notch.

Update 8/29/15: Continuing to convert sugar to alcohol…definitely a little more tannic feel in the mouth, more alcohol, and drier. I continue to note that the wine is still sweet, but what a difference! I like where this is going…at least, so far.

Again, before stirring down the fruit.

Again, before stirring down the fruit.

 

After stirring down the fruit.

After stirring down the fruit.

Sample for flavor and color.

Update 9/2/2015: Now tasting more like wine and less like sweet, fermenting juice. Photos aren’t showing any real difference, but the flavor is telling the tale!

Standard
Uncategorized

Brew Day! National Homebrew Day! Big Brew Event!

Let's Brew!

Let’s Brew!

Today was National Homebrew Day and I celebrated by brewing at Atlantic Brew Supply’s “Big Brew” event in the Raleigh Brewing Company’s brewery. The recipe I chose is a Saison called Legends Never Die and the 1/2 price deal came up to just over $15 for a 5 gallon recipe. As has been usual for awhile now, I used the Brew in a Bag (BIAB) method. The grain bill is North Carolina sourced, the yeast is Belle Saison, and the hops are an ounce of Cascade @20 minutes, a half ounce of Nugget @ 10 min and again @ 5 min. A final 1 ounce dry hop addition is done at secondary fermentation for 10 days.

Raleigh Brewing Company/Atlantic Brew Supply Big Brew

Raleigh Brewing Company/Atlantic Brew Supply Big Brew

The brewing process went pretty smoothly. The brewery hot water was already above 130F, so strike water reached temperature quickly. As usual, I went over my target temperature for mash in, but I added a little cold water and got it right within a few minutes.

My stuff.

My stuff

I did a mash-out this time to 172F for 10 minutes and sparged with 2 gallons of the brewery hot water.  When I was ready to boil, it seemed to be taking a little time, so I started making some notes…next thing I knew, I had a little boil-over. On the plus side, it provided a pretty clean break and I had a nice boil for the rest of the time.

Ready to boil

Ready to boil

I did get a little pop while stirring and got a mild burn on my right hand. It really only hurts when exposed to steam or warm water. I have found that stirring enough to create a whirlpool in the wort while it’s boiling, creates these pops of hot wort that can splash out of the kettle. I used my refractometer to check the specific gravity (SG) and is a little under the projected 1.063…I got 1.058. I’m good with that for my original gravity (OG). A friend had to add a pound of DME (Dry Malt Extract) to get to 1.060, so I don’t feel too bad.

After the boil, I used one of the brewery’s wort chillers and brought the temperature down to about 72F…took about 15 minutes or so. Then I siphoned the wort into my plastic carboy, aerated it with the oxygen cannister for about two minutes, and then pitched the yeast.

Done! Time for clean-up.

Done! Time for clean-up.

Clean up went pretty quickly and I strapped my carboy into my van for the trip home. Done! I arrived at the brewery at 9 a.m. and left right at 2 p.m. Five hours on the button.

Strapped in for the ride home. Click it or Tip it!

Strapped in for the ride home. Click it or Tip it!

I checked on the carboy around 7 p.m. and didn’t see much action, but it looked okay. An hour later, the krausen had literally created a layer on the top of the wort that was about a finger thick!

Belle Saison yeast is a monster!

Belle Saison yeast is a monster!

Time to install a blow-off set-up, before it fouls the airlock!

Blow-off set-up installed.

Blow-off set-up installed.

And it’s time for some Aleve. Happy National Homebrew Day!

Standard
Uncategorized

Brew Day Belgo Paleo

Ready to Brew!

Ready to Brew!

Brew Day! I’m actually writing this on the day after, but it was a long day. I had to help prepare for my older daughter’s baby shower and, after brewing and planting several things in the garden, I had to go help with the clean up. I was sore and tired last night!

First, I want to address the fact that I have had an ongoing problem with overcarbonation in several of my brews. Most have been darker beers…stout, porter, Scottish ale; but that may not necessarily have anything to do with it. I’ve tried backing down on priming sugar, extending the fermentation period, careful sanitizing procedures. I have been wondering if maybe the equipment I’m using or the bottles may need replacing or heavy duty cleaning, rather than rinsing and sanitizing. Before this brew, I soaked EVERYTHING in a solution of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda…carboy, buckets, utensils, hoses, siphon, airlocks and stoppers. Before I bottle, I will soak the bottles in the same solution, run them through the dishwasher (including heated drying cycle), and sanitizing. If this batch winds up overcarbing, I will have NO clue what to try next. Keeping my fingers crossed.

The recipe I brewed is a Belgian Pale Ale called Belgo Paleo and it sounds pretty good. It uses Green Bullet hops for buttering, Tettnang at 30 minutes and Saaz at 15 minutes and dry hop. The yeast is a packet of dry Safbrew Abbaye.

Pellet hops

Pellet hops

I followed my usual brew day procedures, with one exception: I used my new stainless steel wort chiller for the first time!

New stainless steel wort chiller

New stainless steel wort chiller

I didn’t have to buy 8 bags of ice this time! I set up the chiller with hoses and kept it in a bucket of sanitizer until ready to use. I put the chiller in the kettle for the last 15 minutes of the boil, to sanitize it.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to manage leak-proof connections and a little water sprayed into the wort. It was right after flame-out, and I’m hoping it didn’t ruin the batch. I wrapped the connection in paper towels and the dripping happened away from the kettle, instead of into it. The chiller worked like a champ and my wort was down to pitching temp in under twenty minutes.

Most difficult part of the day? Pouring the wort from the kettle (actually, a S/S stock pot) through a funnel into the glass carboy. Next time, I’ll use a siphon! Should have aerated it well, though! And it’s a good thing, because the oxygen tank I have connected to an aerating “stone” evidently had the valve knocked open somehow and the canister was empty.

Ready for fermentation to start.

Ready for fermentation to start.

So, pitched the yeast and put on the airlock. There was action late last night and I heard that the Abbaye yeast is aggressive, so I switch the airlock to a blow-off tube set-up …

After fermenting 24 hours.

After fermenting 24 hours.

Blow-off tube and wrapped to keep light out.

Blow-off tube and wrapped to keep light out.

…and wrapped the carboy with a blanket to keep out light. The wort chugged all day today and is doing well, I think. As of tonight, about 32 hours after pitching the yeast, the bubbling has slowed slightly to once every few seconds.

Update: Steinpilz Gose: my brewbuddy came by and got the balance of the gose into a keg and is going to force carbonate it. I’m going to stick a couple of bottles in the fridge and we’ll compare when ready. Looking forward to that!

 

Standard
Uncategorized

Tropical Fruit Cider/Mead?

I had some fruit that I needed to use before it was no longer suitable for anything but compost. I bought a couple of star fruits (carombola) and a mango on markdown at the grocery store and I had a couple of pears that were getting overripe. Also on hand were 3 large apples…Gala, I think. Might have been Fuji. I ran all the fruit through my juicer and added the juice of about 1/2 a lime and a dribble of bottled lemon juice, just to keep it all from turning brown. This all equalled about a half gallon of pretty thick juice. So, I added enough water to bring the volume up to a little over a gallon and the SG reading on the refractometer was about 1.022. To bump that up, I added about 12 oz honey mixed with hot water to dissolve. That brought the SG up to about 1.052. I finally settled for an OG of 1.073 after adding 2 cups of white sugar.

I’m in kind of a gray area between cider and melomel (fruit mead). The mix of honey and sugar, plus the relatively low alcohol potential, probably pushes it more toward cider. I also added 1/2 tsp  of pectic enzyme, 1 teaspoon yeast nutrient, and 1 crushed campden tablet. This will sit for 24 hours and then I’ll have to decide what yeast to pitch. Need to think about that one.  The final starting volume looks like approximately 1-1/3 gallons. I’m assuming that I’ll wind up bottling a little under a gallon when finished. I didn’t take any pictures yet…just jumped into it. I’ll snap some tomorrow when I pitch the yeast.

24 hours after adding nutrient, pectic enzyme and Campden tablet.

24 hours after adding nutrient, pectic enzyme and Campden tablet.

Update: Looked over the available yeast at the local home brew shop and decided to try a yeast made by Vintner’s Harvest, simply called Premium Wine Yeast CY17.

C17 Premium Wine Yeast

CY17 Premium Wine Yeast

It says “For full bodied, rich fruity aromatic white/blush and dessert wines. Excellent strain for white country fruit & flower wines.” It does say that it is a slow fermenter, but I’m in no rush. Pitched the yeast early this afternoon…no sign of airlock activity as of 7:45 pm.

6:40 pm  Earlier today, I noticed a slow bubble action in the airlock. This yeast is said to be a slow fermentor…I guess so. It’s definitely not taking off with a rhino fart aggressiveness…but it’s going!

2/10/15 Airlock action seems to have stopped after about 7 days…in fact, may have ceased a day or two ago. There’s no rush, but when I get around to it, I’m going to do the first racking.

 

Standard
Uncategorized

Brew Day! Yooper’s Oatmeal Stout

"The Con"

“The Con”

I prepared yesterday by purchasing my ingredients, getting my propane tank refilled, and buying 7 bags of ice.  The first thing I did was activate the “smack pack” of yeast that I used in this batch. It’s recommended to do so, 3 hours in advance of pitching. I’m brewing Yooper’s Oatmeal Stout, a recipe highly rated by several brewers and created by a brewer and moderator at the Home Brew Talk website. The recipe can be found at:   http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f68/yoopers-oatmeal-stout-210376/

The yeast is Wyeast British Ale II (#1335) and my batch is dated Dec 10th, so it’s very fresh!

Wyeast British Ale II (#1335)

Wyeast British Ale II (#1335)

It is supposed to supply 100 billion cells. The next step was setting up “The Con”. Basically, a table, a chair, the propane, burner, strike water and all the supplies/equipment…and a cup of coffee.

My local home brew supply shop was able to pretty closely duplicate the ingredients for me. I used 10 oz of Thomas Faucette Pale Chocolate Malt in place of the “Crisp”, Bairds 70-80L for the Caramel/Crystal Malt 80L, and Breiss for the 350 SRM Chocolate Malt. I also upped my Maris Otter to 8 lbs to satisfy my recipe builder program’s efficiency number estimate. (Brewer’s Friend) One other thing: I split my hops into 1 oz at 60 minutes and 1 oz at 30 minutes. Brewer’s friend estimated the IBU’s would be too high if I did 2 oz at 60 minutes.

For the process, I used the Brew in a Bag (BIAB) method that I have be doing since early last Spring. I heated my water to 159F and added my grains. I stirred to break up all the dry balls. My poor long plastic spoon needs to be replaced by a mash paddle! (Santa?) I turned off the burner and wrapped the pot with a blanket and a “space blanket” to try to maintain the temperature.

Wrapped for temperature retention.

Wrapped for temperature retention.

After 15 minutes, I checked the temperature and it had dropped to 154F. I gave the mash a burner boost, but overshot it up to 162F…rats!

Steeping grains, BIAB.

Steeping grains, BIAB.

I stirred constantly for a few minutes, but the temp wasn’t dropping very fast, so I added approx. 24oz of cold Culligan bottled water. I had the mash temp back down to just above the target 156F with 25 minutes to go in the mash. I wrapped it all back up again and it finished right on target. I hope the variation didn’t hurt too much.

I “tea bag” dunked & drained the grains a couple of times.

Tea bag dunk and drain.

Tea bag dunk and drain.

I also do a “modified sparge” that I have pictured in my journal before…I missed taking a photo this time. Basically, it’s a bottling bucket and tubing set up on a tall recycle container and I drain the water, in this case 1 gallon water at 167F, over the grains. The idea is to rinse additional sugars from the grains. Then I made sure the grains were well drained and squeezed out as best as I could, without burning myself. (I later added the grains to my compost container…I still have some in the freezer for making doggie treats.)

I checked the pre-boil specific gravity with my refractometer and it was 1.041…on target. I transferred the wort to the bottling bucket to measure the volume. It was right to the rim, which is 7 gallons.

measuring the pre-boil wort in a bottling bucket.

measuring the pre-boil wort in a bottling bucket.

I poured the wort back into the brew pot and re-lit the burner.

IMG_20141221_133516678

The boil was good…added 1oz of Willamette hops pellets at 60 minutes got a vigorous boil going.

IMG_20141221_141450364

I missed my 30 minute hop (also 1oz Willamette )addition by 5 minutes, but it shouldn’t be a big deal. Post boil SG was 1.066 amd the volume looked a little low, so I added 1/2 gallon cold Culligan bottled water and immersed the brew pot into an ice water bath.

Ice water bath to chill.

Ice water bath to chill.

I used 6 bags of ice and managed to get the temperature down to 72F in less than 25 minutes. A copper coiled wort chiller would be nice, though. (Uh…Santa?!) I checked the OG with both a hydrometer and refractometer. The hydrometer sample was 69F and the reading was 1.055. The refractometer was 1.056. After correcting the hydrometer reading for the sample temperature, the readings agreed at 1.056. I transferred the wort to a bottling bucket for primary fermentation and aerated it with oxygen for two minutes…

Hydrometer sample and oxygen stone aerator.

Hydrometer sample and oxygen stone aerator.

…and then pitched the yeast and sealed the lid.  The volume in the bucket appears to be about 6-1/2 gallons and is close enough to the top that I decided to go ahead and set up a blow-off tube, just in case. Now we wait for the yeast to start partying! According to the estimates, I’m almost dead-on the numbers. I should finish within about .05 of the ABV percentage projection.

Wort aerated and yeast pitched.

Wort aerated and yeast pitched.

When primary fermentation is done, I plan to split the wort and use 2 gallons to make a gingerbread version. Need to research those additions. I do plan to include some freshly grated ginger root. It really made a difference in my Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale, evidently. I had some guys at the local home brew shop taste it and the one I think has the most experience picked up on it right away. I assume the other componants will be ground ginger, ground cinnamon, vanilla (bean or extract?) … maybe some molasses? Not too much, though. It is fermentable and I found that a small amount really made a nice difference in a cider that I did earlier this year. Okay…updates as needed to follow!

Update: As of the next morning, there was no noticable activity. I sanitized around the lid and opened just enough that I heard some fizziness. I resealed the lid. By a few hours later, I could hear a regular chugging in the overflow liquid. So…things are good!

 

 

 

Standard
Uncategorized

Day 168 Brew Day! Partial Mash with Cascade Hops Experiment

Ingredients for an experimental partial mash brew, with DME, grain steep and whole frozen hops and dried hops.

Ingredients for an experimental partial mash brew, with DME, grain steep and whole frozen hops and dried hops.

I have a friend whose son started planting Cascade hops in her garden four years ago. This year, he got a job at a brewery, out of town and wasn’t going to be around to harvest the hops. I was invited over to pick some. Fresh hops! What to do, what to do? I wasn’t ready to use them. I had never used fresh hops before and had no clue how to handle them. Thinking that the best thing was to have them as fresh as possible, I vacuum sealed them in canning jars and put them in the freezer.

Jar of whole hops that was vacuum sealed and frozen.

Jar of whole hops that was vacuum sealed and frozen.

I subsequently heard from a number of people that freezing fresh hops was not a good decision. They would likely become soft and slimey. Flavor was a  big question. One recommendation was to keep them frozen right up until putting them into the boil. So, that’s what I did…right into a little nylon bag and tossed right into the boil.

Some time later, my friend said I should come pick some more. When I arrived this time, instead of big, green cones, most of the hops were drying and turning brown. In addition, it was misty that morning and the “dry” hops were damp. I brought them home and put them in a large cardboard box and put them in the attic to finish drying. After several days, they were nice and dry, but I was concerned about the browning. They had plenty of appropriate aroma, though.

Since I have recently finished up some projects and had some Dry Malt Extract (DME) and a couple kinds of yeast on hand, I decided to try a smaller batch of beer and use some of each of the styles of Cascade hops, vacuum sealed frozen and vacuum sealed dried. I worked on a partial mash recipe and created an American Amber Ale that I’m calling Eastern Cascade Waterfall Ale. The yeast is a White Labs East Coast Ale yeast.

Boiling with the bags of hops...this is just after the 15 minute addition.

Boiling with the bags of hops…this is just after the 15 minute addition.

Eastern Cascade Waterfall Ale (American Amber, Single Hop, Partial Mash)

Batch size 3 gallons, 30 minute steep, 30 minute boil

Fermentables:

3 lb DME-Pilsen, boil 30 minutes

8 0z DME-Light, boil 30 minutes

1 lb American-Caramel/Crystal 60L, Grain sock steep 30 minutes @150F in 3.5 gallons strike water

Hops:

0.5 oz Cascade Fresh/Wet (Note: I used frozen, vacuum sealed in a jar.) Boil 30 minutes (in nylon bag)

1 oz Cascade Dried, Whole/Leaf,  Boil 15 minutes (in nylon bag)

1 oz Cascade Dried, Whole/Leaf, Dry hop (in nylon bag) in secondary, 5 days

Other:

Irish Moss (fining) Boil 15 minutes

Yeast: White Labs East Coast Ale Yeast, 1 vial, Optimum temp. 68-73F, 72.5% attenuation    (Note: I used harvested yeast and prepared a starter.)

Original Gravity: 1.053,      Final Gravity: 1.015,       ABV 5.04%     IBU (tinseth) 36.99     SRM (morey) 12.69

After the boil, I chilled to 68F in an ice water bath and tranferred to a bottling bucket for primary fermentation. I had a little under 3 gallons of wort, so I added enough Culligan bottled water to top it off to 3.25 gallons. The plan is to have 3 gallons to bottle after racking to secondary. I aerated with an oxygen stone for 2 minutes (or you could agitate/rock for 5 minutes).  Yeast pitched and fermentation bucket sealed and an airlock was installed at 1:05 pm.  As of 8:30 pm, signs of activity were evident in the airlock, though not aggressive. Unfortunately, I have no idea of the pitch rate. That’s one area (of several) that I have had no experience with figuring out.

Initial impression was positive…no weird or off flavors or aromas were noticeable. Color is a nice brown; perhaps a little darker than I anticipated, but all the indicators match the American Amber style, according to my recipe calculator. I did hit my Original Gravity (OG) number pretty closely. The recipe calls for 1.053 and I measured mine at 1.055 on my refractometer. Good brew day!

One update: the Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale has been in the bottles for 11 days now. I opened one of my two test bottles, at room temperature, and poured a small sample. The sample looked clear and, frankly, the aroma and flavor are amazing.

Finshed the chilled bottle later.

Finshed the chilled bottle later.

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale sample.

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale sample.

I recapped the bottle and stuck it in the refrigerator for later. I did open and drink the rest of the bottle tonight and my assessment stands. It is low on the carbonation, though not flat.  I hope that the carb will continue to improve over the next few weeks.

Update on the Eastern Cascade Waterfall: By 8 pm, there was sign of action in the airlock, but it was slow. By the morning after brew day, the airlock is happily chugging away, so my yeast starter appears to be a success!

Update 10/30/14: Eastern Cascade Waterfall Amber airlock action is slowing to a crawl. Probably going into secondary Sunday. Might just get it bottled by middle or end of next week. Lots of choices for Thanksgiving this year!

 

Standard
Uncategorized

Day 133 Brew Day! Citra Saison with Harvested Yeast Starter

Setting up for brewing

Setting up for brewing

This was an uncharacteristic brew day for me. I usually don’t brew on weekdays. Certainly not Mondays. But the starter I had hoped to pitch in a Citra Saison pushed me back a day. I have never harvested yeast and never made a starter before now and I was afraid that the starter was going to be too weak. I worked out a boost for the starter (see previous post) and moved the brew back a day.

After I got everything all set up and ready to go, I got my BIAB (Brew In A Bag) in place and heated my strike water, 6 gallons.  The goal was 150F…water went to 154F and I mashed in. The water only dropped 1/2 degree though. I turned off the heat and made a run for ice. When I returned, the temp was 150.2F. Over the next 45 minutes, I tried my best to maintain the target temperature of 150F; however, it was probably more consistently in the 153F range.

After the BIAB (Boil In A Bag) steep and "sparge"

After the BIAB (Boil In A Bag) steep and “sparge”

Here is where I will talk about my changes to the original recipe that I found online. First of all, I decided to do Pale Malt 2 row, instead of Pilsner. Two reasons: sale on Pale and 60 minute boil instead of 90 minute. (Some recommend Pilsner boil for 90 to reduce chance of off flavors.) Next, I added 1 teaspoon of Irish Moss at 15 minutes left in the boil to aid clarity. I also realized that I had forgotten to buy 1 pound of Belgian Clear Candi Syrup…made a run to the closest brew shop, only to find that they are closed on Mondays. Aaaargh! So, I substituted a pound of raw North Carolina honey, instead (at 10 minutes left in the boil). I am also planning on adding a dry hop step to secondary. The recipe calls for Citra hops to be added 1/2 oz at 30 minutes and 1/2 oz at 10 minutes left in the boil. I am a big Citra fan, so I am going to add an ounce in secondary.

Okay, back to the procedures: After the 1 hour mash in, I did my usual “tea bag” style dunking and draining of the bag, using a large pizza screen over the pot for support. I then set up a bottling bucket with 2 gallons of sparge water at about 150F and used the spigot with some hose on it to do an improvised sparge. I’ve used this method that, as far as I know, I made up, a few times and I think it helps a little. This left me with a rather full kettle, so the boil was a challenge and had to be monitored pretty carefully.

The pizza screen was helpful in the tea bag style sparging and in helping keep bugs and debris out.

The pizza screen was helpful in the tea bag style sparging and in helping keep bugs and debris out.

I set timers for my additions and all of that went well. Did my usual ice bath chill and managed to get the temperature of the wort down to about 90F, pretty quickly…good temperature for Belle Saison yeast.

Now, I wanted to use my glass carboy for primary fermentation, so I could have a visual on activity. The problem is getting 7 gallons of wort from a stock pot into a heavy glass 6 gallon carboy using a funnel. I struggled and spilled a bit, trying to figure out a grip and pouring into a small target that filled quickly. I could see that wasn’t going to cut it, so I poured about 3/4 of the wort into the bottling bucket I had used for the sparging, and then went through the spigot and hose into the carboy. Obviously, I was going to have too much wort, so, rather than toss it, I grabbed and sanitized a one gallon carboy and put the rest of the wort into it.

I used my oxygen tank to oxygenate the big carboy for two minutes and the little one for one minute. Between the refractometer reading of 1.048 and the hydrometer reading, corrected for temperature to 1.044, I’m  going to estimate 1.046 OG.* Rather than try to decant my yeast starter, I decided to swirl the flask to mix it well and pitch the whole thing…guesstimating some for the smaller batch. The starter wort used pale DME (Dry Malt Extract), so it shouldn’t hurt the flavor of the beer. The recipe doesn’t give a projected FG, but Belle Saison is pretty aggressive, so I’m betting on around 1.002 for the big batch. So, maybe a 5.78% ABV? I would be happy with that.

Here's the volume of wort I wound up with.

Here’s the volume of wort I wound up with and my flask of starter yeast.

I have no clue what to expect for the one gallon batch, because I’m going to add one pound of fresh cherries to secondary fermentation, rather than dry hopping it, and the sugar in the cherries will surely kick fermentation back into gear. I currently have the whole cherries in the freezer with some vodka. When it comes time to rack the small batch, I’ll crush the cherries into the vodka a little to release some juice and add it all. I’ll probably use a 2 gallon bucket that I use for ciders to do the small batch secondary, so I have a wide opening with which to work.

The recipe calls for a week each for both primary and secondary; however, my Hi-Nelson Saison needed a little over two weeks for primary and then a week for secondary. And the small batch may go longer in secondary. I’ll probably even rack the small batch to a tertiary stage to clarify once it’s off the fruit. Probably back into a glass carboy again so I can judge the clarity.

The big question mark is whether my yeast starter was going to work. The yeast was pitched at 3:15 p.m. and the carboys were set on a heating pad, on the lowest setting. At 6:30, there was no activity evident and the glass felt pretty cool.

Carboys on the heating pad.

Carboys on the heating pad. (Beside some Hi-Nelson Saison with Hibiscus and some Diet Root Beer (Truvia)

I upped the heating pad to medium and wrapped the carboys in a “Space Blanket”. By 9:30 p.m., they were both chugging along in the airlocks…not violently, but good, frequent bubbles every second or two. Success!!! Woo hoo!!!

Heating pad AND Space Blanket...now we're chugging!

Heating pad AND Space Blanket…now we’re chugging!

I cold crashed the hydrometer sample just to see what it looks like and how it tastes at this stage. Obviously malty and sweet at this point, but it seems like it will be nice and clean, light bitterness and the hops should shine through on the main batch and the Belle Saison should add a little spice and funk. The little cherry batch should be really interesting!

Hydrometer sample, cold crashed and easier to get a read. And a taste for evaluation.

Hydrometer sample, cold crashed and easier to get a read. And a taste for evaluation.

*I also let this sample come to room temperature and took another hydrometer reading. at 74.2F and 1.046, adjusted to 1.047, so that will be my new OG to go with. I read the hydrometer with no contacts or glasses and it was much easier to get a good read, so I feel confident with that figure. (An additional refractometer reading, of course, calls it 1.048, so…whatever!) Could be around 6% ABV…anywhere in that  5.75 to 6.05% range is close enough.

For the original version of the recipe, go to this link or cut and paste into your browser:

http://www.danielshomebrew.blogspot.com/2014/01/citra-saison.html

Always give credit where due!

Update: Okay…the following morning, the airlocks were fouled. I quickly set up blow offs and the yeast is going at it, big time! Definitely had enough yeast!

 

Standard
Uncategorized

Day 113 Brew Day!!! Something a Little Different. Rye PA?

The set-up.

The set-up.

It’s been a long brew day. I slept late and got a late start. After getting an idea about what I was going to brew, running to the local brew shop, topping of the propane tank and getting ice, I still had to organize, set-up and sanitize! I think I finally turned the burner on at about 2 p.m. I just finished…well, still have some more clean up to do…and it’s 7:45 p.m.

I was hoping to make a scotch ale; however, the recipes and comments I was hearing were all pretty much saying that I needed to be able to maintain a fermentation temperature of 68F for the first week and sometimes down in the 50’s for another 10 days. Since I don’t have anyway of temperature regulation, I decided I needed to go another way. In looking at styles that do better in warmer temperatures, I found a recipe for a wheat beer, with an option for rye, that sounded interesting. So, I started tweaking it and headed for the HBS to get further  input.  The original recipe I found is here:

http://thebrewhut.com/brewblog.php?page=recipeDetail&&filter=brewmaster&id=62&pg=2

I always like to give credit to originator! So, here’s what I did. First, I went with regular wheat, not red. Maybe some other time. I also decided to pick up some Citra hops, because I really liked what they did for a similar brew. I also remembered that I had a little Vanguard hops left in the freezer at home. And rather than go with a Weihenstephaner yeast, I decided to go US-05. This should help with my higher fermentation temperatures. For the honey in the recipe, I opted for orange blossom and instead of Lemon Zinger Tea, I’m going for Lemon zest soaked in vodka for the secondary…maybe some orange zest, too. Maybe I’ll call it “Rye Sense of Humor American RyePA”.

Gots all my pertinents and such.

Gots all my pertinents and such.

On to the brew: I pretty much followed the recipe. There are two hops varieties in addition to the hops I decided to add. Bittering hops at 60 minutes, Cascade. Aroma hops at 30 minutes and 5 minutes, Hallertau and again at 5 minutes.  I added the Vanguard at the 30 minute marks, as well and the citrus at flameout.

My BIAB process went pretty smoothly, except it is hard to nail down that target temperature and regulate it there. I heated the strike water to 168 (a tad higher than I anticipated). I let it come down a little  before adding the grains. The grains only got it down to around 158F. I left the lid off and stirred a lot to try to bring it down to 152F. I went through that a couple time before it was ready to mash out.

Boil in a Bag, all-grain.

Boil in a Bag, all-grain.

The mash out, on the other hand, went smoothly. I hit the temp and I was able to maintain it pretty steadily for 15 minutes. Then it was on to the boil. I started with 7 gallons and went through most of the process as planned.

Dunking and draining...no sparging.

Dunking and draining…no sparging.

DSC04805

 

I did, however, have in my mind that the last two BIAB brews I did have a bunch of trub and tit really cut into the amount of beer I made. So, at the end, I added a gallon of  cold water which, of course, dropped my specific gravity reading.

I decided to pull a gallon of wort and re-boil it with another 1/2 pound of honey and a 1-3/8 oz chunk of piloncillo (Mexican raw sugar). I chilled that down and added it back. The refractometer was reading 1.047…I did a hydrometer check and it was reading 1.050 at 73F…that would be 1.051 corrected for temperature. Anyway,  I took one last refractometer reading and, low and behold, it matched the hydrometer at 1.051! I stuck the rest of the sample in the fridge to check the color later.

The Boil

The Boil

I had already rehydrated the yeast, so I went ahead and pitched it. Then I rocked the fermention bucket for 5 minutes to aerate. I’m going to go ahead and put a blow-off tube on this bucket, because it is pretty full. It would not take much krausen to foul an airlock!

Blow-off, in place and ready.

Blow-off, in place and ready.

Now it’s time to finish up a little cleaning before I yawn myself to sleep!

Update: Sample tube…clear separation. Lots of trub! I really like the flavor of this wort…this has great potential!

Wort hydrometer sample...checking for trub, color, aroma, flavor.

Wort hydrometer sample…checking for trub, color, aroma, flavor.

 

Standard