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Day 116 Opening a Pineapple Tinker, Updates

Pineapple Tinker

Pineapple Tinker

On the evening of December 10, 2013, I began a little experiment with a pineapple, some honey, sugar and brown sugar. It was kind of a melomel, a fruit mead, but it wasn’t sweetened entirely with honey. As my little experiment progressed, I included some vanilla bean and some untoasted American oak chips. I called it Pineapple Tinker. As the pineapple was fermenting, I was discouraged, because it smelled AWFUL. I was sure that it was going to have to be thrown out. With a little research, I found others  that had similar feelings about their fermenting pineapple, but had waited and were amazed at how good it turned out to be. So, I decided to stick it out.

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According to my notes, the OG was 1.112 and the FG was 1.000. That would make a 14.70% ABV final product. Is that even possible with S-04 yeast?! I would have thought the yeast would have died off before that. If there’s that much alcohol in this Tinker, that’s dangerous! There’s no burn…maybe a little warmth lingering in the throat. Anyway, bottled this small batch on January, 20, 2014. What I have now, is a beautiful pale yellow crystal clear color with a definite pineapple aroma. It is very well carbonated with fine, Champagne-like bubbles, a dry, but not bone dry, clean pineapple flavor. A little more sweetness in this would be nice, but I’m pretty impressed! All honey for sweetening would have been nice. And maybe back sweetening with a little something non-fermentable would have been a good addition, but for a first “Tinker”, I’m happy!

Still no real sign of life in the pineapple tepache. Pineapple-mango melomel should be an interesting contrast to the Tinker…it continues to carboy condition. And the American Wheat RyePA is at a crawl in primary fermentation. I did get some vodka today and zested two lemons and two oranges…combined in a covered storage container in the fridge until ready to go to secondary with the RyePA. That should happen over the weekend, sometime.

Ready to cover and refrigerate.

Ready to cover and refrigerate.

Citrus to be zested and vodka for soaking, sanitizing and extracting flavors.

Citrus to be zested and vodka for soaking, sanitizing and extracting flavors.

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Day 76 Brew Day! Strawberry Blonde @ Raleigh Big Brew!

Third saturday of the month at Raleigh Brewing Co. means Raleigh Big Brew day! Gathered my equipment and headed to the brewery.

Raleigh Big Brew Time!

Raleigh Big Brew Time!

I decided to use “Denny’s Favorite #50” yeast, on the  suggestion of a brew friend, as it is supposed to work well with fruit beers. It came in a “smack pack”…very handy! This was the first time I used one of those. I’m brewing a blonde ale and adding strawberries. My biggest mistake today was using too much water for my boil and not allowing room for the strawberries…6 lbs of whole, frozen strawberries.

Boiling the wort

Boiling the wort

I wound up drawing off 2 gallons and holding it until the last 5 minutes of my brew’s boil. I added it back in and boiled the next 5 minutes to sanitize and then I drew it back off to finish processing at home with Safale S-04 yeast that I have on hand. (Luckily, I had a bucket in the car and didn’t have to buy one!) The rest of the batch, I added some cold water to and got the temperature down to 170F. At this point I added the strawberries. Next, used the wort chiller at the brewery to bring the temperature down to 75F and pitched the yeast.  Then, I poured the wort into a bottling bucket that I’m using for primary fermentation.

6lbs of whole, frozen strawberries added to wort at 170F.

6lbs of whole, frozen strawberries added to wort at 170F.

Again…too much volume…couldn’t close the bottling bucket without fouling the airlock. So, I drained off enough to create some headspace and sealed back up and added a cleaned airlock. I forgot to check the OG, but I measured it at 1.034 @ 75F, once I got home. This is well below the recipe’s estimated 1.053 or the measured 1.046. I have messaged a friend to ask advice…I’m assuming I diluted my wort too much and wonder if I should add more sugar? The flavor and color seem okay, so I don’t think the beer will lack flavor…but it may be too weak on the alcohol. If the fermentation yields the expected FG of 1.010, the the ABV would be around 3.28%.

Once at home, I finished chilling the smaller fermentation bucket with the plain blonde ale and pitched the Safale S-04. I also set up a blow off on the main strawberry batch, since the volume is still rather high.

About 5 or 6 gallons of Strawberry Blonde and a little under 2 gallons of plain blonde ale.

About 5 or 6 gallons of Strawberry Blonde and a little under 2 gallons of plain blonde ale.

Note to self: it was a good idea to take my big bin of supplies. I was lucky to have the smaller fermentation bucket. For future brews, a stick lighter and a pair of hot pads or mitts would be good to have. A card table and a chair would be great to have!

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Day 74 American Wheat Still in Secondary, Tasting Murray’s

I still have my American Wheat with Citrus/Citra in secondary sitting on dried sweet orange peel and rum soaked lemon zest. I am planning on letting that go another week.

The highlight tonight is tasting Murray’s Super Easy Cider for the first time. I fermented a half gallon (in the glass carboy in came in) and got a 12 oz bottle and two 22 oz bottles out of it. The ABV is around 5-1/4%. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I heard a little carb release upon opening the bottle! At this point, the cider has been in the bottle for about 3 weeks. The color is nice and golden, the clarity is great, and the flavor is fairly sweet with a bunch of apple flavor.

Murray's Super Easy Cider

Murray’s Super Easy Cider

The carb is light, but present and the cider is dangerously easy to drink! The aroma is straight apple cider and the flavor barely tastes fermented. I will be doing more of this and multiple jugs at a time!  It is literally about sanitizing equipment and pitching yeast. Add an airlock and a week and …boom! Rack for a couple days and bottle. Love it!

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Day 57 Murray’s Cider Quick & Easy

The Belgian Dark Strong continues to slow…may be bottling by Sunday. Pineapple Tinker is sitting and clearing…just going to let it go for awhile. The main event today is a Murray’s Cider Quick and Easy (Hopefully!).  Here’s how it goes: Buy 1/2 gallon carboy of Murray’s Cider at Harris Teeter for $5.99. Sanitize thief, hydrometer, airlock, and around the bottle cap. Open the bottle, check the OG with thief and hydrometer, pitch (pour in) Safale s-04 yeast and install airlock. Boom! Done!

Sanitize everything! I used a no-rinse solution.

Sanitize everything! I used a no-rinse solution.

Let’s hope this “Q&E Cider” goes as planned. If so, it is the easiest ferment EVER! Murray’s Cider comes in a 1/2 gallon, clear carboy and the cider is pasteurized, but contains no preservatives. So, no Campden tablets…no sulfites! I had a partial envelope of Safale s-04 yeast vacuum sealed  in the refrigerator. I didn’t measure it, but I seem to recall that this was about 1/4 envelope. It should be plenty for a half gallon of cider.

It's just that easy...I hope!

It’s just that easy…I hope!

The OG was 1.050 at 70F room temperature. Adjusting for hydrometer calibration would make it 1.051. I don’t know if I’m going to try and carb this one or not. I may just go as simple as possible for this first one, for the sake of seeing just how simple it can be. If the SG gets down to 1.010, then the ABV would be 5.38% and should be nice and clear, because the only thing added is a small amount of yeast to an already clear, golden cider.

Okay…wee hours and I should be sleeping. Hey, it’s Friday night and I caught a little nap after dinner! I opened a chilled 22 oz bottle of my Crabapple/Fuji Blend Cider and it is VERY drinkable.

Crabapple-Fuji Blend Cider...very drinkable!

Crabapple-Fuji Blend Cider…very drinkable!

As I have written before, I had hoped for more sparkle, but everything else about this cider is just what I wanted…the right color, the right level of sweetness. I can’t remember the ABV %, but I could look it up in my notes. Whatever it is, it’s not burning or harsh and otherwise isn’t important…but it’s in there. The slight carb doesn’t really present itself in the pour or the glass, but you can just sense it in the mouth. A small tweak next year could make this awesome, but it is very good as is!

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Day 26 Two Gallon Stout After Thanksgiving, Pitching Cider #4

Went to Atlantic Brew Supply today. They are off of Hillsborough St. and closer to me than American Brewmaster. While I will take advantage of American Brewmaster when they open in Cary, Atlantic Brew Supply seems to be a much bigger operation. They also have their own brewery, an onsite brew thing for home brewers one Saturday a month and will loan a burner set-up and sell the “recipe of the month” ingredients for 1/2 price. The guy that helped me was laid back, but knowledgeable  and very friendly and helpful. The grains are bulk and priced by the pound…those and a grinder are self service (or they will help). I was pretty impressed.

I bought a small bottle of a no-rinse sanitizer to try, some Safale s-04 yeast and the ingredients and recipe for a Dry Stout. I’ll make the stout after Thanksgiving. Tonight, I’m going to add some honey to cider batch #4…maybe 1/2 cup…since I was a little short on sugar. I’m also going to add some water, maybe a gallon, since I had extra juice. I’m going to separate the cider into two primary fermentation tanks, each with about 1-1/2 gallons of cider, so I can eventually rack at least 2 full gallons. Once they are separated and the honey is added to both with the extra water (heated to dissolve), then I’ll pitch the s-04 yeast. More on that later.

8:00 pm     Followed my plan and opened the PFB on cider batch #4, removed the pommace bag and squeezed the juice out of it. I had sanitized a second PFB, an airlock, some measuring cups and a spoon. I put 4 cups of hot water in a measuring cup and added    4 oz of honey and stirred to dissolve it. I added the honey water mixture to the cider.  I then divided the cider equally between the two buckets. To each, I added another four cups of water. I checked the OG and it was 1.034 @ 70F. Adjusted is 1.035. That seems a little weak. Maybe I raised the volume of liquid too much. I think I’ll add some brown sugar. I did go ahead and pitch the           Safale s-04 yeast, 3 grams in each bucket.

Okay, I added 8 oz of brown sugar to each PFB and stirred well. Checked the OG again and Bucket #1 is 1.052 Bucket #2 is 1.048 at 70F. Adjusted for temp and hydrometer calibration to 1.053 and 1.049.  The flavor is now sweet, but the apple may be a little weak. We’ll have to see how it ferments. I haven’t liked the idea of adding apple juice concentrate (thawed from frozen), but it may be necessary to get some apple flavor back.

Tomorrow might be a good day to go ahead and bottle Cider Batch #2 and try out one of the bottling buckets. Prime with priming sugar…no tablets!!! I’ve done 1/2 teaspoon per bottle or 1 oz per gallon (so about 1-1/2 oz for this batch). Using the bottling bucket, I think I’ll use the option of adding the priming sugar to the bucket. Name…name…name…”TARDIS Cider. Bigger on the Inside.”  I like it.

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Day 17 Racking Beer, Pitching Yeast in Cider Batch #3

Racking the beer batch from a PFB (Primary Fermentation Bucket) and a growler to a single PFB to settle for another day before bottling.

Opening the beer batch to rack it.

Opening the beer batch to rack it.

The SG looked like 1.004 to 1.006. Assuming it’s 1.006 and adjusting for room temp at 69 degrees, I come up with 1.007. That would put me in a 4% alcohol by volume range. I can check the SG one more time before priming and bottling to see if the SG drops any lower.  The color looks good and I get the flavor…a mild bitterness. The alcohol is there. Overall, I think I’ll be happy with the results for a first attempt.

I poured off about an inch of liquid and here's the "bottom of the barrel".

I poured off about an inch of liquid and here’s the “bottom of the barrel”.

It *might* be a little weak, in general. I have bottled a single flip-top and primed it with CarTabs, so I can get an idea of the end product ahead of time. There might be a slight variation with an extra day or two to clarify and priming sugar instead of CarTabs at bottling, but it will be a good approximation.

Over a gallon in the PFB plus a test flip-top.

Over a gallon in the PFB plus a test flip-top.

Having combined the growler and 1st PFB worts (or is it technically beer at this point?), it will be interesting to see if airlock bubbles resume at an increased pace, since the yeast that went into the growler was “guesstimated” up front.  This evening, I will be pitching the yeast on Crabapple Cider Batch #3.

6:30 pm     Pulled the pommace bag and squeezed the juice from it. Pitched in about 3 grams of Dry Ale Yeast Safale s-04. Ready to go!

9:30 pm     Doing a little reading and I think the amount of Safale s-04 that I used is sufficient. However, it seems like I’m reading that it is a slower fermenting yeast than Champagne yeast. The PFB is not bubbling perceptably yet, but that may be because of the slower action of this yeast. (I don’t think there are any leaks.) I have read other people commenting that the primary fermentation may take weeks with this yeast. Another person recommended adding some Champagne yeast for peace of mind, but I don’t have any…that’s why I’m using the s-04. I don’t really have time to run to the brew shop, 15 miles away just for a packet of yeast and I have all the brewing going on that I need to keep track of between now and Thanksgiving! I’m not the most patient person, but I may just let Cider Batch # 3 take its time.

I do need to get a question answered though…maybe I’ll hit a forum and post it. What I need to know is: If I am not going to backsweeten my cider, can I just prime and bottle without pastuerizing or stopping the yeast some other way? I read comments about “bottle bombs” that explode because too much fermentable sugar is left in the cider at bottling. If my SG at bottling, before adding priming sugar (or, in my case, Munton’s CarTabs) is 0.990 to 1.000 and I add the recommended priming amount (4 tabs per bottle), then I shouldn’t have to do anything else, right? Age 4 weeks or more after bottling, at room temperature, and refrigerate before drinking? More on that later.

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