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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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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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Checking the Specific Gravity on There Gose a Sea Breeze

Hydrometer Sample

Hydrometer Sample

After I racked to secondary, added the grapefruit zest and hibiscus tea concentrate, there seemed to be some additional fermentation happening. It wasn’t much…in fact, I was afraid the little white bubbles were going to turn out to be an infection. However, they did eventually fade away.  The OG was supposed to be 1.062, and it came in at 1.063. The current SG reading is 1.014 with a temperature of 72.8F.

Hydrometer reading.

Hydrometer reading.

After temperature correction for the hydrometer, the actual SG is 1.015, which is .001 above expected FG. Considering that the OG was .001 high, fermentation could be done.

The thing is, I really want this beer to be carbed and ready to drink by Thanksgiving, which is about 2-1/2 weeks away and carbing will likely take at least 10 days. I’d rather give it a month, but it is what it is. So, just in case the fermentation isn’t COMPLETELY done, and, considering my history with over-carbonation…I think I will bottle in new bottles, underestimate the priming sugar, and cross my fingers.

Regarding the beer’s other characteristics, I am hopeful. The sample is a pretty cranberry color, the front end is appropriately a little salty (but not overly so), then there’s tart, followed by a little sour in the finish. The thing is, I don’t know how to describe the aroma or the flavor. I think the hibiscus is giving it a little cranberry character, but I’m not sure how the coriander and grapefruit zest are influencing the flavor. There’s obviously a blended flavor there. I just don’t have the palate and experience to put it into “proper” tasting terminology. But I like it. I really look forward to getting some feedback from some more experienced brewers.

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Racking to Secondary: Mowing Mt. Ranier

 

Ready to rack to secondary

Ready to rack to secondary

A few days ago, I did a specific gravity test on the Mowing Mt. Ranier Ale with Cherries. It was down to 1.009 (the anticipated was 1.008) and hadn’t shown signs of activity in several days. To be safe, I waited a few more days before racking. I had some time this morning, so I went ahead and got it done. I removed the stems and pits from some regular red cherries and weighed out a pound.

One pound of pitted cherries, stems removed.

One pound of pitted cherries, stems removed.

I was not able to find Ranier cherries locally anymore and my brother in-law canceled an order for dried ones when I warned him not to get ones processed with sunflower oil. Unfortunately, that’s what he had ordered. So, I have decided to finish the beer with the regular, fresh, red cherries. I sanitized them in StarSan, since I didn’t have time to soak them in vodka and freeze them. I also have a small experimental batch that is just about a 1/2 gallon after racking. I have sanitized a pint of frozen blackberries and added them to that little batch.

Frozen blackberries for the little experimental batch.

Frozen blackberries for the little experimental batch.

After racking the main batch, I cleaned the carboy, sanitized it, and transferred the beer back into it, onto the cherries.

Racking

Racking

Sanitizing the carboy.

Sanitizing the carboy.

Cherries in secondary.

Cherries in secondary.

1/2 oz Citra hops pellets for dry hop addition.

1/2 oz Citra hops pellets for dry hop addition.

I have what appears to be right at 5 gallons. To this, I added a dry hop addition of 1/2 oz Citra hops pellets that I contained in a little sanitized fine mesh bag. Dropped that in and put the airlock back in place. There is a possibility that the yeast, suspended in the beer, could start fermentation back up with the sugar in the cherries. Ideally, the batch will be done in five days. If it takes longer, that’s okay. I’ll let it be ready when it’s ready. So far, everything looks and smells good. There isn’t a lot of cherry flavor, but I’m not looking for cherry soda. The cherries added to secondary should give me what I’m going for.

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Racking Jackfruit Cider to Secondary

Racking jackfruit cider

Racking jackfruit cider

Fermentation on the jackfruit cider has finally slowed dramatically…possibly finished. I seem to be a bit short on containers, but I worked it out. I racked from under the fruit and from the fermentation bucket to a big, glass dispenser.

An unorthadox container and a little simple  filtration

An unorthadox container and a little simple filtration

Then I racked from the glass dispenser to a gallon size jug and the rest into a 1/2 gallon jug (which is only about half full).

Sitting in secondary to clear

Sitting in secondary to clear

Once fairly clear, I’ll rack again for bulk aging and eliminate as much head space as possible.

Currently, the smell is fairly strong and not very appealing. The flavor is very hot with plenty of alcohol. The fruit turned pretty slimey and nasty.

Limp, slimey, fermented jackfruit

Limp, slimey, fermented jackfruit

I don’t know how this will be in the long run, but I will age the heck out of it and maybe it’ll turn into something interesting…maybe even good!

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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!

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