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Bottle Carbonated Kombucha

On 5/3/2015, I bottled a single bottle of Kombucha as a test, to see how it would do. A couple of days ago, I put the bottle into the refrigerator. This morning, I decided to open it up and check the results. Unfortunately. the bottle fogged with condensation when I removed it from the fridge. Otherwise, you would be able to see a small amount of cloudy, globby stuff in the bottom. It never really formed a SCOBY on the surface, though. I believe I added a teaspoon of sugar at bottling…have to go back and check notes to confirm.

Bottle conditioned kombucha

Bottle conditioned kombucha

I was able to easily avoid the stuff on the bottom by careful pouring. The result is a pale drink with nice clarity and a beatiful carbonation! Not too aggressive, like a soda…more like a sparkling wine.

Nice clarity, tiny bubbles!

Nice clarity, tiny bubbles!

The flavor is light and has a nice sweetness. Not syrupy, like a soda, but not too dry. The bubbles continue to rise in the glass, like champagne, long after pouring. Now I wish I had bottled a BUNCH!!! Because it does take much longer to carb than beer. This is at about 2-1/2 months.

Effervescing kombucha makes me happy.

Effervescing kombucha makes me happy.

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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.

DSC04847

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 87 Racked Costa Kona Mocha Latte Stout to Secondary

End of primary fermentation for the Costa Kona Mocha Latte Stout.

End of primary fermentation for the Costa Kona Mocha Latte Stout.

It’s time. Racked the Costa Kona Mocha Latte Stout onto the Costa Rican cocoa nibs that I have had soaking in vodka for a few days, after I toasted them briefly to bring out the flavors. The primary bucket had a bunch of coagulated looking trub that looked like browned hamburger in grease.

Cocoa nibs in a sanitizing/extracting  soak in vodka

Cocoa nibs in a sanitizing/extracting
soak in vodka

Is that hamburger? Nope...that's some serious trub.

Is that hamburger? Nope…that’s some serious trub.

But the beer is coming along nicely, I believe. Secondary should go a week or so and then it will be on to bottling with the cold brewed Kona blend coffee concentrate (4 cups).

I’m a bit bugged by a little mystery. I keep an inventory of what I have on hand in brews. Last night, I pulled a few things to refrigerate and drink and I adjusted my inventory. I looked in the fridge tonight and found a bottle I thought I had drunk last night. I checked my inventory and it is accurate. What I  have left in the fridge is accurate, except for this extra bottle. So, what the heck was that bottle I drank? I have this single bottle of a strawberry lemon experiment that I did. I also did one that was just lemon. I didn’t even put them in the journal, because they were just single bottles. It was fresh lemon juice, water, sugar and a little yeast. I somehow had some small amount of strawberry for the second bottle…can’t even remember now. I thought I drank the strawberry one last night. It was weird because it was kinda crazy carbed…DSC04348

crazy carb on this mystery bottle.

crazy carb on this mystery bottle.

and heavier on the strawberry than I expected. I also thought I was getting some hops, which I did not use on this cider-like fermentation. If I didn’t know better, I would think that I had opened a strawberry blonde that I just bottled a couple of days before…but they’re all accounted for…unless I had a brain fart and stuck one in the fridge when I was bottling or put one back in the inventory stuff without counting it. Anyway, it’s a mystery…but I have the strawberry lemon experiment right here. It’s clear, light golden and lemony, but dry with a fairly strong sparkle. Clean and fresh.

Strawberry Lemon Experiment

Strawberry Lemon Experiment

Not getting the strawberry, but it doesn’t really suffer without it. I really should have documented this, even though it was a tiny experiment. Ah well…live and learn. Relax…and have a home brew (or ferment)!

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Day 68 Nothing Brewing…Feels Weird

Since I bottled my hefeweizen, and scrambled for bottles to do it, I have nothing brew-related going on. Everything is in the bottle conditioning phase. It just feels weird! I did open a few bottles tonight…um…just to check their progress. Yeah, that’s it. Anyway, I started off with my Nut Brown Ale that I received as a Christmas gift-kit. It was bottled 10 days ago and is surprisingly drinkable already. Compared to my previous English Nut Brown Ale, A.K.A. Fawlty Brown Ale, it is a bit more bitter. The color and clarity are good and the carbonation may get better, but is pretty good already. In addition to the kit, I also received some Irish moss and gypsum. I believe they did their jobs! No doubt that this beer will improve with another couple of weeks in the bottle, but my first bottle out of this batch says it’s a success.

Nice clarity and color

Nice clarity and color

Nut Brown Ale

Nut Brown Ale

The second bottle of the evening was a 22 0z bottle of the Belgian Strong Dark. I believe my last taste of this beer was described as having a fruity component and maybe caramel, but not the roasted coffee or chocolate flavors. This beer has been in the bottle for 24 days and has since mellowed a bit on the caramel and it has lost that fruit from before. I’m not an expert at the critique thing for beer and I don’t have the right words to describe this flavor. Is this what people describe as “biscuit”? I will need to get some more experienced feedback on this one, but whatever it is, it’s good…at least, I think so!

Belgian Strong Dark...interesting.

Belgian Strong Dark…interesting.

The final bottle I opened this evening is the Watson’s Cider…in honor of John Hamish Watson’s nuptials on Masterpiece Theater tonight! Side note: awesome episode. ‘Nuff said. The cider, unfortunately, is not doing so well. This is an all-crabapple (foraged) sparkling cider. This is the only beverage that I have pastuerized, so far. I also was trying to retain some sweetness by not letting it ferment quite all the way out. In the process, I did not let it clarify long enough and too much lees came along for the ride. It’s a little sour in the nose…like mild vinegar. The carbonation is a bit week. If I went back through my notes, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the carbonation is actually going down some. There was quite a bit of sediment in the bottle and the color of the cider is a medium golden, but with a little haze. I know it sounds weird, but the best way to describe it is as if someone drop one or two drops of skim milk into the glass before adding the cider. I did have fun with the label. Since calling it a “cyser”, I have seen the error in my ways…but the labels were expensive and already printed. Plus, “Watson’s Cider” sounds like a personal question.

One of my less successful beverages, but not ready to dump it yet!

One of my less successful beverages, but not ready to dump it yet!

As for the flavor, I definitely get that slight sourness/vinegar taste with an almost dry finish. These days, some people think it’s good for you to drink vinegar, so they’d probably think this was really mild and tasty! I’ll keep pulling one out, now and then to see what’s happening. I’m not ready to dump it yet, but we’ll see what happens over time. If I get desperate for a few bottles to use for something else, these are at the top of the expendable list.

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Day 62 Still Making Cider Baguettes

First, let me get the liquids update done: The Pineapple Tinker is on untoasted American oak chips and I think I’ll let them go another day or two. The Murray’s Super Easy Cider is still popping off a bubble now and then, so no rush there…but it could be a busy weekend, because both of these will probably need racking by then, plus the nut brown ale is slowing considerably now. It’s down to about 30 second intervals on the blow-off tube, so I may be bottling that batch by Sunday!

9:30 pm I opened a 22 oz Crabapple/Fuji Cider and was happy to find that the carb was up a little bit more than last time. It’s light and may not get much better than this…but this is really tasty!

Crabapple/Fuji Cider

Crabapple/Fuji Cider

Here I am about 2-1/2 months since my first entry with (crabapple) Cider Batch #1 on October 28th, I believe it was…and I’m still using the starter I made from that cider’s lees (Champagne yeast based) to make bread. I took about 8 loaves to the Thanksgiving vacation, having made and frozen several batches at that point, 2 loaves per batch. I keep the starter in a pint canning jar in the refrigerator, not too full and with the lid screwed down just to fingertip tightened (because it can build pressure otherwise). The starter can be left unattended for weeks at a time. You will see it separate. Before making a batch of bread, I remove the jar, tighten the lid and shake it to mix thoroughly. I  use 1/2 c. starter to 1-1/2 c. water and 1-1/2 c. unbleached all purpose flour, blended well.

Proofed starter.

Proofed starter.

Starter added to flour and water, covered.

Starter added to flour and water, covered.

That mixture stays in a mixing bowl, covered with plastic wrap, to proof for a couple to several hours. I have read that making bread from beer lees is not good because of the bitterness, but the cider lees worked fine! I have also since read that I could have used less sediment and more liquid to make the starter, as there was probably plenty of yeast in the liquid. The sediment was unnecessary…but it may have added some character. Who knows? Anyway, after I measure out what I need for the recipe, I replace the amount removed from the starter jar and stick it back in the fridge.

Topped back off the starter...ready to go back in the fridge.

Topped back off the starter…ready to go back in the fridge.

This recipe makes baguette loaves with a denser texture and smaller bubbles than the traditional french loaves, but with a nice, crunch to the crust and a nice chew.

If you are a cider fermenter and also like to bake, check out my post from Day 9 and Day 10 to read about making the starter. When I am ready to bake a batch of bread, I use the mix as stated above…flour, water and starter, proofed…and proceed with the recipe:

Sourdough Cider Baguettes

Ingredients

2 c. proofed Sourdough Starer

1 t. Salt

1/2 c Water (+ a tablespoon or 2 more, depending on humidity)

4 c. Bread Flour

2 T. White Cornmeal

Directions

Put the ingredients, in the order listed, into the pan of a bread machine and use the “Dough” cycle to mix and knead. You may need to scrape down the sides and add the extra water, if required.

Using the "Dough" cycle of my bread machine to do the hard work.

Using the “Dough” cycle of my bread machine to do the hard work.

Alternately, you could use a mixer with a dough hook (allow dough to rest 10 minutes after using a mixer) …or mix and knead by hand, if you’re a real masochist! Form dough into a ball. Spritz a bowl with a little Pam Spray or a little oil. Cover the dough in the bowl to rise until it has doubled in size. [I forgot this first rise and my loaves were a little less risen in the final stage than I would have liked…that may have been the problem.] Have some extra flour on hand for handling the dough. Dust your surface and the dough with a little flour. Divide the dough into two equal portions. I use a digital kitchen scale, but a good guesstimate is okay. Shape into ovals and use your hands to roll out each portion into a long, fat rope.* Sprinkle a little cornmeal on a baking sheet or baguette pans and place loaves. Using a sharp knife, cut 2 or 3 slashes horizontally on each loaf to allow for rise. Cover loosely and set aside in a warm, draft free location until about doubled in size.

Cover to rise

Cover to rise

Shaped and on the baguette pan

Shaped and on the baguette pan

Preheat oven to 375F. On the bottom of the oven, place a small pan of boiling water. Prepare a clean spray bottle with water for misting. When the loaves go in the oven, mist them directly with the water and also mist  the sides of the oven and quickly close the door. Repeat the misting 3 more times at one minute intervals. Set a timer for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, remove the pan of water. [Forgot to pull the water pan after 15 minutes…this may also have affected my final product this time.] Set the timer for another 25 minutes. Check the bread for an internal temperature of 190-200F or tap to see if it sounds almost hollow. It could need a few more minutes. Cool on wire racks. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cooled loaf, wrapped for freezer.

Cooled loaf, wrapped for freezer.

*On a personal note, I have tried a couple of methods for forming the loaves into baguette shapes. I have tried flattening them with a rolling pin, then rolling them lengthwise and pinching the seams. I have tried rolling the rope shape out with my hands. I’m not an accomplished bread baker, so some come out better than others. I have had some split down the sides, lengthwise, as they did this time. They taste great, no matter the shaping technique…might be a little harder to slice. If you’re an expert baguette shaper…more power to you! If not, don’t let it stop you! Enjoy!

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Welcome Beginners!!! Cider Fermenting and Home Beer Brewing from Day One!

My first beer...a success!

My first beer…a success!

Welcome! My name is Matt and I am a beginner at home brewing beer and fermenting cider. I have been keeping a daily journal of my experiences that I hope will be helpful to other beginners. I am currently about 2 months in as I write this. I began on October 28th, 2013 with crabapple cider. I have crabapple trees on some property that is a common area shared with neighbors. Nobody else uses them…they are treated as ornamental. I started making apple jelly and apple butter out of them last year. I did the same this year and decided to try making alcoholic crabapple cider. It has been a real challenge! Since I had the equipment, I decided to try beer as well. Both are exercises in patience, but are fairly simple.

I encourage you to read through my journal and note where I had questions and small mishaps. These may answer many of your questions and help you avoid some mistakes of your own. I began numbering my entries with “Day 1” and went from there. I did not write an entry on days where I did not have to do anything related to fermenting or brewing, so there are less entries than there are actual elapsed days.  I still consider myself to be a rank amateur, but I’m more confident now and I continue to learn, experiment and pursue advice. I strongly suggest doing some reading on a home brew website as well. There are many out there. I recommend http://www.homebrewtalk.com . It  covers from beginners to seasoned pros and everything in between. Find a local home brew supply store, if you have one and talk to the people there. Eventually, you may want to see if you have a local club to join where like-minded folks  get together and exchange ideas and maybe sample each other’s brews.

The main thing to do is get started! Buy a beginner’s start-up kit and just do it!

Constructive comments, advice and questions are always welcome.

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Day 36 Brewing Dry Stout

Extract, grains, oats and hops for Dry Stout

Extract, grains, oats and hops for Dry Stout

Spent grains and oats

Spent grains and oats

Wort, after grain steep

Wort, after grain steep

The boil was good…no problem with the malt extract and the only hop addition was at the beginning (60 minutes). I moved the wort to a sink with ice water and brought the temperature down to 90F. Poured the wort into a bottling bucket and topped off to 2-1/2 gallon…maybe a little over. I was making sure that I wasn’t measuring the foam, but I may have gone slightly more. The recipe estimated that the OG would be 1.043 and I got 1.036 @72F, adjusted to 1.037 for calibration. This should be a pretty low alcohol brew. The recipe came up with 4.1%. With my lower OG, mine would be 3.54%, if I reach the estimated 1.01 FG.

Last few minutes of the boil

Last few minutes of the boil

I am pleased with the color and the flavor. Now it’s up to the yeast to work its magic! I’m using Safale s-04 yeast. The recipe doesn’t specify and the guy at the brew shop said s-04 would be fine and it is also what I use for some ciders.

Just over 2-1/2 gallons fermenting, not counting foam.

Just over 2-1/2 gallons fermenting, not counting foam.

I pitched half of a packet of the yeast in and sealed it/airlocked. I should have 5 to 7 days in fermentation.

On another topic, I gave the bottles of cider batch #4 a tip upside down and a swirl. Thinking it might wake up the yeast, if there’s any left. That was yesterday. Today, I opened my test bottle. No sound. Poured a very small amount into a glass and resealed the flip top. Color looks good and taste/sweetness are great…but…no carbonation at all. I have read that sometimes it happens 4 or 5 weeks after bottling, so I’ll keep an eye on it. If it never carbs, it will be a nice still cider. I wonder if I could use it in a SodaStream? Hmmm.

Last night, I also opened my first test bottle (ever) of crabapple cider.

Tiny Bubbles!

Tiny Bubbles!

test bottle, cider batch #1

test bottle, cider batch #1

This one was the tester for cider batch #1…what eventually came to be known as Sherlock’s Cumber, Batch #1. This bottle was primed with Munton’s CarTabs, which I did not use on the full batch. This bottle was dry and had a little less carbed than I prefer. I would have liked it more if it had be a little more “crisp”. Not bad for a first batch though. We’ll try some more at New Year’s Eve and see if the bottles primed with priming sugar are any better.

10:15 pm Stout progress: there is pretty aggressive bubbling in the airlock. It goes of about every 9 seconds, but when it goes, it perks several times. This is only my second time brewing beer and first time using the bottling bucket for fermentation. Cider batches and other beer batch were fermented in a 2 gallon primary fermentation bucket and they all seemed to bubble at increasing, then decreasing intervals, but not with the vigor being experienced this time. Just single bubbles in the past. I guess it could be due to the size of the bucket or the type of beer. Whatever the reason, it seems to be fermenting nicely.

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