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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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Bottled Belgo Paleo

Bottling!

Ready for bottling!

I just finished bottling the Belgo Paleo Belgian Pale Ale and I wound up with 42-12 oz bottles. I thought I had more corn sugar on hand to prime with, but I only had 3/4 oz. So, I primed with table sugar. The recommended amount for a Belgian Ale is 1.9 to 2.4 atmospheres.With my history of overcarbonating, I looked at the lower end of the scale and the amount of sugar recommended is 2-1/2 oz; I went with a scant 2-1/8 oz. Always feels like a bit of a crapshoot, but we’ll see how THAT works out.

Bottling bucket.

Bottling bucket.

I did get a hydrometer sample again and the FG is confirmed at 1.015. My OG was almost dead-on at 1.060 (recipe says 1.059), but I just couldn’t get to the projected 1.009 FG. So, instead of 6.56%, I wound up with a respectable 5.91% ABV.

Nice color.

Nice color.

Flash makes it hard to see the line is actually 1.014...with temp correction = 1.015 FG

Flash makes it hard to see the line is actually 1.014…with temp correction = 1.015 FG

In an attempt to lessen the chances of overcarbonation, I cleaned all my containers and equipment with a solution of super washing soda from Arm&Hammer, rinsed and sanitized with Starsan. I ran the bottles through the dishwasher AND sanitized with Starsan. Keeping my fingers crossed!

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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!

 

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