Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Dandelions past

I did have plans to make more dandelion wine this year and maybe even 5 gallons this time.  I didn't go picking any because I planned to get some from the farm, but when I contacted them I found out that they only grow them for the greens so they never let them get to seed or flower, and by then it was too late to pick any myself.  Dandelions will have to wait for another year unless I suddenly seem them poping up on my lawn again.

However I do have plans for a wheat beer that will be racked onto 5 lbs of strawberries in the secondary.  I'm thinking of a somewhat sour belgian farmhouse wheat.  I'll make sure to post that one when I get it started.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Fermentation Updates

As of right now there is nothing new brewing in the kitchen.  I have my dandelion wine from 2013 bottled, and there are four bottles left of about 14.  Many of them were Christmas gifts and I have to say that this was much better than my first attempt at dandelion wine.   I am considering going from 3 to 5 gallons this Spring.

The concord grape wine is bulk aging in a carboy and is very clear and it has a sour taste which is not unlike the grapes.  The concord grapes are more of a table grape than a wine grape, but still it is not bad wine.  I did have to add sugars to the recipe and I am thinking of back sweetening it with some concord grape juice. I would love to hear from anyone with some ideas on that.

Then there is the pumpkin wine which I tried in a 1 gallon batch.  You can see it here:

 Pumpkin Wine

There is definitely a pumpkin taste to the wine and it is a little on the sweet side.  If that is not to your taste I'm sure you could cut back on the sugars in the recipe I used.  I'm thinking of switching it to a pumpkin mead recipe I have found if I do another pumpkin wine this fall.  It's still aging and I'm waiting to create some pumpkin bottles to bottle it.  My wife really likes this idea:  and it does look nice.  I think the wine could use some more aging so creating some of these and saving them for this Autumn will be nice.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Retaining your head

 I am still (can you believe it?) not done with my brew from last Winter.  You can see the post of that recipe here:

I've noticed over time that the bottles have very low carbonation and the head fizzes out very quickly.  The other day I was thinking it may be due to my method of sanitizing bottles.  I used to use a funnel and fill each bottle with sanatizer for 15 minutes.  I would do about 10 bottles at a time so it was a long process.  To speed things up I have been putting the bottles in my dishwasher and letting the hot water sanitize the bottles. Then I was thinking, maybe there is some small trace of the soap or the rinse agent that is causing issues. 

 I posed a question on the forums at Norther brewer.  you can check it out here if you want:
I can't be 100% sure, but I do know this never happened to me before I started sanitizing bottles in the dish washer so I'm done with that going forward.  

 The other thing I've learned that I was wondering about is the stronger ABV and the long time I aged the beer in the secondary.  I wanted to make sure I got as much ABV as I could and I let the yeast go until it was completely done.  I remember thinking, ' I hope there is enough left in the yeast to bottle condition ' and I think that may also have played a part in this.  The strain I used was not quite alcohol tolerant enough to ferment all the sugars in this beer and I think it reached its limit before I bottled.  For beers like this I'm planning on adding more yeast to the batch when I add the priming sugar from now on.  

Using a strain that is more tolerant of higher alcohol
 levels sounds like a good idea too.  I'm thinking maybe one of White Labs California strains:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

yeast starters and pitching amounts

 When I first started brewing I never cared much for the more technical, scientific side of the process and a lot of things like yeast pitching amounts were not even on my radar.  Eventually like many brewers I have come to realize that although you can brew a good beer at home in your kitchen very easily, the small details can add up to an even better beer.

 That lag time between the pitching of the yeast and the time the fermentation actually starts can be a little distressing.  There are things you can do to get a fermentation going if it hasn't started at all but it's nice to know (as soon as possible) that your yeast is at work and happy.  There are a lot of different brewing calculators online that are very helpful but I've found this yest caculator to be the best one I've come across so far:

This will point you in the right direction for getting your brew going, or at least if it's too late it may help you understand why your fermentation has taken so long to start.  I've always stuck with using White Labs liquid yeasts when possible.

They've always been very helpful when contacting them about any yeast questions I have.  If you've got a few minutes to spare you may find this video about their yeasts interesting:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pumpkin Wine

I think I've become addicted to making wine with fruit.  My wife and I had a 1/2 share of a CSA from a local farm.  As a result we've gotten a lot of pumpkins this year.  That's what got me thinking, I wonder if a sugar pumpkin would make a good wine.  From there I made the long trip to google and found a few recipes.

First I came across a recipe on the Jack Keller page:

and then I found this one:

and I mashed the recipes around in my head and came up with one of my own.  As I've found in the past this does not always make for a good wine.  I just racked it yesterday for the second time, or in it's third fermenter, and it is clearing up.  It's a little less orange than I would like, and it's a little sweeter than I would like but here is the recipe I came up with:

4.5 lbs sugar pumpkin (sugar)
1 lb golden rasins
4 lbs sugar
1 tsp yeast nutrient
1/2 tsp pectic enzyme
2 tsp citric acid
1 cinnamon stick
1 inch fresh ginger root
1 whole nutmeg
Lavin 71B-1122 white wine yeast

I started out with 5 quarts of water thinking the boil would bring it down to about 1 gallon, but I ended up having about 2 gallons. I think the pumpkin adds some water of its own. I poured the boiling water over the pumpkin and raisins and let them sit for 24 hours. I added a campden tablet about 16 hours into that, and at 24 hours I strained out all the raisins and pumpkin.

I took some of the must out, put it on low heat in a pan and mixed in the sugar. I then added it back to the rest with the spices, citric acid, pectic enzyme, and yeast nutrient. Then I re-hydrated the yeast in 1 cup of warm water with some sugar and pitched that in once it became active. My starting gravity was 1.150 which is probably why it is a little sweet. I figured the recipe asked for 5 lbs of pumpkin and I only used 4.5 lbs so I would go a little higher on the sugar. When adusting for sugar don't count on the pumpkin adding much even though you are using sugar pumpkins, right? I also had some squash and threw some of that in the mix which may account for the less than orange color. Some brewing notes: manually removing the pumpkin form it's skin with a fork is very time consuming. Especially if you want to make more than 1 gallon, find a better way and if my one try is any proof, the pumkin itself (if you squeeze all the liquid out of it) will add some volume.

Next year I'm going to try this:

Happy brewing, and remember if you can find it in a bottle out there, you can make it in your kitchen.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


 Sometimes things in the fermenting business are quiet except for the sound of an air lock.  I have some ideas brewing in my mind, like a coffee stout.  For the moment all is quiet.  Last night I racked the concord wine for the second time.  I lost a lot of volume the last time I racked it because the amount of yeast sediment from the champagne yeast was so much.  If I placed the auto siphon the bottom of the carboy it was below the yeast cake.  I held on to the auto siphon to keep it above the yeast and it's clearing up nicely. It started out with a gravity of 1.100 and it is now 1.000; the champagne yeast is very aggressive.  I was told this would help with removing some of the musty flavors of the concord grapes.

  I wonder if blending the concord grapes with some frozen Welches grape juice might help with that as well.  I'm not sure I like using the champagne yeast but time will tell.  According to some things I've read from Jack Keller, a red wine like this needs to age 2 years in the bottle.  

 The dandelion wine has been in the bottle for a while now.  I did notice a tiny amount of sediment in one of the bottles yesterday, but it was very small compared to the first time I tried a dandelion wine.

 Now I'm looking at the sugar pumpkins I have and thinking about a pumpkin wine, maybe for next Thanksgiving.  Cheers to you.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Labeling your bottles

 Once you've brewed a few batches you may find you have bottles building up in your supply.  Often I've had one that was significantly darker than the other so I would identify the bottles in that way, but then when was which brewed?  A sharpie with a small mark on the caps will help but it's not very visually appealing.

 This was working for me, but then one time a friend sent me a couple of bottles of an IPA she brewed, which she also had made labels for.  I was really impressed.  I always thought it wasn't so important but I was really surprised at how much a label improved the presenation.  Some people might be unsure if they want to drink something with no label, maybe even with small pieces of the original label still stuck on the bottle.  Having your own label on the bottle makes your brew look like a legitimate product that you could have on the shelves of your local beer shop.

Here are the lables on my Long December brew:

 There are many ways to make your own labels.  I've even seen a site that will sell you caps with custom words on them.  Since I got those two IPA bottles I've been labeling my bottles as well.  It gives me a place to put the date I bottled my beer, and lets me know what is in the bottle at a quick glance without holding it up to the light and take a guess.

 What I've been doing is going to and creating my label there.  It's free to create a lable there and if you want you can have them print and ship the labels.  Once I have one I like I save the image and print it out.  I go to a copy store and make color copies of the print out, take them home, cut out the labels and I'm ready to go.  To attach them I use a strange trick that I like.  I take the cut out label and I brush milk on the back and then attach the label.  Once the milk dries the label is stuck and when I want to reuse the bottle the label comes off easily.  Try with a test piece of paper and any bottle.  Once you brush the milk on the paper should curl up a little, then apply it to the glass, wipe any excess milk and let it dry.