Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Bottle Conditioning

The brewery is busy.  There's a strawberry watermelon wine bulk aging (this means it's aging but it's not bottled yet) as well as the pumpkin mead in the previous post, that is also bulk aging and a Stout I  brewed with oatmeal and coffee that is conditioning in the bottle.

I made the mistake of putting some beer bottles in the cellar last winter to condition, and I had very mixed reviews.  I was sure I put in the right amount of sugar for priming and I had mixed it in very well before bottling, but still some bottles were almost flat.  I thought about it and it I wondered, if I had so many flat bottles why was I not getting any bottles exploding?

Eventually with the help of some friends I realized that the temperature in the cellar was just too cold for the bottles to continue to bottle condition.  These stout bottles are sitting up on the first floor in room temperature, (68 - 75 degrees F).  I want to make sure the bottles are up in that environment for at least 3 weeks before I try opening a bottle.  No one likes a flat stout.

I brewed this stout with coffee one other time.  This time around I changed my recipe a little by adding 1 pound of oats in the boil and I racked onto 1/2 cup of coarsely ground coffee beans in the secondary in addition to the coffee I steeped at the end of the boil.  This was a great brew.  My wort chiller proved to speed the cooling significantly and my bottling bucket made that whole process much easier as well.  Feel free to drop a line, let me know about your brewery upgrades, or let me know if you are interested in the coffee/oatmeal stout recipe.


Cheers from the Kitchen Brewery

Monday, January 19, 2015

Pumpkin Mead Winter 2015

The winter solstice has past and the days are starting to get noticeably longer, but still it's cold out there.  This time of year I do not need to worry about any fermenting to go bad because of too much heat.  My cellar is below 60 and I keep it between 65 and 68 upstairs.  Its a good time to brew in the kitchen here.

I came across this recipe for a pumpkin mead a while ago and it has been sitting in my bookmarks for a while:

http://www.allgrains.net/2012/10/samhain-mead.htm

Now I'm finally giving it a try.  I started by getting a (sanatized) quart mason jar, putting in four 1/4 cups of water, 1 1/4 cup of Honey, and about a teaspoon of yeast nutrient.  then I pitched in my yeast and let things get to work in there for about  3 days.  I put cheesecloth over the top just to keep anything from getting in there.  Until I invest in a flask and a stir plate this will have to do.



I stirred my starter up as frequently as I could and once the time was up I covered it with my hand, gave it a good shake and pitched it into my must.  I am enjoying the smells of the fermenting process with this one.  It has been going for just over one week so far.  I am aiming at 4 weeks in the primary as the recipe suggested.



Preparing this must fills the house with the smell of roasting pumpkin and the roasted pumpkin is also much easier to remove from the skin than raw, fresh pumpkin.  At the end of the growing season I purchased these three sugar pumpkins at Harper's Farm in Lancaster, MA.  I kept them on my porch all this time hoping the cold would preserve them.  For the most part it did, but one of them was a little soft in the skin from too much sun.  Dark and cold is better.  the pumpkin meat inside smelled great so I used it anyhow and I ended up with about 12 lbs of pumpkin.  I'm going to need a lot of bottles and a good place to store them all.  I am planning on one month in the primary, one month in the secondary, and then one final month in a third fermenter before racking.  This should leave me at 6 months in the bottle by Halloween.  

Judging by the smell of the brew so far It will be great by then, although I wonder if a full year in the bottle might be better.  Let me know if you have experience with meads and how long to age them for their best flavor.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Concord Grape Wine 2014

Once again I found myself at my inlaws house and their grapes were ripe.  They offered to help me pick if I wanted them for wine again so I figured, why not.  I wasn't expecting to do this again and it was later in the season that the previous year.  I feel like last year I picked the grapes a little early and this year a little late.  We also did not seem to have as much rain this season.  the grapes were smaller and sweeter.

Here are some tips I have come up with for picking.  Try to make sure you de stem the grapes and rinse them right away.  they will get moldy after a while if you let them sit and you won't be albe to use as many of them as you wanted.  Pick, rinse and mash the grapes all in the same day if you can (this is a lot of work).  I waited and did not end up being able ot use as may of the grapes as I hoped.  Also check them frequently if you can to make sure you pick them at the right time.

I picked mine and sorted thorough and ended up with almost 2 gallons of grapes (after mashing them).  Prior to this it was more.  I don't have a press, I mash them by hand in my primary fermenter.  This year to make up the extra I used frozen red grape juice concentrate (2 containers mixed) rather than sugar water.  I came out a little over 3 gallons which reduced to a little under 3 gallons when I racked off the grapes and sediment.  I also added 4 lb of sugar, stirred very well and ended up with a starting gravity of 1.100.

After mashing, I added 1 campden tablet (crushed) per gallon.  Then I took some of the must out, added some yeast nutrient, and took my yeast that had been soaking in warm water and pitched it  in.  I mixed this up a little over 24 hours and then at the 24 hour mark I pitched that start into the fermenter.  For 1 week I shook it up at least once a day to keep the yeast suspended and the grapes from forming a cap.  Than I racked it.  I've seen this before when I use champagne yeast, it is so carbonated that it has trouble with the siphon.  It works but it's really slow and I have to re-start it a few times.

http://instagram.com/p/vXarz0AsRr/

You can see a little of what I mean there.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Bad Yeast Nutrient

When it comes to brewing beer I have never had a need for yeast nutrient.  I used some last time I made wine with grapes and I may have used some for dandelion wine also.  More recently I used it with my Watermelon Strawberry experiment.  During primary fermentation I noticed a strong ammonia type smell.  I am used to strong smells during primary fermentation and I am used to my wife not liking them sometimes, but this was definitely not a good smell.

This led me to check my yeast nutrient, and I discovered it had gotten moist and clumpy and it smelled just like the bad smells I picked up from the fermentation.  I just racked that off it's yeast and the smell has gotten calmer but it is still there.  I think the wine is great (if you hold your nose while you sip) so I don't think it's a bad recipe and I expect to try it again.  Has anyone else had a similar experience?

I added some extra sugars (dextrose) when I racked it.  I am hoping the yeast will get back to work and maybe eliminate whatever that odor is and maybe I can salvage this wine.  Moving forward I have purchased a new yeast nutrient with a screw cap that I can tighten.  It is a mead yeast nutrient that has no urea and I keep the screw cap bottle in a zip lock bag that also contains some silica gel to absorb moisture.  I am told as long as it is dry the nutrient really will not expire.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

An Active Autumn...

I realize it has been a long time since I have posted any new information, but the kitchen brewery has not gone the way of the dodo.  More then brew the kitchen has been canning vegetables and fruits lately, but the fall harvest is catching up.  I've been meaning to try combination of a coffee stout recipe with an oatmeal stout, and I've had an idea for a watermelon wine on my mind as well.  Then there is a pumpkin mead recipe I've been hanging on to for a while.  All this while last weekend at my inlaws house the grapes are ready:


So as of right now, I have some strawberry watermelon must sitting with some campden (sp?) tablets.  I plan on starting that, then getting these grapes ready to go and finally the pumpkin mead.  All hopefully in time for me to get to the Stout, hopefully in time for Christmas.  I may need another carboy and a bigger wine rack to store this stuff.  Once again I'm looking at the debate of plastic vs glass.  The reason I debate is because there is a price difference.  I think the price of the glass is worth it.  

  Many people are going with plastic carboys lately because of the price and the issue of the glass breaking (safety, etc).  I still don't like the idea of something I will consume touching plastic all that time even if it is "food grade".  I've heard micro biologists say it's a bad idea from a bacteria perspective (no one says that about glass).  And from a chemical and environmental perspective I like glass much better.  Read some here for more information: Plastic, not so Fantastic

What's your take on the debate?  



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:  http://www.instructables.com/id/Wine-bottle-jack-o-lanterns/  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.