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.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Concord grape Wine

Kitchen Brewery started out (in my mind) as a beer blog, but I've been following the fruit. When the dandelions came up I made dandelion wine. My mother in law happens to have some grapes growing in her yard and we decided to make wine from them this year. I went into this brew with almost no idea about how to make wine from grapes. My plan was to mash them up, hope there was enough juice, and pitch some yeast.

I went to the homebrew shop, got some corks, sanatizer, a corker, and asked what kind of yeast would be good with concord grapes. They told me people have bad results with concord grapes because they don't have enough sugar and they have a musty flavor. For the flavor they said champagne yeast was good because it neutralizes off flavors. I got my equipment and then asked around about it on the home made wine making community on google+ and found a recipe thanks to Benjamin Hansen. I also looked around and found this from Jack Keller:

 I used the first recipe which is much like the one I got on google+ and it makes up for the low sugar in concord grapes. I also leaned that red wines need to age 2 years in the bottle. I am sure this is why I hear stories about people who say wines from wild grapes taste bad. Beer brewers just are not used to waiting so long. I know I'm going to have a hard time with it.

Rinsing the grapes 

 I followed the recipe and found that concord grapes really do need the added sugar.  My gravity reading before pitching the yeast was 1.100 and to prevent any intrusions the fermentor is being guarded closely.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Racking the Dandelion

  As I've been turning this entry over in my head I am thinking of all the jargon used in home brewing that may not make any sense to someone new to the practice.  At some point I will post a short entry about what means what, but for now try to hang on if you don't know what us brewers or wine makers are talking about.

  What brings me to this is the dandelion wine I posted about back on 5/15/2013.  It sat in the secondary fermenter for about two months and then I racked it back into my plastic bucket, cleaned out the carboy, and racked it back into the 3 gallon glass.  By doing this I cleared up a lot of yeast that had dropped out.  I was just over the 3 gallon mark enough that inserting my auto siphon caused a small overflow of wine (that I drank).  Racking always loses a little so I'm hoping to end up with exactly 3 gallons when it is all said and done.  I'm tempted to bottle the wine, but I have a bottle of last year's brew sitting on the shelf and I keep comparing that to the carboy so I know it's not as clear as it can be.

  I have some clear wine bottles ready to go, so when it's all clear I will have to run and get some corks, and try (for the first time) to cork some bottles.  I got these for free from the local recycling center and cleaned them up:

  After having tasted some of the dandelion wine, even though it is not finished, I can tell that this is much better than the first batch I made last year.  It has more complex flavors and it is still sweet, but just enough.  I am hoping this will be a good balance.  I dare you to try it, anyone can brew it in their kitchen.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Chilling Tales

  For about 13 years I have been brewing beer on and off.  In New Mexico (thanks to Jeff Jenkins) I brewed my first batch of beer.  Then I learned the method of doing a 1 gallon boil, chilling with an ice bath, and than cooling even farther by adding 4 gallons of very cold water.  Even if your ice bath ins't completely effective, the 4 gallons of near freezing water brings the temperature down fast.

  Since then I have begun doing 2.5 or 3 gallon boils.  To move beyond the 3 gallons I would have to get a larger pot and a bigger burner than my stove top.  Keeping everything in the kitchen and brewing with what I have has worked out very well and produces some great beers.   However, I have learned that cooling 3 gallons is much more difficult and time consuming than cooling 1 gallon.  With a three gallon boil I have more boiling water than cooling water, and of course the ice bath isn't as efficient.  I have tried the ice bath, putting the pot in a mound of snow during the winter months, and even putting pre-boiled frozen blocks of ice into the wort.

  Finally I have decided to construct an immersion chiller. If you google immersion chiller you can find all kinds of articles and how to videos on how to build one or what is the best method, shape, size, or metal.  Below you will find links to the ones I liked the best.  To coil my chiller I wrapped the copper tubing around a paint can, and to make the 90 degree bends I used a tubing bender I got on ebay (for $2) which is much like one you would use for bending brake lines on a car.  I found this is ok up to a point, but when you want to bend to 90 degrees it is not quite enough.  If you are concerned about making the bends 90 degrees and want to avoid kinks, you get what you pay for when it comes to tubing benders.  Here is another idea I came across that maybe I could have tried: , but in the end I have a couple of small kinks in my chiller as the photos show.

Small kink in the bend

  The bending tool cthuliz used is the best type for getting a good bend.  If you don't care if your bends are 90 degrees or how they look then you can get by without it.  To start off I've used two stainless steel clamps on each copper to vinyl connection.  If that leaks on me I will refer to the connectors cthuliz used (which is a great design), but I think I will be ok.  Now on to the next brew so I can give this a test.

If you're really interested in how heat exchange works:
Coiling your copper:
The best how to I've seen:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Winter's Tale

A Winter's Tale:

  I have read that the more ABV a beer has the longer you should bottle condition it.  I had forgotten about this when after 2 weeks I popped open a bottle of a strong Winter ale I brewed.  It definitely proved to be true.  Just the other night I opened another bottle and there was a huge difference.

  I wanted to brew a Winter ale for last season and I found a recipe in a book I have.  I made a few small changes to the recipe that I think worked out well, but I didn't get around to starting the brew until after Christmas.  I have since decided to keep the brew around for the next Winter.  That will be the difficult part, not opening any more bottles for a few months.

  This was also my first time using Northerbrewer, or any online store, to purchase ingredients.  The experience was not bad, but now I am on their list so I always get catalogs from them.  I already have enough reading material in the bathroom next to the toilet, thanks guys.

  If you're interested in starting a winter ale give this a try.  I like to gather ideas I like and put them all together to make a brew.  Take what you want and make your own beer,  or follow all the details if you want.  I find that the particular yeast I used for this brew works well but because it is so floculant you need to mix it up once in a while or it will all drop out before it's done fermenting.  I just pick up the fermenter and shake it around a little to keep it going.  I may try a different yeast next time but I'm not sure how much that will change the beer.  I think I can get more ABV out of this with a different yeast.  I may also strain the grains using a rest schedule next time around.

5 gal
Irish Ale Yeast WLP004

1/2 lbs.
Crystal (80L) grain
black pattent grain
½ lbs.
chocolate grain
9 lbs.
dark liquid malt extract
3 lbs.

Original Gravity =1.084

% Alpha Acid
1 oz
60 min.
Northern brewer
1 oz

1 tsp (was supposed to be 1oz grated fresh)
powdered ginger
2, peeled quartered
3 sticks
2 whole
6 whole

Steep grains in 2 gal at 155 for 30 min.
rinse grains in w 1 gal 150 degree water
add honey, malt extract, and Norther Brewer Hops, boil 30 min.
Add Spices, boil another 30 min
Last 5 min add Irish Moss and Cascade hops.
Turn off heat, steep oranges for 30 min, then strain, add water up to 5 gal
cool and pitch yeast


Fermentation was started the next morning, by afternoon it was very strong, by a few days later it slowed, I began swirling the fermenter around once a day as someone @ whitelabs told me this is a good practice since it is a very floclulant strain.  

After 15 days in the primary the gravity was 1.024 (down from 1.084) and I racked it to the secondary fermenter. Fermentation is slowed but continued.  There was a very deep yeast bed at the bottom of the primary.  I smell the spices in the airlock but I don’t taste them.

Day 16 I added 1 tsp of yeast nutrient, 4 whole cloves, 1 whole nutmeg, and 1 cinnamon stick.  I’m not noticing any of the orange.

botteling 3/11/2013 finished @ 1.022 with some nice spice aroma.  Primed with 4 cups water and 1 ¼ cups DME  

I'm going to call it 'Long December'

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

ray Bradbury, Meet Jack Keller

Ray Bradbury, Meet Jack Keller

I have not read Ray Bradberry’s novel Dandelion wine.  However, if you google Jack Keller you can find his page with a long list of dandelion (and other) wine recipes.  For someone looking to make some wine for fun this long list can seem a little overwhelming.  If thats you, then just pick a recipe and give it a try.  If it doesn’t work out for you there is always next year.  

Thats what I did last year.  This year I decided to upgrade my output to 3 gallons and modify the recipe a little. Of all the recipes Mr Keller listed I don’t recall which one I originally tried.  I did write down the process, though and I’ve made some changes.  Last year’s wine is very sweet, like a desert wine.  I have looked at the three recipes Jack has actually used himself and combined some things I like to come up with a new recipe for this year.  

What you’re reading here is all of the experience I have with wine making.  I normally brew beer, but when the dandelions came up this year I immediately thought of making another dandelion wine.  Unfortunately I don’t have nearly as many dandelions in my yard as I did last year.  I may have picked them all before they went to seed and caused this problem myself.  Instead I scouted a new location where they don’t spray for weeds, got some small buckets and took the kids out to pick dandelions.  I wrote down my adapted recipe, and followed it, sort-of.  here is what actually happened in the kitchen brewery that night:

It's now been almost two weeks since fermentation began and it is going along well. Hopefully by next summer It will be ready to drink and I may have even finished Mr. Bradberry's novel.