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.

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:  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: