Thursday, September 24, 2015

Dry Strawberry Watermelon

I read somewhere that watermelon should be back sweetened or used with another fruit.  I think both could not hurt.  Either way you should read what you can about it, and then experiment for yourself.  The best writers in the world can't tell you how it tasted in such a way that you taste the exact same thing.  This is why I like taking notes when I make a wine, especially a new recipe.  By the time it's ready to drink I want to make sure I have an account of what I did so I know how to adjust the recipe for the future.
I think the Strawberry Watermelon is definitely one to make again in the future, but it is a little on the dry side.  I'm considering adding in some rhubarb to balance the additional back sweetening that I would do next time around.  There is definitely a pronounced watermelon flavor, but it I think there is so much sugar in watermelon that there is not much left when fermentation is over.  Maybe more strawberry too.  Looking back I see that my starting gravity was 1.090; maybe I need to aim a little higher and let the remaining sugars stay in the wine.
Overall I would say this is a good wine, but I think it could be better with more sugar from some source.  I definitely plan on making it again and letting it sit longer before bottling.  There is a lot of pulp left over from the watermelon that is now collecting in the bottom of the wine bottles.  The lighting in my kitichen threw the coloring off a little, but you see what it looks like here:

It's actually a pink color, but the kitchen lighting gives it a different shade.  

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Clearing your Wine

Many people I know just don't like floaties in their drink.  There's the pulp in orange juice; at least we know what is floating in there.  Then there is the bottle of water someone just took a sip out of, and I think that's the worst.  I never minded a little cloudiness in a beer, but wine is really meant to be very clear.

I started out in this brewing endeavor by making beer.  I just took a chance and tried some wines and now I've bee hooked.  What I have been doing is just putting as little as possible (ingredient wise) into my wines.  If I can let the sediment drop, why add something else to do it for me?  I've sometimes bottled wines a little too soon and had problems.  It looks a lot clearer than it started, the fermentation has stopped, so I bottle it.  Then a week or so later I see sediment in all the bottles, and this is why I like to just wait.  I've had my pumpkin mead in a carboy for a long time now.  I don't even think I can remember how long.  It might have been since January.  The fermentation is definitely over and it has cleared up very nicely.  This, however, is what happened with my watermelon/strawberry wine:

So what is your take on clearing a wine?  Have you had better luck using findings or some other method?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Beet Wine

My wife and I have a CSA from a local farm.  It's a system of buying "Shares" of the farm.  We have 1/2 share.  It stands for community supported agriculture.  This allows the farmer to make money early in the season, and it allows me to get fresh vegetables all season.  This includes beets.  Every week we get fresh beets.  I love them, but after a while my wife has had enough.  We still have beets from last Summer that we canned.  Eventually we give some away to friends.

This year I used the "purple book" as winemakers call it, and I am currently brewing some beet wine in the kitchen.  I was considering the idea of combining it with a potato wine recipe to make it more of a root-vegetable wine, but I decided to start with just beets this year.

The purple book if you've heard of it, or if  you have a copy is a book that contains wine recipes for almost every fruit and vegetable you can imagine.  Each recipe is a 1 gallon recipe so you can multiply it out as you feel the need.  I find that with wine there is usually more yeast sediment at the bottom of the fermenter than with beer so I don't like 1 gallon batches.  I never end up with a full gallon.  I feel like if you want to rack 1 gallon into the secondary you should start with 1.5 gallons in the primary to be safe.  If anything you may end up with a small glass to test for yourself and then the whole gallon in the secondary and some trub in the fermenter.

So this is what I have so far, 1 gallon of water, and 1 mesh bag full of skinned, chopped beets, that I boiled for about 20 - 30 minutes.  It should be a gentile boile that you continue until the beets are soft.  I poured that into the primary on top of 2 lbs of sugar, stirred well, and then added about 2 more lbs of sugar.  Then I added enough cold water to bring it up to 3 gallons.  This is really 2.5 gallons when I take the beet bag out.  The bag has about 4 lbs of beets in it.  It should have been 5, but I found that weighing the beets should be done after you skin and chop off the greens.

Next I added 4 tsp of acid blend and 1/2 tsp of tannin.  The recipe asked for yeast nutrient at this point also but I don't like to add that unless it is necessary.  I find the yeast usually does just fine on its own.  I've got the dry yeast packet in the refrigerator waiting.  Finally I crushed and added 1 campden tablet and when 24 hours are up I will be pitching the yeast.

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:

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.