Sunday, September 30, 2007

There I was, bidding on a batch of 6 x 1 gallon demijohn bottles (ebay obviously), had the winning bid until about 10 minutes before the auction ended and I get "zapped", I noticed in time to get 2 more bids in, to no avail. The other bidder was either using sniping software (bastards), or more probably just made sure that they had a higher maximum bid. Whichever it was, it wasn't me.

So being a bit pissed off, I quickly had a look back on ebay, only to find another seller had demijohns for sale, but the offer was a "buy it now" for £1.50, only for a single jar, but apparently had lots more. Bugger it thinks me, I could see from the location, that they were only about 35 to 40 miles away, so I clicked the "buy it now" button, for one, but then emailed them to say that I was interested in more.

The seller was brilliant, they replied to my email almost immediately with directions, so I crashed the bank for £30 and jumped in the car. The picture is of most of the 20 jars I bought off them. Still a bargain, considering if I'd bought that many from the local HBS (Home Brew Shop) they'd have been brand new, with a nice sticky label on them (which is a PITA to get off) and cost me just under £100. So at £1.50 each and the £10 or so in petrol, they're still less than half price of the new alternative.

Well pleased.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Latest on the ginger wine.

Well this is what the ginger wine currently looks like. When I'd got the must cooled enough I pitched the yeast (Lalvins 71B-1122 Narbonne), it showed signs of starting the ferment pretty much straight away - though now, 2 days later, whereas the must, while cooling had settled into 3 distinct layers (grey sludge at the bottom, a golden coloured liquor in the middle and the larger shreddings of the ginger - I don't skin the ginger, at the top) it's "that busy" that it seems to be a uniform grey i.e. the sludge colour.

I don't recall whether the yeast is supposed to be a fast fermenter or not, but it seems to be going great guns right now.

This has created a bit of a quandary, because lots of recipes and methods, seem to recommend that you start the ferment in a bucket, and when the initial madness has subsided, you rack it off any sediment into the main fermenting vessel. As you can see (hopefully as this "posting pictures to a blog lark" is a new thing for me) the ferment is basically well mixed with only the larger chopped bits of ginger (they just didn't get as finely shredded by my food processor) at the top.

As for the container ? Well, I've found them at car boots, dumped on the side of the road, in skips, etc etc. They'd normally have water in them. Theres a potential issue with them as they're made from poly carbonate, which being slightly porous, means that they can retain odours (don't know about taste/flavour) from previous contents. So I'll have to be careful, because the bucket that I mixed the must in, now stinks of ginger (like that's a surprise).

That's about it for the moment, but I think I might post more pictures now I've got a vague understanding about how it's done (and get a cheaper/more basic digital camera just for taking pic's that are for posting on the web).


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ginger Wine!

Ages ago, I was on a mission to find a ginger wine recipe that might produce something like the commercially available products i.e. Stones etc.

On one of the wine forums I asked if anyone had any recipes. One of the 3 posted was like this

2 gallons of water
12 cups sugar
large piece root ginger
12 lemons
3oz fresh yeast
1/2 pint brandy
raisins (if desired)

- Boil the sugar and water.
- Add the ginger and boil gently for half an hour.
- Peel the lemons and pour the hot sugar and water onto the peel.
- Allow to cool.
- When cool, add the juice of the lemons and the yeast.
- Put it into demijohns and when it has stopped working divide 1/2 pint brandy between the demijohns. - Some raisins can be added at this stage if desired.

I've made a must for some this afternoon, only because, being off work this week, we went and did our shopping, and the local tesco happened to have fresh root ginger at £1.25 per lb, so I vaguely remembered the recipe and just filled a bag full.

On getting home and reviewing the recipe, I discovered that it only needed "a large piece root ginger".

Well, as it wasn't really defined, and I happened to have just under 3 and a half pounds (weight) of root ginger, I thought I'd modify the recipe a bit and made the must up for it.

So, my version is to put a gallon of water (haven't got a pan big enough for the two gallons) and the sugar on to boil.

When boiling point is reached, I put the 3lb 6 oz of ginger I had into the food processor to chop finely, this is then placed into the boiling sugar/water mix for 15 to 20 minutes.

In the meantime, I juiced the 12 lemons. I got a fermentation bucket and put the second gallon from the original recipe into it and grated the lemons into the water.

When the 15/20 minute boil of the sugar/water/ginger had finished, I poured this into the fermenter bucket with the other gallon of water and grated lemon peel.

I left it to cool for a couple of hours, and have since placed it into the chosen fermenter vessel (along with the lemon juice) to finish cooling (down to room temperature).

The only additional ingredients I've added, are some B1 tablets (the mix is about 12 litres so I used 6 i.e. 2 per gallon) and I've added 2 grammes per gallon of Gervit Yeast nutrient powder.

I'm going to pitch the yeast tomorrow - I don't have any "fresh" yeast so I'm going to use Lalvins 71B-1122 Narbonne yeast as it seemed to give quite good results with a recent mead recipe i.e. some residual sugar/sweetness and honey taste/aroma. Hence I'm hoping it will still have the residual sugar/sweetness and given that I've "kicked the arse out of" the ginger, plenty of ginger "bite".

I have absolutely no idea whether this is going to work or not, but I can't think of any reason why it shouldn't. Thinking about it, I'm wondering if I should have added some pectolase, but as lemons are citrus fruit, and I've only used the juice and grated peel, I'm hoping it'll be Ok.

I'll report back when it's done.

Pip pip!

Racking a batch off the lees

So yesterday, I decided it was time to rack the batch that I made of the "Gales Honey Book Modern Mead".

This was the batch that was made up as 3 gallons, but then split into 3 x 1 gallon demijohns. Each 1 gallon mix being pitched with a different yeast - a mini experiment if you will.

The first one was the mix that was fermented with Lalvin EC-1118 yeast. This is, apparently, a champagne yeast - you'd have to google it to get a full spec. The taste was the usual "medicinal/mouth wash" sort of experience (as mentioned in Ken Schramms book "The Compleat Meadmaker"). Which I still understand isn't unusual when a yeast that is alcohol tolerant, is used. It seems that this type of yeast ferments out the sugar to quite a dry taste, with little residual sweetness. It did have a medium (the only way of describing it that I can think of right now) residual honey flavour.

Of the 3, I'd say that this was #2

Then I racked the mix fermented with Lalvin K1V-1116 All Purpose/Montpelier (the numbers right I think the naming/nomenclature is, but thats from memory). This turned out to be 3rd in a race of 3.

It was the (now) usual medicinal/mouth wash sensation, indicating to me that it had fermented out all the sugar, leaving a harsh, dry mead. There was little residual sweetness of any kind and little residual honey flavouring. A "definite" for aging for at least 12 month.

Last, was what turned out to my mind, the champ of the 3. This mix was fermented with Lalvins 71B-1122 Noveau/Narbonne yeast. I'd looked up their product descriptions so wasn't that convinced that it would "do much".

How wrong I was.

The flavour was only a little medicinal/mouth wash, it had retained more residual sugar and sweetness, plus it had kept a distinct honey flavour/aroma. Of course, I racked it to bulk age, but to my taste, I could have drunk the whole lot, there and then! It reminded much more of the commercial meads that I've tasted. Definitley one to brew again, but trying different honey's.

I also racked off the apple wine I made last year from it's failed attempt to restart the fermentation. I'm not going to bother any further, but I intend to mix it with something (maybe some distillate alcohol or maybe one of the dryer more medicinal tasting meads, I haven't decided yet). It's still far too sweet etc.

Finally, I was pointed toward an excellent link by the "good burghers" of the winesathome forums. It comes, as far as I can tell, from the US national honey board, it's a .pdf about the basics of mead making and the sort of thing that I'd have like to have read before I started, as it would have saved me a lot of wasted time and the asking of stupid questions


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Another update!

I've tasted the "Barshacks Ginger Mead" recipe. Fuck it was horrible. Ok not horrible, but rather bland, and not as I'd expected. I followed the recipe as closely as I could - I had to use normal sugar, as I couldn't locate any "corn sugar", that shouldn't have been too much of an issue.

Unfortunately it just tasted like a watery version of normal newly brewed mead (normal, as in that "medicinal" or mouthwash taste suggested in the "Compleat Meadmaker" book by Ken Schramm), I could smell the ginger but there didn't seem to be any ginger flavour.

It's strange, because for a normal mead recipe, I'd have just used about 4lb of honey made up to 4.5 litres with water - Ok this one has added sugar, so what it's supposed to taste like exactly is a bit of a mystery to me.

What the fuck, I've said bollocks to it and added a further 3lb of honey and a further 6 or so Oz's of ginger.

I'll now have to wait and see what happens. I suppose I'll just rack it off the yeast in a month or so and then just seal the container and chuck it under the stairs to age.

Hell, this home brewing thing is interesting, but bloody hell, it does seem to take forever to make anything even vaguely drinkable. I'm glad I've invested in the still, because making straight alcohol and using commercial flavourings seems to be a bloody sight quicker. It also gives me the option, of actually having a go at making something like "proper spirits" if I want too, though I'd have to work out about making myself a proper "pot still" for, say, brandy or rum. Of course, I'd have to get some proper oak barrels as well, but I can take my time locating them.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Another "updates"

Firstly, the updates.

The Apple Wine mentioned before has been "restarted", unfortunately the restarting hasn't worked. Though this might actually be because I just re hydrated the yeast and "chucked it in". Apparently there is a problem with this approach. I'm not quite sure if I'm gonna get the instructions that were posted for me at the "wines at home" site and follow them religiously - I'm feeling a little ambivalent about this brew so whether I try something else (see below) or not is something I'm mulling over.

The "Barshack Ginger Mead" brew I made seems to have finished fermenting. I haven't tasted it yet, but I was thinking whether I might have to add some more ginger as I like the hot ginger flavour obtained from commercially made ginger wines and a bit more honey - this'd be mainly because when I give the base must a taste, it seemed a little "watery" or thin in flavour. I'll see when I get 5 minutes to do something with it.

The Joe Mattioli's Ancient Orange and Spice Mead recipe I made also seems to have finished the ferment, though when I checked it the other day the fruit was still floating at the top, I'm going to wait until it's sunken to the bottom of the brewing container before I think about racking it off.