Saturday, August 23, 2008

"Make it up" etc..........

This morning, I had a quick check of the "make it up as you go along Summer Fruits" melomel (because I upped the sugar levels with honey).

It was at a healthy 1020, I wasn't sure what to do next as it was about 7 litres i.e. did I rack it into a 1 gallon demi-john jar and a 1/2 gallon demi-john jar or what ?

So I decided, to get some red grape juice from the local supermarket, topped it up to 9 litres, added and mixed in 1/8th teaspoon of Fermaid-K nutrient and then split it into 2 x 1 gallon demi-johns. I've since covered the demi-johns with kitchen foil to exclude light as I wouldn't want the batches getting "light bleached".

Now it's time to wait. Yum yum!


More "treasure" !

More "treasure" Ok so I managed to get another "bargain". Not so much of a bargain as as the "half gallon demi-johns", but nevertheless, it was a hell of a lot cheaper than I'd expected to pay for such a machine.

What the hell is it ? Well it's an "Enolmatic" vacuum bottling machine (on the right), with a matching "Tandem" filter on the left.

Normally, the bottler, the filter housing and the filter element (inside the filter housing) are all sold separately. When I was actually pricing these items up, the few suppliers I could find indicated that it was gonna cost me in the region of £400 to £500 i.e. damned expensive. So when I asked in a local Home Brew Shop for his "best price", I had to "snap his hand off" when quoted £200.

It's not that this is a necessary piece of kit for a home brewer (of wine etc), more of a case that it's quite a flexible piece of kit and can be used for storing/bottling various liquids, not just wine. It can also be adapted for moving wine, from one demi-john jar to another, whilst it's getting filtered and de-gassing at the same time.

So yes it is a bit of a luxury, but it means that I can now do some of those tasks a hell of a lot quicker. I mean, using a gravity filter works fine, but when the filter starts to clog, it's down to gravity and it can take a hell of a long time to filter a gallon. So it just highlights how vacuum is better than gravity in these instances.

Oh and I suspect it's normally quite expensive as it's often used by either larger home brewers or smaller commercial businesses and as anyone can usually see, anything that can be applied to business attracts a premium.

Ah well, not to worry about that. I've got it now so I'll make the best use of it. I'll have to get a couple of accessories for it i.e. a couple of different filter sizes (it came with a 1 micron filter, but I suspect I'll have to get at least a .5 micron and a .25 micron filter element for it) and maybe the cap/pipe kit for moving wine from 1 DJ to another.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Summer Fruit "make it up as you go" wine

You should be able to see from the change in colour (from the picture of the bucket in the earlier post), which means that I've strained and pressed the elderberries.

I've very pleased with the colour that the fruit juice has ended up.

What else have I done ? Oh yes, I checked the gravity and was surprised to see that it was only at about 1020, I'd have thought it would be higher given that it's about 90% fruit juice, so to modify that, I've added 3lb of honey, which means it's more of a melomel than a wine (fruit mead, that is). The gravity was up to about 1090, which is fine, so I then added a quarter teaspoon of "Fermaid-K" for nutrient (I haven't got any scale that will weigh 1 gramme so I had to get close with the quarter teaspoon measure that holds 1.2 ml's).

I'm also rehydrating a packet of Lalvin RC212 yeast - which is apparently the best one for colour retention with red coloured musts - though it needs plenty of nutrient at the start as it can produce H2S (hydrogen sulphide) if not. It's being rehydrated in a milk bottle, but rather than just 15 mins in 50 ml of water that was 40C, it's in about 150 mls of water, that's got a 1/4 tsp of "Go-Ferm" at 40C (Go-Ferm is a rehydrating nutrient, not a general nutrient - which shouldn't be used).

I'll probably be ready to pitch the yeast in the morning before I go to work.


Monday, August 18, 2008

How the ingredients are looking ATM!

Raspberry and Apple Juice
This evening, I've strained and pressed the raspberry and apple pulp (from the fruit picked on Saturday). It's had 2 days as pulp, the only additives being a crushed campden tablet and 2 teaspoons of "Pectolase" (pectic enzyme). The idea being that the campden tablet should prevent bacterial infection and kill or at least reduce any wild yeasts (a.k.a. mould) that might have been on the fruit and been missed when I rinsed it under cold water. I didn't heat it at all, because I didn't want to have a "cooked" taste from the fruit, which is very possible with some fruit - especially apples.

Anyway, I also mentioned about getting some "free" fruit from my aunt. I went up there yesterday evening and came away, not only with some more apples (sharp/cooking), the blackberries and red currants I mentioned in the other post, but also about 2lb of elderberries.

Elderberries, simmered for 10 minutes Now elderberries grow profusely around "my neck of the woods". I've been intending to try them for a while, but not managed to get any picked before the birds give them a hammering. So to get the 2lb or so from my aunt was a bit of a bonus.

When I got them home, I "de-stalked" them by flicking them off the main stalk with a dining fork. There was a tiny amount of stalk left where some of the berries/stalks had broken away from the main branch of the stalk.

Initially, being unfamiliar with elderberry, I wasn't quite sure how I should be dealing with them. So I added the berries to 1 pint of water, and added a campden tablet and a teaspoon of the pectolase.

When I got home from work this evening, I check the WAH site, as I'd asked a question about how I should be extracting the juice. It would appear that the berries must be heated, as there is a naturally occuring chemical (I forget the name of it) which is generally harmless, but some people might have a sensitivity, so the advice was that the berries should be heated. When I was looking at/for recipes yesterday, there was various suggestions about how long they should be cooked/simmered for, so the picture is of the berries/water mix after it's been simmered for 10 minutes. Tomorrow, when it's cooled, I'll strain/press then to extract the juice and add it to the bucket with the apple/raspberry juice.

What's this gonna taste like ? Well I haven't really got the faintest idea, other than it'll be a fruity tasting red (possibly rose). I have had a little try of the apple/raspberry juice, that tastes like.....well...... apple juice that's a little tart, with a hint of raspberries. Like a cheaper juice of the same mix that might be bought in a supermarket. In other words, not bad at all.

It'll be darker when the elderberry juice goes in, and I hope they won't "swamp" the taste of the raspberry. We'll see eh!


Sunday, August 17, 2008

New ingredients !

Well, to prove it's not all "mead, mead and more bloody mead", I've been on a bit of a mission over the last week or two.

I saw mention of "cheap black currants" at WAH but was too late to get any in the local branch of Tesco, but I did manage to find some "broken mandarin segments" (in syrup) for 11 pence a tin.

I also managed to get some Kiwi fruit, for 50 pence per pack of 4 (I got a dozen packs - hopefully enough for 2 gallons).

Then yesterday, we finally got time to visit the local PYO (pick you own) farm. We managed to get about 3lb of raspberries, even though it looked like they'd been decimated by the hoards of ravenous pensioners - who can get there during the week when the rest of the world is at work and a plastic carrier bag full of "discovery" apples.

So far, I've put the rasp's in a bucket with 2 pints of water so I can crush/squeeze by hand, and topped it off with 7lb of the apples that have been pulped in the "magimix".

The mix of fruit has had 1 campden tablet to hopefully kill off any residual "wild yeasts" (a.k.a. mould) on the rasp's and 2 teaspoons of pectolase/pectic enzyme to help prevent any pectin hazes and assist in the extraction of the juice/flavours (I'll post some pictures later).

I've been promised further apples, plus some frozen blackberries and red currants by my aunt. So I should be able to come up with something from that lot.

Oh and I've got some more of the cheap honey (£2.50 per 2 x 1lb jars) from the local "Scummerfield".

Of course, the cheap honey it's a lot of good for "normal" mead's as it's been blended and processed to hell and back, but it's certainly fine for any of the "fruit based meads" like cyser (mead with apples/apple juice), pyments (mead with grapes/grape juice), melomels (meads with other fruits/juice), metheglins (meads made with spices), etc etc etc! Where the actual honey flavour is secondary in importance.

Anyway, as I say, as I progress, I'll post some photo's of the different batches.


Saturday, August 02, 2008

Cleaning "second hand" glass!

You may (or not) recall me posting about the small mountain of second hand glassware I got from ebay (24 x 1 gallon DJ's and 409 x half gallon DJ's).

Second hand glassware can be a bit of a worry for some, because you have to get it clean and sterilised/sanitised. As a result of my purchase, I have a lot of cleaning to do. The DJ's had sat around in a barn (or possibly out in the weather) for many years. I suspect, that as they came from a commercial cider producer that they were actually ones that had been used, returned (you used to get a deposit of a couple of pence or so) and then left over from when plastic bottles/kegs etc came into use.

Hence some of them were really stinking dirty. Dried on dirt, sediment from the original contents and a fair amount of other detritus.

Now most of the crap comes off, by cleaning with hot water and soap/washing up liquid/detergent/bleach, but I've noticed that there's often white deposits inside when they've dried. The white deposits look like limescale/water stains.

Last weekend I did a bit of experimenting to see about removing them - maybe unnecessary, but I like things to be as perfect as I can get them i.e. it maybe that it's ok to leave the water stains and just make sure that the inside of the bottles is sanitised/sterilised, but it looks a little unsightly.

Firstly, I made up a batch of "Ritchies Cleaning/Sterilising solution" (the crystaline cleaner is available from Home Brew shops) and filled one. After a while, I noticed that the white stains hadn't moved. So I did a bit of googling about limescale, only to find that the best descaler is hydrochloric acid, but that's "rocking horse shit" in small quantities of sufficient concentration. There's a number of other acids that will also do the job, too numerous to list here (google is your friend), but you might also have one of the more basic ones in your home brewing kit. Citric acid! - so I made up a gallon of water with a 100 gramme pot of citric acid to see if that worked. While it was "doing it's thing", I also checked out what household chemicals we had that might work.

After a couple of hours, I checked the DJ which had started to clear, but was still stained. So I got the bottle of "Mr Muscle" kitchen cleaner and lime scale remover, tipped out a bit of the citric acid mix and poured in a couple of fluid ounces of that. That worked a treat, cleaning the glass completely in a couple of hours. But I figured that'd work out quite expensive.

At the same time I'd also got another DJ and, thanks to finding an article on google, rinsed it out so it just had the lime scale/white stains on the glass, then put just under a litre of cheap malt vinegar in it and topped the DJ off with hot water.

This also seemed to have worked well. So I binned the citric/Mr Muscle mix completely and tried just the vinegar/water mix of some more of the DJ's. It seems to work.

So I've found that Tesco's do "value range" malt vinegar for 14 pence for 250 ml's and got 4 of them ready to do some more of the glassware. It seems to be about the cheapest way of cleaning glassware that has water stains/lime scale (though in truth, I'm at a loss as to where the water stains/lime scale actually come from - yes, we do have very hard water locally, but if the DJ's were just left in a barn or out in the rain, I don't know where it might have come from ???).

Ah well, who cares as long as I can remove it.

I just thought it might help someone..............

August update!

I've been a little slack in the last couple of months, not because I've lost interest, but because I've been a little busy with other household shit! Long working weeks and little time at weekends to actually do anything mean that it's taken me a while to get this sorted.

Anyway, today, the intention was to rack the "failed experiment" mead - by failed experiment, I mean that when I started this, it was 2 X 1 gallon batches, of the same recipe but made using the Wyeast Liquid mead yeasts (1 pack of sweet and 1 of dry). It all went "pear shaped" because both gallons "stuck", they did seem to start fermenting but promptly stopped. I'm not sure what the problem was, maybe too much honey, maybe not enough nutrient, maybe not enough oxygen at the start.......

So I ended up mixing both together (in a 12 litre water cooler bottle) and then adding a bit more honey (1lb I think it was) and topped it up with water. I then treated it as a "stuck ferment" and re-started the fermentation. This seems to have worked, but I can't remember what the yeast was that I used to restart the ferment.

It's already been racked once, so this was the second time (bugger, I've just remembered that I didn't add any campden tablets/sulphite - I'll chuck them in later). The result is the picture above. It doesn't taste anything special, just a dry, unremarkable mead. So if it doesn't age well it doesn't really matter, as I also noted from the quick taste during the racking that it's not got much body. So I'll just age it, as per the picture, and if it's still lacking in 6 months or a year (when I decide to check it) I can just add a little more honey to sweeten it and then maybe add a little glycerine to improve the "mouth feel".

I'd also intended to rack the last of the 5 X 1 gallon batches of "Joe Mattiolis' Ancient Orange Mead" that I made. Actually, only 1 gallon was made to the original recipe i.e. using orange. 1 was made with lemon, 1 with lime and the other two with lemon and lime - though the lemon/lime gallons had different yeasts. One with bread yeast (as per the original recipe) and one with Lalvin 71B wine yeast.

I racked the first 3 a couple of weeks ago, but forgot all about posting a mention. Today, I got both the DJ's out, but when I lifted the news paper covers, I notice that the fruit is still floating so I just put them back under the table in the dining room. I'll check them in a month or so.