Sunday, October 26, 2008

Damn wine making ! Mk2

This morning, I looked at the bubbler valves and it looks like somethings happening, because both of the jars/DJ's of the Apple and Blackberry are much more active i.e. I can see a fair amount of "micro-bubbles" coming to the surface of the wines and the valves are bubbling much more regularly.

Though I still don't see how it might be lack of nutrient that has caused this, especially with apple juice and frozen blackberries. Of course, it'll be something that I've missed, not tested for or just not thought about, but it does seem a little weird.

I think I'll have to dig out the data sheet on the yeast - though whether that'll give me anything to go on, I don't know.

It does still strike me as strange because the jar that was racked still has a much higher gravity, though it doesn't have the considerable layer of sediment of the one that was racked (wrongly) last week and I wouldn't have thought that the "top off" of the cheapo supermarket apple juice would have raised the gravity by 20 points - it's "only juice" after all, it has no added sugar etc.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Damn wine making !

Ok, so this evening I've tested the apple/blackberry that I might be having problems with. The DJ that I actually racked last week is still giving me a gravity reading of 1050 (it was topped up with cheapo supermarket apple juice to remove nearly all the air space from the racking).

The other DJ that wasn't racked last week now shows 1030 with might be a 5 point drop or thereabouts from last weeks reading.

Like an idiot I didn't note down the actual readings. Both are still producing bubbles at the valve, but they still might have stuck and are just "de-gassing". So I've mixed 1 teaspoon of Tronozymol yeast nutrient into 20ml's of water and added 10 ml's to each of the DJ's and given them a gentle stir.

Hence if it does turn out that they're not stuck it won't matter, or if they are, then the nutrient will help towards a restart procedure.

I'll test them again next week, if the gravity has dropped then I'll leave them alone, if it looks like they're stuck I'll put them together into a 2 gallon bucket and do a restart. Though I'm thinking that I'll probably also test the pH just in case it's a bit too low and it's affecting the yeast. I can always add a bit of gypsum which should help bring the pH up a bit.

I'll have to wait and see.

Pip pip!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Last weekend - racking.....

Ok, so I thought I'd have a "rackfest" last weekend.

I thought I was beginning to get the hang of this wine making lark, but the first bit of racking proved that I'm still making stupid mistakes.

I collected up the 5 DJ's that needed racking and happened to pick my Apple and Blackberry first. Now because the "turkey baster" was in the dishwasher and my "wine thief" wouldn't fit the DJ, I just thought it would be OK and said what the hell and syphoned the first one. I drained the last few drops from the syphon tube into a glass and was absolutely amazed to find that it was as sweet as hell. "Bollocks" thinks me. Ok so I get the turkey baster out of the dishwasher and wash it up by hand, then sanitised it with the campden/citric acid sanitising spray.

Took a measure and dropped the hydrometer into it. 1030, fuck! That means it's stuck for some reason. So I then checked the second gallon to get almost identical results. For the moment, I've dropped a crushed "Vit B1" tablet in each one to see if that will give it enough nitrogen to fire the ferment back up.

If that doesn't do anything, I'm gonna have to do a restart on them, but it will have to be with K1V-1116 - because it should retain more of the fruitiness than if I tried a champagne yeast - not that I know of any "red champagne yeast" anyway.

Here's hoping.

I then checked the gravity of the Raspberry and Apple, great, that's fine at 1002. So I racked it (both DJ's) then when I had the last drops from the tube to taste, I realised what it is about raspberries. I can hardly taste the apple and there's a very strong acidic taste of raspberry there. Not unpleasant, but very sharp. So I'll probably have to sweeten it up to try and hide some of the acid sharpness. Though I'm confident that it'll be Ok, if a little over raspberry tasting. What the hell, I'll just get it cleared and leave it in the DJ forever.

My best effort so far has been my elderberry. After hours of "de-stalking", all the pissing about with the simmering of the berries etc etc it's turned out to be a dry, but very fruity (that non-descript, generic fruity flavour that elderberries have). Overall I've very pleased with it.

Ah well, only the cyser/apple wine to go now and the gallon of plum when it stops fermenting.

Note to self - buy proper laboratory burette or turkey baster specifically for wine making.

Pip pip!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Absinthe & Water

So, here's what it looked like, when mixed 1 absinthe and 2 water. I can now see why it's often referred to as "the green fairy".

As for taste ? Well, there's the definite anise taste of pernod, Ricard or Pastis, but there's also an underlying bitterness, which, presumably is the wormwood. Despite the 60% ABV, there's no "alcohol hotness" that you often find with other spirits or with high alcohol wines that are still "young".

Overall, as I like the aniseed flavour, it gets 9 out of 10. Not bad at all.

Pip pip!

My idea for "crimbo presents"!

I've been thinking about what I was going to bottle up to give to the family for their christmas presents (as I've got plenty of mead that should have aged enough by now).

Now I won't bore you with how I got my hands on the base alcohol - it took some getting, but the idea came when I found this site and a little further digging to find this site for the flavouring.

I've not actually tried it before, myself. Though I've tried other aniseed drinks like Pastis, Ricard and of course, Pernod. So when I found those sites I decided that having read a lot about Absinthe, I should really try some. So as it's quite expensive (if you can find it for sale) I decided that I must be able to make some.

I can't report on what it actually tastes like yet, because after digging around the net, I find that it seems that when you make some of these "flavoured vodka spirits", it can take a couple of days for the flavour to develop. I haven't the faintest idea of why, but having made a few of them before, it does seem that that's correct.

I don't know whether I'll be able to resist not tasting it today - either way, I'll post about what it tastes like.

Oh and despite the "how to" link showing it as "easily done", the sugar takes longer to dissolve into the spirit then they seem to suggest.


So much to learn !

I keep reading about yet more things I should be doing........

"WTF are you on about ?" I here you say.

At the moment, I'm thinking about understanding pH and acid's by "titration" and also that the "must" must be balanced (as well as the finished product) for the ferment to be as successful as possible.

I have a "Ritchies" test kit and a small electronic pH meter. I've used the test meter, but as yet I haven't got round to using the Ritchies test kit.

The acid/pH thing is a bit weird. Why? because there are various suggestions as to which one should be used and how much or more correctly what the pH should be to create the acid environment for the yeast to flourish - well that's what a lot of the stuff I've read suggests - though I've also read suggestions that it doesn't matter too much about what the acid/pH is for the ferment, as long as you use some to balance the wine when it's finished.

There is also the issue of which acid too use i.e. the 3 "normal" ones suggested for wine making are Citric, Tartaric and Malic acids.

My confusion arises, because some suggest that you should only really be using tartaric, whereas lots of recipes include citric in them. Plus the older mead making book I have suggests a blend of acid i.e. 2 parts malic to 1 part tartaric for mead making (which is what most of my wine making consists of).

To make the confusion worse, if the article/post/whatever I'm reading, has come from the US, the acid titration is usually about tartaric acid, whereas I understand that UK instructions/advice/articles/etc will give the figures as sulphuric acid and then have to be converted to tartaric.

Damn! even typing this and thinking about it is making my head spin.

Ah well, back to the internet too see what I can find, and to try and understand this issue.


Sunday, October 05, 2008

Blackberry and apple/Plum.

Well I've just strained my blackberry and apple off the blackberry pulp and got it into fermenters - it's basically a 1 gallon recipe, but as I had 9 litres of apple juice and 3lb of frozen blackberries, I got 2 x 1 gallon's and about 1 1/2 pints of must left over.

The extra bit is in the fridge so it might tighten up the bottle a bit (a plastic bottle) while the ferment dies down, but that shouldn't be a problem. Once the ferment has finished it can be topped off - the yeast in the spare bit will have settled on the side of the bottle anyway.

Oh and despite the recipe saying that it needed 680g of sugar, I've said bollocks and used a whole kilo - yes it will probably still ferment it ok and it will make it a bit stronger, but I'm not fussed about that as I'll be ageing it for 12 months plus so that should sort out any "alcohol hotness" type taste that might be apparent.

I've also got the plum started fermenting on the pulp - it will have to be strained after about 4 days, onto the sugar, though that recipe does say 1 kg of it. So I'll sort that on Thursday evening.


Odd Stuff to use !

The fruit wines I've been making recently, due to the time of year/whats actually "in season" at the moment, means that I'm often having to mill/crush fruit and then treat it with pectic enzyme before it can be strained/pressed.

Now I've also been reading Luc Volders' excellent wine making blog (you have to scroll down for the english translation) and made my own version of his bucket straining device. This is fine, if a little slow. I've also been using the pressing bag I have for use with my press i.e. I put some pulp in it, then twist the material to tighten it, squeezing some of the juice out (over a bucket of course) before it goes into the press - the only problem with this is that the press has an internal basket made of stainless steel. Now when this was made, the basket has had holes drilled/cut into it before the basket section was formed. The makers didn't bother smoothing the holes on the inner side of the basket, so when the press is operated and the foot comes down to press the bag/fruit, it sometimes catches the edge of the material, tearing small holes in the material. Which after a while, not only allows some of the pulp to squirt out, makes things bloody messy and the bags are about £5 a go i.e. not cheap.

So to try and remedy this, I've enlisted the mother-out-law, and she picked up a box of 5 pairs of "pop-sox" in the local Wilko's (about £ 1.50), so I should (after sanitising them, despite them being brand new) be able to do the same thing, at less cost and it doesn't matter if they get snagged by the inner part of the presses fruit basket. They should "do the job", especially if I don't mill the fruit as finely as I have been with apples (in a magimix).

I am thinking about getting a press with a wooden basket instead, but they're not as cheap as the small press I picked up on ebay (I think it was about £50).


Fruit wines and other stuff !

So, the second batch of apples that I pillaged from the local roadside tree's, was milled and then left with some pectolase and crushed campden tablet mixed in. The campden tablet to prevent bacterial infection and the pectolase to help with juice and flavour extraction plus it helps prevent pectin hazes in the finished wine.

Then last weekend, I strained and pressed it. I also added the 3lb of frozen black berries that I had in the freezer. To basically follow one of the Apple and Blackberry recipes in the ageing "Boots book of Home Wine and Beer Making" (ageing as it was originally published in 1982 but the recipes seem to be more up to date than those in the CJJ Berry Book "Firt Steps in Wine Making).

Of course, I should have just milled the apples and then added the blackberries but I don't think it matters, it's been fermenting on the pulp of the blackberries/apple juice for about 4 days or so now, which means that today I'll be straining it and the pressing what's left of the pulp.

Also, about a week ago, I found some cheap plums in the local Tesco (about 65 pence per pound) so I bought 6lb thinking that the average fruit recipe uses about 3lb of fruit per gallon. The plum recipes use about 4 1/2 lb per gallon so I've de-stoned the fruit, crushed it a bit and then added the 5 pints of hot water. This has been allowed to cool and then it's had pectolase, a crushed campden tablet and a teaspoon of citric acid added. Later this evening I'll be adding the rest of the ingredients i.e. yeast, nutrient, grape concentrate (don't recall whether I add the sugar at this stage or not...) etc but it'll then be left to ferment on the pulp for about 3 or 4 days, before the pulp is then strained off.

I should point out, that I've been using either Lalvins RC212 or Youngs Burgundy yeasts. This'd be mainly because of the properties of retaining colour and some of the more delicate flavours that often differentiate between red/dark coloured fruits and light/green coloured fruits (it's more in depth than that, but I suspect it's better to stick with the normal winemaking conventions).