Thursday, December 30, 2010

Other thoughts during yesterdays filtering.....

I've come to the conclusion, that my methods of recording my batches, methods and techniques are still a bit too haphazard.

So I think that I'm going to start numbering them, that way I can just keep adding to the blog, but just refer to, say, No 1/10 (gonna start back with "1" as it makes sense to keep them numerical/chronological and trying to count up the batches I've already made is foolish and time consuming).

That way, I can even make use of labels/tags etc and it should be easier for me to keep records of what's been done, how and when.....

Hell I might even include the numbering on the labels for any bottles.......


Yesterdays job......

A week or so ago, I'd been looking through my meads etc to see what needed doing next.

I was mainly prompted by a gallon of heather honey mead that'd I'd made last year, had cleared, then back sweetened - on back sweetening, the damn thing developed another haze. I asked around the forums and the best suggestion seemed to be that it should drop out with age.

11 months later, it was still hazy as hell, so I asked again, the suggestion was to hit it with some finings. I had the "Kwik Clear" 2 part finings from Ritchies, but really wanted to try something a little less harsh. I've got some bentonite (one of the suggestions), but the other i.e. Sparkoloid, isn't available here in the UK.

The long and short of it was that I just got impatient and used the Kwik Clear. It worked a treat, but seemed to produce a considerable layer of "fluffy" sediment.

So what to do....... Well......

seemed like the way ahead. I deliberately chose the coarse, "number 1" filters. as you can see from the picture, I was just  setting up the plate filter section of the minijet....

As you can see, the layer of sediment was about 3/4's of an inch deep. I don't know why, because I'd already cleared it once and the only sediment should have been from the haze caused by the back sweetening.

Anyway, there was other meads that needed to be run through the filter as well....

So it seemed highly appropriate to get the filter/pump out.......

It all seems to have gone reasonably smoothly, the only thing I'm not really sure about, is that while I was using the minijet, the mead on the intake pipe was clear for the most part, but where the small pipe comes out of the pump section and passes to the filter plates, there seemed to be a lot of very fine bubbles coming into the mead.

Now I don't know if that was a small leak that allowed some air into the mead or whether it was removing some of the dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2). The meads all passed through the filter section Ok and as you'll hopefully see from the next picture, I know have an increasing collection of meads that are bulk ageing.

Some of them are pretty close to being ready to drink, some of them have a way to go. Now I don't know which, off the top of my head, but some are dry meads, some are sweeter (I prefer mine to have a gravity of about 1.005 - or "medium").

So in the new year, I'll have to go through them again and work out what needs bottling and what can sit for a while, or as might be the case, what needs a little bit of back sweetening....... Plus I'll be able to sort out whether there's any oxidation or not.

Oh and just in case anyone who reads this thinks "he didn't mention any sulphite or campden tablets", they'd all had that the racking before - so don't forget, you would normally only add sulphite/campden tablet every other racking.

That's a poor picture of some of the meads that are bulk ageing under the stairs, but I suspect you get my point. I think there's between 12 and 15 gallons there.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Recent efforts (23/12/10)

Christmas eve was a quiet day (me on hols from work and my partner having to go in for the last day before the crimbo break).

So I "wheeled out" the lastest toy. A mini-jet filter/pump. It's a "plate filter" type device - these are available in commercial format with a huge number of "plates". The mini-jet is aimed at home brew/amateur use and has 3 pads/plates. The pads are available in 3 grades, the finest (number 3 pads I think) filter to 0.5 micron (saying that they're "sterile" filters/fine enough to remove yeast cells).

I don't filter to that level usually. I ran 5 gallons of various meads through a set of "medium" or No 2 pads. All of them had cleared/been fined etc and only had a tiny amount of sediment at the bottom of the jar.

It's fair to point out that filtration is no substitute for fining and/or natural clearing. It's only really for final "polishing" of the wine(s).

Anyway, I ran 5 gallons through it as that's the capability of a set of pads. The idea being to transfer/rack/filter out the final tiny amount of sediment so that they can then sit under the stairs bulk ageing (ha! until I can make my mind up what to do with them.......)

I've got at least 1 x 1 gallon batch (heather honey mead) that is being a pain in the arse to get cleared properly. It was clearing fine, but then I back sweetened it with heather honey. That caused it to haze up again (as far as I can find out, it's not unusual for this to happen, and the haze is a "protein" haze, that in theory, will drop out over time). It was back sweetened in February and still hasn't cleared so I hit it with 2 part finings the other day. I did ask on the forums what the best solution might be, the answer being either Sparkoloid or Bentonite. Bentonite I can get at the home brew shop, but Sparkoloid doesn't seem to be available here in the UK.

It does look like something is happening as a fair amount of sediment has dropped out, whether it's enough or not I don't know. I'm probably gonna run it through the mini-jet starting with the coarsest of the filter pads and see how that comes along.

I'll report back then, as far as that's concerned. Apart from that, the mini-jet does seem to work reasonably well. Though I was quite surprised how tightly I had to screw down the pad/plate assembly, to reduce down the amount that seeps out through that assembly. It seems to have done a reasonable job on the 5 gallons I put through it. I'll know in a month or two when I check the batches to see how they're getting on ageing......


Friday, December 10, 2010

today 10/12/10 efforts/attempts......

Ok, so despite being stuck at home with flu (first time ever.... it's rare that I even get a cold!) for the last 2 days, I thought I'd at least try to see what's going on with the recent batches.

That'd be the elderberry melomel and the elderberry cyser. So, if you've read earlier, you'll know that I was a bit stunned to get an incredibly high gravity reading from the elderberry mel (before I watered it down to about 1.130). Well, when I checked it this morning, it was sat at a nice, pleasing, 1.010, which means that with a bit of stirring and a 2 stage nutrient addition, the Red Star Montrachet has managed a drop of 120 points - which according to Bobs chart (available over at winesathome - and no I'm not gonna link it, if you want to download it, you'll have to find it.....) that's 16.3 % ABV or thereabouts.

I ended up topping it up with some overspill from a batch that I don't recall (but managed to refrigerate and store - and it tasted ok), it's gone onto sulphite/sorbate as I don't want the possiblity that it could start to referment - it's not completely cleared yet so that's what gonna happen now.

A quick word on the taste. Yes there's some residual sweetness, that's to be expected, there's a nice fruit taste to it as well, but as the elderberry juice was quite high fruit i.e. not just the usual 3 or 4 lb per gallon made up with water, but the final 2/3rds of a gallon of steam extracted juice which was mixed with 3lb of honey, and then watered down to reduce the starting gravity, it's also got a distinct tannic bitterness to it, which I guess is natures way of showing me how high in tannins, elderberries are. They still, in my opinion, have an indistinct, generic fruit flavour (a bit like Vimto, if you've ever tasted that

The truth is that Vimto is made from a top-secret recipe, one that's been passed down from John Nichols (Vimto's creator) to us - and he said not to tell anyone! What we can tell you is that our secret formula includes a mix of three fruit juices - grape, blackcurrant and raspberry - along with a mysterious blend of 23 fruit essences, herbs and spices.

and no, I'm not a great fan, but apparently, it's quite popular up north). Though, according to some (thinking of Bob here, he says) that elderberries are good wine makers.... not so sure.

Anyway, it's probably that once it's cleared, it's gonna need to be aged for a long time, in the hope that the tannic taste will blend in......

The other batch I racked off the sediment was the cyser, well I'm gonna refer to it as elderberry cyser, because when I made it, it had a little elderberry in it (left over from whatever I was doing at the time), and thought the bit of colour might be nice. So it tastes like a dry still cider, with some notes of honey. When I racked it off the sediment I got about 1 and 1/3rd gallons, so I've split those to the same ratio and topped them up with some of the left over elderberry melomel must, to act as a back sweetener, but also just to get rid of the airspace. Both the 1 and 1/2 gallon DJ's have been treated with sorbate/sulphate, so there's shouldn't be much, if any, refermentation activity..... the gravity reading before racking was 1.000, so it still might need a bit of honey later, though I'll probably blend the 1 and 1/2 gallon quantities back together before changing anything.....

Got me thinking whether there'll be any use for Mareks suggestion the other month about using banana to improve body, as it should also add a little to the sweetness as well, though I'd probably have to strain and then filter it afterwards... Cos I definitely like the idea of making a strawberry banana melomel in the near future......