Saturday, June 30, 2012

Been a bit busy of late......

Well, I posted about Banana mead, but since then, I was given more free banana's i.e. a whole case, 18kg in total.

So I mixed up a base must of honey and water, then shook the hell out of it, then just rinsed the bananas, topped and tailed some and started slicing them straight into the fermenter.

As you can see, the skins started browning quite quickly, and to be honest, it's always a mistake to make a batch like this. Once the ferment started, it blew the cap and airlock off it, at least once. Plus, trying to stir the batch through the neck of the ferment was rather a trying exercise. In the end, I just left it alone to do it's thing.

The whole point of this was to be able to see if I can compare the final taste of it, to the batch where I boiled the bananas and then just used the "juice" for the ferment.

The original batch I made, which was made with "boiled banana juice" is now reasonably clear and the extra sliced banana I added to it has sunk, which means it's probably time to rack it off the chunks of skinned, sliced banana that were added in the hope of making it "more bananery tasting". Whether it's worked or not I don't know.

Equally, after asking about using banana, Bob at "Winesathome" mentioned that when he did a brew with banana, he fermented on the fruit - but the result was a bit too bananery tasting (he's a wine judge, so would probably be looking for different things in a brew that me). Hence this batch being fermented on the fruit.

Here's what it looks like now. Just a thick layer of floating sludge and some bits of banana skin.

I suspect I'll have to run it through some sort of straining cloth, to remove the sludge/skins. I'll have to wait until I make my mind up.

That's not everything either. I was checking various DJ's of liquid, only to find that I still have 2 gallons of last years steam extracted elderberry juice. So I took that, and mixed in 4 litres of cheapo supermarket grape juice, and then started adding honey, until I got a reasonable gravity reading.

I got a reading of 1.070 after adding 2 kg of honey, and after having a read about, decided to add a further 1kg, which should give me a gravity of about 1.090 - but I can't confirm that, as the last kilo of honey was crystalised and despite giving it a good stir, I don't think it was all dissolved properly (not that that matters particularly - but I didn't really want to heat it up to dissolve it).

Also, I used a different yeast. I found a pack of BDX, that Brian gave me at last years Grapefest. A quick check of the link, suggests it should be a good one for an Elderberry/Grape juice mixed batch.

The only thing I know for certain, is that the fucker seems to foam like hell. I pitched the yeast, tuesday I think it was, there was no airlock activity wednesday or thursday, I forgot to check it yesterday, but this morning, it's started fermenting, the air space part of the bucket was coated with a thick layer of dark purple sediment and some of it had even bubbled out the air lock, and that's with a 3 gallon batch in a 27 litre bucket.

So now it's been swirled round to remove as much of the purple sediment (I want as much colour from the juice as I can get) and it's been aerated with the electric balloon whisk, and the first part of the nutrient has been added - I intended originally, to use 1 teaspoon of FermaidK and half a teaspoon of DAP a.k.a. di-ammonium phosphate. But a few questions about the yeast and I got a suggestion via Gotmead, to double it.

It's to do with some of these yeasts that are, apparently, good for "reds", being a bit on the "hungry" side, and needing more nutrients than a similar yeast for "whites" might require. They are known to show their displeasure at being "under fed" by going "stinky" - in other words, the yeast gets stressed and produces H2S (hydrogen sulphide - easily diagnosed as H2S smells of rotten eggs/farts).

It's now bubbling away just nicely........

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

My next move with "finished" mead.

What seems to have been a successful ferment with the traditional/weirdomel batch in the previous post, has galvanised me a bit.

I haven't been able to work out why I've felt so nonchalant about getting myself into gear and bottling some of the 18 gallons or so of various meads that are currently sitting in 1 gallon jars/DJ's under the stairs, but I think it's nervousness at the possibility that it'll taste like shit.

Well the traditional/weirdomel batch is the first time I've made a batch that has definite residual sugar in it. Last time I bottled a batch it was the first batch I made, which was Ok, but not brilliant (to be expected), but I just went ahead and started making batches - all of which have ended up under the stairs as I lost a bit of enthusiasm for making batches - I've made other stuff, but that's all sitting in fermenters/DJ's of various sizes as well.

Anyway, I'm confident that it doesn't matter if when I start mixing/blending the aged batches, that if my additions of honey do cause any hazing, I'm just gonna whack it with finings too clear it.

I might not actually bottle it immediately, just get it ready i.e. I'll blend 5 gallons in a large bucket, I'll stabilise it, then back sweeten it initially to 1.010 then taste. If it's sweet enough, and it doesn't haze with the back sweetening honey, I'll bottle that with the enolmatic with the filter in line. If it hazes, I'll just "fine" it and rack it back into the DJ's until the finings have done their thing then I'll bottle it.

If my thinking is correct, I should at least have a reasonably consistent flavour and colour. I'll have to wait and see. I'll try and take some pics while I'm doing that.

Traditional (weirdomel) part 4

Ok, so it's the extra public holiday day, for the Queens diamond jubilee celebration (not that I've been celebrating it, as I'm a republican) and it's raining outside - no surprise there......

So I thought I'd get my finger out my arse and see how it's doing. It's doing bloody marvelously. It's not been bubbling for nearly a week now, but I've been a little nervous (not sure why) as to how and whether it's still going or not.

I've just taken a gravity reading and it's sitting at 1.010 - a drop of 130 points from the original 1.140 reading taken before I pitched the D21 yeast. That 130 point drop represents 17.6% ABV, which exceeds the 16% tolerance published by Lallemand in their yeast list.

It's not surprising, as the numbers in the list are for grape musts/wines, obviously all the nutrition and aeration has paid off.

The level on the bucket was telling me it was a total of 6 litres but obviously the gradations on Ritchies buckets aren't that accurate, as I got a full gallon DJ out of it (4.55 litres) and a 1 pint milk bottle. Both are full to just below the neck and there certainly wasn't nearly a litre of the must left in the bucket. Never mind, there's enough for me to let it settle and rack it off the lees once and top up from the milk bottle - which should do the trick enough for me to get it clear(ish).

Taste-wise, it's still got a little bit of sweetness to it, but about how I like it. If it should ferment a bit more now it's been moved out the primary, it doesn't matter, as I still have a half jar of the original honey I can back sweeten with. It's not quite as curious tasting as the original honey was - I'm thinking that it should turn out fine.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Traditional (weirdomel) part 3

Well the batch seems to have stopped bubbling, but without checking the gravity, I don't know whether it's still fermenting or not.

I have no idea about what this might come out tasting like, because unlike "Insomniac" over at Homebrewtalk, (he's the chap who located the honey in the first place and I went to the local branch of the same store and found it too), he made his batch up sooner than I did.

I just hope it doesn't taste too dusty/earthy, like the batch I made with "Italian Chestnut Honey". Which wasn't bad as just honey, but once it had been fermented there was a definite dusty/earthy taste to it - probably ok to use as part of a multi-honey batch, for a hint of the taste but not as a 100% batch.

I'll have to report back on how it's doing, because if the ferment has stopped, it will need to be racked off the lees, but at the moment it can stay where it is, with a nice protective layer of CO2 in the bucket.

I'm hoping that all the aeration I did and the staggered nutrient additions, it will have got to somewhere near the 16% ABV mark otherwise it might be too sweet - and if that is the case I'll probably just end up fortifying it with a brandy or whisky, then leaving it too age. I've still got half a jar of the original honey that was intended for back sweetening, but due to my cock up with the initial mixing of the must and it's high gravity (and wrong yeast......) I probably don't need to back sweeten - though hey!, many have reported yeasts exceeding their published alcohol tolerances. Which is fair enough, and entirely possible, given that the published data is for grape musts, which ferment differently and don't usually need much, if any, in the way of nutrition, unless the yeast is a "high maintenance" one that is prone to going stinky with out proper support.

We'll have to see eh !