Saturday, September 29, 2012

Grapefest 2012 (real grape pyments) Part 2

Ok, so how far has this got ?

Well, I've been conscientious in making sure that I've been punching down the cap twice a day since pitching the yeast on Monday.

The only thing I didn't do, was to take a gravity reading after adding the honey (about 500g per box of grapes), which I now know that I should have done. I think I was just a bit over-awed by using fresh grapes, and made the mis-guided presumption that it wouldn't matter. I was also using some of the "old" honey that I bought from Insomniac over at HBT, which being crystalised, meant I couldn't really judge how well it was mixed in with the grapes, again presuming it didn't matter as heat generated from the ferment would have dissolved the crystals, but that still wouldn't have given me an accurate starting gravity.

That was a mistake, it does matter. If I do this again (probably will, they're a good bunch over at Winesathome, and while the social aspect of Grapefest is worth the trip alone, I might as well order grapes too) I'll prepare the honey to make sure it's not crystalised first and probably use a sanitised sieve to push the pulp down enough to get some liquid and blitz it with the honey in the liquidiser or food processor. Then I would get an accurate starting gravity.

But why ? I've used K1-V1116 yeast, which does have a published tolerance of 18% ABV, and given that the others posted starting gravities of about 1.090 and a 100 point gravity drop suggests a strength of 13.5 % ABV, I don't know how much the 500g per box addition would have increased the gravity too.

I've concluded that I'll just step feed a further 200g of honey when I punch the cap down this evening. Then let it finish.

My only other question, that I've asked over at Winesathome, is how long I should continue to punch the cap down for. My intention is, not to get to a set point and then rack and press the pulp, but to leave the pulp in until it sinks.

Normally, when, say, making a traditional, I would only aerate the must from the starting gravity, down to the 1/3rd sugar break, but traditionals don't tend to suffer from oxidisation like "proper" grape wines do, and while I'm not making a proper grape wine (unlike the others over at WaH who got grapes at Grapefest), but I'm still aware that the use of real grape/juice is likely to increase this, so if I don't need to keep punching the cap down, I won't, but I'm not going to stop, well I don't need to while the ferment is active as it's probable that it's producing enough CO2 to blanket the pulp/juice to keep it protected.

Ha! I might have been making meads for sometime now, but I still have a lot too learn.......

For info, when I managed to take a reading on thursday evening, the 27 litre buckets with the Merlot, the Tempranillo and the mix of both (3 boxes of grape pulp per bucket) all gave readings in the 1.060 region, while the 10 litre bucket with just a single box of Tempranillo measured 1.045 (I'm presuming that this is down to a larger yeast pitch ratio i.e. I just put 1 pack of the K1-V1116 into each bucket - it's a smaller bucket and lower amount of grape).

So it's just the amount of time I need to keep punching the cap down that I'm unsure about. If it does ferment all the way to dry, it doesn't matter, as I'll probably be back sweetening to my usual levels anyway (I prefer my meads at about 1.010 to 1.015).

I'll update as and when something changes etc.

I do suspect that once it's ready to press the pulp, it'll be a bit messy, because I've only got a small 2 litre spindle press to work with. As long as I remove most/all of the pulp, I'll be happy, but I'm gonna have to think about bottling some of my meads, as I've only got about 5 or 6 empty ones - actually, the 19litre/5US gallon glass one will probably be empty too. I've discovered that the bloody air lock has dried out, so I'm presuming that it's gonna be oxidised. Hell, I haven't really thought about this, I don't think that any of the batches will fit into it (maybe if I just make the blended on up with the 27 litre bucket of Merlot/Tempranillo mix i.e. it's 2 boxes of Merlot and 1 box of Tempranillo at the moment, so if I mixed in the small bucket that contains 1 box of Tempranillo, that'll make it a straight 50/50 mix and might produce enough liquid to fill it).

Watch this space !

{edit}Oh, and I nearly forgot, I can't remember what evening it was, but while punching down one of the 27 litre buckets (can't remember if it was the mixed one or the straight Tempranillo), I was convinced I could smell the beginnings of some sulphur/H2S and in a worried moment, added some nutrient - to be on the safe side, I just added 1 tbsp of GoFerm as it doesn't have much, if any, in the way of DAP in it (worried about adding too much, as I wouldn't want any off flavours) and some pure DAP, the DAP to give the yeast something more to work with and the GoFerm for micro nutrients. Or at least that's the idea, whether it's a bit "half-arsed" or not......{/edit}

Monday, September 24, 2012

Grapefest 2012 (real grape pyments)

Over the last weekend, I attended the "Grapefest" 2012 up at Bob's (the excellent bloke who runs Wines at home and organises Grapefest at his house).

The actual grapes were organised by Brian, one of the members (another Top Bloke, to whom I'm equally greatful).

So the grapes..... I got 5 boxes of Merlot and 5 boxes of Tempranillo grapes. We were hoping for some Shiraz/Syrah grapes, but they'd already been snapped up. Not to worry. I know bog all about fermenting with fresh grape anyway so this is a first for me.

Once we'd finished the crushing/de-stemming on Saturday morning (there's some pic's on the post for last years grapefest, of how that works out, so I didn't bother taking any more of those) I, unlike most of the others, didn't pile in straight away with the yeast. I just worked out where the levels of the pulp had reached up the buckets and then added pectolase accordingly, along with the appropriate amount of crushed campden tablets, which should (hopefully) have prevented any start of fermentation by any wild yeast that were on the grape skins.

So, as you can see from the picture above, that's the 10 litre bucket alongside just over 500 grammes of honey. I've basically allowed 500 grammes honey to each box of grapes. Not for any real reason, other than the honey being "older" has crystalised some so I don't know how well I managed to mix it in (fermentation is an exothermic reaction, so as the yeast kicks in, it generates a little heat, which will dissolve any honey/sugar crystals nicely), plus because I don't know how well mixed the honey is, and that it can be a bit of a pain in the arse to get a gravity reading from a must with so much pulp in it, I'll just rely on the numbers that the other chaps got from when they measured their grape only musts with a hydrometer (or some used refractometers, but I don't have one of those yet, so I can't do that).

Finally, by just allowing 500 grammes of honey per box, it'll raise the starting gravity, but not enough to cause the yeast any issues with "osmotic shock" and stop the ferment from starting.

Now, as I wanted to get my finger out and commence the ferments, I've just added the yeast (Lalvin K1-V1116) dry and stirred it in.

The above pic is after the K1-V1116 was sprinkled on top, while below is the "after" shot, once it's been stirred in.

This has happened to all 4 of my buckets of crushed grapes. I don't mind if there's a bit of lag, caused by the dry pitching of the yeast, but it means it's under way, so I can start with the pushing down of the cap once it starts to form.

I'm aiming to make a high alcohol, fruity, relatively tannic batch. I'm intending to keep pushing down the cap, but leaving the batch to ferment out, leaving the skins etc in there until it sinks. Some people feel that is too long, but I want maximum extraction of colour, flavour, etc.

Of course, I suspect I might have to step feed the ferments a bit, but that will depend very much, on how the ferment progresses. If I get round to it, I'll measure some of the honey mixed into some water, so I have an idea of how much I will have raised the gravity, and also make an attempt to measure the gravity of the fermenting musts - just so I've got a "ball park" idea of the actual starting gravity I don't particularly want to have it finish too sweet, in fact, it'd be better for me to have it ferment dry, then back sweeten it to my desired level ready for the other processes.

Obviously, once the ferments are complete, I'll have to rack off the skins/pips etc, but I'll worry about that when the time comes........

I don't know if anyone will actually read this apart from me, but a mega thanks is due to Bob for allowing us idiots to destroy (not literally) his kitchen and conservatory (2 nights drinking debris can make quite a mess). Brian for actually getting the grapes, Pete for his brilliant talk on "Making (faking) Port" and David for his "Making beer the easy/quick way". Not forgetting all other attendee's for any idea's, guidance and/or info about making stuff with "real" grapes.

A special "dig" to Mr Sharp, who carried out the impromptu raffle of the wine kit supplied by Karl. That'll teach you to give me the number one raffle ticket won't it :-D I haven't decided whether it'll become a pyment, a "fake" port or just make it up "as is".

As ever, the "Ruchee" curry on Friday night was briliant, despite me being 9 parts pissed and then trying to decypher a menu, even when I was wearing my "readers"...... A smashing bit of trough provided on Saturday, by both Bob and Karls wife, Anne-Marie (sorry if I've spelled it wrongly).