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Making Elderflower Champagne

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Elderflower Champagne is a sharp refreshing summer drink and with a ready supply of Elderflower shrubs across the country you’ll always find some somewhere even in big cities. Elderflowers start to appear in April and last until June or early July, this does vary from year to year and in different parts of the UK.  Always pick the flowers that are higher up which means they won’t have been used as a toilet for any passing animals, it is also recommended to pick them at midday when the flowers are fully open. Make sure that you get the right shrub and if you are unsure see the photograph below which shows you what the flower heads are like.

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The flower of the Elder Tree.  Ignore the pine like foliage in the background as this is a Yew Tree.

Recipe:

This makes about 6 litres of Elderflower Champagne:
5-8 large heads of elderflowers – make sure that they are fully open, preferably facing the
sun. The more elderflowers used will increase the flavour. Around 5 is generally best so
that the taste isn’t too strong.
(If using dried elderflowers use 1 x 50g bag)
600g of sugar
2 lemons
4 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
6 litres of cold water
1 x sachet of Champagne yeast
Fermenting time: Approx 1 week
Maturing Time: 4 weeks it can be left longer for the flavours to develop.

This recipe is based on making 6 litres. To make larger batches, increase the quantities in proportion (apart from the yeast which you don’t need more of).

Equipment you will need:

Home Brew Online Elderflower Champagne Equipment Pack.   This has everything you need apart from the ingredients to make Elderflower Champagne however you can use any existing equipment and bottles you have.

Method:

1. Wash the lemons and use a potato-peeler to peel the lemon rind off as thinly as possible. Remove any insects, leaves or other unwanted objects from the Elderflowers.

2. Squeeze the lemons and put the juice into a fermenting vessel along with the lemon rind and flowers.

3. Add the sugar and the wine vinegar. Be careful not to crush the flower heads too much with the sugar.

4. Pour on the water. Sprinkle a sachet of yeast on the surface of the liquid. (Please note, there might be enough natural yeast present to start the fermentation without yeast. We recommend using it however to ensure a complete fermentation.) Put the lid on the fermenting vessel and leave to stand for approx 5-7 days or until the majority of the bubbling and fizzing has ceased. Stir gently every other day with a sterilised spoon.

5. Sterilise the bottles using a steriliser/sanitiser.

6. Place your fermenter higher than the bottles. Use a syphon tube to transfer the mixture through a funnel with a strainer fitted  into bottles. Take care not to disturb the sediment and avoid transferring any debris. The less sediment you pick up, the better the end result will be.

7. Once all the bottles are full, put the caps on firmly and place somewhere cool. Try and leave a gap of around 1½ inches between the liquid and top of bottle. A garage shelf is ideal to store. After four weeks the Champagne is ready for drinking. However, the taste does improve with time and can be left for a year or more. It is probably best to leave it for six months to a year to mature, as this means the full taste will have developed, without any fizz escaping. Open bottles gradually to avoid the contents spraying out. It is advisable to chill the champagne in the fridge before drinking.

Important Note: Take care when storing bottles of Elderflower Champagne, especially when using glass bottles. Our glass bottles are strong and shouldn’t explode, but varying factors such as heat and too much added sugar, along with the nature of brewing which is unpredictable, can result in unexpected breakages. We recommend storing in a garage with the bottles in a box or container.

Happy Brewing!

Making Rhubarb Wine

 

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Rhubarb and strawberries (plus a few weeds!)

As you can see I had lots of rhubarb, although would have had more if I didn’t let it go to flower! Sooooo I decided to make some rhubarb wine, it’s the first time I have made it and I can’t wait to taste it. The recipe I followed was from First Steps in Winemaking by C J J Berry.

Equipment:

Bucket/fermenting vessel
IMG_3328Demijohn with rubber bung and airlock
chef’s muslin
funnel
Stick on thermometer
Steriliser/sanitiser

Ingredients:

Rhubarb 1.25kg
Sugar 1.25kg
Water 4.5 litres (1 gallon)
Super wine yeast compound 1 heaped teaspoon per gallon
Campden tablet 1 crushed tablet per gallon at the end of fermentation to prevent oxidisation and bacterial infection.

  • Firstly make sure all your equipment is thoroughly sterilised. Chop the rhubarb thinly, do not peel, and cover with the sugar in a bucket and leave for 24 hours until most of the sugar has dissolved.

 

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Rhubarb with the sugar covering it.

 

  • The next stage is to strain the juice into your fermenter using chef’s muslin or an IMG_3331equivalent fine mesh straining bag and a funnel, keep mixing the pulp with water and straining until you have filled to the 4.5 litre mark in your vessel. I measured 4.5 litres with water in my demijohn and marked the level.
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The pulp mixed with water ready to put in the muslin to strain again.

 

  • Once your fermenter is filled to 4.5 litres add 1 heaped teaspoon of super wine yeast compound and leave to ferment at a temperature of between 16 – 20 degrees.  I fermented mine at a low temperature so it took about three weeks to fully ferment. Because my fruit was very green the must is white in colour rather than red like some rhubarb wines. Once the bubbles stop rising through the airlock fermentation should be complete however I always check mine with a hydrometer, I take two readings 48 hours apart and if they are both the same I know it’s definitely stopped fermenting however if the second reading has changed I wait until both readings are the same before moving onto bottling.
  • It is important to make sure that the wine has finished fermenting before bottling because if the wine is still fermenting when transferred to the bottles it can cause them to break.
  • At the end of fermentation add one crushed campden tablet, this will prevent oxidisation and any bacterial infection. Do not add this while the must is still fermenting as it will kill the yeast.
  • Once bottled leave for at least two months to mature. Here is a selection of bottles and bottling equipment that you may find useful:

Glass wine bottles available in green or clear: http://www.home-brew-online.com/equipment-c40/glass-wine-bottles-p768

Small auto syphon: http://www.home-brew-online.com/equipment-c40/home-brew-online-easy-flow-small-auto-syphon-with-clamp-p1817

Simple syphon: http://www.home-brew-online.com/equipment-c40/youngs-simple-syphon-pack-p1310

Corks and corker: http://www.home-brew-online.com/search/corks

Happy Brewing!!

 

The Magic of Yeast

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Saccharomyces Cerevisiae (top fermenting) Picture from Wikipedia.

 

Yeast is an amazing micro-organism and watching it in action you can see why early man and indeed later generations viewed it as a mystical and magical phenomenon.  Louis Pasteur was the first to identify that yeast caused fermentation in the 1860s but there had been other research before this by Charles Cagniard-Latour, Friedrich Traugott Kützing and Theodor Schwann in the 1830s and they all concluded that yeast was a living organism, before this scientists considered it to be a chemical.

Yeast is a part of the Fungi kingdom and has existed for millions of years it’s connection with humans is thousands of years old and it is thought that it is responsible for modern society as beer encouraged early humans to cultivate the land. Yeast has been nurtured by humans over the years and treasured for it’s apparently magical properties, today there are hundreds of different varieties that are used for different beers as each has an identity of it’s own which produces certain characteristics in a beer. There are two different kinds of brewer’s yeasts top fermenting and bottom fermenting, the former is used for ales and the latter for lagers. Each one ferments at a different temperature range and each one is crucial for producing the specific beer style. Bottom fermenting yeasts are capable of fermenting at low temperatures between 7 and 15 degrees and were first used in Bavaria. Top fermenting yeasts ferment between 10 and 25 degrees and have a variety of characteristics for example yeasts from Britain have a variety of different flavours that they can add to beer from fruity to spicy to woody.

Belgium has the most variety in yeast strains with different ones producing a variety of different flavours.  Generally they ferment at normal brewing temperatures between 16 and 20 degrees and are extremely efficient at eating their way through all the fermentable sugars in a wort. Lambic beers are often fermented with wild yeast, the wort is left exposed to the air and is then stored in wooden barrels where other vital yeasts aid fermentation.  This is what gives Lambic beer it’s distinctive flavour, although this fermenting process cannot be done during the summer months as there are too many nasties in the air at this point.

There are a number of different yeasts used in beer brewing here are the two most popular:

Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Ale Yeast):

Commonly known as ale yeast and is top fermenting working at temperatures above 16 degrees, some strains have been known to go lower but anything under 13 degrees will cause the yeast to go dormant.  It is generally best to brew between 18 and 20 degrees with as little fluctuation as possible to get the best performance from the yeast.  It is the most widely studied organism in molecular and cell biology. There is a wide variety of ale yeast available that impart different flavours. Here are a few examples of what we stock:nottingham yeast

  • Nottingham Ale Yeast: The Nottingham strain was selected for its highly flocculant & relatively full attenuation properties. It produces low concentrations of fruity and estery aromas and has been described as neutral for ale yeast, allowing the full natural flavour of malt & hops to develop.

 

  • safale 05Fermentis SafAle US-05: American ale yeast producing well balanced beers with low diacetyl and a very clean, crisp end palate. Forms a firm foam head and presents a very good ability to stay in suspension during fermentation.

 

 

  • m 36 libertyMangrove Jack’s Craft Series Yeast Liberty Bell Ale M36: A top fermenting ale yeast suitable for a wide variety of hoppy and distinctive style beers. This strain produces light, delicate fruity esters and helps to develop malt character. Suitable for both English and American Pale Ales, Extra Special Bitters, Golden Ales and more.

 

  • WYeast Activator Ringwood Ale 1187 A top
    wyeast
    WYeast Activator Ringwood Ale 1187

    cropping yeast strain with unique fermentation and flavor characteristics. Expect distinct fruit esters with a malty, complex profile. Flocculation is high, and the beer will clear well without filtration. A thorough diacetyl rest is recommended after fermentation is complete. This strain can be a slow starter and fermente

 

 

 

Saccharomyces Pastorianus (Lager Yeast)

This is a bottom fermenting yeast that can work at low temperatures down to about 4.4 degrees and is a close relative of S. Cerevisiae. It has also been known as Saccharomyces carlsbergensis which has caused debate in the scientific world however it’s name is now officially S. Pastorianus. This yeast was found by Emil Christian Hansen at the Carlsberg laboratory in 1883 which is possibly why for a time it bore the name S. Carlsbergensis. Here are a few examples of the lager yeasts we stock:

  • wyeastWYeast Activator Pilsen Lager 2007: Wyeast 2007 is the classic American lager strain. This mild, neutral strain produces beers with a nice malty character and a smooth palate. It ferments dry and crisp with minimal sulfur or diacetyl. Beers from this strain exhibit the characteristics of the most popular lager in America.

 

  • WYeast Activator Octoberfest Lager Blend wyeast2633 This blend of lager strains is designed to produce a rich, malty, complex and full bodied Octoberfest style beer. It attenuates well while leaving plenty of malt character and mouthfeel. This blend is low in sulfur production.

 

 

 

  • WYeast Activator Czech Pils 2278 wyeastOriginating from the home of great Pilsners in the Czech Republic, this classic strain will finish dry and malty. It is the perfect choice for Bohemian-style Pilsners. Sulfur produced during fermentation can be reduced with warmer fermentation temperatures 58°F (14°C) and will dissipate with conditioning.

 

  • Fermentis SafLager S-23 fermentis lagerOriginating from the famous VLB institute in Germany, true lager yeast capable of producing continental lagers with fruity, estery notes. Available in 11.5g sachetsBottom fermenting yeast originating from the VLB Berlin in Germany recommended for the production of fruity and estery lagers. Its lower attenuation profile gives beers with a good length on the palatte.

 

There are other yeasts used by brewers but they are not as heavily used in the UK Brettanomyces is a Belgian style yeast and is best used in conjunction with another yeast usually Saccharomyces cerevisiae  because it is pretty slow going. Torulaspora Delbrueckii is another yeast which can be used in beer making but is more commonly used in bread and baking.  These yeasts were considered to be spoilage yeasts however a lot of research has gone into them to reveal that in mixed fermentations, along with Saccharomyces cerevisiae they add flavour to a beer, Brettanomyces for example will add spicy and fruity aromas. Perhaps less favourable, but each to their own, Brett can also add a barnyard aroma or ‘sweaty horse blanket’ (according to Wyeast) aroma found in Lambic beers.

Dictionary of Yeast Characteristics

Flocculation: The ability of the yeast to form clumps at the end of fermentation which then fall to the bottom of the fermenter resulting in a clear beer. Wild yeast does not flocculate well and remains suspended in the beer for a long period of time. Flocculation has been improved in brewer’s yeast over the years through human influence when brewer’s skim the yeast from the top or the bottom of the fermenter. Yeast flocculation is either high, medium or low.  For example low flocculation can lead to a cloudy and yeasty tasting beer Hefeweizen yeast is a good example of this. High flocculation will generally produce a clearer beer.  Flocculation is an extremely complicated process and is still the subject of much study at the moment as there are still a few mysteries to clear up.

AttenuationThis is the percentage of sugars converted by the yeast to CO2 and alcohol and gives you an idea of how different yeasts will perform.  Attentuation is measured with a hydrometer by taking a start/original gravity reading, which will then proceed to fall throughout the fermentation process as the fermentable sugars are eaten up by the yeast. The final gravity (FG) reading can be used together with your original gravity (OG) to calculate the attentuation using the following equation: [(OG-FG)/(OG-1)] x 100. In order to ensure fermentation is complete take two readings over the course of 48 hours, if they remain the same this is your final gravity reading however if they change you must wait until they are stable before recording your final reading to calculate with.

Yeast in Fermentation

The fermentation process is caused by the yeast eating it’s way through the fermentable sugars turning them into CO2 and alcohol which are the waste products that yeast excretes. Once the yeast is pitched there is an initial lag phase where the yeast becomes acclimatised to it’s new home, after this it springs into action, Oxygen is a crucial element to fermentation allowing the yeast to reproduce through the process of budding where each bud produced will become a new cell.  Oxygen is not used for respiration but helps in the production of new cell membranes, it is crucial to the yeast at this point. It’s worth noting that it is not possible to over aerate your wort most of it is used by the yeast and any that is left is lost from the wort in the first few hours of fermentation.

Achieving and maintaining the correct temperature with minimal fluctuation is needed for good yeast activity, if the temperature falls too far below the yeasts minimum toleration it will cause it to become dormant and if the temperature rises to far above it’s highest tolerated temperature the yeast may die so it is best to stay within the recommended temperature range of your yeast.

Yeast pitching amounts can vary depending on what type of beer you want to produce, worts with a higher gravity generally need more because they have more work to do and that work is harder. The yeast will also need to be tolerant to high levels of alcohol the Wyeast range has yeasts suitable for these types of beer such as. Wyeast recommended as a rough rule to ‘double pitch rates above 1.065 and triple pitch rates above 1.085.’ There website has a very useful question and answer page at https://wyeastlab.com/frequently-asked-questions#r24

You can see the yeast activity as the wort ferments and bubbles fizz to the surface, a frothy top of foam then forms on the surface. Eventually this foam disappears as the yeast slows down, once it has finished it then drops to the bottom of the vessel.  At this point the beer will become clearer. It is best to take two hydrometer readings 48 hours apart to be sure that fermentation is complete. If the readings are stable it is fine to move onto the bottling/kegging stage however if the second reading has changed this means your wort is still fermenting and needs to be left until the two readings become the same.

The fermentation process can differ from batch to batch even if you are using the same recipe, some are vigorous and others are very quiet and do not produce any bubbles through the airlock. Many outside factors affect the speed of fermentation including temperature, amount of oxygen, amount of yeast pitched and yeast nutrient. It is always important to take hydrometer readings as this is the only true way of knowing how your fermentation is progressing.

I hope this guide has been useful if you have any further questions you can always contact us on 01904 791600 or sales@home-brew-online.co.uk.  Happy Brewing!

Sources used:

http://www.whitelabs.com/resources/attenuation-and-flocculation
http://beersmith.com/blog/2008/06/18/beer-yeast-fermentation-and-home-brewing/
Little Black Dog Brew School Handbook
https://byo.com/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saccharomyces_cerevisiae
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saccharomyces_pastorianus
www.home-brew-online.com
https://www.brewersfriend.com/2009/05/30/yeast-terminology-attenuation-and-flocculation/

How to Make Beer From Scratch

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Making beer from all grain for the first time can be a bit daunting for the beginner but never fear the process is far more easy than you might suspect.  Below is a general guide to making beer from all grain which will point you in the right direction and be a reference guide where needed (we also have an all grain brewing dictionary which will help with terminology):

Recipe:

It depends on the quantity you would like to make but there are some great recipes on the following website:

http://beersmithrecipes.com/

It’s best to start off with a simple recipe to find your feet and then move on from there. There are also ready made all grain recipe kits available:

crafty fox ipaCrafty Fox 1 gallon batches – People often find that brewing smaller batches is helpful when it comes to trying different beer styles, you don’t have to drink your way through 40 pints before you can try another one. The volume also makes it easy to brew  and the results are stunning!

http://www.home-brew-online.com/search/brewolution – These are larger batches that produce 5 gallons/ 40 pints of beer from all grain and are designed to be used with the Brewolution Brewster all in one all grain micro brewery.

The Process:

Step 1

Sterilise all your equipment this is a crucial step to make sure that your beer is as tasty as it should be at the end. Weigh any ingredients according to your recipe ready for the mash.

Step 2 – The mash

  • Mashing is the process which turns the starches in the grain to fermentable and non fermentable sugars and can be done in a pan. The grains are soaked with what IMG_3120brewers call strike water (nothing posh just plain water) which has been previously heated to 76 degrees and is then added to the grain, make sure both are combined thoroughly and that there are no dry parts or dough balls. The temperature of the mix should then drop to 66 degrees which needs to be maintained over a period of an hour. You can use old towels to wrap the pan with. However if it’s a little hot add some cold water or if it’s too cool heat gently until the 66 degrees temperature is achieved however do not boil or burn. Use a thermometer to take the temperature of the grain at different spots in the pan to make sure the heat is evenly distributed. Whilst your grains are mashing it’s a good idea to warm up your sparge water (see step 3) to 76 degrees.
  • The next step is the mash out this means gently warming your grain back up to 76 degrees for 10 minutes. This stops the enzyme activity which has been converting the starch to sugar so that the sugar profile is preserved. This step helps you to be more accurate in the type of beer you wish to produce.
  • As a beginner bear in mind the above point but don’t dwell too much on the accuracy when you first begin to brew from scratch as even beers that aren’t brewed perfectly can taste amazing.  This is something to experiment with as you become more experienced.  As a general rule a mash ratio of 3:1 water (litres) /grain kilograms at a temperature of 65-68 degrees for about an hour will produce a good quality wort.

Step 3 – Sparging

  • This refers to gently pouring hot water over your mash, this water should be at about 76 degrees and extracts the wort. The quality of wort you get depends on the type of grain used, for example the gluten content can effect it.  The wort once extracted will be a little hazy but this is nothing to worry about.

Step 4 – The Boil

  • Usually over a period of an hour it is best to aim for a gentle rolling boil rather than a vigorous one, just to let you know this process usually gives off a lot of steam. If using a pan put the lid on with a 1 inch gap so that it can vent. Here is a list of more information as to what is going on in your boil:

Sanitisation:

Boiling kills off any bacteria that would otherwise contaminate the beer, some say this is the reason why medieval people drank beer instead of water.

Maintains Sugar Profile:

If a mash out has not been done then boiling stops any enzyme activity from converting anymore starch into sugars, therefore maintaining the desired sugar content of the beer. It does this by breaking up the structure of the enzyme (protein) which prevents any further activity.

Isomerisation of Hops :

Hops are added during the boil which are isomerised,  this means that one molecule is changed into another molecule but still contains the same atoms which are just arranged differently, this makes the hops or more specifically the alpha acids more bitter and soluble. The boil intensity effects the release of bitterness into the wort, along with boil time, generally if you boil hops for longer than 90 minutes they will impart a bad flavour to it, 60 minutes is usually the best boil time. When adding the first addition of hops it is best to let your initial boil calm down to a nice steady rolling one, then add your hops. You don’t have to worry about this as much with the later hop additions. The very last hop additions are to add aroma which is lost in the first hop addition because of the time spent boiling. Some brewers add three hop additions and others don’t because they find the third addition of hops to be superfluous to the final taste of the beer.  However this is entirely up to personal preference and experience.

Dimethyl sulphide (DMS):

This is a sulphur compound that is found in most beers and is created in the boil but can effect your beer negatively by giving off a strong cooked corn flavour and smell. It is mostly found in lagers but at low levels, with German lagers having the highest percentage, it’s presence in lagers is actually desirable sometimes.  British beers contain the lowest percentage found so if this is the kind of beer you wish to produce it is best to reduce the amount of DMS.  This can be done by achieving a gentle rolling boil and allowing steam to vent away from the kettle.  If the lid is fitted fully on the pan the DMS cannot escape and therefore goes back into the wort. At the end of the boil it also helps to cool your wort as quickly as possible.

Unpleasant Aromas:

If you are using dark malts then any burnt smells originating from these types of malt are expelled in the boil.

Irish Moss:

This is added during the boil and helps to clear your beer and prevent chill haze.  Irish moss is negatively charged which attracts the positively charged particles of protein forming large clumps which sink to the bottom of the wort. It is added with the last addition of hops to your boil.

Step 5: Cooling

Can be done either by immersing your pan of wort in a sink of cold water that is recirculated until the wort cools or add ice to the sink of water to reduce the need to circulate.  This is a good method for small batches but for larger ones (25 litre/5 gallon) a wort chiller is the best option and can cool your wort to fermentation temperature in 10 minutes.

wort chiller
Wort chiller with mixer tap connector

Fermentation temperature can vary but is generally between 20 and 24 degrees. Cooling the wort also causes solids to form which are called the cold break these then sink to the bottom. When the wort is transferred to the fermenter this is left behind. Once it is cooled it is a good idea to take a starting gravity reading with a hydrometer which can then be used with your final gravity reading to work out the alcohol content.

Step 6: Transfer to Fermentation Vessel and Pitch the Yeast

Exactly as it sounds transfer your wort to a fermenting vessel and pitch the yeast.

auto syphon
Large auto syphon for 23 litre vessel

Equipment is available that makes transferring the wort easy and hassle free for example the auto syphon available in two different sizes. The large seen in the picture which is ideal for 23 litre vessels and the small which is suitable for most 1 gallon demijohns or 10 litre vessels.

When pitching the yeast, just a posh term for adding, make sure the wort is cooled as directed above.  Usually a dried 5g sachet is enough to do 5 gallons/23 litres. However if you are making a high gravity wort containing lots of sugar or you are fermenting at a low temperature you’ll need to pitch more yeast. Click this link to WYeast for more information: https://wyeastlab.com/frequently-asked-questions#r24

 

Step 7: Fermentation

This is where the yeast turns the fermentable sugars into CO2 and alcohol once it is comfortable in it’s environment.  It can take a few hours for the yeast to become active, this is known as the lag phase while it becomes acclimatised to it’s surroundings. Oxygen is another important factor which the yeast needs to be healthy so giving the wort a stir to get some oxygen into it before fermentation can do no harm.  Yeast can have a noticeable affect on the flavour of your beer so it is important to make sure you get the right one. See our article on yeast for more info at: https://homebrewonlinebrewblog.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/the-magic-of-yeast/

Fermentation can proceed at different rates depending on temperature, oxygen level and wort gravity. Getting a good yeast to ferment with means that you can produce great beer even if the ambient temperature fluctuates slightly.  A yeast from the Fermentis range will produce amazing results every time and we use them in our Crafty Fox all grain range. As you progress in your home brewing journey reasonably accurate temperature control plays a role in helping you to produce the same flavour beer each time.

When a wort is fermenting it will give off a few signs to show that everything is normal so look out for a cappuccino like froth on the surface, you may also see small bubbles fizzing to the top as well.  Do not worry if your airlock is not bubbling this doesn’t always mean that your brew isn’t fermenting, looking out for the signs above and taking a hydrometer reading will give you an indication as to whether the wort is fermenting. Take two hydrometer readings 48 hours apart if they are stable it has stopped fermenting but if the second changes then leave it until both readings are the same.

Some people recommend syphoning your brew into a secondary vessel to help with clearing however this isn’t necessary.  It also reduces the amount of Oxygen the beer is exposed to as too much can cause oxidisation, this only applies after fermentation.

Step 8: Bottling

bottler and vessel
Little bottler with vessel makes bottling your brew hassle free.

It is best to use brown bottles so that the sunlight cannot get to your brew which over time would damage it. You can syphon from your fermenting vessel to your bottles using one of the auto syphons mentioned above but there are also other bottling devices that make the job easier for example the little bottler which is great for bottling 5 gallon/23 litre batches. Carbonation drops are ideal for priming your brew cutting down on mess and time.  We recommend 2 to 3 drops depending on how much fizz you like.

craft carb drops
Crafty Fox Carbonation Drops

 

Once bottling is complete keep them at room temperature, about 20 degrees, in order for them to carbonate, often called secondary fermentation, this usually takes a week. It is then best to leave your beer for a month to two months for the flavours to mature.

That’s it! Enjoy your beer! I hope you have found this guide useful and if there is anything you think we could add please let us know.

 

Sources used:

Little Black Dog Beer Brew School Handbook
http://byo.com/malt/item/1650-wort-boiling-homebrew-science
http://beersmith.com/blog/2012/04/10/dimethyl-sulfides-dms-in-home-brewed-beer/
https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/how-to-brew/take-the-luck-out-of-clear-beer-with-irish-moss/
http://www.home-brew-online.co.uk

 

 

 

 

Problem Solving in Fruit Wine Making

When making fruit wine there is the possibility of encountering a few mishaps however this is very rare and most are recoverable.  Here is a guide to some common problems when making wine.

SONY DSC

Hazy Wine

There are a few reasons for this:

  • Pectin which is found in most fruits and can be cleared using Pectolase. Dissolve 1 level teaspoon per gallon in 1/2 cup of lukewarm water, add to must and shake/stir well. If used with heated or boiled fruits, add 2 teaspoonfuls per gallon (when cooled).
  • Wine is still fermenting move to a cool place and add Potassium Sorbate to stabilise. Also prevents fermentation after bottling which is essential.

Overly Sweet Wine

This could be due to adding too much sugar, there is a limit to how much sugar a yeast can tolerate and if that level is too high the resulting alcohol will kill the yeast. If you have reached the desired alcohol level of your recipe then you will have to mix your sweet wine with a similar dry wine to solve the problem .  The most common cause of sweet wine is a stuck fermentation (For more info see ‘Stuck Fermentation and what to do about it’ on this blog) and there are a number things to try to solve this:

  • Temperature: If this is too cool then the yeast will slow down or stop completely.  Bring the temperature back up to around 20 degrees and this will help to make the yeast active again.
  • Give the must a stir to add oxygen which will help kick start fermentation again.
  • Add nutrient to get the yeast going again especially vitamin B1, you can also add extra yeast to help this process along, then keep the must at room temperature to encourage fermentation.
  • Add a vigorously fermenting must. C.J.J. Berry author of First Steps in Winemaking recommends adding a cup full.

Lack of Body

Can be as a result of not using enough fruit adding grape concentrate often solves this, however it does also add sweetness. Body can also develop in the bottle over time so this is something to take into consideration.

Wine Tastes Flat

This is due to a lack of tannin so add 1 level teaspoonful per gallon to remedy.  It can be bought in tubs or you can use up to 1 tablespoon of strong tea per gallon of wine. Tannin also helps to preserve your wine.

Wine Lacks Bouquet 

When left in the bottles this often improves over time, you can also use malic and citric acid to improve the bouquet.  Something to note is that this can also be caused by a fermentation that is too rapid, it is best to have a steady fermentation where possible as the end result with wine or beer is a better quality brew. During winter heating pads and belts are ideal for this.

Oxidisation – Will discolour the wine giving it a brown tinge and may give it off flavours.

This effects white wine more than red wine as the colour pigments in the red wine act as an anti-oxidant, however it is important to prevent exposure in both types.  Oxidisation is caused by exposure to O2 after fermentation.  It isn’t a problem during fermentation and immediately after because of the amount of CO2 that is given off which fills the gap between the top of the fermenting bucket and the lid therefore preventing any O2 from coming into contact with the must. It also helps to force out any O2 already present in the must.

  • Adding an oxidised wine to a vigorously fermenting one of a harmonious type solves the issue. In First Steps in Winemaking C.J.J. Berry states that ‘the excess acetaldehyde is caught up in the fermentation process and reduced to alcohol with the aldehyde of the fermenting must’
  • Oxidisation can also occur if there is excessive splashing when transferring the brew from vessel to vessel or to the bottles so ensuring this is kept to a minimum also helps to prevent it.
  • It can also occur when bulk aging a wine, if you plan to do this it is best to transfer your wine to a smaller container so that there is no exposure to the air.  It should also be stored in a cool dark place as temperature and light play a role in oxidisation.
  • Adding Campden Tablets just before bottling or bulk aging also helps to prevent oxidisation.

Wine Smells Weird

Generally this is just the smell of the wine during and immediately after fermentation however there some smells to look out for which are not good news for your brew:

  • Smells like eggs: This is due to Hydrogen Sulphide which is caused by the fermentation process and occurs in all fermenting wines. This is not something to worry about and will dissipate after racking to a secondary vessel or transferring to bottles. However if a smell persists then Campden tablets or Potassium Metabisulphate will get rid of this and one or the other are usually required in most fruit wine recipes.
  • Mousey smell:  This is not good and means that the brew has been ruined by bacterial infection, the best thing to do is to throw it away and start again after thoroughly sterilising all the equipment you use.
  • Vinegar Smell:   If spotted early on you can prevent your wine from turning to vinegar by using campden tablets or Sodium Metabisulphate. These kill the bacteria which cause the vinegary taste and smell and ensure that they don’t get any worse.  The best way to prevent this entirely is to make sure your airlock doesn’t go dry, limit exposure to the air and add  1 crushed Campden tablet to each gallon of wine at the end of fermentation to prevent oxidation and bacterial contamination during bottling and syphoning, it also aids stability.

These are some of the most common issues you may encounter during wine making however as long as you sterilise your equipment, use the right yeast and ingredients and brew at the correct temperature you’ll be rewarded with a stress free fun experience which will result in some of the best wine you have ever tasted! Happy brewing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adjuncts in Beer Making

dylan-roberts-121930

The adjuncts used are generally corn, rice, rye, oats, unmalted barley and wheat which are used in the mash to improve flavour, head retention, mouth feel and clarity. There are other adjuncts such as black teacle that can be added however the strictest definition of the word ‘adjuncts’ means anything that is added to the mash.

Adjuncts have been considered inferior due to their use in mass produced beer where they are sometimes used as a cheaper alternative to grain. The German purity laws were introduced in 1516 to ensure that ‘true’ beer contained only three ingredients water, barley and hops. These laws were followed in Germany right up to the twentieth century. However adjuncts are now recognised for the improvements they can bring to beer and are adding an edge to existing beer styles for example Oat Stout.

Here is a list of a few adjuncts and the qualities they add to a beer:

Oat: Is now a popular addition to stout as it adds smoothness and mouthfeel.

Rye: Another adjunct that is used for it’s distinctive flavour it adds a rustic, spicy character to beer and is used in Rye Pale Ale where it is substituted for part of the barley malt.

Rice: Not commonly used by home brewers. Budweiser use rice as they claim it creates the ‘snap’ in their beer. It also helps with colour when making lighter beers.

Wheat: An example of this that springs to mind is torrified wheat which is used in Belgian style ales to add body and head it is especially useful for this in English Ales as well.

Corn: Helps in brewing a beer that has a lighter flavour, body and colour. It is a popular adjunct in America and imparts a corn flavour to the beer which means it is good to use with lagers. 

Unmalted Barley: Adds flavour, richness and head retention. However it can contribute to chill haze so it isn’t used as an adjunct in lighter beers, hence it is ideal for Guinness.

This is just a brief guide to adjuncts but one thing which is important is to always use the correct ratio of adjunct to malted barley.

 

 

 

 

 

How to use a Hydrometer in beer making

hydrometer-3
Original gravity reading taken in a trial jar.

The hydrometer is an essential bit of kit for the home brewer providing gravity readings which allow you to calculate ABV and measure when fermentation has finished. This is a guide to some of the terminology used and how to use the hydrometer.

Specific Gravity

Refers to the measure of your beers density as compared to water. There are a number of dissolved substances within the unfermented wort which contribute to it’s density, sugar is only one of them, other proteins are present and when using a hydrometer you are measuring all of them with your initial reading.

Original Gravity/Start Gravity

This reading is taken before fermentation it measures the density of the liquid giving the home brewer an idea of what their final alcohol level will be. However as mentioned above there are other unfermentable substances within the wort so it is only a rough guide to ABV. Generally a high original gravity reading around 1.060 means a denser liquid and therefore a higher content of fermentable sugars. The original gravity reading is taken before the yeast is pitched. Make sure all the sugars are dissolved in the liquid before taking this reading otherwise it won’t be accurate.

Original gravity readings for beer vary but as a rough guide they start at about 1.040 some stronger beers start higher, for example a hoppy IPA at around 1.060 will have a higher alcohol content than a beer that starts at 1.040 because there are more fermentable sugars in the 1.060 beer than the 1.040 beer.

This reading can be taken by using a trial jar as in the picture above or by placing your hydrometer directly into the fermenter, but before doing this you must thoroughly sterilise your hydrometer to prevent the introduction of any infections which may result in off flavours in your final beer.

Final Gravity

During fermentation all the fermentable sugars are eaten up by the yeast which produces CO2 and alcohol as by products. The CO2 escapes out of the liquid into the fermenter but the alcohol remains. Something to bear in mind while fermenting is that the CO2 forms a blanket over the top of the brew as it is heavier than O2. This protects your brew from any bacterial infection that would ruin your beer. However this only applies in the initial fermenter where the CO2 is trapped and an airlock is present preventing any introduction of O2, if transferred to a secondary vessel this introduces more O2 therefore reducing the effectiveness of the CO2 blanket.

Take the final gravity reading once fermentation is complete. Most malt extract kits contain instructions as to when to take a final gravity reading. You can then work out the ABV using the original gravity and final gravity readings. See equation and ABV calculator at the bottom of the page.

As with the Original Gravity reading this can be taken by placing your sterilised hydrometer directly in the fermenter or if you prefer you can use a trial jar.

How do I know when fermentation is complete?

The only way to be sure that fermentation has finished is to take two hydrometer readings over a 48 hour period, if the readings remain stable this means the brew has fermented, however if the readings change this means it is still fermenting and you will need to wait until they are stable before kegging or bottling. If a brew is bottled whilst it is still fermenting this can cause over carbonation resulting in a gushing beer or exploding bottles, however don’t let this worry you as this is a worse case scenario and can be easily avoided by following the procedure above.

Fermentables:

Refers to the amount of fermentable sugars present within the wort. These are gathered from starches, like grain, through the mashing process which converts starch to sugar or through non mashed sugars like fruit and honey.

Unfermentables:

Sugars with a complex build that cannot be broken down by yeast. These include roasted and dark caramel malts. These add sweetness, body and mouthfeel to your beer.

ABV Calculation:

Below is a link to an ABV calculator:

http://www.brewersfriend.com/abv-calculator/

For those of you who would like to do the maths here is the equation:

% Alcohol = ((1.05 x (OG – FG)) / FG) / 0.79 x 100

So if your OG = 1.045 and FG = 1.008 the equation would look like this:

((1.05 x (1045 x 1008)) / 1008) / 0.79 x 100

So this beer would be 4.9% alcohol. Here’s a link to the Stevenson hydrometer just in case you would like to take a look:

http://www.home-brew-online.com/equipment-c40/stevenson-hydrometer-with-trial-jar-case-p656

History of Beer

Wine – Stuck Fermentation and What to do about it

 

grapes

Signs of a stuck fermentation are no air bubbles through the airlock even when the lid is pushed down gently or there is no movement in your hydrometer reading.  However there are a few other things to check first to be absolutely sure your wine has stopped fermenting:

  • The lid of your fermenting vessel,  if this hasn’t created a seal CO2 may be escaping through the lid instead of through the airlock. So it could still be fermenting but with very little evidence of it.
  • The temperature may have fallen:  The ideal temperatures to brew wine at are between 21-26 degrees if it falls below this fermentation will slow down or stop completely.
  • Your wine may have fermented quickly and it may be that it has finished.  The only true way to know whether your wine is fermenting or not is with a hydrometer reading.

What causes a stuck fermentation and what to do about it?

  •  Lack of Sterilisation:  Yeast needs a clean environment so you can use sterilisers and sanitisers like VWP, Brewsafe and Starsan. These will ensure there is no bad bacteria to disturb the yeast.
  • Temperature: As mentioned above the temperature has to be correct, wine yeast likes it to be not too warm and not too cold, if it’s far too hot it may harm the yeast or possibly kill it. High temperatures can result in very lively fermentations. If your wine has cooled to 18 degrees fermentation may slow down or stop completely, bringing it back up to between 21 and 26 degrees will start fermentation again.
  • Oxygen:  Yeast needs oxygen to create a comfortable fermentation environment so giving your must a good stir can help kick start fermentation.
  • Use the correct yeast: If you’re making a wine kit use the yeast provided or if you are making a wine from scratch eg a fruit wine ensure that you use the right yeast for the right fruit.
  • Old Yeast: Using old yeast can mean that fermentation never started.
  • Specific gravity reading too high (1080 – 1090):  If there is too much sugar for the yeast’s ability this will cause a stuck fermentation.  Sauternes yeast can handle high levels of sugar and from the Gervin range GV7  can be used to kick start fermentation.  Another method is to water down your must to dilute the sugar down to the correct level.  Again a hydrometer reading can tell you whether you are at the right level.
  • Preservatives: These can be added unknowingly by using juice from the supermarket and many will kill off the yeast. Preservatives such as Potassium Sorbate effect the reproduction capabilities of the yeast and therefore stop fermentation.  Check the label before buying as preservative free juices are available.

Hope this helps and contributes to trouble free wine making!

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