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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 affect 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!

A guide to Scrumpy/Cider

TUQ2UK6G75If you’ve been trawling the internet looking for a guide to scrumpy cider then look no further, this is a no nonsense guide to get you off to a flying start! Traditionally scrumpy is a cider made from scratch with apples and nothing else unlike some ciders which can have concentrated apple juice or sugar added, especially commercial ones where added sugar and water is often used. Scrumpy cider can get very technical so this guide aims to give you the basics to start your first batch.

A Brief Guide to Choosing your Apples

You’ll always need more apples than you think so collect as many as possible. You can also use a mix of different apples to produce different flavours so just go for it and experiment! Apples like Cox and Russett mixed with a very small quantity of crab apples make a good cider.  Usually a mixture of 90% sweet to 10% crab apples produces a quality cider.  Also don’t worry if any of the apples are bruised just throw them in too, however you will have to get rid of any rotten ones.

How to Store Your Apples

Sometimes you may have apples that ripen at different times and therefore you will need to store them.  You can store apples for around 2-4 weeks but they’ll need to be checked regularly to remove any rotten ones and storing them in a cool dry place is ideal.  It is not recommended to store them any longer than 4 weeks.  Traditionally it has been seen as necessary to store your apples for up to a month to make sure the apples are fully ripened before pressing, this ensures that all the starch in the apples has been converted to sugar to enable good fermentation. Generally they’re ready for pulping when you can press your thumb into the apple and the print is retained once your thumb is removed. A useful website to use is The Wittenham Hill Cider Pages there’s lots of useful advice and in depth knowledge which is very scientific and fascinating from the author Andrew Lea.

Recipe

Basic Equipment

Fermenting vessel

Airlock

Steriliser

Bottles

Campden tablets

Little bottler/auto syphon

There are also a couple of cider and scrumpy kits available with everything you need, depending on your budget, to start making your own scrumpy.

Scrumpy Making Equipment – The Beginners Complete Kit

 

Method:

Sterilise, sterilise, sterilise

This is the key to successful home brew. Make sure that all your equipment is thoroughly sterilised following the instructions of which ever steriliser you have.  Brewsafe  is a no rinse sanitiser which will save you loads of time and VWP is a steriliser which you will need to rinse.

Pulp your Apples

Gather your apples and give them a soak in clean water to get rid of any dirt and creepy crawlies, don’t worry, this won’t wash away any natural yeast as most of it is found inside the apples themselves, although it is true that some yeast does occur on the skin, we do supply cider yeast if required though. Then chop your apples into quarters which will make it easier to pulp them. A handy piece of equipment for pulping is our Quick Chop Pulper and Bucket seen here on the right.

Quick Chop Pulper
Classic Crusher

There is also the classic crusher shown here on the left which is suitable for larger amounts of apples. At this point before transferring to the press the juice and pulp will become brown in a matter of minutes and this is where the colour of your brew is determined.

 

Extracting the Juice and Fermentation

For smaller batches you can use a  kitchen juicer to break the apples down (although it is a time consuming method of extracting the juice), the liquid can then be transferred  to your fermenting vessel, once there you need to place it somewhere warm but out of direct sunlight.  It will then proceed to ferment naturally from the yeast that is found in the apples and on their skin and usually takes 2-3 weeks however it can take as long as two months! If you would prefer you can also add cider yeast at this stage a 5g sachet is sufficient for 23 litres (5 gallons) of juice. Signs of fermentation are gas bubbles escaping through the airlock, a bowed lid or sometimes a bit of froth on your juice.

Fermentation is complete once there are no more bubbles of gas escaping through the airlock or if you are unsure you can take two hydrometer readings; one when you think it has finished and then another  a couple of days later, if both readings are the same then fermentation is complete. If the second reading has dropped then leave for another 4 to 5 days and take some more readings until they become stable for two consecutive days before proceeding to the bottling stage.

9 Litre Spindle Press

If using a large amount of apples there are some great fruit presses from Vigo to help make the process easy. They vary in size and can handle different amounts of fruit for example the 9L spindle press shown in the picture holds up to 8kg of crushed fruit and produces up to 6 pints (3.5litres) of juice. Using any press you need to collect your pulp in a muslin bag and twist up any slack so it is tightly packed in and then press. Repeat this until all your apples have gone. Then just follow the fermentation process mentioned previously.

In order to get the best juice yield out of your apples add some water to the left over pulp, the Wittenham Hill cider guide recommends one or two litres of water to every 5kg of ‘broken up pommace before re-pressing’ this will be a bit weaker than your previous pressing but can be added to your overall juice. After that the fermentation process is the same as above, just transfer the juice to the fermenter and off it goes.

 

The Vigo Worktop Press:

A small and light design that will produce up to 3 pints (1.7 litres) of juice. I think it looks pretty good too and won’t clutter up the kitchen.sun apple tree

Did you know the gardening genius that is Monty Don used a Vigo press in an episode of Gardener’s World! He said; “The press has turned what was going to be a waste product – windfall apples-into fresh apple juice”

Bottling

Before bottling add a Campden Tablet to your brew this helps to prevent bacterial contamination, it’s usually one tablet per gallon. Also make sure that your bottles and bottling equipment are thoroughly sterilised.

Bottling can be very tedious and time consuming so I’d recommend using the little bottler or an auto syphon which makes bottling quick and easy. The budget option is a syphon tube andpinch valve which will do the job but not as efficiently.

If you would like carbonated scrumpy now is the time to add a teaspoon of  brewing sugar to a 500ml bottle, two teaspoons for a litre etc…  Priming drops are also available for this purpose and once again make your life much easier. I’d recommend adding one drop per 500ml bottle.

TIP: You need to use suitably strong bottles such as PET plastic bottles, glass beer bottles or glass swing top bottles. Glass wine bottles will not take the pressure!  These are our clear glass swing top bottles, perfect for adding that professional look.

Swing Top Bottles

Wait

Now all you have to do is wait for the scrumpy  to condition, the longer the better, I leave it for about 2-3 months before drinking, but if you can wait and leave it up to a year it’ll turn into a wonderful scrumpy.  Also at Christmas you can give it that festive flavour by mulling it and serving warm, yum!

 

Happy brewing!

Bottling Beer Tips

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Here are a few tips to make sure that your bottling process is smooth and incident free!

  • Always ensure fermentation is complete if it isn’t this can cause pressure to build up in the bottles as the CO2 has nowhere to go.  At the end of fermentation take two hydrometer readings 24 or 48 hours apart if the readings are the same then fermentation is complete and you are free to bottle, if not leave a little longer until the two readings are the same. When transferring to your bottles avoid any splashing as you would not want to oxidise your brew.
  • Priming your beer: It is important to get the right level of carbonation in your brew as it adds to mouthfeel and appearance.  Too much priming sugar will lead to  a very frothy beer and although a good head is nice this will be too much. We recommend
    carbonation drops
    Coopers Carbonation Drops

    no more than one carbonation drop or a heaped teaspoon of brewing sugar per 500ml bottle for lager and cider which will add more fizz than the one carbonation drop. For ale we recommend one carbonation drop, a level teaspoon of brewing sugar or for slight carbonation half a teaspoon. This priming sugar is a tasty treat for the remaining yeast in your brew which then produces CO2 and as seen as it has nowhere to escape to it instead carbonates your beer. Also leave a gap at the top to aid carbonation about 1″ to 1½”.

  • What else can I prime with other than brewing sugar/carbonation drops? A few suggestions are honey for honey beer, spraymalt; which one you use depends on the type of beer, for example you could use the light spraymalt with pale ale or an IPA. Whether using something other than white sugar actually alters the flavour of your beer is debated but if you’re feeling adventurous it’s something different to try.
  • Buy good quality bottles and that’s half the battle we sell 500ml brown and clear plastic bottles along with 500ml brown glass bottles. These are all high quality bottles perfect for storing your home brew. If using clear you would need to store your beer away from direct sunlight.
  • Use a little bottlerThese are simply a must when bottling they cut time and mess
    little bottler
    Little bottler

    down to a minimum.

  • Store your bottles in a cool dark place: This allows your brew to clear and prevents any damage caused by sunlight.
  • Allow your brew to condition: You can drink your beer a few weeks after it has been bottled and carbonation is complete however it will not be at it’s best.  Leave it for at least two months and you will be rewarded with a great tasting beer because the flavours will have had time to develop over a long period.
  • Happy Bottling!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bog Myrtle (Myrica Gale) Beer

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Bog Myrtle in the Garden

Thousands of years ago when beer was first discovered people quickly realised it was too sweet to enjoy in any large quantity and as they had acquired a taste for alcohol’s intoxicating effects they needed to introduce a bitter taste to counteract the sweetness and therefore make it more drinkable.  This is where Bog Myrtle or Myrica Gale to give it it’s Latin name comes in, it was used along with other shrubs, plants and herbs instead of hops which started to be used in beer in the Tudor period, at one point in Britain hops were prohibited as it was thought they were a negative influence on true British beer. So you can produce your very own historic ale using this or plants such as nettles, sage, rosemary and heather and with a shortage of certain hops now is the perfect time to experiment so replace the hops in your recipe with the leaves and catkins (fresh or dried) from the Bog Myrtle shrub to add a unique flavour to your beer. It goes well with light coloured beers as the flavours compliment each other.

 

How to Grow Bog Myrtle

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You can grow Bog Myrtle from seed or from softwood cuttings but I cheated and bought mine at the garden centre.  It will look after itself and is a very hardy shrub as long as you have the right soil.  It can be found in places like the North York Moors so in order to grow this in your garden your soil will need to have a similar makeup. It thrives in poorly drained soil with either clay or loam.

How to make BeVino Wine – Forest Fruit

belvino

Hi guys, here’s a step by step picture guide to making BelVino Wine Forest Fruit.  I was impressed by the quality of the fruit you get and the smell of it as it ferments in the vessel is great! The first stage of fermentation takes about 5-6 days and then takes a further 4 days to add the clearing agent and then wait for it to settle before bottling.  But all will be explained in each stage below.

 

Equipment:

Ingredients: Found in the Bel Vino Forest Fruits

  • Dried fruit pack
  • 4kg brewing sugar
  • sachet 1e (enzyme)
  • sachet 1c (citric acid)
  • wine yeast
  • Sachet 1d (bentonite)
  • Sachet 2 (stabiliser)
  • Sachet 3 (finings A)
  • Sachet 4 (finings B)

Method:

  1. Sterilise all your equipment thoroughly. Place your fermenter in an area where any leaks or frothing won’t damage anything.
  2. Empty the dried fruit packet into the fermenting vessel followed by the sugar.IMG_1842    IMG_1840
  3. Add 3 litres of boiling water (not in glass fermenters) and stir to dissolve the sugar.IMG_1846    IMG_1854
  4. Add sachet 1e (enzyme) stir and then leave for one hour.IMG_1848   IMG_1844
  5. Top the fermenter up to 23 litres aiming for an end temperature of between 25-30 degrees
  6. Add sachet 1c (citric acid) and stir.IMG_1855
  7. Make sure everything is mixed together  and take a hydrometer reading. Ours was 1.060.  You don’t have to take a hydrometer reading at this point but if you do you can then work out the alcohol content with the final hydrometer reading at the end.IMG_1858
  8. Make sure that your brew temperature is not above 30 degrees (86F) then add the wine yeast.  If you add the yeast and your brew is too hot this could kill the yeast.  If your brew is too cool it won’t kill the yeast but the fermentation process will be slower or may not start at all. Sprinkle the yeast evenly over the surface.IMG_1859
  9. Then add  sachet 1d (bentonite) and leave  for 15 minutes. Once done mix well.
  10. Leave to ferment.  If you have an airlock do not use it as the fruit can block it up preventing the CO2 from escaping.  Just place a cloth over the airlock hole.

 

 

11. It should begin to ferment in 1 – 2 days in my case it was a vigorous ferment making lots of noise and bubbling like a witches cauldron! Leave it for 5-6 days between 22-25 degrees, the fermentation will be over when your hydrometer reading is consistent and below 1000 two days running.  The wine must have finished fermenting otherwise it will not clear due to the presence of CO2 in the brew.

vessel and bottler
Fermenting vessel and little bottler £14.50
IMG_1955
Using nylon straining bag and syphon tube to transfer liquid to another vessel.

12. Rack the wine off into another vessel. I usually rack off into a vessel with a tap and bottler to make the bottling process quick and easy. I used a nylon hop straining bag on the end of a length of syphon tube in order  to separate the fruit from the liquid.

13.Add stabiliser 2 and remove any CO2 from the liquid.IMG_1960  This can be done by vigorously stirring until all the gas has gone or you can use a wine degasser which takes all the time and effort out of this process.

14. Leave the wine for an hour and then degas again.  Once all the CO2 has gone add 3 finings A and stir it in for 30 seconds. Leave then until the next day.

 

15. Add 4 finings B the next day and stir in slowly for 30 seconds mixing up a bit of the sediment at the bottom with it.  Allow to clear for 1-2 days.

16. Once the wine is clear you can bottle it straight from the fermenter with the little bottler.  Leave for as long as possible to mature a month is good but two months is even better.  The longer you leave it the more it will improve.

17. Finally enjoy and happy brewing!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Grain Beer Dictionary

field grain.jpg

When I first ventured into all grain brewing I was a little intimidated about some of the terminology so I thought I would put together an all grain brewing dictionary as a quick reference for anyone out there who feels the same or, like me, may need reminding every now and then.

Aroma Hops:  Hops added at the end of the boil for aroma they can be added for the last 15, 10 or 5 minutes.

BIAB: Brew in a bag method. Here’s a link which goes into more detail about this method: https://homebrewonlinebrewblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/04/biab-all-grain-brewing-easy-brewing-on-a-sunny-day/

Bittering Hops: Added for the bulk of the boil to impart bitterness. The longer you boil these hops the more bitter the beer will be.

Degrees Lovibond Scale: An old method used to predict what colour your beer will be, devised by a British man Joseph William Lovibond in 1885. It is now more common to use the EBC and SRM scales.

Dry Hopping: Adding hops after fermentation, this doesn’t add bitterness but imparts aromas into the brew.

EBC(European Brewery Convention): A colour chart used by modern brewers to determine what colour your beer will be.

Grain Mill: This is used to crush whole grain although most people tend to buy grains that are already crushed.

Kettle: The vessel used to boil your wort in.

Malted Barley: This is achieved through the process of malting which involves soaking the grain until it starts to germinate.  At this point the germination is stopped and then the IMG_9348grains are dried with hot air.

Mashing: The process of turning the starch found in the grain into fermentable sugars.

Mashing In: Mixing the crushed grains and strike water together.

Mash Out: This is not an essential step but makes the wort easier to collect by heating up the mash either directly or with water to 77 degrees.

Mash Tun: Insulated vessel to hold the grains at the correct temperature while the mashing process takes place.

Sparging: Process of using sparge water to rinse the grains after mashing and get more sugars out of it.

Sparge Water: Water used to rinse the grains to extract all the sugars produced in the mashing process.

SRM (Standard Reference Method): Another method used by brewers to specify beer colour.

Strike Water: Water added to the grains at the start of the mashing process.

Wort: Pronounced ‘wert’ this will become your beer.

IMG_9351
Wort Chiller

Wort Chiller: A piece of equipment that is used to cool the wort down as quickly as possible this ensures that the beer will be clear.

 

 

If there’s anything I’ve missed please let me know and I’ll add it on.  Hopefully it’s not something embarrassingly obvious!

 

All Grain Orange Beer

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This is a nice refreshing beer  and very easy to make.  All grain brewing can appear to be intimidating but as long as you get a few key methods right you’ll be rewarded with a great tasting beer full of body and flavour.  The orange gives it a lovely fresh after taste that works well with this nice light session ale. This is a recipe adapted from one I read in the Guardian.

Ingredients:

1kg Maris Otter Pale Ale Malt

50g Light brown sugar

Zest of half an Orange

½ teaspoon Irish Moss/ Carragheen

1 Sachet of Ale Yeast (I used Munton’s Premium Gold Yeast)

9 grams of Goldings Hops

Equipment:

10 litre fermenting vessel

glass thermometer

plastic paddle

Ritchie’s mashing and sparging bag

colander

2 x large pans that can hold at least 6 litres of water

Small auto syphon with clamp and bottling stick

Hydrometer

 

Method:

  • First heat up 3½ litres of water in a large pan to 76 degrees turn off the heat and then add all the grain. Mix the water into the grain thoroughly getting rid of any grain balls that form, this is your mash and the temperature should drop to 66 degrees. Once this is done cover and leave for an hour and 15 minutes. To do this wrap the pan in lots of old towels to insulate it.
    IMG_1902
    The Mash – Turning all those starches into fermentable sugars.

     

  • Now at this point you need to heat up 6 litres of water to between 76 and 80 degrees and set aside.  Once the hour and fifteen minutes is up strain the wort through a colander lined with a Ritchie’s mashing and sparging bag or  chef’s muslin into another pan.

    IMG_1904
    Separating the wort from the grain.
  • Then pour the 6 litres of water over the grains to extract the remaining sugars. This is called sparging. You will now have your wort in the pan which will later become your beer.
  • Divide your hops into three lots of 3 grams and then bring your wort to the boil. Add your first lots of hops (the bittering hops) and the sugar. Try to maintain a steady boil for an hour and fifteen minutes and then  add another 3 grams of hops, the orange zest and the Irish Moss (Seaweed which helps your beer clear).
    snip hops
    Boiling the hops releases the oils and flavours. The first lot of hops add bitterness the second and third  add aroma.

     

  • Boil for a further ten minutes and then add the last lot of hops. Boil for another 5 minutes then leave to stand for 40 minutes.
  • Using the colander and straining bag pour the wort into your fermenting vessel. orange wort.JPG I sat my fermenter in the sink and then filled the sink with cold water and ice in order to bring the temperature of the wort down quickly.  The quicker the wort cools down the clearer your beer will be. It took mine about an hour to cool down in the sink.

    snipped wort.PNG
    Cooling the wort down.
  • Once the wort has cooled down to around 20-25 degrees check the specific gravity mine was 1.040 then add the yeast.
  • Lightly cover the fermenter with the lid- do not seal – and leave to ferment for 4 days at about 20 degrees.
  • Leave your fermenter some where that won’t cause any damage if the fermentation were to be quite vigorous and spill over.
  • Foam should develop after the first day showing fermentation.
  • On the fifth day the foam should be mostly cleared and the hydrometer reading should be around 1.008.  If you’re not sure that fermentation has finished take a second hydrometer reading 24 hours later, if it is the same it has stopped fermenting if not leave until the readings are consistent. Once fermentation is complete you are ready to bottle.
  • I used a small auto syphon with clamp and bottling stick to do this which made the process so much easier.
  • Add one carbonation drop per bottle.
  • Store in a warm place for two weeks about 20 degrees is ideal.  Then try to leave your beer for as long as you possibly can as it will improve with age 1-2 months is ideal.
  • Tip: If you have used clear bottles, like me, store them away from direct sunlight as this can have a negative affect on your beer.
  • Finally enjoy, ideally in the sun sat next to a bbq!!!
  • bottling orange beer
    Using the small auto syphon. Brilliant!!

    orange beer
    All lined up ready for secondary fermentation. Nice!

 

Tempting Tiramisu Muffins

IMG_1582

These muffins are a great indulgent treat that will not fail to impress family and friends! Use your home made coffee liquor (I used Top Shelf Cafelua)  and impress them even more with this easy yet tasty recipe adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery book Cake Days.

Ingredients

80g unsalted butter

240g caster sugar

240g plain flour

1¼ tbsp baking powderIMG_1581

2 medium eggs

220ml whole milk

¼ tsp vanilla essence

For the syrup

250ml strong coffee

75ml home brew coffee liquortop shelf cafelua

3 tbsp caster sugar

To fill and top

400g mascarpone cheese

50ml home brew coffee liquor

300ml double cream

30g icing sugar

Cocoa powder for dusting

Method

  • Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees (gas mark 5).
  • Prepare your muffin tin lining it with the muffin cases.
  • Whip together the butter, sugar, flour and baking powder using an electric whisk until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  
  • In a separate bowl or jug mix together the eggs, milk and vanilla essence then add this gradually to the flour and butter mixture.  The final consistency should be thick and not too watery. 
  • Fill up each muffin case with two-thirds of the mixture and then bake for 18-20 minutes.  To test whether they are finished get a skewer or a small sharp knife and pierce through one of the muffins in the centre, if the skewer or knife is clean when removed then your muffins are done. Put these on a wire rack to cool.

Coffee Syrup

  • Make 250ml of strong coffee and put this in a pan with the home brew coffee liquor and caster sugar. Stir and then bring to the boil.  Let the liquid reduce by half and then set aside to cool.

Coffee Filling and Topping

  • Using an electric whisk whip the double cream and icing sugar into soft peaks.
  • In a separate bowl mix together the mascarpone and home brew coffee liquor then add the above cream until they are both thoroughly combined.

Back to the Muffins

  • Once the muffins have cooled cut a piece out of each one about 2cm in diameter and 3cm long set these pieces aside.
  • Pour 1-2 teaspoons of the coffee syrup into each muffin and then pour 1 teaspoon on to the pieces of sponge you cut out.
  • Fill the hollow in each muffin halfway with the mascarpone and IMG_1576cream filling then pop the tops back on.
  • Next comes the fun bit of decorating the top of the muffins with plenty of the mascarpone and cream topping. Finish with a dusting of cocoa powder.

That’s it!! Now all you have to do is enjoy!

Using the Brewolution Brewster All Grain Micro Brewery

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