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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 sugars to alcohol, 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 second 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 sachet is enough to do 5 gallons/23 litres.

 

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 3 to 15 hours (it’s usually only a few hours) for the yeast to become active and 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.

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 have changed it is fermenting if they are stable the brew has finished. It is important to make sure your wort has finished fermenting before proceeding to the next stage.

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 your bottles 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.

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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

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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!

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 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. For ale we recommend one carbonation drop, a level teaspoon of brewing sugar or for slight carbonation half a teaspoon. Be sure to leave a gap at the top of your bottle to aid carbonation about 1″ to 1½”.

  • What else can I prime with other than brewing sugar/carbonation drops? A few suggestions are honey which will may impart flavour,  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. It is debated whether these alternative priming sugars add flavour, some believe they do and others don’t but it’s always worth a try as you may prefer one of the alternatives.
  • 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 bottlerThis is 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, however it is best left to mature. 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.
  • 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 were introduced to Britain in the fifteenth century by Flemish immigrants, although at one point 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 Bog Myrtle just 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. However if you really want to go for it and produce an authentic medieval style beer it would be best to use dark and brown malt along with a less than efficient brewing process to replicate Medieval brewing. There’s more information on this on the link below.

Here is a handy link to ‘Brew Your Own’ which has an interesting article on brewing using herbs as a replacement for hops, along with a bit of history about brewing in Europe.

https://byo.com/mead/item/730-gruitbier-style-profile

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.

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