The Carboy Handle

This piece falls into the optional category; however it is a life saver.

carboy handle

carboy handle

We typically like to make wine in a three gallon carboy. The carboys get heavy and difficult to move around once they are filled with ingredients, not to mention they are made from thick glass and heavy to begin with. Having a solid handle attached makes moving the carboys around a ton easier. Lifting the carboy to the counter for racking was a two man lift before we began using these.

I have seen a number of ways to ease the load…from sling like totes to dollies on casters. The carboy handle is by far my favorite. The handles are made from a simple design and are coated in rubber/plastic for extra grip.

They fall under the wish I would have thought of that category.

To install loosen the wing nut until you are able to slip the mouth of the handle over the lip of the carboy. I like to slip the ring as far down the neck as I can. Then tighten the wing nut back up and voila! You have an easier way to lift and move the carboy.

The manufacturer cautions against over tightening the handle, I assume this is to prevent cracking the glass. If you are using quality carboys this shouldn’t be to much of a concern as the glass should be thick enough to avoid it being cracked.

TIP: Make sure you buy the correct size for your carboy. Believe it or not there are two sizes I have run across. One for a three gallon carboy and one that fits either a five or six gallon carboy and they are not interchangeable. In fact, I have bought the wrong size and the vendor I use was gracious enough to swap it out for the correct size. Another reason to talkk with the clerks in the shops you frequent.

I typically buy a handle for every carboy I buy. Once installed I leave them on.

Hope you enjoy!

14 Mar 15 – Small Batch

I am a little behind on my wine log. Things have been busy and I had back surgery this week. I am finally feeling a little better and with activity restrictions I have time to catch up.

Almost two week ago my wife and I bottled some of our Lite Cider. We are now calling it our House Cider and believe we have perfected the recipe for now.

cwm bottles

cwm bottles

Feeling accomplished we decided to do some experimenting and started three small batches; strawberry mead, a new cranberry and some passion fruit. I will write about the strawberry mead in another post and share some revelations about it.

For the cranberry, we usually use a combination of brown sugar and white sugar. We wanted to try adding some homemade vanilla to the batch for some added flavor. When we pulled ingredients together i found we were out of brown sugar and i was feeling lazy so we added the vanilla but left out the brown sugar. I will need to do another batch of this with the brown sugar and compare the final taste.

homemade vanilla

homemade vanilla

Who knows maybe we will end up dropping the brown sugar; it is kind of a pain to get into the container but the wine has been tasty.

cranberry batch

cranberry batch

Cranberry recipe for this batch:

  • 1 12 oz container 100% cranberry juice from concentrate
  • Spring water
  • 2 tbsp homemade vanilla
  • 1 packet highly active bread yeast
  • 1/2 tsp yeast nutrient

When we first started making wine we did a lot of different flavors. Lately we have been focused on perfecting the apple cider and cranberry flavors and something has been missing. While I really enjoy the cider and feel like we have nailed a regular recipe my more adventurous side has missed the multiple experimental flavors.

Enter passion fruit.

I love citrus flavors and passion fruit is no exception. I must admit though I am a little worried about passion fruit. I have read several times to avoid citrus flavors with the method we use. That being said we have successfully done strawberry, kiwi and other blends of citrus fruits. With my wife’s encouragement we decided to go for it.

passion fruit batch

passion fruit batch

Passion Fruit Recipe:

  • 1 12 oz can passion fruit blend juice from concentrate
  • Spring water
  • 1 packet highly active bread yeast
  • 1/2 tsp yeast nutrient

After mixing the two batches we left them on the counter over night to observe the beginning of fermentation. Both batches began bubbling hard and smelled like fermenting wine. I have since moved them to the brew closet and continue to monitor them.

I am excited to rack them and have the first tastes. Eagerly awaiting the 25th of April when they should be ready!

Hope you enjoy!

 

So easy you can make a gallon in five minutes!

I know I have said it before but…wine making is so easy, I love it!

A few nights ago my wife and I had a couple of good friends over for dinner. It was some nice adult time chatting and sharing a glass (or two ūüėČ ) of our cabinet wine. After dinner we began talking about wine again!

My friend Edgar has been ultra-supportive about my hobby and starting the Cabinet Wine Maker blog. I think he sees the passion in my eyes about wine whenever it comes up. His wife Jess is a great lady who loves good wine. As we began talking one thing led to another and we found our way to the ever popular topic of making wine.

I have told Edgar how easy it is and how cheaply one can get into it. Though I know he believes me he was still a little reserved about trying it.

That was about to change…

Edgar has been saying he wanted to try making wine for some time, I keep telling him how easy it is and we agree he should come over sometime so I show him how it is done. Rinse and repeat!

I showed Edgar and Jess the new and improved brew closet, his eyes were wide with interest. Suddenly I realized they were at the house, I had enough glassware free to do a batch and I had all the ingredients. No better time than the present I said and Edgar eagerly agreed.

Immediately I pulled a frozen juice from concentrate from the freezer (I find my wife and I are picking up interesting flavor combinations and storing them on hand). I placed the frozen can in the sink and let warm water pour over it to speed the thawing and set about gathering supplies and ingredients.

Before beginning I apologized in advance if I slipped into professor mode; I truly love teaching others how to make wine.

Edgar asked what equipment he would need and I replied ” one gallon container, one screw top for said bottle, one airlock, one rubber stopper and maybe a funnel and measuring cup.” The next question…how much will that cost. I am guessing about $10 or less and shared two local stores where he could get the supplies.

I mentioned to them that you could use an empty spring water jug, a rubber band and a balloon. Edgar gave one of those yeah right nervous kind of laughs so I had to tell him a story.

You see my first batch I did just that…I had been thinking about making wine for some time. My wife and I were having dinner with my mom one night and I brought it up. To my surprise Mom let me in on a secret.

She used to make wine using an empty bottle, a rubber band and a balloon.

Mom explained how you mixed the ingredients and secured¬†the balloon and rubber band. She also explained that the balloon would fill up with CO2 during fermentation and when the balloon¬†deflated the wine would be ready. Long story short when we left mom’s house we stopped at the store and got everything for our first batch.

I went home and mixed up my batch and placed the balloon topped container in an empty kitchen cabinet. The next morning the balloon has swelled to larger than the container and I was giddy.

The funny part of the story is that the next day I was again at my mom’s house and told her of my new adventure (I didn’t mention the balloon). She laughed and told me a story of a particularly potent batch she made where the balloon burst and wine was all over the cabinet. I swallowed hard and spent the next several weeks hoping my balloon didn’t rupture.

By now the juice from concentrate was fully thawed and I continued on with the demonstration. Sugar, water, juice from concentrate and a packet of bread yeast…in five minutes we were done. Of course I shared some tips and tricks along the way and explained my method and why I did certain things the way I do (Edgar is used to my overly methodical approach to everything).

They soaked it in like a sponge. Edgar being a bright guy said “You mean for under $20 dollars and five minutes I can make a gallon of wine and it tastes this good!” With my confirmation and a twinkle in his eye Edgar vowed he knew what he was doing this weekend!

I am waiting to see if he and Jess are hooked or not…either way we had a great evening, I shared my passion and I have another gallon in the closet in processes.

Hope you enjoy!

Outfitting the brew closet

I have mentioned before when my wife and I started wine making we used an empty cabinet in the kitchen. We quickly out grew the cabinet. When we moved the last time we were blessed with a closet that is working out like a dream.

The closet is a standard coat closet in our mud room. For those of you that don’t know what a mud room is, it is a small room by the back door where the washer and dryer are.

At first we only used the floor space and the top shelves…as with most hobbies we accumulated more stuff and I recently put in a simple shelf/table.

The journey began when my wife made me a couple signs for a gift.

lab sign

lab sign

I should mention we don’t really brew. We use no heat in the process to keep things as simple as possible and we feel purer. One day we will employ heat but for now it is low on the priority list. The sign made us feel legit.

The other sign is more functional.

what's brewing sign

what’s brewing sign

With this sign we keep track of what is in process. When a batch was started, when it will be done and if it is racking or fermenting. We also label the flavor to keep it straight. This information is also put on the individual bottles.

Both signs were spray painted with chalkboard paint. The paint and the raw wood boards were purchased from a favorite haunt…Hobby Lobby! It is truly amazing what you can find at a Hobby Lobby. I have even seen our carboys there; though they are more expensive.

The closet (outside)

The closet (outside)

An outside picture of the closet. Now to see the inner lair…lol

the closet (inside)

the closet (inside)

The closet is about 2′ wide by about 21″ deep. More than enough space for now. Though I have future plans, if everything goes well, that will eventually require more of a small room!

closet shelves

closet shelves

The top shelf is where we keep used bottles. The used bottles are usually used for over pour or when we know we will consume the wine in short order. Most of these bottles are screw top or bottles from our Bernard Jensen’s Apple Concentrate.

The next shelf down is where we store labels, corks, tools, extra sugar and any other tools. We hang hoses from the hooks just on the right. The hoses are hidden from view behind the door jamb.

closet bottom shelf

closet bottom shelf

The bottom shelf I made. The shelf is simple: a piece of 3/4″ cedar, four screws and four – 2′ dowels. I built the shelf in the garage, disassembled it and reassembled it in the closet. It is really more of a table.

We store empty carboys, gallon bottles and new cases of bottles here.

closet floor

closet floor

The floor of the closet is where all of the science happens. We ferment and rack here. Since the shelf/table above is the same depth and width¬†as the closet there isn’t as much light here…perfect for the process. We can fit two three gallon carboys and six one gallon bottles here.

In case you are counting that is 12 gallons in process. If done right it is about 12-14 bottles every three weeks.

Well that is a look behind the scenes. I hope I showed how a lot of wine can be made in a little bit of space.

Hope you enjoy!

Homebrew Supplies of Florida, Inc.

homebrew supplies card

Stephen and his wife at Homebrew supplies are great. We originally bought some root beer supplies from them. The kit came not only with the root beer extract but also contained detailed instructions about how to make root beer at home.

Since making root beer at home uses most of the same supplies it is a natural fit. For many this can be a great introduction to home brewing.

The Homebrew supplies site is great. They have good prices and a lot of supplies for both the beer and wine types. Both Stephen and his wife are very knowledgeable about the process and different techniques. It also helps that they are good people that are easy to talk to.

I usually linger for longer than I should!

Homebrew supplies is an online storefront and I don’t believe they have a physical store. However, If you are from Orlando you can often find Bacallaos at the Good Neighbors Farmer’s Market¬†in Oviedo on Saturdays.¬†If you strike up a conversation with a passion for wine/beer making, they have been known to offer to bring supplies to the market to avoid shipping costs (I don’t know if they would make a habit of this).

The website has a great section of recipe that explains the root beer/soda process done correctly. There are also some other pages dedicated to articles and the like. The product shopping pages are my favorite by far.

Check them out when you have a chance and tell them the Cabinet Wine Maker sent you.

 

If you have never been to Good Neighbors, it is worth a Saturday morning with lots of local vendors, fresh fruits and veggies, farm animals and more. I will dedicate a post to them later.

Hope you enjoy!