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!

20 Feb 15 – More Hard Cider Lite

The first round of hard cider lite finished fermenting. My wife and I siphoned it off into gallon bottles. As we did I was greeted with an amazing moment. One of my top three moments in my wine making history.

The flavor was amazing!

My house specialty has been reborn! The cider lite tasted much more refined. Sweet yet subtle apple flavor with a great aroma…

You have to understand when you start wine making and you try something new it takes six weeks to sample your tweak. One of the reasons I advocate only changing one thing at a time. In fact, it takes 12 weeks to taste the final product. That is a long time.

I confess. We ALWAYS have a “taster” glass when we go into racking and the night we bottle.

We were so excited and immediately started a fresh batch with the same recipe. The new batch will done fermenting on my birthday. Ironically,the last batch will be bottled at the same time.

Hope you enjoy!

Outfitting a Carboy

Our wine making became more of a hobby when we bought our first carboy. Since then we have tinkered with how we like to set them up, we first started putting chalk stickers on them and later we found some thermometer stickers. My wife and I are sort of a freaks about organization and tracking information. We like to mark our bottles with flavor, date started and date it should move on to the next step. This is how we do it now.

Enter chalkboard paint…

chalkboard paint

chalkboard paint

This stuff is great. We use it for a lot of different projects, so I usually have some on hand. Start by gathering the following items:

  • 3 or 5 gallon carboy
  • masking tape (preferably wide tape)
  • computer/copy paper (newspaper will work too)
  • thermometer sticker (available at most brew stores)
  • chalkboard paint
  • exacto blade
  • emery/sand paper.
thermometer sticker

thermometer sticker

I love these thermometer stickers! We put them on carboys and bottles. I even have one on the inside of one of the house windows to monitor the outside temperature.

It is important to monitor the temperature of your wine during fermentation and racking. I place the thermometer sticker sideways on the carboy because it fits better on the carboy I use…you can put it where you like. I just find putting it with the label makes it easy to see.

placed thermometer sticker

placed thermometer sticker

Next, I use the masking tape and computer paper to protect the carboy during spaying. I like to try and keep the edges as straight as possible and evenly spaced. That is OCD talking.

TIP: Using the wide masking tape makes it easier to tape to the carboy while leaving room for the paper. I usually secure only one side of the tape, put the paper on and then make sure the tape is secure on the paint side.

taping off the square

taping off the square

After securing the tape, you will want to lightly sand the glass where you are going to paint it. This helps the paint stick. I used emery paper. Emery paper is a special type of sand paper for glass. Sand paper will work, I only have the emery stuff because I have a glass bottle cutter it came with. We use the bottle cutter to make candles (a topic for another day!). Be careful to rub the paper in small circles and try not to “sand” the masking tape.

sanding the glass

sanding the glass

Once you are satisfied with this, it is time to paint!

Patience is a virtue at this point. Take your time and put several light coats on and follow the directions on the can. I used Krylon and their instructions state you have to put two coats on to get a good chalkboard surface. Each coat can be applied in 15 minute increments (I put on four to five coats at minimum). The paint is dry in the first three hours but needs at least 24 hours to cure before applying any chalk. It is also recommended to do this outdoors.

spraying the surface

spraying the surface

After waiting three hours you can remove the paper and masking tape. I like to lightly score the line between the tape and paint with an exacto blade to help keep the edge clean. If you have some over spray or paint spots outside your line, you can carefully scrape it off with a razor blade.

cleaning the edge

cleaning the edge

After 24 hours your carboy is ready for a batch! Now you can stay organized and write on the surface to keep track of flavors and batches.

TIP: The chalkboard paint surface will work best if you prepare the surface before using it. To do this color the entire surface with chalk and wipe clean with a damp rag. You can use this trick for any chalkboard paint project.

finished carboy and gallon bottle

finished carboy and gallon bottle

Hope you enjoy!

 

27 Dec 14 – Hard Cider Lite

Hard cider has become my favorite wine to brew. This beverage blurs the lines between wine and beer. Hard cider has become a popular drink both on beer shelves and in bars and pubs. Many bars, restaurants and pubs sell hard cider on draft. On beer shelves in liquor stores, grocery aisles and other shops hard cider comes in several varieties.

We started with apple wine and while it was good, it just didn’t have enough apple flavor for me. I wanted a big apple punch in flavor. After going back and forth and my wife and I doing some online research we found an amazing product. I have mentioned this stuff before, Bernard Jensen’s 100% Apple Concentrate.

bernard jensen's 100% apple concentrate

bernard jensen’s 100% apple concentrate

Since we have been making this for a while, I think we have the recipe nailed. However some of the drier wine people who have had it think the hard cider is to sweet. We decided to try a “lite” version. We also changed the sugar we use to Zulka’s Morena Pure Cane Sugar. Morena is an all natural product and reflects our hippie tendencies. The sugar is 100% organic and a non-gmo product. The sugar has a slightly tan color. We like it in coffee and may switch to this sugar for all our household needs.

We made a three gallon recipe!

Recipe:

  • 12 cups Morena pure cane sugar
  • 2 16 oz bottles Bernard Jensen’s Apple Concentrate
  • 3 packets highly/super active yeast (found in the baking aisle of the grocery store)
  • 3 gallons spring water
  • 1 1/2 tsp yeast nutrient (more on additives in a future blog)

I mixed the ingredients following the basic process (found here). However, we now mix most of the water and sugar before adding any juice concentrate. After adding all the ingredients we secured the airlock and left the carboy on the counter over night to “watch the science happen!” In the morning, I put the batch in our wine closet.

The batch will be ready for racking on 15 Feb 15. Another six weeks and we will be bottling the Hard Cider Lite…I will update this post then and let you know how it turned out.

Hope you enjoy!

 

Urban Sunshine Organic and Hydroponic Gardening

urban sunshine organic and hydroponic gardening altamonte springs,fl

urban sunshine organic and hydroponic gardening altamonte springs,fl

This place is amazing and close to home. It is easily one of my top three places to buy equipment. I know, you are wondering why would you go to Urban Sunshine to buy brewing equipment. They sell organic and hydroponic gardening gear!

It is a long story but here is the short version.

I had just started brewing wine and was ready to graduate from a gallon glass bottle to a larger carboy. My wife and I had found another favorite store that is a little further from home (more on this store later). I was lamenting the fact I didn’t have enough time to go across town when suddenly I saw a large sign in front of the their store, I swear it had an aura around it like a bright spot light! It said “We now carry home brew supplies.”

We were on a run to get some juice concentrate so we immediately pulled in to check it out.

These guys are really good guys. Will and Daniel are usually there when I visit and it seems like every time I go there I end up having conversations about other things. They are easy to talk to and when the conversation is about brewing they are both very knowledgeable.

I have to disclaim Urban Sunshine¬†carries beer supplies. That being said there is plenty of cross over for us wine people. They have carboys, bungs, airlocks, thermometers, siphon hoses, etc…the whole nine yards.

I always go to the store Will and Daniel work at but they have several locations in the Orlando area. Check out their locations page.

These guys are great and with our hippie tendencies, my wife and I will definitely be stopping by for some organic gardening supplies this spring. Seriously, if you have an opportunity to stop by do. It is worth the trip!

Hope you enjoy!

The Stir Stick

I had some interaction with a new friend last night, Wines by Ari. Ari is also writing a blog about wines and has been brewing some wine at home. Check out her blog by clicking the link above.  Anyway we were posting back and forth about heating your sugar and water versus stirring and she made a comment/question I get a lot.

She posted “That‚Äôs cool‚ĶI guess you get a arm workout in the process :)”

My wife and I¬†used to shake our¬†bottles when we¬†first started. Back then, we used one gallon bottles only and shaking them wasn’t to difficult. Now we use a three gallon carboy to ferment in and only use the one gallon bottles for racking. I admit, shaking the carboy proved to be more difficult and we¬†thought about using the same method Ari¬†does. We were ready to concede to heating the sugar and water on the stove top. But, what pot to use? Will it ruin the pot? How hard will it be to clean? Should we buy a pot just for brewing (that would be a big pot for a three gallon batch)?

Then the most amazing thing happened.

My wife and “partner in wine” gave me one of the best Christmas presents I ever received! A beautifully crafted stir stick.

stir stick

stir stick

The stir stick is just shy of three feet long. It has a metal center covered in food grade plastic and can be used with a three or four gallon carboy.¬†The tip, on the left of the above/below picture, is made of plastic and has arms that fold down. A user folds the arms inward and puts the tip through the neck of the carboy. Once inside the carboy, the arms open up when the tip touches the bottom of the vessel. See below…

stir stick closed and opened

stir stick closed and opened

This stir stick is then attached to a drill; preferably a cordless drill. Presto, stirring with no effort. We usually stir three or four times for about 30 seconds each and this is plenty. The first time we used the stir, our mix was totally different than what we were used to. It was mixed much better and when the yeast was poured in we had activity all the way to the bottom right away. The bubbling started sooner and was more vigorous.

Tip:¬†Don’t use the stir once the yeast is added, a gentle swirl is more than enough to get the yeast moving through the mix. Too much oxygen is not good for the yeast.

Unfortunately, the stir doesn’t work in a gallon bottle and I haven’t seen one designed for a gallon to date. Maybe I should make and market one! When you graduate to carboys, I highly recommend you get one of these. They are well worth what you pay for them.

These are usually about $20 to $30 dollars. Stir sticks come in both food grade plastic and stainless steel with a couple different designs. Ours was purchased through Amazon.com.

Hope you enjoy!

Why wine and not beer?

I enjoy beer very much in fact, I am kind of a beer snob. No Budweiser, Coors or other mainstream beers have touched my lips in more time than I remember. I enjoy sitting with friends, like Patrick, at a German restaurant, WOB or Blast Studios drinking a stout or IPA and discussing the head, flavor hints or some new microbrewery.

So again why wine over beer?

My simple answer is brewing wine is much easier that brewing beer. With wine I don’t use heat to start fermentation. Though sanitization is important it isn’t as important as with beer. In beer a single spick of debris or a single piece of improperly piece of equipment can ruin your whole batch.

I like to keep things as simple as possible. In a world full of connected technology and ever jammed full schedules, wine is easier. I enjoy wine and love to create.  Call me a hippy but I love being able to go to the grocery store and spending minimal amounts of money to create something that is uniquely my own.

Brewing wine is cheaper. I brewed beer once in chef school for a project and I remember almost breaking even buy the time I had all of the bottles, caps and ingredients. Not to mention the ingredients required I by them from a specialized brewing store. Though that was a long time ago and these ingredients are now available on the internet. Bottle costs are lower for me. I could put beer into a growler or other container but that makes it harder to share.

The quality I am able to produce. My wine tastes good and is about 14% ABV (alcohol by volume). Setting my mind to beer, I could definitely produce an equal taste and ABV. Why go through all the extra trouble?

I love my wine.

Hope you enjoy!

P.S. hope you clicked through to Blast Studios. Blast is a great local Orlando place. A sort of hidden gem owned by a great couple trying to live out thier dreams. You can learn to paint with a brush or airbrush and enjoy good wine or beer. A great date night. Check out their schedule of classes.