What’s Fermenting?

So, I haven’t posted in a quite awhile. My wife and I have been busy!

First, I spent some time off work due to an injury and I am still recovering. Then there is the school year and the start of all the extra curricular activities. It’s hard to find time.

Though a friend would say if you don’t make the time then it is just not a priority.

I agree with that…but only to a point. We have been making some great batches. A few new favorites, some new ideas and a new bottle source. I have seen a new friend close his doors because of a petty enforcement of some vague home brewing laws.

Before I get to far in the ditch…

Our strawberry mead was an epic failure. While the batch produced alcohol the taste was horrible. Three gallons down the drain and honey isn’t cheap. I have since learned from reading friends blogs not to leave the fruit in the whole fermentation. Wines that begin with real fruit really need to be done in a two stage method. Not to mention it is best to keep the fruit in some type of bag or cheese cloth so you can easily remove it.

What did we learn?

To be honest, it was a wake up call to stick with¬†our roots. We started this endeavor to share how easy it is to just follow the Basic Process. I can’t stress enough how simple it really is. Tinkering is fun but…

To answer the question, don’t stray to far from home!

Don’t get me wrong there isn’t anything wrong with other processes or what I would call harder methods. In fact, I have had some great beer and wine from other home brew fanatics.

We like to keep things simple.

We were a little late getting our holiday gifts going but should be on schedule to bottle 24 750ml bottles. I promise the number wasn’t on purpose and to make it even stranger we will probably be bottling early on the 24th.

Hope you enjoy!

A Yeast Rambling and Personal Choice!

I have a story to tell, a little ego crushing to be honest but first I have to make a statement…I use bread yeast and I like the way my wine tastes!

bread yeast

bread yeast

Yup, bread yeast.

The story goes something like this…The other day my wife and I had the opportunity to spend the day together (love those days). At any rate we decided to spend some time at one of our favorite brew stores.

This one is a little further away but definitely one of our top two vendors. I don’t want to give the place away because i really love the place. The owner is sort of a mentor of mine without knowing it.

I convinced the wife I needed to get another one gallon bottle set up. A mere $10 or $12 I told her. When the plastic went through the scanner the bottle set up cost $50, I couldn’t help myself and added a few odds and ends…wink, wink.

I was lucky, just had back surgery the week before and my birthday the following week. I threw both cards on the table as bashfully as possible. In truth she doesn’t care and teased me mercifully about using the cards for an hour or two.

Here is where the yeast comes in.

During our banter with the owner, I mentioned we used bread yeast. Apparently he feels this is the biggest commit able sin in the book. “Not Flieschmann’s!” he said “that stuff doesn’t even make good bread!” My secret mentor went on to say that the only reason Flieschmann’s yeast is even sold in grocery stores is because they owned most of the grocery stores around back in the day.

“You have to use real brewer’s yeast” he continued.

brew yeast

brew yeast

He added “If you are going to make bread you really should use Red Star!” I don’t normally take kitchen and recipe advice from a brewer but with bread it makes sense. Take time to click through to Red Star Yeast, they have a great site and if I make any bread not only will I use Red Star yeast but I will use the site for advice.

At any rate, I have a thick skin and developed my own opinion making capacity a long time ago. Don’t think I was mad or my ego was bruised but, I do look up to this guy and value his advice…he has helped me more than I could say.

I bought some yeast to give it a try, enough for six carboy batches. We will see…

As I drove away with my new $50 bag of goodies and REAL yeast, I couldn’t help but play the conversation over in my head and remember other tidbits from other “mentors”. The truth is for every brewer taking the high road with real yeast (a sort of brew snob), I can find a brewer who touts the virtues of bread yeast.

In the beginning, yeast was yeast and you used what you could get your hands on. As I see it, the benefits of brewer’s yeast is the possibility of 2% more ABV and a clearer wine. I find the benefit but I can already crank out a 14% ABV product that I really feel tastes good. The proof can be seen in empty bottles friends and relatives leave when they visit along with their ever popular question.

“You try anything new lately?”

Which really means have you bottled anything lately or do you have anything fresh? In reality half the time I drink it before it is even racked (cloudy coment shot down!). Not to mention I can get Flieschmann’s bread yeast at half a dozen grocery stores seconds away from our house.

The bottom line is, I will probably buy brewer’s yeast again but I will also buy more Flieschmann’s bread yeast. What yeast you use is really a personal choice! Do what feels right and produces something that gives you that I made this and it is good feeling.

For my wife and I wine making is about sharing a hobby and time producing or enjoying our wine together. It is about doing for ourselves, kinda doing it old school like a time in history where most families produced their own beverages in the basement or root cellar.

I will admit, we like making our own bread and I am gonna give Red Star a try!

No harm done though, I will return to see my secret mentor. I love the guy and won’t hold being a wine snob against him he does have several ribbons for his batches! But maybe I will bring him a bottle of my clearest bread yeast cider and not tell him Flieschmann’s came anywhere near the carboy to see how he thinks I am doing.

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!

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.