25 OCT 15 – I’ll Be Late for Christmas

I love that song but it is true! We got started a little late for our Christmas batches. It is rare that we have both carboys empty at the same time. We started another variation of apple and a cranberry raspberry blend.

What's Brewing?

What’s Brewing?

We have had a lot of luck with cranberry, though it is always a drier wine. Our house is divided…one side leans to the dry the other to the sweeter batches. I’d tell you which I am but I drink them both.

Apple has been a passion since the beginning. Always one of my favorites and I can’t say we have had a bad batch. No two have been exactly the same. Apple makes me feel like a hero because we keep tweaking the recipe but keep liking the results.

I am in love with cider.

It is about time to give you some recipes.

Apple from Concentrate Recipe: 3 gallon yield

Raspberry Cranberry Blend Recipe: 3 gallon yield

Christmas Batches

Christmas Batches

Both are tucked away in the brew closet awaiting racking!

A couple of tricks I learned over the summer from “The Alaskan Bootlegger’s Bible” (ABB) if you have not heard of this book you need to get a copy, the link is to Barnes & Noble but it can also be found on Amazon. Having my choice I would either buy the book at your local brew store or direct from the author at Happy Mountain.

The first I shared in an earlier post, using gelatin in the racking process is amazing. The gelatin forms up a little and acts like a blanket slowly dropping to the bottom catching all the cloudy bits. As Leon W. Kania, explains in the ABB, one packet of gelatin per container. Add the envelop to 1/2 cup of hot water and dissolve. After filling the racking container with wine, slowly pour into the racking container.

It is like magic speeding up the racking process. Our wines have never been clearer and this little trick is now a must.

The second trick is the Campden tablets.

These little wonders have helped the taste profile of our wines and reduced the acidic quality as well. Admittedly I’m not sure how. The tablets kill any wild yeast  that may have found it’s way into your batch while allowing the brewing yeast to thrive.

We have a wine rack full of bottles and several more coming out for Christmas. Where are you on your brewing list?

Hope you enjoy!

Hearts Home Brew

heart's home brew store

hearts home brew store

Hearts Home Brew is off the charts amazing.

The first brew store I went to in Orlando and still my favorite. You walk through the door down an aisle made of stacks of different types of bottles. Ribbons for best wine or beer hand above your head, some dating so far back they are sun faded.

They have everything you could need from caps to bulk ingredients. They even have a refrigeration section that holds fruit and other ingredients.

My first trip in I noticed the PC screen behind the counter monitoring different batches in the cue. Dutifully taking readings of temperature, pH, etc. I only mention this because it shows the level of experience and expertise in the shop.

I always have great conversations and get meaningful advice from both Luke and Dave. Well worth a trip to take a look around, grab that hose you have been meaning to replace or to stock up on corks, caps and bottles.

If you don’t have much time to spare you can call an order in and they will pull it together before you arrive. However, if you can’t seem to get away from your batches they have a great online store.

I can’t say enough this is the Disney World of brew supply stores in the Orlando area.

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!

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’s cool…I 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!