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Beer Brewing and Wine Making Blog

  • Guidelines For Keeping A Lager Fermentation On Track

    Posted on March 2, 2015 by David Ackley

    Beer fermented on lager temperature scheduleLagers differ from ales in that they are fermented at a much cooler temperature. Simple right? But the exact procedures and temperature schedule for fermenting a lager may vary. Below are some general guidelines for fermenting a homebrewed lager.

    While ales typically ferment at room temperature (65-75˚F) all the way through the fermentation, a lager's fermentation schedule is completely different. Lagers ferment at about 45-55˚F, and then go through an extended lagering phase at temperatures 10-15 degrees below the primary fermentation temperature.

    For homebrewers, this usually means brewing lagers in the winter, placing the fermenter in a cool basement, possibly rigging up a swamp cooler to help keep the fermenter in the desired temperature range. Alternatively, a spare refrigerator or chest freezer can be made into a fermentation chamber with the simple addition of a temperature controller. This allows the homebrewer to control fermentation temperature to within a degree of the desired target, and to brew lagers year-round.

    The typical lager fermentation temperature schedule looks something like this:

    • Primary fermentation – About 1-2 weeks at 45-55˚F. The exact time will vary on a number of factors, including the gravity of the beer, fermentation temperature, and the health of the yeast. It’s up to the brewer to judge when this period is complete, using either visual cues, gravity samples, or plain sixth sense to decide when to move on to the next step. When in doubt, follow guidelines as stated by a trusted homebrew recipe.
    • Diacetyl rest (optional) – If you are fermenting at a warmer temperature, using a yeast strain known for diacetyl production, or if diacetyl is detected, a diacetyl rest can help the yeast “clean up” any buttery off-flavors due to diacetyl in the beer. Once fermentation noticeably slows down, simply allow the fermentation temperature to rise 10-15˚F and hold for 1-2 days.
    • Lagering – The lagering phase is sometimes called cold maturation. This period, which can last four weeks or longer, helps with flavor development and with clearing the beer.

    After the lagering period, bottle or keg as you would normally. If bottling, store the bottles at room temperature until ready to drink. Occasionally, the cold phase can inhibit yeast from creating carbonation in the bottle. If this is the case, you can open each bottle, add a few grains of dry yeast, and recap with new, sanitized caps. When in doubt, just go with your standard bottling procedure and be patient.

    Here are some additional tips if you’re just starting out with brewing lagers:

    • Choose a yeast strain depending on the style of lager you’re brewing. For example, if brewing a Czech pils, use Czech pils yeast. I’m brewing a German schwarzbier, so I’ll be using Bavarian lager yeast. Of course, there aren’t any rules that say you can’t use a Czech strain in a German beer, or a German strain in an American beer. As you brew more and more lagers, you’ll get a better sense of how individual yeast strains perform.
    • Pitch plenty of yeast. As a rule of thumb, a lager requires about twice as much yeast as an ale of the same gravity. This is to help them plow through the rigorous lager temperature schedule more solidly. Use a yeast pitching calculator to figure out how much yeast to buy and whether to make a yeast starter.Shop Temperature Controller
    • Determine your fermentation temperature. If you can get specific by using a temperature controlled fermentation temperature chamber, that’s great. Choose your temperature based on yeast producers recommendations and the experience of others. Aim in the middle of the range if you’re unsure.
    • Do a diacetyl rest. Just to be safe, I recommend a diacetyl rest. Allow temperature to rise at the end of primary fermentation. With a fermentation chamber, this can be easily done be increasing the temperature about 10- 15˚F for a two-day diacetyl rest. Then drop the temperature for the lagering phase. I know it's one more step in the lager fermentation temperature schedule, but it's well worth it.
    • Be patient. Lagers take quite a bit longer than ales, but they’re worth the wait. John Palmer recommends the following temperature schedule and timelines for the final lagering phase (depending on temperature): 3 - 4 weeks at 45°F, 5 - 6 weeks at 40°F, or 7 - 8 weeks at 35°F. As he points out, higher gravity lagers will need a longer lagering phase to fully mature.
    • A note on pitching temperature: Some brewers recommend that you pitch yeast at the primary fermentation temperature, some say pitch warm then bring the temperature down, the idea being that this will help kick off fermentation. Do what works for you.

    This is the basics of how to approach a lager fermentation temperature schedule. Realize that there are many variations on this, but there is enough information here to produce an excellent lager.

    If you’re used to brewing ales, maybe it’s time to try a lager. Here are 3 Homebrew Lager Recipes you can try.

    David Ackley is a beer writer, homebrewer, and self-described "craft beer crusader." He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

    This post was posted in Beer Brewing Blog

  • Introducing The Cork Retriever!

    Posted on February 28, 2015 by Ed Kraus

    A Cork Retriever DogNo, the Cork Retriever is not a new breed of hunting dog, but it can be just as nice to have around.

    A Cork Retriever is a useful tool that any winemaker should have. Anyone whose tried to fetch a cork from inside a wine bottle knows what I'm talking about. You try your darnedest to uncork the bottle, but neither the corkscrew nor the cork feel obliged to cooperate. Instead of the wine cork coming out, it ends up going in.

    Not only do you end up with the aggravation of drinking a bottle of wine with a cork floating in it, now you need to figure out how to get the cork out or end up throwing away a perfectly good, reusable, wine bottle.

    Whoever said that, necessity is the mother of invention was a genius, and the Wine Cork Retriever is just one more piece of evidence supporting their wisdom.

    Shop Cork RetrieverThe Wine Cork Retriever is designed to remove the cork from within the bottle. Now, instead of throwing the wine bottle away, you can rescue it, and use it to bottle your next batch of wine.

    The Wine Cork Retriever is easy to use. The three heavy wire prongs go into the bottle and act like a cradle. They spread out as they are pushed in, so you can easily grab the cork.

    Once the cork is in the cradle, just give it a tug on the grip handle. As the prongs are pulled out they come together, trapping the cork tightly and pulling it out.

    Not only does the Wine Cork Retriever save your wine bottles, it saves you from all the headache. That alone is worth having one sitting around.
    Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

    This post was posted in Home Wine Making Tips, Wine Making Blog

  • How to Keep Your Beer Yeast Happy

    Posted on February 27, 2015 by David Ackley

    Healthy FermentationIf malt is the heart, or the backbone, of beer, then yeast is its soul. While malt is responsible for flavor, color, and body, and hops for bitterness, yeast often contributes many subtle and sometimes incredibly complex nuances to beer. Without yeast, beer, or even wine for that matter, would not exist as we know it.

    It stands to reason then that in order to make good beer we should do everything we can to make sure we are having a healthy fermentation with each batch we make. Yeast is a living, breathing microorganism that responds to stresses or challenges it faces during storage and fermentation. In some cases, and for some beer styles, it's actually beneficial to stress the yeast, but more often than not, it's critical to make sure that the yeast is happy and healthy and has a relatively easy job to do. In fact, good yeast management is one of the best ways to improve the quality of your homemade beer. Having a healthy beer fermentation is what it is all about.

    Below are seven tips for making sure that your homebrewing yeast is happy, healthy and well cared for:

    1. Use fresh yeast – All living things die eventually, and beer yeast is no exception. Over time, the yeast loses its viability, so it’s important to use the freshest yeast you can. Otherwise, what few living yeast cells might remain in the package will have a very hard time fermenting your beer, possible resulting in a stuck fermentation. Dry yeast is best used within 1 to 2 years of the packaging date. Liquid yeast is best used within about three months of the packaging date. Check the yeast package for this information to make sure you’re brewing with a fresh yeast culture.
    1. Check your pitch rates – The pros recommend pitching a specific amount of yeast depending on the gravity and the style of beer being made. In general, a pack of dry beer yeast that has been stored under the right conditions has enough yeast cells for a beer of moderate gravity. Lagers and high-gravity beers require more yeast. If brewing with liquid yeast it’s usually recommended to use a yeast starter (see below) and/or to pitch multiple packs of yeast. Use the Malty Pitching Rate Calculator as a guideline for how much yeast to pitch.
    1. Make a yeast starter – This is an easy and effective way to help insure that you'll have a healthy beer fermentation. A yeast starter will help to guarantee that there are enough healthy yeast cells for fermentation. Read our blog post on yeast starters to learn how to make one.
    1. Use a stir plateShop Stir PlateA stir plate helps make yeast starters healthier by infusing oxygen into the starter, giving the yeast what it needs in order to grow and multiply. It’s a really cool device that spins a magnetic stir bar inside a flask or jar, driving out CO2 and at the same time making oxygen available for the yeast. It’s a really good investment that will pay off through many happy, healthy fermentations.
    1. Use yeast nutrient – Though yeast nutrient is not essential to making beer, every professional brewer I know uses it. Yeast nutrient simply provides some of the nutrients that support a healthy fermentation. It is typically added during the last 10 to 15 minutes of the boil, usually right along with Irish moss or another kettle coagulant. It can also be added to the secondary fermenter to help resolve a slow or stuck fermentation.
    1. Oxygenate the wort – After yeast is pitched, it goes through an aerobic growth phase called respiration. Oxygen is critical to this step of the process. For this reason, aerating the wort by stirring it very vigorously can go a long ways in helping your beer have a healthy fermentation. Just give the wort a good stir right before you pitch the yeast. Even better, invest in an oxygenation system to pump pure oxygen right into the wort.
    1. Control fermentation temperature – After making sure that the yeast that goes into your beer is up to the task, keep it happy by maintaining a steady fermentation temperature within the recommended range for whatever strain of beer yeast you’re using. Ales do best in the ballpark of 65-70˚F., while lagers require temperatures between 45 and 55˚F. Either way, some techniques for controlling homebrew fermentation temperature will serve you and your yeast well for many batches to come.

    Using some or all of the techniques above will encourage your brews to have a healthy fermentation and help you make the best beer possible.

    What techniques do you use to keep your homebrew yeast happy?
    David Ackley is a beer writer, homebrewer, and self-described "craft beer crusader." He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

    This post was posted in Beer Brewing Blog, Beer Brewing Ingredients

  • How Long Does It Take To Make Wine?

    Posted on February 26, 2015 by Ed Kraus

    Man Sulking With WineOne of the more common questions we get asked by beginning winemakers is, how long does it take to make wine? And most often they begin to show signs of excitement after we explain to them that it does not take nearly as long to make as they think. In fact, it is very possible to have a wine bottled within a month from the time you begin the process.

    Once the wine has been bottled there are some benefits to aging, but a remarkable amount of the improvement can be obtained within the first 30 to 60 days of bottle aging, so it is possible for you to have a very delectable wine within 2 to 3 months from the time you start making wine.

    How long it actually takes to make wine depends on what you are using to make the wine. Packaged wine making juices tend to make wines faster than making wine using fresh fruits. This is primarily because there is no pulp or skins involved in the former. The concentrated juices clear up much faster, allowing the wine to be bottled much sooner.

    Here is an overview of what to expect based on what is being used to make the wine:

    • Winemaking Ingredient Kits:
      If you are making a wine from one of our winemaking ingredient kits you will be bottling your wine in about 4 to 8 weeks, depending on which brand of wine making kit you are using.

    • Winemaking Concentrates:
      When using winemaking can concentrates such as SunCal, Alexander or Country Fair,  you will be bottling your wine in 6 to 10 weeks.

    • Fresh Fruits:
      Becauseshop_wine_kits of the pulp involved, it takes longer to make wine using fresh fruits than it does using packaged juices. Aging can take a little more time as well because of the higher level of tannins and other proteins that are typically in the wine must. You can expect to be bottling your wine in about 8 to 12 weeks from the time you started the batch, and also anticipate needing to bottle age the wine at least 3 to 4 months, and sometimes up to a year, depending on the fruit.

    The amount of time it takes to make a batch of wine can vary somewhat based on the scenario, but all in all, the time needed is usually less than expected. Start off with one our California Connoisseur ingredient kits, and you'll be drinking wine in 28 days.
    Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

    This post was posted in Home Wine Making, Wine Making Blog

  • 4 Ways to Use Campden Tablets When Homebrewing

    Posted on February 25, 2015 by David Ackley

    Campden Tablets To Be Used In HomebrewingAlthough Campden tablets are more commonly used in winemaking, they have their place in homebrewing as well. In fact, they can be a useful tool in your arsenal of techniques used to make beer, cider, and mead. So, using Campden tablets in homebrewing should not be all that surprising.

    Camden tablets are made of sodium or potassium metabisulfite, and release sulphur dioxide gas when they come in contact with a liquid. This gas is an effective sanitizer, usually used to stabilize raw fruit juices or to sanitize fermenters and barrels. Though you might be more likely to use Campden tablets when making cider than making homebrew, if you have a bottle of them you might be interested in finding additional ways to use them.

    Without further ado, here are four ways to use Campden tablets when homebrewing:

    1. Use Campden tablets to sanitize equipment – A sanitizing solution can be made my mixing 16 crushed Campden tablets per gallon of water. It’s a great way to sanitize fermenters and barrels. Simply pour a few inches of the sanitizer solution into the vessel, seal it up, and allow the sulfur dioxide gas about 20 or 30 minutes to fill the vessel and sanitize it. You can place some of your other brewing equipment in the fermenter for convenience. Dispose of the solution, allow your equipment to air dry, and carry on with your brew day.
    1. Use Campden tablets to remove chlorine and chloramine from brewing water – Chlorine, a major component of bleach, is a common source of off-flavors in homebrewed beer. It contributes to something called chlorophenols, which can give beer an unpleasant medicinal flavor. Some municipal water supplies use chlorine to make it safe to drink, others use chloramine. While chlorine can easily be boiled out of the water, chloramine is harder to remove. In either case, half of a crushed Campden tablet added to the water will break down chlorine into chloride, sulfate, and ammonia, all of which tend to be beneficial to beer in small amounts. A few minutes is all it takes.shop_campden_tablets
    1. Use Campden tablets to stabilize apple juice when making cider – Just like when making wine, Campden tablets can be used to kill off wild yeast and bacteria from raw apple juice. Use one crushed tablet per gallon of apple juice, dissolving the tablet in a little water or juice before mixing it into the juice. Allow 24 hours for the sulfur dioxide to off-gas before pitching yeast.
    1. Use Campden tablets to stave off an infection – This is more commonly used in making cider and wine. If your cider has become infected, add one or two crushed Campden tablets per gallon of cider dissolved in a little water to a secondary fermenter. Rack the cider onto the Campden tablets, then bottle immediately. This will preserve the cider, at least in the short term. If it tastes good, go ahead and drink the cider and don’t let it age lest the infection returns.

    Have you found any other uses for Campden tablets when you're homebrewing?
    David Ackley is a beer writer, homebrewer, and self-described "craft beer crusader." He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

    This post was posted in Beer Brewing Blog, Beer Brewing Ingredients

  • Why The Big Difference In Price Between Wine Making Juices?

    Posted on February 24, 2015 by Ed Kraus

    Wine Making JuicesThere is a great spread of prices between our different brands of wine making juices. Some are in the $30 range while some are over $200. Many of our customers simply wonder why.

    There are a couple of reasons for this:

    1. Level Of Concentration:
      The first reason has to do with the how much these wine making juices are concentrated. At one end of the spectrum is our SunCal brand juice that comes in a 46 ounce can (about 1-1/2 quarts) for producing 5 gallons of wine. On the other end of the spectrum are our 18 liter wine ingredient kits (4.75 gallons) that is only slightly concentrated for making 6 gallons of wine. One is just much more concentrated than the other.

      Higher levels of concentration tend to take out some of the finer subtleties of a wine, making the wine more a everyday-drinker. Wine making juices that have been concentrated less or not at all will have flavors that can develop into something more complex or layered as it is aged.

    2. The Selection Of Grape
      Not all grapes are the same. Where and how they are grown can make a big difference. The soil, the climate, the age of the vines, all come into play when evaluating the grapes. Simply put, certain regions can command a higher price for there grapes because they make better wines.

      So, as you go up in price, you are going up in grape selection as well. This is no different than wines you buy commercially at the store. As a general rule-of-thumb, the better the selection of grape the more you will pay for the wine.

    Having Said All This. . .
    How much money you'll want to put into the quality of a wine making juice may be different than the next winemaker. This has to do with how well you are able to discern the difference between various levels of quality. It makes no sense for you to buy a level of quality you are unable to taste, appreciate or even looking for.Shop Wine Ingredient Kits

    Some of our customers are completely happy making wine from nothing but our SunCal selection. They use this brand over and over again and are completely satisfied with the quality. They can see no reason to spend anymore on wine making juices based on the quality they are already getting.

    Other winemakers consider SunCal an everyday, common wine that they would not want to put their efforts into. These home winemakers would prefer to spend their time making more top-end wines.

    The Bottom Line...
    Figure out what level of quality suites your level of wine appreciation. Start out with maybe our California Connoisseur or European Select. These are mid-range wine making juices. After that maybe try a KenRidge Classic or a Cellar Craft Sterling and see what you think. By trying different levels you should be able to hone in on what is best for you.
    Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

    This post was posted in Wine Making Blog, Wine Making Kits

  • Recipe of the Week: Bell’s Two-Hearted IPA Clone Recipe

    Posted on February 23, 2015 by David Ackley

    Bells Two Hearted IPAOne of the most popular IPAs on the market is Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale, brewed by Bell’s Brewery of Comstock, MI. The beer scores a 95 on Beer Advocate, and if you’ve had it, you know the score is well deserved. In 2011, the American Homebrewers Association ranked Bell’s Two-Hearted the second best beer in the country, second only to Pliny the Elder. All this makes this clone recipe a must-brew.

    Two-Hearted is hopped with exclusively Centennial hops, an American hop variety that provides a piney, citrusy, and floral character, and is often called a “Super Cascade”. The Centennials are added both to the boil kettle and to the fermenter. Bell’s uses a house ale yeast, but California Ale Yeast will work just fine.

    The extract beer recipe below comes from the American Homebrewers Association, originally publishing the AHA’s magazine, Zymurgy. I always enjoy seeing proof that simple recipes can make beautiful beer.

    To brew this Bell’s Two-Hearted Clone recipe, you’ll need to review dry hopping techniques (don’t worry – it’s easy!). A full 3.5 oz. of Centennial hops are added to the fermenter for about a week, giving this Two-Hearted clone that spicy, citrusy, super-addictive hop aroma that makes the beer so popular. Give this partial mash recipe a try, or see the all-grain recipe below it.

    Good luck!


    Bell’s Two-Hearted IPA Clone Recipe
    (five-gallon batch, partial mash)

    OG: 1.063
    FG: 1.012
    ABV: 6.7%
    IBUs: 55
    SRM: 10

    6.6 lbs. Briess Golden Light LME
    2.5 lbs. Light DME
    8 oz. Briess Caramel 40L malt
    2 grams gypsum
    1.2 oz. Centennial hops at :45shop_beer_recipe_kits
    1.2 oz. Centennial hops at :30
    3.5 oz. Centennial hops dry-hopped
    Wyeast 1056: American Ale Yeast 

    Steep the crushed caramel malt in one gallon of water at 150˚F. After 20 minutes, strain grains from the wort, pouring the wort into a boil kettle. Add enough filtered water to make 6.6 gallons. Mix in malt extracts and gypsum and bring wort to a boil. Boil for 75 minutes, adding hops according to schedule above. At the end of the boil, cool wort, transfer to a clean and sanitized fermenter, and pitch yeast.

    Ferment at 66-70˚F. until fermentation slows. Dry hop the beer for one week, then rack to another fermenter and cold age for one week. Bottle or keg as you would normally.

    All-Grain Version:

    Replace the malt extracts with 10 lbs. two-row brewers malt and 2.83 lbs. pale ale malt. Increase the gypsum addition to 4 grams. Use a step mash procedure, starting with 4.5 gallons and holding at 150˚F for 45 minutes, then increasing to 170˚F by adding 2.5 gallons boiling water. Hold for 25 minutes, then mash out and sparge to collact 6.6 gallons of wort. Proceed with recipe as above.

    If you're in love with IPA's, then this Bell's Two-Hearted IPA clone recipe should be your next brew. It's an inviting brew with a judicial balance of malt and hops that make it pleasing to the palate.
    David Ackley is a beer writer, homebrewer, and self-described "craft beer crusader." He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

    This post was posted in Beer Brewing Blog, Beer Brewing Recipes

  • Leigh Erwin: Racking My Gewurztraminer to Secondary

    Posted on February 21, 2015 by Leigh Erwin

    Siphoning GewurztraminerHi everyone!

    If you recall, Day 8 of the primary fermentation for my Gewurztraminer came and went with not much fanfare. According to the instructions, secondary fermentation should start on Day 8 IF the specific gravity was less than 1.010 on the wine hydrometer. Well, mine was not quite that low — almost, but not quite. It was 1.016 to be specific.

    I waited one more day and checked the specific gravity again. This time, it was even closer at just over 1.010. I thought for a second if I should go ahead and move forward, but decided to turn off the heating pad and let it go one more day. It was SO close to 1.010 but since it was hovering just over that value, I decided killing the heat and let it slowly go for one more day would probably be the best thing to do.

    So, Day 10 came and I checked the specific gravity on the hydrometer again. The temperature had dropped down to 64.5°F. since I didn’t have the heating pad on, and the specific gravity was….drum roll please….1.006! Perfect! That’s less than 1.010, so it was ready to move onto the secondary fermentation stage!

    I had previously cleaned and sanitized all the wine making equipment I needed to prepare for secondary fermentation, so today’s step took hardly any time at all. I kept the tubing in the solution overnight just to make extra sure any travel dust or whatnot was gone and done for.

    I hooked up the sterilized tubing to the spout on my primary fermenter, and let the wine flow into my glass carboy. I tipped the fermenter a little at the end to get as much wine transferred as possible without letting too much sediment in there. I think I did a fairly good job on that, because there was a nice amount of sediment left on the bottom of the fermenter when it was all said and done.

    Finally, I cleaned and sterilized all the equipment I used and put them up to dry.

    A couple of notes on this Gewurztraminer so far:shop_carboys

    • It smells great! I didn’t taste it this time, as I was drinking some herbal tea and I knew I wouldn’t be able to taste the wine very well, but I did give it a nice sniff and it smelled wonderful. Smells like fermentation—a healthy fermentation!

    • Remember how I said it was really cool in the finished basement where I am now making my wine? Well, turns out that in the haze that was unpacking the house and getting everything set up, I neglected to notice that every single vent was actually closed! No heat was even getting in there! No wonder it was so cool! I ended up opening up the vent in the small winery room, so if all goes well I won’t actually need the heating pad unless absolutely necessary! Score!

    leigh_erwin_bioMy name is Leigh Erwin, and I am a brand-spankin’ new home winemaker! E. C. Kraus has asked me to share with you my journey from a first-time dabbler to an accomplished home winemaker. From time to time I'll be checking in with this blog and reporting my experience with you: the good, bad — and the ugly.

    This post was posted in Wine Making Blog, Wine Making Kits

  • 5 Gallons Of Apple Juice, Three Hard Cider Recipes – Part 3: Bottling

    Posted on February 20, 2015 by David Ackley

    Baskets Of ApplesAfter several weeks of fermentation, it’s time to bottle my hard apple cider.

    Just as a refresher, I took five gallons of apple juice, pasteurized the juice and pitched the yeast, and then divided it into three separate fermenters for secondary fermentation: one plain, one dry-hopped, and one with blueberry and cardamom.

    Unfortunately, the blueberry and cardamom batch became infected. I took measures to stave of the infection, but I probably could have been more timely and/or aggressive with my efforts. Today, I decided to just dump the blueberry cardamom batch. I gave it a taste and while it may well have passed as drinkable, in my head I would've known that it wasn't as good as it could have been. In the end, dumping a few bottles (less than a gallon) worth of cider isn’t the end of the world. I'm not going to worry about it, and instead I’ll just learn from my mistakes and move on. I think next time I would wait a little longer to add the fruit and spices, and maybe make a blueberry syrup or extract instead of using whole fruit.

    Meanwhile, my other two hard apple ciders look and taste pretty good, so I’m going to go ahead and bottle. The only thing is that they are very hazy, which is weird, because the infected cider was nearly crystal clear. Who can explain that phenomenon? Next time I make a cider, I’ll do a proper cold crash to see if it will clear. The good news is, as far as I can tell, there's no infection.

    So on to bottling…

    Shop Bottle CappersWhen bottling split batches like this, it's essential to use a priming sugar calculator. This will help make sure that you have enough carbonation and also don't over prime and end up with a bottle bomb. The bottling process takes a little longer for the split batches, simply because you have to add the priming sugar, bottle, rinse, and repeat. Still, I think I finished bottling in just about an hour.

    Now here’s a timesaving bottling tip: Line up your bottles single file, then put caps in place. Then you can go down the line and quickly cap each bottle in succession. (You might do this in several rows.)

    After tasting the hydrometer samples, I’m pretty excited about the plain hard apple cider: dry, but with plenty of apple flavor and some vanilla notes. The hopped apple cider is good too, but I think it will really shine once it’s bottled, carbonated, and chilled.

    The one thing I’d like to figure out is how long to age the cider. I’ve heard that hard apple cider can take a year to really peak, but I’ve also heard that using ale yeast (like I did), can lead to a drinkable product a lot sooner. I guess I’ll just have to taste ‘em as I go and find out!

    Do you like to make hard apple cider? What advice do you have for fermenting and bottle conditioning?

    Series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

    David Ackley is a beer writer, homebrewer, and self-described "craft beer crusader." He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

    This post was posted in Beer Brewing Blog

  • Is Reverse Osmosis Water Okay For Making Wine?

    Posted on February 19, 2015 by Ed Kraus

    Glasses Of Wine With WaterYour newsletter states that using distilled water for making wine is not recommended but what about tap water filtered via reverse osmosis?

    Thank You
    Hello John,

    You are correct. We do not recommend using distilled water. Not only does the distilling process remove valuable, free oxygen from the water, but it also removes nearly all the minerals. Both are valuable commodities for the yeast during a fermentation.

    We do not recommend using reverse osmosis water for making wine, either. While the free oxygen does remain in the water through this process, critical minerals are still being removed. Magnesium sulfate can be added back to the water in an attempt to restore it for fermentation, but this is more or less putting a band-aid on the issue.

    Your best option would be to purchase bottled drinking water. These waters either have the original, natural minerals in them, or the water has been completely purified and then had an optimal blend of minerals added back. Either way, this would be a better option than distilled or reverse osmosis water.

    It is also important to note here that while free oxygen in the water is good for the fermentation, it is bad for the wine once the fermentation has completed. Having free oxygen in the wine after the fermentation can lead to oxidation or browning of the wine.

    shop_wine_kitsFortunately, most all of the oxygen that is in the must before fermentation is either consumed by the yeast or driven out by the CO2 gas from the fermentation. So, while we do recommend using water that is saturated in oxygen before the fermentation, after the fermentation, we recommend using distilled water for making any necessary adjustments or for topping-up.

    To sum it up, using reverse osmosis water for wine making is really not a good thing, essentially because of that lack of trace minerals that are removed in the process. You would be better served by using tap water over reverse osmosis or maybe even bottle drinking water, if your are so inclined.

    Happy Wine Making,
    Ed Kraus
    Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

    This post was posted in Wine Making Blog, Wine Making Ingredients

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