Making Fortified Wine By Adding Brandy!

Making Fortified WineHave you ever thought about fortifying homemade wine. It’s an interesting style that’s made through a relatively simple process. You might want to see if it’s something you’re interested in…

If you don’t know what a fortified wine is, it’s a wine to which brandy or some other spirit has been added. Since brandy and other distilled products are high in alcohol – typically around 40% or 80 proof – this will raise the finished alcohol level of the wine. The home winemaker can do the very same thing by adding brandy to homemade wine.

From a traditional standpoint, fortification was done to make a wine more stable during long trips by ship or by cart. The wine’s alcohol level was raised to around 17% to 22% with the addition of brandy. The higher alcohol level acted as a preservative, diminishing the chance of spoilage during the long journey.

The big three fortified wines that most people have heard of are: Sherry, Madeira and Port. All three are Old World wines: Sherry originating from Spain, Madeira and Port from Portugal.

Shop Wine BottlesThe first thing the home winemaker needs to understand before making fortified wine with their homemade wine is that this process can be somewhat costly. For a five gallon batch of wine it takes five fifths (750ml) of brandy to raise the batch by 6-2/3 percent alcohol. With a typical fortified wine being about 20% alcohol and the cheapest bottle of brandy being about $10 to $13 a bottle, making fortified wine can be somewhat cost prohibitive.

With this in mind, the best strategy for the home winemaker is to get as much alcohol as they can from the fermentation, itself. To learn how to get the most alcohol out of a fermentation you might want to go over the article, Making High Alcohol Wines listed on our website.

Here is a calculator listing that shows how much the alcohol is raised in a 5 gallon batch with each additional 750ml bottle of brandy or other distilled spirit. This is assuming that they are 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof).

1 Bottle adds 1.5%
2 Bottles add 3.0%
3 Bottles add 4.3%
4 Bottles add 5.5%
5 Bottles add 6.7%
6 Bottles add 7.7%
7 Bottles add 8.8%

shop_liqueur_flavoringsYou will want to shoot for a total alcohol level of 17 to 22 percent. So if you have a batch of wine that has fermented to 14 percent alcohol, you might add 4 bottles to raise the total alcohol level to 19.5% (14.0 + 5.5).

When fortifying wine, you can use a regular brandy made from grape wine such as E&J and add it to a red wine you have made. This would be the most straightforward way of adding brand to a homemade wine. But there are also some other, more imaginative, things you can do.

For example, you could take a blackberry brandy and add it to a blackberry wine, or use a peach brandy to fortify a peach wine. You could also take a Merlot wine and add to it a raspberry brandy to accent its flavors. With all the different types of brandys that are available, the combinations are endless.

It is important that you make sure the fermentation is done before fortifying the wine with brandy. Once the wine has been fortified you will have great difficulty getting the wine to ferment, ever again. Not only does fortifying wine help to stop spoilage, it helps to stop fermentation.

Shop Wine Ingredient KitsAfter fortifying the wine, continue on as you would with making any other wine. If you are using a wine ingredient kit continue following the directions. If you are making wine from fresh fruit, give the wine plenty of time to clear and bottle as you normally would.

As you can see fortifying wine is not all that complicated. It is mostly a matter of adding brandy to a homemade wine. And, it makes a wonderful after-dinner wine. The brandy’s intensity combined with the original wine’s character, creates a powerfully, pleasant drink.
—–
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.

Insanely Simple Russian Imperial Stout Recipe (Extract)


Russian Imperial StoutStouts have always been big brews, but Russian imperial stout is the biggest of the big. From the high gravity, to the complex, roasty malt flavors, to the assertive hoppiness, a Russian imperial stout recipe is not for the faint of heart.

Actually an English style beer, Russian Imperial Stout was made to be exported to the Nordic and Slavic regions of Europe and was reportedly popular with the Russian monarchy. The high gravity and alcohol content helped with the beer’s stability over travel, but also provided warmth in the colder climates. Some fruity, yeast derived esters combine with a malt complexity to create a rich, complex brew sometimes reminiscent of strong port. The beer is often aged for flavor development.

As with many English beer styles, Russian imperial stout has been adopted by American brewers who often make roastier, hoppier versions of the style. BJCP guidelines for Russian imperial stout are as follows:

 

  • OG: 1.075 – 1.115
  • FG: 1.018 – 1.030
  • ABV: 8 – 12%
  • IBUs: 50 – 90
  • SRM: 30 – 40+

 

Tips for Brewing a Russian Imperial Stout RecipeShop Calcium Carbonate

  • To get the gravity needed hit 8-12% ABV, you need a large amount of fermentable ingredients, a minimum of 9-10 pound of malt extract. Even for the all-grain brewer, malt extract can help make the mash a little less of a chore.
  • You might consider using alkaline water to compensate for the astringency and acidity of the roasted grains. Some calcium carbonate (food-grade chalk) added to the mash/steeping water can help.
  • To balance out the alcohol and intense maltiness, a strong hop schedule is required. If brewing extract or partial mash beer recipe, consider adding half of your malt extract at the end of the boil to help improve hops utilization.

 

Shop Liquid Malt ExtractUse this insanely simple extract beer recipe below to craft your own Russian imperial stout. It’s been somewhat “Americanized” with high alpha hops and some assertive, American hop late additions. We also have a couple Russian imperial stout recipe kits from Brewcraft and Brewer’s Best if you’d like to go that route.

Happy brewing!

 

Motor Oil Russian Imperial Stout Recipe
(Five-gallon batch, extract with specialty grains)

Specs  
OG: 1.088
FG: 1.025
ABV: 8.3%
IBUs: 82
SRM: 39Shop Barley Grains

Ingredients
6.6 lbs. Light LME
6.6 lbs. Amber LME (late addition)
1 lb. Chocolate malt (crushed)
.5 lb. Caramel 80L malt (crushed)
.5 lb. Roasted barley (crushed)
1 steeping bag for specialty grains
1.5 oz. Bravo hops at :60
1 oz. Columbus hops at :10
1 oz. Cascade hops at :10
2 packs Safale US-05 ale yeast

Directions
Heat 2.5 gallons of water in the boil kettle to 155-165˚F. Place crushed grains in the steeping bag and steep for 20 minutes. Mix in 6.6 lbs of light LME. Bring wort to a boil. Add Bravo hops and boil for 50 minutes. Add Columbus andShop Home Brew Starter Kit Cascade hops and boil for ten minutes. Stir quickly to create a whirlpool, then cool wort to 70˚F using an ice bath or an immersion wort chiller. Pour wort into clean, sanitized fermenter, then top off to make 5.5 gallons. Use a sanitized spoon to mix well, then pitch yeast. Ferment at 70˚F for two weeks, then transfer to secondary for three to four weeks. Bottle and age for 2-4 months or longer.

Do you love to brew dark, heavy beers? Try this Uinta Dubhe Imperial Black IPA clone! Do you have a Russian imperial stout recipe? We’d love for you to share it: extract or all-grain!
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David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

Clearing A Cloudy Wine…

Winemaker Clear A Cloudy WineWhat can I use to remove the cloudiness in my wine. Can you help? I’ve strained the wine 2 times and it is still cloudy.

Thanks John
_____

Hello John,

What needs to be determined is, “why is the wine cloudy“? Is it from pectin cells in the fruit? Is it from suspended yeast cells? Is it from starches in the fruit? Or, is it because the wine simply needs more time to clear up?

In any case, the cause of the cloudiness needs to be determined before you can take any action. Anything less is just taking a stab at the issue. Determine why the wine is cloudy then take appropriate actions.

The first thing that should be done is a specific gravity reading should be taken with a wine hydrometer. This will tell you if the wine has completed its fermentation. If the specific gravity is .996 or less, this would indicate that the wine fermentation has finished. If the specific gravity is above .996 but not fermenting then you have a stuck fermentation and you need to determine why it is stuck.

Shop BentoniteIf the wine is still fermenting, even slightly, this would most likely be the cause of the cloudiness. In this case, just let the wine finish fermenting. Be a little patient and the wine will most likely clear in due time.

If the wine hydrometer has indicated that the wine has completed its fermentation, you will want to see if the top half of the batch is more clear than the bottom half. If so, this would indicate that the wine just needs a few more days to clear up. After a wine has completed fermenting it usually needs a week or two to clear up. Most homemade wine instructions will indicate this time period.

If you’re sure it’s been more than two weeks since the wine has completed fermenting, and it’s still cloudy, then it may be time to start using wine making products such as fining or clearing agents.

Treating the wine with bentonite would be the first step I would suggest. It’s an effective fining agent that most likely will solve your problem completely. But, if you see only marginal improvement, you should switch to Sparkolloid for a second treatment. In general, Sparkolloid will take out what bentonite doesn’t and vice versa.Shop Sparkolloid

If the bentonite clears the wine almost completely, but there’s still a slight murkiness, then you should switch to a polishing clarifier such as our Kitosol 40. You might want to check out the article, Using Finings To Improve Your Wine. It will give you more detail about fining agents and other wine making products you can use to clear your wine.

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.

Use 3 SMaSH Beer Recipes To Understand Ingredients

Making SMaSH Beer RecipesFor those of you who have never heard of SMaSH beer recipes, SMaSH is an acronym used in homebrewing for single malt and single hops. A SMaSH beer is a beer brewed using only one variety of malt and one variety of hop. This is significant since most beer recipes involve several different malts and several different hops. But SMaSH beer recipes only involves one malt and one hop.

After perusing Dave Miller’s Homebrewing Guide for some new beer recipes, it occurred to me that a very short list of ingredients could be used to brew a range of very different brews. With a single type of malt extract, a single hop, and a single yeast strain, you could brew a bitter, an ESB, and an IPA, simply by changing the proportion of ingredients used. This offers an opportunity for brewers to take advantage of bulk pricing on homebrew ingredients (which we offer here at E. C. Kraus), while still being able to brew a variety of beer styles.

The three SMaSH beer recipes below (all single malt, single hop, five-gallon batches) will require a total of:

Feel free to amend the beer recipes with other ingredients you may have on hand, such as different hops or some specialty grains. Alternatively, treat these brews as an experiment to get a strong sense of what each ingredient can contribute to a beer. All 3 SMaSH beer recipes assume brewing with a five-gallon kettle. Follow the instructions for extract brewing to brew each recipe. Don’t forget your caps and priming sugar! Shop Dried Malt Extract

 

British Bitter SMaSH Beer Recipe

An ordinary bitter is a session beer, meaning the alcohol content is low enough that you can have a couple pints without feeling too buzzed.

Specs
OG: 1.038
FG: 1.006-1.009
ABV: 3.8-4.2%
IBUs: 31
SRM: 3.6

Ingredients
4.5 lbs. light DME
1.5 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :60
1 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :10
1 pack Safale S-04 ale yeast

 

E.S.B. SMaSH Beer Recipe Shop Hops

An ESB, or Extra Special Bitter, is a stronger version of an ordinary bitter. Feel free to increase the hops if you enjoy hop bitterness, flavor, or aroma. Feel free to steep some crushed caramel malt for extra color and flavor.

Specs
OG: 1.050
FG: 1.008-1.014
ABV: 4.8-5.6%
IBUs: 31
SRM: 4.4

Ingredients
6 lbs. light DME
2 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :60
0.5 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :10
1 pack Safale S-04 ale yeast

 

English IPA SMaSH Beer Recipe Shop Steam Freak Kits

An English IPA is the bitterest and most hoppy of the English pale ales, though usually less aggressive than American IPAs.

Specs
OG: 1.050
FG: 1.008-1.014
ABV: 4.8-5.6%
IBUs: 45
SRM: 4.4

Ingredients
6 lbs. light DME
2 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :60
2 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :20
1 pack Safale S-04 ale yeast Shop Fermenter

 

What are some of the homebrew ingredients you use in every batch? What are some ideas you have for brewing SMaSH beer recipes?
—–
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, 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.

3 Wine Making Starter Kits: Which One’s Right For You?

One Of The Wine Making Starter kitsMy husband asked me to write you and ask about which of your wine making starter kits he should get to make wine with. He does not really know the difference between them and would like you to advise on how to get started.

Brenda
—–
Dear Brenda,

We have three different complete home wine making starter kits for beginners. Each has a collection of the necessities you will need to start making wine. The equipment in these wine making starter kits are of the same quality items you can purchase from us individually, only this way they are packaged together at a reduced price. This makes these kits a great value for someone starting out.

Each of these starter kits were carefully put together with simplicity in mind. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for you to make your first batch of wine without a lot of confusion and frustration. Truth is, what want you coming back to make more.

We also spent a lot of time selecting the equipment that goes into these wine making starter kits. We wanted to make sure that everything is of high quality – not cheap stuff – but equipment that will last you for many batches of wine.

We also want your first batch of wine to turn out exceptional. That’s why we did not go for the cheapest wine making juices you can find. These a remarkable wine making juices that will make wine you can be proud of. Again, we want your wine to turn out so good that you cannot resist coming back for more.

 

  1. Your Fruit! Wine Making Starter KitYour Fruit Wine Making Kit As the name implies, this is a fruit wine making starter kit. It has all the equipment and ingredients you will need to make wine using fruit you already have. It makes 5 gallons at a time. It includes two books that contain well over a 100 different wine recipes. The wine making instructions you will use with this kit are very easy to follow. With this kit you can make wines from raspberries, peaches, dandelions, blackberries, strawberries, rhubarb, watermelon… The list is very extensive. You can also use the wine recipes on our website’s Recipes Page with this starter kit. If you are wanting to make wine from your own fruit then of the three wine making kits, this is the one your want.
  1. The SunCal Wine Making Starter KitSunCal Wine Making Kit This kit contains all the equipment and ingredients you will need to make wine using your choice of any one of our SunCal concentrated grape juices. Very simple directions are provided. Start off with your choice of wine. Each can makes 5 gallons. You will also have additional yeast and other wine making ingredients for making additional batches. All you need is more SunCal concentrate.
  1. Connoisseur Wine Making Starter Kit This kit will allow you to make wine, starting with your choice of Connoisseur wine ingredient kit. These ingredient kits contain the grape juice concentrate and all the additional ingredients you will need, Connoisseur Wine Making Kitpre-measured and ready to go. After you make your first batch, you will have all the wine making equipment you need to make wine using any of our 200+ boxed ingredient kits. If you are wanting to make a large variety of different grape wines, then of the of the three wine making kits, this is the one you want to get.

 

Each of these home wine making starter kits are designed with simplicity in mind. They give you exactly what you need, whether it be making wine from fresh fruits or from packaged wine juices. So now I ask: which of these wine making starter kits is right for you?

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.

10 Home Brewing Spices For Your Creative Pleasure

Man Using Spices In BeerLooking to add a dash of creativity to your homebrew beer? Try using one – or more – of these ten home brewing spices! Adding spices to your beer can create a whole new dimension to its flavor profile. Here are 10 spices you can experiment with:

 

  1. Caraway – If you’re a fan of rye bread, you might try a caraway rye ale. Caraway seeds tend to work well with darker beers. Use about 5 grams of toasted seeds per gallon as a starting point, added for a few days at the end of secondary fermentation.
  1. Cayenne – Much like with a chipotle smoked porter, cayenne can be used to give a spicy kick to nearly any beer. Remember, moderation is key! 1/2 teaspoon at the end of the boil in a five-gallon batch should give you plenty of heat.
  1. Cinnamon – Cinnamon actually comes from the bark of a tree. There are two types: Cassia cinnamon – the one most commonly found in grocery stores – and “true” cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum or Cinnamomum zeylanicum). Choose which one you prefer. Both work well in combination with other commonly used home brewing spices like: ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. Put the cinnamon stick or ground cinnamon directly in the boil.
  1. Shop Beer FlavoringsCloves – You might try to add a dash (no more!) of cloves to a hefeweizen to accent the clove character of the Weizen beer yeast, which tends to come out when this style is fermented at the lower end of the temperature range. This is one of the more practical ways of using spices in beer. Cloves also work nicely in winter spiced ales.
  1. Coriander – Notorious for its use in Belgian witbier, coriander can also lend a pleasant citrus spiciness to other brews, such as saisons.
  1. Fennel Seed – I had an excellent beer at a homebrew festival a couple years ago, a whiskey fennel ale. It was an amber ale base, with the whiskey and fennel added in perfect balance. Try from a cup to a quart of whiskey added into the secondary fermenter. The fennel seed can be added towards the end of the boil, into the fermenter, or maybe even steeped in the whiskey for a few days prior to mixing it into the beer.
  1. Ginger – Of all the spices you can add to a beer, ginger is one of the most commonly found. Used in high enough proportions (an ounce or more per gallon), it can lend a very sharp, spicy kick to your homebrew. Check out our guide for brewing a real ginger ale. Buy Fridge Monkey
  1. Mole – New Belgium’s Cocoa Mole Ale is amazing. Though mole is actually a blend of spices, you can find mole blends at most grocery stores.
  1. Peppercorns – I have had a couple of excellent saisons brewed with peppercorns. As when using most spices in beer, the subtlety was the key. There are a variety of different peppercorns (white, red, black, green). Try aging some beer on a teaspoon or two of whole peppercorns for a touch of spicy complexity.
  1. Turmeric – A subtle earthy spice, turmeric is a major component of yellow curry powder with an intense yellow color. Try mixing turmeric with a combination of other spices, like ginger and coriander in your homebrew, but be aware that it may stain your plastic fermenter!

 

*Remember: When adding home brewing spices to beer, less is more! If you’re Shop Accurate Scalesunfamiliar with a particular spice, start with just a touch. For the stronger spices (like hot chiles), a teaspoon in the homebrew may well impart a lot of flavor. A quarter-ounce to an ounce at most will be plenty, adding the spice either into the secondary fermenter or during the last 10-15 minutes of the boil. I’ve found that when some home brewing spices are boiled too long they can impart some bitterness that may overwhelm the palate.

In the event that the spice flavor is too much, try giving the beer a month or two to age, maybe even longer. The spice will usually subside to some degree over time.

Have you ever tried adding home brewing spices to beers? What spices would you like to try using in your future brew?
—–
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.

What Does Potassium Sorbate Do To Wine?

Wine With Potassium SorbateI have an issue with your description of potassium sorbate that uses the word “inhibit”. I have looked this word up in the Merrian-Webster dictionary. The first listing says that ‘inhibit’ means to stop. The second says that ‘inhibit’ means to hold in check. Holding in check in my mind is not a guarantee of much. Does anyone really know the story? What does potassium sorbate do to wine?

Tom
_____
Hi Tom,

Potassium sorbate is not used to stop a fermentation. In fact, it is not very effective at stopping a fermentation, if effective at all. Your second definition of inhibit is the most accurate, to hold in check, but let’s forget about the definitions for now and let me try to explain what potassium sorbate is actually doing to a wine.

When it becomes time to bottle your wine, no matter how may times the wine has been racked or how crystal clear the wine may look, there are still some yeast cells in the wine. It’s not the billions of cells that are associated with a full-fledged fermentation – almost all of the yeast cells are now gone through racking – but none the less, there are a few cells, just too few to see with the naked-eye.

Shop Potassium SorbateUsually, these wine yeast cells just lay dormant, but if there are sugars available in the wine, it is very possible that the yeast can start to become active and begin to reproduce themselves. Over time, they can rebuild the yeast colony to a size that can become problematic for a bottled wine. The wine will become sparkled and worse yet, the bottles could start popping corks or popping bottles from the pressure built up from a fermentation! But, this is all based on the premise that the yeast are able to grow in numbers and have sugar available to ferment.

This is where potassium sorbate comes into play. It stops the yeast cells from reproducing themselves so that a fermentation does not occur within the wine bottles. It does this by putting a coating the individual yeast cells. This coating interrupts the budding or reproduction process, keeping the yeast cell count at bay.

The only problem is that the yeast that are currently living in your wine will continue to do so until they decide to die of natural causes – old age. The colony will slowly die. How long it takes varies. It is dependent on the size of the remaining colony, the type of wine yeast, and the conditions they are in – temperature, etc. In most cases it takes days, but it can take weeks and sometimes months.Shop Potassium Bisulfite

It is not until the current generation dies that the chance of re-fermentation can be completely gone. This is why it is good to get your wine as clear as conveniently possible. Using fining agents such as bentonite is not a bad idea to help drop out the wine yeast. And most importantly use sulfites. This is one of the reasons sulfites are recommended at bottling time – to speed up the death of the wine yeast.

So what does potassium sorbate do to wine? It keeps the yeast from growing out of control. It keeps what little, insignificant yeast cell count at bay, and stops them from reproducing and growing into problematic numbers.

Happy Winemaking,
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.

Homebrew Spruce Beer Recipe

Spruce For Making Spruce Beer RecipeBefore we get to the spruce beer recipe lets talk a little bit about spruce. Trees and their branches, barks, and berries have been used traditionally for flavoring beers, especially in Scandinavian countries, for hundreds of years. Juniper, spruce, and fir are some of the most common. Delaware’s Dogfish Head Brewery revived the Finnish Sahti, a traditional beer made from rye, barley, and juniper. Their interpretation is called Sah-tea.

In North America, spruce beer was used by American colonists to prevent scurvy. Though we don’t have to worry too much about scurvy these days, a good spruce beer is a unique, refreshing, and interesting beverage.

 

Finding Spruce for Your Spruce Beer Recipe

For the adventurous forager, spruce can be found in the evergreen forests of North America. Cuttings from new growth are best for brewing. Make a tea by boiling the branches in water for 30 minutes. Strain out the branches and add this homemade spruce essence to your mash or boil.

To get an idea of how much to add to your homebrew, mix a small amount of your homebrewed spruce essence into to a commercial beer that’s similar to the base style of beer you’re making.

If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can cut down your own spruce tree and run the wort through the branches, like this guy. Shop Spruce Essence

If you don’t have a lot of time on your hands for lumber-jacking around the forest, commercially made spruce essence is less risky and more predictable.

 

Tips for Brewing A Spruce Beer Recipe

  • Add up to 4 oz. of fresh spruce tips late in the boil for woody, resiny flavor and aroma.
  • Less is more! Start with a small amount of spruce flavor for your first spruce beer. You can always add more in your next batch.
  • If you find you’ve added too much spruce to your beer, give it some time to age. You might be surprised how an “undrinkable” beer can change over several months.

 

Homebrew Spruce Beer Recipe

1/2 lb. crystal malt (40L) Shop Liquid Malt Extact
1/3 lb. roasted barley
1/3 lb. chocolate malt
1/4 lb. rye malt
1/4 lb. black patent malt
6 lbs. dark malt extract syrup
4 oz. molasses
2 oz. Hallertau hops at :60
1-4 oz. spruce tips (based on taste preference)
*alternatively, use spruce essence according to package directions
Whitbread (Safale S-04) ale yeast
Corn sugar for priming

 

Shop Beer FlavoringsDirections: Steep specialty malts in ~150°F. water for 30 minutes. Add the extract and molasses and bring to a boil. Add the hops and the spruce tips and boil for 30 minutes. Strain the hot wort into a fermenter containing enough clean water to make 5 gallons. Pitch yeast when wort cools to 70°F. or less.

Ferment at 65-70°F. then bottle with the priming sugar. Age 3-6 weeks before drinking.

This is a somewhat basic spruce beer recipe, but there has been some thought put into the balance of the flavor and body. Feel free to experiment and create your own spruce recipe.
—–
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

The Art Of Fining And Filtering Wine

Fining And Filtering WineYour article on fining agents was superb. It informed as to what other benefits (other than clarity in a wine) that fining agents can produce. My question regards the connection (or benefits) of fining and filtering wine. 1) If you filter a wine, should you also use a fining agent? 2) Conversely, if you’re fining a wine, is filtering no longer suggested? 3) Do you recommend both fining and filtering wine? 4) What would be the benefits of using both ?

Thank you
Steve
—–
Dear Steve,

How you handle the combination of fining and filtering wine is partially an art. I say this because there are really no hard-fast rules to be followed. Both processes are tools that the winemaker has at their disposal to help shape a wine with the characteristics they desire. Experience will help the winemaker to use these tools more effectively.

The difference between fining and filtering wine is subtle.

Certain wine fining agents will settle out certain particles more readily the others. For example, gelatin is not very good at settling out large volumes of yeast and other proteins, while bentonite on the other hand is. However, gelatin is good Shop Wine Filtersat settling out that last, little bit of particles, while bentonite isn’t. Some wine fining agents are better at removing bitterness, or harsh aromas than other. And, so-on and so-forth… How you decide to treat the wine with fining agents will shapes the wine to some degree, as well as clear it.

When you filter a wine, you are mostly concerned with clarity. While the finest filter pads can reduce color and body to a minor degree, adding a beautiful polish can be done with the coarsest of wine filter pads – 6 microns, for example.

A recommendation I do make is that if you do decide to filter a wine, always treat it with bentonite, first. This will help to drop out any excess proteins that is in the wine, including the yeast. As a fining agent bentonite is great at clearing out large volumes of particles. This will allow your filter pads to last longer and not clog up with every gallon or two of wine being filtered. But beyond this, whether you decide to filter, or not, or what type of other wine fining agents you decide to use, if any, is completely up to you.

Shop Mini Jet Wine FilterAgain, it is important for you to know that just like some fining agents, filtering a wine can effect its body and color as well as its clarity. Depending on the fineness of the filter pad you choose, some body and color can be taken out of the wine. The finer the filter pad the more likely body and color will be reduced.

For the heaviest of wines this is usually an improvement in the sense that reduction in color will rarely be noticeable, and the amount of aging (maturation) needed will be brought down to a more reasonable time-frame through the removal of excessive body elements. For example, two years instead of five.

For lighter white wines, a fine filter pad (.5 microns or less) may be selected to reduce color and body as much as possible, making the wine look a faint-yellow instead of a straw colored and adding to the wine’s light, crisp character that it often looked for with such wines.Shop Super Jet Wine Filter

There is also the issue of the wine’s stability. Both fining and filtering a wine will help to make it more stable. By reducing the amount of tannins and other proteins there is less chance of the wine forming deposits while aging in the wine bottle.

As a novice winemaker, I would suggest that you take a middle-of-the-road approach when it comes to filtering and fining wines. Treat the wine with bentonite a few days after the fermentation has completed and then filter the wine right before bottling with a medium (1 micron) or coarse (6 micron) filter pad. This is a good starting place if you are not sure how you would like to proceed.

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.

7 Tips For A Healthy Homebrew Fermentation

Healthy Homebrew 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 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 homebrew 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 beer yeast, but more often than not, it’s critical to make sure that the yeast is happy and that you have a healthy homebrew fermentation with little stress on the yeast.

In fact, good yeast management is one of the best ways to improve the quality of your homemade beer. Having a healthy homebrew fermentation is what it is all about.

Below are 7 tips for making sure that your homebrewing yeast is happy, healthy and well cared for:

 

  1. Shop Liquid Beer YeastUse 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 beer yeast you can when homebrewing. 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 beer 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.
  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. Shop Stir PlateUse a stir plate – A 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. Shop Wort AeratorControl 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 homebrew fermentation and help you make the best beer possible.

What techniques do you use to keep your homebrew yeast happy?
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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.