10 “More” Random Wine Making Tips And Tricks

Wine Pouring Into Glass With NotesLast month I posted 10 wine making tips and tricks. It received such a great response that I decided to post 10 more of them. These are quick, little tips that I have used over the years and have always been useful. I hope you find them useful as well…

 

  1. Try using glycerine in your air-locks instead of water. Glycerine does not evaporate like water, and it is perfectly safe if it accidentally gets drawn into your wine. In fact, any way already has some glycerine in it, naturally!
  1. Add one can of our County Fair Fruit Base to any SunCal Concentrate wine recipe to make your own boutique wines. For example make a Raspberry-Zinfandel or a Blackberry-Merlot. Of all the wine making tips, this one is my favorite. I love getting creative with these juices!
  1. Using a fermentation bag is a great way to keep pulp under control during a primary fermentation. Just pour your crush fruit into the bag and suspend it in the wine must during the primary fermentation. When it’s time to rack the wine, simply pull the bag out; allow to drain; and then discard pulp. This wine making tip is primarily for making fruit wine, but it will save you a lot of time.
  1. When Campden tablets are called for in a wine recipe, you can use potassium metabisulfite instead. Potassium metabisulfite has the same active ingredients as Campden tablets, but comes in a much-easier-to-manage, granulated form. You can also use our Campden tablet measurer which is a little spoon that measures out one Campden tablets worth of potassium metabisulfite at a time.
  1. IfShop Potassium Bisulfite you’ve ever made wine from fresh elderberries, then you know that it can leave a sticky, gooey mess in your fermenter – one that is next to impossible to get out. This tacky mess seems to defy even the strongest cleaners available. Well, we have ran across a product that seems to be able to cut through this mess and take it right off. It’s called Goo Gone ™. It’s a citrus based cleaner that has the right mojo to take off the elderberry resin. You can find it in any full line grocery store, in the household cleaning section. I have no affiliation with this product or its manufacturer. I just think it’s great stuff.
  1. Sometimes it’s hard to tell just how clear your wine is when it’s still in bulk. Trying to determine if it is clear enough for bottling can be a difficult task. Heavier, darker wines often need to have a sample drawn off and put into a glass before you can really begin to determine anything. The same goes for any wine that is in a vessel which is not made of a clear material. One simple wine making tip that has worked well for me in the past, is to turn off all the lights in the room, and shine a strong flashlight through the side-wall of the vessel. What you are looking for is to see how clearly the beam of light illuminates through the wine. Some diffusing will occur with darker wines because of its color pigmentation. But, you do not want to see a murky or milky appearance to the light.
  1. If Shop Wine Making Kitsyou’ve never made wine before and don’t know where to begin, I recommend starting with one of our wine making starter kits. They have all the equipment and ingredients you need to get started. But more importantly, they come with very complete directions that apply to specifically what’s in front of you – no guesswork. We have one kit for making wine with your own fruit. There’s an economy wine making kit that includes a can of SunCal Vinyards concentrate. Then there’s the starter wine making kit that can be used with any wine ingredient kits.
  1. The number one reason that a wine fails to clear up after fermentation is that it is still fermenting. A very slight fermentation can keep a lot of sediment stirred up. If your wine is not clearing, the first thing I recommend you do is check the wine with a hydrometer to see if residual sugar is the problem.
  1. Use our Senior air-lock during the more active period of a secondary fermentation to keep up with the higher volumes of CO2 gas that is being released. As the fermentation slows down, switch to an S-shaped airlock like our triple ripple airlock, to help detect slighter amounts of fermentation. The triple ripple airlock is great for displaying even the slightest amount of activity.
  1. When making elderberry wine, plan on it tasting horrible when it’s first done. But, also plan on it tasting incredible once it has had time to age. Elderberry wine is very high in tannic acid which makes it taste very harsh in the beginning. But, it is this same tannic acid that also allows this wine to take extreme advantage of the aging process. The net result is a wine of stellar quality. All you need is the patience to let it sit for a year or so.Shop Airlocks

 

Bonus Wine Making Tip: Not sure what size cork, screw cap or plastic stopper you need for your odd-size jugs and bottles? Get a a sample pack of closures. It contains one sample of each of the various sizes and types of bottle closures that we carry. Each is clearly labeled for easy identification when you order.
—————
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.

Is Reusing Yeast Cake From A Homebrew Fermentation Okay?

Reusing Yeast Cake When Homebrewing.After bottling a batch of beer, many homebrewers have looked at that inch-deep layer of yeast and wondered, “Hey, isn’t there something I can do with all that yeast?” As a matter of fact, there is!

When we think about reusing yeast cake, our natural inclination is to pour another batch of wort right onto it and let ‘er rip. Why not save a few bucks, right? While it is possible to be successful with this strategy, there are a number of factors to consider when reusing yeast cake. Among others, these include:

 

  • Is the style of homebrew appropriate for the yeast being used? If pitching wort onto an existing yeast cake, the styles of the two beers should be relatively similar. Many American and English ale yeasts can be used interchangeably to produce a variety of ales, so you could probably get away with using an ale yeast to make another ale. The same thing with many of the European lager strains. The main exception is with very distinctive yeast strains,Shop Conical Fermenter especially those for Belgian ales and German hefeweizen. You’d be safe if reusing yeast cake from an English pale ale to ferment an American stout, but you obviously wouldn’t want to use a Belgian strain to ferment an English pale ale (though you may end up with a very tasty Belgian pale!).
  • How long has the beer been sitting on the yeast cake to be reused? The longer the beer has been sitting on the yeast, the greater the number of yeast cells that may be mutated or dead. Dead and mutated yeast cells can contribute off-flavors to your beer, so if you plan on reusing yeast cake, use one that has only been in primary for a short amount of time (7-10 days).
  • What was the gravity of the original beer? High gravity fermentations and the alcohol produced from them stress yeast more than lower gravity fermentations. And yeast stress leads to – you guessed it – off-flavors. You’d be better off pitching a high gravity wort onto the yeast cake from a low – to mid – gravity fermentation.
  • How hoppy was the original beer? The amount of hops in the first beer can influence the second. You generally want to pitch a hoppier beer onto a yeast cake from a less hoppy beer (e.g. pitch an IPA onto the yeast cake of a pale ale), otherwise you may end up with excessive hop bitterness or flavor.
  • What color are the two beers?Shop Liquid Beer Yeast As with hops and bitterness, the color of the first beer can influence the second one. To avoid a change in beer color, pitch a darker wort onto the yeast cake from a lighter beer. For example, pitch a stout onto the yeast cake of an amber ale.

 

Other issues that come into play when reusing yeast cake include accurately predicting the number of yeast cells being pitched and whether there was any infection in the original batch. For these reasons, it may be worth starting with a batch of fresh beer yeast. If you really want to reuse yeast cake, consider harvesting and washing the yeast to reduce the impact of dead yeast cells, beer color, and bitterness, and then use a calculator like Mr. Malty to get an estimate of how much yeast slurry to pitch into the second beer. And as always when working with beer yeast, practice impeccable sanitation techniques to avoid contaminating the yeast.

Have you ever pitched onto an old yeast cake? How did it work out? Shop Temp Probe

—————
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.

Controlling Alcohol With A Wine Hydrometer

Close Up Of Wine Making HydrometerA wine hydrometer plays many different roles in home wine making. It can track a fermentation’s progress. It can tell you if your fermentation has completed and not just stuck…  but one of its more interesting uses is controlling your wine’s alcohol level.

By using the wine hydrometer to help you adjust your beginning reading – before fermentation – you can control how much alcohol your wine will have when the fermentation has completed.

One of the scales you will find on a wine hydrometer is the potential alcohol scale. This hydrometer scale is only useful before the fermentation starts. What it is telling you is how much potential for alcohol your juice currently possesses.

As you add more sugar to the wine must the reading on the potential alcohol scale will rise. What this means is as the sugar rises you have a potential for more alcohol. The reason it is potential is because it hasn’t happened yet, and the alcohol is dependent on the fermentation fermenting all the sugars in the wine must.

As an example, if you have a beginning reading on the potential alcohol scale of 11% this means that your wine will have 11% alcohol when the fermentation is finished –Shop Wine Making Hydrometers provided the fermentation was allow to run its full course. Basically, the wine making hydrometer is telling you how much alcohol that sugar can make.

As another example, if your wine hydrometer had a starting reading of 13% potential alcohol and after the fermentation the reading was 1%, that means your wine currently has 12% alcohol.

If you want the fermentation to potentially make more alcohol, just add more sugar to the wine must until the potential alcohol scale on the hydrometer reads the alcohol level you want the wine to end up with.

As a final note, we do not recommend shooting for alcohol levels higher than 14%. If more sugar is added than the wine yeast can handle you may end up with an extremely sweet wine or, worse yet, a stuck fermentation.

So, while the wine hydrometer has many functions, one of its most useful is it allows the home winemaker to control the level of alcohol their finished wine will have. If you are still unsure, we have more information about using a wine making hydrometer and it’s functions in the wine making process on our website.

Happy Wine Making,Shop Wine Making Kits
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.

Spring Forward with These 3 Single Hop Beer Recipes

Making Single Hop Beer RecipesAs temperatures rise, spring offers a great time to transition away from malty stouts and porters and towards beers that suggest the beginnings of the growing season. As an ode to the flowers and the trees starting to bloom this month, consider paying tribute to every brewer’s favorite flower: the hop with these 3 single hop beer recipes!

If you’re a hop aficionado, you’ve likely come across some single hop beers in your drinking explorations. Making beers that showcase a particular hop variety is a great way to learn the strengths and weaknesses of different hops. The warmer temperatures of spring suggest a lighter, paler beer, the perfect backdrop for experimenting with different hops.

 

Choosing Hops for Your Single Hop Beer Recipes

If you’ve shopped around for hops before, you’ve probably noticed that they are often labeled bittering hops, flavor/aroma hops, or dual-purpose. Single-hop beers will give you the chance to put these conventions to the test.

Super alpha hops have been developed to highlight their bittering potential, but you might be surprised how many of them work well aromatically. Bravo, Magnum, and Simcoe come to mind. Use restraint with these hop varieties in your single hop beer recipes – a little can go a long way.

Conversely, low alpha and noble hops are often celebrated for their aroma characteristics, but some brewers find that they provide a clean bitterness. East Kent Goldings is a versatile hop in this regard, often used as the single hop in traditional English beer styles.

 

Tips For Formulating Your Single Hop Beer Recipes

Of course, there are no hard and fast rules for single hop brewing, but you might want to consider the following as you develop a recipe for your single hop brew:

  • Select a beer style that really showcases the hops. A golden ale, pale ale, or IPA are often good choices.
  • Develop a simple grain bill that won’t cover up or distract from the hops. Try a base malt plus small amounts of one or two specialty grains for color and/or flavor.
  • Choose a clean yeast strain, like Wyeast 1056, that will let the hops shine through.
  • If brewing multiple single hop brews, consider using a constant base recipe, simply changing the hops for each one.
  • You may wish to brew small batches to get the most experimentation out of your raw materials.
  • Don’t be afraid to throw all these suggests out the window – feel free to try a single hopped stout or Belgian IPA!

 

Single Hop Beer RecipesShop Hops

Ready to try some single hop brewing? Give one of these recipes a try!

 

East Kent Bitter
(five-gallon batch, all-grain)

Specs
OG: 1.045
FG: 1.011
ABV: 4.4%
IBUs: 31
SRM: 9

Ingredients
8 lbs. Maris Otter malt
1 lb. Crisp Crystal 45L
1 oz. East Kent Goldings hops at :60
.5 oz. East Kent Goldings hops at :30
.5 oz. East Kent Goldings hops at :15
1 oz. East Kent Goldings hops, dry hopped for 5 days
Wyeast 1099 or Safale S-04 Shop Barley Grains

 

Bravo IPA
(five-gallon batch, extract with specialty grains)

Specs
OG: 1.058
FG: 1.014
ABV: 5.7%
IBUs: 51
SRM: 8
Batch Size: 5 Gallons
Boil Volume: 6.5 Gallons

Ingredients
6 lbs. light dry malt extract
1 lb. Munich 10L malt
.5 lb. Caramel 40L malt
.33 oz. Bravo hops at :60
1 oz. Bravo hops at :15
.67 oz. Bravo hops, dry hopped for 5-7 days
Wyeast 1056: American Ale Yeast or Safale US-05 Shop Bazooka Screen

 

Amarillo Wheat Ale
(5-gallon batch, extract with specialty grains)

Specs
OG: 1.053
FG: 1.013
ABV: 5.25%
IBUs: 23
SRM: 5
Batch Size: 5 Gallons
Boil Volume: 3 Gallons

Ingredients
3.3 lbs. light liquid malt extract
3.3 lbs. wheat liquid malt extract
.5 lb. torrified wheat
.5 lb. caramel 10L malt
.5 oz. Amarillo hops at :60
1 oz. Amarillo hops at :15
1 oz. Amarillo hops, dry hopped for 7 days
Wyeast 1056: American Ale Yeast or Safale US-05

Shop Hop BagsDo you have any favorite single hop beer recipes? We’d love you to share in the comments below!
—————
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.

Springtime Is A Great Time For A Cherry Wine Recipe!

Cherries for making cherry wine.One of the most rewarding wines I’ve ever made was a sweet cherry wine. In general, cherry wine tends to be rich and robust in its overall character. The tartness is mellow from the malic acid that dominates the cherry family. The tannins are firm giving the wines made with it a wonderful structure and body.

The one I made a couple of years ago from the sweet cherry wine recipe below turned out exceptional. It took a few months to age, but once it came around, turns out, it was well worth the wait.

The cherry flavor came through nice and fruity and lingered into a rich, earthy aftertaste. It had layers of flavor that you do not always expect in a fruit wine. Some of this I attribute to the brown sugar called for in this wine recipe. Some of it I attribute to the fruit acids. The Lalvin RC-212 that was used in this cherry wine recipe could have helped out in this department, as well.

Since spring is here it won’t be long before cherries will be in full-swing, so I thought this would be a great time to share it on the blog. The cherries you use can make a difference. As its name implies, you want to be sure to use sweet cherries as opposed to sour cherries. According to my notes, I used a mix of Bing and Lambert cherries, but there are many other varieties of cherries that I’m sure would work.Shop Fruit Wine Bases

 

Sweet Cherry Wine Recipe
(Makes 5 Gallons)

18 lbs. Sweet Cherries (pitted)
9 lbs. Cane Sugar
3 lbs. Brown Sugar
1 tbsp. Yeast Energizer
Pectic Enzyme (as directed on the package)
2-1/2 tsp. Tartaric Acid
2-1/2 tsp. Citric Acid
1 Packet Lalvin RC-212 Wine Yeast
10 Campden Tablets (5 before fermentation, 5 before bottling)Shop Campden Tablets

 

This is a fairly straightforward sweet cherry wine recipe, so for the most part all you need to do is following the basic 7 wine making steps on our website. The only thing different that you should take note of is that the cherries need to be pitted. You do not want the pits in with the fermentation. Also, you do not want to over process the cherries. This can cause the wine to be too bitter. Cutting the cherries in half as you pit them is sufficient. If you are using a cherry pitter, all you need to do is lightly crush the cherries after they are pitted.

I also like to pre-dissolve the brown sugar whenever it’s called for in any wine recipe. This can easily be done by taking 2-parts water and 1-part brown sugar and heating it on the stove until liquid. You will need to stir continuously at first so that the sugar does not burn on the bottom of the pan.

Even if you only make 2 or 3 batches of wine each year, I would urge you to give the sweet cherry wine recipe a go. It makes a remarkable wine that it hard not to like. It’s also pretty easy to make. And as always, you can make it as sweet or as dry as you like, by back-sweetening the wine to taste.

Happy Wine Making,
Ed KrausShop Wine Making Kits
—————
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.

Ready? Start Brewing Summer Beers Now!

The result of brewing summer beers.It’s helpful as a homebrewer to always be thinking ahead. Laying out a brewing calendar and deciding what beer styles would be best for the upcoming season.

Now that summer’s just around the corner, do you have your brews lined up for the warmer months? Do you know what summer beers you’ll be brewing?

To help get your mental brewing calendar flowing, here are twelve beer recipe kits that will quench your thirst in the summer heat! These are excellent kits for brewing summer beers

 

Best Beer Styles For Brewing Summer Beers

  • Blonde Ale – In the same ballpark as cream ale, blonde ale is a great beer for the beach. Subtle sweet malt notes support a very light dose of hops, making this beer very easy-drinking.
  • Witbier – Belgian witbier is a wheat-based ale that uses orange peel and spices to give it a citrusy flavor. The wheat gives the beer a bit of sweetness, making it an easy drinker. If you like Hoegaarden or Blue Moon, this one’s for you! This is a beer style that’s always in my plans for brewing summer beers.
  • Weizenbier – German weizen is a wheat beer with notes of tropical fruit and cloves. These characteristics are derived entirely from German weizen yeast, and may also feature notes of vanilla or bubblegum. The wheat gives the beer a somewhat creamy texture, but the light body keeps the beer from being too filling.
  • Kölsch – This German-style ale is a clean, crisp, golden-colored ale with a touch of light malt flavor and a hint of apple or pear. Though similar in appearance and mouthfeel to light lagers, German noble hops give the beer a more assertive bitterness and a decent amount of hop flavor.
  • American Pale AleShop Beer Recipe KitsGood old American pale ales are always in season. APAs tend to feature some notes of caramel malt, but the main feature is always the hops. American hops tend to showcase flavors and aromas of pine, citrus, and spice and usually a bracing bitterness as well. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is the benchmark.
  • American Cream Ale – Cream ale is a great beer for the summer. It’s very similar to light lager, but it’s fermented at ale temperatures, making it easier to produce for the average homebrewer.
  • English Bitter – If you like hops, but find American Pale Ale a little too aggressive, try an English Bitter. This English Pale Ale is a little more balanced between the malt and hops, and tends to have a slightly lower alcohol content as well.
  • Light Lager – Here’s a good option for tailgating, a cookout, or any event with red plastic cups. Also makes a great lawnmower beer!
  • PilsnerGerman lager is somewhat more refined, with more pronounced hop bitterness, flavor, and aroma. Dry and crisp, pilsner works well in just about any summertime situation.
  • Saison – Saison features a fruity, citrusy aroma with some floral and spicy notes – definitely a flavorful option for summer drinking! It’s usually an enticing, bright orange color with lots of carbonation. Saison usually finished dry with a touch of refreshing acidity.

 

Shop Chugger PumpWhat are some of the beer styles you’re thinking about putting on your summer brewing calendar? Are any of the above fit into your plans for brewing summer beers?
———————————–
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.

Darn It! My Mead Won’t Ferment!

This is my mead the won't finish fermenting.I seem to have a problem making mead. It starts off with an SG [specific gravity] of 1.100 and over a period of 3 days, during primary fermentation it drops to 1.060 and seems to stop. I think that the fermentation has just slowed down and rack it into a secondary fermenter and install an air lock. I rack it a month later and the SG is 1.040. Now it has been three months and the SG is 1.030. Is this normal? Why is it my mead will not ferment?

Thanks Sam
—–
Hello Sam,

Turning honey into alcohol can sometimes be a difficult task for a wine yeast. This is due mostly to the complexity of some of the sugars contained within the honey, but some of it is also due to the set of nutrients that the honey provides to the wine yeast. Both are issues as to why your mead will not ferment, and both need to be addressed.

Honey has simple sugars as well as complex sugars and everything in between. This is true with all fruits as well, but typically not to the degree as with honey. Simple sugars are easily metabolized by the yeast into alcohol, but complex sugars are not so easily fermented. A complex sugar is a chain of simple sugars that are bound together on a molecular level. These long chains must first be broken apart before they can be metabolized into alcohol by the wine yeast.

Enzymes are produced by the yeast during a fermentation that will help to break down the complex sugars, but often in the case of honey, it is not enough enzyme to keep the fermentation going in a timely manner.

Shop Yeast EnergizerHoney has all different lengths (complexities) of sugar chains. So what happens as the fermentation begins, the wine yeast start off by consuming the simplest sugars first — the lowest hanging fruit — so to speak. As the simple sugars are depleted the yeast move on to the next easiest sugars and so on until there is nothing left but the most complex, longest chains of sugars.

This is what has happened with your fermentation. It started off just fine as it began its way metabolizing the simplest sugars, but when the remaining sugars became nothing but the most complex it became too much of a burden for the wine yeast. The enzymes that the yeast were able to produce were not enough to keep the fermentation going at a reasonable rate. All the yeast was able to do was nibble at the remaining long chains of sugar as it slowly produced the enzymes.

So what can you do? Your only defense is to make sure your yeast stays as healthy as possible by providing it with all the nutrients it needs. This will help the yeast to more readily produce enzymes. Many mead recipes will call for nutrients at the beginning of the fermentation. The trouble is that these nutrients will have long been consumed by the time the yeast get to the difficult part of the fermentation.Shop Magnesium Sulfate

At this point, I would recommend adding 1/2 teaspoon of Yeast Energizer for each gallon of mead. This should give the yeast a kick-start. If magnesium sulfate was not called for by the mead recipe, then I would recommend adding it as well at the rate of 1/4 teaspoon per 5 gallons.

Sam, in the future I would make sure that you add both of these at the beginning of the fermentation – regardless of what the recipes says. And if the fermentation starts to slow down at some point, be prepared to add a second dose of yeast energizer.

I hope this have given you some insight as to why sometimes a mead will not ferment. If you would like more information about making mead, you may want to take a look at the article, Making Wine With Honey that is listed on our website. It has some more insights to fermenting honey along with a few mead recipes.

Best Wishes,
Ed KrausShop Wine Making Kits
—————
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.

Home Brewing With Hops: A Simple Resource Guide

Beer Wort Boiling HopsWithout hops, most beers would be unrecognizable. Hops are both a preservative and a bittering agent, and their oils are responsible for much of the flavor and aroma found in beer. Whether you prefer a malty beer or you’re a full-blown hop-head, home brewing with hops is a critical part of making beer at home.

Here are a number of resources to get you started on your journey of learning all about home brewing with hops:

 

About Hops

  • The Anatomy of the Hop – Hops, as used in homebrewing, are the flower of the humulus lupulus This post explains what it is about the hop flowers that make them so valuable to brewers.
  • What are Noble Hops? – You’ll often hear the term “noble hops” if you enjoy brewing traditional beers from Europe. Learn what makes these kinds of hops so high and mighty.
  • A Quick Guide to American Hops – What makes American hops different from other hops? What are some popular American hop varieties you can use in your American IPA, American pale ale, or American stout?

 

About Hop Bitterness Shop Hops

  • How to Calculate the IBUs of Your Homebrew – International Bittering Units (IBUs) are a measurement of the bitterness in beer. It’s a factor of how much alpha acid is extracted and isomerized into the wort.

 

About Hop Flavor and Aroma

  • Understanding Hop Oils – Hop oils are the seemingly magical ingredients that give beers a wide range of flavor and aroma characteristics, from citrus and pine, to grapefruit and herbal. Learn more about hop oils and how to maximize their contribution to your homebrew.
  • How to Dry Hop in a Homebrew KegShop Bazooka ScreenSome homebrewers like to dry hop right in the keg. Learn how to do this so you don’t end up with a bunch of hops in your pint glass.

 

Hoppy Extract & Partial Mash Beer Recipe Kits

 

Hoppy All-Grain Beer Recipes

 

Hoppy Home Brewing Resources

Want to learn even more about hops? If after mastering the topics above you still want to learn more, I suggest the following:

Is there something you want to learn about home brewing with hops that isn’t covered here? Share in the comments below!Shop Home Brew Starter Kit
———————————–
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.

My Fermentation Smells Like Burnt Matches

Burnt Match With Sulfur SmellMy homemade wine has started producing a burnt match smell after about 1 week of fermentation. No sulfur has been used in sterilization etc, can you advise? chuck out?? cry???

Thanks Carrie
—–
Hello Carrie,

What you are more than likely smelling is hydrogen sulfide that is being produced by the yeast. It is also often compared to a rotten egg or burning rubber smell, as well as the burnt matches, as you have suggest. All wine making yeast produce this gas to some degree, but if you are experiencing an smell that is stronger than normal, it could be that one of the following is occurring:

 

  1. Wild yeast is doing the fermenting.
    Even if domesticated wine yeast was added, there is still a possibility of wild yeast fermenting along side it. This is something that can play out when making wine from fresh fruit. Wild forms of yeast will produce all kinds of off odors, including the burnt match odor your are describing.
  1. You are fermenting at too warm of temperature.
    Shop Wine YeastFermenting at higher temperatures will entice the wine making yeast to produce higher levels of hydrogen sulfide. This, in turn, can cause your fermentation to smell like burnt matches. Fermentation temperatures as low as 78°F. can even potentially produce excessive hydrogen sulfide.
  1. The yeast does not have enough nutrients available.
    You may want to consider adding yeast nutrient or yeast energizer, particularly if you have not done so already.

 

All three of the above reasons relate to putting the yeast under stress. Wild yeast hasn’t been bred to do such a big job, so it is stressed; too warm of a temperature will add stress to any living organism; and being short on nutrition would obviously be stressful, as well.

Usually the hydrogen sulfide will reduce to an acceptable level on its own by the time you are ready to bottle the wine. It will simply release into the air and go away throughout the wine making process. However, if you get down to bottling the wine and the odor is still prevalent, there are still some things you can do to reduce it:

 

  • Shop Yeast EnergizerYou can rack the wine several times in a splashing manner. This will give opportunity for the burnt match odor to leave the wine.
  • You can also pour the wine over sanitized copper. The reaction of the wine to the copper will help the gas to release more easily. Copper wool stuffed into a funnel works well for this process.

 

It is important to remember that if you do either of these treatments, that you also add sulfites such as Campden tablets or potassium metabisulfite. Either one of these should be added to the wine afterwards. This will help to drive out the oxygen that that was saturated into the wine during the process. Too much oxygen saturated in a wine will promote oxidation. Coincidentally, sulfites help do drive out the hydrogen sulfide, as well.

The real solution to making sure your fermentation does not smell like burnt matches is to keep the yeast happy. Use the right kind of yeast, keep it at a comfortable temperature, and make sure it has all the nutrition it needs.

Happy Winemaking,Shop Potassium Metabisulfite
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.

Dandelion Beer Recipe: A Springtime Treat

Dandelion Beer RecipeYou may have heard of dandelion wine, but have you ever made dandelion beer? Here some info on making one – including two dandelion beer recipes!

Though most people consider the dandelion an obnoxious weed, the whole plant is actually edible: roots, leaves, and flowers. Dandelion is medicinal as well, sometimes taken in the form of tea for its detoxifying qualities.

For those interested in traditional and rustic pseudo-beers, a dandelion beer may give a hint as to what an early American settler would have made in the absence of hops, using the ubiquitous dandelion to help provide bitterness and flavor.

A number of American craft brewers have given dandelion new life by putting it in some of their specialty beers:

 

  • New Belgium made a Dandelion Ale as part of the Lips of Faith series. Their version used pilsner malt, dandelion greens, grains of paradise, and Belgian ale yeast.
  • Magic Hat recently release Pistil as a spring ale, their recipe produces a light, 4.5% pale ale brewed with flaked oats, Apollo hops, Northern Brewer hops, Cascade hops, and dandelion leaves.
  • Fonta Flora, a newer brewery in Morganton, North Carolina, brewed a dandelion brettanomyces saison.

 

As you can see, there are many ways to interpret the style of dandelion beer. The key component, as with any beer, is balance.

A Note on Harvesting Dandelion
It should be easy enough to find dandelions. Just be sure that the location you’re pulling the dandelions from hasn’t been sprayed with pesticide or herbicide, is far enough away from any cars and pets so as to avoid contamination. Shop Beer Flavorings

A Traditional Dandelion Beer Recipe
This recipe, from Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers, is a traditional dandelion beer recipe from 1931. Though the fermentable sugar in this case is from sugar, feel free to use malt extract instead for more body. Sugar beers tend to finish a little thin. The flavor is hard to describe: floral, yet not in the way hops can be floral. I served this beer at a homebrew festival a couple years ago – it’s strange, but some people really liked it. Be warned – the beer will stain a plastic fermenter, so I recommend a glass carboy.

 

Ingredients (two-gallon batch)
2 oz. dried dandelion
2 oz. dried nettle
1 oz. dried yellow dock root
1 gal. water (plus 1 gallon preboiled and cooled for topping off)
2 lbs. sugar
2 tbsp. dried ginger
Beer Yeast

 

DirectionsShop Carboys
Boil the dandelion, nettle, and yellow dock root in water for 15 minutes. Place the sugar and ginger in your glass fermenter, then strain the “tea” over the sugar. Allow to cool to room temperature, then add enough preboiled, cooled water to bring the total volume to two gallons. Rehydrate your yeast (if using dried) and stir into the wort. Ferment til complete, then bottle.

 

A Modern Dandelion Beer Recipe
The Dandelion Bitter from the Homebrewer’s Garden offers a recipe a little closer to what most of us consider beer.

Specs
OG: 1.045 – 1.056
FG: 1.014 – 1.018
Color: orange-brown

Ingredients (five-gallon batch)
1/2 lb. toasted malt
1/2 lb. 60L crystal malt
1 can light liquid malt extract
2 lbs. light dried malt extract Shop Liquid Malt Extract
1 lb. dandelions: leaves, blossoms, and roots at :60
1 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :15
1/2 oz. Willamette hops at :2
1/2 oz. Willamette hops (dry hops)
Wyeast 1028: London Ale Yeast or Safale S-04
2/3 c. corn sugar for priming

 

Directions
Clean the dandelions thoroughly. Steep crushed malts in 1.5 gallons water at 150-160˚F for 30 minutes. Strain into a brew kettle and rinse grains with 1/2 gallon of water at 170˚F. Stir in the malt extracts and bring to a boil. Boil for one hour, adding dandelions and hops according to schedule above. Pour 1.5 gallons of preboiled, prechilled water into a fermenter. Strain hot wort into the fermenter. Rinse hops with 1/2 gallon of boiled water. Top up to five gallons. When wort is 70˚F or below, pitch yeast. Ferment at 65-70˚F. At the end of primary fermentation, add the Willamette dry hops. After secondary fermentation, bottle with priming sugar and condition for two weeks.

Have you ever brewed a dandelion beer? Or, do you have a dandelion beer recipe you’d like to share with us? How did it turn out?Shop Home Brew Starter Kit

—————
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the IBD and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.