Adding More Grape Concentrate To Wine

Fading Grape ConcentrateI am getting ready to make 10 gallons of wine from 2 cans of Sun Cal Johannisberg Riesling concentrate. My question is would an additional can of Sun Cal Riesling really improve the fullness of the wine or would not really be worth the investment of shipping another can of concentrate? I have made a batch of this wine several years ago and it turn out pretty good. Hope you can help…

Name: Vincent O.
State: IA
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Hello Vincent,

Thanks you for this interesting question.

[To catch up other readers, Sun Cal concentrated grape juices come in 46 fl. oz. cans. Each can makes 5 gallons of wine when you follow the directions. Along with the can, sugar, acid blend, tannin, yeast nutrient and yeast are added to make up the wine recipe. Vincent, wants to push the envelop a little by adding more grape concentrate to his wine. He’s making a double batch, 2 cans to 10 gallons. He’s thinking about adding a third can.]

Without question, adding a third can would bring up the body and flavor of the wine, but the perceived impression of the resulting wine would not be one with 50% more flavor and body. Adding more grape concentrate to the wine would only intensify the wine’s flavor only marginally.

This is because of the way us humans tend to perceive things. All of our senses do not react on an even scale. For example, two jet engines side-by-side are not twice as loud as one. If you double the wattage of a light bulb, it does not seem twice as bright. If you add 50% more concentrate to your wine recipe, it will not seem like 50% more flavor.Shop Grape Concentrate

I’m not saying that adding more grape concentrate to the wine is not a good idea, I’m just letting you know what to expect if you do decide to add more. Whether you feel it would be worth it is completely up to you. You can expect more flavor and body, but it will not be 50% more.

We’ve had many customers over the years that have used 2, and even, 3 cans of Sun Cal concentrate to just 5 gallons and loved the resulting wine.

Another important aspect to this that needs to be addressed is that if you do decide to add more grape concentrate to your wine, you will need to compensate by adding less sugar and less acid blend to the wine recipe. This is because the additional can of grape concentrate is adding both more sugar and more fruit acid.

Regardless, of how much flavor you are trying to get, the sugar level and acid level should always remain the same. The beginning sugar level determines how much alcohol the resulting wine will have. The acid level of the wine controls how tart or sharp the wine will be.

Keeping both of these at their proper level is relatively easy. You will need to use a hydrometer to add the proper amount of sugar. Keep dissolving sugar into wine must until the hydrometer gives you a reading on the potential alcohol scale of 10% or 11%.Shop Wine Kits

An acid test kit will be needed to know how much acid blend to add to the wine recipe for proper taste. An acid test kit is a valuable tool for controlling any wine’s acidity. After taking a reading the directions will show you how to determine how much acid blend to add.

Adding more grape concentrate to wine is something that is pretty simple to do. Plus, it’s away fun to experiment. That’s half the fun of making your own wine. You have the opportunity to make your own personal creations.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
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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.

An All-Grain Brewer’s Worst Nightmare — How To Fix A Stuck Mash

Stuck MashA stuck mash can really throw a wrench into your brew day. Things are going great: you planned your beer recipe, purchased all your homebrewing ingredients, mashed in, and pH and temperature are right where you want them. Then you start the sparge and collecting the wort from your mash tun, and all you get it a trickle – then it stops completely. What’s supposed to take an hour extends into two hours or more as you try to figure out how to separate the wort from the grain… what to do!

The best thing to do, of course, is everything in your power to avoid a stuck mash. No one wants a sparge that takes too long. In the event a stuck mash occurs, however, more drastic action is required. With that said, here are tips for preventing a stuck mash and tips to fix a stuck mash.

 

Tips for Preventing a Stuck Mash

  • Clean your mash tun between each use. This goes beyond just a soak in One-Step. Take apart the various components of your mash tun and get in there to scrub ‘em out well.
  • Don’t over-crush. When crushing the malted grains, make sure they aren’t crushed too finely. If there’s a lot of flour in the grist, it can really gunk up the wort outlets.
  • Some grains tend to get sticky, especially wheat, rye, and oats. Add rice hulls to your mash to make sure that wort can flow without getting clogged. The hulls won’t affect the flavor, color, or gravity of your beer.Shop One Step Cleanser
  • Watch you water-to-grain ratio. The recommended ratio is 1-1.5 quarts of water per pound of grain. Some all-grain beer recipes call for a thinner or thicker mash. If your equipment tends to give you a stuck mash, lean towards the higher end of the range. Take good notes so you can build upon your previous experiences!
  • Take your time. When your mash is complete, draw off the first runnings slowly, allowing the grain bed to set. Draw off too fast and the grain bed can compact on itself, creating a stuck mash.

 

How to Fix a Stuck Mash

  • Stir it up. If you’re lucky, a quick, vigorous stir will be all it takes to fix your stuck mash. You’ll have to reset the grain bed, so draw off the wort slowly, gradually increasing the rate of flow.
  • Clear that clog. Shop FermentersIt the stir didn’t fix things, chances are good that there’s a clog in your mash tun. Dump the mash into a spare fermenting bucket. Since you will eventually boil the wort, the bucket doesn’t have to be sanitized, but it should be clean. Take apart your equipment, clear the clog if there is one, return the mash to the mash tun and start over.
  • Use a colander. If you still can’t get your wort to flow, you probably need a new mash tun! To save your brew, pour the mash through a clean strainer and into your brew pot. The wort in the brew pot can be run through the strainer and the collected grains multiple times to improve clarity. This process is called a vorlauf.

 

To be sure, having a stuck mash can be a real pain. But don’t let them stop you from making great beer! If the sparge is taking too long you now know what to do to fix the stuck mash. Once it’s fixed, relax, have a homebrew, and take steps to prevent having stuck mashes in the future.

Do you have a stuck mash horror story? Share in the comments!
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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 of the Local Beer Blog.

Using Artificial Sweeteners To Sweeten Wine

Artificial Sweeteners To Sweeten WineI am a diabetic, but my doctor has suggested 2 glasses of wine a night. Can I use artificial sweeteners to sweeten my wines after the fermentation has stopped? Will it affect the aging after bottling?

Name: Frank
State: TX
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Hello Frank,

There is nothing that suggest that artificial sweeteners affect the aging process, or aging-chemistry, of a wine. So from this perspective it is fine to add artificial sweeteners to sweeten wine at bottling time. But there are some other factors that come into play, depending on what kind of artificial sweetener you are planing on using to sweeten your homemade wine.

Not all artificial sweeteners are the same:

  • Sweet’n Low™: the main ingredient is saccharin. Saccharin will artificially sweeten your wine, but it will not permanently mix with the wine. If given enough time, such as when aging, the saccharin will drop to the bottom. When commercial products, such as Tab used saccharin as a sweetener, they also added a binder to keep it suspended. Us home winemakers do not have this luxury available to us.
  • Equal™: the main ingredient is aspartame. This artificial sweetener will sweeten wine as well as it will sweeten coffee or tea. It does have an Achille’s heel, however it does not stay stable for longer periods of time. Once in a liquid, it will slowly start to lose its sweetening effect. This is why sodas sweetened with aspartame will sometimes taste bitter if they are too old or stored in the heat. While you can store your wine in extremely cool places to slow down the lose of sweetness, this extremely cool temperature will also slow down the natural aging process of the wine. A more minor consideration is that Equal™ also contains a small amount of dextrose (corn sugar) and maltodextrin. Both of these ingredients can cause a very small fermentation with in the wine bottle. Not enough to be a direct problem, but possibly enough the give the wine a detectable amount of effervescence. For this reason, if you do decide to use Equal™ to sweeten your wine, I would also recommend adding potassium sorbate to eliminate any re-fermentation within the wine bottle.Shop Potassium Sorbate
  • NutraSweet™: again the main ingredient is aspartame so you have the same stability issues as with Equal™, but NutraSweet™ also as a second artificial sweetener, neotame. This artificial sweetener is a little more stable than aspartame, so between the two, NutraSweet™ would be your best artificial sweetener to sweeten wine. It would stay sweeter longer in your wines.
  • Splenda™: the main ingredient is sucralose. Sucralose is a molecularly modified form of sugar. The sugar is altered in a way that makes it very hard for the body to metabolize. It’s main strength is that it is stable. If used in your wine, it will always remain just as sweet as the day you added it. It binds with the wine, so you don’t need to worry about it separating out such as with saccharin.The main downfall is that, if given enough time, the enzymes that are left over from your wine’s fermentation can break down some of the sucralose into a simple sugar. If there are still residual yeast cells in the wine, you could have a slight fermentation in the wine bottle because of this. Also, like other artificial sweeteners, Splenda™ has dextrose and maltodextrin added as bulking agents to keep if fluffy. Just like with Equal™, these can also contribute to the possibility of fermentation in the bottle, so again potassium sorbate is recommend to keep the wine stable.
  • Stevia: This is a natural ingredient derived from a plant. There are some winemakers that are claiming great success with sweetening their wine with this product. I do not know how stable it is, but I’ve heard no complaints with losing sweetness over time, nor have I heard complaints of re-fermentation in the wine bottle. Having said this, price seems to be a major issue. There are many brands that offer this product in varying forms. Some cut with sugar; some cut with maltodextrin. You want to get the stevia as pure as you can — at least 95%. Currently, brands that offer this form of stevia are commanding prices in the range of $0.80 to $1.00 per ounce. Depending on how much stevia you need to use to sweeten your wine, this could be cost prohibitive.

The best advice I can give you is to go ahead and use any artificial sweetener to sweeten wine you like, but don’t add it until you are ready to drink the wine. The effects on the wine are identical and you don’t have to worry about all the potential problems these artificial sweeteners can bring. If you have your heart set on sweetening the wine at bottling time, then I might consider stevia as a trial. Take a portion of the wine off, say a gallon, and sweeten that to see how you like it.

Thanks for the great question, Frank. Hope everything works out for you.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
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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.

What’s The Difference Between Ale And Lager Beers?

Assorted Beers In GlassesHow many times have you heard the question, “What’s the difference between ale and lager beers?” In fact, on a recent brewery tour, I overheard someone ask “What’s the difference between a lager and a pilsner?” A harmless question, but when the tour guide didn’t know the answer, it was all I could do not to smack myself in the forehead with the nearest five-gallon keg!

Now, naming conventions have changed over the years, so it’s easy to get confused. Let’s see if we can shed some light on the topic of ales vs lagers.

 

Ales vs. Lagers: What’s the Difference?

Let’s start top level. It’s generally agreed that there are two kinds of beer lagers and ales. (There are some hybrid styles that fall somewhere in the middle, but for now, let’s stick to the two main ones.) Within each broad category, there are dozens of different types of ales and lager beer styles. For example, pilsner is simply a style of lager, which can be further broken down into Czech-style or Bohemian pilsner, American-style pilsner, etc. One good way to get a sense of ale and lager beer styles is to look at a chart like this one.

When it comes to brewing, the difference between ale and lager beers becomes apparent. The two primary factors that make the difference are brewing yeast and fermentation practice.

Lagers are typically made using a bottom-fermenting beer yeast, which prefers cooler fermentation temperatures. As a result, lagers take more time to ferment and require homebrewers to have firm control over fermentation temperatures. Lager beer styles generally ferment at around 40°-50°F, which usually requires a dedicated room or refrigerator. For these reasons, most beginning homebrewers start with ales because they will ferment at room temperature.

Shop Steam Freak KitsAles are typically brewed using top-fermenting beer yeasts and slightly warmer temperatures. As a result ales ferment faster and are much easier to manage in terms of fermentation temperature.

Both ale and lager beer styles can run the gamut of color, gravity, and bitterness. Sometimes people think that ales are dark and heavy, while lagers are light in color and body. Don’t let the macro brand cheap lagers fool you! Lagers can be dark, hoppy, and high-gravity.

Here are some traditional lager beer styles that you may want to try to get a sense of the depth in the lager category:

  • Czech/Bohemian Pilsner – Compared to American light lagers, Czech pilsners have a much more assertive hop presence achieved through the use of noble hops. Steam Freak Pilsner Urkel is a clone of the classic Czech pilsner, Pilsner Urquell.
  • German Bock – A bock is a high-gravity lager (6-7% ABV) with a prominent malty character that’s both sweet and complex. Dopplebocks range from about 7-10% alcohol by volume. The Steam Freak Spring Loaded Bock features deep, rich malty flavors with subtle hop aroma.
  • SchwarzbierShop Home Brew Starter Kit – One of my all-time favorite beer styles, black lagers are chocolatey, roasty, and smooth. Here some more details on brewing a Schwarzbier.
  • Oktoberfest/Märzen – An Oktoberfest is an amber lager also known as Märzen. Read these tips to brew your own Oktoberfest beer!

As the craft beer movement continues to grow, many of the style guidelines get increasingly blurry. It could even get to the point where the difference ale and lager beer no longer even matters. Imperial pilsners and triple bocks may not fit perfectly into the BJCP guidelines, but they’re all the more reason to love lagers!

What are your favorite lager beer styles?
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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 of the Local Beer Blog.

Prickly Pear Wine Recipe For Tammy…

Prickly PearI am about to make my first batch of Prickly Pear Wine. One of the lovely people at your company e-mailed some information and a wine recipe, but I seem to have misplaced it. I have five gallons of prickly pear juice in my freezer that I will use for the wine and other wine recipes this year.

The five gallons of juice I have in the freezer came from approximately 105 pounds of fresh fruit from the Sonoran Desert area in Arizona over a three year period.

Can you please send me the prickly pear wine recipe again and a guideline about using the juice versus the fresh fruit? I have everything but the additives like wine yeast, sulfites, etc.

Thanks!
mrs. “t”

Name: Tammy T.
State: Arizona
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Hello Tammy,

Sounds like you’ve got things lined up and ready to go except for the prickly pear wine recipe, itself. Sorry to hear you lost it, but that’s no big deal. I’ll just give it to you again, down below.

Any of the wine recipes you run across will list the fruit or produce in pounds or chopped volume. That’s just the way it is, and so it goes with the wine recipe below. It calls for 3 quarts of prickly pear, chopped.

You mentioned that 105 pounds of prickly pear resulted in 5 gallons of juice. Now all you need to know is how much 3 quarts of chopped prickly pears weighs and divide that into the 105 pounds to calculate how much of the juice you need to use.

 

Prickly Pear Wine Recipe
(1 Gallon)

3 Quarts – Prickly Pear (Chopped)Shop Strainers
1-1/4 Cup – Raisins (Chopped)
2 Pints – Water
2 Pounds – Cane Sugar
2 Teaspoons – Acid Blend
1/4 Teaspoon – Pectic Enzymes
3/4 Teaspoon – Yeast Energizer
1 – Campden Tablet (Crushed)
1 Packet – Wine Yeast (Premier Classique)

You can follow the directions at the following link to our website: How To Make Homemade Wine

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
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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.

How to Calculate IBUs When Brewing Beer

Hops To Be CalculatedIf you are brewing a specific style of beer or recreating one of your previous batches, calculating your IBUs, or International Bittering Units, that are provided by the hops is one way to dial in the accuracy of your homebrew. There are plenty of free online calculators that will do this for you, but by understanding how to calculate IBUs, you can take your brewing skills to the next level.

Note: IBUs only measure the hop bitterness, or isomerized alpha acids in a beer. Aromas are derived from hops oils, not alpha acids.

 

How To Calculate IBUs

You can use this calculation before your brew using estimated values, or afterwards to get a more accurate figure.

Before we can calculate the IBUs of a beer, these are the factors we need to know:

  • W – The weight of the hops in the homebrew recipe (usually in ounces in the US).
  • AA – The alpha-acids of the hops in your recipe, expressed as AA%.
  • U – Hops utilization rates (see chart at the bottom). You will need to know the length of time (in minutes) that each of the hops will be boiled in to the wort, as well as the gravity of wort at the end of the boil (in gallons).
  • V – Volume of wort (in gallons) at the end of the boil.

This is the formula for calculating IBUs:

IBUs = (AA% x U x W x 7489)/V

But where does the 7489 come from? This is a correction value that helps us complete the formula in US units (to compute in metric units, calculate weight in grams, volume in liters, and change the correction value to 1000).shop_hops

So, what you will do is calculate the IBUs for each hop addition in your homebrew recipe, then add them all together to calculate the total IBUs in a beer.

As an example, this past weekend I brewed a 10 gallon batch of American Brown Ale with a starting gravity of 1.060 and the following hop schedule:

  • 2 oz. East Kent Goldings hops (5.2 AA%) at 60 minutes left in boil
  • 1 oz. Willamette (4.7 AA%) at :30
  • 2 oz. East Kent Goldings (5.2 AA%) at :10

Let’s plug in some number to see how to calculate the IBUs. Starting with the first hop addition, we input the alpha acids as a decimal. (Remember to shift the decimal two places to change it from a percentage to a decimal number.) Then, we need to look at the hops utilization rate when boiled for a 60 minute boil in 1.060 gravity wort. Looking at the chart below, that number is 0.211. The weight is 2 and the volume is 10:

IBUs of first addition = (.052 x .211 x 2 x 7489)/10 = 16.43 IBUs

Then we do it again for each of the next two additions:

IBUs of second addition = (.047 x .162 x 1 x 7489)/10 = 5.7 IBUs

IBUs of third addition = (.052 x .076 x 2 x 7489)/10 = 5.92 IBUs 

Add them all together, and the total IBUs for this beer is about 28 IBUs.

Shop Steam Freak KitsThat’s how to calculate IBUs. As with many things in homebrewing, IBUs are an approximation. There are a lot of factors in play, but knowing how to calculate IBUs gives you a lot more control over your brew. Plus, if you want to recreate a beer recipe that you’ve brewed before, but with hops that have different alpha acid percentages, you can use the formula to adjust the weight of each hops addition needed to arrive at the same IBUs.

Do you calculate the IBUs of your homebrew? Do you use an online calculator or do you go the old fashioned route?

 

Hops Utilization Chart

Hops Utilization Chart

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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.

Basic Wine Making Equipment List For Beginners

Connoisseur Wine Making KitIf you want to jump right into making wine without using a pre-made wine making kit, it can be done just fine. But there are certain pieces of equipment that you should have. With that in mind I’ve put together a basic wine making equipment list for beginners.

  • Primary & Secondary Fermenters/Carboys:  These can be made of plastic or glass, with both having pros and cons to using either one, and are used for the fermentation of your wine. A primary fermenter is used for the first 5 to 7 days of fermentation. The secondary fermenter is used to finish the fermentation.
  • Air Lock & Rubber Stopper:  The rubber stopper is used to attach the air-lock to the top of the secondary fermenter. The rubber stopper has a hole in the center to which the air lock is placed. The air-lock allows gases to escape from the secondary fermentation without allowing: air, bugs, mold, bacteria and other little nasties from getting in.
  • Spoon: You need a long stirring spoon so that you can reach in the fermenters and stir the wine.  May not seem all that important now, but once you get in the middle of making your wine having a long-handled spoon will be one piece of wine making equipment you’ll be glad you got. Stirring allows you to mix the wine making ingredients and break up any pulp that may rise to the top during the primary fermentation.
  • Siphon Hose and Racking Cane:  These are pieces of equipment that are needed for the transfer of your wine from one fermentation vessel to another, and also from carboy to bottle.  The siphon hose ensures a smooth transfer from one vessel to the next, while the racking cane allows you to point where you are drawing the wine from.Shop Wine Bottle Corkers
  • Wine Thief:  The wine thief is great for taking small samples of wine out of your fermenter in order to test for various things like pH, specific gravity, or to just give the wine a little taste! If your fermenters happen to have a spigot on them, this will be one of wine making equipment you can scratch off your list. Just take your samples for testing from the spigot.
  • Wine Hydrometer:  Once you take a sample of wine out from the fermentation, you can test the specific gravity of the wine in order to determine if the fermentation is complete, or if you need to make a few adjustments before moving on.  The wine hydrometer will help you measure specific gravity with ease, and is a piece of equipment you really can’t go without.
  • Acid Test Kit:  Using a sample of wine, you can test its acid level with an acid test kit to determine if it’s where you want it to be, or if you need to make a few adjustments. Wines too high in acid taste sharp or tart. Wines too low in acid taste flat and insipid. If you have a reliable wine recipe you are following or are making wine from a wine ingredient kit this may not be necessary, but otherwise, you should absolutely have this on your wine making equipment list.
  • Wine Bottles and Corks:  Shop FermentersYou’ll need lots of clean wine bottles and wine bottle corks so you can put your finished wine into bottles and seal them for storage and later consumption! You can get by with using mushroom corks, but if you want to use a standard wine bottle cork you will need a wine bottle corker to press them into the wine bottle.
  • Cleaners/Sanitizers:  Keeping your wine making equipment free of contaminants is important. Residual amounts of mold or bacteria can potentially grow and spoil a wine. This is why you should sanitize any equipment that come into contact with the wine. Cleaners such as Basic A work will for this purpose.

There are plenty of pieces of home winemaking equipment that we didn’t mention that could also help you in your craft, though acquiring what’s on the list above will allow you to get off on the right foot and create a fantastic homemade wine!
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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.

Liquid Beer Yeast vs Dry Beer Yeast For Homebrewing

Liquid Beer Yeast and Dry Beer YeastGuest beer blogger, Heather Erickson, shares some of her tips and insights about liquid and dry beer yeast.
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When I first got into homebrewing, I was introduced to the Wyeast Smack Pack. This is a pouch of liquid yeast that has within it another pouch of activator that can be busted open by smacking it.

I can’t lie, it was kind of fun smacking that direct beer yeast activator and watching those little yeasties start working. Over the years, I have experimented with dry beer yeast and well, I’m torn between the results. Below are some of the pros and cons of liquid beer yeast vs dry beer yeast.

  • Pro: Liquid beer yeast offers variety
    With Wyeast offering over 50 different beer yeast strains for homebrewing, variety is quite possibly the spice of life with liquid yeasts. From a Belgian Strong Ale to a good ole American Ale, the variety of liquid beer yeast strains seem pretty endless. Besides the everyday ale/lager yeasts, liquid yeast varieties also include seasonal offerings.
  • Pro: Dry beer yeast keeps longer
    As a once a month home brewer, I find myself in two scenarios: either I am scrambling for brewing ingredients the day of, or I am crossing my fingers that my beer yeast is still healthy. The dry yeast alternative negates that second worry. Staying fresh for up to two years in the refrigerator, a dry yeast option like Fermentis Safale US-05 is a high-performing alternative to my usual go-to liquid beer yeast smack pack.
  • Con: Liquid yeast is more expensive
    If we are just looking at the numbers, on average, a liquid beer yeast pouch is about twice as much, if not more, than a packet of dry beer yeast. While cost might not be a concern if you prefer a certain type of flavor that a beer yeast provides, the economics are still worth noting.Shop Stir Plate
  • Con: You won’t know if your dry beer yeast is healthy unless you rehydrate
    Rehydrating dry beer yeast prior to pitching seems to be a point of contention among homebrewers. While some believe this step is necessary to ensure healthy yeast cells, others feel that it isn’t. Even dry yeast manufacturers are torn on the topic. A dry beer yeast packet boasts anywhere from 200-300 billion yeast cells, compared to 100 billion in liquid yeast. Pitching the dry yeast straight into your fermenter without rehydration could end up killing some of those cells, up to 50% or so. Taking that into account, the number of cells in both liquid beer yeast and dry beer yeast would end up being just about equal.

Besides water, yeast is arguably the most important ingredient in beer. Without it, you just have sugar water. That’s why there has always been such a big debate about using liquid beer yeast vs dry beer yeast for homebrewing your beer. It’s an important piece of the brewing puzzle.

My advice? Test out your tried and true Pale Ale recipe with a Wyeast 1056 and a Fermentis Safale US-05. Whichever pint you prefer is the yeast you should use.

Happy brewing!
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Heather Erickson is a homebrewer with three years experience and has competed in the GABF Pro-Am Competition. She writes the blog This Girl Brews and is a regular contributor to homebrewing sites. Find her on Twitter at @thisgirlbrews.

5 Things You Should Know About Acid Blend

Acid Blend For Wine MakingAcid Blend is a granulated blend of the three most commonly found fruit acids: citric acid, malic acid, and tartaric acid. It is added directly to a wine or must to raise its acidity level when necessary. The acidity of a wine is the tart or sharp taste. Wines too low in acid are flat or flabby tasting. Wines too high in acid are tart or sharp tasting.

Here are 5 helpful things you should know about Acid Blend.

  1. Always Know How Much Acid Blend To Add:
    Never guess at how much Acid Blend you should be using. Either have a wine recipe that tells you how much Acid Blend to add, or use and Acid Testing Kit to determine how much Acid Blend is needed to bring the wine into a respectable range.
  1. One Teaspoon Of Acid Blend Will Raise One Gallon By .15%:
    An Acid Testing Kit will measure acidity in terms of percentage by weight. With most wines you will want an acidity level in the .55% to .70% range. Once you know your wine’s current acidity level, you can use the .15%, per teaspoon, per gallon, rule to know how much Acid Blend you need to add.
  1. Acid Blend Is Easy To Add But Very Difficult To Take Out:
    If there is ever any question as to how much Acid Blend you should be adding, always error to the low side. You can easily add more later. It’s effects are instant. But if you add too much, the process for getting it out is, quite frankly, a big pain.
  1. The Acid Level Of A Wine Can Change During A Fermentation:
    It’s not unusual for some acid to drop out of the wine during a fermentation. Conversely, the fermentation can make acid to replace what is lost. Shop Acid Test KitWith these two things in mind it is possible for the acidity level to slightly rise or fall during a fermentation. For this reason you may need to do a second adjustment to the wine just before bottling.
  1. Wine Ingredient Kits Do Not Call For Acid Blend At All:
    If you are using wine making juices in the form of box ingredient kits to make your wine, you do not need to add Acid Blend to your wine. You do not need to worry about taking acid level readings. This is because the producers of these kits have already tested and adjusted the acidity level for you. They have it corrected perfectly for the type of wine you are making.

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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.

Mash pH: Controlling And Adjusting

Mash pH StripsAll-grain brewers need to mash their grains in order to extract fermentable sugars. This process, called conversion, takes place in water under certain conditions of volume, temperature, pH, and time. Today, we’ll talk about mash pH: ideal mash pH range, effects of being too high or too low, and how to use pH strips or digital meter to take pH readings and make corrective adjustments.

 

About Mash pH

pH is simply a measurement of how acidic or alkaline something is. On a scale of 0 to 14, a pH of 0.0 is highly acidic, 7.0 is neutral, and 14.0 is highly alkaline.

The ideal mash pH range of 5.0 to 5.5. A pH of 5.4 is considered “optimal” for most applications, and it’s a good target for brewers new to homebrew mashing.

 

Measuring Mash pH

Whether mashing for the first time or brewing your 100th batch, it’s important to measure your mash pH. No one wants to find out after the fact that their mash was ineffective and their target original gravity much too low.

The least expensive option for measuring mash pH is the pH test strip. For just a few dollars, brewers can take dozens of readings. All you do is dip the colored end of the strip into the mash for a second or two, remove it, and then read the color. The trade-off of the low price tag is that it’s kind of difficult to get an super, accurate reading from the test strips. Personally, the best I can do is approximate within about 0.2 how close I am to the target pH. This method might work fine for partial mash brewing and beginning all-grain brewers, but before long, they may want an upgrade.Shop Digital pH Meter

The solution is a digital pH meter. Though it may be a little more expensive than a pack of test strips, the digital meter is significantly more accurate, and well worth the investment in my opinion.

 

Mash pH Adjustments

So now that you can measure your mash pH, how can you adjust it if it’s too high or too low?

To lower your mash pH (increase the acidity of the mash), add half a teaspoon of gypsum to a 5 or 6 gallon mash and stir well. To increase mash pH, add half a teaspoon of calcium carbonate to a 5 or 6 gallon mash and stir. Take pH readings and keep making adjustments until you are within the ideal mash pH range of 5.0 to 5.5, but do not add more than two teaspoons of either ingredient. If you choose to test the pH of your water prior to mashing in, keep in mind that adding grains to the water will cause the pH to drop.Shop Gypsum

Dealing with a mash pH, taking reading, making adjustments, etc., may sound challenging and technical, but once you get the hang of it, it will become second-nature, and you’ll be well on your way to exercising more control over your craft and brewing the beer that you ultimately want to drink.
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David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He is a graduate of the Oskar Blues Brew School in Brevard, NC, and founder of the Local Beer Blog.