Is Grape Juice Quality the Key to Making Great Wine?

California Connoisseur With White WineThe art and science of winemaking has been around for millennia, though certainly the techniques and procedures have evolved throughout the course of winemaking history.  It takes a lot of time, practice, and patience to become an expert winemaker, and even then, a bad batch can come along despite all your best intentions and efforts.  With all that being said, one thing has always remained true over time:

“It doesn’t matter how skilled you are at making wine, if you don’t have quality grape juice, you are not going to make quality wine.”

How do you get quality grape juice for winemaking?  Well, there are several different sources, all of which can result in quality wine if you are careful and follow the instructions.

The first source for grape juice for winemaking is to simply buy a grape juice concentrate. There is an extremely wide selection of grapes varieties to choose from when shopping for a grape juice concentrate.  Some of the concentrate on the market are produced by using low-quality grapes. These are fine for drinking sweet, but not so much for making wine, so it is important to do some research into the overall quality of the grapes used to create the grape juice concentrate. There are a lot of products out there utilizing known vineyards and quality grapes, so do your research!

The next source for grape juice for winemaking is freshly pressed juice.  This may be a more expensive option, as you will need to work directly with a vineyard, which may or may not be charging higher prices than the easy-to-get grape juice concentrate.  Keep in mind that when purchasing freshly pressed grape juice for winemaking, you will only be able to attain the juice at a particular time during the year, and you will be bound to the grape variety that is being grown by that particular vineyard.  Grape juice concentrates stay perfectly fresh in the packaging for years.

Another source of grape juice for winemaking is to grow the grapes and press them yourself!  This, of course, is the most labor intensive and most expensive method, however, it can be very rewarding, particularly if you have a “green thumb” and would like to be a part of the entire winemaking process from vine-to-wine, as they say.  Similar to getting fresh grape juice from a vineyard, you will only be able to get the juice at a certain time of the year (harvest) and only the same variety year after year.

There are many sources for attaining winemaking juice: grape juice concentrate, local vineyard, or you own backyard. Any of these sources are fine. Just be certain you are getting quality juice from quality sources, otherwise you can end up with bad wine before you’ve even begun making it!

Another blog post that discusses the virtues of grape juice concentrate and fresh grapes is, Concentrate vs. Grapes.
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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 Is Malted Barley?

Maltster making malted barley.Malted barley is one of the four essential building blocks of beer. (The other three are water, hops, and yeast.) Most commercial beer is made with malted barley, though some beers are made with wheat malt, rye malt, and other cereal grains. So, what is malted barley?

Barley is a grass that comes in a 2-row or 6-row variety, which corresponds to way the grains are arranged around the barley stem. Barley grains (also called corns) are the seeds of the plant that in optimal conditions will grow into a plant. The corns store energy in the form of starch, a complex sugar, so that the plant can grow.

These sugars are what brewers use to make beer. The grain provides the sugar that feeds the yeast, which in turn converts the sugar into alcohol and CO2. But before these sugars can be used, they must be made accessible through a process called malting.

The Malting Process
Malting the barley is a three-step process carried out by a professional maltster. Using a variety of barley grown specifically for making beer, the maltster creates conditions that encourage the barley corns to grow, then kilns the barley corns before they have a chance to grow into plants:

  1. Steeping – The maltster soaks the barley in large steeping tanks, aerating the malt and maintaining a constant, cool temperature that discourages microbial growth. The water is periodically replaced, which gives the barley a chance to breathe.
  1. GerminationShop Home Brew Starter Kit – The barley is then moved to the floor where it is allowed to sprout. During this phase, enzymes are activated in the barley. The enzymes begin to break down the cellular structure of the grain, which makes the starches accessible for conversion into fermentable sugars. The barley will typically be turned regularly to prevent the rootlets, or “chits,” from getting tangled. The degree to which the barley is allowed to grow is called “modification.”
  1. Kilning –  The final step in malting the barley is the kilning. The maltster kilns the grain to stop the growing process, which preserves the starches and the enzymes for use in brewing. Depending on the style of malt produced, grains are kilned between 175-400°F. This step introduces color and flavor to the malt as the proteins and sugars are heated in the kiln.

 

Common Types of Malted Barley

Malted barley is generally categorized by color and given a Lovibond number rating between 1 and 500 to rate the color (1 being pale; 500 being black). These are several of the most common malted barleys:

  • Pilsen Malt – This very lightly kilned malted barley is ideal for lagers, but can also be used as base grain for ales. (1° Lovibond)
  • 2-Row Malt – A very common base malt for ales and lagers. 2-Row malt typically contains more fermentable sugar and less protein than 6-Row malt. (1.8° Lovibond)
  • 6-Row Malt – 6-Row is often used for lagers for its grainy flavor. 6-Row barley is primarily grown in the US. (1.8° Lovibond)
  • Vienna Maltshop_malted_grains – Vienna malt is kilned slightly more than Pilsen and 2-Row malts, but it still works well as a base malt. It is recommended for use in Pilsners and Vienna-style lagers. (3.5° Lovibond)
  • Munich Malt – Munich malt is a well-modified malt that lends a sweeter, maltier flavor than the lighter malts. It is ideal for amber ales, Märzen lagers, and dark lagers. (10° Lovibond)
  • Crystal Malt – A wide range of malted barleys are kilned at higher temperatures and called crystal, or caramel malts. They range from 10 to 120 degrees Lovibond, contributing significant color and sweet caramel flavor. (10-120° Lovibond)
  • Chocolate Malt – Chocolate malt is often used (in moderation) for brown ales, porters, and stouts. It contributes a chocolate-like flavor and aroma to beer; it is not actually made with chocolate. (350° Lovibond)
  • Black Malt – Black malt has been kilned nearly to the point of burning. It provides roasty, astringent bitterness and very dark color to stouts and other dark beers. Very little needs to be used to get the desired effect. (500° Lovibond)

Want to learn more about malted barleys? This book is a great resource if you want to learn more about malts or homebrewing in general: Homebrewing for Dummies

Now that you know the answer to the question: “what is malted barley?”, what are some of your favorite malts for brewing beer at home? And, what brews do you use them in?
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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.

Keeping Track Of Your Homemade Wines Without Wine Bottle Labels

Keeping Track Of Homemade WinesI would like to track my wine bottles without using wine bottle labels which can be difficult to remove for my next batch of wine. Is there an easy way to mark my bottles that can be removed the next time I use them?

Name: Curtis B.
State: CO
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Hello Curtis,

There are several ways you could go about tacking your homemade wines without using wine bottle labels. Most home winemakers will use a color code. Each batch of wine will be assigned a color. Then that color is used on the wine bottle.

The simplest way to get the color on the wine bottle is to use different colored heat-shrink neck capsules. We have nine different colors, which is enough for most home winemakers. These neck capsules are a PVC plastic that will shrink to the neck of the wine bottle when heated. They also help seal the bottle more tightly.

We also have assorted colors of sealing wax. You can do the same with them. Just heat the wax up in an old tin can. Then dip the neck of the wine bottle into the molten wax. Instead of dipping the wine bottles, you can inset the wine cork about an 1/8″ into the neck of the bottle and pour the colored wax in the inset to form a colored disk over the cork.

In either case, keeping track of your homemade wines is just a matter of keeping your colors straight. You can do this with a color chart or “legend” that keeps track of what batch of wine each color represents. You can put it on the wall near your wine rack and problem solved.

If you don’t like using colors to track your batches of homemade wine, you can use wine bottle ID tags. These can be picked up at any commercial wine shop. This is basically a tag that has some writing space and a hole big enough for the neck of the wine bottle to fit through. Write on the tag what the wine is, and hang it over the neck of the wine bottle.Shop Heat Shrink Capsules

The down fall with the ID tags is that you have to write on each one. With a typical batch of wine being 25 or 30 bottles, this can become cumbersome. The second issue is that they do not secure to the wine bottles. Shut a door to fast or blow across the wine rack with the exhaust from a vacuum cleaner and your tagging could be all blown off the bottles. And this doesn’t even take into consideration what little kids could do if they got a hold of them.

I hope this gave you some ideas for keeping track of your homemade wines. With a little imagination, I’m sure there’s other ways to track them without using wine bottle labels, but these are the best ways I have discovered.

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.

American Brown Ale Recipe (Extract & All-Grain)

Pouring A Brown Ale BeerToday I’d like to share with you a homebrew beer recipe I recently brewed with a friend. It’s a hoppy brown ale with deep chocolate malt flavors and a hint of spicy, citrusy hop flavor and aroma. We just doubled the ingredients for the five-gallon recipe (below) to make it a ten-gallon batch.

We modeled this American brown ale recipe after some of the popular American-style brown ales being made by our local craft breweries. It’s a little on the hoppy side for what some consider a brown ale, but for a lot of craft beer fans, that’s a good thing!

This beer recipe features some complex roasted malts to bring in a range of caramel, biscuit, and chocolate flavors along with some lower-alpha hops that work great as aroma hops and provide a clean bitterness. To further enhance the aroma and clean bitterness, we utilize a technique called “first wort hopping.” All that means is to add some of the hops before the wort comes to a boil, which helps keep more of the aromatic hop compounds in the beer.

We hope you’ll enjoy this American brown ale recipe! Both all-grain and extract versions are given below. Give it a try and let us know how it turns out!

 

American Brown Ale Recipe
(5-gallon batch, all-grain)

Specs 
OG: 1.058
FG: 1.011
ABV: 6.2%
IBUs: 42
SRM: 23

Ingredients  
10 lbs. two-row malt Shop Steam Freak Kits
1 lb. caramel 60L malt
0.5 lb. chocolate malt
0.5 lb. crystal 77L malt
1 oz. Willamette hops (FWH)
1 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :60
0.5 oz. Willamette hops at :30
1 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :10
1 tsp. Irish moss at :10
1 packet Safale US-05 ale yeast

Directions 
Mash crushed grains at 152˚F for one hour. Sparge to collect 7.5 gallons in the brew kettle. Add first wort hops (1 oz. Willamette) to the wort and bring to a boil. Boil for 60 minutes, adding hops and Irish moss according to schedule above. Chill wort and transfer to a clean, sanitized fermenter. Ferment at 68-70˚F.

 

American Brown Ale Recipe
(5-gallon batch, partial mash)

Specs 
OG: 1.058
FG: 1.011
ABV: 6.2%
IBUs: 42
SRM: 23

Ingredients 
6 lbs. light dry malt extract Shop Conical Fermenter
1 lb. six-row malt
1 lb. caramel 60L malt
0.5 lb. chocolate malt
0.5 lb. crystal 77L malt
1.5 oz. Willamette hops (FWH)
2 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :60
0.5 oz. Willamette hops at :30
1 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :10
1 tsp. Irish moss at :10
1 packet Safale US-05 ale yeast

Directions 
Steep crushed grains for 30 minutes at 152˚F in one gallon of water. Strain wort into brew kettle, then add enough water to make 3.5 gallons. Thoroughly mix in the dry malt extract, then add the first wort hops (1.5 oz. Willamette) to the wort and bring to a boil. Boil for 60 minutes, adding hops and Irish moss according to schedule above. Chill wort and transfer to a clean, sanitized fermenter. Ferment at 68-70˚F.

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David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

4 Reasons For Having A Cloudy Wine…

Drop of WineI have made this wine several times — has always turned out very well. However, this time (same recipe), the wine’s not clearing. I have changed the carboy 3 times since early November, still not clearing. (Did the flashlight test). The temperature in the room stays perfect for it — just don’t understand it… It smells wonderful! Any advice, would be greatly appreciated!

Name: Laura
State: MN
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Hello Laura,

Sorry you’re having such a stubborn time with a cloudy wine, but don’t give up on it just yet. Having a cloudy wine is usually not a catastrophic event, but more like to be just an annoyance with a solution.

But before we can solve the problem we have to identify the problem. The cloudiness is only a symptom. We need to know why the wine is still cloudy? Until we have the answer to that we don’t know what action to take.

 

  1. Your wine may still be fermenting.
    The first thing to look at is the specific gravity of the wine. This will tell us how much sugar is still left in the wine, if any. This is easily checked with a wine hydrometer. If the specific gravity indicates that there is still sugar in the wine, then the probable reason you have a cloudy wine is because your wine is still fermenting very slowly, but enough to keep things stirred up.It is important to note that the slightest amount of fermentation can cause a lot of cloudiness in a wine, so do not rule this reason out just because you have not seen any bubbles come out of the air-lock. If the hydrometer indicates that the fermentation has not completed, then this is most likely the reason you have a cloudy wine. The only way to solve this problem is to get the fermentation to complete… to make sure the wine yeast are happy and provided with the environment needed to finish the job. One article that you might want to take a look at is, “The Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure“. You can go over these reasons and see if any of them ring true to your situation.
    Shop Hydrometers
  1. Your wine may have a pectin haze.
    This could be particularly true if your wine recipe does not call for a pectic enzyme to break down the pectin cells in the fruit. While the fermentation activity itself will quite often break down the pectin, there are many times it will not. This is why it is usually advisable to add pectic enzyme to any fruit wine recipe — whether it calls for it or not. There is no downside to doing so.One way to test for a pectin haze is to take a 4 ounce sample of the wine in question and add ¼ teaspoon of pectic enzyme to it. Allow the mixture to sit for a few hours or until  the wine has become clear. If the wine does not clear then you do not have a pectin haze. If the wine does clear, then pectin haze is why you have a cloudy wine.The only thing you can do to the wine at this point would be to add a double-dose of pectic enzyme to the entire batch of wine (use the dosage listed on the container it came in). Then give it several weeks time, if not months, to clear. Patience is crucial in the particular instance.
  1. Tannin falling out of the wine.
    Tannin is the bitter zest found mostly in the skin of a fruit. Any wine can only hold so much tannin before it will start to release it as a precipitate. One way to test for this is to heat a pint sample of the wine in a sauce pan and see if it clears. If it does then tannin is the issue. You can find more information on our website on the subject. You might want to look over the article: “Maintaining Temperature Stability In Your Wines“.
  1. Your wine has a bacterial infection.
    If you added sulfites such as Campden tablets, potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite before and after the fermentation, this is not likely to be your problem. But if you didn’t, then there is a likelihood that a bacterial infection of sorts is the reason why you have a cloudy wine.Shop Campden TabletsYou mentioned that the wine smelled great, so I doubt that this is your problem. Wines with this type of fault will smell bad before they taste bad. A simple way to test for this is to smell the wine. If you notice a fingernail polish type smell or an odor of sauerkraut, then this is likely to be what’s going on.A bacterial infection has taken over the wine.Of all the the reasons for having a cloudy wine, this is the worst one. An uncontrolled bacterial infection means the wine is un-salvageable and that you should cut your losses and dispose of the wine. Hopefully, this is not the case.

 

Another blog post that may help you with your cloudy wine is “Clearing A Cloudy Wine…“. This is about another fellow winemaker with similar problems to what your are describing.

Hope this information helped you out. Best wishes and happy wine making,
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.

A Simple Guide To Brewing With Adjunct Grains

Rolled Brewing AdjunctsIn 1516, Reinheitsgebot, also known as the German Beer Purity Law, was put into effect. To alleviate competition between producers of barley, wheat, and rye, it limited beer ingredients to only barley, water, and hops (yeast hadn’t been discovered yet!). Though some brewers choose to brew within these strict guidelines, many prefer to experiment and use more than just barley in their brews.

There are many styles of beer that require grains other than malted barley, including certain styles of Belgian Ale, English Ale, and yes, even German beers. The grains used in these beers are often referred to as adjunct grains:

  • Wheat – Wheat is mandatory brewing adjunct if you want to brew your own Hefeweizen or American Wheat Beer. E.C. Kraus carries Red Wheat Malt, White Wheat Malt, and Wheat Malt Extract to lend your homebrew wheat flavor and body. Use 50-75% wheat malt in your grain bill for Weizenbier, or 1-2% to help head retention in any beer style.
  • Rye – Want to brew your own Rye Pale Ale or German Roggenbier? Briess Rye Malt contributes a unique, spicy and grainy flavor reminiscent of bourbon. You’ll want to use this brewing adjunct grain sparingly, as rye has a tendency to stick together in the mash kettle. You’ll rarely see more than 10-20% of malted rye in a grain bill (3.7° Lovibond). Another option is Flaked Rye, which gives the crisp, dry rye flavor, but with more body and more extractable sugar than malted rye.
  • OatsShop Brewing Kettles –  If you want to brew an Oatmeal Porter or Oatmeal Stout, you have to use oats! Regular, unmalted, whole-grain oats contribute flavor and head retention to your brew, but not much fermentable sugar. Flaked Oats are pre-gelatinized to make their starches accessible as fermentable sugar, but they’ll also do wonders for head retention and body. Oats are often included in some Belgian beers, such as the ever popular Witbier.
  • Corn – Corn, or maize, when used as a brewing adjunct must be cooked, then mashed with barley malt to extract fermentable sugars. Flaked Corn is pre-gelatinized, making starches accessible, and can be added directly to the mash. Corn adds essentially no color to beer, but contributes some sweet, corn flavor. It’s primarily used in American Light Lagers, certain Pre-Prohibition style beers, and traditional South American chicha.
  • Rice – Rice, usually in the form of rice syrup, is often added to American Light Lagers in place of malted barley because it’s cheap and doesn’t contribute much flavor or color. Flaked Rice accomplishes the same task, resulting in a dry, crisp beer. Rice Hulls are often added to brews made with a lot of wheat or rye to avoid a stuck mash.

Certainly, there are other brewing adjunct grains that you could play around with and put in their beer, but this list comprises the majority of what you’ll find called for in home brewing recipes.

What is your favorite adjunct grain you like to use in your beers?
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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.

Raising the Specific Gravity of a Wine With Sugar Syrup

Sugar syrup for raising specific gravityI have a question! After making a sugar-syrup, how much of it do I use to raise 5 gallons of wine? I mean how much does the S.G. [Specific Gravity, hydrometer reading] go up say per cup added? Thanks for any help.

Name: Thomas R.
State: New York (Long Island)
—–
Hello Thomas,

Raising the specific gravity of a wine with sugar syrup is perfectly fine. It’s a great way to get the S.G. up to where you need it to be when making a fruit wine or even a grape wine the just needs a little boost.

Knowing how much sugar syrup add to the wine to get from point A to point B on a hydrometer scale would be great to know ahead of time, but to do this you need to know the specific gravity of the sugar syrup. Not a sugar syrups are the same.

You can use a wine hydrometer to determine the specific gravity of the sugar syrup you’ve made. Just put the hydrometer in a sample of the syrup, just like you would when testing your wine. If the reading goes off the scale, you can still get a reading. Just add an equal amounts of water and sugar syrup in a sample. Then take a gravity reading and times it by two.

As an example, let’s say after you added equal parts of water and sugar syrup, you get a reading of 1.150. That would mean that the sugar syrup’s “actual” S.G. is 1.300. You double the “gravity” part of your reading, because you cut the sugar syrup by half.Shop Hydrometers

Once you know the S.G. of the sugar syrup, raising the specific gravity of your wine with sugar syrup is easy. It’s all just math.

Let’s say you want to add 6 ounce of sugar syrup that has an specific gravity of 1.300 to a gallon of wine:

A gallon of wine has 128 fluid ounces in it. You want to add 6 more fluid ounces of sugar syrup for a new total of 134 ounces. Now you need to spread the gravity of (300 times 6) over the 134 ounces (128 + 6). So it is (300 X 6) divided by 134. That equals 13.44. Let me shorten it up:

(Gravity of Syrup * Ounces of Syrup Per Gallon)/(128 + Ounces of Syrup Per Gallon) = Rise in S.G.
or
(300 * 6)/(128 + 6) = 13.44

What this means is that if you are raising the specific gravity of a wine with a sugar syrup that has a specific gravity reading of 1.300, and you add 6 fluid ounces of that syrup to each gallon of homemade wine, then the specific gravity of that homemade wine would be raised by 13.44 points on the gravity scale. For example, if the wine has a specific gravity of 1.060, the new reading would be 1.07344. You could round it to 1.073.Shop Conical Fermenter

Hope this helps you out. Just plug the numbers into the equation as needed and you’ll know ahead the results with raising the specific gravity of a wine with sugar syrup.

There is also another blog post that is somewhat related to this subject that I’d thought you might be interested in: “Controlling Your Wine’s Alcohol“.

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.

A Quick Guide To Dry Hopping Your Beers

Dry Hopping A BeerDry hopping is a popular technique for adding a burst of hop aroma to beer. Basically, all you do is add hops during the secondary fermentation. Because the hops aren’t boiled, they won’t contribute much bitterness (IBUs) to your beer. Dry hopping your beer can lend desirable pine, grapefruit, citrus, or floral aromas, depending on the hop variety you use.

Many popular American craft beers are dry hopped, especially pale ales and IPAs. Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo Extra IPA, makes use of a hop back, or torpedo as they call it, which circulates conditioning beer through a stainless steel vessel packed with whole cone hops.

But don’t let complicated brewing equipment intimidate you — dry hopping your beer at home is easy!

When should I add the dry hops?
The most convenient time to dry hop is when transferring from primary to secondary fermentation. Hops can be added at any time during the secondary fermentation, but for best results, they should have at least a few days to work their magic.

What variety of hops should I use for dry hopping?
Hops with low alpha-acids, usually referred to as “aroma hops”, are best suited for dry hopping. Examples of aroma hops include:

Shop HopsShould I use pellets, plugs or whole leaf for dry hopping?
It is best to do your dry hopping with pellets as opposed to whole leaf hops. Due to the processing involved in producing hop pellets, the aromatic oils are more accessible. They’re also a little easier to separate from the beer than whole leaf hops.

How much hops should I use?
A good range to stick with is 1/4 to 2 ounces of hops for a 5 gallon batch, though I think some hop aficionados are prone to adding more.

Will adding hops contaminate my brew?
If you’re worried about contamination you could briefly steam the hops before adding them to the fermenter, but most will agree that the alcohol present in your beer after primary fermentation will protect it against bacteria.

What about straining the hops?
Regardless of how you go about dry hopping your beer, the hops will need to be strained from the beer one way or another

  • DIY screen – You can try attaching a sanitized screen to the bottom of your racking cane when siphoning the beer from the secondary fermenter. An auto-siphon, which makes life much easier for the homebrewer, has a tip that won’t let much through, you could tie a sanitized hops bag around the bottom for some added filtering.
  • Put the hops in small mesh hop bagShop Wort Chillers – Placing the hops in a hop bag before even adding them to the beer is probably the easiest option. A brewer in this forum recommends tying dental floss to the bag for easy removal – you’ll probably want to use unflavored floss, unless you’d like a little mint or cinnamon flavor in your brew!
  • Cold crashing – Dropping the temperature on your secondary fermentation will help the hops settle out to the bottom of the fermenter, making it easier to siphon beer into a bottling bucket or keg without pulling along a lot of hops material.

Hopefully, this information will help you out. Just remember that the best way to go about dry hopping is to use hop pellets in the secondary fermentation. Use somewhere around 1/4 to 2 ounces, and stick with a variety of hops that is big on aroma and low in bitterness.

Have you tried dry hopping your beer? How did it turn out?
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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.

Can You Age Wine In A Refrigerator?

We purchased a refrigerator to store our wine in, but the temp. is 47 degrees.  We cannot get the refrigerator to go any higher… Is that too cold to age wine?

Darlene
—–
Hello Darlene,

Thank you for this great question.

You are correct in assuming that temperature does make a difference when aging wine. But having said this, most home winemakers store their wine at room temperature or basement temperature and do perfectly fine. But if you want to try aging your wine in a refrigerator, it is possible under certain situations.

Temperature affects a wine by changing how fast or slow it ages. The cooler the temperature, the slower it will age. The warmer the temperature, the faster it will age.

Aging is critical to a wine. It is the time when a series of enzymatic activities occur that cause a wine to become more pleasant. It will have better body structure, a fruitier bouquet, and more complex, layered flavors. So you’d think that you would want your wine to age faster so that it could taste better sooner, but this is really not the case. While wine does get better with age, there is also a life-cycle that needs to be consider.

A wine will typically improve for a period of time, then somewhat plateau in its improvement. Eventually, there will come a time when the wine will start to degrade in quality at a very, very slow pace. It will start to become flabby, lifeless, then eventually, unacceptable to drink. So while warmer temperature will cause the wine to become better sooner, it will also shorten its lifespan.

A wine may plateau in quality in 6 months. Other wines might take 6 years. A lot of this has to do with the wine itself, and of course, the temperature at which it is being stored. Its body, flavor and structure all play a role in determining how long a life-cycle the wine will have.

Just how high a wine will plateau in quality is up to the wine, but how fast and long it stays at this plateau is up to the keeper of the wine and the temperature they decide at which to store the wine.

Buy Temp ControllerAll of the above applies equally to commercially made and homemade wines. Most wine experts agree that 55°F. is a good temperature to stay with when aging wine for the long hall. This means that aging your wine in a refrigerator may not be practical for you, but it would not be a disaster to do so. It just may take longer than what is practical for the wine to age.

One way to ultimately resolve this issue is to purchase a power-interrupt thermostat. This is an item that is put in between the refrigerator plug and the wall outlet. It has a probe that goes inside the refrigerator to monitor temperature. Once the refrigerator temperature reaches the setting on the thermostat it will interrupt the power. I would almost call this a necessity for anyone who is planning on aging wine in a refrigerator.

Happy Wine Making,
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.

Style Guide: Brewing An American IPA

American IPAMany craft beer aficionados have heard the story about where the name “India Pale Ale” (or IPA’s) comes from. In short, to supply the colony in India, British breweries made ales with increased amounts of hops, taking advantage of the plant’s antimicrobial properties to ensure that the beer would survive the long trip. The American version of the IPA is more robust than the English version and also uses American-grown ingredients. But before I get into to brewing an American IPA, I’d like to share a little more about some of the history behind the style.

I recently picked up Ray Daniels’ book, Designing Great Beers, and learned a couple interesting tidbits about pale ales and IPAs. First, that pale ales were a product of the Industrial Revolution. The advent of steel allowed British maltsters to build better kilns, which gave them increased control over their product, which in turn made pale malts possible. Secondly, that these pale ales were considered beers for high society, while the lower classes stuck with the dark beers, like stouts and porters.

I found this quote, from 1934, to give an interesting perspective on the popularity of the style:

“[The India Pale Ale] is carefully fermented so as to be devoid of all sweetness, or in other words to be dry; and it contains double the usual quantity of hops; it therefore, forms a most valuable restorative beverage for invalids and convalescents.”

I don’t know about you, but I always feel better after an IPA! Now, back to brewing!

The BJCP Style Guidelines give us some parameters for brewing the American IPA (style 14B). The overall impression of the beer should be “an American version of the historical English style, brewed using American ingredients and attitude.” Whatever you do, don’t forget the attitude!

Here are the more easily measurable characteristics for an American IPA:

  • IBUs: 40-70Shop Conical Fermenter
  • Color (SRM): 6-15
  • OG: 1.056-1.075
  • FG: 1.010-1.018
  • ABV: 5.5-7.5%

Now, let’s look at some of the specific ingredients you might use for brewing your own American IPA:

Grain Bill

  • All-Grain: Start with a well-modified US 2-Row Malt for the base of your grain bill (70% or so). Then use 1-2 pounds of Crystal Malt (20-40L) for color and caramel malt flavor. If you want, try a little (up to 5%) of Munich, Vienna, or Biscuit Malt for added complexity.
  • Extract: If brewing with extract, use light or pale malt extracts and consider steeping some crystal malt for flavor and color. Consider the Muntons Connoisseur Kit Type India Pale Ale kit, which contains malt extract that has already been hopped.

Hops

  • An American IPA should be brewed with US-grown hop varieties. Consider using Cascade, Centennial, Columbus, Chinook, and/or Willamette. Use 1-2 ounces during the boil for each of your bittering, flavor, and aroma additions. For increased hop aroma, dry-hop your beer by adding an ounce or two of hop pellets to the secondary fermenter.

Yeast

  • Use a classic American ale yeast, such as Safale US-05 or Wyeast’s #1056 American Ale. American IPAs should have a “neutral” fermentation character, so be sure to keep the fermentation temperatures within the acceptable range for your chosen yeast strain.

Shop Home Brew Starter KitFollow the above guidelines and profiles for brewing an American IPA, and you’ll have a beer that is tasty and to style. What’s your favorite IPA? Do you have an American IPA recipe you’d like to share in the comments below?

Til next time…Cheers!
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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.