Mead Making Tips From Michael Fairbrother

Mead Making Tips From Michael FairbrotherThe BeerSmith blog featured a video interview back in 2015 that had some very good insights to making mead. It was with the founder of Moonlight Meadery, Michael Fairbrother, how to brew your own mead. As I’m planning on making my first mead, I thought I’d share some of the mead making tips I learned from the video.

Below are some of Michael’s key mead making tips. There’s enough clear-cut information here that you will be able to create your own mead recipe:

 

Water

  • Use clean, filtered, or reverse osmosis water for your mead.

 

Honey

  • Use fresh, non-pasteurized honey whenever possible for best flavor. See the honey locator at honey.com to find fresh, raw honey near you!
  • Different honeys have different flavors: tupelo honey tends to be spicy, and citrus honey might have notes of orange.
  • Michael recommends using cranberry, blueberry, blackberry, and avocado honeys, among others.
  • Michael does not recommend buckwheat or heather honey, as these tend to be heavy.
  • Michael suggests a honey to water ratio of 25:75 for a semi-sweet mead. Use more honey for a sweeter mead, less honey for a drier mead.Shop Wine Yeast

 

Yeast

  • One of Michaels biggest mead making tips is do not use champagne yeast.
  • Michael uses Lalvin 71B wine yeast for all of his meads.
  • Pitch about 1 gram of yeast per gallon for a healthy fermentation.

 

Equipment

If you’re a homebrewer or winemaker, you probably already have all the equipment you need for making mead.

  • Use a fermenting bucket for primary fermentation. It’s easier to stir the must and helps prevent some kind of blow-off situation.
  • After primary fermentation, move the mead to a carboy and minimize headspace.Shop Fermenter

 

Yeast Nutrients

  • Always rehyrdate your yeast nutrient in a pint of water.
  • For best results, divide your yeast nutrient by four and pitch it four times during primary fermentation: at 0, 24, 48, and 72 hrs into fermentation. This will help the mead develop more quickly.

 

Fermentation

  • Primary fermentation – Michael usually lets his mead sit for three months before racking to a secondary fermenter.
  • Ferment at about 62°F. This is one of Fairbrother’s favorite mead making tips. The cooler temperature will result in a longer fermentation, but with a cleaner tasting mead.

 

AdditivesShop Bentonite

  • Michael recommends using bentonite or a wine filter to get good clarity.
  • Sulfites or sorbates can be used to keep the mead stable after fermentation.
  • Flavorings – Moonlight’s most popular mead is made with apple, honey, cinnamon, and vanilla.
    • Fruit – Adding fruit to a mead makes a melomel. The fruit is typically added right at the beginning, though it can be added to the secondary as well.
    • Spices – Add spices to your mead to make a metheglin. Add the spices during secondary fermentation. Taste the mead throughout the secondary fermentation and rack the mead to another fermenter when the balance tastes right. This may be just a few days for some of the more aggressive spices.

 

Shop Mini Jet Wine FilterResources

These are great mead making tips for the beginner. You can also fine more information in the book Mead Making, available in the E. C. Kraus web store.

Are you a fan of making mead? What kinds of honey do you use, and what is your favorite style of mead to make?  Do you have any mead making tips? Or, maybe a mead recipe you’d like to share?

—–

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

The Benefits Of Wine Kits vs Fresh Grapes

Wine Kits vs Fresh GrapesWhat is the going opinion of making wine with fresh grapes and crushing them, as opposed to using a wine kit? Is one better than the other by default, or would you say either method can produce excellent or horrible results?

Phil B. – TN
_____

Hello Phil,

Thanks for bringing up this great question about wine kits vs fresh grapes. It’s a question we get from time to time, so I’ll be more than happy to answer it here…

Whether you are making wine from grapes or making wine from kits the quality of the wine starts with the quality of the grapes. There is an adage in the wine making industry that says:

“You can never make a wine that is
better than the grapes used to make it.”

 

What this means is that you’ll never make great wine out of poor wine grapes. The quality of the wine always starts with the quality of the grapes.

When making wine from fresh grapes the individual winemaker usually has a limited selection of grapes to choose from. Quality can suffer when dealing in the take-it-or-leave-it type of market that often arises for the home winemaker.

The quality of grapes that you will find in wine kits varies from good to outstanding. It is not in the interest of these kit producers to spend their time preparing and packaging poor wine grapes. It doesn’t make economic sense, so great care is taken to locate and acquire grapes that are above average quality.Shop Wine Kits

This is one of the major advantages to using a wine kit vs fresh grapes. You are able to rely on the wine kit producer’s expertise in selecting quality grapes. So on the whole you’ll be starting with a better quality grape when using a wine kit than when obtaining grapes on your own. Of coarse, there are always exceptions. Living near a grape growing mecca such as Napa can turn this point on its head, but for most home winemakers, this is a consideration that should be given some weight.

We offer an array of different brands of wine kits. As you go up the ladder in price, the finer your selection of grape – starting with our California Connoisseur wine kits which produces fine, everyday drinking wines on up to our Cellar Craft Showcase wine kits which features specially selected grapes from specific wine regions around the world. Currently, there are over 150 grape juices, and they’re available all throughout the year.

How much you spend depends on the level of taste. Some people are completely happy with the California Connoisseur wine kits and could not tell a difference even if they did choose a more expensive kit. For others, the California Connoisseur simply would not do. How far up the ladder one goes is very much a personal choice.

Shop FermenterUnfortunately, quality grapes do not guarantee a stellar wine, it’s just the first requirement necessary to get there. Between the grapes and the wine bottle is a whole host of other factors such as: acidity, alcohol, sweetness, etc.

Making wine from a wine kit alleviates you from these variables. This is because all these factors have already been taken care of for you by the wine kit producers. They balance the acidity, sugar content and many other features such as clarification and oak treatment to match the typical character of the wine you are making. By eliminating as many variables as possible they are helping to insure that you will make a remarkable wine every time. This is a very valuable benefit of using wine kits vs fresh grapes – especially for the beginner.

Now having said this, I understand completely that we are talking about a hobby, and for some, part of the hobby is the passion that goes into the picking, the crushing, the pressing, and so forth. I get that. And if this is you, I completely support your efforts to make wine from the dirt to the wine bottle. I’m just trying to bring total objectivity to the consideration of using wine kits vs fresh grapes.

Shop Wine Making KitsSo while both wine kits and fresh grapes holds their own rewards, by starting with a wine you are virtually eliminating any chance of producing a bad wine. Add to that the incredible selection that is now available to the home winemaker and it starts to become apparent that a wine kit is the way to go for the beginner.

I hope this covers all your questions and curiosities about wine kits vs fresh grapes. Please realize that regardless of which path you decide to take, we will be more than happy to help you in any way you need.

Best Wishes,
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.

Tasty! Oktoberfest Beer Recipe (Extract and All-Grain)


Oktoberfest BeerBelieve it or not, summer is coming to a close and fall is quickly approaching. It’s time to celebrate the bounty of the growing season and get ready for the brewing season ahead. That’s where these Oktoberfest beer recipes come in!

The first Oktoberfest was held in 1810 to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese. Since then, the Oktoberfest in Munich has grown, attracting some 6 million visitors every year, and now holds the title of the world’s largest fair. The tradition has spread throughout Germany, and into the US and other parts of the world.

Here’s a little about the Oktoberfest beer style. Contrary to what the name implies, Oktoberfest actually begins in September. Oktoberfest beer is technically a Märzen, an amber lager brewed in March to be stockpiled through the summer. At the Oktoberfest celebration, all remaining Märzen would be consumed prior to the beginning of the new brewing season. Today, only a handful of Munich breweries are allowed to serve beer at Oktoberfest and dub their brews “Oktoberfestbier”.

To brew an authentic Märzen or Oktoberfestbier, it should be lagered, or stored at colder temperatures to develop a smooth flavor. My very first home brew recipe kit was a German Oktoberfest beer recipe. Even though I wasn’t able to lager it, you can bet I drank every last drop. If you can’t lager your Oktoberfest, don’t worry – you can still make a delicious Oktoberfestbier!

The following two Oktoberfest beer recipes are suitable for any level of brewer:

 

Oktoberfest Beer Recipe (Extract)

Shop Steam Freak KitsInstructions: This simple extract recipe comes from the E. C. Kraus beer recipe database. Either steep the specialty grains at around 150°F as you heat the brewing water, or perform a partial-mash following these directions.

Batch Size: 5 Gallons
Recipe Type: Partial Mash
Approx. Original Gravity: 1.053
Total Boil Time: 35 min.
Est. IBU: 24-26

Fermentables:
6.6 lbs. Steam Freak Munich LME

Specialty Grains:
8 oz. Carapils® Malt
8 oz. Caramel (Crystal) Malt 40°L

Hops:
1.00 oz. Pelletized Mt. Hood Hops (35 min. Boil Time)
1.00 oz. Pelletized Hallertau Hops (15 min. Boil Time)

Yeast:
Lallemand’s Munich

Bottling:
5 oz. Priming Sugar (Corn Sugar)
52 Bottle Caps

 

Oktoberfest Beer Recipe (All-Grain)

Shop FerMonsterHere, I’ve adapted the beer recipe above for all-grain brewing. If you can’t lager your beer, do your best to keep fermentation temperatures low and under control.

Batch Size: 5 Gallons
Recipe Type: All Grain
Approx. Original Gravity: 1.053
Total Boil Time: 35 min.
Est. IBU: 24-26

Fermentables:
5 lbs. Briess Munich Malt
5 lbs. Briess Pilsen Malt
8 oz. Carapils® Malt
8 oz. Caramel (Crystal) Malt 40°L

Hops:
1.00 oz. Pelletized Mt. Hood Hops (35 min. Boil Time)
1.00 oz. Pelletized Hallertau Hops (15 min. Boil Time)

Yeast:
Lallemand’s Munich

Bottling:
5 oz. Priming Sugar (Corn Sugar)
52 Bottle Caps

Shop FermentersInstructions: Mash the grains at 154°F for 45 minutes. Raise to 170°F and sparge, drawing off 5.5 gallons of wort. Boil 60 minutes, adding hops at the times listed above. Remove from heat, cool, and pitch yeast. If possible, do a primary fermentation at 55-60°F for two weeks, then lager for one month or longer at 40°F.

Do you have a Oktoberfest beer recipe you’d like to share? It doesn’t matter the recipe can extract, partial mash or all grain. What’s your favorite commercially made Oktoberfest beer? Sam Adams? Do you have a clone Oktoberfest beer recipe for that? Share below!
—–
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.

If You Have Sediment In Your Wine Bottles, Don’t Cry!

Crying Over Sediment In Wine BottlesSediment has long been an inconvenient reality for the home winemaker – one that if not dealt with properly can lead to sediment at the bottom of your wine bottles. It’s enough to make a grown man cry. But if one takes the proper precautions they can guarantee that such a flaw does not happen to their precious wines. Here’s how to stop sediment in wine bottles.

Sediment is something that occurs during the fermentation, and it is something that can still accumulate even after the fermentation has completed. Most of the sediment is yeast cells that have given their life to the cause. A smaller percentage is fiber and other proteins from the fruit, whether the wine be made from grapes or grapefruit.

The savvy winemaker knows that the wine needs to be transferred off the sediment once the fermentation begins to slow down. Transferring the wine is a process called racking. The first racking is to get the majority of the sediment out of the way, but the winemaker also knows that more sediment will be on the way, and that additional rackings will be necessary. With each progressive racking the wine will slowly becomes clearer and clearer.

This is all well and good, but the big question here is, how does the winemaker know when the sediment formation is done? When will it be okay to bottle? Do they just wait until the wine looks clear enough?

For most, it is a simple matter of watching and observing. If the wine is racked off the sediment into a clean secondary fermenter, such as a carboy, and no new sediment is created at the bottom, then one can reasonably deduce that all the sediment that is going to occur has done so. The wine looks clear; no more sediment; time to bottle the wine!

Most of the time this approach will result in a spectacular wine – one that is brilliantly clear and one with no sediment at the bottom in the wine bottles. But from time to time there will be that particular batch that mysteriously comes up with even more sediment after the wine has been bottled.

The wine looks perfect, beautiful, worthy of being shared with family and friends. Then a month or two later you go to the wine rack to pull another bottle only to find that sediment has somehow formed.

What caused this? Can I get rid of it? Is my wine ruined? How do I stop sediment from occurring in my wine bottles? These are all valid questions and questions I will answer here:

 

Is My Wine Ruined?
First, your wine is not ruined. Having sediment at the bottom of your wine bottles is the result of something falling out of the wine. It has nothing to do with a spoilage. If it were a contamination issue you would typically see a growth at the top, near the air-pocket in the wine bottle. Molds, bacteria and other little nasties need oxygen to grow and tend to form near it.

 

What Caused The Sediment?
There are three main reasons for having sediment at the bottom of your wine bottles:

 

  • You bottled the wine too soon
    This is by far the most common reason for sediment in wine bottles. It is possible for a homemade wine to look reasonably clear and still have some sediment to give. The last stuff to fall out from the fermentation is the finest of particles – as fine as flour. The heavier particles fall out sooner. Each one of these individual particle cannot be seen with the naked eye, but in numbers they can add a murkiness to the wine. Sometimes the murkiness is so slight as to go unnoticed. The best way to make sure that all the particles from the fermentation have settled is to use a wine clarifier or fining agent. A wine clarifier will collect and drag out the particles in a quicker, more efficient manner. Another thing you can do is be more patient. When you rack the wine into a fresh carboy, give it plenty of time to show the presence of sediment: two weeks, even a month. Sometimes more time is all that is needed.
  • Potassium bitartrate crystals are forming  
    Shop Mini Jet Wine FilterPotassium bitartrate is essentially tartaric acid that is crystallizing and then falling out of the wine. This most commonly occurs with grape wines that are made from actual fresh grapes. And, it is more common in white wines than reds. Grapes are high in tartaric acid. It’s the most abundant acid found in a grape. Sometimes there is more tartaric acid in the wine than the wine can hold in solution. The result is the formation of bitartrate crystals, sometimes referred to as wine diamonds. These are very tiny crystals that resembles salt. They form out of thin air, so to speak. It is important to note that the cooler the wine is the less tartaric acid the wine can hold. So It is possible for a brilliantly clear wine to form these crystals months later as cooler weather comes about. To combat this from happening, many wineries will chill the newly made wine so as to cause the crystals to form before bottling, making the wine cold stable. As a home winemaker, if you are making wine from grapes it would not be a bad idea to chill the wine down for a week or two before bottling to allow the opportunity for any potassium bitartrate crystals to form that can. To help entice the process even further you can add Cream of Tartar to the wine. This is the stuff you can buy at the spice rack at the store. Only a tiny amount is need: 1/4 teaspoon to 5 gallons is plenty. This will potentially set off a chain reaction of crystal formation.
  • Protein is dropping out of the wine   
    Much like excessive tartaric acid can drop out of a wine as tiny crystals, excessive protein can drop out of a wine as a dust or powdery-looking substance. Most of the protein is in the form on tannins. These tannins can start to form deposits months after the wine has been cleared and bottled. It is when a bottle of wine becomes slightly warmer that you can sometimes see them start to form and settle. You can sometimes observe this even in commercially made wine. It shows up as a dark, dusty sediment deposit at the bottom of the wine bottle. This is the least common reason for having sediment at the bottom of your wine bottles. Most homemade wines will not have excessive protein, but it does happen. It is most common in red wines, whether it be from grape or fruit. It is often the result of the fruit being over processed or left in the fermentation too long. It can also be from storing the wine at too warm of a temperature.Bentonite Fining Agent For Clearing Wine. One way to help prevent this instability from arising is to treat the wine with bentonite. This is a clarifier that is very effective in removing significant amounts of protein from a wine. It is routinely used by wineries after the fermentation to drop out the yeast more quickly.

 

Can I Get Rid Of The Sediment?
There is no magical way to get rid of any sediment you may find a the the bottom of your wine bottles.

It is possible to re-bottle a wine. You can decant the bottles of wine back into a common vessel; allow the wine a few days to clear; and then re-bottle. But, this treatment has a downside by way of excessive air exposure. The wine can become oxidized if one is not extremely careful. It will be important to treat the wine with potassium metabisulfite upon decanting and again before re-bottling. This will help to drive out oxygen that has saturated into the wine during decanting. It will also help to keep the wine fresh and free of spoilage.

Potassium MetabisulfiteIn reality, the best path for this type of wine fault is one of prevention. Do things things that will help stop sediment from occurring in the wine bottles: give the wine plenty of time to clear; use bentonite routinely; if you can, chill your grape wines; don’t over macerate your fruit; and don’t leave it in the fermentation too long – 3 to 6 days is plenty. If you do these simple things, having sediment in your wine bottles should never be an issue.

If you do discover that you do have sediment at the bottom of your wine bottles, you will be happy to know that it does not affect the wine’s flavor or character in any negative way. In fact, the wine will usually improve after such an occurrence. It is primarily an issue of esthetics. Who wants to share a wine with sediment at the bottom?

That being said, if you keep the wine to yourself, no harm, no foul. Carefully pour the wine into your glass. When you get to the bottom of the bottle, dump the little last down the drain. Problem solved!

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

Homebrew Experiment: Adding Gypsum To Beer To Affect Flavor?

Adding Gypsum To BeerI recently dove head on into the world of water treatments for homebrewing. I’ve always made changes to my brewing water to control mash pH, but I decided it was time to look at water from a historical/regional perspective to see exactly how does gypsum affect beer flavor. Gypsum, also known as calcium sulfate, is a major component in many of the brewing water profiles used around the world. But, does adding gypsum to beer really make a difference in flavor?

Let’s back up for a moment to review one of the ways water and its mineral content, or hardness, can impact your homebrew’s flavor. Different regions of the world have different mineral compositions in their brewing water supply. These differences can be significant. Just look at the levels (ppm) of these common minerals in Burton-on-Trent (UK) vs. Plzn:

 

Burton-on-Trent

Plzen

Calcium

294

7

Carbonate

200

15

Chloride

36

5

Magnesium

24

2

Sodium

24

2

Sulfate

800

5

 

In these two examples, it’s believed that the high sulfate water of Burton-on-Trent led to the development of bitters and pale ales, whereas the soft water of Plzen in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) was suited to the creation of crisp, clean lagers. Homebrewers have the ability to mimic regional brewing water profiles by adding gypsum to beer along with others such as calcium carbonate.
Having just brewed and English Bitter, I was curious how a Burton brewing water profile might affect the flavors in the beer. After doing some research, I came across an experiment to help gauge the effects of a mineral salt on a beer. It goes like this:Shop Gypsum

 

  1. Prepare concentrated solutions using the mineral salt in question. For my test, I’m using gypsum. I started with filtered or distilled water and add measured amounts of the salt in one-gram increments into 500ml or 1L volumes of water.
  1. Measure out equal beer samples. Be sure to use a consistent volume and record it in your notes.
  1. Add 1 ml of each solution to the different samples. After doing the first round of taste tests, you might try adjusting the concentration of the solution.
  1. Take notes on how the flavor changes and find your ideal adjustment. Be sure to have some water and possibly some unsalted, relatively bland crackers or bread between each sample to cleanse your palate.
  1. Calculate how much salt would be needed for a full volume batch of beer.

 

So how did my experiment go? Did adding gypsum to beer affect its flavor?

Initially, the concentration of gypsum I was adding to the beer was too low to make any difference. I started with a 1 gram gypsum/500 mL water solution. Adding 1 mL of said solution to a 125 mL sample of beer only increased the effective concentration of by 1.6 ppm – an imperceptible change for my palate. As you can see, it would take a very concentrated amount of gypsum/water solution to simulate the Burton water profile. What I ended up doing was stirring about .5 gram of gypsum into a .5 L sample of beer to come close to the level of Burton water in the English bitter. Using this concentration of gypsum absolutely affected the beer’s flavor. The hops went from a background bitterness to a full floral sensation that covered the whole mouth. I will definitely use more gypsum in future pale ales.

Shop Digital pH MeterUsing the method above you can begin to get a stronger understanding of how to adjust your brewing water. Just remember different salts affect beers in different ways, and different styles may lend themselves to different mineral concentrations. Experiment, test, record your results!

While the above experiment does give us some ideas as to how adding gypsum to beer affects its flavor, it does leaves some questions. In particular, how does mashing and boiling the hard, gypsum-infused water throughout the brewing process affect the perception of different flavors?

What is your take on the subject? 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 of the Local Beer Blog.

The Power of Blending Homemade Wines

Person Blending WinesI have been following your blog for some time and find it very helpful. I have a question about blending wines. I am an amateur winemaker starting with grapes and moving on to fruit wines. I recently made about 3 gallons of semi-dry red raspberry wine from frozen raspberries that came out very nice but intensely full of flavor. My wife describes it as “almost wanting to pick the seeds out of your teeth”. Although it has a very nice finished wine I am thinking of blending a portion with other wines. I have a young peach that I will experiment with in a small batch but not sure about peaches and raspberry. What I am wondering is if you have any suggestions in blending this with a commercial wine such as a Riesling or a chardonnay.

Name: Ray S.
State: Connecticut
—–
Hello Ray,

Blending homemade wines is a very subjective endeavor, but one that can improve a wine that is out of balance in some way. In a nutshell, you need to find a wine that is on the opposite end of the scale of the fault you are trying to fix, and then figure out how much of that wine you need to add to fix your wine’s fault. This is what blending wine at home is all about. It’s a technique for making 1 + 1 = 3.

In the case of your raspberry wine, it sounds like the flavor is too intense in some way. This usually means that the wine is too acidic. That would be my guess, but don’t let me tell you what is at issue. Think it through.

Citric acid is the primary acid in raspberries and would make the wine too sharp or tart tasting, particularly if the fruit used to make the wine happened to be too tart, or if too much raspberry was used.

Shop Grape ConcentrateIf the wine is too puckering or has a dry bitterness or astringency as opposed to sharp or tart flavor, this is usually from too much tannin in the wine. This can happen when the fruit is over processed or left in the fermentation too long. The tannin is in the fibers of the fruit. When the fruit is over macerated – like when using a blender – too much tannin releases causing the wine to be puckering or bitter.

When blending homemade wines it’s up to you to make the determination of what really is the fault, and then after doing so, choosing a wine to blend that has the opposite characteristics.

From what you have said, I would venture a guess that you should blend your wine with something along the lines of an apple or pear wine. These wines do not have a lot of flavor and are not all that tart or astringent. This is because the primary acid in these wines is malic as opposed to citric. This is a fruit acid that is not nearly as sharp on the tongue. These wine’s also tend to have lower levels of tannin than most. The resulting effect would be that the intensity of the raspberry flavor would be knocked down and and tartness or puckering taste would be marginally neutralized, as well. But having said this you could try any wine that has a light flavor profile.

Regardless of the wine you choose to try, when blending homemade wines the one Shop Fermenterthing I strongly urge you to do is to do test blends first. Don’t pour a whole bottle of wine into your 3 gallons of raspberry and see what you think, but rather, take a measured sample of the raspberry wine and added to it a measured sample of the wine you have chosen to blend. You can even go so far as to have a series of different blending ratios and have someone else do a blind tasting to determine which on is best.

The point here is to be methodical and not whimsical when blending homemade wine. By doing so you increase you chances considerably of ending up with a wine that you can’t wait to drink instead of a wine that you can just tolerate.

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

Controlling Fermentation Temperature Of Your Homebrew

Controlling Fermentation Temperature Of HomebrewThere’s a tendency among homebrewers, myself included, to put an emphasis on recipe development. However, there are many factors beyond the beer recipe which affect the final beer. Just like with cooking, when the chef’s technique and process can have a profound effect on the food, a brewer’s skill and expertise can make or break what might start out as a good recipe.

One of the most important factors affecting a beer is fermentation temperature. There should be some attempt at controlling fermentation temperature. This is because allowing a beer to ferment outside of recommended temperatures can produce undesirable off-flavors, or worse, stop the fermentation, all together.

For example, the hefeweizen yeast strain of beer yeast is know for producing banana and clove flavors that, when in moderation, are desirable for the style. But when the same yeast strain ferments too hot, the banana flavors get produced in excess and result in a banana bomb! This is only one example of why controlling fermentation temperature is important. The same thing can happen with many other beer yeast strains. These flavor and aroma characteristics, called phenols, must be controlled so that they don’t overwhelm your beer.

 

So what’s the right temperature for fermentation?

Generally speaking, ales ferment at a warmer temperature than lagers. Most ale yeasts perform best between 60 and 70°F, while lager yeast tend to work well between about 40 and 50°F. Conditioning post fermentation temperatures may be even lower, in some cases approaching freezing.Shop Carboys

 

So my house is at 70°F – I should be fine to make ales right?

Not exactly. Yeast cells give off heat as they run around consuming all that sugar in your beer. This can raise the fermentation temperature 5-10 degrees above the ambient temperature in the room — and possibly push you out of the comfortable range for your yeast strain. So, controlling fermentation temperature isn’t necessarily about controlling your room thermostat.

 

How to go about controlling fermentation temperature

There are a few techniques for controlling fermentation temperature that are used by homebrewers:

  1. Cold room – Find a room, garage or shed that stays well within the recommended temperature range for the yeast strain you’re using. For this reason, many brewers wait until winter for making certain styles of beer.
  2. Bucket/ice/towelShop Temp ControllerBrewers on a budget can gain some level of temperature control by placing the fermenter in a large container of water and periodically adding ice or frozen water bottles to it. A wet towel or t-shirt can be wrapped around the fermenter to provide a wicking effect. Just like how sweating cools the body, the towel can cool the fermenter.
  3. Fermentation Chamber – This is far and away the best way to control fermentation temperature. You are essentially taking a chest freezer or refrigerator and attaching to it a power interrupt thermostat that can sustain higher temperatures evenly.

 

Additional Tips for Controlling Fermentation Temperature

  • Each beer yeast should be packaged with a recommended temperature range. Do your best to keep your temperature controlled to stay within that range.
  • This said, not everyone will have the ability to get their fermentation temperatures as low as they would like. Beginning Brewers often start with ales because it is easier to ferment ale at room temperature than it is to ferment beers at cooler lager temperatures.Shop Thermometers
  • Some beer yeast strains do better at warmer temperatures and benefit from a certain level of esters and phenolics. If you have trouble getting your fermentation temperatures low, you might want to stick with Belgian styles, as esters and phenolics are generally desirable. I’ve heard of Saison strains working well even into the high 90s.

 

What tips do you have for controlling fermentation temperature?
—–
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.

Easy Spiced Pumpkin Wine Recipe For The Holidays!

Made From Pumpkin Wine RecipeI cannot find anything on how to make pumpkin wine. Can it even be done? If it can how do you have a pumpkin wine recipe you could send me?

Bryant T. — KS
—–
Hello Bryant,

Yes, it is pumpkin time and time for using a pumpkin wine recipe. I thank you for such an appropriate question for this time of the year.

I do not have a pumpkin wine recipe on our website, but I do have one that has been in our archives for years. It’s the best pumpkin wine recipe we’ve ever used. It’s a spiced recipe that is pretty darn easy. I remember making this many years ago. As I recall, it was pretty darn good. If you start it soon, you can have it ready in time to share during the holidays.

This is a 5 gallon pumpkin wine recipe. If you want to make less, just cut all the ingredient proportionately, except for the wine yeast. You always want to use a whole packet – more if you’re making more than 5 gallons.

 

Spiced Pumpkin Wine Recipe
(5 Gallons)

 

To start this wine recipe off you will want to prepare 16 lbs of pumpkin flesh. Scraping it away from the pumpkin’s outer shell should be enough to break it up sufficiently, but if you do have any hunks, you will want to chop them up. The raisins should be coarsely chopped, as well.

Add all the ingredients to 5 gallons of water EXCEPT for the wine yeast. Only add 5 crushed Campden tablets at this point. The other 5 will be added later, when you are bottling the wine. This should be done in an open fermenter. Leave the fermenter open. Only cover with a thin towel, nothing more, for 24 hours. This is to give time for the Campden tablets to sterilize the wine must, then dissipate into the air. After 24 hours, sprinkle on the packet of wine yeast, and you are on your way to making some great tasting pumpkin wine.

Here’s where you can find all the wine making directions you will need to complete this pumpkin wine recipe. Just follow through, step-by-step, and in time you will have a clear pumpkin wine that will be clear and ready to bottle. If you do not have any equipment, you might want to consider the “Your Fruit!” Wine Making Kit. Shop Wine Making Kits

Bryant, thanks again for the timely question. Let us know how this pumpkin wine recipe turns out for you. As I remember it was very enjoyable and perfect for the holidays.

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

Roasted Pumpkin Beer Recipe (All Grain & Partial Mash)

Made From Pumpkin Beer RecipePumpkin beer is a distinctly American creation. Rumor has it that even Thomas Jefferson even had a pumpkin beer recipe he brewed.

As we get into the final days of summer, these popular pumpkin beers start flying off the shelves. But you’re a homebrewer. Why buy someone else’s pumpkin beer when you can brew your own?

The pumpkin beer recipe below uses a number of fall spices and a hefty amount of pumpkin to produce a fairly high-gravity, creamy, sweet, and spicy brew. Just like pumpkin pie in a glass! This pumpkin beer recipe works best as an all-grain or partial mash. You’ll need a kettle as well as a separate mash tun for “stewing” the pumpkin and the grains.

 

Pick a Base Style

Balanced and malt forward beers work best. Porters, ambers, and brown ales make for good base styles. A lager, such as an Oktoberfest could also be interesting. Either pick a Steam Freak ingredient kit or use the pumpkin beer recipe below.

Roasted Pumpkin Ale Recipe:

OG: 1.070
FG: 1.015
ABV: 7.2%
IBUs: 28-32Shop Home Brew Starter Kit

8 lbs. Two-row malt
2 lbs. Munich malt
1 lb. Caramel 60°L
1/2 lb. Victory® malt
8 lbs. Pumpkin, peeled and roasted

1 oz. Northern Brewer hops @ :60
1 oz. Willamette hops @ :10
1 tsp. Irish moss @ :10

1/4 oz. fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 stick cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. nutmeg

English or American Ale yeast (Suggestions: Safale S-04, Safale S-05, Wyeast 1056, Wyeast 1099)

5 oz. corn sugar for priming

Shop Barley Grains

Preparing the Pumpkin

If you’re so inclined, you can use a whole pumpkin in this pumpkin beer recipe. Choose a variety that’s suitable for pumpkin pie, about 10 pounds in size. Clean out the pumpkin, setting aside all the pulp and seeds. Peel the rind from the pumpkin, reserving the meaty flesh. Bake the pumpkin at 350°F for 1 1/4 hours, then mash into a pulp.

If you’re short on time, canned pumpkin will work in a pumpkin beer recipe, too. Leave behind the preservatives and artificial coloring and go with 100% pumpkin.

 

Procedure – All Grain

Using 1 quart of water for every pound of pumpkin and grain, mash the pumpkin with the crushed grains for 60 minutes at 150°F. Sparge with water at 170°F, collecting 5.5 gallons of run-off. Bring to a boil, then add the bittering hops. At the 30 minute mark, add the spices. Add the flavoring and aroma hops according to your beer recipe. At the :10 minute mark, add the Irish moss. Whirlpool, cool, and transfer to a clean, sanitized fermenter. Pitch yeast when the wort reaches 70°F.

Primary fermentation for one week, secondary for two. Prime with corn sugar, then bottle.

 

Procedure – Partial MashShop Hops

Using 1 quart of water for every pound of pumpkin and grain in the pumpkin beer recipe. Mash the pumpkin with the specialty grains at 150°F for 30 minutes. Strain out the pumpkin and the grains, collecting the wort in the brew kettle. Add water (up to about 75% of your brew kettle capacity). Bring wort to a boil, then add the bittering hops. At the 30 minute mark, add spices. Add the flavoring and aroma hops according to your beer recipe. At the :10 minute mark, add the Irish moss. Whirlpool, cool, and transfer to a clean, sanitized fermenter. Pitch yeast when the wort reaches 70°F.

Primary fermentation for one week, secondary for two. Prime with corn sugar, then bottle.

Feeling extra adventurous? Serve the pumpkin beer with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to make a pumpkin beer float!
—–
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.

When To Move Your Wine To A Secondary Fermenter

Showing When To Move Wine To Secondary FermenterI have a couple of questions about using the hydrometer and when to move your wine to a secondary fermenter from primary fermentation and once the wine fermenting is done. As I take readings I am a little confused about when to move wine to secondary fermenter. How long? Is it a certain number of days or are we measuring for a specific reading on the wine hydrometer? On the secondary fermentation, I know you are looking for a reading a specific of 0.995. Is that true?

Terry
_____

Hello Terry,

These are great questions. I’m glad you brought this issue up. It seems like the more you read about when to move wine to a secondary fermenter, the more answers you will find. Everyone seems to have an opinion on how long the fermentation time should be in the primary fermenter and the secondary fermenter, so let’s see if I can solidify an answer to your question. What you are essentially asking is:

 

How do I know when it’s time to move my fermentation into a secondary fermenter, and how do I know when the wine’s done fermenting?

 

A short answer to your question is: you should be following the number of days that are called for in any wine making instructions that you have. Simple as that! If your wine making instructions say to move the fermentation into a secondary fermenter like a wine carboy, etc., then do that. This is your best course of action.Shop Wine Carboys

 

But what if I don’t have instructions to tell me when to move wine to secondary?

Typically, the fermentation will need to be transferred into the secondary fermenter around the 5th day of fermentation. But, not all fermentations are the same. Some ferment so hard and fast, that by the fifth day, the fermentation is completely done. On occasion, others will take much, much longer.

What you are basically doing is transferring the fermentation into secondary when it has slowed down enough so that it won’t foam up and out of the secondary fermenter. This is usually around day 5, or when the wine hydrometer reads 1.030 to 1.020 on the specific gravity scale. This is when to move wine to a secondary fermenter when everything runs normal.

However, there are times when the fermentation is still foaming too much to go into a secondary fermenter, such as a carboy. In these instances you should wait until the foaming lowers enough that it can safely go into the carboy without making a big foamy mess through the air-lock.

Conversely, there are also times when the fermentation is going so slow that it might be 2 or more weeks before the fermentation will reach 1.030 on the hydrometer. In these instances, you must figure out why the fermentation is going so slow. The article,Shop Auto Siphon Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure, that is listed on our website should give you some insight into this.

If after a couple of days you’re attempts to re-invigorating the fermentation are unsuccessful, go ahead and put the fermentation in the secondary fermenter anyway, and let it finish out it’s long, slow journey to becoming wine.

 

To answer the second half of your question…

The only real way to know if a fermentation is complete is to take a reading with wine hydrometer. You are looking for a reading of .998 or less on the specific gravity scale. I’ve seen fermentations end as low as .988, but this is rare.

Most importantly remember, just because the fermentation has stopped bubbling does not necessarily mean the fermentation has completed. All you know for sure is it has stopped, so be sure to have a hydrometer reading to depend on for verification of a complete fermentation.

Shop Transfer PumpsWith all this said, knowing when to move wine into a secondary fermenter is not super-critical to the process. Wine will be made, regardless. The only thing you don’t want to do is to completely forget to move the wine into a secondary at all. You want to keep the wine off of excessive amounts of sediment for extended periods of time. That is the most important aspect of when to move wine to secondary fermentation.

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