Dandelion Wine Recipe: Take Back Your Yard!

Dandelion petals for dandelion wine recipe.How about making some dandelion wine with the dandelion wine recipe below?

Most of the changes that spring brings are well received, like: warmth, sunshine, longer days, but there are a few changes that are not as welcomed. For most, the dreaded dandelion falls into this latter category. That’s why for some, making a bit of dandelion wine might strangely feel like a bit of revenge. Below is a dandelion wine recipe to help exact your revenge.

Dandelion wine is one of those traditional wines that has long served as a symbol of country winemaking – that classic wine creation that comes from the little ol’ winemaker everybody knows. Even though dandelion wine has a deep-rooted past in American culture, there are plenty of home winemakers still making it today and enjoying every bit of it.

So, what does dandelion wine taste like, you ask? This dandelion wine recipe makes a light-bodied wine with a beautiful yellow color. It’s flavors are herbal and muddled with an incredible bouquet that is bright and full of herbs and flowers.

The trick to making a good dandelion wine is to use the dandelion petals, only. Stay away from any of the green. The greens will add a vegetable-like character to the wine that will seem foreign and out of place.Shop Fermenter

Spring is the perfect time to make some dandelion wine, so here’s a 5 gallon dandelion wine recipe to get you going. It’s not that different from other country wine recipes. The types of ingredients are basically the same. A double-shot of nutrient is needed to make up for the lack of nutrients that you would normal get when making a wine from fruit. Plenty of acid blend is need as well for the same reason. Dandelions are not high in nutrients or acid.

You can vary the amount of dandelion petals quite a bit without affecting the rest of the dandelion wine recipe, but as a warning, adding to many petals could give you a wine the has a very hard time aging out into something you’d really want to drink. More petals is not necessarily better. While the wine recipe asks for 6 quarts, you could reasonably go up to 10 quarts.

 

Dandelion Wine Recipe
(Makes 5 Gallons)

 

Making this dandelion wine is pretty straight-forward. You will want to be sure that the dandelions are herbicide and pesticide free. For this reason it is best to pick them from an area you are familiar with. Once you have petals together, you will want to wash them in cold water – remove any ants or other insects – then blanch them by pouring boiling water over them and letting them steep in the water for 5 minutes. Don’t use any more boiling water then necessary. Be sure to use all the water from the blanching in the dandelion wine recipe, itself, as part of the 5 gallons.

Once you’ve gotten this far you can use the 7 Easy Steps To Making Wine as the instructions for making this dandelion wine recipe.

Shop Wine Making KitsAnyone else have a dandelion wine recipe they’d like to share? Just leave it in the comments below!
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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.

Is Homebrewing Art Or Science?

Artist rendition of homebrew.What gets you excited about homebrewing? Is it the art of recipe development? Or the science behind fermentation and mashing? The creativity behind combining malt, hops, and yeast, or the learning that comes from every single batch of beer you make? These are the thoughts that crop up when we ponder the question: Is homebrewing art or science. While some may lean towards either the art or the science side of homebrewing, my guess is that for most of us, we’re drawn to both aspects of the hobby.

 

The Science of Homebrewing

One could spend a lifetime trying to understand the science behind making beer. Indeed, many do. It’s the science side of homebrewing that helps us understand the specific actions that allow four ingredients to combine into a flavorful, alcoholic beverage known as beer.

First, we have the science of water. Not all water is created equal. What is the make-up of your brewing water? Is it pure, like the soft water of the home of Pilsner in the Czech Republic? Or is it hard, like the sulfate-rich water of Burton-on-Trent, homeland of English pale ales. Knowing the mineral content of the water you brew with can help you optimize mashing, fermentation, and flavor.

Shop Malted GrainsHow about the science of malting? Why does grain need to be malted? It’s the malting process that begins to convert the energy in the grain into what will become fermentable sugar and eventually alcohol. Malting also affect the flavor and color of the grain and creates a whole range options that allow beer to be light or dark, sweet or roasty, and everything in between.

The science of hops reveals what makes beer bitter. It helps us understand IBUs and why an IPA stands apart from a pale ale. Understanding hop oils allows us to grasp how beers can taste and smell like citrus, pine, or grapefruit.

Finally, my favorite science of homebrewing, the science of beer yeast, the mysterious microorganism responsible for converting sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide, explains how the other ingredients can magically transform a sugary porridge into an elixir that relaxes the body and soothes the senses.

 

The Art of Homebrewing

Shop HopsBrew masters have a deep understanding of their craft, not only the brewing side of the equation, but also the sensory side. For without understanding the way that flavor can change our mood or remind us of a special memory, brewers would just be shooting in the dark.

Brewers have to understand the flavors that different ingredients bring to a beer. Science can begin to explain flavor, but to fully understand it, a brewer needs experience. They need the vocabulary to describe the flavor, and only experience can help them understand how much is too much. While some scientific measurements (BU/GU) can help to facilitate an understanding of balance, only experience can help brewers develop an inherent knowledge of it.

There is an art to homebrewing – a creativity, but creativity isn’t just haphazardly throwing in whatever ingredients come to mind. The art is in understanding balance. How much hop bitterness is appropriate for a Bohemian pilsner? How much coriander should be used in a Belgian wit? One could easily follow a recipe, but a true artist will know from experience when enough is enough.

And of course there’s an art to the act of brewing. There’s a certain art to learning how and when to transfer beer from one fermenter to another, and a certain art to bottling without losing a drop of beer. Again, the art is improved with experience.

 

Putting It Together Shop Beer Recipe Kits

So, is homebrewing art or science? My approach is that through understanding the science of homebrewing, we begin to develop the artistic skill needed to create truly wonderful beer. This is something that only comes through practice and repetition. Through science with develop our art of homebrewing. John Palmer agrees:

“Brewing is an art as well as a science. Some people may be put off by the technical side of things, but this is a science that you can taste. The science is what allows everyone to become the artist.”

Yes, homebrewing is both an art and a science. The beginning homebrewer may focus on the art of the brewing procedures before getting into the science of different ingredients and techniques. Then maybe combine the two into the art and science behind recipe development. I believe that a large part of this hobby’s appeal is that homebrewing fits so easily into both categories. It’s both.

Shop Home Brew Starter KitWhat’s your take? Do you learn more toward the art of homebrewing or toward the science of homebrewing?

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

How Much Wine Yeast To Use?

Packet Of Wine YeastI completed a wine recipe for 1 gal of Dandelion Wine. My Question is: The packet of wine yeast I received was enough for 5 gals of wine. In my logic I decided to just use on 1/5 of the yeast. I poured all the yeast out on a dish and divided it into 5 equal portions. Then I used just 1/5 of the yeast for my 1 gal of wine. Was this correct? I don’t know how much wine yeast to use.

Thanks,
Bill
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Dear Bill,

Thank you for this great question on how much wine yeast to use. You’ve done what many home winemakers have done. It make perfect sense and is very logical. However, the amount of wine yeast you should use is one whole packet, even if you are just making 1 gallon of wine. There are a couple of reasons for this:

What you are adding to the wine is not an amount of wine yeast as much as you are adding a starting colony of yeast. The wine yeast in the packet represents the minimum number of yeast cells recommend to start a viable, active fermentation, regardless of batch size. When adding a packet of yeast to 5 or 6 gallons of wine, the yeast will typically multiply to around 100 to 150 times what you start with.

In the case of a one gallon batch of wine, the yeast will multiply to many times its original size, but not quite as many times as it does when pitched into a larger batch. The yeast will reproduce itself into great enough numbers to complete the job at hand.

Shop Wine YeastSo, when you add a whole packet of wine yeast to 1 gallon of wine, you are not adding too much yeast. You are simply adding the minimum amount required to support a healthy, active fermentation. Adding less then a packet could result in a slow starting fermentation that will take extra time to finish the job. It may also over-work the yeast which can result in off-flavors.

There is also the issue of what to do with the rest of the wine yeast anyway. These packets of yeast are packaged under sterile – not food-grade – conditions. They are sealed with nitrogen gas to maintain this sterile level of freshness while in the package.

Once they are opened, they are no longer sterile. The seal has been compromised. So, storing an opened package of wine yeast for any length of time is really not a good idea, particularly when you weigh it against how much a packet of wine yeast costs.

So the answer to the question: “how much wine yeast to use?”, is very simple. Always use the whole packet up to 5 or 6 gallons. If you are making more wine than this, add a second packet.

Happy Wine Making,Shop Wine Making Kits
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.

Pellet Hops vs Whole Leaf – Which is Better?

pellet hops and whole leaf hopsAmong the “this or that” debates of homebrewing, the question of whether to use pellet hops or whole leaf hops is primarily a matter of personal preference. But, there are a few things to consider when deciding what kind of hops to use when brewing.

 

Pellet Hops vs Whole Leaf

The term “whole leaf” is a bit of a misnomer when it comes to talking about hops. Brewers use the flowering part of the hop plant, often called a cone or a strobile. When hops are harvested, the pinecone-shaped flowers are picked by hand or with a machine. Then the hops are dried in an oast. Next, if the hops are being processed into pellets, the hop cones get milled and pressed into pellets. Finally, the hops are pressed into bales, vacuum packaged, sealed, and stored cold.

One of the main arguments against using pellet hops in your beer is that heat generated during the pelletizing process can degrade the quality of the hops, but most any modern hops farm will take precautions against this. You can be confident that any of the major hop producers you buy from have taken care to prevent any degradation due to pelletizing of the hops.

Without further delay, below are several of the pros and cons of pellet hops vs whole leaf.

 

Pellet Hops: Pros Shop Hops

  • Less plant material means less wort gets lost in the kettle trub, improving brewhouse efficiency.
  • Pellet hops offer slightly higher hop utilization, meaning more IBU bang for your buck.
  • Pellet hops store well.
  • Pellet hops are readily available.

 

Pellet Hops: Cons

  • The processing of the pellets may damage some of the aroma compounds in the hops. That said, with modern harvesting and processing techniques, actual damage is likely negligible. Hop pellets are used by brewers all over the world.
  • Since the hop material is shredded, it can sometimes clog spigots and tubing. A bazooka screen can be installed inside the brew kettle to protect against this.

 

Leaf Hops: Pros Shop Bazooka Screen

  • Whole leaf hops can be used as a filter bed when drawing wort from the brew kettle.
  • Whole leaf hops are the best option if brewing a wet hop beer.
  • Some think whole leaf hops offer better flavor and aroma characteristics. Sierra Nevada uses exclusively whole leaf hops. Randy Mosher, author of Radical Brewing, also prefers whole leaf hops.

 

Leaf Hops: Cons

  • Whole leaf hops take up more space in storage and in the brewing kettle.
  • Whole leaf hops offer slightly less hop utilization than pellet hops.
  • Whole leaf hops may not always be available or their selection may be more limited.

 

There you have it. There are some of the pro’s and con’s of pellet hops vs whole leaf hops. As you can see they are somewhat minor, even thought there is a minority who believe whole leaf is the only way to go. In the end, both can be used to make excellent beer.Shop Hop Bags

So what’s your preference – pellet hops or whole leaf?

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

Sweet Idea! Adding Fruit To Wine Kits

Adding Fruit To Wine KitsWe did a Chardonnay wine kit recently. The results were very good, by all accounts. What is your position on mixing peach, apricot or even persimmon into a batch of that? Wondering. Thanks in advance for your time.

Jeff
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Hello Jeff,

Adding fruit to wine kits is a great way to enhance any attractive characteristics that a particular grape may possess. For example: raspberries with Merlot grapes, strawberries with Zinfandel, pears with Pinot Grigio… The options are endless and there is always room for experimentation. It’s a great way to have even more fun while making these wines.

Usually when a home winemaker wants to make a wine in this style, they will mix the wine kit and fruits together in the fermenter and proceed with the fermentation from there. After the primary fermentation has completed, the fruit is then removed as the wine goes into a secondary fermenter. However there is another – more professional – way for adding fruit to wine kits. One that will give you much better control over the end product. In other words, less chance of messing up.

Shop Niagara Mist Wine KitsInstead of mixing the grape concentrate and fruit together at the beginning of fermentation, make the chosen fruit into its own wine, separately.

In the case of your Chardonnay, you could make some peach wine – one or two gallons of it. When it is time to bottle, you can experiment with blending some or all of the peach wine with it.

How much peach flavor you add is a matter of personal taste. You can add a little or a lot. You could do sample taste-testings with varying ratios of the two wines. This is the real power of making the two wines separately. You have complete control over the outcome. If you had added some fruit like peaches at the beginning of fermentation, all you could do is guess as to how much peach to add and hope for the best.

By adding fruit to wine kits in this way, you will have total control over how much fruit flavor is in the wine. This method will also allow you to safely mix blending samples together without risking your entire batch.

We have more information about blending wines together in an article on our website that you may want to take a look at: Blending To Improve Homemade Wines. This article should give you some better insights as to what you are look for when putting two wines together.

As far as whether to try peach, apricot or persimmon, all I can say is that I have seen the most success using peach verses apricot and I have never tasted persimmon added to a Chardonnay. But having said this, I would never tell you not to try any combination. There are no wrong answer when adding fruit to wine kits. Home wine making is about being creative, experimenting and seeing what you can come up.Shop Fruit Wine Bases

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.

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA Clone Recipe

Drinking Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA Clone RecipeDogfish Head’s popular 60-, 90-, and 120-Minute IPAs came into being through a pretty innovative hopping technique. Instead of adding hops at intervals, the hops are adding continuously through the boil. Early on, Dogfish used a modified foosball table to shake the hops into the brew kettle. They’ve come a long way since then, but their IPAs are still delicious as ever.

 

Grain Bill
The grain bill for this Dogfish Head 90-Minute IPA clone recipe is surprisingly simple: 90% pilsner malt with 10% amber malt. If you haven’t heard of amber malt before, it’s a specialty malt somewhere between a caramel 20L and a caramel 40L, featuring flavors of biscuits and toast and contributing a – you guessed it – amber color to your homebrew. It’s traditionally used in English ales, up to 20% of the grist.

 

Hopping  Shop Grain Mills
90-Minute IPA uses Amarillo, Simcoe, and Warrior hops, sprinked into the wort gradually over the course 90 minutes. Just in case you don’t have a foosball table, an easy way to do it mix the hops together and then divide them into equal parts to add every 5-10 minutes. For example, if you wanted to add the hops every 5 minutes, divide the three or so ounces of hops into 19 equal parts. This will give you a roughly 4.7 gram hop addition every five minutes, including one at flame out.

For additional hoppy aroma, the same hops used in the boil are used for dry hopping.

 

Yeast
This beer recipe uses Whitbread ale yeast. You’ll need two packs and yeast starter if brewing with liquid yeast, otherwise, use 1.5 packs of dry yeast.

Ready to give this Dogfish Head clone recipe a try? It comes from Brew Your Own Magazine (with the help of Sam Calagione himself!).Shop Barley Grains

 

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA Clone Recipe
(5-gallon batch, all-grain recipe)

Specs
OG: 1.088
FG: 1.021
ABV: 8.7%
IBUs: 90
SRM: 13

Ingredients
16.5 lbs. pilsner malt
1.66 lbs. amber malt
2 oz. Amarillo hops (16 AAUs) added over 90 minutesShop Hops
0.62 oz. Simcoe hops (8 AAUs) added over 90 minutes
0.53 oz. Warrior hops (8 AAUs) added over 90 minutes
1 oz. Amarillo hops (dry hopped 3-5 days)
0.5 oz. Simcoe hops (dry hopped 3-5 days)
0.5 oz. Warrior hops (dry hopped 3-5 days)
2 packets Wyeast 1099: Whitbread Ale Yeast (with a yeast starter) or 1.5 packets Safale S-04

 

Directions
Mash the crushed grains in about five gallons of clean water at 122˚F, then raise for 149˚F for 60 minutes. Sparge to collect about 7.5 gallons of wort. Boil for 105 minutes, adding the hops after 15 minutes gradually over the rest of the boil. Whirlpool, chill wort, and transfer to a clean, sanitized fermenter. Pitch yeast at 70˚F or below. Ferment at 71˚F. After primary fermentation, transfer to a secondary fermenter and dry hop for 3-5 days. Cold crash, then bottle or keg for ~2.3 vols CO2.

If you like IPA’s but haven’t ever tried a clone recipe before, this would be a fun one for you. The Dogfish Head 90 IPA is an incredible beer. It has a lot of malt flavors and body to support the extreme hopping. It’s aggressive, but balanced. Shop Draft System

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

My Favorite Strawberry Wine Recipe

Wine made from strawberry wine recipe.If you could take springtime and put it into a bottle you would most likely end up with something close to a strawberry wine. For me, strawberry wine is the very essence of spring. Its flavor is bright and fresh. Its aroma is floral and sweet. As far as I’m concerned strawberry wine represents all things spring quite well.

If fresh strawberries are not already available in your area, they will be soon. With that in mind here is a strawberry wine recipe that you can use to get your springtime groove on. It’s a wine recipe I have used several times with great results. I couldn’t think of a better time to share it than right now!

 

Strawberry Wine Recipe
(5 Gallons)

19 lbs. Strawberries
10 lbs. Cane Sugar (1.090)
4 Tsp. Acid Blend  Shop Niagara Mist Fruit Blend Wine Kits
5 Tsp. Yeast Nutrient
1/2 Tsp. Wine Tannin
Pectic Enzyme (as directed on package)
1/4 Tsp. Potassium Metabisulfite (or 5 Campden Tablets)
Wine Yeast (recommend Lalvin 71B-1122)
10 Campden Tablets (5 before fermentation, 5 before bottling)

 

You can use the basic wine making directions that are on our website for making this strawberry wine recipe. Just be sure to remove any stem or green parts of the strawberry before using. You do not need to crush the strawberries. Just give them a coarse chopping. The strawberries will breakdown and release all their goodness during the fermentation.

Shop Fruit Wine BasesOne variation I have done a couple of time when making this is to exchange 2 pounds of the sugar for 3 pounds of raspberry spun honey. This exchange will keep your starting specific gravity about the same. The raspberry honey will intensify the sweet, perfume-y bouquet this wine likes to give. Essentially, it’s giving you more of one of the features that makes strawberry wine so great.

Another great thing about making this strawberry wine recipe is that it does not need much aging. So many wines are consumed before they reach their best simply because they need so much aging. Fortunately, that’s not the case with making strawberry wine.

I would not attempt to bulk-age the wine for any length of time, at all. Give it plenty of time to clear, but after that go straight into the wine bottles. Once in the bottles, give your strawberry wine at least one month to develop its bouquet. It will taste its best at around 4 to 6 months. Don’t let it sit around for any more than 1 year. Drink up!

Do you have a strawberry wine recipe you’d like to share with other home winemakers? Just leave it in the comments below. We’d love to see what you’ve got cookin’!

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

Bottling Homebrew with Flavored Liqueurs

Beer With Flavored LiqueurDid you know that you can bottle your homebrew beer with flavored liqueurs?

Adding liqueur at bottling time is one way of adding more flavors to your homebrew, especially when making a fruit beer. Liqueurs are lower-alcohol spirits flavored with fruit, herbs, spices, or nuts, and then sweetened. These concoctions are normally used for flavoring cocktails or coffee, but flavored liqueurs can be used for homebrewing, too.

To help get your creative juices flowing, here are some of the common flavored liqueurs that have potential for adding to homebrew:

  • Amaro (herbal)
  • Amaretto (almond)
  • Chambord (raspberry)
  • Cointreau (orange)
  • Crème de cacao (chocolate)
  • Crème de menthe (mint)
  • Crème de mûre (blackberry)
  • Crème de cassis (black currant)
  • Curaçao/Triple Sec (bitter orange)
  • Fernet (herbal)
  • Frangelico (hazelnuts and herbs)
  • Grand Marnier (orange)

Try doing a taste test to see which flavors might work with different beer styles. In his book, Radical Brewing, Randy Mosher mentions having success with Triple Sec, crème de cacao, and Frangelico, among others.

 

Tips for Adding Flavored Liqueurs to Homebrew

In Radical Brewing, Randy Mosher offers a number of tips for adding liqueur to homebrew:

  • Avoid creamy liqueurs – These will not have a good affect on your beer.
  • Add spices if desired – Optionally, add additional spice flavor by soaking the spices in the liqueur before mixing into the beer.Shop Hydrometers
  • Do a taste test first – Measure out a small sample of beer and add the liqueur in .1 mL increments. Keep in mind that most of the sweetness in the liqueur will ferment out. Scale up when you find the right ratio. For example, if .1 mL liqueur per 1 ounce beer is the magic number, multiply by 128 (ounces in a gallon) then by 5 (gallons in a batch) to arrive at 64 mL of liqueur.
  • Plan for an increase in alcohol content – Two cups of a typical liqueur will add about 1% ABV to your five-gallon batch of homebrew. Plan your beer recipe accordingly.

 

How to Bottle Your Homebrew with Flavored Liqueurs

Since liqueurs are sweetened, we need to account for the added sugar. Mosher offers the following instructions for bottling homebrew with liqueur:

  1. Measure the specific gravity of the liqueur with your hydrometer and convert to degrees Plato (% sugar).
  1. Compensate for the specific gravity of the alcohol present, which is less than 1.000. Multiply the proof by .106 and add this to the specific gravity of the liqueur. This number will give the total percentage of sugar in the liqueur.
  1. Take the weight of the liqueur being added and multiply it by the sugar percentage from above. This will give you the weight in sugar being contributed by the liqueur.

 

Shop Coffee StoutAlternatively, you can take the weight needed for priming and divide by the sugar percentage (as a decimal) to arrive at how much liqueur to use for bottling. Just keep in mind that depending on the flavor of the liqueur, you may or may not want to use that much.

Let’s work through an example:

Say you’re brewing Captain Cogsworth Coffee Stout, but instead of priming with coffee and sugar, you use eight ounces (by weight) of a 40 proof coffee liqueur.

  1. Measuring the specific gravity of the liqueur, you get 20˚ Plato.
  2. Multiply the proof (40) by .106 = 4.24˚P
  3. 20 + 4.24 = 24.24˚P
  4. 8 (weight of liqueur in ounces) * .2424 (percent sugar in liqueur) = 1.94 oz. sugar

In this example, the 8 ounces (by weight) of coffee liqueur contributes the equivalent of 1.94 oz. of priming sugar. Adjust your priming sugar addition accordingly.Shop Root Beer Extract

Alternatively, if you want to prime with just liqueur, take the total amount of priming sugar and divide by the total sugar percentage from above:

5 oz. priming sugar / .2424 = 20.63 oz. liqueur (by weight)

Add 20.63 ounces (by weight, not volume) of the liqueur at bottling time.

You can also experiment with soda pop flavorings if you don’t want to worry about a change in alcohol content or calculating sugar content. These extracts don’t contain sugar, so either add them during secondary fermentation or mix with your priming sugar solution at bottling time to contribute unique flavors to your homebrew.

You can also play around with liqueur flavorings. These are flavorings designed to be added to a spirit to make a flavored liqueur. Instead of bottling homebrew with flavored liqueurs, you can add just the concentrated liqueur flavoring instead.shop_liqueur_flavorings
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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 A Hydrometer To Adjust Wine Sweetness

Adjusting Wine Sweetness With HydrometerMost wine recipes give a SG [specific gravity] for starting fermentation and at the completion of fermentation. My wine usually ends up dry, so when I bottle it I usually stabilize it and back-sweeten most of it. I’ve been just adding sweetener a little at a time and tasting until I think it is about right, but that’s a little hard to hit and very unscientific.

What about using a hydrometer to adjust wine sweetness and is there an approximate hydrometer reading for what they call dry, semi-dry and sweet?

What about white table wines, red table wines, sweet table wines, dessert wines etc do all of these different wines fall under the same category of dry, semi-dry or sweet?

Thanks
Glen L. – IA
—–
Hello Glen,

While there are certain ranges on the specific gravity scale that one could consider sweet verses dry, these ranges are so narrow on the typical wine hydrometer that it would be very hard to accurately apply them to sweetening a wine. In fact, I could not really tell you what the ranges would be because I have never paid that much attention to them.

 

There are also a couple of other reasons why using a hydrometer to adjust wine sweetness is not all that practical:

  • Shop Wine ConditionerYou could have two different wines sweetened to the same specific gravity reading and they could have very different impression of sweetness. What is coming into play is how the other flavor components of the wine work with the sugar to form the wine’s character. As an example, if the wine is rich and earthy as opposed to crisp and fruity, then more sugar may be needed in the former case than in the later wine to achieve the same impression of sweetness. This is all subjective, of course, but the principle rings true.
  • A wine’s body or lack of body could cause two wines that taste equally dry to have two different readings on the wine hydrometer. Body raises the specific gravity without raising sweetness. In this case, if you have a full-bodied wine and a thin, crisp wine and you sweeten them both to the same reading on the specific gravity scale the hydrometer, the full-bodied will have less residual sugar than the thin crisp wine. Part of the SG reading is being made up with body, not sugar.

 

So as you can start to see, depending on hydrometer readings to adjust your wine’s sweetness may not be as accurate as just tasting the wine. After all it is how the wine tastes to us humans – and more specifically, you – that matters most, not what the hydrometer says.

The wine industry does use a sweetness scale to give customers a clue as to how sweet a wine might be before they purchase it. The scale goes from 1-9 with 1 being the driest, and it is based on percentage of sugar by weight in the wine. While this scale may be used as a marketing tool, I find it hard to imagine any commercial winemaker setting out to target a particular number, rather they would do just as you are doing – going by how the wine tastes and how sweetness is working in concert with the wine’ other characters.Shop Hydrometers

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.

Sweet! Home Brewing With Chocolate

Home Brewing With ChocolateAmong the many different herbs, spices, and flavor additives that can be used to make creative and intriguing homebrews, chocolate is one of the most tantalizing. Is it chocolate’s antioxidant power? Its aphrodisiac properties? Whatever the reason, millions of people around the world find chocolate irresistible, so why not put it in beer?

When home brewing with chocolate, it’s important to consider the balance between the chocolate and flavors of the base beer style. You would probably use a light hand if adding a note of chocolate to a pale ale, for example, but for a porter or a stout, you can be more liberal, as the chocolate will blend into the dark roasted flavors of the darker beer. Most people eat chocolate that has been sweetened, so you also consider supporting the chocolate flavors with some sweet caramel malt, unfermentable lactose sugar, or residual malt sugars derived from a higher mash temperature.

It’s also a good idea to think about the color impact of home brewing with chocolate. “Dry-hopping” your beer with cacao nibs will impart less color than boiling cocoa powder or baker’s chocolate. Again, brewing a chocolate porter or stout will leave more room for error than a paler beer style.

 

Below, find six of the best ways for home brewing with chocolate:Shop Beer Flavorings

  1. Chocolate malt – Before experimenting with adding actual chocolate to your beer, be sure to consider the possibilities of achieving the flavor your want with chocolate malt. No, chocolate malt isn’t made with chocolate. A skilled maltster is able to manipulate roasting temperatures to bring out chocolate flavors, yet keep the malted barley from tasting too burnt or bitter. Chocolate malt is roasted beyond the sweeter caramel malts, but shy of the more heavily roasted black patent malt or roasted barley. Use chocolate malt for as much as 10% of the grist in porter and stouts. In smaller amounts, it’s also an effective way to adjust beer color. Also consider experimenting with chocolate wheat and chocolate rye.
  1. Chocolate syrup – Chocolate syrup is a convenient and effective means of adding chocolate flavor to your homebrew. It can be adding directly to the boil or during secondary fermentation. Due to its sugar content, it can even be used for priming (1 cup per five-gallon batch). For best results, make sure the syrup is fat-free.
  1. Cocoa powder – Cocoa powder is the finely ground, unsweetened beans of the cacao plant. Cocoa powder can be added to the mash or the boil, but contributes a fairly subtle flavor and may have problems dissolving. Double check to make sure your powder is made from pure cocoa, and start by using two to four ounces in a five-gallon batch. Shop Malted Grains
  1. Chocolate bars/baker’s chocolate – Chocolate bars can also be added to the boil, but be careful what kind you use. Many of these bars have high fat content or other additives that can negatively affect your beer. For best results, melt the bars before mixing into the kettle. Use 2 oz. of baker’s chocolate as a starting point for a stout.
  1. Chocolate liqueur – Chocolate liqueur, often sold as crème de cacao, is a great way of adding chocolate to your homebrew. It’s sterile, and it offers the ability to add measured doses of chocolate flavor post fermentation. Read more about Bottling Homebrewing with Flavored Liqueur.
  1. Cocoa nibsCocoa nibs are roughly crushed cocoa beans. They’re great for “dry-hopping” your beer to give it a subtle, nutty chocolate flavor. When used this way, they impart little color to your beer. Three or four ounces of cocoa nibs is a good starting point for a five-gallon batch.

 

Interested in trying your hand a home brewing with chocolate? Try this Chocolate Milk Stout! Shop Steam Freak Kits

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