What Causes A Nutty Flavor In Wine?

Nutty Flavor In WineMy red wine harvested this year is currently going through a malolactic fermentation, but it has a nutty flavor that has persisted for a month or so. I have never tasted this particular flavor in a wine undergoing malolactic fermentation before. What causes a nutty flavor in wine?

Jack W. – TX
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Hello Jack,

A malolactic fermentation can have a light, nutty influence on a wine, but it is typically not noticeable in reds. It is more likely to be a characteristic experienced in whites, more specifically, Chardonnay.

If the your homemade wine has a nutty flavor or taste that is more like hazelnut, I would not be concerned about it too much. It is most likely coming from the malolactic culture. But, if your homemade wine has more of a bitter nut flavor, giving almost a metallic impression, then it could be something called autolysis.

Autolysis is a process that can happen as a fermentation runs out of sugars. The active yeast cell – still looking for food – will begin to consume the dead and inactive yeast cells that lay at the bottom of the fermenter. In doing so, the yeast produce an enzyme that puts off a bitter-nut to metallic flavor. This is the more common reason for having a nutty flavor in wine – particularly, such a young wine.

Shop Potassium BisulfiteThe one sure way to keep autolysis from occurring in any wine is by not allowing it to sit on any dead yeast cells for extended periods of time. A few days, or even a couple of weeks is fine in some cases, but neglecting the wine further than this can result in the autolysis process occurring enough to put a nutty flavor in wine.

If you have been keeping up with your rackings, then I doubt autolysis is something that should have even brought up here. In this situation the nutty taste is most likely to be all caused by the malolactic fermentation, but if you still have the wine on the sediment from the primary fermentation, then autolysis is a very real possibility.

If after reading this you feel that the nutty flavor or taste in your homemade wine is coming from the MLF, you have a choice. You can allow the MLF to continue, or if you do not like the flavor, you can permanently stop the MLF by adding a dose of sulfite to the wine. A teaspoon of potassium metabisulfite for every 16 gallons will be sufficient. This will keep it from getting any more intense. If you feel the nutty flavor is coming from autolysis, then you will need to rack the wine into a clean vessel, away from the sediment.

Regardless of why there’s a nutty flavor in wine, it is irreversible. I have seen situations where the nuttiness has reduced or mellowed with aging, Shop Malolactic Culturebut I would not count on it happening. As a benefit, the nuttiness could end up working out to compliment other characters that develop as the wine ages. This would help by promoting the wine’s complexity.

Jack, I hope this clears up what’s happening to your wine for you. If it is a light hazelnut type flavor I would not consider it a defect at all. Consider embracing it. But if it’s a flavor you just can’t stand, hit the wine with sulfites and see what develops with a little aging.

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.

Base Malt Guide: Descriptions & Comparisons

Base MaltBase malt is the term we use to refer to the majority of the malted grains used to make beer. Base malt typically forms between 70% and 100% of the malt used in a given homebrew recipe. Base malts are certainly used by all-grain brewers, but also by partial mash and extract brewers who may want to add some diastatic power to their mash or additional grain flavor to their beer. One or more types of base malt may be used in a beer, often complemented by a range of specialty malts for additional flavor, body, and other characteristics.

 

All base malts are typically:

  • Made from barley. (Though beers can be made from 100% malted wheat or rye, these are generally considered adjunct grains.)
  • Light in color.
  • Kilned at a low enough temperature to maintain the diastatic power of the malt.

 

Below is a base malt guide with descriptions and comparisons. It’s a list of the most popular base malts used in home brewing. Also provided is a brief profile of each one:

  • Two-row malt – Two-row base malt is made from two-row barley, which typically features plump kernels and a high starch to protein ratio. Light in color at 1.8˚L.Shop All Grain System
  • Pilsner malt – This base malt is the lightest colored malt available (1˚ Lovibond). It works well for very light lagers and ales. Its profile makes it a suitable base malt for brewing just about any style of beer, but it is a must when making a pilsner lager.
  • Pale or mild ale malt – As a comparison, pale malt is kilned at a slightly higher temperature than pilsner malt, giving it a slightly darker color (2.5˚L) and a maltier flavor. It’s a good option for just about any ale recipe, especially pale ale, IPA, brown ale, porter, and stout.
  • Vienna malt – Vienna malt is another step above pale malt in terms of darkness (3.5˚L). It’s a great option for Vienna lagers, Oktoberfest, and other amber lagers.
  • Munich malt – This base malt is the darkest malt that still has diastatic power. Its flavor profile is has rich, malty flavor reminiscent of bread crusts. As much as 100% Munich malt may be used in some types of German-style dark lagers, such as bocks and Munich dunkel. 10-20˚L.

 

Shop Barley GrainsThis is not a complete base malt list, but these are by far the most common ones with some descriptions and comparisons. As you can see each one has its own profile, including comparisons and contrast with each other. With these simple variations alone, you can begin creating a world of beers.

Want to learn more about the differences between the different base malts? Try this experiment: Brew five, one-gallon, single-malt beers using the same amount of malt, the same yeast, and the same hopping schedule. How are the beers different?
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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.

Bulk Aging vs Bottling Aging Wine. Which Is Best?

Bulk Aging vs Bottle AgingOne of the long, ongoing discussions in the world of home wine making is, “should I be bulk aging or bottling aging my wines?” While bottle aging wine has its merits, there are some good reasons to consider bulk aging. Here’s some food for thought when considering bulk aging vs bottling aging your wine.

 

What Is Bulk Aging Wine?

Bulk aging refers to storing the wine in something similar to a glass water bottle. Home wine makers refer to them as carboys. It’s important to have a container with a neck of some sort so that the head-space, or air gap, can be mitigated as the bottle becomes full. Aging wine is a bucket-style fermenter is not recommended. The carboy is usually sealed airtight with either a rubber stopper or cork stopper while the wine is aging.

Many home wine makers elect bulk age over bottling aging their newly made wines for months or even longer before moving the wine into bottles. The reasoning behind this could be anything from, “that’s how the wineries do it” to “I was waiting to get more empty wine bottles.”

 

Why Do Professional Wineries Bulk Age Their Wines?

In reality, the commercial wineries bulk age, or maturate, in bulk because it is a safer and more controllable than aging in wine bottles. It’s safer because air, light and heat can all be kept in check more evenly – these are the elements that can come together to produce oxidation in a wine. It’s more controlled because the maturation process is slowed down when oxygen contact is reduced. Wine in bottles have more air contact per gallon then wine in bulk.Shop Mini Jet Wine Filter

 

Why Slower Is Better

It’s common knowledge in the wine industry that slower aging produces a better tasting wine, one that is more in balance. Oxygen is what drives the rate of some maturation processes, but not all of these processes respond equally to oxygen. As a result, a wine can become out of balance, as some aging process outpace others when aged too fast.

In addition, some aging activities in a wine are triggered in sequence – sort of a domino effect. One cannot happen until the other one occurs. These falling dominos are set off by the oxygen, but again, if too much oxygen is given, some of the maturation processes fall behind in the chain, again, putting the wine’s qualities out of whack.

For these reasons many wineries age in bulk before bottling. “How long?”, depends on the wine at hand and how the flavor and bouquet of the wine are developing. These elements are monitored to determine when it is time to bottle the wine. It could be weeks; it could be a year.

 

Bulk Aging Homemade Wines In Carboys

Shop CarboysThe home winemaker can use either glass or food-grade plastic carboys to do the aging. While you can use an actual cork stopper to seal up the carboy, I prefer using a rubber stopper. I also recommend using baling wire or similar to hold the stopper in place, otherwise changes in temperature or barometric pressure can cause the stopper to pop loose.

The wine should also be treated with a dose of potasssium metabisulfite before sealing it up to be aged. This is to eliminate any chance of spoilage and to help keep the wine’s color stable.

When bulk aging a wine in a carboy, be sure to monitor the flavor of the wine as time goes on, just don’t monitor it too much. About once ever 2 or 3 month you can take 1 or 2 ounces out to see how things are progressing. A wine thief will help you in this regard to get the wine from the carboys or any other glass jugs with a narrow neck.

 

After Bulk Aging The Wine

Once it’s time to bottle, you can bottle the wine directly from the carboys just like you normal would have without aging the wine.

Shop Wine BarrelsOnce the wine has been bottled there is a typical period of bottle shock that the wine will most likely experience. This is a temporary condition of the wine that results in a flat, lifeless character. Let the wine sit to condition for about a month and the wine should come back to its former self.

Whether or not you bulk age your wine in a carboy or individually in wine bottles, your wines will age none the less. So don’t feel that bulk aging vs bottle aging is a make-or-break decision. Just remember that air exposure to the wine is a premier factor.
—–
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.

Brewing A German Bock Beer Recipe

Bock BeerBock is a traditional German beer typically served in late winter and early spring. A higher-gravity lager, the added alcohol provides a warming kick to help throw off the winter chills.

As a lager, this beer style requires good control of fermentation temperatures to brew it successfully. Expect to ferment for 2-3 weeks at about 50°F, followed by a lagering phase between 32-35°F for two months or more. If you have this capability, read on to develop and brew your own German bock beer recipe!

 

Choosing a Bock Style

There are a few kinds of bock to choose from, varying somewhat in regards to gravity and color. The traditional bock beer must be at least 1.066, according to German law. It is malt forward and medium bodied, generally a copper or light brown color. A Maibock or Helles bock is similar but golden in color, with a touch more hop bitterness. Maibocks are traditionally served in May.

Dopplebock originated in the Germany monastery that predated Paulaner Brewery. Their famous Salvator defines the style, such that other dopplebocks commonly use -ator in their name (e.g. Spaten Optimator, Troeg’s Troegenator, Ayinger Celebrator). Dopplebocks are higher in gravity that traditional bocks, at least 1.074 according to German law.

Finally, Eisbock is the strongest variety of bock, with an original gravity typically 1.092-1.116. If you’ve never brewed a bock before, start with a traditional bock or Maibock, as the higher gravity beers can be a challenge.

The guidelines that follow are for brewing a traditional bock beer recipe:

 

Bock Beer Recipe Malt

Though bock originated in the German town of Einbeck, it soon found a home in Munich. In Designing Great Beers, Ray Daniels suggests that brewers in Munich likely used as much as 100% of what we now know as Munich malt. Many homebrewers will combine a significant portion of Munich malt with pilsner malt and some specialty grains, such as chocolate malt or crystal 120°L, in their bock beer recipes.

In Germany, bocks must have an original gravity of at least 1.066, so an all-grain bock beer recipe will likely need about 12 pounds of grain for a five gallon batch. One option would be to supplement a grain bill with enough malt extract to reach the appropriate OG.

In either case, mash in the higher end of the temperature range (~155°F) to achieve a beer that will have enough body and residual sugar to be appropriate for the beer style.

For partial mash brewers, use two to three cans of Munich malt extract. Perform a mini mash with some Munich malt and specialty malt for improved flavor and body.

 

Bock Beer Recipe HopsShop Steam Freak Kits

Bocks are malt forward beers with little to no hop flavor or aroma, so hops will only be used to provide enough bitterness to keep the beer from being overly sweet. 20-27 IBUs is the range provided by the BJCP for Traditional Bock. Consider using traditional German hops such as Hallertau or Tettnanger for an authentic bockbier.

 

Bock Beer Recipe Yeast

When brewing a German bock beer recipe, Ray Daniels recommends the Bavarian strain of lager yeast (Wyeast 2206) for this beer style. He also recommends using a yeast starter pitched into well-aerated wort only when it has been cooled to fermentation temperature (45-55°F). A long (approx. two month) lagering period as low as 32°F will help develop the clean, malt forward flavor as appropriate for the style.

 

German Bock Beer Recipe
(5 Gallon, Partial Mash)

Total Batch Size: 5 Gallons
Recipe Type: Partial Mash
Approx. Original Gravity: 1.069
Total Boil Time: 60 min.Shop Heating Belt
Anticipated IBUs: 24-30
Estimated ABV: 7.2%

Fermentables:
6.6 lbs. Steam Freak: Munich Liquid Malt Extract
1.5 lbs. Dried Malt Extract (Light)
1 lb. Munich malt
0.25 lb. Chocolate malt

Hops:
1.5 oz. Pelletized Hallertau (60 min. Boil Time)
0.5 oz. Pelletized Hallertau (20 min. Boil Time)

Yeast:
Wyeast 2206: Bavarian Lager Yeast

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

Directions:
This is a “partial mash” style of bock beer recipe. To make this beer recipe you will need to follow the Partial Mash Directions. Be sure to prepare a yeast starter in advance and pitch yeast into well-aerated wort that has been cooled to fermentation temperature (45-55°F). Lager for 6-8 weeks at 32°F, then bottle.

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 and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

Tips For Removing Wine Bottle Labels

Removing Wine Bottle LabelsWhat’s the best way to go about removing wine bottle labels off store bought wine bottles.

Donald D. – OH
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Hello Donald,

By far the best way to handle removing wine bottle labels from your wine bottles is to find someone else to do it. There’s nothing fun about it, and there’s no magical tricks that makes it effortless for the home winemaker. There’s some work involved. Having said this, there are some things you can do to make removing wine bottle labels a little less dreadful.

The number one thing you can do to make the process easier is to be selective about what used wine bottles you save. Not all wine bottle labels are the same. Some wine bottle labels are easier to remove than others.

The ideal wine bottle label to take off is a paper label, one where the paper has not been sealed or coated. These types of wine bottle labels will allow water to soak directly through them and to the glue. If given a little time the labels almost fall off once the water as dissolved the glue. These labels can be identified as being rough to the touch and flat in appearance – not glossy and slick.

Wine bottle labels that are made of a sealed paper will be smooth to the touch and have a shiny appearance. The glue will usually dissolve just as easily. The problem is getting the water to the glue. It will not soak as readily through a wine bottle label made from a sealed paper.Shop Wine Bottles

If you do find that this is the kind of label you are dealing with, you can get around this problem with a little extra effort. By taking a razor blade and liberally scoring the label before soaking, you can give the water access points to the glue. Run a bunch of cuts across the label in all directions. The more the better. Let the wine bottle labels soak overnight. You will then need to use a utility scraper to take the labels off.

Once you are done removing wine bottle labels you will still need to deal with some residual glue that is left on the wine bottle. One product I have used for this purpose for years is Goo Gone. Apply it to the glue, and rub it down with a rag.

Donald, I hope this gives you some better insight as how to go about removing wine bottle labels. As you can see there is some time and effort involved. It’s enough work that it’s not something you want to do the same day you plan on bottling your wine. This go much more smoothly if you are removing wine bottle lables ahead of time. That way all you’ll need to do is sanitize the wine bottles before bottling your wine.

Shop Mini Jet Wine FilterAs a final note, it doesn’t have to be this way! We always have new wine bottles that will save you all this trouble. In fact, we have quite a variety now – both cork finish and screw cap finish – in different colors and in different sizes. These would eliminate the need of removing labels from the wine bottles all together.

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.

7 Skills For Becoming A Better Homebrewer

Person Becoming A Better HomebrewerWhat skills are needed for becoming a better homebrewer? Do you need to be the boldest out of your friends or have the biggest beard? I don’t think so.

Homebrewing is a hobby that (in addition to providing you with great beer!) offers an opportunity to develop a wide range of skills. Not only do these skills make you a better brewer, but they can be transferred to other hobbies and activities as well. So in a sense, becoming a better homebrewer is a path towards self-improvement.

Below you can learn about 7 key skills I’ve needed to master to help me become a better homebrewer:

 

  1. Attention to detail – Together, cleaning and sanitation comprise the critical first step in homebrewing. If you can’t keep your equipment clean or skip steps on the sanitation process, sooner-or-later you’ll get an infected homebrew and have to dump a batch. While you can avoid some of the more “science-y” aspects of homebrewing, don’t skimp on cleaning and sanitation.
  1. Resiliency – Homebrewing is not for people who give up easily. At times, you may encounter frustration. Just remember to breathe and keep in mind that you’re doing this for fun!
  1. Problem solving – Becoming a better homebrewer means being Shop Liquid Malt Extracta better problem solver. Occasionally, something will not go as planned with a batch of beer. Homebrewing tests your ability to break down a multi-step process to identify the source of a problem. Even when things go right, you will be tested to identify the nuances in process and ingredients that affect a beer’s color, flavor, aroma, and other characteristics.
  1. Creativity – Homebrewing is a great avenue for exploring your creative side. Just about any ingredient can be used when making beer. Want to brew some unusual concoctions? Try a chipotle smoked porter, oak barrel IPA, or a maple Scotch ale to flex your creative muscle.
  1. Consistency – This skill is essential for professional brewers, but it can be important for homebrewers as well. Anyone can brew one good batch of beer, but can you do it over and over? Take good homebrewing notes and test your consistency by perfecting some of your favorite beer recipes.
  1. Curiosity – Homebrewing offers an endless path for learning, whether it’s about yeast propagation, water chemistry, or calculating IBUs. If you’re inclined to dive deep into a hobby, then homebrewing is for you.Shop Home Brew Starter Kit
  1. Good attitude! – This one can’t be stressed enough. Above all, homebrewing should always be fun. That’s not to say it won’t be challenging at times. But sometimes becoming a better homebrewer requires that you remind yourself of the reasons you started homebrewing in the first place. If you ever need a refresher on how to keep your cool, check out Hops, Malt, and Zen: How I Learned to Relax, Not Worry, and Enjoy Homebrewing.

 

What skills would you add to the list for becoming a better homebrewer?
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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.

How Do You Make Brandy?

Still For Making BrandyMy name Charles, I live in NC, I have been making wine for about 7 years and have made all kinds, by the way you all got a great website, what I would like to know is how do you make brandy. I looked for a brandy recipe but can’t find one. Can you help me?

Thank you
Charles
_____

Hi Charles,

Making brandy is more of a process than following a recipe, and it is certainly more involved than wine making, but if you’d really like to know how to make brandy…

Brandy is essentially a wine that has gone through a distillation process. Distilling is when the alcohol and certain essences are steamed off the wine and collected into a separate container. Alcohol will steam off at a lower temperature than water so by controlling the temperature it is possible to leave water behind. What you end up with is a liquid that has a much higher alcohol concentration.

This is obviously an over-simplification, but essentially this is the answer to your question: how do you make brandy? It is an additional step beyond making the wine.

The term brandy is normally related to a distilled grape wine. Cognac, for example, is a distilled grape wine. But you can also distill other types of wines to make other types of brandys. Common examples of this would be apple wine being distilled into apple brandy or peach wine being distilled into peach brandy.

Answers, how do you make brandy.Most people are surprised to know that the brandy is a clear liquid at this point. It taste a little harsh and can give off somewhat of an oily impression in the mouth. To bring the brandy to a form that you and I would recognize as brandy, it needs to be aged to some degree.

Depending on the quality and style of the brandy being made, it will need to be aged anywhere from 1 to 50 years in barrels. The toasting of the inner wall of the barrel is where the brandy will get its familiar color.

So as you can see making brandy takes some serious dedication, maybe even more so than wine making. I personally leave it to the Hennessy’s and Martell’s to bring brandy to my world.

It is important to note here that – unlike making wine – distilling an alcohol is illegal in the United States unless you have registered with the ATF. This means bringing your operation up to their rigorous code. It also involves a tremendous cash bond that basically makes it impossible to impractical for any individual to set up a operation for personal use. If you choose not follow the laws of the land then you are considered to be a moonshiner making moonshine.

If you would like to read more about distilling, including distilling brandy, we do have a book on the subject. The “Lore Of Still Building” has a lot of information about distilling principals as well as how to build various styles of stills.

Charles, I hope this answers your questions. You’re not the only person to ask, “how do you make brandy?” So, I thought this would be a good time to post this to the blog, as well.

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.

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
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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.

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!
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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 IBD and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.