3 Reasons Why Your Starting Hydrometer Reading Is Wrong

His Starting Hydrometer Reading Is WrongTaking a starting hydrometer reading is one of the most important things you can do when making homemade wine. This is a reading that is taken with a wine hydrometer before the fermentation has started. It is usually taken at the same time the yeast is added to the wine must.

Having an accurate starting hydrometer reading will not only help you verify that you have an acceptable level of sugar in the wine must, it will allow you to determine the finished wine’s alcohol content. This can be done when the starting reading is compared to the finished reading.

The reading is taken on the Specific Gravity scale. This is a scale based on the weight of water. The weight of the wine is being compared to the weight of water. The more sugar in the wine must the heavier it will be. The more sugar in the wine, the more alcohol the yeast can make.

Keeping in mind its importance, here are the 3 reasons why your starting hydrometer reading is wrong. These are scenarios that I have run across more than once while helping beginning winemakers. In each of these 3 situations the hydrometer reading can be thrown off dramatically.

 

  1. Shop HydrometersToo Much Water Was Added: This mostly applies to individuals that are making wine from a wine ingredient kit. These kits typically include around 2 to 4 gallons of concentrate to make 6 gallons. The idea is for the winemaker to add water to make up the difference of the 6 gallons. But on rare occasions a beginning winemaker will add a total 6 gallons of water by mistake giving them an 8, 9, 10… gallon batch of wine. This in turn will give them a very low starting sugar reading on their hydrometer.
    1. Sugars Are Not Mixing Evenly: Before taking a starting hydrometer reading it is important to have the sugars completely dissolved and evenly dispersed throughout the wine must. This is regardless if it is from a concentrate or granulated cane sugar. Not doing so can cause your hydrometer sample to be non-representative of the entire batch. The result is an erroneous reading. For example, if the sugars are not completely dissolved and still hanging towards the bottom of the fermenter, the reading you get from a sample take from the top will be very different from the reading you get when taking a sample through a spigot at the bottom of the fermenter.
  1. Hydrometer Jar Not Being Used: One of the requirements for taking a starting hydrometer reading, is the hydrometer needs to be able to float. If the container being used to hold the sample isn’t tall enough, the hydrometer will sit on the bottom. Again, this will give you a wrong reading. This normally happens when the winemaker is trying to use the plastic tube the hydrometer came in to take the reading. This is something I strongly urge against for the simple fact it is not always tall enough to float the hydrometer. Instead, you should be using a hydrometer jar that is designed specifically for this purpose. It is more than tall enough and has a sturdy base so you can keep the wine sample steady and vertical while taking the reading.Shop Hydrometer Jars

 

These are by far the 3 most common reasons. If you think you have a starting hydrometer reading that is wrong, it is probably because of one of these three. There are other reasons as to why a hydrometer reading might not be completely accurate, such as not having your eye-level even with the surface of the wine, but these are the 3 “big ones”. Avoid doing them and you’ll be sure to have dependable readings.
—–
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

 

What Is Cold Stabilization?

Wine Going Through Cold StabilizationWe look forward to and enjoy your email newsletter and have learned a lot from your subscribers’ questions. Now one of our own…

On a stop on a recent Missouri winery tour was an area for cold aging, where wine coming off secondary fermentation was chilled in the fermenter to around 28 degrees to help dissolved chemicals and remaining suspended yeast cells to fall out of solution before the wine was siphoned off into oak barrels. We don’t see this step in home wine recipes. Is cold aging beneficial to small-batch wines? If so, should it be done in the secondary fermenter after yeast action has stopped, or can it be done after bottling?

Thanks as always.
Ed
_____
Hello Ed,

What you are referring to is something called cold stabilization in wine making. The wine is chilled down directly after fermentation to speed up the settling of wine yeast cells and other suspended proteins. The yeast cells will become inactive or dormant at lower temperatures allowing them to go to sleep, so to speak, and settle out.Shop Bentonite

Chilling a wine after fermentation also causes any excess acids in the wine to form into crystals and fall out. This is known as acid precipitation. If the grape harvest that year was too high in acid, or to tart, bringing the wines temperature down will cause this excess acids to crystallize and then drop out as sediment.

Cold stabilization is only done in wine making after the fermentation has completed and the wine has been given a day or two for the heavier particles to fall out on their own through gravity. It’s a way of making the wine temperature stable so that bad things don’t happen after the wine has been bottled.

If the wine was too high in acid the cold stabilization process were skipped, acid crystals could start to precipitate out later on in the bottle, even while sitting in someone’s wine rack. Acid precipitation would be an absolute disaster for a winery, but not so much for the home winemaker.Shop Wine Filters

Cold stabilization is beneficial if you are making wine from fresh fruits, and most beneficial when making wine from fresh grapes. If you are a home winemaker who is making wine from grapes every year, then yes, you might consider putting your wine through cold stabilization and chilling it down to for a few days before bottling or bulk-aging.

For most home winemakers though, this is not a process that can be practically accomplished. And that’s okay. Realize that there are many commercial wineries that never ever chill there wines. There are other ways of controlling excess acidity. And there are other ways to drop proteins out of a wine – time being one of them.

If you are making wine from wine concentrates or wine ingredient kits, then cold stabilization is pointless. This is because the acids have already been adjusted by the producer to make sure acid precipitation does not occur. There are no protein solids from any fruit to deal with either. When dealing with these packaged wineShop Temp Controller juices the only thing to be concerned about are the yeast cells, and these will easily drop out fine on their own or with a little help from a fining agent such a bentonite.

Chilling a wine down, aka cold stabilization, does have a place in winemaking, however as I think you can see, it’s a far cry from being an absolute must-have. Great wines can – and are – being made without such treatment.  But with that being said, if you have a spare refrigerator and a bucket of wine, go for it!

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.

Rochefort 8 Clone Beer Recipe (All-Grain)


Rochefort 8 Clone BeerBelow you will find a Rochefort 8 clone beer recipe for all-grain. It has all the information you need for brewing the Rochefort 8 from scratch. A worthy project to take on.

 

About Rochefort 8

The Abbaye Notre-Dame de Saint-Remy in Belgium houses one of the world’s most highly regarded Trappist breweries – Rochefort. This isn’t your typical microbrewery. The Cistercian monks of Rochefort have been brewing beer there since long before the term “microbrewery” was born – 1595 to be exact. The brewery at Rochefort produces three beers of varying alcohol content:

 

  • Rochefort 6 – Rochefort 6 is extremely rare, brewed just once a year. It has a light brown color with complex sweet, floral, and fruity flavors. 7.5% ABV.
  • Rochefort 8 – Rochefort 8 is a deeper brown color at about 9.2% ABV, brewed year round since about 1960. It has a drier and richer flavor than 6, sometimes described as fig-like.
  • Rochefort 10 – Rochefort 10 is the strongest of the three at 11.3% ABV, with spicy, earthy, and chocolate flavors.

 

All three beers consistently receive exceptional marks. (Just check BeerAdvocate and RateBeer.) Draft Magazine reviewed Rochefort 8 and had this to say:Shop Steam Freak Kits

A playfully bubbly head and heavy aroma of alcohol spice, black currant and sourdough belie this brew’s murky brown appearance. Dark fruits invigorate the taste buds: Plum, figs and raisins pool in the middle of the tongue over a solid bread crust foundation. Black licorice and pepper add sharp edges to the fruity sweetness while alcohol warms the back of the throat. Rochefort’s dry finish cuts through the rich flavors, and leaves dark fruit notes on the tongue long after the swallow. 94 points.

Sounds enticing, right?

After digging around for some clone recipes I stumbled across a site in which a number of European homebrewers collaborated to develop a Rochefort 8 clone beer recipe. They then tasted each of the brews and compared them to the actual Rochefort 8. I’ve scaled the winning clone recipe to a five-gallon batch, converted the measurements to English units, and made some minor adjustments based on the brewers’ feedback.Shop Barley Grains

Be sure to prepare a healthy yeast starter to get the level of attenuation needed for this brew.

Good luck!

 

Rochefort 8 Clone Beer Recipe (All-Grain)
(5-gallon batch)

Specs
OG: 1.080
FG: 1.010
ABV: 9.2%
IBU: 23
SRM: 35Shop Hops

Ingredients
10.5 lbs. Pilsner malt
1 lb. 9 oz. Caramunich malt (type II)
1 lb. 3 oz. Dark candi sugar
8.4 oz. Special B malt
8.4 oz. Flaked corn
2.5 oz. Carafa III
1 oz. Styrian Goldings hops at :75 (4.2 AAUs)
.67 oz. Hallertau hops at :30 (2.35 AAUs)
.33 oz. Hallertau hops at :5 (1.16 AAUs)
.33 oz. crushed coriander seed at :5
2 packs Wyeast 1762: Belgian Abbey II ale yeast
Corn Sugar For Priming

 

Directions Shop Beer Flavorings
At least 12 hours before brewing, pitch two packs of Wyeast 1762 into a 2L yeast starter. On brew day, mash grains in 3.5 gallons of water. Hold at 140-144°F for 30 minutes, then raise to 154°F for 60 minutes. Raise to 167°F for mash out, then sparge with 172°F water to collect about seven gallons of wort. Stir in Belgian candi sugar and boil for 90 minutes, adding hops and crushed coriander seeds according to schedule. Cool wort to 70°F and ferment at 69-74°F. Prime with corn sugar and bottle condition for 2-4 months or longer.

Do you have a Rochefort 8 clone beer recipe you’d like to share? Are you a fan of Trappist beers? Also consider brewing this Westmalle Tripel clone.
—-
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.

How To Use Bottle Sealing Wax

Man Using Sealing WaxDear Mr. Kraus,

Did not receive any instructions on how to use the bottle sealing wax beads I ordered . What is the best method to melt the wax beads. Have never used this wax before. Do you sell some type of melter. If you would please let me know how to use.

Thanks,
Sammy L.
—–
Hello Sammy,

How you use the bottle sealing wax can vary somewhat. There is not a specific way it has to be used.

We recommend melting the sealing wax in a tin of the appropriate size. This can be something as small as a soup can if you are only doing 5 bottles. If you are doing 50 bottles you may want to use something as large as an old 2 pound coffee can tin. Sit the tin in a pan of water to make a double boiler on the stove. This will help the wax to heat more evenly over a period of time.

Once the sealing wax is melted you will want it to stay in that tin, permanently. The wax if very hard to remove once in a container, so don’t actually put the bottle sealing wax in any good pots or pans, themselves.

How to use the bottle sealing wax is something that can be approached from a couple of different angles:Shop Sealing Wax

 

  • Dip the whole neck of the wine bottle into the sealing wax.
    Not only will the wax be sealing the wine bottle air-tight, but it will also become part of the wine bottle’s decorative decor. The colors look incredible against the glass and can work together with the wine label to a bottle of wine worth sharing.The downside is that this method can use up quite a bit of bottle sealing wax. One pound of wax will do about 40 to 80 bottles depending on how far you dip the neck into the wax. You may also need more sealing wax than this to create a reservoir deep enough to coat the amount of the bottle neck you want. This is dependent on the profile of the tin you select.
  • Pour the sealing wax directly onto the cork itself.
    The second way to use the sealing wax is more efficient but not as decorative. Inset the cork by an eighth to a quarter of an inch into the neck of the wine bottle. Then pour a disk of wax into the inset. You will want to pinch a spout onto the tin you are using. Heat protective gloves will be needed for this method, as well. Just like dipping the bottle into the wax, the cork is sealed air-tight, but will use much less sealing wax per wine bottle. You will usually get about 150 bottles per pound done with this method.Shop Heat Shrink Capsules

 

As you can see, how to use bottle sealing wax beads is open to some interpretation. If you are looking for full decorative value, dip the bottle neck into the sealing wax. If you are only wanting to make a better seal then use the second method and add a layer of sealing wax on top of the cork, itself.

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.

How Long Does Homebrew Keep?

Example Of How Long Homebrew Will KeepThe question: how long does homebrew keep, depends on a number of factors: the style of beer, the alcohol content, storage conditions, whether the beer was bottled with good sanitation.

I think what we really want to know is this – does the beer still taste good? Is it safe to drink? Does the homebrew last in the bottle? Discovering a stash of homebrew at my parent’s house over the holidays brought me to explore these questions.

The short answer is this: it depends. Most commercial brews have a best by date of about three months from the bottling date. Some beers lend themselves to aging more than others, but whatever the case, drinking old bottles of beer is safe, even if it doesn’t taste very good. The beer will last, but sometimes, not the flavor.

So how long does homebrew keep? To guide you through how long you should let your homebrew age, if at all, here are some general guidelines…Shop Bottle Cappers

 

 

General Rules for Aging Homebrew

  • Once bottles have conditioned for a few weeks, most homebrewed ales are best enjoyed within a few months. That said, sometimes they still taste good after six months or longer. Lagers usually require a cold conditioning period of a few weeks to a few months before consuming.
  • Hoppy beers should be enjoyed fresh – don’t age them! You generally don’t age your pale ales and IPAs so that you can enjoy their lively hop flavors and aromas at their peak. This freshness does not last long in these beers.
  • Some of the best beers for aging are high-gravity beers like barleywine and Russian imperial stout. If brewed and bottled with good sanitation, these beers can keep for a year or longer! This bigger the beer the longer it will last.
  • When aging homebrews, maintain a steady temperature and avoid exposure to UV light. UV light can degrade the hops in beer and “skunk” your homebrew. Try in the corner of a basement, on the floor, to help your homebrew last longer.Shop Beer Bottles

 

 

Aging Homebrew: An Experiment

To illustrate, I have a few examples. When I went home for the holidays, I found a stash of homebrew from a year ago.

  • Spiced Cherry Dubbel – This beer, inspired by the book Radical Brewing, came out to 7.7% ABV. It was brewed with tart cherry and black cherry juice added to the fermenter. My notes indicate that the beer was a little strong on the cherry flavors, but still enjoyable, with little cinnamon flavor, if any.
  • Winter Wassail – This is a winter spiced ale made with cranberries and green apples, and it’s become something of an annual brew for me. The recipe can be found in the book the Homebrewer’s Garden. This particular batch came out to 7.4% ABV, with a fairly assertive acidity from the cranberries and green apples. It turned out almost like a sour beer, which in my opinion is a good thing, even though I might dial it down next time around.
  • Braggot”/Brown IPA Experiment – Shop Temp ControllerThis beer was a partigyle from the Winter Wassail above. That means I took the low gravity final runnings from the mash of that beer to make a different beer. To boost the gravity, I added honey, and just for the hell of it, some hops to a gallon of wort just to see what would happen. This was one of those “why not?” experiments. I remember the result being rather cidery and unimpressive.

 

So how did these beers keep over time?

Surprisingly, the Winter Wassail and Spiced Cherry Dubbel hardly changed at all. They both kept very well. If anything, they became a little more balanced, but for the most part, they were exactly like I remembered them. I was kind of shocked that the fruit flavors lasted at all, but I was pleased to discover no evidence of oxidation or infection.

On the other hand, the “braggot” concoction was unrecognizable. I actually had to go back to my notes to identify what it was. The beer was kind of bland, with a sort of spicy, sort of cheesy hop character, which just wasn’t pleasing at all. I Shop Fridge Monkeysuspect that the low alcohol content didn’t preserve the beer very well, and the hops, being the main flavor feature, degraded quite a bit. This homebrew did not keep at all, so I dumped it.

The conclusion here is when you ask, “how long does homebrew keep?”, you have to know what homebrew you’re talking about. All don’t keep the same. Some homebrews to last long at all, while some keep quite well.

What’s the longest that you’ve ever aged a homebrew? How did it hold up?
—–
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.

Batch-Saving Tips For Re-Bottling Wine

Re-Bottled Wine In CellarWe bottled Lambrusco wine in February. We tasted 2 months later and decided it was just not going to be sweet enough. Is it ok to remove the corks-put back into clean container and sweeten more with the wine conditioner and then re-bottle the wine?

Name: Barbara
State: Kentucky
—–
Hello Barbara,

Unfortunately, we get asked this question quite often. I’ll start off by giving you the short answer, “yes, re-bottling wine is possible”.

What you are asking to do may sound simple in principal, but there are some considerations that need to be thought through first:

 

  • It is important to know that you will not be able to reuse the wine corks that you’re are pulling out of the wine bottles. There is no way to sanitize the wine corks completely after wine has saturated into them. Also, the corks have been put through a corking once so they would be more difficult to press into the wine bottle without destroying them. For these reasons when re-bottling wine you will need to consider the original wine corks a loss and use new ones.
  • The wine bottles will need to be cleaned and and sanitized again, so this will be extra work beyond just decanting and re-bottling the wine. I recommend using Basic A for this purpose. The amount of time it will take you to empty all the wine bottles, sweeten the wine and then bottle the wine back up is too long to leave them sitting, exposed to air with the residue of wine in them.
  • Shop Wine CorksAfter stirring in the Wine Conditioner to sweeten the wine, you will also need to add a sulfite back into it, just as you did the first time you bottled the wine. You can use either Campden tablets, sodium metabisulfite or potassium metabisulfite. Both the glugging of the wine as it pours out of the bottle into a bucket and the stirring of the wine as the Wine Conditioner is being blended will saturate air into the wine. This is something that can cause your wine to oxidize. Oxidation can potentially cause the wine to turn brown or orange in color and give it a smell and taste that resembles raisins or caramel. By adding the sulfites you will easily drive the oxygen back out of the wine.
  • One last thing: when re-bottling wine I would also recommend adding a dose of ascorbic acid to this wine in such a situation. Ascorbic acid is good for raising the acidity level of a wine without raising the acid taste or tartness. The ascorbic acid will help by consuming free oxygen they may still be left in the wine. This will also help to hinder any oxidation of the wine.

 

Shop Wine Bottle CorkersHaving considered all the above, you can also sweeten the wine as you drink it. I realize that the esthetics of sweetening a wine in a carafe or a glass as-you-go is not all that sophisticated nor satisfying, but it will save you a lot of work and still get you your sweet wine. A bottle of honey works well for such an occasion.

Regardless of what path you decide to take, just realize the re-bottling wine is something that can be done. Just be sure to follow the precautions listed above.

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.

10 Tips for Keeping Your Home Brewing Workspace Clean

Home Brewing WorkspaceMany brewers will tell you that they spend more time cleaning than brewing. While this may be true, there are a number of things that you can do to turn things around and make the cleaning process easier on yourself. Plus, a clean, organized home brewing workspace or area will go a long ways towards eliminating stress on brew day – and making sure your significant other is supportive of your brewing efforts!

 

Here are ten tips for keeping your home brewing workspace clean:

  1. Start clean. I find it’s best to start from a clean slate. Home brewing in a cluttered kitchen or basement gets annoying, especially when you find dishes or last week’s project in the way. Start with a clean, clear surface, and post-brew clean up with be that much easier.
  1. A brewer’s best friend: towels. Shop Bottle WasherAt the beginning of every brew day, I grab a stack of clean towels. They’re great for catching drips from the mash tun or boil kettle or wiping up spills (you will have spills). The sooner you can wipe up that spilled wort or beer, the less likely it is to become a sticky mess later on.
  1. Clean as you go. Just like with cooking, I’m a big fan of cleaning things up as you go along. Take advantage of wait time during the mash or boil to clean up some things from earlier steps. This saves time when brew day is done and helps to keep your home brewing workspace clean and clear.
  1. Rinse it – now. Most things that need cleaning in the home brewery benefit from an immediate rinse. Let that crud dry out and you’re just making things harder for yourself. Give it an immediate blast of water with a bottle or carboy washer then set it out to dry.
  1. Soak it. I find that most home brewing debris cleans up easily with an overnight soak in brewing cleanser. Give it a shake the next day, dump it, and rinse, and you’re usually ready to go for next time. Just be sure to inspect for your gear for any grime or deposits that need a little extra elbow grease.Shop Basic A
  1. Scrub it. For more difficult cleaning jobs, some scrubbing may be necessary. Using the right tool for the job is important. On plastics and other scratch-able materials, use a soft cloth to wipe down the surface. (Scratched surfaces can harbor wild yeast and bacteria.) For more durable materials, like glass and steel, brushes work well.
  1. Boil it. Boiling can be an effective means of cleaning your stainless steel homebrew equipment. Boiling can also sterilize it. This might work well for a stainless steel racking cane, thief, or brewing spoon, or for loosening up deposits on the bottom of your brew kettle.
  1. Compartmentalize. Keep your smaller gizmos and gadgets in a toolbox or similar compartmentalized storage box. This will help to keep your home brewing workspace clean and organized. It will also save time and energy when cleaning up after homebrewing.
  1. Stack it. Save space by stacking things like mash tuns, brew kettles, and buckets. Just be careful where you put your glass carboys – you don’t want them to fall.
  1. Hang it.Shop Bottle Tree Racking hoses, siphons, immersion wort chillers, and various other tools can take up a lot of space on a counter or table. Give yourself some room by hanging these items on a pegboard.

 

Keeping your home brewing workspace clean and clear can make all the difference between a stressful brew day and an enjoyable one. Looking for more home brewery organization tips? Check out these 5 Tips for Organizing Your Home Brewery.
—–
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.

Making Fortified Wine By Adding Brandy!

Making Fortified WineHave you ever thought about fortifying homemade wine. It’s an interesting style that’s made through a relatively simple process. You might want to see if it’s something you’re interested in…

If you don’t know what a fortified wine is, it’s a wine to which brandy or some other spirit has been added. Since brandy and other distilled products are high in alcohol – typically around 40% or 80 proof – this will raise the finished alcohol level of the wine. The home winemaker can do the very same thing by adding brandy to homemade wine.

From a traditional standpoint, fortification was done to make a wine more stable during long trips by ship or by cart. The wine’s alcohol level was raised to around 17% to 22% with the addition of brandy. The higher alcohol level acted as a preservative, diminishing the chance of spoilage during the long journey.

The big three fortified wines that most people have heard of are: Sherry, Madeira and Port. All three are Old World wines: Sherry originating from Spain, Madeira and Port from Portugal.

Shop Wine BottlesThe first thing the home winemaker needs to understand before making fortified wine with their homemade wine is that this process can be somewhat costly. For a five gallon batch of wine it takes five fifths (750ml) of brandy to raise the batch by 6-2/3 percent alcohol. With a typical fortified wine being about 20% alcohol and the cheapest bottle of brandy being about $10 to $13 a bottle, making fortified wine can be somewhat cost prohibitive.

With this in mind, the best strategy for the home winemaker is to get as much alcohol as they can from the fermentation, itself. To learn how to get the most alcohol out of a fermentation you might want to go over the article, Making High Alcohol Wines listed on our website.

Here is a calculator listing that shows how much the alcohol is raised in a 5 gallon batch with each additional 750ml bottle of brandy or other distilled spirit. This is assuming that they are 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof).

1 Bottle adds 1.5%
2 Bottles add 3.0%
3 Bottles add 4.3%
4 Bottles add 5.5%
5 Bottles add 6.7%
6 Bottles add 7.7%
7 Bottles add 8.8%

shop_liqueur_flavoringsYou will want to shoot for a total alcohol level of 17 to 22 percent. So if you have a batch of wine that has fermented to 14 percent alcohol, you might add 4 bottles to raise the total alcohol level to 19.5% (14.0 + 5.5).

When fortifying wine, you can use a regular brandy made from grape wine such as E&J and add it to a red wine you have made. This would be the most straightforward way of adding brand to a homemade wine. But there are also some other, more imaginative, things you can do.

For example, you could take a blackberry brandy and add it to a blackberry wine, or use a peach brandy to fortify a peach wine. You could also take a Merlot wine and add to it a raspberry brandy to accent its flavors. With all the different types of brandys that are available, the combinations are endless.

It is important that you make sure the fermentation is done before fortifying the wine with brandy. Once the wine has been fortified you will have great difficulty getting the wine to ferment, ever again. Not only does fortifying wine help to stop spoilage, it helps to stop fermentation.

Shop Wine Ingredient KitsAfter fortifying the wine, continue on as you would with making any other wine. If you are using a wine ingredient kit continue following the directions. If you are making wine from fresh fruit, give the wine plenty of time to clear and bottle as you normally would.

As you can see fortifying wine is not all that complicated. It is mostly a matter of adding brandy to a homemade wine. And, it makes a wonderful after-dinner wine. The brandy’s intensity combined with the original wine’s character, creates a powerfully, pleasant drink.
—–
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.

Insanely Simple Russian Imperial Stout Recipe (Extract)


Russian Imperial StoutStouts have always been big brews, but Russian imperial stout is the biggest of the big. From the high gravity, to the complex, roasty malt flavors, to the assertive hoppiness, a Russian imperial stout recipe is not for the faint of heart.

Actually an English style beer, Russian Imperial Stout was made to be exported to the Nordic and Slavic regions of Europe and was reportedly popular with the Russian monarchy. The high gravity and alcohol content helped with the beer’s stability over travel, but also provided warmth in the colder climates. Some fruity, yeast derived esters combine with a malt complexity to create a rich, complex brew sometimes reminiscent of strong port. The beer is often aged for flavor development.

As with many English beer styles, Russian imperial stout has been adopted by American brewers who often make roastier, hoppier versions of the style. BJCP guidelines for Russian imperial stout are as follows:

 

  • OG: 1.075 – 1.115
  • FG: 1.018 – 1.030
  • ABV: 8 – 12%
  • IBUs: 50 – 90
  • SRM: 30 – 40+

 

Tips for Brewing a Russian Imperial Stout RecipeShop Calcium Carbonate

  • To get the gravity needed hit 8-12% ABV, you need a large amount of fermentable ingredients, a minimum of 9-10 pound of malt extract. Even for the all-grain brewer, malt extract can help make the mash a little less of a chore.
  • You might consider using alkaline water to compensate for the astringency and acidity of the roasted grains. Some calcium carbonate (food-grade chalk) added to the mash/steeping water can help.
  • To balance out the alcohol and intense maltiness, a strong hop schedule is required. If brewing extract or partial mash beer recipe, consider adding half of your malt extract at the end of the boil to help improve hops utilization.

 

Shop Liquid Malt ExtractUse this insanely simple extract beer recipe below to craft your own Russian imperial stout. It’s been somewhat “Americanized” with high alpha hops and some assertive, American hop late additions. We also have a couple Russian imperial stout recipe kits from Brewcraft and Brewer’s Best if you’d like to go that route.

Happy brewing!

 

Motor Oil Russian Imperial Stout Recipe
(Five-gallon batch, extract with specialty grains)

Specs  
OG: 1.088
FG: 1.025
ABV: 8.3%
IBUs: 82
SRM: 39Shop Barley Grains

Ingredients
6.6 lbs. Light LME
6.6 lbs. Amber LME (late addition)
1 lb. Chocolate malt (crushed)
.5 lb. Caramel 80L malt (crushed)
.5 lb. Roasted barley (crushed)
1 steeping bag for specialty grains
1.5 oz. Bravo hops at :60
1 oz. Columbus hops at :10
1 oz. Cascade hops at :10
2 packs Safale US-05 ale yeast

Directions
Heat 2.5 gallons of water in the boil kettle to 155-165˚F. Place crushed grains in the steeping bag and steep for 20 minutes. Mix in 6.6 lbs of light LME. Bring wort to a boil. Add Bravo hops and boil for 50 minutes. Add Columbus andShop Home Brew Starter Kit Cascade hops and boil for ten minutes. Stir quickly to create a whirlpool, then cool wort to 70˚F using an ice bath or an immersion wort chiller. Pour wort into clean, sanitized fermenter, then top off to make 5.5 gallons. Use a sanitized spoon to mix well, then pitch yeast. Ferment at 70˚F for two weeks, then transfer to secondary for three to four weeks. Bottle and age for 2-4 months or longer.

Do you love to brew dark, heavy beers? Try this Uinta Dubhe Imperial Black IPA clone! Do you have a Russian imperial stout recipe? We’d love for you to share it: extract or all-grain!
—-
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.

Clearing A Cloudy Wine…

Winemaker Clear A Cloudy WineWhat can I use to remove the cloudiness in my wine. Can you help? I’ve strained the wine 2 times and it is still cloudy.

Thanks John
_____

Hello John,

What needs to be determined is, “why is the wine cloudy“? Is it from pectin cells in the fruit? Is it from suspended yeast cells? Is it from starches in the fruit? Or, is it because the wine simply needs more time to clear up?

In any case, the cause of the cloudiness needs to be determined before you can take any action. Anything less is just taking a stab at the issue. Determine why the wine is cloudy then take appropriate actions.

The first thing that should be done is a specific gravity reading should be taken with a wine hydrometer. This will tell you if the wine has completed its fermentation. If the specific gravity is .996 or less, this would indicate that the wine fermentation has finished. If the specific gravity is above .996 but not fermenting then you have a stuck fermentation and you need to determine why it is stuck.

Shop BentoniteIf the wine is still fermenting, even slightly, this would most likely be the cause of the cloudiness. In this case, just let the wine finish fermenting. Be a little patient and the wine will most likely clear in due time.

If the wine hydrometer has indicated that the wine has completed its fermentation, you will want to see if the top half of the batch is more clear than the bottom half. If so, this would indicate that the wine just needs a few more days to clear up. After a wine has completed fermenting it usually needs a week or two to clear up. Most homemade wine instructions will indicate this time period.

If you’re sure it’s been more than two weeks since the wine has completed fermenting, and it’s still cloudy, then it may be time to start using wine making products such as fining or clearing agents.

Treating the wine with bentonite would be the first step I would suggest. It’s an effective fining agent that most likely will solve your problem completely. But, if you see only marginal improvement, you should switch to Sparkolloid for a second treatment. In general, Sparkolloid will take out what bentonite doesn’t and vice versa.Shop Sparkolloid

If the bentonite clears the wine almost completely, but there’s still a slight murkiness, then you should switch to a polishing clarifier such as our Kitosol 40. You might want to check out the article, Using Finings To Improve Your Wine. It will give you more detail about fining agents and other wine making products you can use to clear your wine.

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.