Mar 13 2016
Feb 05 2016
Some notes on my plum wine making for 2016 (learnings for next time)
Fruit – picked approx 60kg of fruit – 4 times my harvest of 2012 (the last time I made plum wine). The tree was loaded this year. I picked the ripe plums between 5th and 12th Jan, that’s later than usual for the plums to ripen. I ended up discarding about 25% of the fruit due to being smushed, broken skin, not ripe enough – made jam and cordial with some of that.
Batch 1 (started 12 Jan)
- washed approx 20kg fruit in bath of warm water & washing soda (sodium carbonate) – not sure of ideal qty
- rinsed fruit in bath of cold water
- slit fruit with sharp knife to make easier for mashing
- mashed with potato masher
- added 4 campden tablets crushed and mixed in warm water
- let sit over night and added pectic enzyme next morning (best to wait at least 8 hours as SO2 retards action of pectic enzyme)
- separated juice from pulp – not easy! First tried my large BIAB bag but not easy to squeeze liquid out. So then did smaller batches in a muslin bag. Messy and time consuming – don’t recommend this approach again – just ferment on the whole fruit instead. Ended up with 13 L of pulpy juice.
- SG: 11.5 Brix
- PH 4 approx (litmus paper)
- Used chaptalization calculator to determine how much sugar to add. Added 1.4kg sugar dissolved in 1L of hot water. This brought Brix up to 18.5 but my desired Brix was 21. Added 400g more sugar which brought Brix up to 20 and left it at that.
- Added 12g yeast nutrient and 1 yeast activator tablet crushed. The latter was probably unnecessary but I had them on hand so why not.
- 13 Jan: Pitched 2 pks of Vintners Harvest VR21 Yeast. Pitched dry as recommended in the yeast instructions.
- Added more 2L plum juice after fermentation had kicked in
- Added 5L wine from batch 2 on 20th Jan
- 5 Feb (day 23) – racked to glass carboy
The approach used for batch 2 worked out less troublesome and quicker so recommend this method for next time – i.e. ferment on the whole fruit instead of trying to separate the juice from the fruit
- Prepped the rest of the fruit approx 30kg over 2 nights (14th and 15th Jan) and placed it into my 50L stainless steel brew kettle (with bazooka screen in place).
- Removed 2L juice from tap on kettle and added to batch 1. SG was 11 Brix.
- Added 2.3 kg sugar & 5L water. The Brix was now up to 20. Also attempted to check SG with hydrometer but too much solids to take a measurement.
- Pitched 2 packets of dried yeast ( VR21 – same as batch 1)
- Fermented for 5 days in ss kettle. On 2oth Jan transferred wine from kettle into fermenter – 24 L into batch 2 fermenter and 5L to top up batch 1 fermenter. The wine poured freely from the tap on the kettle leaving mostly solid fruit residue behind. Liquid losses were pretty low and it was a lot easier than trying to squeeze out the juices so I recommend this approach for next time I make plum wine.Measured SG at 1.012.
- My written notes were a little disorganised – I added 2.3 kg of sugar & 2 L water on 20th Jan when I transferred the wine from SS kettle to fermenters. I thought at the time that I had not added sugar to batch 2 but according to 3. above I had!
Update (April 2016)
Racked on 3rd April. Both batches very clear. Just a small amount of sediment/lees in both cases. Taste is ok but quite sharp – will need back-sweetening. Batch 2 is tasting the least sharp which is another tick in favour of fermenting directly on the fruit. Racked batch 1 into plastic fermenter, added oak staves. Racked batch 2 to glass carboy (full up so very little head-space).
Update (July 2016)
I bottled batch 1 (the one I had in plastic fermenter with oak staves). I treated it with campden tablets potassium sorbate to kill off the yeast, left it for a day or 2 and back-sweetened it, then bottled it. It tastes pretty good, a bit sweet as it took quite a bit of sugar to balance the sharpness. (I need to find my notes and fill in amount used!) A little sediment made it into the bottles so appearance is a bit cloudy. Perhaps if I take more care when racking batch 2 I can end up with clearer result.
Batch 2 is left to bulk age for longer in the glass carboy.
Dec 21 2015
Pitched this onto the yeast cake of the previous pilsner. Managed to chill the wort down to 12.5°C by pumping ice water through the immersion chiller. Due to pitching on yeast cake there was a very short lag time – obvious fermentation activity within 12 hours (at 12°C).
Result was just ok – tasted fine, slightly sweet/malty, not much bitterness and despite an extended lagering period quite a lot of sediment ended up in the bottles resulting in a cloudy appearance.
Nov 17 2014
- Leaf hops caused a bit of trouble with transfer from kettle to fermenter, had to keep clearing blockage from ball valve.
- Didn’t account for the 90 min boil in water boil-off calculations so need to add 4 L top-up water. Add boiled cooled water after fermentation kicks off.
- Just used a single packet of Mangrove Jacks Bohemian Pilsner yeast, rehydrated at 25C, pitched at 18C, held at around 17 – 17.5 C overnight, then temperature slowy dropped to 12 C.
- Plan to follow Brulosophy’s fast lagering method.
Nov 03 2014
I had planned to use S-04 yeast in this one but didn’t manage to pick up any on time so just made it with US-05 (hydrated this time). I also did a small split batch using Coopers yeast as I had more wort than would fit in the carboy. No hydrometer this time either so running blind on gravity numbers. I got a new hydrometer by bottling time so got a FG reading of 1.008 – a bit more attenuated than was calculated.
Oct 30 2014
I used to strain out the trub with a sieve when transferring the wort from the kettle to the fermenter but on one brew I got lazy and just dumped it all into the fermenter, every last bit of trub – hot break, cold break, hops debris and every single drop of liquid and solid material that was in the kettle. The result? Great beer, nice and clear, no off-tastes that I could tell. After that I never went back to attempting to prevent trub from making it’s way into the fermenter. I’ve been getting good clear beer and have made some of my best beers since then.
So when I came accross a blog post detailing experiments done on this – The Great Trub exBEERiment – I read it great interest. The article refers to a reasearch study done on the impact of kettle trub on levels of isoamyl acetate (banana) and ethyl acetate (nail polish remover) compounds. Surprisingly, the study found the that wort with the most trub actually produced a beer with significantly lower levels of these compounds! The author details his own experiment and discovery that the beer fermented with the kettle trub actually came out significantly clearer than one that had the trub carefully removed.
So why do brewers go to the trouble of seperating out the trub by whirlpooling, straining etc? I guess most brewers would assume that doing so will improve the clarity and reduce off-tastes but now it seems that not only is it not the case, but the opposite may actually be true.
I’ll keep on doing it my way, trub and all, but now with the knowledge that it’s not just a lazy shortcut but something in my process that may actually be beneficial to my beer.
Oct 26 2014
After a bit of a brewing absence (over 5 months since I last put down a brew) my stocks were running low so it was time to brew. I went for my favorite beer type, a good hoppy American style Pale Ale, but with all NZ hops so a New Zealand Pale Ale to be more precise. I used a little Pacific Gem for bittering addition and then 100g each of Waimea, Riwaka and Motueka for the flavour and aroma additions with some set aside for dry hopping. I targeted a 4.75% ABV as I’m finding the stronger beers that I’ve brewed recently a bit too much. I broke my hydrometer so running a bit blind on actual numbers but I’ve brewed enough to trust that it will come out pretty close to the calculated numbers. The addition of a ball valve to my brew kettle made transferring from kettle to fermenter a lot easier. Fermentation was a bit slower than usual to kick off – no action until second morning after. One theory, it could be due to lack of aeration of the wort, I relied on the splashing action of pouring the wort into the fermentor instead of giving it a good shake as usual.
May 21 2014
I added permenant volume markings to the inside of my brew kettle using a simple electrolytic acid etching technique that I discovered on the Home Brew Talk forum. Here’s how I did it:
1. Mark 10 litre volume increments in the kettle using electrical tape. I measured the water volume accurately by weighing it (1L = 1Kg). The side of the kettle needs to be dry for the tape to stick so I carefully dried it to the water line with paper towel and then line up the electrical tape with the water line.
May 12 2014
This is the process that I use for brewing all grain beer. I used to do this in the kitchen as a split boil in smaller pots before I got my new 50L brew kettle and a gutsy gas burner. But now that I have better equipment it is a much smoother process and it doesn’t steam up the whole house since I do the boil outside on the deck. I use an electric urn as a HLT for heating strike water and sparge water.
Prep prior to brew day
- Print out recipe and double check all ingredients
- Make sure equipment is clean and available:
- grain bag
- brew kettle
- sufficient gas
- immersion chiller
- fermentor and fermentor parts
- Crush grains
- Put water for mashing grains on to heat up in brew pot or HLT. Use at least 3L per kg of grain OR determine water volume from brewing calculator. I usually go with a wetter mash and less water for sparging. For an average grain bill I use 22L.
May 12 2014
Most of my recent beers have been rich, strong and hoppy beers. So I brewed this one to have a lighter easy drinking beer in my lineup of beers. The base is a blend of pilsner and pale ale malt with a little wheat and carapils for body/mouthfeel, head retention and a little biscuit to add another malty dimension. A good dose of late addition Motueaka hops should add some nice hop flavours/aroma while bitterness level is kept to a pretty low 25 IBUs.
Apr 24 2014
I found this fascinating story on a homebrewing forum. Venezuelan brewer, Daniel López, tells a great yarn about overcoming the challenges he faced making craft beer in his country. It was published in 6 parts which I’ve reproduced here. The English is not perfect but that just adds colour to the story, giving it the authentic feel of a story being told by a Spanish speaker.
Hi to all, this is the history of how i became a home brewer and how i make my nano brewery here in Venezuela. I think that this can help some homebrewers to reach their beer dreams ;D .
I will try to write in English but maybe it will be some errors in my writing, because my English is not perfect, so I hope that you can understand this post.
My name is Daniel López, right now in 2014 I have a little microbrewery (or nano brewery) here in Venezuela, the name of the brewery is Old Dan´s, you can find us in twitter as @olddans.
The idea of write this history in some way is to share with others brewers my dream of make good beer in Venezuela and build from nothing a microbrewery, I think that I will write in parts and post it here one part at a time.
When, why and how all started
Back in 1995 I think that make beer in your house it was something impossible, I think that only big breweries has the equipment to make this wonderful drink, this is the most popular drink here in Venezuela ( 83 liters of beer per capita in a year), in that time my father works in a international organization here in Venezuela, and he has to travel a lot, in one of his travels he find in a bookstore in Quito, Ecuador, the Dave Miller´s Home brewing Guide and Karl F. Lutzen Brew Ware (great books to become a home brewer and build your own stuff). These book inspire my father to make beer here in Venezuela, this idea was one of my father’s dreams, in the next 2 years my father read all the books and find another lots of book, make a big research about the making beer science.
In this time I was finishing my high school studies and prepare to begin my university career as a biologist, so in that moment I prefer to drink the awful commercial beer find in Venezuela than make my beer. I never imagine that several years later I will begin my brewery.
In 1997 I make a vacation trip to the US, and in that time I bring with me a Hydrometer, 3 airlocks, 3 rubber stoppers, a bottle capper and a few books. My father think that find the ingredients in that time in Venezuela it will be an easy task, but no, it was the greatest mistake in his brewing career. After a year of looking all over the country for the ingredients my father decide to put away the home brewing project.
Thirteen years passed and all the stuff that I bring to make beer was in the bottom of a box, in that time I always talk to my friends about make home beer as an interesting topic in some conversations, but I really never think to start home brewing in all that time. But this talk whit the friends it was an important point in all these story.
In September of 2010, one of these friends that lived in Ireland brought me a great gift, 500 gr of saaz flower hops and 4 packs of dry yeast, these was a special moment because after these, my life change in an excellent way.