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View Full Version : First post, first batch -- "Refrigerator Velcro" Cherry-Pom Cyser (Frankencyser?)



scilib
09-26-2012, 12:49 AM
Hi all,
Been lurking about the past few weeks and have a first batch nearing the end of 1' fermentation. This is my first foray into honey! I'm modestly experienced in brewing and winemaking (microbiologist by training, it's inevitable) from back in the day, but have been away from the hobby (and the lab) for far too many years (kids, work, moving, life). Finally at a point in life where opportunity and enthusiasm have coincided again.

(The notion amongst certain local friends that my renewed interest is out of anticipation of my mother-in-law moving in with us in a few months, hence a stereotypical need for "more to drink" on my part, is completely untrue. Well, mostly. She's actually an enthusiast and a reasonably knowledgeable palate, so I'm looking forward to having another drinking buddy and something crafted to serve.)

But enough about me; let's talk about my brew :p

I originally intended to try a raisin cyser and held out a couple weeks to get my favorite unclarified apple juice -- 'tis the season for it. Unfortunately the stuff flew off the grocery shelves the day it arrived, and I only got my hands on about half the amount I wanted.

Feeling an overwhelming urge to BREW NOW, I picked up some substitutes, rummaged the kitchen, and generally took the refrigerator velcro approach. A purist I'm not; heck, I might just be making a high gravity mishmash hooch here, but that's OK. Sometimes, I like hooch. (Do give me credit for resisting the urge to toss in the leftover candy canes I found from last Christmas.)

The Recipe, 3 gallon total volume:

5 lb Virginia wildflower honey (decent bargain at $12)
1.35 gal Simply Apple unclarified juice
1/4 gal Fruit Fast tart cherry juice concentrate (grocery selling cheap, I think they overstocked)
1/8 gal POM pomegranate juice (I had a coupon)
~1/2 lb light brown sugar (the exact quantity found in the back of the cupboard)
10 oz raisins, pureed in juice
10 oz dried cranberries (found next to the sugar), pureed in juice
6 oz dried cherries (found next to the cranberries), pureed in juice
6 Earl Grey tea bags (what the heck)
1 tsp pectinase
brought up to 3 gal (US) total vol in fermenter bucket with boiled, cooled tap water (our city water is hard, but good), must temp=75*F

All ingredients went in at room temp, no boil or pasteurization by my hands.
Initial SG = 1.140
Pitched 5 g Red Star Premier Cuvee yeast (chose this to handle the high SG), hydrated 20' in lukewarm water.
Incubated at 70-75*F (my house doesn't have a basement so chose a coolish spot behind the sofa, where the kids hide from the Daleks)

Gave it a good stir once a day for the first three days. Removed tea bags at two days, as they should've given their all by then and at some point would just be a mold magnet.

Fermentation took off like a champ, surprisingly little foaming for all that fruit-stuff, but the batch sounded like 3 gallons of Rice Krispies through day 5 (when I could hear it over the kids whimpering behind the couch, that is). Premier Cuvee (same pedigree as Lalvin EC1118, I'm told) is indeed a muscle car:

TIME: SG
0: 1.14
28h: 1.13
48h: 1.11
68h: 1.095
84h: 1.085
5d: 1.062
7d: 1.04
9d: 1.03

Business trip to Columbus a few days later, stopped by a lovely HBS there. Added 3/4 tsp LD Carlson yeast energizer thus acquired, at 84 hours, just past the 1/3 sugar break. Maybe not necessary -- there's gotta be enough available N in all those fruit bits, but I wasn't sure about vitamins/micronutrients and didn't want it too poop out early. If anyone have a sense for how much nutritional content, compared to an energizer+DAP scheme, there is in dried raisins, and/or cherries, cranberries, etc., I'd love to hear about it or be pointed to a thread.

---
So I'm now at day 9, still have a bit to go on 1' fermentation but am contemplating next steps. I did a first "considered" tasting on the hydrometer sample tonight.

- color has stayed a pretty deep purple, past a syrah, almost "wine dregs" color (http://www.colourlovers.com/color/3A0324/Dregs_of_Wine)
- not much on the nose other than a lot of alcohol at this point. My wife couldn't get it past her nose, but then, she's not much of a drinker.
- tastes medicinal, throat burning -- I expected this, given an ABV maybe 15% already; fast and warmish fermentation; there's no doubt some phenol in there. I know what to drink next time I have a sore throat.
- pretty dry already, even if the SG is still on the high side for a FG. Probably all the tannins and other polyphenols from the dry fruits. I like and intend fairly dry, will let 1' fermentation go as long as it keeps going (and eventually backsweeten if it gets too harsh).
- definite cherry and other fruit flavor in there beneath the alcohols, a relief that it didn't all get blown out by the strong fermentation rate, which I learned here can happen with cherry. Though I didn't get apple out of it at all.
- overall impression is reminiscent to this old altar boy of cheap Communion wine (the stuff Padre bought so no one would want to take more than a sip). Not a bad result at all, for this stage of making.

---
SO, I'm looking for a bit of advice. I had been contemplating racking onto fresh or frozen cherries for the secondary, if the fruit had been blown out in 1'. I'm leaning against that now, since those notes still seem to be in there somewhere, and Lord knows I won't need to give it more potential alcohol as it could already close in on 18% ABV.

The apple might be a lost cause underneath the cherry. Mild irony noted vis a vis the original plan. I'll be pleasantly surprised if it re-emerges down the road.

Instead, wondering what I might do in secondary to help tame the medicine, besides allow passage of time. I'm holding out hope that this might be shareable by spring '13. Would oaking be helpful? -- I'm thinking dark toast American, might that help calm astringency a bit? Also contemplating throwing into secondary the vanilla bean I found in the back of the cupboard, the one behind those dried cherries.

If you're still reading, thanks, and yikes, sorry for the Melvillean-length post. That sample might've been stronger than I realized.

wayneb
09-26-2012, 09:27 PM
Generally, I like what you have going here. Given the warmer fermentation conditions you mentioned, only time will mellow the beast - since you probably have a combo of phenols and higher order alcohols (fusels) in the mix. But all is not lost, especially with respect to the apple - expect it to present itself after about 6 months or so of aging. Talking about aging, let the brew finish in primary (stable gravity for a week or longer), then rack off the lees (you don't want vegetal or other funky character to emerge from breakdown and release of sulphur compounds from the leftover fruit) and let it age gracefully for several months.

To tame the beast a bit sooner, you might try aging on some oak cubes. Wood tannins tend to cross-link with harsher tannin and phenolic compounds from the fruit, and they will mellow out quicker. Also, while fermentation is still active, I hope that it will take the final gravity somewhere below 1.020, despite the increase in alcohol. That will reduce the "communion wine" character, and I think you'll find once everything mellows out and integrates a bit, if this finishes semi-sweet to dry you'll have a very nice sipping beverage on your hands.

Finally, welcome back to the addict...err... ahh the Hobby, and welcome to our "Gotmead" community! Sounds like you're well on your way to making a higher class of hooch, but we're glad you chose our neighborhood to share your experiences with!

TheAlchemist
09-27-2012, 08:29 AM
Sounds like alls well that's ending well.

For the future, it may make sense to read the labels on the dried cranberries and such. They will sometimes include sulfites that may slow your yeasties down.

scilib
09-27-2012, 05:24 PM
Thanks to you both. Right, I did confirm there was no mention of sorbates, sulfites, other inhibitors on the dry fruit or juices, so should be good on that point.

The airlock is still exhaling, more slowly but steadily, maybe 4x per minute, so I'm optimistic that the SG will still drop to near 1.000 over the next weekish. Will let it coast until the reading flattens out over several days. I might strain off the fruit solid floaters tonight, just to reduce risk of H2S as much as I can.

In the meantime, will see if I can score some dark toast oak cubes from one of the stores around Cincinnati -- thanks Wayne, for confirming that's a reasonable approach when I transfer to the 2' (and for mentioning the cross-linking chemistry -- new factoid for me).

"Addiction" indeed. I'm already plotting my next batch, once this fermenter bucket is available. (Hmm, this could get ugly quickly; my wife is a cake baker, so she empties out 5 gallon buckets of frosting pretty quickly -- she might have to start hiding the empties from me.)

I'm thinking next will be a plain, traditional mead, as a counterpoint to my "that sounds good, toss it in" approach.

Prost!

Chevette Girl
10-01-2012, 12:06 PM
Hi Scilib! Nice to see another lab rat around... (ok, environmental engineer by training but never should have gone beyond lab tech).

The forum search engine is your friend (even if you want to strangle it occasionally), a quick search using the terms nitrogen content turned up this (http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php?t=19146&highlight=nitrogen+content)thread which contains a link or two to fruit amino acid and nitrogen content. Doesn't tell you how much is yeast-available, but hey, it's a start.

And that vanilla bean? Why the heck not?

Chevette Girl the enabler... ;D