PDA

View Full Version : New to alcoholic ferments, info, projects, etc..



EJM3
12-05-2013, 07:08 AM
I am new to all the alcoholic ferments but have been making fermented foods for a few years now, so I have a bit of experience with fermentation in general. I wanted to expand things a bit by starting in on something alcoholic that I can source locally and cheaply. So I decided on some mead, perry, cider, and cyser ferments as I have access to large amounts of apples, pears, and honey where I live for relatively cheap.

Cheap - local raw honey $32 for 12 lbs, some of the best I've had. Close to free - most orchardists will sell the seconds for about 20 a pound. Free if you know the right places/people - there are LOTS of feral apple, pear, and other fruit tress all over the area here, and my friend used to be an organic pear orchardist. So I have potential access to hundreds of pounds of free fruit, access to tons of cheap fruit, and some pretty inexpensive, very tasty, local raw honey.

So I spent the past few months researching all things relating to alcoholic fermentation that I could find online and off. I have read tons of articles, manuals, directions, instructions, formulas, exacting measurements, standards, absolute sterility requirements, and the almost total dismissal of "wild" or "open" fermentation as being too unpredictable, wasteful, not worth the chance of it not being "perfect", etc... It is just these qualities I look for, not the absolute perfectionism of getting the exact same thing every time. I have no problems with the different flavors, aromas, textures, tastes, etc of "wild" and/or "open" ferments. In fact that is the exact reason that I cherish them so much is the variability of all these factors. If I wanted the same old stuff every time I'd still be buying it in the store, not making it at home (provided I could find anything in the stores!) OK, rant over...

The cider/juice/must consists of: 5 types of feral apples, Winesap seconds, 2 types of crab apples, and local organic unfiltered pasteurized chemical free not from concentrate apple juice. There were 5 gallons originally, but 2 of them never made it to the carboys >;} I currently have the 3 gallons of cider divided into 3 different containers, 1 gallon has a large collection of herbs and spices in it - more of a metheglin, the other 2 gallons have had hone added later in the process after most of the sugars fermented out (That was about 6 days into the ferment by the taste and airlock activity).

All of the containers have some raisins that we harvested from our neighbors grape vines and dehydrated ourselves. I'm planning to try and make some wine with some next year as we harvested about 75 lbs of grapes from her vines this year and last year as well (Pyment maybe?). And I added about a pound of evaporated cane juice to the entire batch just to give it a kick start, and for some nutrients as well (Reconstituted with artesian well/spring water, the well/spring is only 2 blocks from our house).

I am going to stick with not using any additives to change the taste, color, clarity, etc. The addition of tannin, acids, enzymes, refined sugars (BLEH!), splenda (DOUBLE BLEH & BLEH on splenda!!), other sugar substitutes and sweeteners, modifiers, amendments, etc, may be fine in other peoples ferments but not in MY ferments. Other people feel free to do as your taste demands, and I will do as mine demands. Second rant over...

I like to have a taste of the wild so the first 5 days were wild ferment, but it seems the wild yeast almost stopped after this time, so I pitched some Lalvin D47 yeast with the honey, and we'll see where this leads... So far the smell is yummy, and the small samples I take when checking on things are getting a nice tartness that was not in the original cider/juice/must. No hints of sourness, just tartness.

I do not have a refractometer, hydrometer, or any other measuring device to figure the exact measurements of sugars/alcohols/etc. I may get something in the future. But I am not overly concerned with the exact amounts of sugars and alcohols in my ferments. Just as long as they have pleasant before/during/after flavors, and a nice mild alcoholic component to enjoy. I prefer to go more on a full sensory tour of my fermentation process rather than an exacting formula/recipe.

And an update before I hit the submit button: I decided to make just a plain as plain can be mead for my first attempt. I combined about 1.5 lbs of honey (Just upped that to a little closer to 2.25 lbs), artesian water to fill up the 2 quart jar, a gram or so of Lalvin D47 yeast re-hydrated before pitching, homemade raisins from our neighbors vines, and a tiny bit of pink sea salt for trace minerals, stirred the snot out of it for about 10-15 minutes, and now it is resting for the night.

Getting lots of activity just a few hours later.

After only 1 night sleeping I have had to stir ALL the ferments down 3 times today or they bubble and foam so much they threaten to blow through the airlocks, and the temps are about 55F to 65F, night to day respectively, so I don't thinks it's high temps causing the vigorousness of the ferment, just happily fed yeastie-beasts.

I love the fizzy, bubbling, burping sounds and smells of ferments in the house again. I look forward to making this a regular spectacle at the house. All of my ferments are right out in the open for everyone to watch and enjoy like aquariums full of my invisible alcohol spewing yeastie-beasts. (I read somewhere that mead is art of turning bee puke into yeast piss)...

I'll be starting a mead log just as soon as I get myself a little more organized in the next day or two.. Looking forward to this so much! I have been wanting to make mead/cider/cyser/metheglin/etc for a VERY LONG time (For over 20 years so far, half my life and more even)

Please feel free to critique, suggest, and give any advice you can think of... I am a total noob and need as much guidance as I can get. I may know the basics, some of the terminology, concepts, etc, but I am far from even a novice when it comes to alcoholic ferments.

fatbloke
12-05-2013, 08:33 AM
Welcome to the forums......

Sounds like you have access to some excellent sounding base materials.

I suspect that with time and experience you'll be able to keep you batches pretty additive free - though defining additive isn't so easy. Sulphites are produced naturally anyway, but we just happen to use them in a higher concentration to be able to make use of them for control reasons.

One of the things that can be very handy, especially with your access to apples/apple juice, is ascorbic acid. You will see that listed variously as a preservative, as an anti-oxidant, etc etc. But it's got a slightly better, more well/publicly known name too.......... vitamin C.

Equally, one of the things that some have problems with (more practiced makers as well as the newer makers), is some ferments getting stressed when under fed - yet it does seem that "under fed" is relative, inasfaras, a batch could have all the nutritional needs it seems to have, yet you know there's an issue when a batch (usually earlier in the ferment) starts to stink of rotten egg/hydrogen sulphide. It would seem that it's mostly connected with too low a level of thiamin - again, like above, it has a better known name...... vitamin B1.

There's plenty of things that you'll come across/learn about that might cause issues. Some of them more frequently than others. Stuck ferments being one of them.

Part of the learning curve is to learn that honey is famously low in nutritional content (well as far as yeasties are concerned anyway). So proper nutrition is quite important - there's plenty of stuff kicking around that may help.

You would likely only need a refractometer to check the sugar content of fruit, to make sure it's ripe enough to harvest (think the grapes you mentioned - if they're not ripe enough, then not only will any resulting wine be low alcohol, but could also have off flavours). They're not expensive, and if you have apples to test/check too, then $20 or $30 to buy one is money well spent.

As far as testing once everything is ready to go, but not yet had the yeast added, a hydrometer is pretty much essential. If you know what the starting gravity is, then you know roughly where it should ferment to depending on the yeast you've used (again, plenty of tables around for working it all out, or there's even the mead calculator to try).

Enzymes and stuff ? Pectic enzyme is generally recommended to make sure that any pectins from the fruit used in cyser/pyment/melomel etc, don't cause any haze in the finished product, but equally if used before the ferment is carried out, not only will it sort the possible pectin issue, but it also helps with juice/colour/flavour extraction from the actual fruit etc.

There's no "you should/must/need to do this" really. Just that some of the recommendations help you make better brews in one way or another. One of the excellent things about making brews that there's no real standards for, is that it's up to you how you make it, and just that some ways are better/easier than others....

There are some alternatives if you don't want to use some materials i.e. instead of yeast nutrients and energiser, you can as you've already worked out, use raisins/currants or you can use yeast hulls from the home brew store or even just use boiled or microwaved bread yeast (as long as the heating process has basically killed it off first). Just that you need to be aware that if it's raisins/currants etc, store bought ones often have preservatives sprayed on them, or that you often for ideal conditions, need to use a lot of them which can change the taste of the resulting brew, etc etc.

There can be a lot to know and/or learn, but to my way of thinking, you've done a pretty good job of working out the basics already.......

The NewBee guide (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=108&Itemid=14), has some excellent info if you haven't already read it.

Again, welcome to the forums.......

Chevette Girl
12-05-2013, 11:57 PM
I do not have a refractometer, hydrometer, or any other measuring device to figure the exact measurements of sugars/alcohols/etc. I may get something in the future. But I am not overly concerned with the exact amounts of sugars and alcohols in my ferments. Just as long as they have pleasant before/during/after flavors, and a nice mild alcoholic component to enjoy. I prefer to go more on a full sensory tour of my fermentation process rather than an exacting formula/recipe.

Welcome, and glad you're doing your research. If you're willing to sacrifice time, then you can safely go without additives, although as Fatbloke mentioned you may well run into nutrient problems, or pH problems for that matter, as honey itself is acidic. I usually avoid sulphites and sorbate if I can, but I'm not going to sacrifice a whole batch that might be starting to go just because I don't like the idea of chemicals (I also discovered that I get a wicked hangover from overindulging in my totally au naturel brews whereas I don't get it so bad from wines that I've stabilized but everyone's different. But I do make regular use of pectic enzyme for extraction purposes as Fatbloke said, and nutrients/energizer. Again, it's up to you.

There used to be a whole category on natural meadmaking but it got subsumed into another category the last time Gotmead did housekeeping, I'll try to remember to check my other browser to see if I bookmarked any of the good articles.

On the matter of the hydrometer, sure, go ahead and not care how much alcohol you've got. It's up to you. That's not the only reason for using a hydrometer. It's a valuable tool to let you know how your fermentation is doing. If you read enough on Gotmead, you will hear over and over, airlocks lie and you can't judge whether a ferment still has sugars in it by the taste. Your research will also lead you to the knowledge that you must be sure your fermentation's done before you can safely bottle, and if there's any remaining sugar, you should either stabilize or give it a year or two in the carboy to make absolutely sure it's not going to kick up again. The method is up to you, but just please don't inadvertently make bottle bombs. We don't want anyone here hurt by this hobby, er, addiction :p

EJM3
12-06-2013, 07:55 PM
One of the reason that I am having to go so slowly to acquire all the items needed to do BRIX/SG/OG/FG/etc, is that after my expenses each month I only have about $50 free spending cash FOR THE ENTIRE MONTH, sometimes less. So telling me a $30-$40 little item is an absolute must, is also telling me to spend somewhere between 60% to 80% of my pittance, I mean income! If I need a doctors appointment into town it's $5 each round trip on the bus that is a 4 to 5 hour excursion for each doctors appointment. So I have to save money for that too, and that's about $10 per month, plus other expenses here and there.

Being unable to work sucks, but it gives me a LOT of free time to indulge in hobbies that are long term, and not labor intensive. I have pinched nerves in my C5-6 (which is in my neck BTW, the nerves control segments of the right arm, hand and fingers, and cause severe pain, and loss of use). They have not healed completely even after surgery over a year ago to remove the disk, replace it with donor bone, and a titanium plate screwed in place on top of all that. Plus a few other major and minor medical issues. I am at home almost all the time, so having a way to do something through the winter is rather nice.

It's going to be a VERY long time until I can afford a real carboy of 3 to 5 gallons (let alone bottles, caps, corks, etc), unless I find one (or all of them!) cheap or free, let alone a refractometer, hydrometer and flask, thief, etc. I am improvising as best I can, but I only have a couple of real glass containers. I need something to put things in before I can start testing them with all the expensive equipment I need to save up for.

All the equipment that I have and use for fermenting has either been bought (at yard sales, as gifts from friends, etc..) and re-purposed, re-purposed from existing items in the house, or salvaged/reworked by myself into a usable item again, all over a period of 3 years or so to get to this point: So that I just now have enough containers to make a few gallons of something.

Free feral apples and a gallon of local raw honey donated to to me by my friend are what has gotten me started as well. The purchase of the Lalvin D-47 yeast set me back about $8.00 for 10 5g packets. I bought 3 airlocks this summer for making fermented pickles, and after sterilizing they are in use for my alcoholic ferments now. I have 3 more airlocks on order that a friend will let me pay him the $5.75 for them next time I get money to pay him.

I have tried craigslist, etc, but there are not really any deals in my area, especially if I have to walk/bus/walk, walk, walk,walk, walk, walk/bus/walk just to get to the place, and see if they still have it, the condition, etc, etc. I do not own a vehicle, or have a drivers license (my choice!), so driving is WAY out for me. I can sometimes get a ride with someone, but only once in a while, and usually just one way into town, not back.

So there is a glimpse of my life. Wherein I have to decide: is it needed? If so what else can be done with it? Is it fixable if broken? Able to be re-purposed? etc, etc, etc...

This is not meant to be a sob story, this is just how my life runs. But so far I have made it through. As far as having the proper amount of time, then I guess that I would have say that I have more then AMPLE time to tend to (so far) half a dozen projects, or more. I hope to have more in the future, but that is money dependent, not time dependent for me...

Honeyhog
12-07-2013, 12:06 AM
Your best buy would be a hydrometer and a testing vessel, about $7 or so unless you already have a tall thin vessel to hold samples then a hydrometer is about $5. Don't worry about a wine thief right now just use a sanitized turkey baster to extract samples. This one simple instrument will give you a lot of valuable info. I'm just up in BC so prices should be somewhat comparable. Keep a look out for 1 gal. glass wine or cider jugs they make great carboys. I have a little forest of them now. That way you only need a few bucks for 2.5 to 3.5 pounds of honey and maybe a bit of fruit to do a batch.

fatbloke
12-07-2013, 04:57 AM
Concur on that. A hydrometer will give you best value, and while a turkey baster and test jar work (that's what I use) you can actually get away with tieing dental floss to the top or with a small piece of clear tape. Then gently lower it into the brew.

Downside being that its harder to read the scale but it can be done.

It would give you maximum latitude for managing your brew so you don't waste precious ingredients by mistake.

The one gallon wine jugs suggested are a good idea plus restaurants are often good for used glass. You might have to sort through as its best to use bottles that take corks. For shorter term storage you can get plastic stopper cheaply but equally corks can be inserted with a piece of cut dowling of an appropriate diameter and you can use parafin candle wax or plain bee's wax to seal (a couple of different sized cans and some wire will make a usable "ban marie" to melt the wax). Those waxes might not be pretty but they work as well as proper bottling wax etc.

Ebay might also be a good place for cheap supplies ?

If you can be innovative you can make some pretty decent batches on a tight budget.

Life on a fixed income certainly isn't easy so.......

Oh yes, and because you need to keep D47 ferments below 70F/21C to prevent fusel production - which means the batches can take a very long time (if ever) to mellow, I'm gonna suggest once you've used it up, move to using K1-V1116. As it's likely to be less hassle, has all the good properties of D47 and a few more, and is likely to be easier to manage given your budgetary considerations......

Shelley
12-07-2013, 09:21 AM
A hydrometer is an extremely useful tool to give you repeatability in your brews, but it's also a very recent winemaking tool (the mid 1960s, if I recall correctly). Unless you count the "float an egge until it's as high a groat" method. Meadmaking is a lot older than that.

Good notes will also help you learn what you like, and how to create a recipe you can use and reuse. I think that's the most important tool in your meadmaking kit. Yes, there are a ton of things to buy that makes the process easier, more predictable, more professional -- which many of us use. You're making what you like to make, and enjoying the process -- that's what's important.

I'm a fan of Cotes de blanc, myself. It might be a little slow, but it's reliable and affordable. When you rack the mead off of the lees, keep some of the lees and see if you can't reuse them. (Proof the lees in some sugar water to test.)

Ask your friends to save screw-top wine bottles (with the caps) and/or flip-top bottles (if they drink Grolsh for example) and any gallon-sized bottles with caps. Some cheap port comes in these. Heck, you might get away with aging them in sealed mason canning jars. Those are often garage-sale items and the lids are cheap to replace. Call 'em redneck wine bottles, to go along with the redneck wine glasses. (And before any hackles get raised, I own redneck wine glasses. They're fun.)

EJM3
12-07-2013, 08:52 PM
When I get a few more shekels I will hit my LHBS "Der Man Shoppe" here in Leavenworth. which is only a 5 to 10 minute walk from my house, and pick up a hydrometer in a couple weeks. Plus I know the owner, and can get almost anything ordered if needed. You can pay him later, if you are strapped for cash at the moment. YES he runs on the honor/barter system, get what you need and pay him later in money/goods if you can't right then and there. Great guy!!! Need way more people like him around!!!!!!

I am also one of those people that will tend to document things to the point of needing an Index for the Table Of Contents, split into multiple volumes...;D

I just got 3 S type airlocks, so I can have a couple more projects going now. Also been looking at the 3 gallon PET water bottles at the store, but they never have a price on them, or they want something like $25-$30 for a 3 gallon size. WAY too rich for this poor little boy. Even the cheapie store brand bleh honey like substance is outrageous! $16.00 a quart/3 lbs!!! Not even the real stuff!!!!!! BLEH, and DOUBLE BLEH!!!

skunkboy
12-07-2013, 09:23 PM
Bottles you should be able to get for either free, or the Deposit, if your state has one, if your willing to clean/sanitize them, and possibly remove the labels. You might also want to see if there is a brewing/wine club in your area, they might have additional resources to share, or even lend you.

GntlKnigt1
12-08-2013, 02:50 AM
Looks like a very cool place !!!! http://www.dermanshoppe.com/

I get my empty bottles from a caterer and wash them, remove the labels, and sanitize them. If you don't have screw tops, perhaps you can manage something like this...
http://www.brouwmarkt.nl/tkurk-wedstrijdkurk-st-p-1610.html

Hopefully, they will have them at Der Man Shoppe too and you won't have to come to the Netherlands for them. GRIN

fatbloke
12-08-2013, 05:00 AM
Looks like a very cool place !!!! http://www.dermanshoppe.com/

I get my empty bottles from a caterer and wash them, remove the labels, and sanitize them. If you don't have screw tops, perhaps you can manage something like this...
http://www.brouwmarkt.nl/tkurk-wedstrijdkurk-st-p-1610.html

Hopefully, they will have them at Der Man Shoppe too and you won't have to come to the Netherlands for them. GRIN
Concur with that lot Doug, the shop looks like a good 'un.

Recycling places can be good for glass, bottles and smaller jugs etc, so can ebay, etc

The plastic topped "T" corks are what I use for stuff that's gonna be consumed reasonably quickly, though proper corks for longer term....

Honeyhog
12-08-2013, 02:29 PM
Look on craigslist in the winemaking section, people often have carboys cheap or free. I got a 26.5L and 2x23L carboys plus assorted goodies like bungs and airlocks for $30. One gallon glass jugs and lots of bottles can be found as well.

joemirando
12-08-2013, 08:32 PM
Look on craigslist in the winemaking section, people often have carboys cheap or free. I got a 26.5L and 2x23L carboys plus assorted goodies like bungs and airlocks for $30. One gallon glass jugs and lots of bottles can be found as well.

That's good advice in general. I have been doing exactly that for a year now, and have always come up empty. I don't know if its that there aren't any wine makers left around here, or if they're just all hanging on to their stuff, but not once have I found anything offered, let alone at a good price. But I keep looking. <g>

Joe

Honeyhog
12-08-2013, 08:53 PM
That's good advice in general. I have been doing exactly that for a year now, and have always come up empty. I don't know if its that there aren't any wine makers left around here, or if they're just all hanging on to their stuff, but not once have I found anything offered, let alone at a good price. But I keep looking. <g>

Joe
We have huge Italian and Portuguese communities in Vancouver and the surrounding area, not to mention hordes of yuppies who got into wine making and found it to be a lot of work or they tired of it. So there is always a lot of used equipment on the market around here. Seen lots of great starter packages with a primary pail 3-4 carboys, thermometer, hydrometer, flask, thief, auto siphon, bottle washer, bottle tree, bottles, corker a lot of the time for under $200 and sometimes $100 or less. I saw the deal above, more or less, for $80 but I already had most of the stuff I needed.

joemirando
12-08-2013, 09:14 PM
Lots of Italians here. Portuguese to the North, Irish, French, etc., all around. Being the former "Insurance Capitol of the World" isn't all-encompassing, and there are lots of Yuffies here (Young Urban Failures <grin>), but they've been the types that would rather buy whatever the latest fad drink might be than to actually get their dainty little hands dirty and actually have to WAIT for something.

Oops... ummm... errrr... was that out loud? <sheepish grin>

Joe

EJM3
12-09-2013, 10:51 PM
Looks like a very cool place !!!! http://www.dermanshoppe.com/

I get my empty bottles from a caterer and wash them, remove the labels, and sanitize them. If you don't have screw tops, perhaps you can manage something like this...
http://www.brouwmarkt.nl/tkurk-wedstrijdkurk-st-p-1610.html

Hopefully, they will have them at Der Man Shoppe too and you won't have to come to the Netherlands for them. GRIN


If I were to get over there I would have a great tour guide for the Nederlands. My partner was born in Amsterdam, and emigrated first to Canada, then to the USA a few years after that. He still speaks fluent (NOT fluid, too much phlegm involved for Dutch to be fluid ;D) Dutch, speaks with his cousin regularly, and living in "The Bavarian Village" of Leavenworth, there are actually quite a number of Dutch, German, Flemish, and Freislander speaking peoples here!

He doesn't drink, but he likes what has been coming out of the fermentarium so far. Even buying me the gallon of honey, and helped me collect, sort, and juice the apples just to get me off to a good start :eek:

EJM3
12-10-2013, 12:50 AM
Look on craigslist in the winemaking section, people often have carboys cheap or free. I got a 26.5L and 2x23L carboys plus assorted goodies like bungs and airlocks for $30. One gallon glass jugs and lots of bottles can be found as well.


That's good advice in general. I have been doing exactly that for a year now, and have always come up empty. I don't know if its that there aren't any wine makers left around here, or if they're just all hanging on to their stuff, but not once have I found anything offered, let alone at a good price. But I keep looking. <g>

Joe

I've been looking online for a few months now in preparation of my first large scale ferment, I have come up with at least 4 sources for local raw honey, but not a carboy, airlock, bung, or ANY other materials for a ferment of ANY type on CL!

So for right now I am using a 1 gallon glass juice jug AKA 1 gallon carboy, 1 one gallon jar, a 3 quart jar, 2 half gallon jars, and a 1 quart jar, these are all more or less my experimental ferments. All of the lids I originally retrofitted with airlocks for fermenting pickles, etc. A good bleaching and rinsing X 3, and I now have some VERY yummy smells coming out of my cabinets :D

But it looks like I'll have to get a hold of the LHBS owner here and see what he would charge me for a 3 gallon glass carboy, bung, hydrometer & tube, etc, etc. He may even be willing to do a barter with me for some of the items, love that! :cheers:

I'd also love some recommendations on different yeasts, I have the D47 because I can GUARANTEE that the lower cabinet in my fermentarium NEVER gets above 65F this time of year and is more likely to remain ~60F on a consistent basis. But I am also planning on ordering in at least one of these: Lalvin KIV-1116, 71B-1122, RC-212, and EC-1118. I plan to do a wide range of mead, cider, cyser, perry, pyment, and melomels as I have such wonderful access to all the ingredients. All of the fruit is either organic from the farmer, myself, friends, or wild harvested by myself and my partner and or friends.

Sticking to the organic theme is very important to me as my body has problems digesting and extracting the nutrients from food and drink, I don't need crap in my food and drink that could make things harder for me than they already are. Plus I have a few friends who are chem sensitive to things like K-Meta, and K-Sorbate, clarifiers, etc, and cannot have any commercial products containing them. So I will be cold crashing (easy to do when it's between -5F and 5F at night, and 20 or so at the highest for the day), and keeping the bottles in cold storage in the basement myself. That way if there is a bottle bomb it'll be my mess. But I do give out my fermented sodas with the caveat to refrigerate and drink in within 10 days or I won't guarantee it won't turn into a BB!