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Archive for February, 2008

While I was on a roll, I decided to check on the beer too. It has been about 15 days since I started it going, so it should be coming along nicely.

Linthwaite Light still fermenting

There is clearly still activity which is pleasing given the gravity is currently at 1.016, with a target of 1.010 or less. I’m happy this is doing well at the moment, and I will be leaving it another couple of weeks before taking another reading.

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After checking on the Merlot, I decided to see how the Strawberry was doing too. After leaving the hydrometer to soak in the sanitising solution for a couple of minutes I rinsed it and dropped it gently into the strawberry wine. Again, I photographed it so that I had a definitive record to compare against next time. Unfortunately I couldnt take a picture through the glass demijohn, so I had to take it through the opening:

Strawberry Hydrometer

 

Day Time per bubble (secs) Gravity
0 infinite
1 8
3 4 1062
6 1.5
12 50
19 103 (after hydrometer reading) 1.008

As the picture shows, the gravity is around the middle of the small black band on the hydrometer, which is the 1.008 mark. This actually puts it in the target of 1002-1008, however, as it is still bubbling, all be it slowly, it has clearly not stopped fermenting yet. The instructions do state that it should not drop below 1.002, so hopefully it is fairly close to finishing.

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Merlot check…

With the prospect of a free weekend on the horizon, I wanted to take a reading of the Merlot to have something to compare against at the weekend to see if it has finally stopped fermenting. Hopefully it will have done, so that I can transfer it to secondary and begin the final stages before bottling. I have taken to storing the hydrometer in a bottle containing water and sanitising powder so that I can take readings without any further sanitising hassle. I rinsed it and gently dropped it into the wine, and as mentioned previously, I took a picture:

Merlot Hydrometer

Day Time per bubble (secs) Gravity
0 infinite 1.078
3 2
5 9
9 15
12 18
15 30
21 55 1.000
24 infinite (after hydrometer reading) 0.998
27 infinite 0.997
34 infinite 0.996

I think this has gone down a fraction more in the last week since the previous reading, but I’m hopeful it will now have finished. The target gravity of 990-994 is close enough for me to be fairly happy, but only time will tell whether this is close enough to still make a great wine.

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First IPA Tasting

I debated when to open the first bottle of my very first home brewed beer. I had intended originally to leave it at least one month, but some expert advice stated that it could be at its peak after as little as 4 weeks. This advice went against my experience when tasting Phil’s homebrew (see my blogroll), as it seemed to get better and better up to at least 9 months in some cases, and not being close to its best until it had been in the bottles for 3 or 4 months.

My uneducated theory on these time differences is that it may be the case that after around 4 weeks, some of the strongest flavours like the hops and bitterness begin to fade slowly. However, other flavours grow as the beer matures. Therefore as time goes by you get a deeper, more blended and more well rounded beer, which to my personal pallet, is much more favourable.

Getting back to the point, I decided that as this is my first beer, I need to learn as much as possible about the phases the beer goes through, so opening a few of my 42 beers before the beer is at its best will be worth it. So, on Friday, 10 days after the beer had been bottled, I opened my first one.

First IPA Taste

I opened the very last bottle I bottled (one with a gold cap if you read the bottling post here). This would therefore have had a number of the lumps of yeast in. There was also the chance that it had extra priming sugar in, given I had intended to leave the beer with the priming sugar mixed in for around 30 minutes, but it had well over an hour as I cleaned all the bottles.

There was a pleasant fizzing sound as I popped off the cap. I poured it carefully and no head really appeared until I straightened the glass to pour the final third in, but even then it was just a very short-lived co2 head and was gone in 30 seconds. There were lots of bubbles rising in the beer to start with. As the picture shows, the beer was very dark, and not very clear at all. The aroma was pleasant, though very mild. I would say it was a slightly fruity smell.

When I finally tasted the beer, I was rather disappointed. It had very little flavour at all – barely anything to have an opinion on. It was pleasantly fizzy, but perhaps already slightly more fizzy than I would want an ale like this to be. There was a very slight after taste to the beer. It wasn’t very noticeable, but I might describe it as a slightly yeasty taste. The beer was also quite sweet. This made it hard to drink.

My overall feeling currently is disappointment, but I still have some hope for this beer. This was after all the last beer bottled, so the the yeasty taste, the fizz and the sweetness could all be explained by this. The desired flavour I hope will come with time, as will clarity. I intend to leave it a couple of weeks before opening another one, which will be one of the first I bottled.

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After checking on the Merlot, I realised I hadn’t done a bubble count on the Strawberry in a while, so I sat down by the demijohn with a watch and timed how long it took, on average, between bubbles:

Day Time per bubble (secs) Gravity
0 infinite
1 8
3 4 1062
6 1.5
12 50

Comments:

  • The bubble rate has dropped massively, but I did forget to take any readings for 6 days.
  • Given the very fast bubble rate previously, it is possible that this could have could the Merlot up and almost have finished fermenting.>/li>
  • Given the goings on with the Merlot uncertainty, despite the suggestion from the bubble rate that the Strawberry might be coming to the end of fermentation, I will be leaving this alone for a week or so yet.
  • I will give the Strawberry plenty of time to finish. All the advice is that leaving it in the primary for longer, even if fermentation finishes, should do no harm at all.
  • It should continue to provide me with feedback via the airlock.

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Merlot still going…?

I took another reading of the Merlot with a hydrometer, having convinced myself it must have stopped fermenting and I wanted to get it into the secondary demijohn. The hydrometer dropped to a level where only the very top of the yellow section was visible, and none of the digits of 1.000 could be seen. Given the results of my hydrometer test showed I should be taking a line from just above the actual level of the liquid (not the level of the bell), this is a reading of about 0.997. I didn’t take a photo as I didn’t want to expose the wine to a bright flash, but I wish I had so I could look at it again.

I have tried to be very descriptive about the reading this time, so that I have something to compare against next time I take a reading. The reading does seem to be below the 0.998 from last time, but now I am doubting my reading from last time. Hopefully if I leave it another 5 days or more, if I can see any of the yellow section, fermentation is over. If I can’t, I should leave it longer.

I should add that I have still seen no bubbles at all from the Merlot recently, and not even any sign that pressure is moving the water round the airlock at all.

Day Time per bubble (secs) Gravity
0 infinite 1.078
3 2
5 9
9 15
12 18
15 30
21 55 1.000
24 infinite (after hydrometer reading) 0.998
27 infinite (after hydrometer reading) 0.997

Conclusions:

  • From now on, I will photograph my hydrometer readings. Any exposure to the flash will be worth it I think, given it will save me doubting readings, and making extra readings because of it.

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Merlot Impatience

Since taking the hydrometer reading 3 days ago, I have been keeping an eye on the airlock on the Merlot to make sure it got going again. In 3 days I hadn’t seen a single bubble. I put the first day down to it needing to fill up the remaining space with co2 before it started coming through the airlock, but after 3 days I was worried it had stalled.

I decided my best bet would be to try to get a bit more of the yeast suspended back into the wine, so I removed the airlock, placed a clean thumb over the hole and very slowly and carefully turned the container upside down so as to get some of the yeast off the bottom, while trying not to let the wine splash or bubble.

Having done this, I decided to take a hydrometer reading just to confirm nothing had changed. (Yes, I know I should have done this first.) I was surprised to find the reading was 0.998, though now I’m not sure if this is because of the extra yeast suspended in the wine, or if it really has been fermenting, despite the lack of bubbles. I will try to do some research to see if yeast would decrease the gravity and post an edit back here.

Day Time per bubble (secs) Gravity
0 infinite 1.078
3 2
5 9
9 15
12 18
15 30
21 55 1.000
24 infinite (after hydrometer reading) 0.998

I think this is the first time since I started brewing that I have let impatience affect my brewing. Hopefully I haven’t done any damage, but I will be sure to leave it a while now before taking another reading.

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Having been concerned about pitching the yeast into the Linthwaite Light mixture at only 14 degrees C, I had meant to check on it after a day or so to check it had started fermenting ok. I kept forgetting, but finally got round to taking the lid off today and having a look.

Linthwaite Light fermenting

As the picture shows, there were clear signs of fermentation. The beer has been bubbling away, so I am very pleased.  I saw no reason to disturb it with a hydrometer reading, so I gently replaced the lid, re-covered the bucket with a towel and left it to do its stuff.

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While I was checking on the Merlot, I spotted that the Strawberry was bubbling away much faster than it was previously, so I decided to do another count for future information:
Day Time per bubble (secs) Gravity
0 infinite
1 8
3 4 1062
6 1.5
It really is bubbling fast now. The temperature in the brewery is around 17 degrees currently so I don’t think it is too hot, so hopefully this is fermenting as it should. Interesting at this point the Merlot had already slowed to more than 9 seconds per bubble. It will be interesting to see if the Strawberry finishes fermenting any quicker.

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Checking the Merlot

It is 3 weeks to the day since I set the Beaverdale Merlot going. the results of another bubble check are below:

Day Time per bubble (secs) Gravity
0 infinite 1.078
3 2
5 9
9 15
12 18
15 30
21 55 1.000

As you can see, the wine is now getting close to the target of less than one bubble a minute. I decided to take a hydrometer reading in order to see for certain the state of the wine. As shown in the table, the reading was exactly 1.000. The instructions state that the target is 0.990 to 0.994. I’m pleased to see that the wine has made it a long way down from 1.078. I hope it can make it down just a few more points now. Hopefully by recording the bubble rates and gravity with this, my first wine, I will have a better understanding for future wines of whether it is likely that it will drop further points now that its almost at just 1 bubble a minute.

I also had a little taste (just the juice off the hydrometer). It didn’t taste unpleasant, but it had a very alcoholic taste – like a very cheap wine. I was a bit disappointed, but hopefully it will just take time for the flavours to mature.

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