Archive for the ‘Brewing’ Category

My final task for the weekend was to get a second wine going. I have had this kit for quite a while now. I got it with the first lot of wine gear, so its about time I got it going.

I emptied the bag of grape juice into the demijohn and rinsed out the bag with water and poured that in too. I filled the rest of the demijohn with a mix of cold and boiled water in order to keep the temperature of the wine at about 20 degrees. I shook it well and measured the gravity to check it was fully mixed. It was about 1.080, matching the target of 1.075-1.080.

I was told this was a Rose but it looks pretty dark at the moment – I therefore ignore the “white wine only” instruction to add the Bentonite. I did add the oak chippings and then the yeast and gave the demijohn a good shake until my arms hurt. I then poured a little extra water into the demijohn to wash all the yeast and chippings that had stuck to the mouth of the demijohn into the wine. However, I got a bit carried away and filled the demijohn up a little higher than I should have done. Hopefully this won’t be a problem.

I finally put the airlock in the top and placed the wine in the brewery.

Unlike the Plum, this can now be left alone for 2 to 3 weeks while fermentation completes.


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Brewing up a Plum Wine

After a quick taste of the recently bottled Strawberry wine suggested it would be a very pleasant summer tipple, the missus persuaded me to kick off another. She picked a plum this time. Starting it brewing began by pouring the contents of the tin of grape juice into a sanitized demijohn and adding 1.8 litres (3 pints) of cold water. I then dissolved 450g (16oz) of granulated sugar in 0.6 litres of boiling water. (I actually did this in 2 batches as I didn’t have a large enough jug to do it in one), and added this to the demijohn. Finally I added the wine yeast and nutrafine sachets and shook the demijohn as vigourously as I could. I also tested the strength of the demijohn by dropping it in the sink – its pretty strong 😉 .

I finally added the airlock and placed the wine in the brewery. In 3 days I need to top up the level to the 4.5 litre mark with tepid water.

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After bottling the stout I took a trip to the homebrew shop while the fermentation bucket was soaking. I had intended to buy a lager style beer ready for the summer, but for no reason at all the missus pointed this box out so I figured – why not. I am keen, for now at least, to stick to two tin kits where no sugar is required.

The kit didn’t take long to get going. I emptied the two tins into the bucket and added a kettle and a half of boiling water to the bucket, via the tins to rinse them out. I stirred this for some time until all the wort was dissolved. I then filled up the rest of the bucket with cold water, before checking the temperature, and then adding the yeast. This again became very lumpy, but with another really good stir they finally all broke down. I popped the top on the bucket and carried it into the brewery.

In 3 days time I will add the hops. There were two options for adding the hops – either boil it to add extra bitterness, or simply add it to the wort on day three. Given the amount of home brewing I had done by this point I went for the easy option. It will be interesting to see how this comes out, and whether it misses a bit of bite.

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Having finally bottled the Light, I can get this Stout going. I wanted to do a stout to start giving me a real choice of ale types in the future. I chose this one as I read that it was the closest stout kit to Guinness. I doubt it will come out anything like it, but much to the missus’s annoyance, I still went for this over the Chocolate Stout (She doesn’t even like stout, but it has the word Chocolate in the name 😉 ). Phil (see my blogroll) has just bottled his attempt at the same brew, so it will be interesting to see how ours compare.

Stout Can

As soon as I finished bottling the Light I emptied the bucket, scrubbed off the obvious dirt and then filled it with sanitising solution. After rinsing it out with cold water I poured in the wort from the tin and added two 1.7 litre kettles of hot water to it (which now that I do the maths is considerably more than the 2.5 litres I was supposed to add, but I can’t imagine that matters greatly.) I also used a little of the hot water to rinse out the tin as best I could without making a complete mess. With freshly boiled water, it dissolved fairly quickly. I then went about filling up the rest of the bucket with cold water. I did this by continually filling a jug with water from the tap on the assumption that this brew, like the others, requires the wort to be aerated well. This aerates the water as it fills the jug, and then I also poured the water in quickly and from a height.

When the bucket was almost full, I measured the temperature to check it was between 21 and 16 degrees as instructed. It was 20 degrees, so I continued filling it with cold water. However, I did slightly overfill it, but hopefully this won’t dilute the stout too much, and also, hopefully it won’t foam over the side during the initial fermentation. I followed the extremely brief instructions by sprinkling the yeast on top and stirring it in. I was worried this might caught lumps as happened with the IPA when I just sprinkled in the yeast, and although there were initially some small lumps, these seemed to break up after a good stir.

Finally, I gently rested the lid on the bucket and placed it in the brewery. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this comes out. It already looks good 🙂

Prepared Stout

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Linthwaite Light Box

As soon as I got my previous brew bottled (the Munton’s IPA) I gave the fermentation bucket a quick clean to remove all the obvious dirt and then left it full of a sanitising solution all day, with the stirrer and the lid in it. (I rotated the lid a few times as only half of it would fit in the bucket at once.) I didn’t have much time in the evening, but I decided that there was still time to get the next brew going. I wanted to do it asap or else it could be another week before I got time again. I rinsed out the bucket as well as the stirrer and top and was ready to go.

I placed a can opener, jug, thermometer and hydrometer in the sink and covered them with warm sanitising solution. I also placed the two cans from the kit in the water to soften up the contents. After a few minutes I rinsed the jug and thermometer and half filled the jug with water from a boiled kettle and the cold tap, until I had water at about 20 degrees C. I added the sachet of yeast to the jug and gently stirred it with the thermometer. Initially some of the yeast stuck together in clumps but I ensured I broke these down, and then left the yeast on the side.

I rinsed the cans and the can opener, and opened the two tins, pouring the contents into the fermentation bucket. I then filled both tins with boiling water from the kettle and stirred both. Into one tin I also added the hop bag (like a large teabag) to impart the hops flavour and left this for 15 minutes. I removed the bag and poured both tins into the bucket again. I stirred the mixture in the bucket for about 5 minutes, until it was completely mixed. As with the last brew, it was easy to see when this was done as no extract remained on the stirrer. I then proceeded to fill the bucket with jugs of cold water from the cold tap up to the 4.5 litre level marked on the side. I deliberately poured this into the bucket very quickly and from a high, as well as filling the jug from the tap very quickly, in order to add as much air as possible.

Once the bucket was full, I measured the temperature of the contents, to ensure it was below 25 degrees C (as per the instructions). I found, due to the very cold temperature of my cold tap, the contents were actually at 14 degrees C. I was a little worried this might be too cold for the yeast, but decided to go ahead anyway. I pitched the yeast, which now had a small head on it, and stirred the bucket for another 5 minutes to ensure as much air was taken in as possible. I then took a hydrometer reading, for future reference. It was hard to see the exact level due to the head on the beer, but the hydrometer dropped to about the bottom of the red section – a reading of 1040.

Linthwaite Light Hydrometer Reading

Finally I gently rested the bucket lid on top of the bucket, and moved the very heavy bucket into the brewery and placed it on a large book, so that I would be able to attach a tube to the tap later on.

Linthwaite Light fermenting in the brewery

I wrapped a warmed towel around it and the job was done. However, I was still worried about the low temperature of the beer, so I whipped out the missus’s hair dryer and gave the bucket a quick blast of hot air all around the base under the towel. Hopefully this will have helped bring the temperature up a couple of degrees.

Unfortunately, due to having to get this brew going quickly, I didn’t have time to put an airlock in the fermentation bucket lid like I had intended so I will have to do without that feedback with this brew. Hopefully I will add it next time.

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Given that my lovely ladyfriend has not only been ok with my new hobby but she has actively encouraged me, I thought I should have a stab at Strawberry wine she was eyeing up on our first trip to the brew shop. I was already planning a trip back to Harvey’s (see 4u2brew in my blogroll) so added 2 second hand glass demijohns (at just £2.49 each), 2 rubber bungs and airlocks, a bung without a hole in to help with shaking the bottle, and a pack of the Brewmaker Strawberry wine. There was a choice between Young’s or Brewmaker’s, but the owner said they were moving to sell only the Brewmaker’s as it was easier to make a good wine with.

Strawberry Wine

The pack contained a tin of juice and, hidden in a plastic top on the tin, 5 sachets of ingredients and some instructions.

After giving one of the demijohns a good couple of hours full of a strong sterilising solution and then a good rinse, I got to work on the wine instructions. I opened the tin (having placed the end I was going to open in sterilising liquid) with a sterilised can opened. I didn’t have a funnel, so I poured the contents into a jug to ensure I could pour it into the demijohn without spilling any. In addition to the juice, I added a further 1.8 litres of cold water to the demijohn. (I did realise as I was getting started that I hadn’t sterilised the jug. It had already been cleaned, so I rinsed it with just boiled water, so hopefully that will be ok.)

I weighed out 16oz of granulated sugar (Tate and Lyne cane sugar) and poured it into the jug, which I had filled with 500ml of fresh boiled water, and began stirring. I was supposed to add the sugar to 600ml but the jug wouldn’t hold this plus the sugar (I found this out the stupid way but I don’t think I lost too much sugar, and I added some extra water to the demijohn). I took the boiling water from the kettle, and by the time I’d poured in the sugar I think it had cooled a bit so it was a struggle to get all the sugar to disolve, but I just about managed it, and then added the liquid to the demijohn.

I carefully poured the contents of 2 sachets into the demijohn, the first being wine yeast, and the second Nutrafine. I then placed the bug (without a hole in) in the demijohn and shook the bottle for around a minute to ensure everything was well mixed. I then placed the airlock in another bung and pushed it into the demijohn to seal it.

Strawberry in the Demijohn.

Finally I placed the demijohn in the brewery and wrapped a tea towel around it. There is nothing more to do now for 3 days, when I will have to add the remaining water to make it up to 4.5 litres.


  • I don’t have very high expectations for this kit. I’m more into my traditional wines, but hopefully this will turn out well, and more importantly my girlfriend will like it.
  • The instructions suggest the wine should now be stored somewhere with a temperature between 20 and 30 degrees C. The brewery is definitely lower than this, and given the wine was made with cold water, I hope it ferments ok.
  • I will be looking out for bubbles tomorrow.
  • I am surprised that the kit suggests adding water and then shaking after three days at which point the fermentation will have begun. With the beer, and aeration of the liquid while fermenting is a big no no. I will try to do some research on this before the 3 days are up.

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I was very kindly given a wine starter kit for my birthday. However, what with getting the beer going, setting up The Brewery, and then all the boiler problems, I haven’t had chance to get the kit out and have a good look at it, never mind actually get some wine going. Finally today, I found myself with enough time, and the house to myself, so I got all the wine gear out to inspect it.

This kit included:

  • a 5 litre PET plastic demijohn
  • a gromit
  • an air lock
  • a 1.2 metre syphoning tube
  • a syphon tap
  • a small container of steriliser
  • 6 tapered corks

The birthday present also included a 6 bottle Beaverdale Merlot kit.

Beaverdale Merlot wine kit

The wine kit contained:

  • a large bag of grape juice
  • oak chippings
  • yeast
  • stabiliser
  • kieselsol
  • chitosan

I started by measuring 4.5 litres of water into the demijohn and marking this level. I them moved onto the all important sanitising, soaking the demijohn and top, gromit, airlock, as well as my measuring jug, hydrometer and thermometer. I also boiled the kettle to give a supply of clean, warm water. Ten minutes later I rinsed everything thoroughly with cold tap water. I opened the grape juice bag and poured it into the demijohn, before filling the bag with warm water and pouring that into the demijohn too. (All the warm water I used came by filling the measuring jug half with the cold tap and half from the boiled kettle.) I continued to fill the demijohn with warm water until it was just above the 4.5 litre fill level. I then placed the top on, covered the hole with my finger and shook the wine vigorously. The instructions stated that if the wine was fulled mixed it would have a gravity of 175-180. On inspection, the gravity was around 155. I was concerned given I had shaken the wine considerably already, but I shook it for a further minute, and a second reading showed the gravity at around 178.

Before I could add any further ingredients the temperature of the wine had to be between 20 and 25 degrees C. Using the thermometer, I found it was around 22 degrees C, so I continued with the instructions. I added the optional but recommended oak chippings. As someone who likes a Merlot with a deep oaky flavour, this was a no brainer. I was surprised to find the sachet marked oak chippings basically contained course saw dusk. I’m not sure what I expected, but sprinkling this into my wine seemed strange. After stirring in the oak chippings using the thermometer, I added the final ingredient – the yeast. I placed the top back on the demijohn, covered the hole again with my finger and gave it a good shake. I then filled the airlock with water so that the lower ‘ball’ on each side was filled with water, and inserted it tightly into the hole in the demijohn top.

Fermenting Wine

Thats it. Job done. I wrapped a warm tea towel around the demijohn to try to keep the heat in for as long as possible and placed it in the corner of The Brewery. The instructions recommend a room temperature of 20 degrees C and not less. As discussed previously The Brewery temperature is more like 18 degrees C, but having already researched this topic, it seems this should be ok – only time will tell.

The wine should take around 3 weeks to ferment (though I wouldn’t be surprised if it took longer in the cooler conditions). The aim will be for a gravity of 990 to 994, and less than one bubble per minute going through the airlock. I am looking forward to the feedback I should get from having the airlock – hopefully being able to watch bubbles pass through it fairly regularly, so I will know for certain the yeast is doing its job. This feels like a big advantage over the beer, which is why I am considering fitting an airlock on the beer fermenting bucket too.

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So, it was time to make my first jump into the world of home brewing. Despite some reading on the subject, some instructions that came with the beginners set, and some instructions on the Munton’s beer kit box, I still wasn’t especially confident, but I started out anyway.

All the equipment needed to be sterilised, so following the beginners instructions I rinsed the bucket, the lid and the stirrer and then filled the bucket with 5 teaspoons of steriliser powder and warm water from the hot tap and left it for 10 minutes. I also sterilized the jugs I intended to use, and even the can opener. I was rather nervous with regard to ensuring that all the equipment was clean given that every set of instructions or tips I had read stated that contamination of the beer was the number one cause of poor quality beer. After 10 minutes I rinsed all the items with lots of mains cold water, and the cleaning was done.

With a choice of sets of instructions to follow, I decided that it made most sense to follow the set that came with the kit itself. I placed the two cans of hopped malt extract in the sink in warm water, to soften the syrup. I filled the kettle and turned it on. After 5 minutes I opened the tins and poured the contents into the bucket, at which point the kettle had boiled. Using a Pyrex jug I measured out pints of boiling water, and poured them into the bucket. I discovered that my kettle perfectly held 3 pints without taking the dregs at the bottom. I stirred the mixture while waiting for the kettle to boil again. When it had, I poured the contents into the bucket, making up the required 6 pints. It turned out to be very easy to tell when the hops was fulled mixed in. The unmixed syrup sat stubbornly at the bottom of the mixture meaning that if an inspection of the stirrer revealed syrup coated on the end, it wasn’t all mixed in yet. I would say it took around 5 minutes of hard stirring.

Next it was time to add the cold water. The bucket was pre-marked with a fill level, stating 5 UK gallons or 23 litres. However, the maths in the instructions stated that adding 6 pints (3.5 litres) and then 29 pints (16.5 litres) would make 5 UK gallons, though this only added up to 20 litres not 23. I decided to fill to the marked level of 5 UK gallons or 23 litres as not only would this allow me to fill to the marked level rather than have to measure out 29 further pints of cold water, but also, if I were to add the wrong amount of water, I felt that a slightly weaker than intended beer ought to be pleasingly mild, where a too strong beer might not be so palatable. So, without any way to feed the sink tap straight into the bucket, I used two jugs to fill up the bucket. I did this as quickly as possible, which meant causing a great deal of splashing in the mixture. This was mostly out of practicality, wanting to get the job done as quickly as possible, though one guide I read had suggested that getting lots of air into the mixture at this point was a good thing. (we shall see…)

The next step required leaving the the mixture to stand until it had cooled to between 18 and 21 degrees C, but without a thermometer, I chose to leave it for around 5 minutes. Continuing to follow the instructions as closely as possible I “sprinkled” in the yeast. This seemed to be a mistake however, as the yeast sat on top of the foam that had formed, and it was then hard to get it to actually go into the mixture. It also formed into little globules of yeast, meaning I had to spend 5 minutes spotting these floating in the foam and breaking them down. Finally however, the yeast was all dissolved and looked something like this:

Mixed Beer

I then put the lid on the bucket, and carefully carried it to “brewery” (see previous blog post) where it will remain for 2 to 3 weeks. By then the hydrometer I have ordered should have arrived, which will allow me to test whether it is ready for bottling. This is the only time I am deliberately deferring from the instructions that came with the beer kit. The kit suggest leaving the mixture for 7 or 8 days, but Phil has suggested it has always taken closer to 3 weeks for his beers to be ready for bottling.


Final Observations:

  • Despite my best efforts, it was clear that it is all but impossible to guarantee that there is no contamination of the beer. My hands constantly had to touch work surfaces, taps, the kettle, the stirrer etc. Small amounts of water from the outside of the tins and jugs would have made it into mixture. Hopefully these were all clean and all will be well.
  • The process was all over very quickly, even with my first timers mincing tendencies. Amazingly it might take longer to drink the beer than to make it (though there is still the bottling stage to come)
  • Having multiple sets of instructions was not helpful. I deliberately chose to follow just one set of instructions, but this did mean I didn’t use the water treatment tablet just before adding the yeast which I had otherwise intended to use. I also still have to decide whether to use the finings that came with the beginners kit, but which are not mentioned in the beer kit instructions.
  • My current expectations are not high for the beer. It feels like I am bound to have done something wrong first time round, but I look forward to being able to bottle the mixture in a few weeks, and giving it a quick taste then.

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