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Archive for the ‘Fermenting’ Category

I stated in my post 3 days ago, about kicking off the rose (Chablis Blush), that I made a silly mistake and filled it too high in the demijohn. I left it as it was, rather than pouring away the extra, as there was still an air gap, and it felt wrong to pour away some of what would be lovely wine in the not too distant future.

As you can see, pouring away the excess looks like it would have been a very good idea. I stupidly didn’t check in on the wine until the strawberry wine needed topping up, so it may have had a couple of days like this before I realised. If I am honest, I also didn’t sanitise the airlock given the wine wouldn’t come in contact with that – would it ;-). All I can do now is hope that I have got away with it and the wine has not been contaminated. At least I know know you really shouldn’t fill the demijohns above the 4.5 litre mark with these kits.

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Three days after starting the plum wine going, it was time to top it up to the full 4.5 litres. The instructions simply stated it should be ‘tepid’ water. I took this to mean basically the same temperature as we wanted the wine to be fermenting in, so 20-25 degrees. I tried pouring just a little boiled water in the bottom of a 1litre jug and topping up the rest with cold tap water. I measured this and found it to be about 23 degrees so I added this and another 3 jugs to take the level up to the 4.5 litre sticker. I replaced the airlock and the job was done.

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So, 3 days after I kicked off the Sherwood Forest Bitter, it is time to add the bag of hops. I stupidly added them before taking a picture, but it was basically a small seal bag, about the size of a couple of postage stamps next to each other, full of what looked like a dark cat litter – mmm, nice.

I sprinkled the contents into the beer and, having poured boiling hot water over the stirrer, I stirred them in. Initially, they mostly stayed on the surface, but I’m sure I recall reading that aerating the wort during the early stages of fermentation is not a problem, so I made my best effort to stir them all off the surface. Job done. Hopefully this will add a little more flavour to the final beer.

Prior to adding the hops, I did take a gravity reading:

I took the reading as being about 1.020 – not too bad after 3 days. I will now leave it for at least another 3 or 4 days before taking another reading. I am now keen to not leave any brews for more than a few days once fermentation has stopped.

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Having got back from a weekend away, I decided to do a quick check on the Stout, to check that the gravity was still falling:

Second Stout Gravity Reading

Disappointedly, I took this to be another reading of 1.013 meaning no more movement. I know Phil got down to 1.012 and ideally I’d like to be a fraction lower, therefore I gave the brew a gentle stir for a minute and will give it another reading in a couple of days.

I did take a bit of a risk with the stirrer – given it never fits in the sink properly anyway, and Im never convinced the kitchen sink is likely to be bacteria free, I opted to carefully pour a full kettle of boiling water over the stirrer, rather than soaking it in sanitising solution. I hope this will be fine.

I did note that the Stout already had a very strong smell. Given my poor sense of smell I couldn’t put my finger on what it was – though it wasn’t particularly unpleasant. My missus could smell if from the next room within 30 seconds of me taking the top of the bucket it was so strong. There was also a slight but noticeable greasy residue on the surface of part of the beer. Hopefully this is nothing untoward.

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I recently did some research into whether the 6 weeks that my previous brew spent in the fermenting bucket was too long (mostly on Jims Beer Forum – see my blogroll). It is clear that while modern yeast should be fine for up to a couple of months all being well, its certainly not advisable. I’m therefore keen to bottle my brews from now on as soon as they are finished fermenting. Therefore after a week and a half I wanted to take a look how the stout is doing:

I measured the gravity at 1.013. I didn’t take an original gravity reading as I was kicking it off in a rush, but this seems pretty close already to where it needs to be. I know Phil (see my blog roll) recently bottled this same brew at 1.012. (We had a first taste of it yesterday and despite tasting a little green still, its already good after just a month.)

I will take another reading of my stout sometime in the near future , and if it hasn’t moved further I will give it a gentle stir and the bottle once it is definitely not moving any further.

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On Friday, I decided it was time for a quick check on the status of my second home brewed beer, before going away for the weekend. I dropped the hydrometer in and went to look for my camera to take a picture. Unfortunately, I had already packed it, and my phone doesn’t have a flash, so the pictures were not good:

Linthwaite Light fermentation

I took the reading as 1.012. I noted that the 1.012 line was just about the last thing visible before the bubbles covered the hydrometer. The target gravity, as stated in the instructions, is 1.010 or less. While checking the instructions just now for my blog, I note that it also suggests stirring the beer a little if it hasn’t quite reached target, to re-suspend some of the yeast. Given there were still bubbles noticeable on Friday (and still are today) so I can assume it is still just about fermenting, I will now sanitise the stirrer, and give it a go. My first brew finished a few points high, and it is noticeably sweet, so I’d love to get it down some more. I will also place the towel that I wrap around the bucket on the radiator for a short while in the hope of encouraging the yeast along.

Stirring the Linthwaite Light

Stirring completed, I will give the beer a few days before measuring it again.

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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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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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