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Archive for the ‘Fermenting’ Category

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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Yesterday evening marked 3 days since I had set the Brewmaker Strawberry wine going, so according to the instructions it was time to top up the demijohn to the 4.5 litre level. Before doing this I measureed the bubble rate again:

Day Time per bubble (secs) Gravity
0 infinite  
1 8  
3 4 1062

Now onto the topping up. The instructions stated that “tepid” water should be used, so I filled up a sanitised jug a couple of times with cold tap water and a hint of boiled water and topped up the wine to the 4.5 litre level I had marked when starting the Strawberry. The instructions then stated that I should shake the demijohn well. This still seemed very strange given the beer and wine I had done previously required air to be kept out. However, I placed a sanitised bunk in the demijohn and shook fairly lightly for 30 seconds. There was a noticeable sediment layer on the bottle of the demijohn already, so I wonder if this instruction is about re-suspending the yeast (though the instructions only suggest this for certain flavours of wine – and the flavour is only added at the end of fermentation – all very strange).

Anyway, with the demijohn now filled to the required level and mixed I thought I would take a hydrometer reading. This came in at 1062. I then replaced the airlock (after replacing some lost water from it) and took a picture.

Topped up Brewmaker’s Strawberry Wine

I finally placed the demijohn back in the brewery and wrapped the tea towel around it. I will continue to monitor the the bubbles over the next few weeks.

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Having started to Brewmaker’s Strawberry wine, I was keen to check whether it had started fermenting, so I did a bubble count yesterday:

Day Time per bubble (secs)
0 infinite
1 8

Observations:

  • I was pleased to see it bubbling, though a little concerned its not as quick as I’d hoped.
  • My first Merlot reading was after 3 days, so it will be interesting to compare then.

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Wine check

I am making a trip to the brew shop today, and I’m tempted to buy another wine kit and a couple more demijohns so that I can have the current one in secondary and two more in primaries. However, I didn’t want to start another couple of wines if the current one was struggling in the cool temperatures, so its time to take a hydrometer measurement. I carefully moved the demijohn to somewhere I could see it more clearly, removed the top and gently placed in the sterilised hydrometer. I was pleased to see it drop pretty low, and when I took the reading it was at about 1.006. It still has another 8ish points to drop, but it has already dropped 72 points and it was still bubbling so I’m hoping its possible.

Prior to taking the reading I also did another bubble count:

Day Time per bubble (secs) bubbles per minute
0 infinite 0
3 2 28
5 9 7
9 15 4
12 18 3
15 30 2

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Just about bottling time.

Almost ready to bottle

With the prospect of some time on Sunday where I might be able to bottle the Munton’s IPA , I decided it was time to take a hydrometer reading. I still don’t have a trial jar, though I hope to get one from the homebrew shop on Saturday. That mean carefully taking the lid off, at which point there was a noticeable hiss – yet more signs of life I hoped. I gently placed the hydrometer in the beer and took the above picture, before also holding the thermometer in the beer. The temperature settled at 16.5 degrees again. The gravity however I still find a little difficult to read, what with the markings only down one part of the hydrometer, as well as trying to decide exactly what level the reading is at. I settled on a reading of 1016, or possibly a tiny fraction below (though certainly much closer to 1016 than 1015). I had hoped for a reading of 1014 or less – the suggested finishing gravity in the instructions, but it does look like fermentation has just about finished, having changed so little now.

If it looks like I will have time to bottle on Sunday, I will first use the trial jar I should have by then, and take a final reading and a taste. If the gravity is still at 1016 and it tastes nice, I will bottle it. While at the brew shop, I will buy some light spraymalt to prime the bottles with (as suggested by the instructions on the box (and on various forums). I believe this is a better choice that standard sugar, in terms of the final flavour produced. I have opted to prime the bottles as I do not have a bottling bucket to siphon the beer into (while leaving the yeast sediment behind) and I do not want to stir sugar in and disturb all the sediment. I have bought some cheap measuring spoons to ensure I can prime each bottle with a very similar estimate of 1/2 teaspoon of spray malt, hopefully reducing the chances of any explosions.

I am looking forward to getting this brew bottled, both so that its closer to being ready and so that I can kick off the next one and see how well that copes with the temperatures.

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Another few days have passed, so Im counting the bubbles coming from the Beaverdale Merlot again:

Day Time per bubble (secs) bubbles per minute
0 infinite 0
3 2 28
5 9 7
9 15 4
12 18 3

The fermentation is continuing to slow, but I’m reassured that despite it being about a week and a half since it started, it looks like the wine is still some way off the one bubble per minute that should indicate fermentation is over. I feared this would come very early, indicating a stuck fermentation. I’m still keeping everything crossed though.

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