Early grapes

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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Thu Oct 19, 2017 11:50

The yeast was struggling to get started. Honey naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, which is why it never goes off! It kills bacteria and yeasts. However, once diluted it becomes less effective and dissipates after 24 hours. Curiously, this is not mentioned in mead recipes that I have read. I added a fresh batch of yeast and nutrient and it is now starting to ferment and I have transferred the must to 2 demijohns.
The cabernet sauvignon is now below 1010, so I emptied the contents of the 9 litre barrel. This contained the 'rioja' which I salvaged from the effects of acetification. It still has a slight twang, but is drinkable. It is very dark, on the brown side of red, on account of the potassium carbonate I used to destroy the acetic acid. I now have potassium bicarbonate, which does not have this effect.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby BarnsleyBrewer » Thu Oct 19, 2017 17:37

Great thread Tony, not many replies but I'm sure people are enjoying reading it, I am for one!! :thumb:

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Re: Early grapes

Postby HTH1975 » Thu Oct 19, 2017 18:44

It’s like a wine encyclopaedia- a great real-world journal or wine making.

2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed (need to update this figure)
Drinking: Landlord clone
Conditioning: ciders from 2016, hedgerow barrolo, 1914 Courage RIS (10%).
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Re: Early grapes

Postby HTH1975 » Thu Oct 19, 2017 18:57

Have you or do you ever age with oak chips? I’ve got some that I’m going to toast and add to half of my hedgerow red

2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed (need to update this figure)
Drinking: Landlord clone
Conditioning: ciders from 2016, hedgerow barrolo, 1914 Courage RIS (10%).
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Fri Oct 20, 2017 11:58

I guess it's my winemaking diary, replacing my handwritten notes.
As for oak chips, I don't use them much any more as I have oak casks, which do a much better job. The wine industry started using them because, having replaced barrels with stainless steel tanks, found there was something deficient in the wine. While oak imparts a certain flavour, which diminishes as the barrels get older, their main function is to allow slow oxidation to take place due to the porosity of the wood. Large barrels do this rather too slowly, so the wine has to be periodically racked to introduce fresh oxygen, with an attendant risk of infection, so more sulphite is added.
I strongly suspect that at least some of the oak chips available may be from old barrels. Over time, I have accumulated chips used during fermentation. These live inside polypins and certainly do no harm to the wine in them. Some time ago I started investing in new oak barrels. The most practical size for me is 20 litres. They cost around £100, including delivery, stand, bung and wooden tap (which I replace with a stainless steel type because these don't drip).
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Re: Early grapes

Postby HTH1975 » Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:25

Do you toast your barrels, or leave them raw?

2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed (need to update this figure)
Drinking: Landlord clone
Conditioning: ciders from 2016, hedgerow barrolo, 1914 Courage RIS (10%).
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Fri Oct 20, 2017 13:29

I assume they come pre-toasted as this part of the barrel making process. They can't be toasted once assembled.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Fri Oct 20, 2017 14:18

Winemaking is thirsty work and my stock of everyday vin ordinaire on tap is running low. I use 3 polypins (20 litre wineboxes), 2 with white and 1 with red. Refilling the white is simple enough. I will just use the Winebuddy sauvignon blanc I got in the Tesco sale some time ago. I have one barrel of red with a leaky tap which needs to be replaced. The label fell off some time ago but it tastes good and it's been there for a year. Before emptying it, i would like to have something with which to refill it. I have therefore ordered 2 x Cellar 7 cabernet saivignon kits, very reasonable at £28.50 each post free for orders over £45.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Sat Oct 21, 2017 12:50

The mix of apple, grape and honey can't really be classed as a mead as such, because honey is not the main ingredient. less than half of what would be used in pure mead. In fact, as honey is 81% sugar and 17% water, only 2% of it is a flavouring component as all of the sugar is fermentable. 800 g was added, occupying 600 ml of the total volume of 8 litres. This means that the finished dry wine only has honey as 1.5% (excluding the water component). At 50%, apple juice is the main ingredient but this is a rather weak flavour compared to the grape juice (45%). A dry mead using 50% apple juice is called cyser and there is a sweet variant which includes grape juice. There is also a honey and fruit juice wine called melomel, which would be a closer match. The colour at the moment is amber.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Sun Oct 22, 2017 11:49

Having bottled the riesling, there was half a bottle left. After chilling, I tried it and was most impressed. I gave some to my partner to sample and she really liked it, saying it was like sauvignon blanc with more than a hint of grapefruit. So when I started the Winebuddy sauvignon blanc, I included 2 litres of grapefruit juice. I tried this before with 1 litre to no effect, so doubling the dose may prove more effective. Out of interest, I tested the grape juice concentrate and found it was almost 80 brix, which is very high spec., the equivalent of 5 litres of juice. Nonetheless, even with the flavouring pack, that's still only 25% juice content in the finished wine.
There are still plenty of apples on the tree, so I thought I would try a true cyser, which is 4 pints #92.5 litres) of apple juice and a kilo of honey per gallon. I got 3 jars of the Everyday value honey from Tesco for just £3!
The cabernet sauvignon has finished fermenting in the barrel, so I topped it up and replaced the airlock with a length of dowel. This known as a spile. It allows air very slowly both in and out without risk of contamination.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby HTH1975 » Sun Oct 22, 2017 19:30

That Tesco everyday value honey is all I ever buy - we’re quite partial to milk & honey with a bit nutmeg in the winter months. I also like honey on my toast, so we use plenty of it.

Used it in a couple of honey beers and also in a braggot to good effect.

Not sure it would be up to scratch for a mead, but to add a subtle honey note it seems fine.

2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed (need to update this figure)
Drinking: Landlord clone
Conditioning: ciders from 2016, hedgerow barrolo, 1914 Courage RIS (10%).
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Mon Oct 23, 2017 12:37

I went out to the garden to pick the rest of the apples, only to find a few windfalls and just 2 on the tree, the rest must have been stolen! A neighbour has 2 bramley trees and seems to have the same issue. The recipe specifies mostly cooking apples anyway so I bought some bramleys plus a litre of juice to make up the 4 pints specified in the recipe. Mixed with the honey and topped up to 1 gallon, the sg was spot on at 1090. The pH was 2.6, so fairly acidic, but the titration test gave 5 ppt (tartaric), which is fine. The flavour is rather thin, which may well be on account of using very cheap honey, or perhaps explains why herbs and spices are often added.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Tue Oct 24, 2017 11:41

In a bid to boost the flavour, I bought a litre of bramley apple juice, added honey to 500 ml to sg 1090 and added this to the brew. This did indeed boost the flavour and also increased the volume to just over 5 litres. A beekeeper told me that the cheap Tesco honey had probably been ultra heat treated, which destroys some of the flavour. Most mead recipes suggest you do this anyway to remove wax and kill off bacteria and yeast, which is nonsense.
I added the other 500 ml plus 2 litres of grapefruit juice to the Winebuddy sauvignon blanc which I started yesterday.
I am considering making a sparkling mead and looked at 2 recipes. One specified 3.5 pounds of honey and the other 2 kilos per gallon. Both are patently absurd as the amount of sugar involved would mean it would be impossible to start a bottle fermentation. Yet another case of untested recipes!
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Re: Early grapes

Postby Rolfster » Tue Oct 24, 2017 14:25

I thought with mead you start it off with some of the honey and 'feed' it more honey as the fermentation progresses. I guess they don't mention that in the recipe?
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Wed Oct 25, 2017 09:56

That would make sense, as would using a yeast starter, but not mentioned in the recipes. The second batch took even longer to start (3 days), presumably due to the higher concentration of honey.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Sat Oct 28, 2017 10:53

The sauvignon blanc now tastes rather more like a new world version and a definite improvement on the basic kit. Bramley apple juice has a fairly high tannin content, while the grapefruit adds a definite citrus element to the mouthfeel.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Sat Oct 28, 2017 13:23

At sg 1010 I racked one of the jars of 'melomel' and was struck by how bland it tasted. Sure enough, the pH had changed to 4.1 from 3.4. There must be something in the honey to cause such a big change. I added tartaric and some malic acid to adjust this to 3.6, plus a teaspoon of tannin, which caused a fair amount of yeast to settle on the bottom. The taste is now dominated by the tartaric acid and there is no obvious honey flavour. I will just use malic acid for the second jar then blend the two.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Sun Oct 29, 2017 12:28

Hardly surprising the overwhelming taste of tartaric acid. I kept adding it to get the pH down, which was unwise. Titration gave a final reading of 8 ppt, which is way too high.
3 teaspoons of potassium bicarbonate brought that down to 5. The question arises - how acidic should mead and its variants be? Since honey is rather deficient in acids, then only enough should be added to ensure a healthy fermentation to make mead. However this 'melomel' is not a true mead, as the honey constitutes less than half of the original sugar content, which is mostly from the fruit juice.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Mon Oct 30, 2017 12:15

The drop in acidity was probably due to malolactic fermentation, as most of the acid was malic. Lactic acid is only half the strength, so a drop of up to 40% of the acidity is quite consistent with mlf in this case. A medium dose of Clear It and a night out in the cold have only partially cleared the Melomel, which is really little more than enhanced apple wine with no obvious taste of honey. The Cyser tastes more promising. Bramley apples do give a better flavour in wine.
Out of interest, I tasted some expensive honey and the flavour was much stronger and better than the cheap stuff, but at £12 a kilo...
I ordered some extra tannin, extracted from sweet chestnut wood rather than grapeseed.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby HTH1975 » Tue Oct 31, 2017 21:04

tonyhibbett wrote:I tasted some expensive honey and the flavour was much stronger and better than the cheap stuff, but at £12 a kilo...


Have you tried Aldi’s Manuka honey at £6.99? - that’s only for a 500ml jar mind.

2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed (need to update this figure)
Drinking: Landlord clone
Conditioning: ciders from 2016, hedgerow barrolo, 1914 Courage RIS (10%).
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Wed Nov 01, 2017 14:27

No that's a new one on me. I have heard that women like to smear it on their faces. I'll stick with the cheap stuff for now. I have started a pure mead, using a starter bottle with yeast, nutrient and a pinch of citric acid, doubling the volume of honey solution in stages. It started well be then seemed to stall so I added some of the yeast sediment from the melomel plus more nutrient, which got things going again. It's even paler than the birch sap wine I made.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:06

All of the pure mead recipes I have read include tannin. Just 1 gram per 5 litres provided the 0.02% that is typical for white wine. When added, the mead must foamed dramatically and changed colour to a more attractive deeper yellow. Once the foaming had subsided, the yeast seemed to be more energised.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Fri Nov 03, 2017 11:41

The melomel is now clear and I decided to put it in a cask. I have a small (6.5 litre) one containing some red wine. A sample from the tap didn't taste quite right, but then I realised that the few mls inside the body of the brass tap (with which it came fitted) might be tainted so I discarded the sample and found the next sample to be fine, so I bottled it. Having refilled it, there was 1.5 bottles of it left. The half a bottle can be transferred to a small plastic water bottle for topping up the cask, while the full bottle can be used to compare with the cask matured stuff to determine any difference in 3 months time.
As the melomel contained the last of the grapes, that concludes this 'early grapes' thread.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Sun Nov 05, 2017 14:15

Well not quite finished, on account of the meads. The cyser fermented out bone dry at sg 900 and at 6 ppt (t) is too acidic to be palatable. 5 g of potassium bicarbonate reduced this to 5, but still not right, because 90% of the acid is malic, and therefore unbalanced for wine. It's really just very high alcohol cider. I added 100 ml of honey, (the equivalent of about 70 g of sugar) bringing it to sg 1005, making it medium rather than extra dry. This may cause re-fermentation, although the abv is probably close to 14%. To discourage this, I have added the finings in an attempt to remove the yeast. Even with the added honey, the taste is barely detectable. I suspect the origin of cyser was a way of boosting the alcoholic strength of cider in the days when sugar was not available.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Mon Nov 06, 2017 12:27

Once again, a night out in the cold has assisted the finings but again, has not completely cleared the brew, probably due to the high co2 content. It tastes much smoother now, and more balanced, but fining has stripped out what little tannin was present, so I added a little more, after racking.
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