Early grapes

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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Wed Nov 08, 2017 12:01

While I am aware that tannin plays a part in helping to clear wine, and its higher content in red wine accounts for the fact that it clears more readily than white wine, I have not previously considered it as a clearing agent in its own right. Adding it after finings failed to completely clear the wine, the tannin almost literally polished the job off.
I am not in the habit of sweetening wine, but in this case adding honey at the end brought its flavour to the fore, transforming it to a 'true 'cyser', rather than a slightly enhanced apple wine. In order to preserve the slight sweetness, I added potassium sorbitol (Young's Fermentation Stopper). The stated dose is 1g per gallon, (half a teaspoon). 1 g actually filled a rounded teaspoon and did not stop fermentation. The stock was 3 years out of date. It turns out that sorbate only prevents yeast from reproducing. In fact I kept sediment from a wine kit for many months and used it to successfully restart a flagging brew, on account of its acquired alcohol tolerance!
Also, as there had been evidence of malolactic fermentation, I added a campden tablet to prevent this continuing in the bottles. To make absolutely sure, I filtered. Although the wine had appeared clear, the filtered wine came out crystal clear and the filter pad was heavily stained.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Sun Nov 12, 2017 13:02

4 weeks after filling the big cask. it required just 1 bottle to top it up. I sampled a bottle marked OW16, (oaked white 2016) part of the original batch when the cask was new. The oak flavour was far too strong. Another bottle, marked OSB 10/16 (oaked sauvignon blanc) was about right, but not really in keeping with that variety. The 3rd and current batch is mostly chardonnay, so hopefully that will come out right.
The mead is fermenting slowly but steadily, now down to 1025. The flavour is rather bland and the acidity is low at 3 ppt (t) so I added a teaspoon of tartaric acid, which improved the mouthfeel and, along with some extra nutrient, has perked up the yeast.
I am strongly considering setting up a beehive in my garden. There is lots of blossom in the spring, starting with forsythia, celandine, cherry, apple, honeysuckle, hypericum, ceanothus and pyrocanthus, but very little in the summer, and my immediate neighbours, including the sports ground opposite, have very little to offer, so it may not be very productive.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Fri Nov 17, 2017 12:35

I thought I might try to make braggot, a sort of malt mead. I condensed a 25 litre recipe to 1 gallon, using 500 g of medium spray malt and 680 g of honey. I have some 'wild' hops at the back of the garden, still on the vine. The recipe requires 2 ounces of hops, boiled for an hour. The spray malt did not dissolve well, so I added it to the simmering hops, along with the honey. After straining and topping up to 1 gallon, the sg was 1085. At this stage the hops are very dominant, so next time I will use less.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Sat Nov 18, 2017 11:21

Looking at typical beer recipes, the amount of hops I used was more than double and the strong bitterness is more like hop wine. The only solution is to make a second batch without hops and blend the two.
Due to the malt, the brew is more like beer, with lots of thick foam, making the use of a demijohn rather impractical.
Meanwhile the pure mead has dropped below 1010, so I racked it. I have to say the flavour is somewhat bland. I used the cheapest honey with a pleasant light flavour, but once diluted and the sugar has been used up, there is less than 1% of the honey left in the brew. Clearly there is a significant role for herbs, spices and fruit such as blackcurrant.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Sun Nov 19, 2017 12:21

Much of thee bitter element of the hops is rising to the surface. The taste of the foam is extremely bitter. By skimming this off, I hope to bring the bitterness down to a palatable level. I have transferred the must to a dj and topped it up with 200 ml of 25% honey solution. This slightly dilutes the hop flavour, but only by 4%. Hops do seem a strange thing to add to 'wine'. Apparently it was added to beer for its soporific effect, the opium of the masses! The colour is light brown, due to the malt.
Meanwhile I sampled the batch that sparked this 'early grapes' thread. The flavour is fine but It is a bit too 'crisp and dry' so I added a teaspoon of sugar to take the edge off. Almost instantly it started to fizz so the yeast is still active, which means I will get a slight sediment and the intended slight sweetness will disappear, but the wine will be semi sparkling, like bottled beer. I hope the screw tops will hold the pressure!
I added another half teaspoon of wine tannin to the 'pure' mead, to give it a bit of bite. As a result, fermentation has virtually stopped and clearing has started.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Mon Nov 20, 2017 12:36

The foam has gone from the braggot, conveniently leaving some bitter hop residue on the glass. I transferred to a 5 litre water bottle, which gave me the headroom to add more honey solution. That's done the trick. The hop flavour is there, but with about the same bitterness as real ale.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Tue Nov 21, 2017 12:52

The pure mead is down to 1002 and unlikely to fall much lower. As a result this will be a slightly sweet mead and indeed it tastes like diluted honey, much as expected!
There are several variants left to try, one of which is a mixed fruit melomel. I found a new line in Tesco - frozen imperfect fruit. At £3.25 per kilo, you get 45% large blackberries, 40% cut strawberries and 15% raspberry bits. I presume these would normally go into pie filling, jam or fruit drinks. Once defrosted the fruit was easily mashed but I added some Rohavin enzyme to speed up extraction, 4 jars of Tesco everyday value honey, yeast, nutrient, 5 g of tartaric acid and water to 5 litres.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Wed Nov 22, 2017 14:34

I strained out 250 g of pulp, which means 75% juice extraction. The taste is just mixed fruit, with raspberry slightly prominent. The acidity is still pretty low, so I added a few more grams of tartaric, malic and tannin, giving a pH of 3.3 and tastes about right for a wine must at this stage. The colour is light red but this will probably fade away.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Fri Nov 24, 2017 12:39

The pure mead has not shifted from 1002, which means the alcohol tolerance has been reached. The vinometer reads 15% abv and the taste is certainly of a strong wine. It is reasonably clear so I tried to filter it, using the Harris mk 3. The pad clogged halfway. I used Clear It to clear the rest. There was no easily detectable taste difference between the two, only the clarity. As I still have a good stock of pads I picked up cheap, I filtered the fined batch. Curiously, it did not come out quite as clear as the unfined batch. My pond filter works best if partially clogged because the finest particles get trapped in the coarse particles, so I guess the pads work in the same way. I notice that Harris now sell pads in sets of 5 for £7 rather than 6 for £6, but also sell coarse and fine grades as well as the original premium ones.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Thu Nov 30, 2017 16:21

The braggot has finished fermentation and is almost clear. It tastes like flat beer.
The soft fruits melomel is approaching the end of fermentation, so I racked it and tasted a sample. The dominant flavour is now strawberry with a background of raspberry. The blackberry flavour is absent. This doesn't surprise me. I bought some in the summer and all I could taste was the acid. Even the colour is fading. No honey flavour either.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Sun Dec 03, 2017 13:50

The braggot is now clear and stable but the gravity is 1025. This means it is not as strong as intended and is sweet. However, the sweetness, like beer, is countered by the bitterness of the hops, so it's more like a barley wine. Strictly speaking, it should be bottled and primed, but with such a high gravity this seems somewhat risky. The sweetness is not due to residual sugar from the honey, otherwise that taste would be detectable, which it is not.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Sun Dec 10, 2017 11:57

The soft fruits melomel was fermenting slowly but the sg was 1020. It tastes like strawberry jam! I added more nutrient and moved it to a warmer spot, which speeded things up considerably. I topped it up to 5 litres with honey syrup in the hope of getting more of the honey flavour.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Tue Dec 12, 2017 12:27

The warmer spot (above the hall heater, which is constantly on during the cold months) turned out to be a hot spot, heating the must to 31 c. Prolonged exposure to such temperatures is great if making madeira but otherwise not. So I invested in a heat tray. At £34 it seemed rather expensive, but it holds 2 demijohns, has an insulated base and a thermal cut out, which maintains a constant temperature of 24 c. Although the ideal temperature towards the end of fermentation is 18 c, a daily fluctuation of 16 to 21 is no good. As advised, I connected it to a timer so that it only operates between 8 pm and 8 am and also attached a strip thermometer to the demijohn. Sure enough it maintained 24 c during the coldest night of the year. When switched off it slowly dropped to 22. It costs about £1 a month to run.
A second dj has to be in place to ensure even heat distribution, so I started another brew. This is a grape and orange melomel. I used an old tin of Young's white wine enhancer, 1 litre of orange juice, 3 jars of Tesco everyday value honey, 1 teaspoon of grape tannin, 5g of tartaric and 3 g of malic acid, nutrient and yeast from the previous brew.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Tue Dec 19, 2017 13:06

The soft fruits melomel was very slowly fermenting at sg 1005 and unlikely to go any lower, so I racked and fined it. I tried to filter it with a filtabrite pad, which clogged at 4 litres and wine leaked out of the unit, which has never happened before. Filtration lightened the colour so it is now rose rather than red. The wine has a good aroma and the strawberry flavour is much less dominant but the taste is rather more fruity and sweet than vinous so I added a mixture of tartaric and malic acid to better suit my taste.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Wed Dec 20, 2017 13:00

To further offset the sweetness, I mixed in 5 g of grape tannin. The effects were remarkable. Initially the wine became slightly hazy but within 2 hours it was crystal clear, with 15 mm of sediment, far more than the 4 mm produced by Clear It finings and all the more surprising considering that 80% of the wine had been filtered! 5g of tannin per 5 litres is 0.1%, where 0.2% is typical of reds and 0.05% for whites, so about right for a rosé. The wine now tastes less sweet.
After a month in the keg, I decanted the cyser and found absolutely no sediment. For some reason, wine straight out of the barrel is a tad rough but recovers in a couple of weeks and further improves in the bottle. 1 year seems standard for meads. I put the straight mead into the keg and topped it up with some of the cyser, leaving me with just over 5 bottles. I used the surplus to top up the soft fruit melomel, reducing the air space and slightly reducing the sweetness.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Thu Dec 21, 2017 14:17

The grape and orange melomel was quite a contrast to the soft fruit version. Thanks to the heat tray, fermentation was complete (down to sg 995) in just 9 days, but showed no sign of clearing, due to the orange juice, which is inherently cloudy, and the flavour was neutral. To be fair, I'd used the cheapest, blandest honey, 240 g of white grape juice concentrate 6 months past its best before date, and 1 litre of the cheapest long life orange juice, made from concentrate. Garbage in - garbage out!
Orange juice seems far from ideal as a winemaking ingredient. Having removed the coarser pulp by initial skimming, fining removed about 400 ml of fine pulp and the wine still needed filtering to get it clear, as oranges contain no tannin and the teaspoon I had added wasn't enough. It's just as well I started with 5 litres as I ended up with 5 bottles of quite pleasant dry white wine.
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Fri Dec 22, 2017 12:36

I managed to condense the sediment down to a mere 150 ml by putting into a bottle and allowing it to settle. Putting it into a tall column has the effect of compression. I then siphoned off the wine above, salvaging half a bottle. As with the soft fruit version I mixed in some grape tannin, using just 2.5 g as it is a white wine, and got the same effect, albeit more slowly. After racking, I added 1 crushed campden tablet, along with the salvaged wine. According to the recipe several rackings are required over a period of time until it becomes star bright, followed by 1 year of maturation. I have managed to compress all this into 2 days!
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Re: Early grapes

Postby tonyhibbett » Fri Jan 26, 2018 13:35

After a month, the soft fruit version had undergone another fermentation. The sg was down to 1000 and the acidity had increased to 7 ppt, which was strange. I racked it off the sediment and adjusted the acidity to 5.5 ppt. The fruity flavour was much diminished, leaving a rather thin-flavoured medium dry rosé.
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