Picking up home fermentation/brewing

Rattus Suffocatus

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Jun 5, 2019
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My bottling now is for gifts which really now is a once every other year thing. I do tend to collect different types of depression era cappers because I think they are cool (a hundred years old now and 10x better than anything sold new)* so occasionally I like to do a few crown caps to use them. But even then, if I trust the person I am giving the beer or cider to, I usually will use my swing tops and request they wash them (or at least rinse them out) and return them to me. If I know better I'll bottle even off of a growler type fill.

*I have said on the beer boards that I could be in the middle of bottling, fend off an attacker with the bottler, wipe the blood off and then go right ahead and finish bottling
with them.....

And...oddly enough... those cappers are VERY cheap. You tend to pick them up for $10 or less at antique malls.. odd how when alcohol was banned millions of cappers were made, making them cheaper in real terms now than when they were new....
 

jseyfert3

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Well, months later I finally am starting the yeast wars.
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Just plain apple juice from Aldi. We've got Lalvin EC-1118 and D47, Safale US-05 and SafCider. Poured 1/4 package of yeast into each half gallon. I will also compare these 4 with a 5.5 gallon batch of cider I started with the same juice and Mangrove Jack's M02 cider yeast three days ago.

Oh, and the Tree Top was just to try, I had bought that on a whim. It got the Safcider yeast.
Okay, a month and a half later I've moved the jugs upstairs. I'm currently soaking a bunch of bottles in PBW, as I didn't even rinse most of them (I know!). Once clean and sanitized I'll be bottling the yeast war cider.

This will be my first actual bottling, I plan on measuring the priming sugar using my gran scale for each bottle, as I'm not gonna rack less than half a gallon to a bottling bucket. I figure after a hydrometer sample and syphon loss I'll get 3, maybe 4 bottles per half gallon jug. I'll let them condition and chill for the final verdict, but of course all the hydrometer samples will be tested by my wife and I. Just not the same warm and uncarbonated.

And...oddly enough... those cappers are VERY cheap. You tend to pick them up for $10 or less at antique malls.. odd how when alcohol was banned millions of cappers were made, making them cheaper in real terms now than when they were new....
Nothing like telling someone they can't have something to make them want it even more!
 
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jseyfert3

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Finally, I've got them bottled.
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All finished at 0.998-0.999, starting was 1.046. Everything but the US-05 finished clear, the US-05 was cloudy as shown, and tasted terrible. Not sure if it needs more time to clean up and let the yeast settle or what, but unless a miracle happens in bottle conditioning I won't be using it again.

The rest tasted good. I think the D47 wins out actually, had the best flavor IMO. That could of course change with fresh juice over filtered store juice, of course.

Oh, and that Sweet and Tart juice with Safcider? Also started at around 1.046, ended at about 0.995. But, as I figured it might, the extra tartness means the hard cider was TART, way too much so, and is not a good juice for making hard cider.

Oh yeah, and here's the jugs before bottling, showing the amount of lees created.
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jseyfert3

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So, you can't concentrate from the US?
You can get concentrate/juice from the US of course, but this is just the juice Aldi sold, the cheapest juice I could get.

I will be doing experiments with orchard juice or unfiltered store juice, but that is available only once a year typically, the filtered juice is available year round.
 

jseyfert3

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Brew day was yesterday! Brewed an Amber Bock, and am creating a Pineapple Habanero Wheat which shall be called the Hawaiian Burn.

View attachment 167531View attachment 167531
I've never had a spicy beer. I'll have to try one at some point. Hawaiian Burn, that's a great name!

How big is that conical fermenter? And what are those electric brew systems? I'm starting to look at electric systems of some sort so I can brew in my basement. Wisconsin winter is coming and I'm not gonna be doing a boil on my deck in a snowstorm!
 

DAB942

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Nov 13, 2017
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You can get concentrate/juice from the US of course, but this is just the juice Aldi sold, the cheapest juice I could get.

I will be doing experiments with orchard juice or unfiltered store juice, but that is available only once a year typically, the filtered juice is available year round.
I was reading it as a statement :) YOU MUST CONCENTRATE FROM SOUTH AFRICA!
 
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jseyfert3

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Okay, so while those bottle condition for the final taste test, I'm starting the store bought Juice Wars.
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I've already made cider with the Indian Summer juice (so it's basically a baseline), but not the Indian Summer cider or the other ones. I'll be starting this tomorrow night probably, I'm going to use D47 in all of them as it was the winner from the yeast wars during hydrometer taste testing, but I don't have any and the LHBS is closed today.

My intention is to figure out the best combo of yeast and cider (at least to mine and my wife's tastes), after which that will probably become a "standby" with a keg on tap year round cause it's easy, cheap, and tastes quite decent. Then I can start focusing on making high quality cidera with fresh orchard juice but that's a once a year type thing.

I do need to go get some fresh juice before all the orchards run out though, unless they already have. I'd like to start at least one batch from fresh juice this year.
 

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PoolBrews

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How big is that conical fermenter? And what are those electric brew systems? I'm starting to look at electric systems of some sort so I can brew in my basement. Wisconsin winter is coming and I'm not gonna be doing a boil on my deck in a snowstorm!
The conical fermenter is a FastFerment and is 7 gallons. It's large enough for 6 gallon batches. The other fermenter is a Craft-A-Brew and only holds a little over 6 gallons - I have to use a blow off tube for many of my 5 gallon batches, but I like the design better.

The electric brew kettle is a Gigawort (Gigawort™ Electric Brew Kettle) from Northern brewing - it's on sale right now! This is one of the best investments I have ever made for brewing. It's much easier to control the temp during brewing, and when I'm chilling, I can turn off the element and still see the digital temp as I bring the temp down - I don't need a thermometer anymore! I have two, and always do two batches at once. I can do two batches in just a little more time than one. I just have to stagger the start time by about 25 minutes so I can use my chiller for both batches.

If you look at a spicy (as in habanero or jalapeno) beer, be really careful how much spice you add - a little goes a long way here.
 
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jseyfert3

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Oh, I missed the clear one the first time I looked at that picture! Thanks for the info, stuff to think about.

Oh, and I almost forgot. I had another contender for the "Yeast Wars". I jad needed another batch of cider so when I did the 4 different half gallon ciders, I did a fifth yeast, Mangrove Jacks M02, in a 5.5 gallon batch in a carboy. Kegged that yesterday. Finished at 1.000, carboy was not perfectly clear but you could read through it with some slight trouble. The taste was good. I'm just a very new beginner so I'm not sure what different off flavors taste like, but I got the impression that with some further aging the M02 may be the best yeast yet. It was my wife's favorite from the hydrometer samples to date. I'm excited to compare the D47 to the M02 here in 3-4 weeks and see how each compares chilled and carbed. I'll compare one bottle of each in 3-4 weeks and another after maybe a few more months.

I then tried sweetening the kegged portion of the M02 batch with two things of frozen apple juice concentrate. Both me and my wife thought it was better unsweetened...guess we prefer a good dry cider? (If my rough calculations are accurate that should have raise the SG by 0.006 or so, but I didn't confirm that yet)
 

Rattus Suffocatus

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I finally served the cider made in about July with the Mangrove Jacks.. It's pretty good. Bizarre yeast, very compact trub, very fine. Yeast rafts a lot so you ask yourself early on, "is it infected?"... but it wasn't either time. It did preserve the apple flavor better than any yeast I ever used. I actually started a second batch on the trub from the first one. Or is it lees since it's a wine? Who knows. IT doesn't attenuate as much so it leaves a sweetness.

Aging ciders is definitely a good idea. The Mangrove Jacks goes through all sorts of odd smells in the first couple of weeks, and I decided to sit on it for a while. I am glad I did. I think I am with you in that I'll use it for "Appley" ciders and D47 for dry Ciders.

My favorite wine yeast all around, especially for fruit wines is D47. EC1118 isn't bad, but it's a champagne yeast so it's meant to really dry stuff out. Beer yeasts haven't worked that well for me either. There is one exception to that, but it's kind of odd... Belle Saison makes an apple cider that tastes like Saison esters. It's actually very good. So if you are still into experimenting try that some day. I liked it. Many did. Many didn't....
 

PoolBrews

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It's impossible to pick a single best yeast... any given type of beer or cider may taste best with a given type of yeast, but it definitely varies with the beer or cider type/taste. i.e. the best yeast for a wheat beer may suck for a pilsner, or a stout, or a belgian.

And to go even further, the yeast you determine is best in your test right now for your cider may not be the best when fermentation is at a different temp, or the ingredients in the juice you are using change a bit due to a different batch in manufacturing. The variables in brewing and fermentation can change drastically when we are dealing with small batches. The smaller the batch, the less consistency you'll get batch to batch. This is why commercial beers are so consistent - they are brewing 1,000's of gallons at a time with a very controlled process.
 

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jseyfert3

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It's impossible to pick a single best yeast... any given type of beer or cider may taste best with a given type of yeast, but it definitely varies with the beer or cider type/taste. i.e. the best yeast for a wheat beer may suck for a pilsner, or a stout, or a belgian.

And to go even further, the yeast you determine is best in your test right now for your cider may not be the best when fermentation is at a different temp, or the ingredients in the juice you are using change a bit due to a different batch in manufacturing. The variables in brewing and fermentation can change drastically when we are dealing with small batches. The smaller the batch, the less consistency you'll get batch to batch. This is why commercial beers are so consistent - they are brewing 1,000's of gallons at a time with a very controlled process.
Fair enough, and completely understand your points. The idea was to determine the best yeast for store bought, filtered juice. Which is all probably fairly consistent, at least within the same brand. That yeast may or may not be good for unfiltered juice from an orchard.

And yes temp is important, I'll soon (hopefully) have a fermentation chamber so I can can control that. I did note the ambient temp in my logs, my basement is pretty consistant, was around 70 all summer, now has dropped to around 67 as things have cooled down. But once I have the fermentation chamber I can control the temp much better, and experiment with different temps.

It's fun to experiment like this. And how do you learn if not by experimenting? (And reading, which I'm also doing)

Time to start your own distillery as well!
Nah, I in general dislike liquor. The only liquor I really enjoy is vodka in certain mixed drinks. Plus beer, cider, and winemaking is legal. Distilling is not.
 

jark87

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Really interesting thread. I’ve never ventured into the home brew arena so I’ll live vicariously through you guys. If you’re still considering a smoker, I’d highly recommend the Weber Kettle with the Slow n Sear add-on. Kettle is by far the most versatile grill I’ve ever had and it’s cheap. I recently added a pizza oven accessory to mine and had a blast cooking wood-fired pizzas. No need to spend several hundred (or thousand) bucks. It will cook anything and use any method with the only downside being small grill space. You won’t be cooking multiple briskets at the same time. Pit Barrel Cooker is also great and inexpensive, but is really a dedicated smoker, so not as versatile as the Kettle.
 

PoolBrews

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The only place automation would help with brew temps would be in the fermentation process... and then it's mainly beneficial for brewing lagers. The brew process itself only lasts a couple of hours. I use an electronic brew kettle, so it's easy to set temps during the soak and boil, and easy to monitor temp during the chill phase. Automation could facilitate the process... but I would still need to sit there to ensure there is no boil over, so I'm don't see the value (other than it's cool - I'm an IT guy so I do love automation).

During fermentation, lagers need to be kept in the 50's or 60's, so I suppose automation could help if you have a fermentation chiller... although in my opinion, for home brewing, that would be overkill. The expense of the automation and sensors required, plus the time to always ensure the components are working would outweigh the benefits of automation for small batch brews. If I were a commercial brew house with 500-1,000 gallon batches, then I would want automation to control the process, but for 5-10 gallon batches, it's just a huge outlay of money and time. Both of these could be used to make more BEER!
 

superuser

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Y'all are making me jealous lol. Been so nuts I haven't even done one batch this year. Wife bought me a cheater kit for my birthday because she knows I have been itching, and that will help save time. Normally I'm an all grain over the fire brewer, she got me a DME+LME+ "specialty grain" type coffee porter kit.
 

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