Wild Wine: First Racking

Racking when brewing refers to the process of siphoning partially-fermented fluid off of the sediment left behind by yeast as they complete their life cycle. This sediment is usually pretty bitter and smelly- not things you want in your wine (or whatever). So, I did that today, ten days after straining it. Fermentation had slowed considerably, and I had a mostly fully inflated balloon. So, more sanitizing and set up, then I was good to go.

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So, getting that siphon going proved to be a challenge. But the good news is that even for being quite unfinished, my wine tastes pretty damn good. Pretty strong too! The rest of the process was simple- after the siphon was done, add some syrup and seal back up.I was right- there wasn’t room for a pint of syrup in there. I filled it back to the neck, though.

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So, now it will sit until fermentation is done. Since I wasn’t able to add the entire pint of syrup, that may be shorter than planned. But- I’ll keep an eye on it, and then rack it a final time, then add conditioning tablets to carbonate it.

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Blackberry Wine: Straining

I had originally intended to get this done yesterday, but two weeks of poor sleep during that heat wave caught up to me. Anyhow. It’s been just under a week since I started that wine. It was pretty damn hot for most of the time, so I cut the ferment on the pulp short. I’ve been checking the smell, and it definitely smells winey. Before that it was yeasty, which was good cause I’d worried I’d killed my yeast with Campden tabs. When the temp dropped yesterday, the smell stopped being as strong.

When I got home from work this afternoon, I began to sanitize.

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I cleaned out another bucket, in much the same state as the first, and re-sanitized a ladle, a spoon, a gallon jug, and my hands, since they would be doing the pressing. The recipe I’m following has me adding more syrup at this stage, and I had it cooling in a salted ice water bath. With everything clean, I was ready to strain out the pulp.

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I ladled the mash into the muslin bag, and dumped the dregs in. I let it drip and drain under its own weight for a bit.

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Then I got in there and started squeezing and pressing by hand. My palms are still tinged slightly purple. Once I got as much juice out of the pulp as I could, I added the cooled syrup and sloshed the mix around a bit. Then I positioned the jug and funnel under the spigot on this new bucket.

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And I let ‘er go.

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It’s quite full, more so than I expected from the recipe’s photos. It calls for one more syrup addition, but I won’t have room for that, and more syrup wouldn’t give it enough volume to fill two gallon jugs. But, I fit the bottle with a rubber stopper meant for the airlock, and put a balloon over that.

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Now it will sit for ten days. If I didn’t murder the yeast, that balloon should slowly inflate with carbon dioxide as they consume the sugar and turn it into ethanol. It will be racked two more times to rid it of sediment. And sediment it will have- I know I squeezed plenty of seeds back into it. Since I can’t add more sugar syrup to it (unless racking it really reduces the volume), I’ll rack it once (after ten days) back into a clean jug, and then that third racking (once fermentation stops entirely, approximately a week or two later) will be the final one, and I’ll add the conditioning sugar to carbonate it before I cork it.

Wild Booze, Er, Food: Starting Blackberry Wine.

Between the two of us, Matt and I have been homebrewing off and on for several years. He started with his college roommates before they moved to Madison, and I started with a former boyfriend and some mutual friends before I moved to Madison. I’m fairly certain they stuck to beer. I had observed one batch of beer being made, and had made hard cider and mead from scratch. Not without mishaps- the hard cider was a bit watered down due to our flawed pressing method, and the mead exploded. We carbonated it before it was finished fermenting the first time. Whoops. Matt and I together had made one batch of a Kölsch beer, and one batch of hard cider. The beer was good, but the hard cider was too strong- I’m still hoping to turn it into apple cider vinegar.

Anyhow. Today was my first time at Madison Brew N Grow’s new location. It’s smaller and over on Willy Street, which is pretty fitting, honestly. I picked up the essentials there.

Yeast, sanitizer, ascorbic acid, Campden tabs, carbonating sugar tabs, a funnel, and a cork.

Yeast, sanitizer, ascorbic acid, Campden tabs, carbonating sugar tabs, a funnel, muslin straining bags, and a cork.

The only thing I forgot was pectic enzyme, but there’s still time. Anyhow. Our last batch of beer was probably two years ago, and it showed.

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I think I even used this to house a batch of sangria after we brewed beer. It’s been a while.

 

The sanitizer I bought works in cold water, so I did the whole deal out on the shaded front porch (seriously, it’s frickin hot, even more so in the sun) with the hose, after I washed the dirt and dead flies out with water and a tiny dab of dish soap. I made sure to rinse out the soap thoroughly. I’m no expert, but if you’re new to homebrewing, seriously, sanitize the everloving crap out of everything with actual sanitizer. It will save you much heartache. This isn’t like cooking where cleanliness can be half-assed because the heat will take care of it for you. This stuff will basically sit at room temp in a not-always-airtight container for weeks. Wild yeast, bacteria, or mold could all cause it to go off.

Every utensil, a carboy, and the bucket all at once, cause I don't mess around.

Every utensil, a carboy, and the bucket all at once, cause I don’t mess around.

My bucket water is brownish, because the sani was iodine based. It smelled like hospital. Once that was over, I started following this recipe, one of the very few I was able to track down online. I found a couple in some old books at my local Half Price Books today, but went with this instead. I won’t hash out all the measurements or whatever, because I followed it very closely.

Per the recipe, 4 1/2 lbs berries

Per the recipe, 4 1/2 lbs berries

Mashed with my potato masher.

Mashed with my potato masher.

Add the Campden Tablet

Add the Campden Tablet

Just one, then crushed, mixed with water.

Just one, then crushed, mixed with water.

All mashed, with the quart of water.

All mashed, with the quart of water.

Time to wake up, little yeasts.

Time to wake up, little yeasts.

B&G guys recommended Lalvin K1-V1116 to produce a medium sweet, fruity wine.

B&G guys recommended Lalvin K1-V1116 to produce a medium sweet, fruity wine.

Adding the "cooled" syrup (relatively- it was 95 and humid today), then I stirred to dissipate any lingering heat

Adding the “cooled” syrup (relatively- it was 95 and humid today), then I stirred to dissipate any lingering heat. I’ve killed yeast before. Never again.

I bake bread fairly frequently- any yeast is supposed to look like this when it's ready.

I bake bread fairly frequently- any yeast is supposed to look like this when it’s ready.

Go to work, yeasts.

Go to work, yeasts.

Covered with a thin, clean kitchen towel, and it's now camped out in a spare room where the dogs can't reach.

Covered with a thin, clean kitchen towel, and it’s now camped out in a spare room where the dogs can’t reach.

Per that recipe, it will begin fermentation on the pulp. It will sit like this, lightly covered, for a week. I’ll be keeping a close eye on it, and conducting frequent sniff tests. With how warm it is today, and the heat forecast for the rest of the week, I would not be at all surprised if it was good to go a bit early. No sense in letting the yeast eat themselves to death before I even strain it. So, next week, I’ll strain it through those muslin bags, and put the liquid in the glass carboy(s). I discovered I am also short one airlock, so to monitor fermentation, I’ll use a trusty balloon on the mouth of the jug. After that I hope to carbonate it, because I love fizz and fizzy blackberry wine sounds real, real good. Poured over ice. To top it all off, I was left with a little over a pound of blackberries! That means pie and cobbler once it drops back below 90 and I can bear to have the oven on. 

Where did I get all those berries? Glad you asked! Look over here.

Props also go to this site, which seems to have sadly fallen out of use.