There are always ways to refine your brewing process, clarity is one of those things that isn’t always really necessary but it would be nice to achieve the pin-sharp clarity of commercial beers. Cold crashing beer is a technique that more and more brewers are doing with the primary benefit of achieving a crystal clear beer.
Reducing the temperature and cold crashing beer in the fermenter has become a mandatory step in many brewers processes, however, it isn’t strictly necessary for most batches of homebrew. What is the point then of going to the trouble and what does this step do the beer. In this article, we will cover how and why you may want to cold crash your beer.
Why Cold Crash Your Home Brew?
The main purpose of cold crashing your beer is to encourage the flocculation of yeast and other particles that may be in suspension and therefore clear the beer. Quick cooling and occasionally the addition of finings during the cold crash can leave you with a finished beer that is crystal clear.
The quick cooling of a beer or other brews like wine or mead encourages yeast to flocculate or group together and other particles like protein to coagulate. When the particles group together the collected mass helps to bring them down to the bottom of the vessel and out of suspension.
This process of removing the particles from the beer is what gives the finished beer a level of clarity that to the naked eye is just the same as a commercial beer and this happens without filtration.
What About Flavour Benefits?
In most cases, it is doubtful that you will be able to tell the difference between a cold crashed beer and a non-cold crashed beer. Even after cold crashing, there are still particles suspended in the beer, including yeast. This experiment on cold crashing failed to identify much difference between two beers that were identical, except for the fact one was cold crashed.
Working as a commercial brewer I cold crash every batch of beer. The primary reason for doing so is to get as much of the particles in suspension to sediment. This speeds up the process and means packaging can take place a lot sooner. As a home brewer I rarely cold crash beers and I have seen no difference other than the beers taking longer to clear.
One benefit you may find with cold crashing is that because more of the particulate is removed from the beer before packaging that the flavours in the beer are stable or more consistent for a longer period of time. This is an assumption rather than evidence based statement though.
How To Cold Crash Your Beer?
Simply put, all you need to do to cold crash your beer is to chill it down close to 0.5°C / 33°F in a short time frame. The easiest way to achieve this is to put the fermenting vessel in a fridge or temperature controlled freezer.
You are going to need a chamber that you can place the fermenter in to cool it down so cold crashing a beer is not going to be possible unless you have something like a fermentation fridge. If you do temperature controlled fermentations then this will not be a problem, if not then you will have to forego the cold crash.
When To Start A Cold Crash?
When you should cold crash a beer or any other home brew for that matter is important.
We need to make sure that the fermentation is finished, to begin with. If fermentation is not complete the yeast will stop fermenting as soon as the temperature falls below a certain point. There will be residual sugars left in the beer and it is not going to taste as it should.
Along with this, there are compounds created during fermentation that will impart undesirable flavours, Dimethyl Sulfide (DMS), a sulphur based compound is created during fermentation and the yeast will ordinarily clean up these unwanted compounds once fermentation dies down. If you cold crash too soon, some flavour compounds such as these can remain in the beer. Fortunately, it only takes 2 – 3 days after fermentation activity stops for the yeast to clean up these off flavours.
First of all, check your fermentation is finished with a hydrometer. Check over consecutive days to ensure no movement and then wait for 2 – 3 days at a minimum before cold crashing. This simple rule should be enough to ensure fermentation is finished and the byproducts of fermentation are removed.
Cold Crash Temperature Range
The temperature at which you want to cold crash your home brew is between 0.5°C – 5°C / 33°F – 41°F.
As mentioned earlier a temperature controlled fridge or freezer, using a simple thermostat controller like an inkbird is one of the easiest ways to maintain these temperatures. You do not want to freeze the beer but getting the temperature down to this range rapidly is the most effective way to get the best clarity of your beer.
Beware Airlock Vacuum
One of the issues many brewers will encounter when they cold crash a beer is that the temperature drop will cause a vacuum to form in the sealed fermenter.
What happens is that the air in the headspace in the fermenter contracts as the temperature drops. This creates a vacuum and air is sucked in through the airlock. This is not a big problem but causes some people to panic that air of liquid from the airlock is being pulled into the beer.
If this is a concern, the easiest thing to do is to remove the airlock and replace it with a small bung. The vacuum will still happen but it is not going to be strong enough to damage the fermenter. Many people fill their airlocks with vodka so that if any liquid is pulled through into the beer it is sanitary.
Should You Bother Cold Crashing Your Beer?
In my opinion, this is completely personal preference. The impact on the flavour is negligible at best, it is more a case of the way the beer looks and the process.
Many brewers incorporate a cold crash into their process because they have a fermentation fridge or chamber set up to control the temperature of the main fermentation. Performing a cold crash after that is not a problem, you just have to change the temperature controller.
I do not perform a cold crash on most of my beers and do not have any problems with clarity so I don’t feel it is a necessary step, but that is not to say it is beneficial to the look of your home brewed beers.
If you have been brewing for any length of time you may have heard of yeast nutrient. It is a very common additive for plenty of wine recipes but is not often listed in many beer recipes.
Several yeast companies produce their own brand of yeast nutrient but what exactly is it and when should you use yeast nutrient. In this article, we are going to cover, what yeast nutrient is and why you would need it.
Yeast health is one of the most important aspects of making good homebrew beer, wine or mead. After all, it is the sole reason for any alcohol being produced at all. Not only is yeast necessary for converting sugars to alcohol but it is also particularly important because it has a large influence on the flavour of the finished beverage.
Yeast creates many different compounds when fermenting a beer or wine that have a big effect on flavour. Wheat beer yeast for instance produce, clove, banana and bubblegum like flavours and this is desirable for the most part, if they are not healthy, however, they can produce undesirable flavours.
Yeast nutrients are added to beer or wine to ensure that the building blocks required by the yeast to form new cells and reproduce are available to them before and during fermentation.
When yeast reproduces they require things like amino acids, nitrogen, fatty acids and vitamins to form new cells. If these are not present when you add yeast to your wort or must it can lead to problems during fermentation or even starting fermentation, to begin with.
What Is In Yeast Nutrient?
Most blends of yeast nutrient contain a few different compounds, it is a good idea to check on the label to see what is added as some yeast nutrients may only provide things like nitrogen alone.
The most common compounds found in yeast nutrients are the following:
Diammonium Phosphate: This is a salt that provides a source of free amino nitrogen (FAN). This is the main ingredient in most yeast nutrient blends and is vital for yeast health. In most cases malt has a large amount of FAN so this nutrient is often not needed for beer making (more on that in a moment).
Yeast Hulls: Essentially this is dead yeast which acts as a source of lipids and fatty acids vital in providing resources for new yeast cell production.
Vitamins, Thiamin and Biotin: Yeast requires certain vitamins for cell growth and production just like our bodies do. Vitamins are added to nutrient blends to provide these important compounds. Biotin is a B-vitamin commonly used in making country wine production.
Magnesium, Zinc: These compounds are added to yeast nutrient to increase the cell count and magnesium aid yeast metabolism.
It is almost always best to use yeast nutrient if the recipe has it listed in the ingredients and sometimes if it isn’t. There are some cases where it is not really necessary so let’s take a look at those.
Yeast Nutrient In Beer Making
For the most part beer has a lot of the nutrition yeast needs because wort for beer is produced with nutrient rich ingredients like malted barley. This means adding yeast nutrient is not really necessary
There may be certain instances when you are brewing particular beers that adding yeast nutrients will be beneficial. The time to think about using yeast nutrient would be in some of the following scenarios:
The Beer Is A Particularly High Gravity Beer: All yeast strains have a certain level of tolerance for alcohol depending on the type. The closer you get to this tolerance the harder time the yeast has. The addition of yeast nutrients in beers over or around 8% can ensure you aren’t going to run into problems with yeast stress and stalling.
The Beer Uses A High Portion of Adjuncts: If the beer uses a high portion of adjuncts, particularly if a large amount of the fermentables comes from plain sugar. Sugar alone has no real nutrients for the yeast so in cases where 25% or more of the fermentables come from adjuncts, yeast nutrients may be a good idea.
Unless you are brewing a beer that is like this then it is not really necessary to use a yeast nutrient for beer making. Most wort is highly nutrient rich and will contain everything needed to produce healthy yeast.
Nutrients for Yeast Starters
If you regularly make yeast starters than you may want to consider using yeast nutrients. Ramping up yeast cell numbers is intensive and requires them to be plenty of nutrition for the yeast to create new cells. To aid the process and speed it up using a yeast nutrient with nitrogen, vitamins, zinc and magnesium is very beneficial.
Yeast Nutrients For Wine Making Or Mead & Cider
Yeast nutrients become more vital for home wine makers and mead makers where the ingredients aren’t as nutrient dense as malted barley and wheat.
For country wines where more than 90% of the fermentable sugars come from simple sugars then the yeast need the addition of yeast nutrients to be able to reproduce and thrive. The same is true for making mead, honey is a simple sugar and will need a boost of nutrients for the yeast to ferment at their best.
In most instances, it would be recommended to use yeast nutrients in wine, mead and cider because there is no way for the home brewer to know how much nitrogen is available and what other micronutrients are in the ingredients they are using. There is no home test available to test these things. Whereas beer makers have malt specification so they can be certain of things like FAN.
How Much Yeast Nutrient To Use?
Dosages of yeast nutrients are almost always stated on the package they come in so always follow the advice and recommendations from the manufacturer.
In most cases, it will be around 1 gram a litre or 1 tsp for 5 litres/1 gallon.
This is usually added at the start of fermentation. Some more advanced wine makers space out additions of yeast nutrients into 2 or 3 additions, one before fermentation and then another addition once fermentation has started. I would say this isn’t necessary for a simple country wine but if you are making large amounts of grape wines this could be beneficial.
Making a basic mead is a great way to start home brewing and this basic mead recipe is so simple anyone can easily do it themselves. It doesn’t require a lot of equipment to make mead and even fewer ingredients. What this mead recipe does need, however, is a bit of patience and selecting the best honey you can find.
If you have never made mead before then this is a great recipe to start with. It is not a showstopper with loads of ingredients and fruits added, although it can easily be adapted to that. What this mead recipe is, is a foundation for understanding what mead is, how a mead tastes and it produces a medium bodied mead that you will love with very simple ingredients.
If you are completely new to making mead then I should suggest you take a look at this guide to making mead. It covers the main ingredients, variations of mead as well as the equipment and steps to making your first batch of mead. This article will cover some of those things but it is mainly to give you a basic mead recipe.
Basic Mead – The Foundation For All Other Mead Recipes
Honey wine or mead straight up and as basic as it comes sometimes gets a bad rap for being slightly boring. It is, after all, just honey, water and yeast in most cases. Fruit meads or melomels get lots of fanfare and of course they have many more variations and interesting things you can do with them, however, a basic mead can be a thing of beauty.
The key thing to invest in when making a straight mead wine is good, varietal honey. The best you can find or get your hands on. This is where all the flavour comes from so choosing a delicious honey, to begin with, will make a better mead in the end.
Find The Right Honey
A varietal honey is made when the bees are collecting nectar from particular plants. There are hundreds of varietal honey, some of the most common ones you may have heard of are clover, orange blossom or acacia among hundreds of others. These types of honey range in colour and flavour and this is what will make the difference to your finished mead, so choosing the right one for this recipe is a big part of the process.
Whatever type of honey you choose this mead recipe is made in the same way so this is the chance to find something you really like to make your mead shine.
The Right Yeast & Nutrients For Your Mead
Picking a yeast is the next thing you need to get right to make a top quality mead. I have found Lalvin D47
a great strain for making mead and I know a lot of other people do as well, looking at recipes online.
Lalvin D47 is a white wine yeast that works great in meads. It performs consistently at a temperature range of 15°C – 20°C (59°F – 68°F) and leaves body in the wine as well as a nice balanced mouthfeel.
To ensure the yeast have suitable nutrients to ferment all the honey we need to add yeast nutrients. Honey alone doesn’t have the required nutrients for the yeast to reproduce and ferment all the available sugar. Without nutrients, the yeast is likely to stall before finishing fermentation and ferment the mead poorly. Simply adding a teaspoon of yeast nutrient is enough for a gallon batch of this traditional mead.
Acid is Important For Meads
Balancing a mead takes a little bit of tinkering. I like to add a small amount of acid blend to my mead after sampling at the end of fermentation. Adding acidity helps lift the mead which can seem a little flat otherwise.
The acidity in wines is a major component of how we perceive it. Some people like more acidity than others and some honey taste different to others in each mead recipe. This is why I like to add acid after fermentation. You can tailor the amount you add to the taste of that particular batch.
In most cases, a dosage of acid blend between 1/4 and 1/2 a teaspoon per gallon (4.5 litres) is enough. Simply mix the acid with a small amount of the mead to dissolve and then mix into the batch.
Before you begin making your mead make sure you clean and sanitise your equipment before it comes into contact with the mead.
Some recipes call for pasteurising the honey by heating with the water as a precaution, this isn’t strictly necessary and if you pitch enough yeast then any spoilage bacteria are quickly overwhelmed. As this recipe is for a 4.5 litres one sachet of yeast is enough.
Equipment You’ll Need For This Mead – Makes 1 Gallon / 4.5 Litres
1.3kg of Good Honey (preferably varietal or your favourite)
4.2 litres Water (collect and leave overnight to dissipate chlorine)
1 tsp Yeast Nutrient
1/4 – 1/2 tsp Acid Blend to taste
1 sachet of yeast (we recommend Lalvin D-47)
Mead Recipe Method
1. In the fermenting bucket add half the water and then stir in all of the honey to thoroughly mix add the yeast nutrient and then the rest of the water and once again stir to thoroughly mix. You can take a hydrometer reading at this point should you wish.
2. Make sure the must is between 15°C – 20°C (59°F – 68°F) and find a suitable place to keep the fermenter where it will maintain this temperature. Add the yeast to the mead by sprinkling onto the surface, there is no need to stir. You can rehydrate the yeast according to the packet instructions before pitching for good results.
3. Fit the lid and an airlock to the fermenter and leave to mead to undergo primary fermentation. This vigorous fermentation should last roughly a week or more.
4. After the initial burst of activity has died down or at around 12 days we want to transfer the mead to a demijohn/carboy. Transfer carefully using a siphon to avoid splashing. The demijohn should be full, fit a bung and airlock and leave the mead to condition.
5. You will want to condition the mead for at least 3 months or longer. Rack the mead to a clean demijohn as sediment builds up at least once or twice during this time. You can take this time to take another hydrometer reading should you wish and sample the mead. If you find it needs more acidity add acid blend in small amounts until you feel the mead is balanced. This is personal, you may find you need no acid addition or very little. It is best to add a little rather than too much.
6. After conditioning and clearing completely, package in bottles and cork or cap. The mead will continue to get better for years as it ages so try and keep hold of some for at least a year or more.
Dried fruits are great for making wine, especially when the winter comes around and fresh fruit isn’t in season. This Raisin wine recipe makes a wine that is nice and warming, similar to sherry and a great wine to make from a store cupboard ingredient.
Raisins are great for making wine. You will have probably seen that many wine recipes make use of them. This is because a small amount imparts a lot of flavour and body which a lot of more subtle fresh fruit wines can lack. You will be pleased to know that raisins can be used as the sole fruit in a fruit wine and there a more varieties of raisins than you might expect so there is some room for experimentation too.
Flavour Packed Raisins
Drying fruit changes the flavour this is why raisins, whilst tasting fruity don’t taste like grapes. Drying any food tends to intensify the flavours and this is a big benefit for winemaking as these intense flavours really shine through in the finished wine.
Raisins are also packed full of sugar another boon for the winemaker as we rely on sugars to make alcohol, the more sugar that comes from the fruit the better as adding plain sugar whilst boosting the alcohol content does not introduce any flavour.
Golden Raisins, Muscat Raisins, Black Flame Raisins, Red Raisins and Green Raisins
All will produce a wine of slightly different colour and flavour. Each variety is worth experimenting with as you will often find they are produced from different grape varieties that will produce a unique wine.
Beware Of Oil & Preservatives
Where possible you will want to check the label on any raisins you buy to see what the ingredients are. You may find some dried fruits are coated in oil during production which we want to avoid as the oil will tend to slick on top of the wine and will likely cause undesirable flavours.
Sultanas are usually dipped in oil as part of the drying process so you will want to steer clear of using these.
Some dried fruit is treated with sulphur, fruit like apricots often are to preserve their colour. These are usually fine for winemaking and won’t make a noticeable difference. If there are other preservatives listed, however, you will likely want to pass on using these to make wine unless you know they won’t interfere with either the flavour or the yeast health.
Preparing Raisins For Making Wine
To get the most out of the raisins you use you will need to chop them to prepare them for winemaking. You tend to find when whole raisins are soaked in a liquid they tend to swell plump up and absorb the liquid. Our objective, being to extract the flavours, sugars and colour from the raisins means they need to be chopped or minced to extract maximum flavour.
A decent food processor can make light work of this and should only take a moment. The raisins don’t need to be fine particles but just chopped/minced roughly.
What You’ll Need To Make Raisin Wine – Makes 1 gallon / 4.5 litres
1. Begin by heating the sugar and the water together in a pan. Stir to dissolve the sugar and ensure it does not scorch and gradually bring to a boil.
2. As the sugar solution is heating take the chopped raisins and place them in the straining bag. Secure and drop the bag into a sanitised fermenting bucket. After the sugar has boiled for a few moment take off the heat and pour straight over the raisins in the fermenting bucket. Give everything a good stir to break up the raisins that may have clumped together.
3. Allow the must to cool, once tepid add the acid blend, wine tannin, yeast nutrient and the crushed campden tablet. Mix through the must and cover with a lid and airlock.
4. At least 12 hours after adding the Campden tablet and other additives add the pectic enzyme and mix through the must. Re-cover and leave for a further 12 hours.
5. After another 12 hours sprinkle the yeast on top of the must and allow fermentation to begin. After a day or 12 you will begin to notice activity through the airlock.
6. Allow fermentation to progress for 7 days giving the must a stir every day. After 7 days lift out the bag of spent raisins and allow to drain thoroughly. Leave the raisin wine to settle for a couple of days and then rack to a demijohn.
7. Leave the raisin wine in the demijohn to condition. Rack every 30 days or after sediment has built up. Leave for roughly 3 – 4 months until the wine has cleared before bottling. You may wish to back sweeten the wine if you prefer a sweeter finish. Follow this guide for advice on how to go about back sweetening your wine.
Raisin wine is best aged for a while before drinking, in fact it will get better after a year or more and does really well being kept upwards of 2 – 3 years. However long you want to leave it in bottle you can be sure it will produce a delicious wine.
There are some beer styles that really stick out from the norm. Imperial Stouts are one of those beer styles that elevates beer as a drink to something higher. There is plenty of history that surrounds Russian Imperial Stouts, enough to fill a book, but all I know is that brewing one yourself is a lot of fun and you are almost always guaranteed a complex, highly flavourful beer that will have youevery last sip.
The Russian Imperial Stout
I am by no means an authority on the history or provenance of beer. In fact, my primary concern is how a beer tastes more than anything. If you were wondering where the Russia comes from in Russian Imperial Stout come from though I shall explain. Originally these stouts were brewed in England for export to Russia during the 18th century.
The way an imperial stout tastes and was brewed was largely defined because it was being exported to a far off market. To survive the journey from England to the Imperial courts of Russia without spoiling the beer needed to be stronger (between 8 – 12% ABV), more bitter and able to resist bacteria whilst stored in barrels during a long voyage.
Russian imperial stouts a big beers, ranging between 8 – 12% if not more in ABV. In many cases the fermentables come from malt with occasionally sugar being added to bump up the alcohol content. Beers with such large grain bills ramp up the flavour to whole new levels.
There is so much going on in the flavour, aroma and mouthfeel of an Imperial stout. There is bag loads of malt character coming through from often complex malt bills that include large portions of speciality malts. Along with this though is the big presence of alcohol which adds another dimension to the palate.
Imperial stouts really do showcase the range of flavours that you can achieve with a large malt bill. Flavours ranging from chocolate, coffee and burnt tar like flavours through to currants, berries and plum notes. The higher starting gravity also means there is often a residual sweetness in the finished stout that add a layer caramel sweetness over everything.
Imperial Stouts Love Roasted & Specialty Malts
The colour of most imperial stouts is very dark to pitch black with a tan or even dark brown head. Roasted malts and grains that contribute bags of flavour are also reflected in the colour.
When browsing for Russian Imperial stout recipes you will often find malt bills that contain 6 – 8 malts or more. Each recipe trying to pack in more and more flavour with generous quantities of each. Amber, black and brown malts along with crystal malts and roasted barley are all utilised to bolster a pale malt backbone.
Imperial stouts can have a tendency for higher final gravities so my preference is to be subtle with the crystal malts and generous with malts like amber and black malt to keep the sweetness from becoming too cloying.
Imperial Stout Bitterness
Strong beers with high gravities need more hops to balance them. This can be visualised in the graph below.
As most Imperial stouts are on the higher end of strength out of most beer styles we need to increase the bitterness to balance the high ABV.
Aroma hops can are a personal preference here. Many traditional imperial stout recipes have just a bittering addition of hops and little to no aroma additions. Newer interpretations, however, take a slightly more modern approach and have large doses of aroma hops or even dry hops which heap on the flavour of an already complex beer.
Imperial Stout Recipe
Imperial Stout - Russian Imperial Stout
Batch Size: 19.000 L
Boil Size: 23.510 L
Boil Time: 60.000
Bitterness: 56.9 IBUs (Tinseth)
Color: 33 SRM (Morey)
Name Type Amount Mashed Late Yield Color
Pale Malt (2 Row) UK Grain 6.000 kg Yes No 78% 3 L
Brown Malt (British Chocolate) Grain 300.000 g Yes No 70% 65 L
Munich Malt Grain 500.000 g Yes No 80% 9 L
Roasted Barley Grain 200.000 g Yes No 55% 300 L
Black (Patent) Malt Grain 100.000 g Yes No 55% 500 L
Chocolate Malt (UK) Grain 100.000 g Yes No 73% 450 L
Wheat, Torrified Grain 400.000 g Yes No 79% 2 L
Muntons DME - Light Dry Extract 1.200 kg No No 95% 4 L
Total grain: 8.800 kg
Name Alpha Amount Use Time Form IBU
Target 10.5% 80.000 g Boil 60.000 min Leaf 55.7
Fuggles 4.5% 20.000 g Boil 5.000 min Leaf 1.2
Name Type Form Amount Stage
Danstar - Nottingham Ale Dry 11.001 mL Primary
Name Type Amount Temp Target Time
Infusion 19.000 L 74.000 C 65.000 C 0.000 s
Final Batch Sparge Infusion 12.000 L 90.047 C 74.000 C 15.000 min
Cherries make a wonderful fruit wine with a great depth of flavour. Out of all the fruit wines I make I think cherry wine has the best colour and it always comes out better than you expect, there are other health benefits too. If you can source some cherries for yourself the this cherry wine recipe is definitely one to try.
In temperate northern regions there is usually an abundance of cherries during the summer, either from a pick your own farm or lots of people grow the trees in their gardens. I live close to a pick your own farm which has rows of cherry trees which makes picking enough to make wine pretty easy. However, one great thing about this recipe is you can use frozen or canned cherries and the wine is just as good as using fresh cherries.
This means you should be able to make this cherry wine year round as most grocery stores will have cherries of some sort, either fresh, frozen or canned year round.
Fresh & Frozen Cherries
Cherries are a bold flavour and this flavour really does well even after freezing the cherries. The real difference between frozen or fresh cherries is the texture and for us wine makers the texture is not really an issue for us. In fact freezing cherries is actually beneficial as it breaks down the structure of the fruit which when thawed will release more of the sugars and juices we want in the wine.
Canned Cherry Wine
In fact, even canned cherries will work on this recipe. Usually canned cherries are in a light syrup which can also be added to the wine as long as there are no preservatives in it. Using canned cherries in this cherry wine recipe is exactly the same, you just need to work out how many cherries are in the can, usually there is a net weight that you can use to work this out.
If you are using the syrup from the tinned cherries you will want to decrease the amount of sugar you add. The can will usually detail how much sugar is in the syrup on the nutritional information or you can use a hydrometer to work it out.
Sweet or Sour Cherry Wine
This is personal preference I have most often used sour cherries for this recipe but if you use sweet cherries you will of course end up with a slightly sweeter wine. It is also worth trying a mix of both sweet and sour cherries so you can balance the sweetness yourself, you may have to experiment a little to get the perfect mix but it is definitely worth it.
Preparing The Cherries for Wine Making
It is important to destone the cherries.
To get the cherries ready to make wine is simple but a little labour intensive. You will want to wash them thoroughly and remove any bad cherries. As well as this you will need to remove the stems and destone the cherries. As we are going to be mashing the flesh we do not want the stones in the wine as the insides of cherry pits are toxic if you consume enough.
Most of the time frozen cherries are pre-prepared so this makes them great for making cherry wine.
Equipment You Will Need To Make Cherry Wine – Makes 1 gallon / 4.5 litres
1. Start by heating half the water and all the sugar in a large pan. Heat gently to dissolve all the sugar and stir to prevent any scorching of the sugar on the bottom of the pan. Bring the sugar solution to a boil for a few minutes and then turn off the heat.
2. In a sanitized fermenting bucket, place the fine straining bag and add the prepared, washed cherries. Take the potato masher and pulp the cherries to extract the flavour and the juices. Secure the pulp in the straining bag and then pour over the boiling sugar solution. Mix thoroughly and then pour the remaining cool water to bring the temperature down.
3. Add the tannin, yeast nutrient, acid blend if using sweet cherries and then the Campden tablet. Mix thoroughly throughout the must then secure the lid for at least 12 hours.
4. After 12 hours add the pectic enzyme and mix thoroughly, secure the lid and leave for a further 24 hours.
5. After 24 hours add the yeast by sprinkling onto the surface of the must. Secure the lid and airlock and allow to ferment for around 2 weeks.
6. After two weeks it is time to remove the straining bag and what remains of the cherries. Lift the bag out and let it drain but do not squeeze. Cover the cherry wine again with the lid and let is settle for a couple of days before racking to a demijohn.
7. Once racked into a demijohn allow the wine to condition for at least three months racking to a new demijohn once or twice when sediment builds up. The wine ages well and can be left up to 6 months before bottling.
This cherry wine is great as it is but if you prefer a sweeter wine then back sweetening it is the way to go, if you use sweeter cherries you will often end up with a less tart wine anyway so always sample before sweetening.
Siphoning is one skill that is essential to the home brewer. There aren’t many reasons in a day to day life which would require you to siphon anything so must home brewers will not have ever had a chance to practice it. The problem is, home brewing involves moving lots of liquids around whether it is beer, wine or mead and it is important not to aerate the home brew to get the best results. A piece of kit that is indispensable to racking beer or wine, in my opinion, is an auto syphon, it is one of the most efficient methods of racking beer or wine at the same time as being the easiest and most hygienic.
What Is An Auto Siphon?
An auto siphon is an all over upgrade to a regular siphon hose which might not sound like much but a regular syphon tube has some inherent issues that make it difficult if you are not used to siphoning or starting a siphon.
An auto siphon comprises of a racking cane with a filter, a PVC tube and an outer housing for the racking tube which is vital for starting the siphon automatically. This might not sound like a lot but in practice the auto siphon is a whole lot easier and more efficient than a regular siphon tube and racking cane.
When using an ordinary siphon tube the issues begin in starting the siphon. If you have ever had occasion to siphon fuel before then you may, unfortunately, know that the most common way to start a siphon is by sucking it (if you want to know how to siphon read this). For the home brewer this is probably the worst way you could consider to start a siphon as we want to keep bacteria out of the beer in all cases. Starting the flow is where the auto siphon comes into its own.
The way in which a siphon is able to start a liquid, in our case beer or wine, is to create a vacuum that pulls the liquid from one vessel, down via gravity into a lower vessel. This initial stage of creating a vacuum is handled by the auto siphon with a simple pull on the tube the siphon is housed in. As you do not come into contact at all with the beer this is a much more hygienic way to start a syphon and introduces no air at all.
Using An Auto Siphon
Using an auto siphon is very easy and takes even a complete beginner only one or two practices to get perfect every time. The first thing you will want to do before using the auto siphon is to thoroughly sanitise it inside and out.
1. Position the vessel to siphon from higher than the vessel you are siphoning into. The auto siphon still relies on gravity once you have started the siphon.
2. Lower the sanitised auto siphon into the beer or wine to be siphoned. The rigid end with the racking tube goes into the home brew, carefully, to avoid disturbing the sediment and the PVC hose goes into the empty vessel to be siphoned into.
3. To start the auto siphon you need to pull the inner racking cane upward while holding the outer tube stationary in the beer, this draws beer or wine into the outer tube of the auto siphon.
4. Next push the racking cane back down and the liquid will be drawn into the tube and down into the awaiting vessel. The siphon is not working via gravity and there is nothing else for you to do.
The auto siphon works with a simple pull – push motion. It becomes so intuitive after a few attempts that you will wonder why you ever bothered with a regular siphon at all.
Key Benefits of Using An Auto Siphon
The biggest selling point of the auto siphon is the ease of starting the siphon. Using a regular siphon you have to either pre-fill the siphon or the biggest no no is to suck the hose which is not recommended under any circumstance. The auto siphon take all the bother out of actually starting the siphon so you can concentrate on keeping the beer or wine from splashing into the vessel.
Oxygen is another problem for home brew, you want to minimise oxygen exposure for your beer and wine and the auto siphon removes all possibility for oxygen pickup, all you have to do is make sure the end of the hose is submerged. This is a really key point, for a new home brewer, poorly siphoning a beer can greatly diminish the quality once it all bottled up. Using an auto siphon removes the hassle of siphoning and pretty much anyone will be able to do it perfectly.
If you do not have an auto siphon I thoroughly recommend you get one. Out of all the vast array of home brewing gadgets out there a simple auto siphon has to be on of the best in terms of ease, efficiency and value for money.
Banana wine might sound odd, believe me, I was unsure of how this wine recipe would taste too but it is definitely worth trying. Bananas are full of sugars and are one of the sweetest fruits available to most people. This sweetness is perfect for wine making and with just a few additions to balance the acidity you will have a very memorable, full-bodied banana wine that will make you wonder why you even questioned this in the first place.
It turns out that bananas are great for winemaking. You will often see recipes for other fruit wine and especially floral wines that call for the addition of bananas because the provide sweetness, body and a subtle flavour boost to wines that would otherwise be a little insipid.
The great thing about making a banana wine is that you can do it at any time of year. You can buy bunches of bananas from almost any supermarket across the globe at almost any point of the year. You aren’t constrained to a seasonal harvest like you would be with other fruit. The other thing is that in many places bananas are one of the cheapest fruits by weight so it makes this banana wine recipe very inexpensive to make.
Banana Wine Recipe With Endless Possibilities
Banana wine is also a great wine to blend with other fruit wines. If you find a fruit wine you have made is too tart to your liking, for example, blending it with a finished banana wine made with this wine recipe is a great way to bring it back into balance. Banana pairs so well with other fruits and spices the possibilities are endless with this recipe.
A good thing to experiment with is starting this banana wine recipe as laid out below and then adding additional fruits to the wine to create your own blends, banana and raspberry work well together and I have made this wine a few time. Spices work well too if you like a sweeter tasting wine banana and vanilla wine when back-sweetened makes a great dessert wine.
As you can tell there is plenty of scope to come up with your own signature wine using a simple banana wine recipe. You can also be sure that not many people with have tried a banana wine before as there is virtually no industrial production of banana wine only small home scale production. This is why you are going to have to make this banana wine recipe for yourself.
Picking and Prepping Your Bananas For Making Banana Wine
This recipe requires you to use the sliced bananas, peel and all so when you are picking bananas you will probably want to go with something that is organic. This way you will know there are no pesticides or other sprays on the banana peel that will get into your wine.
The next thing you will want to do is to keep the bananas around for a while to ripen. The riper the better without going completely black. We want the skins to have large brown spots and the bananas to be as sweet as possible so buy the bananas ahead of time and allow them to get over-ripe.
Lastly, it should be noted that this is a recipe for banana wine and will not work for plantains.
Equipment What You Will Need For This Banana Wine Recipe – Makes 1 gallon / 4.5 litres
1. Bring half of the water to a boil in the large stockpot. Whilst the water is heating up slice the bananas including the skins and secure in the straining bag. Submerge the straining bag in the boiling water and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
2. After simmering for 30 minutes remove the pot from the heat. Lift out the straining bag with the bananas and set to one side for a moment. Pour the liquid from the pot into a sanitised fermenting bucket and then add the straining bag with the bananas as well.
3. Take the remaining half of the water and add to the stockpot with the sugar. Heat to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar and prevent from burning. Simmer for a few minutes, remove from the heat and then add this to the fermenter. Along with this add the acid blend, tannin and yeast nutrient. Allow to cool to room temperature.
4. Once cooled add the crushed Campden tablet and mix thoroughly, allow to stand for at least 12 hours.
5. After at least 12 hours add the pectic enzyme and mix thoroughly. 24 hours after adding the pectic enzyme add the yeast by sprinkling onto the surface of the must, fit a lid and airlock. Fermentation will begin a few days after this.
6. Allow fermentation to progress for a week stirring daily, after this remove the straining bag and the remains of the banana. Leave for a further 3 days and the fermentation should have died down completely. At this point you can syphon the banana wine into a demijohn or carboy, fit with a bung and airlock.
7. Allow the wine to condition in the demijohn for 3 – 4 months racking to a sanitised carboy once or twice after sediment builds up.
8. After conditioning, for at least 4 months or up to 6 you are ready to bottle the wine. You may want to sample the banana wine and back sweeten it if you prefer a less dry or sweeter wine. Once bottled I like to set aside a few bottles for a number of months and you will notice the banana wine will keep improving with age up to a couple of years.
Brewing as the weather cools can pose a few problems depending on where you live. As the weather cools we have to make sure we are still getting a good temperature for yeast to ferment the beer. Ideally, we want to control fermentation temperature as close as possible to the optimum temperature range for the yeast strain we are using. Using the help of fermenter heating devices like brew belts and heat pads it becomes a lot easier to dial in a consistent temperature in the fermenter even when ambient temperatures begin to fall.
Most ale yeast strains require temperatures ranging around 18°C – 23°C depending on the strain. Devices like brew belts and heat pads provide enough heat to keep the fermenter warm but not enough to warm the fermenter too much and distress the yeast.
Home Brew Fermenter Heaters
Heat pads and heat belts are the most economical way to keep you fermenter temperature from dropping too low. Rather than having to heat a whole room you are directly heating the fermenting beer or wine. Both types of device use very little energy and are suitable for both fermenting buckets or carboys and demijohns (although I would urge caution directly heating cold glass).
Heat belts and pads are also fairly inexpensive and with the addition of some other tools can be used to accurately control fermentation temperatures to within a few degrees.
Home Brew Heat Pads
Heat pads or heat trays are designed to sit your fermenter on top of. Heating the fermenter from the bottom and maintaining a constant temperature throughout fermentation.
Power Usage: Most heat pads have heat sources around 30 – 40 watts so are pretty energy efficient, more so than a traditional incandescent light bulb in most cases. This provides a low heat so as not to shock the yeast in the fermenting beer.
Big swings in temperature are not good for yeast health and may cause unwanted flavour compounds to be produced by the yeast. The gentle heat from a heating pad gradually brings up the temperature of the beer and depending on the ambient temperature will maintain it in temperature ranges required for most ale or wine fermentations.
Controlling Fermentation Temperature With A Heat Pad
Most home brew heat pads do not have thermostats which means you will want to monitor the temperature closely throughout fermentation.
The concern is that the fermentation temperature will rise too much and this will put the yeast under stress which will generate undesirable flavours in the finished beer. A few things you may want to consider are:
Placing the fermenter in an area that is fairly stable in temperature (albeit cooler), without large fluctuations in the temperature range.
Enclosing the fermenter in a confined space such as a cupboard will gradually build up heat compared to an open space.
Additional measures like timers or third-party thermostats will give much finer control of fermentation.
Additional Fermenter Heater Temperature Control
With regards to the last point a means of moderating the heat output can be a very good way to ensure the fermenter stays exactly in the range you want. If the heat pad has a tendency to warm the fermentation too much then by cycling the heat pad on and off with something like a timer can greatly aid the degree of control you have.
Another option could be to use a dedicated thermostat controller such as an Inkbird which I have reviewed here. This will cycle the home brew heater according to the current temperature of the beer or wine. This would be the most precise way to control the fermentation temperature with a heat pad or tray.
Home Brew Heat Belts – Brew Belt
Heat belts or Brew Belts are similarly energy efficient like heat pads but are designed to wrap around the fermenter and provide heat along the length of the belt.
Most fermentation brew belts are simply a rubber strip with the heating element inside that has the flexible power cord threaded through. The heat belt is wrapped around the fermenter and the cord pulled tight so it grips around the fermenter at the height you choose (more on this in a moment).
Power Usage: Most fermentation heat belts are pretty efficient, using between 25 – 40 watts in most cases so running for a week or two costs very little.
One benefit of a heat belt is that they tend to be slightly cheaper than heat pads in some areas.
The real difference between brew belts and heat pads are that you position the heat belt up or down the fermenting vessel allowing some degree of temperature control. Generally, it is advised to place the belt lower down the fermenter to provide more heat and higher up the vessel for less heat. Without taking a direct temperature reading of the beer this is quite a tricky thing to get right and I would still be inclined to use some additional controls mentioned above, such as a temperature controller or a timer.
Direct Heat From A Fermenter Heater
The way in which a heating device heats the fermenting beer or wine is another thing to consider.
A heat pad heats from the bottom of the fermenter whereas the heat brew belt is positioned around the side some way up.
The thing to think about here is that the heat pad spreads heat across a large surface area, however, at the bottom of the vessel where all the yeast tends to flocculate toward the end of fermentation. Heating the yeast directly for too long is probably not ideal so you may want to limit the length of time you use a heat pad to just a week to avoid putting too much stress on the mass of yeast.
A brew belt applies heat in a smaller surface area but directly on the fermenting wort or must rather than the yeast which you may or may not be better. I have done no tests on this so you have to decide for yourself which you prefer.
Are Fermenter Heaters Worth It?
I use a brew belt during the cooler months of the year as the room where my fermenter sits is a little colder than the rest of the house. I would find it a struggle to ferment properly without one. I use the fermenter belt with a temperature controller so it cycles on and off and keeps my home brew within a few degrees either side of my target temperature.
When it comes to buying home brewing supplies, there are a few things you need to think about. Things like ingredients you need to think about quality, cost and freshness. Equipment purchases mean thinking about how useful is it, practicality and price.
In this article I want to give you some tips on buying equipment and ingredients because (and I know) there are plenty of opportunities to spend money and end up with something you hardly use or is just not right for you.
One thing I want to point out before we get onto the tips is to try and support your local home brew shop whenever possible. Here in the UK there are home brew shops spread all over the country so finding one shouldn’t be too hard. If there are no home brew shops close to you then you should still be able to get everything you need from here. Shopping online is a great way of getting good deals but I often find myself running out to my local home brew shop for last minute things that I may have forgotten. Having a local home brew shop means I can run out and buy a pack of yeast last minute whereas it wouldn’t be so easy online.
OK, so onto the tips.
1. Make a list of what supplies you need and then go looking for it.
All too often I have gone to the home brew shop with a vague idea of what I want, only to come home with bags full of stuff that I can’t remember why I needed it at the time. I’m sure you have been in similar situations where you see all the stuff on offer and can’t help but pick it up and buy it, yes that’s right, impulse buying. Some people I know have a similar affliction with tools and they end up buying lots of tools that end up sitting in the shed unused.
Make a list and stick to it, you will end up saving money and be able to spend that money on making more home brew that you want.
2. Ask for Advice
This is where visiting a shop is priceless, especially when you are first starting out home brewing. I remember brewing my first beer, I went to my local homebrew shop and looked puzzled by all the stuff on the shelves. I asked the staff for advice and 30 minutes later I was at home making a pale ale with extract and crystal malt with whole hops. The other thing was I didn’t need to buy that much kit either because the staff explained how to brew the beer using straining/hop bags and using the stock pot I had already. Beer making kits also are very good for getting everything you need straight away and after the initial outlay, there is not much else you need to buy apart from the ingredients.
That’s the thing about home brew shops, they are almost always run by people that have good experience brewing beer at home. You may sometimes get advice that’s not always 100% correct but I know that without the staff at homebrew shops I probably wouldn’t of made as good home brew and maybe not even stuck with it.
3. Look For Deals and Buy Wisely
If you read any home brewing forums then I’m sure you have seen people adding posts showing where to get a good deal. Particularly things like large equipment and boilers, I know that on one forum I visit there is a board dedicated to eBay deals. Ebay is a great place to pick up bargains and by shopping around from time to time leaves you with more money in your pocket to spend on something else.
Buying things in bulk is also usually a good way to make savings, a lot of home brewers will by 25kg sacks of things like pale malt because they know that most of the beers they will make will have that as the base malt.
Buying in bulk in this way will save you money in the long run and keep you brewing for longer between visits to the home brew shop.
4. Look for Freshness When Buying Ingredients
When you buy home brewing supplies you want to make sure that the ingredients you buy are as fresh as possible. A beer made with fresh ingredients is going to taste remarkably better than one made with old stale ones. In a certain respect if you go to your local home brew shop you can check this for yourself, most ingredients have a date on them whether this is a date of packaging or a use by date, so you can pick the best ones. If that tin of malt extract on the shelf is covered in dust and the label is faded by the sun then it’s probably a good idea not to buy it.
Yeast is a particularly important ingredient to check the date on. The viability of the yeast will fall from the moment it’s packaged (liquid yeasts especially). Buying yeast well withing it’s expiration date is a must to produce good quality beer.
A few home brew retailers online I have seen have written about the freshness of the ingredients, for example; one supplier I have used mills the malt on the day of dispatch as a guarantee of freshness. Look out for some of these things when you buy you supplies, then you know you will be making the best beer possible.
5. Buy With Longevity In Mind
Skimping in the short term is not always the best way to shop. If you are buying equipment say for example a boiler then spending that little extra to get a step up on the budget one may be the best way. I have bought an electric boiler before, that I must of used for say 8 batches of beer before the thermostat started behaving strangely and no longer liked to boil. The reason I bought it was because it was the cheapest in it’s range. Had, dare I say, bought the slightly more expensive one, then maybe I wouldn’t have had to replace it so soon.
Another thing to mention here is about brewing all grain, a lot of people put off brewing all grain because of the initial outlay to get all the equipment. In the long run however buying supplies of grain is cheaper than extract and give you a lot more freedom to brew whatever you want.
6. Buy in a Group
You have probably heard of Groupon. The basic premise is you can get big discounts if you buy in large quantities. The same can be done for brewing ingredients, if you belong to a home brewing club or take part in an online community and enough of you want to, then you can buy things like malt in large quantities for a discount direct from the maltster. This can then be split among the group and you all get the benefits of a large discount and having really fresh, high quality ingredients.
This is not something I have done before, but I have seen members of forums arrange this type of thing so It may be a good option for you.
There we have it, some advice on buying home brewing supplies. I hope this may of helped out some people out there who like me, come back from the home brew shop with far too much stuff.