An experiment using shop-bought Apple, Cranberry & Raspberry juice to try and make something alcoholic. The idea came about after I noticed that I had some leftover wine yeast, a whole load of redundant 5 litre mineral water bottles, and some spare airlocks. Why not see if I can persuade some cheap supermarket fruit juices to ferment in a series of small-batch experiments? Early indications are good, but let’s see how she looks after conditioning.
Opened one of these as an end-of-evening drink the other night, and it’s OK. Not great in the same way that a sweet perry or cider would have been, but not terrible either. Carbonation was spot-on and there was a hint of alcohol, though nowhere near the 6.5% that’s actually in there.
The only real detractor was the same, slightly synthetic, syrupy finish that was also present in the combined ingredients, which took some of the joy and depth out of what I was hoping to be a fantastic outcome. Then again, it’s probably a matter of crap in, crap out: 5 litres of cheap sugary gluff from the supermarket isn’t going to transform into a hipster’s elixir, no matter how much yeast and sugar you add.
I’d like to repeat this mix one way with real fruit ingredients and maybe a more considered choice of yeast, until then it’s probably going to stay in the garage until we need a novelty beverage to put out a summer BBQ.
All seven bottles have moved out to the garage where it’s around 5 ℃ right now. They’re only a little cloudy and I doubt that this will change much, though there is a little sediment on the bottom of each bottle and the carbonation drops are gone.
Another question is whether the fermentation and production of alcohol from added sugar will extend or reduce the ‘best before’ time of the original juice, which I sadly neglected to record. Oh well. The cherry juice I just added to Type 22 is good for six months in an unopened state, and I’m hoping that 6.5% ABV will keep Thrush alive long enough for us to enjoy all 7 bottles, starting in 10 days time.
Tastes luv-a-ly and weighs in at 6.5% ABV – huzzah! To think I was only expecting 5%. Just seven clear flip-top 500 ml bottles on this batch, all with 2x Cooper’s carbonation drops (target = 750 ml) and no sweetener. As with the Type 25b I’m gambling a little with the carbonation but I don’t want it to be perfect for beer, I want it a tad more sparkly. Hope they don’t blow up in the server room, where they’re staying for the next 4 days before moving out to the garage for 10 days of conditioning.
Fermentation has visibly slowed over the past few days to the point where the airlock is now only popping every 20 – 30 seconds or so. The magical cascade of yeast clumps is also at an end, it’s just lying there on the base of the vessel. The only signs that anything is happening are small, isolated bubbles popping at the surface. Expect I’ll be taking a gravity reading tomorrow with a view to bottling over the coming days.
Both of these brews are fizzing away furiously, so I thought I’d dig out the PCM recorder and get a quick sample. This high-fidelity recording features Turbo on the left and Thrush on the right, and the hissing noise that sounds like static is actually the constant stream of champagne bubbles, amplified by the empty space at the top of the plastic fermentation vessel.
Both these brews have entered the next phase in their fermentation as I post this update following a night out on a steam train stargazing experience. Long story.
Summer Turbo is fermenting furiously if steadily; no yeast carpet at all left on top of the foam, which is made up up very small bubbles that disperse immediately, leaving no layer at all on top of the brew. There’s a strong fizzing sound from this FV, like Coke poured into a microphone, like acid dissolving part of a crime scene. The flakes of yeast which were seen earlier falling and rising are now gone, just a mist of bubbles rising through the murk and then popping at the surface, leaving nothing behind but a furiously popping airlock.
Farting Thrush is a different story. There’s not as much gas being produced but the visuals are better, with large clumps of yeast mimicking the rise-and-fall performance of Summer Turbo’s individual yeast flakes from yesterday. I’m still seeing a good carpet of yeasty gunk on the surface, so maybe Thrush will prove to be more of a long-term performer, though it’s certainly spectacular now. Time will tell.
Still nothing happening on this brew, so I took the opportunity today to beef up the ring of hot melt glue securing the airlock grommet to the cap of the 5 litre bottle. Well what do you know? Must have been a slight leak there because the bubbling started pretty much straight away, even if it wasn’t as fast as that of Summer Turbo. Looks like we’re in business after all.
Not enough happening, hoping that a slight increase in temperature will get things going. Ambient temperature in office 19.1 ℃ (vessels measured at 20.4 ℃ with infrared thermometer) when I moved them at 21:45.
Right now the Thrush isn’t doing very much, there’s some very small static bubbles that look like they’re from fermentation stuck near the top, but generally the yeast has just expanded a little to form a weird carpet on top, with some chunks linked together and staying still, suspended in at various heights.
The Turbo is more exciting to look at, with a similar but slightly thinner carpet on top and individual yeast flakes continuously falling and rising for the whole height of the brew in some kind of bidirectional cascade. More bobbles on top also, with the airlock popping every 15 or 20 seconds.
The vessels have come up to temperature and the infrared thermometer reads 21.6 ℃ while the ambient temperature is around 21.9 ℃. This doesn’t appear to have done much for the Thrush, which is still as static as yesterday, but the Turbo has gone up a notch and there’s a steady stream of bubbles audibly making its way to the surface. Airlock is popping every couple of seconds too.
I’m starting by letting the juice come up to room temperature, since it’s from the refrigerated section and will be too cold for the yeast. My first reaction was to try and heat it gently in a saucepan, but then I decided against it on the basis that I might introduce unwanted flavours or germs – best to be patient and let it stand in a warm room for a couple of hours.
45 minutes later: OK, that’s enough. All the liquids are combined in a 5 litre plastic water bottle and temperature is 17.0 ℃, which is near enough the yeast’s 18 ℃ lower threshold. The worst that will happen is it’ll take a couple of hours to kick off, but at least I can measure gravity and move onto the next one.
As I don’t want to ferment too quickly and risk damaging its incredible flavour (the sample from the trial jar was amazing) I’m going to store this next to the Grapefruit IPA at around 19 ℃. OG comes in at 1.048 so it’s roughly on par with our own pressed apple juice and using Type 25a as a benchmark I’m hoping for roughly 5% ABV from this one. There may be a good quantity of non-fermentable sugar in here so that figure could be lower, and I’m almost certainly going to have to back-sweeten before bottling.