Tag Archives: private

Mar 202115Mon

A late session today saw me putting away the S&B cider 7 days after starting primary. The flavouring was added 24 hours ago so it’s too late to worry whether or not I should have left it for another couple of days, time to get it packed.

I started by taking another gravity reading out of habit, although I suspected it might be invalid with all that flavouring in there. Wasn’t disappointed – she registered 1.013 which I’m taking as additional non-fermenting sugar (i.e. the sachet of pear and strawberry flavour concentrate) combined with no further fermentation of what was already in there. I’m therefore recording the reading of 1.013 on this log but using 1.011 from yesterday as the final gravity, producing 5.25% ABV against an expected 4.7%. Had we made it all the way to 1.007 we’d be looking at 5.78%. Yikes!

All Change

With the sample taken it was time to set up the racking cane / auto syphon as usual, and while doing so I decided to do two things differently this time: fill one of my small kegs and carbonate with CO2 in order to see if it impacts the taste compared to primed bottles, and try out my new Blichmann Beer Gun on its first bottling run.

I cleaned and sanitised a 5 litre mini keg but didn’t bother purging it with Star San and then CO2 as I would while doing a closed transfer from the Fermzilla, as there seemed little point in trying to keep oxygen out when racking from an open bucket. Instead I filled it to within a couple of inches from the top using the bottling cane and then cranked it to 30 PSI before popping the PRV a couple of times (may as well get some oxygen out) and putting it in the fridge next to my other 5 litre keg containing the last of my Bure Gold. Time to try out that Beer Gun.

A Small Error

A cursory glance at the new gadget showed it came with a black disconnect, so I started by racking the remaining cider into a clean 19 litre Cornelius keg using the still connected bottling cane. It looked to be around 17 litres and since I was almost out of carbonation drops I decided to weigh two of them, the recommended dose per 500ml bottle, and multiply the resulting 5g by 17 to tell me how much dextrose I need to add. That was around three hours ago, and it’s only now that I’ve pulled up the Beer Priming Calculator in order to see if my quantity of priming sugar tallies with Brewer’s Friend that I’ve spotted the mistake: there’s two bottles per litre not one. I’ve therefore added half as much as I should have, which explains why Brewer’s Friend recommends 160g of Dextrose for a fruit lambic – about the closest to cider in my opinion. Oh well, looks like it’ll be a slightly sparkling cider this time around.

That was three hours ago and I carried on in blissful ignorance, adding the sugar to the Corny keg as the bucket emptied. Once I had all the cider I was going to get from the bucket I capped the keg and hooked up the gas, again popping the PRV a couple of times in order to dump some oxygen from the top of the vessel. The beer gun was quickly taken apart for inspection and sanitation, and I saw the first problem: the gas line was designed to screw onto a male regulator post, which I didn’t have. I did have a John Guest T-piece and some more beer / gas line, so I used that instead of the gas line that came with the beer gun. Not ideal since it’s quite stiff and made the process unnecessarily cumbersome, but I was determined to try it out.

Ready … Aim …

Once back together the beer gun worked very well, letting me purge oxygen from each bottle before filling it to the top and purging some more while drawing out the nozzle, then capping straight away. I think it’s a very slick tool and once I’d cranked up the pressure to around 15 PSI I was able to fill bottles at a good rate, though doing this with partially carbonated beer straight from the Fermzilla might require a bit more experimentation as there’s bound to be some foam, whereas the cider was totally placid. Might end up using a fair bit of gas though, so perhaps reserve it for ultra-hoppy beers?

Then again, this is the first bottling run following my first kegging session, and I’m inclined to agree with everyone who sings the benefits of kegging thanks not only to the superior taste of draught, but also due to the simplicity and speed of the kegging process compared to cleaning bottles, filling them while watching out for oxygen, capping them, and washing up afterwards.

And if you cock up the carbonation it’s as easy as cranking up the regulator.

Feb 202128Sun

OK, so I couldn’t wait. There are still 20 days to go until this brew should be ready to taste, according to the manufacturer, but I’ve had my fill of beer for the night and while searching the garage for a cider to finish on I tripped across this box of Belgians, patiently waiting underneath a KTM. Why not wrestle one out and rip it open?

Clarity looked promising through the brown Steinie and when I popped the cap there was a reassuring ‘snick’ – but that was it. No carbonation at all, flat as a pancake. To think I was worried about creating bombs when I over-carbed this halfway through January! Really disappointed by the lack of bubbles. The flavour is OK; maybe a very small amount of twang and an obvious hit of alcohol, with strong malt notes and only a slight handful of wheat – another disappointment. Then again, there’s only so much wheat you can put in at 8% ABV before it gets mis-sold as malt, IMHO.

All of these flavours are fine, or they would be, if only there was some actual fizz to add texture. But no. Nothing. I’m hoping that I grabbed a duff bottle but chances are against it. It’s a real shame since I now have regulated CO2 on hand to carbonate to any level I want without relying on secondary sugars, but I don’t know how I’d get the bottle contents into a vessel without exposing to oxygen. Who knows, maybe I won’t have to write this batch off, depending on how the next bottle turns out. Maybe I will.

Feb 202103Wed

It’s been a great evening. Our first outing to the range since the second lockdown was lifted on Monday, four great rounds shot, and two pints of MPA – one while bottling my first extract brew, another over excellent chicken & chorizo Jambalaya dinner. What better way to finish than with a comparison between two dry-hopped ciders currently hiding in the fridge?

Mangrove Jack’s Dry-hopped Cider

Great carbonation right off the bat, absolutely perfect for this type of drink. Looking back over my notes I see that each 50 ml bottle had two Easybrew carbonation drops, but so have plenty of my beers and none of them has this amount of fizz. Must be a cider ‘ting.

Taste is perfect at first hit, the hops adding a definite flavour of their own which is unlike anything else you can put in cider. Just wonderful. Sweetness is also great at the start, then you begin to wonder halfway through what it would be like with the sugar turned down by 50%. Not that it’s cloying or overly syrupy, you just get the impression that it would work equally well as a semi-dry or a dry cider. Repeating this at different levels of sweetening shouldn’t be too hard, as I recall there was a small sachet of sweetener to be added before bottling, with instructions to add half for a semi-dry cider and add all for a sweet cider. I added all because it was a ridiculously small sachet for 23 litres of brew, but next time I’m going to try just half.

Orchard Orgy Type 22a

My second hoppy dose of apples this evening, and this one’s a deeper shade of greeny-amber (damn this colour blindness!) with a totally different feel and taste.

First off it’s the carbonation, and there’s a whole lot less of it. Looking back over my notes just now (and in the bin, to get the bottle’s number) I see that I bottled 37 x 500 ml in total with various amounts of sugar and carbonation, but my bottle is #38 and it’s a 275 ml Heineken, one of the runts from the bottom of the bucket. (the other recent trial was probably #39) With no record of how much sugar and carbonation I added to this one it makes the comparison rather pointless … erm … yes. But to be repeated! *

Worth noting however that the cider in our own Type 22a tastes much more like real cider, and I’m not just saying that because I helped press it 131 days ago. There’s a scrummy, scrumpy complexity that you just don’t find in the extract concentrate, and I can’t wait to sample & compare some full-size bottles of this stuff over the coming weeks.

Oh, and the hops? Different too, and not as prevalent here as in the MJ version. Each had 50g of Citra added before bottling (MJ 2 days, 22a 3 days) and I’m inclined to put a difference in taste down to the type of cider that we started with rather than the extra day that was afforded to the Citra in 22a. It’s almost certainly something to do with our apples, most of which were of the sweet variety as opposed to dedicated cider apples.

… and the winner is:

Undecided. Let’s revisit once we know we’re comparing apples with apples, at which point I’ll get some photos and a second opinion.

* Scratch that – just read my notes properly and apparently the Heinekens had 2 carbonation drops and 10 ml sweetener. Well, they were flat, and tasted as though no sugar was added. Neither of those facts bodes well, though I suppose there’s the outside chance that the caps didn’t go on 100% right on the Heineken bottles, which have small shoulders and felt iffy during capping. As always, fingers crossed.

Jan 202106Wed

Today I bottled Mangrove Jack’s Blueberry cider into 41 blue crown caps using various recycled Okells bottles. Each bottle also received two Easybrew carbonation drops (total target = 500ml) but no non-fermenting sugar since I added the whole 5g sachet of sweetener at the start.

The bottles were then moved to the server room where it’s presently 20.5 ℃ and I’m going to leave them there for exactly 5 days as instructed, before conditioning for another 7 days. I read somewhere that the blueberry flavouring doesn’t make for a very long lived brew, but at the same time I don’t want to rush it either.

Dec 202025Fri

We kept two bottles back from the batch that moved to the garage today in order to have a cheeky sample before Christmas lunch. Both had 5 ml of non-fermenting sugar added, one Xylitol and one Erythritol, both primed with one Fox’s carbonation drop aimed at 500 ml.

It wasn’t a true one-on-one comparison since we’d shared one bottle with ice before opening the other, but we couldn’t really tell much of a difference between the two – though Jackie thought the Erythritol was more apple-y and had slightly more carbonation. What was indisputable was that 5 ml of non-fermenting sugar results in a cider that’s toward the dry end of the scale but perfectly enjoyable. This doesn’t bode well for the unsweetened bottles, which may be on the sour side, though I’m now looking forward to finding out if the 15 ml versions – our sweetest variant – is going to be sweet enough. I hope so, because 15 ml of sugar is quite a pile for one bottle.

To be continued …

Nov 202019Thu

We racked to a new FV and checked the SG before moving this from Port Erin 2 days ago, and it was sitting around 1.001 with no signs of activity. Moving it to Onchan (and raising the temperature from 12 ℃ to 21 ℃ in the process) caused a very brief period of bubbling, but that’s now stopped again with SG still at 1.001 and absolutely nothing happening in the airlock.

Sep 202025Fri

Pressed around 140 litres of apple juice and 8 litres of pear juice in Port Erin. OG around 1.046 across the board, decanted into various vessels.

  • 1 x 25 litre bucket in kitchen
  • 3 x 1 gallon (13.65 litres) demijohns in garage (sweet – to be bottled)
  • 1 x 1 gallon (4.55 litres) demijohn in garage (dry)
  • 2 x 22 litre bucket in garage (mixed) ➜
  • 1 x 25 litre bucket in garage (mixed) ➜
  • 34 x 75cl bottles pasteurised juice (racked in garage)
  • 0.75 x 1 gallon (3.41 litres) demijohn Perry (Jim’s + champagne yeast)
  • 1 x 1 gallon demijohn Perry* (4.55 litres, Onchan) ➜

* the Perry was actually pressed one day earlier, but who’s counting?

Sep 202010Thu

The 1 gallon demijohn we took home to Onchan has been bubbling well for a couple of days now. It’s being stored in the spare bathroom (Jac & Jim’s room) with the heating off since it’s warm enough and quite dark in there.

Cider Bubbles

Aug 202027Thu

Pressed around 1.5 gallons in Port Erin, approximate specific gravity 1.030. 1 demijohn with Nicky & Mark in Onchan (guest bathroom), one with Jac & Jim in Port Erin.

Not exactly a huge batch, but the rest of the crop isn’t ready yet and we can play round with this in order to get some ideas.