Showing posts with label wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wine. Show all posts

How to Expertly Manage pH Levels in Your Wine Using Malic Acid

Thursday, November 2, 2023
Picture this iconic scene from the classic TV series, Knight Rider: K.I.T.T., the talking car, is submerged in an acid bath, only to emerge completely stripped of its exterior. This vivid image serves as a stark reminder that not all acids are created equal, especially when it comes to the delicate art of winemaking. 

In the realm of wine, there’s one acid that stands out as the preferred choice for balancing pH levels - malic acid.

Derived from the Latin word "malum," meaning apple, malic acid is a naturally occurring compound found in various fruits, with apples and grapes topping the list. 

Have you ever sunk your teeth into a Granny Smith apple and experienced that sharp, tangy taste? 

That's malic acid in action, a close relative of citric acid and a popular ingredient used to impart a sour flavor to various food products. 

Those salt and vinegar chips you find irresistible? 

That tang comes from a combination of vinegar and malic acid.

using malic acid to reduce the pH of home made wine
Believe it or not, this is a representation of a wine maker adding malic acid to their homemade wine...

When it comes to winemaking, the role of malic acid is nothing short of crucial. It serves as a valuable tool for winemakers, allowing them to fine-tune the pH levels of their wine to achieve the perfect balance between acidity, sweetness, and bitterness. The significance of this balance cannot be overstated. A wine with an excess of acidity will have a sharp, sour taste that overwhelms the palate, while a wine lacking in acidity will feel flat and uninspiring, with its true flavors remaining elusive.

To ensure their wine hits that sweet spot, savvy winemakers employ pH testers like the Apera to measure acidity levels meticulously. A word of caution, though - wines destined for malolactic fermentation, such as reds and sparklings, should not have additional malic acid added. This is because malic acid will convert to lactic acid during the fermentation process.

Now, let's delve into the specific types of wines that can benefit from the addition of malic acid. These include:
  • Most reds
  • Rieslings
  • Gewurztraminer
  • Muscat
Timing is everything when adding malic acid to wine. It can be incorporated before or after the primary fermentation process and during any blending or aging periods. However, keep in mind that an increase in acidity will be more noticeable to the drinker.

As for the quantity of malic acid to add, a general rule of thumb is that 3.4 grams per gallon of wine will adjust the acidity by +0.1%. It's worth noting that malic acid tends to lower pH levels less than tartaric acid, making it the preferred choice for some winemakers.

Let's take a moment to explore the fascinating process of malolactic fermentation. This chemical reaction sees the naturally occurring malic acid in grapes transformed into lactic acid by lactic acid bacteria. Common in the production of most red wines and some white varieties, such as Chardonnay, this secondary fermentation usually follows the primary fermentation phase. The result is a wine with a rich, rounded 'mouth feel' that is sure to delight the palate.

malic acid levels

For those curious about how beer makers tackle the challenges of bitterness and pH levels, gypsum salt and calcium chloride are the ingredients of choice. And for the adventurous homebrewers out there experimenting with fruit juice-based hooch, malic acid can be your secret weapon to achieving that perfect balance.

Now if you've mastered the pH of your wine, why not make a tipple featuring cherries?

How to use yeast nutrient for beer brewing

Friday, October 27, 2023

Yeast is a remarkable microorganism, crucial for converting sugars into alcohol during fermentation. Although fermentation might seem straightforward on the surface, achieving a brew with the desired taste involves managing a myriad of variables. While factors like temperature, pH levels, time, and oxygen exposure are often discussed in brewing circles, the nutritional needs of yeast can sometimes be overlooked. Let's delve deeper into this vital aspect of brewing.

The Role of Yeast Nutrients in Brewing

Is Nutrient Supplementation Always Necessary?

Most of the time, the malt in your beer provides adequate sustenance for yeast cells. However, for yeast to truly thrive and efficiently ferment the wort, achieving a high attenuation, elements such as free amino nitrogen, fatty acids, vitamins, and other minerals become essential. While you might never require additional nutrients in many brews, for high attenuation rates or brewing a high ABV beer, yeast nutrient supplementation might be beneficial.

use yeast nutrients making beer wort

When is Yeast Nutrient Essential?

  1. Water Quality: If your brewing water is deficient in essential metals like calcium, magnesium, and zinc, then adding nutrients can be beneficial. For instance, zinc can boost the yeast cell count, while magnesium aids cellular metabolism.

  2. Adjunct-rich Brews: Beers with a high proportion of adjuncts (non-malt sources of fermentable sugars) might need nutrient support. Since pure sugar doesn't nurture yeast, a beer with more sugars may require nutrients for optimal yeast health.

  3. Other Alcoholic Beverages: If you're venturing into wine, cider, or mead-making, nutrients become even more vital. These beverages lack the malty richness of beer wort. For instance, honey, a primary ingredient in mead, contains no nitrogen, making nutrient addition almost a must.

Benefits of Yeast Nutrients

  1. Reduced Lag Phase: A shorter initial fermentation phase can lead to fewer off-flavors.

  2. Optimized Fermentation: Proper nutrition can push yeast towards more complete fermentation, reducing unwanted compounds like diacetyl or acetaldehyde.

Methods of Yeast Nutrition

  1. Nitrogen Supplements: Often supplied as di-ammonium phosphate or urea, these cater to a lack of free amino nitrogen. Brands like Fermax and Fermaid are favorites among brewers.

  2. Yeast Hulls: Essentially dead yeast, the residues of which can be consumed by live yeast, extracting their nutrients.

  3. Yeast Energizers: Used to kickstart or rejuvenate halted fermentations.

Using Nutrients with Yeast Starters

Yes, it's possible! It's common practice for brewers to add a small amount of nutrients to their yeast starters, enhancing their efficacy. Even bakers have adopted this method, adding nutrients to sourdough starters.

Timing and Quantity

While the exact timing and quantity can vary based on the specific brew and the yeast strain, a general guideline is:

  • Timing: Nutrients are typically introduced at the beginning of fermentation. If using an energizer, it's often added when fermentation appears to have stalled or halted.

  • Quantity: Generally, 1 gram per liter or about a teaspoon for every 5 liters (or 1 gallon) is recommended, though always refer to manufacturer guidelines.

Exploring Servomyces

Produced by renowned yeast developer, White Labs, Servomyces is a specially formulated yeast supplement. The key advantage is its ability to transfer micronutrients like zinc to live yeast cells without any toxicity. If your brew lacks zinc, Servomyces could be your go-to. When doing a boil, one capsule added about ten minutes before completion is typical. For kit brews, directly adding the contents of the capsule to the wort is recommended.

In Conclusion

Yeast nutrition might seem like a small aspect of brewing, but its implications on the final product are significant. Whether you're a novice or an experienced brewer, understanding the nutritional needs of yeast can help you elevate your brewing game, leading to better-tasting beers and other beverages.

Remember, like any living organism, yeast thrives best when its nutritional needs are adequately met.

How to tell if your brew is infected by bacteria

Thursday, October 26, 2023

There's a super simple way to determine if your beer brew is contaminated

Ready for hot tip?

You taste it. 

If it tastes like the scummiest thing you've ever put in your mouth, it's infected.

tasting infected beer

If the sensation mirrors that of the foulest thing you've ever tasted, it's tainted. If it induces nausea, it's tainted. A sulfur bomb that smells of rotten eggs aroma? Infected. An explosion reminiscent of a rigorously shaken bottle upon opening? Likely contaminated due to over-carbonation from rogue yeast or bacteria. Don't confuse this with the aftermath of adding excessive sugar during priming, known as a beer bomb.

Remember, if you're questioning whether your beer is contaminated, it probably is.

Before bottling, consider visually inspecting your beer. Keep an eye out for a 'pellicle' or yeast raft at the wort's surface, signaling a congregation of microbes. Though not every infection results in this formation, its presence is a clear sign:

infected beer wort in fermenter drum

Discovering such an infection is undeniably disheartening. You've not only lost time and resources, but your hard-earned efforts have gone down the drain.

Yet, this misadventure is an invaluable lesson in the essence of brewing:


Having learned my lesson, it's been years since I encountered an infected batch. Cleaning may seem laborious, but if you crave a perfect pint, it's non-negotiable.

Root Causes of Infection

The primary culprit? Lack of cleanliness. Any remnants offer bacteria a haven, escalating the risk of infection. Every piece of equipment, from fermenters to mash tuns, requires meticulous cleaning. Hot to boiling water paired with a reliable cleaning agent, like Powdered Brewery Wash, will serve you well.

Then comes sanitization. Sodium percarbonate is a top choice. It's not only effective but also conveniently found in everyday laundry soak.

For bottling or kegging, the same rules apply. Clean, then sanitize. A nifty trick for bottles is to rinse them thoroughly, then cycle them through a dishwasher on its hottest setting. This annihilates any lingering microbes. Store them in a pristine container, and on bottling day, a brief soak in sodium percarbonate ensures they're ready.

If only a few bottles from a batch taste off, the problem likely lies with individual bottles, not the entire batch.
mega pellicle for an infected beer batch
This "mega Pellicle' was from a beer brew that was found to be infected.

Addressing the Rotten Egg Smell Mystery 

The signature rotten egg aroma can be a telltale sign of contamination. Yet, it doesn't always spell disaster. Some yeast strains naturally exude this scent. Bottle-conditioned beers, if opened prematurely, can also exhibit this aroma. Over time, as yeast continues its work, the odor dissipates.

In areas with water high in sulphate, like Burton-on-Trent, England, this scent is inherent – the famed 'Burton Snatch'. But if bacteria are the cause, the aroma, combined with an unpleasant taste, confirms your beer's unfortunate fate.

For wine or cider enthusiasts, fruits' natural yeasts can be disruptive. Many cider makers employ Campden tablets to neutralize wild yeast, substituting with yeast strains better aligned with their desired product.

Using Campden tablets combat infection when brewing cider

Monday, October 23, 2023

The 'Old School' Secret to Better-Tasting Beer

In the world of brewing, Campden tablets have long been revered as an 'old school' method to enhance the quality of beer. But what makes these tablets so special? 

Let's delve deep into the fascinating world of Campden tablets and their multifaceted uses in brewing.

using cambden tablets with beer brewing

Understanding Campden Tablets: The Super Pill of Brewing

At first glance, one might wonder if Campden tablets are some kind of super pill. Their primary components are potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite. Their primary function? To react with chlorine (or chloramine) when added to beer, cider, or wine, effectively removing it from the solution.

The best part? This entire process takes place without imparting any unwanted flavors to the beverage.

  • Dosage and Application: How Many Campden Tablets Should I Use? For this purpose, 16 tablets per gallon are recommended.
  • Removing Chlorine from Water: Half a tablet for every 5 to 6 gallons is sufficient, breaking down the chlorine in under 10 minutes.
  • Stabilizing Apple Juice for Cider Production: One crushed tablet per gallon of juice is ideal. Remember to wait for approximately 24 hours before introducing the yeast.
  • Combatting Infection in Cider or Wine: In cases of infections, 1 or 2 crushed tablets can be dissolved in the product. It's worth noting that the success of this method can vary.

Safety Concerns: Are Campden Tablets Safe to Use?

Absolutely. Over the years, these tablets have proved to be safe for consumption. A common query revolves around the release of sulfur dioxide. While it's true that sulfur dioxide is introduced into the water, its concentration diminishes massively by the time the beer is consumed, ensuring that the beer remains safe to drink.

Campden Tablets and Cider Production: A Crucial Relationship

Cider producers are well-acquainted with the threat of acetobacter bacteria contamination. Fortunately, while yeast remains resistant to Campden tablets, acetobacter is not, making these tablets a vital tool in cider production.

The Role of Campden Tablets in Wine Production

Campden tablets serve dual purposes in wine production:
  • Preventing Bacterial Growth: They deter stray bacteria from affecting the wine.
  • Acting as an Anti-Oxidizing Agent: Especially useful when transferring wine between containers, ensuring that any oxygen introduced is effectively neutralized.

Debunking Myths: Can Campden Tablets Halt Fermentation?

Contrary to popular belief, Campden tablets cannot be used to stop the fermentation process in wine or beer. Attempting to do so would require an excessive amount of tablets, rendering the beverage undrinkable.

campden tables for brewin beer ph

A Glimpse into History: The Origins of Campden Tablets

The story of Campden tablets dates back to the 1920s when the solution was developed by the Fruit and Vegetable Preserving Research Station in 'Chipping Campden', England. Its popularity soared when the Boots UK pharmacy chain introduced it in tablet form.

To Use or Not to Use: Are Campden Tablets Essential for Brewing?

The decision to use Campden tablets is subjective and depends on individual preferences and regional water quality. In places with high chlorine content, like Havelock North, New Zealand, the tablets come highly recommended. However, there are alternative methods available for those who opt against them, such as active carbon filters for removing chlorine and chloramine, and other sanitizing agents like sodium percarbonate and Powdered Brewery Wash for equipment sterilization.

campden tablets for beer making

How baking yeast can be used to make homebrew beer

Yeast plays a pivotal role in the culinary and brewing world, responsible for fermentation and the creation of flavors we've come to relish. Its ubiquitous presence has led many to wonder about its versatility. Specifically, can one substitute active baker's dry yeast for brewer's yeast?

It's not an unfounded question. Tales of craft brewers concocting beers with yeast harvested from peculiar sources, like the yeast found on a brewer's beard, have been circulating. This leads to the intriguing idea: if beard yeast can be used, why not bread yeast?

In diving into the research, one discovers that baking yeast indeed qualifies as an 'active dry yeast'. However, the crux of the matter is not just about the feasibility but the advisability of such a substitution.

using baking yeast with beer brewing

Understanding Yeast in Fermentation

Yeast is the powerhouse behind fermentation, a process that is sensitive and complex. Its success is contingent on myriad factors, and the type of yeast used can dramatically influence the outcome. A high-quality yeast can elevate the taste of a beer, making it exceptional.

Now, the thought of using baker's yeast in brewing might make seasoned craft brewers cringe. But let's dissect this notion further.

Baking yeast and brewing yeast are, in essence, different strains of the same species, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This common ancestry might make it seem like a reasonable substitution.

Delving into the Differences

But what differentiates baker's yeast from brewer's yeast?

The answer lies in their cultivation. Each type of yeast has been nurtured over generations for the distinct attributes that they confer to their end products. Beer yeast strains, for instance, have been refined over centuries to perfect their specific attributes: flavor profile, attenuation rate, and consistency.

An illuminating comparison elucidates their differences further: brewer's yeast is engineered to produce a higher alcohol content and less carbon dioxide.

Conversely, baker's yeast is optimized to release more CO2 and less alcohol. Using baking yeast in brewing might not give the desired results. It's akin to driving an everyday car and expecting the performance of a high-end sports car. Both serve their purpose, but they cater to different needs.

use baking yeast to brew homebrew beer

Practical Considerations in Brewing

For those keen on experimenting, how much baker's yeast should one use? A common recommendation is around 11 grams per 5 gallons (or 23 liters). Exceeding this might be counterproductive.

In terms of alcohol content, bread yeast can comfortably ferment up to about 8% ABV. Pushing beyond this, the yeast strains, usually capping at around 9-10%. Considering most beers hover between 4-8% ABV, this range seems acceptable.

However, a caveat when using baker's yeast is the resultant beer's clarity and taste. It might not mirror the crispness and transparency of beers brewed with specialized yeast. This discrepancy arises because baker's yeast doesn't settle as proficiently as brewer's yeast. To achieve clearer beer, techniques like cold crashing the fermented wort or using finings can be employed.

yeast cells

Broadening the Horizon: Mead, Cider, and More

Baker's yeast's versatility extends beyond beer. It can be employed to make mead and even wines. Certain mead recipes explicitly advocate for it. Moreover, for those venturing into cider-making, baking yeast can work with apple or pear cider. With careful execution, one can achieve an alcohol content of around 6%. However, it's crucial to hydrate the yeast before pitching and to monitor sugar levels judiciously.

For the audacious, fermenting apple juice with bread yeast is an option, albeit it results in a robust, punchy beverage. A mix with lemonade can mellow out its intensity.

using baking yeast to brew beer

Rescuing a Stalled Fermentation

In instances where the fermentation seems to have halted prematurely, baker's yeast can be a savior. However, introducing a secondary yeast can alter the beer's intended flavor. If this route is chosen, activating the yeast in water before pitching can be beneficial.

Available Options and Reversing the Roles

For those intrigued to experiment, a variety of baking yeasts are available in supermarkets. In places like New Zealand, Edmund's Sure To Rise is a favored choice, while Fleischmann's active dry yeast is popular elsewhere.

Interestingly, the interchangeability can be reversed. Given that brewing yeast is an 'active yeast', it can be used in baking. However, the CO2 output of brewing yeast is lesser than its baking counterpart, resulting in denser bread.

In conclusion, while the worlds of baking and brewing might seem distinct, the common thread of yeast weaves them together. Experimentation can lead to delightful discoveries, but understanding the nuances of each yeast type ensures the best results.

Can I get methanol poisoning from home brew beer?

Methanol in Home Brewed Beer: Is it a Concern?

Recent headlines have been abuzz with a tragic story from South Africa in 2020, where a couple lost their lives after consuming homemade beer. Though the exact details surrounding this incident remain unclear, it has led many to question the potential dangers of home brewing, particularly regarding methanol production. While we await a thorough examination from reliable sources like Snopes, one thing is clear: methanol poisoning from homebrewed beer is highly unlikely.

Understanding Methanol and its Dangers

Methanol, often referred to as 'wood alcohol,' is recognized for its toxic properties. Consumption of even small amounts can lead to severe health implications, including blindness and, in extreme cases, death. Tales of sailors or individuals consuming bootleg spirits and suffering these consequences have long been part of folklore.

However, standard home brewing primarily produces ethanol, a different type of alcohol, with a distinct chemical structure. While tiny traces of methanol can form, especially in fruit beers containing pectin, the levels are so minimal that they pose no health threat. Simply put, there's no risk of producing a beer batch laced with methanol.

Distillation, however, is a different ball game.

can i get methonal poisoning from beer

Distillation: A Risky Endeavor

Although home brewing beer is relatively safe from methanol concerns, distillation can be dangerous. Improper distillation can lead to harmful methanol concentrations, and there have been instances where methanol is intentionally added to bootleg spirits.

This is why many countries prohibit personal distillation. Nevertheless, equipment is still accessible online. New Zealand permits distillation but strictly for personal use.

The science behind distillation is intricate, and some myths about methanol production persist. The bottom line is: if you're brewing beer at home, there's no threat of producing a lethal brew. But if you're considering distillation, approach with caution and seek expertise.

Methanol Poisoning: Symptoms and Treatment

Methanol toxicity manifests after its ingestion. Early symptoms include reduced consciousness, impaired coordination, nausea, abdominal discomfort, and a distinctive breath odor. Vision impairment, even blindness, can occur within hours, resulting from methanol metabolizing into formic acid, which damages the optic nerve.

methanol poisoning from home brew beer

Is There a Remedy for Methanol Poisoning?

Yes, there is! The antidote, fomepizole, can counteract the effects if administered promptly. Other treatments include dialysis and intaking sodium bicarbonate, folate, and thiamine. If you suspect methanol poisoning, seeking immediate medical intervention is crucial.

In some curious instances, like a gentleman who drank wine left open for two months and experienced adverse symptoms, the cause is likely not methanol. Instead, the wine probably oxidized, turning it into an unpleasant vinegar-like substance.

In summary, while home brewing is a rewarding hobby, it's vital to be informed and exercise caution, especially when delving into distillation. With the right knowledge and practices, you can enjoy your brews safely.

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