Sunday, 26 September 2010

Castle Fraser Autumn Cider

When i return from offshore i like to spend a lot of time out amongst The Green. Yesterday my wife and i took the 911 out for a blast (I'd just changed the gear oil and gear linkage bushes, gear change much improved) and we ended up at Castle Fraser in Aberdeenshire. Castle Fraser is a truly beautiful estate managed and maintained by The National Trust of Scotland. My first stop whenever i am there is the walled garden.

Yeserday there was an estate produce sale, the funds for the sale will go towards the further development of a part of the estate grounds (rhododendrons being added). I had planned a cider this year and yesterdays visit to the gardens jump started the process. We bought six kilos of apples and just over a kilo of pears. The apple and pear trees are grown as Espalier trees(trained and  grown symetrically against the walls of the garden). It won't add one iota of flavour to the final cider but it looks good!

I had two vanilla pods remaining from Turkey, these were bought with this cider in mind. The recipe is as follows

3kgs apples (type unknown, sharp enough for the job though)
1.2 kgs Pears
2 vanilla pods
22 ltrs apple juice
1 cup of steeped Tea
1 packet cider yeast

This is a very simple process in comparison to the making of beer, more akin to baking than brewing. We cored and removed any poor bits on the pears.

Once we had finished the preparation the pears went into a stainless steel pan along with a litre of apple juice.

While the pears were coming to the boil and softening we continued with preparing the apples.

3kgs is a lot of apples but since i have no fruit press (yet) the only way i can use solid apples/pears it to reduce to pulp with heat and let the yeast break them down completely in the fermentation cycle.

I tried a single vanilla pod in a cider i made last year. The flavour/aroma of the vanilla pod was present in the final cider but it could have been stronger. This year i've used two pods and i am keeping the pods in the fermenter while the yeast works to maximise their impact.

The pods are broken up, put in a nylon net bag and placed in the pot. This helps in two ways.
 No1, the vannila essence is released from the pods during the boil. No2 The nylon bag and pods are sterilised through the boiling process. This is critical as they will be placed in the fermentation vessel and as such cannot carry any unwanted bacteria which could result in a ruined batch of cider. 

At this point i sterilised the fermentation vessel, funnel, cork and airlock. The golden rule of brewing is that ANYTHING that will come into contact with the product post boil MUST be sterile. Most brewers go a bit over the top in this department. One infected brew is too many so i use loads of thin bleach and/or heat post boil.

Different brewers go different ways in their brews. My preference is to use a real cider yeast. I find i end up with a good quality cider if i do. In the picture below is the FV, cider yeast, vanilla pods in the FV and the tea for the tannin addition.

We then filled the FV through a funnel with the pureed pears and apples, poured in some apple juice if the funnel blocked with skins.

It went well and before i knew it we were ready for  a Dr Frankensteins lab equipment photo!
 The yeast is then pitched and the FV's transfered to another room.

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. A couple of years ago i was thinking about which herb/spice etc would go well in a cider. In this case the inspiration was the flavour of apple pie and vanilla ice cream, the pears were to hopefully give a third flavour layer to the cider.

Edit- 4 hours later.

Went for a walk at Haddo house this afternoon (i did say i like The Green) and came back to an oveflowing FV airlock and apple bits down the side of the FV! I had forgotten how fast and vigourously cider yeast takes off. No big deal, had a clean up and i will check progress every couple of hours.
 If anybody decides to make the cider its worth remembering that the pureed fruit will all sink to the bottom of the FV once fermentation is complete. The room the FV is in smells fantastically of apple zing!

Boring cost bit
Apple juice 22 ltrs £13.00
Apples 3kgs £1.20
Pears 1.2kgs £1.60
Cider yeast £1.00 
Heat £1.00
=£17.80 / 44 = 40p per pint.

I'm not sure what the price would be for a good strong cider but i think that anyone reading this with access to a fruiting apple tree should try and beat my price per pint and let me know how they get on. The expense in cider made my way is in the cartoned apple juice. If you go the apple juice route make sure it's 100% juice. If you go straight to the tree with an apple press i await a link to your blog and look forward to reading it!

We had a great time today making this and it turned out to be a family participation thing as it was done in the kitchen and not the cold garage. The only unknown in the process is the final alcohol content of the cider. In the past the cider i have made finished at 1.000 gravity. In other words there were no residual sugars left in the cider, the yeast consumed it all. This leads to a dry cider which is not dissimilar to some white wines i have tried. My preference is for dry cider but if its not for you i would advise a net search on sweet cider yeasts that finish at a higher gravity.

I measured the gravity of the apple juice while cold and it measured at 1.045. I did not take a gravity reading once the fruit had been added as there was no easy way to do so and i did not want to risk an infection. Instead i went to the net for some (rough) calcs.

3kg apple  = +300 grmms sugar
1.2kg pear = +100 grmms sugar
= 8 gravity points @ 40 pints

Apple juice + fruit =1.053 gravity points = 6.9% ABV @ 1.000 Final Gravity. 

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Thursday, 23 September 2010

Not like lager at all really

I returned to Scotland a couple of days ago and decided to crack on with a lightish simple pale ale influenced by the lager i have been drinking recently in Baku and Turkey. I haven't brewed for a few months and as a result the day did not go flawlessly, more about that later.

The recipe is nice and basic as you can see.

Batch Size: 10.00 gal
Boil Time: 90 min
4.00 kg Pale Malt
2.50 kg Munich Malt
2.00 kg Wheat Malt
4.00 oz Hallertauer [6.5%] (90 min) (First Wort Hop)
3.0 oz Hallertauer [6.5%](30 min) (Aroma Hop-Steep)
3.50 oz Styrian Goldings [5.40 %] (30 min) (Aroma Hop-Steep)
1 Vanilla pod (Boil 5.0 min)
2 Pkgs US-05 Yeast-Ale
1 Protafloc tablet
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 4.14 %
Bitterness: 43.6 IBU
Est Color: 6.5

While the Liquor was heating i decided to get the yeast wet. I used US05 in this batch. A lot of the brewers i have spoken to simply rehydrate their dry yeasts in sterilised water. I prefer to add a few grammes of sugar to the sterile water so i can see that the yeast is active before pitching into the wort. I have been told that this stresses the yeast as i am making it work prematurely and consume its own engineered reserves in a non friendly environment. I can see the point of this view but so far (50 AG brews +) i've not killed the yeast and i like the peace of mind that i know the yeast batch i am using is live before pitching.

While the yeast was reawakening i kept an eye on the HLT. As you can see its a simple enough piece of kit. An HDPE container i bought off of Ebay and modified. Its been modified to carry two 240V heating elements, a sight level gauge and an extended probe (100mm) temperature gauge. The draw off point is at the bottom of the container. It holds 60 ltr's which lends itself to my preferred batch volume of 10 gallons.

I ran in the 60 ltrs of water added 2 crushed campden tablets and heated to 79 degrees C. It takes around an hour for the 2 elements to heat 60ltrs to 79deg C. This gives me time to measure out the grain.

My mash tun is a modified cool box from Igloo. Nothing fancy, it holds 150+ltrs and a grain filter made by myself. There's also a Speck magnetically coupled pump for recirculation of the wort through the grain bed for wort clarification. Again all bought through Ebay over a period of time.

I love the smell of Munich malt in the morning! There's 40 grmms of gypsum in there as well.

I ran in 21 ltrs of Liquor at 79 degrees C, gave the grain a good stir to lose any grain balls.

I have set the system up so i run the liquor in from below, the grain bed settled at 67 degrees for the rest (90 minutes). 

All going well at this point so i measured out the first wort hops and added to the kettle.

I carried out an Iodine test for starch, conversion went well and no starch present i then started the run off and sparge. It went wrong at this point. I was concentrating on balancing the run off and sparge  and  had forgotten to close a tap. Sadly in this case it meant that once the wort reached a certain point in the kettle it overflowed and slowly ran away into the flowers! End result being 4 gallon of wort lost to the flowers. Closed the valve, swore for a while and cracked on with the boil. 

 I adjusted the steep hops to allow slightly for the mishap. By this time i had added the vanilla pod to the kettle.I have three of them i brought back from Turkey, they smell fantastic!

I chopped one up with scissors and it was added to the kettle.

After that it was simply steep, chill and recirculate the wort through the hop bed for clarification.

Once completed i transfered the wort to the conical Fermentation vessel and pitched the yeast. A shame it only 6 gallons instead of ten but i'm sure it will be fine!

The FV was another Ebay purchase(is there a recurring theme here)? It was originally destined for use in the generation of Biofuel.I decided to use it for a higher purpose and save myself a small fortune in comparison to a stainless steel brewing specific conical.

I'm a huge fan of getting my money's worth out of anything i buy. I'll be the first to admit that my brewery will NEVER win any beauty contests(Rat Breweries rulez). What it will do though is make up to 120 ltr batches of fantastic all grain beer for a brewery build cost of well under a thousand pounds. 

If there's anybody out there fancies building a brewery for much cheapness many bargains they could do a  lot worse than join Jim's beer kit website and read up on the vast amounts of information available there. There's a link below. My vanity has made the link a short cut to my brewery build.

I'll update as the brew progresses, i really hope some small amount of the vanilla gets through to the bottled beer.

Edit 26/09/10

I had a look in the FV this morning and the yeast head has formed and started to subside(it was mountainous yesterday, 12 degrees in the garage at the moment). I have switched on the heater plate on the FV to push it towards the finish line.

Garage use should be maximised. I have a car, brewery and utility strip in mine along with loads of shelving. I managed to 'sell' the larger brewery to my wife on the back of 2 years without buying beer in the shops. In addition to this my beer costs are now approximately as follows for an 'average' 5% IPA.

4.5 kg grain £4.50
100grmms hops £2.00
Yeast £1.50
Heat & brewing misc £2.00
=£10 / 40 pints = 25p
per pint for beer that is only beaten by the very best microbrewers in the U.K.

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