Tag Archive: homebrewing

Homebrew Update!

Today we have yet another homebrew update. I managed to rack both the plum wine and the Joe’s Ancient Orange Mead, both had developed quite a bit of sediment and I was worried they might develop a bad taste. Both had also almost completely stopped fermenting, there were almost no bubbles in the airlock.

Before racking. This is an old picture, there was actually a lot of sediment in both and they were much clearer.

From the first racking, several weeks ago.

I racked the plum first, there was over an inch of sludge on the bottom.

After racking but before topping off with water. Most of the sediment is gone.

And of course I wanted to taste it.

There are a few floaties, but they should settle in time.

It’s drinkable if you’re an alcoholic – it has a very “hot” taste, like it’s all alcohol. I can taste a little bit of the preserves I started with, after aging a bit the flavor should improve. I tasted it before adding water, that one little shot glass knocked me on my ass – it has a kick like a mule. Hopefully that will smooth out as well.

Next up was the mead.

After racking but before adding water. It's pretty clear, I wasn't able to remove all the sediment so when I added water it clouded up again.

After topping off, with a taster on the side.

I tasted the mead as well, and it was GOOD, sweet with a pleasant orange taste and a very strong orange smell. It smells a bit like fresh orange juice. It doesn’t have the kick or the raw alcohol taste the plum does, so it will finish off quicker. I will definitely be making more of this.

The next day, with a flashlight behind them to show their color.


Just a quick update on my recent homebrewing adventures.

The plum wine is bubbling nicely – I moved it into the closet after racking it the week before last and there was a sudden flurry of yeast activity. It has since settled down but is bubbling quite nicely.

Doesn't that remind you of a freshly poured soda?

I’m sure the specific gravity has changed, it was very cloudy and now there’s about two inches of sludge on the bottom. I might rack it early just to get it off the gunk so it doesn’t pick up any bad flavors.

Inspired by my net-friend Moira, I have decided to make a gallon of mead. I found a really easy recipe that is supposed to be good, if made completely different from real mead. It’s called Joe’s Ancient Orange Mead and was super easy.

The ingredients were simple – warm water,three pounds of honey, twenty-five raisins, a cinnamon stick, a whole orange cut into pieces and (of course) yeast. Basically you toss everything into your carboy, cap it with an airlock, and wait. No stirring, no racking, the less you touch it the better. After a couple of months, it’s ready. I’m curious as to how it will taste.

On the left, the plum wine. On the right, Joe's Ancient Orange Mead. You can just barely see the band of lighter color at the bottom of the plum wine - that's the gunk.

I left quite a bit of head space in the mead’s carboy – I was expecting a much more vigorous fermentation. (The plum wine frothed like a bottle of soda someone had dropped.) If it doesn’t foam up in a few days I’ll add more water. It is fermenting, the airlock is bubbling very steadily, it just hasn’t gone crazy like I had expected.


Something’s Brewing

An update on the jam fermentation – Friday morning I checked on the solution and saw a few bubbles, not what I had expected. It was still really thick, even after adding an additional quarter-cup of warm water. I could still see the individual yest-pellet-things from the night before. It was a bit on the hot side when I added the yeast, so I could have killed most of it, or it might have been too acidic (the jam is very tart, almost like cranberry sauce) at the strength I had it. There were a few half-hearted bubbles so I was encouraged. I put a few tablespoons of the thinned jam in some warm water, scraping up the most active fizzy spots and adding another pinch from Mother Dearest’s stash. I left it while I did my usual morning stuff and when I came back in a few minutes there was a nice thick plug of foam on the top!


I poured the failed water/jam solution, a bit over a cup, into a larger mixing bowl and added two cups of warm water and the bubbling yeast mixture. Off I went to do more morning things and let the yeast do their business. When I left for work there was about a quarter of an inch of foam on the top and it was still bubbling nicely.

Very foamy! It looked a bit like a chocolate cake.

So after quite a bit of searching around on the Internet, I found out what I would need and I made a trip to the local homebrewing store, which I did not even know existed.

It is one of the best smelling stores I’ve ever been in, very malty and yummy.

So I’ve got some gear and a big jar of the plum preserves that I’ve boiled with water in a sterilized jar with something called peptic enzyme to break down the pectin so it can eventually become wine. I hope.

I’m using Jack Keller’s recipe from his incredibly helpful website – he has all sorts of recipes for everything from jalapeño wine to maraschino-chocolate mead. All of them sound absolutely yummy.

The Santas make it festive! And I probably should have cleaned that spill up before taking the picture. My bad.


About a month or so ago I bought three boxes of glass canning jars, pint size, for five dollars at an estate sale. About half of the jars are full of homemade damson plum conserves from the mid Nineties. I’ve tasted it and it tastes fine, but I don’t really use that much jam. I have been trying to think of something I could do with it. A conversation on YSaC that took place on Wednesday got me thinking about it again. A couple of the regulars were talking about homebrewing and it got me thinking – jams and jellies are nothing but sugar and concentrated fruit juices. So I started wondering if I could thin the jam with hot water and get it to ferment. I checked out a few posts at a homebrewing forum and saw recipes for frozen juice concentrate, but nothing for jams or jellies.

If there is a  homebrewer in the peanut gallery – have you ever heard of anyone doing this before? I’m curious.

I added about a quarter of a cup of the jam to three-forths of a cup of hot water and added a bit of Mother Dearest’s bread yeast. I know, that’s not the right kind of yeast. I’m just testing a theory – it if actually works I’ll get the real yeast. I’m going to let it sit for a day to see what happens.

Speaking of homebrewing, I was browsing through the Beer & Wine making section of eBay when I found something odd.

I know what that is!

For $280.36 you too can own this fine apparatus for distilling water and making herbal extracts. It comes with a CD packed with recipes for various hard liquors and instructions for making them that is included for “educational purposes” only.

And on the seller’s website it is listed as the

Moonshine Still The Ultimate Column Copper Alcohol Moonshine Still

But it’s for distilling water. The kind of “water” people sell out of the trunk of their car in old milk jugs and mason jars. After mentioning how much cheaper it is to make your own hootch, the seller slaps a disclaimer on the bottom.

Purchaser assumes all liability and risk of operation and ownership.  It is illegal to distill alcohol in the United States without proper licensing.  This unit is sold for distilling water and for distilling essential oils from those things that are typically steeped in water first.

This unit is being sold as a water distillation and herbal essence extractor only.  Please, do not use this item for the distillation of alcohol unless you live where it is legal to do so or have the proper permit.  Fermentation instructions and materials are provided as educational material only to create a beer or wine product, which is legal in the United States.

I know the seller, bigorangesteve, is just covering his own ass, but c’mon. If you buy something like that you aren’t going to clean dirty cleaning fluid with it, which is one of the suggested uses.

I don’t know why you would buy something like this over the Internet. You are forking over a chunk of change to a total stranger, who may or may not be a government agent, to purchase a piece of equipment that could potentially be used to break the law.  It would be like someone selling a meth lab with the caveat that it only be used to make Pop Rocks.

It’s not like it would be that hard to make yourself, all you need is a stock pot, a metal mixing bowl, some assorted copper pipe, and other bits. In theory.

And bigorangesteve isn’t the only one selling stills on eBay, a quick search pulled up over four hundred items. Most were made from stock pots and clamped-on mixing bowls or modified pressure cookers, but a few were antiques and there was one seller offering beautifully made all-copper stills. (for display purposes only)

Not that I would ever actually buy one.