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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between an Ale and a Lager?

Ales and lagers are two different kinds of brewers yeast. They both make good beers but the ale yeast work better at room temperature and the lagers work better at cooler temperatures. Lagers take a little longer to ferment because of the cooler temperatures and are typically aged longer as well.

How do I make wine from fresh grapes?

If they are wine grapes, you should not have to add much apart from yeast. But the procedure for making red wine differs a little bit from making white wine. For making red wines, you will simply crush the grapes and add your yeast. This will start your ferment. After a week or two you will strain or press the wine from the grape skins and pulp. Transfer to a large glass bottle and allow it to clear.

Whites on the other hand need to be crushed then pressed immediately. Take that juice and add your yeast to start the ferment. Transfer as necessary to clear.

Does it make a difference if I use dry vs.liquid yeast?

Yeast can be a source of major flavor contribution to your beer recipe. Each variety can change the final flavor. There is more variety in liquid yeast, so some styles of beer will greatly benefit from these. But good beer can be made from either dry or liquid yeast.

My blackberry wine recipe calls for 'yeast nutrient'?

Yeast nutrient is, basicly, a high grade fertilizer for your yeast. It helps to provide all the nutrients and chemicals that the yeast need in order to thrive. It can help a great deal in wine fermentations and is recommended.

The "trick" to retrieving a hydrometer from a carboy?

Well the trick is to pull a sample of the wine out of the carboy and then test it. Then drink that sample for quality control. If you dropped the hydrometer into the wine already and are trying to get it out (in one piece), I would leave it until it is time to rack the wine off. Then rack the wine gently and flood the hydrometer out with water before you wash out the carboy.

Squeeze the grain bag out, after I steep the grains and sparge?

If we are talking about specialty grains in the kits or a recipe that uses grains and extract, I don't usually squeeze the grain bag at all. Rinsing through them will be all you need to do. Squeezing the grain bag could lead to harsh flavors by allowing more grain solids into the boil. That's just my $.02!

Should red wine be aged in an oak barrel? For how long?

Oak barrels are nice and romantic, but can be a bit of a maintenance headache. If you are making wine from kits, then you could age them in carboys and add extra oak chips if you desire more oak flavor. Aging is almost always recommended, but an oak barrel is purely preference. I would age a concentrate wine for 2 months to a year. For fresh grape wine at least a year and probably more.

Difference between corn sugar and regular sugar?

Corn sugar and cane sugar are quite a bit different. Pound for pound, the cane sugar gives more gravity points(which converts to more alcohol) than the corn sugar does. The cane sugar is a little sweeter. Corn sugar ferments a little more cleanly and leaves less of a winey or cidery taste than the cane sugar. And finally, cane sugar is a little more economical than corn sugar. More to the point of your question though, you can substitute either one, but I use cane sugar in my wines that require added sugar.

Now, if you add too much sugar, just by a little bit, then there is probably no big problem. If you say, doubled the sugar, there may be some problems with getting the ferment to start or to finish dry. To fix the problem there you might just dilute.

How many tsp per oz are there for...

Acid Blend - 6 tsp/oz
Yeast Nutrient - 5 tsp/oz
Potassium Sorbate - 10 tsp/oz
Bentonite - 5 tsp/oz

General ratio of arriving at the ending Specific Gravity? (Beer)

Typically on all malt extract beers with standard malt extract you should expect 75% fermentability. That means the 75% of the original gravity will be fermented out and your final gravity should be 25 % of the original. This changes greatly if you are using a dutch extract (much less fermentable like 55%) or using refined sugars like corn sugar, cane sugar, honey, rice syrup solids. These sugars are 100% fermentable and will not leave anything behind. They will contribute to the original gravity but subtract from the final gravity.

What I do to figure is something like this. Add up the numbers for the original gravity and then subtract the numbers from the completely fermentable adjuncts. Use the remaining number and take 75% off that to reflect typical final gravity. This being said, it is only a rough gauge of expected terminal gravity, as it is a pretty complex issue. The other variables would be yeast strain and their attributes and condition, conditions in the wort such as available oxygen and original gravity, and composition of the malt extract itself, as it can vary from production run to production run (sometimes significantly).

Guidelines for making apple cider?

I usually go to the orchards at pressing time and take their straight juice. That is before pasteurization and before preservatives like sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate. They usually give me a pretty good price because I bring my own container. Then I put pectic enzyme, yeast nutrient and a little acid blend. Don't forget the yeast, though. I have been using the Lalvin 71b yeast and had excellent results.

Will strawberry fruit base be enough to make wine?

The Strawberry base is enough to do a 3 or 5 gal batch of strawberry wine. If you want the flavor more intense, you can always add more berries but it is not necessary. There is a recipe and some explanation on the side of the can. In my opinion, the wines should all be finished out dry and then stabilized with sulfite and sorbate. At that point you can sweeten the wine to taste.

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