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Old 12-25-2013, 11:02 AM   #1
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Default compensating for volume losses of high-gravity beers with vodka?

I've got a 5-gallon (wort) batch of barleywine that I just transferred to secondary, and I've now got about 4.5 gal of liquid. After secondary, I'm expecting to have about 4.2 gallons (added premiere cuvee yeast).

Can I compensate for the loss of volume by adding an appropriate mix of vodka and water? That is, if the beer's supposed to end up with around 11.5% ABV, can I dilute vodka with distilled water until I get around a 12% solution, and then add an appropriate volume of that mix to my bottling bucket, so that my final bottling batch fills 5 gallons total?

I'm guessing that no one would be able to taste the difference, and I'd end up with another four or 5 bottles than I would otherwise. After all, any good barleywine should have some kind of alcohol taste in its profile, I think!

Anyway, this was a random thought I had today when I was staring at my carboy, which has about half-an-inch of solids precipitated at the bottom. I hate it when I can't fill up at least 48 12-oz bottles! I thought about diluting the final bottling batch with water, but then I realized that you can add vodka to beers without tasting the difference.

I'm sure this has been attempted before...but if not, I'll gladly try it out and post the results!

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Old 12-25-2013, 02:15 PM   #2
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You should really make any volume adjustments prior to fermentation rather than after. Having said that, I suppose you could do what you propose. But I can't imagine how it could improve your beer.

If the only interest you have in adding this after the secondary is volume, I'd say make more beer instead!

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Old 12-25-2013, 02:48 PM   #3
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I wouldn't touch it. Losing beer to the trub is part of the natural process. Once you nail down the loss, you can compensate during brewing and prior to fermentation. I'd be concerned about the vodka changing the barely wine too much. I'd just leave it.

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Old 12-27-2013, 09:34 PM   #4
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quick math, puts that at about a qt of vodka to add to bring that back up to 5G without changing the ABV (12%/40%*0.8gal). in other words, 1/20th of your batch would be vodka, there's no way that'd improve the taste. just start with 5.5Gal next time and accept the loss.

why the wine yeast btw?

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Old 12-28-2013, 01:08 AM   #5
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Not something I would try personally.

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Old 12-28-2013, 12:51 PM   #6
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You guys are really the experts. Thanks for the advice. I've decided to just bottle what I end up with, rather than try to spread the wonderful beer flavors across just one more 6-pack.

After all, strong beers aren't about alcohol, they're about the awesome flavor profiles. Diluting it with water/ethanol would be dumb.

Thanks, HBF!

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Old 01-02-2014, 11:27 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dcp27 View Post
why the wine yeast btw?
The recipe called for Red Star Champagne yeast during the secondary. I've brewed this one twice before, and for each batch I could not taste or smell the ethanol. For barleywines, I believe that some degree of ethanol aroma/taste is important. Thus, I'm trying a more alcohol-tolerant yeast, with more flavorless simple sugars, to see if I can get a bit of that profile in the bottle.

Final answer: it's fun.
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