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Old 07-14-2009, 03:27 AM   #1
knomadic_niki
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Default Getting Started -- In need of advice

Hi,
I've never brewed anything in my life but I'm so eager to do so (i just acquired 5 lbs of overripe plums and bananas i need to use asap). Is there any one who can give me a simple, brief, concise overview of 1. the basic equipment I need and 2. the general method behind the madness that is brewing...ie. you mix so and so and then such and such takes place during the primary and then you do this and that and this happens in the secondary etc etc....

or, is there a good web resource that i can use. i've been searching all day and i'm getting more and more confused. i dont want anything fancy, just to put some ingredients together and let them do their thing, which would hopefully be turning into something delicious and intoxicating. i met some folks recently who made some fruit cider they said only took 2 weeks to ferment. it was sparkling and sweet and good strong. they said they only used a 1.5 gallon glass jar with a homemade airlock (something about a pill bottle and a pen cap?). whats the deal with specific gravity? help!

most gratefully yours,
niki

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Old 07-14-2009, 03:47 AM   #2
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With plums and bananas you want to look at wines.

You can get plum flavor notes in beer, you can get banana flavor notes in beer, but it is achieved without the use of either.

My brother in law makes wine, the short version is you put the fruit juice in the jar, you put the yeast in the jar, you put an airlock on the jar, sorta like that "junk in the box" song.

I suspect near fatal overdose of banana bread is all you can do with those.

With the plums you might be able to juice them and ferment them into a plum wine/ cider product.

Go ask some wine makers before you spend any dough, but in your situation I would dig up a one gallon jug and then find a stopper with a hole in it and an airlock to fit. If you got the jug already the stopper and airlock should be under $5 at a homebrew/ homemade wine store.

You ae going to want to juice the plums somehow. Bare minimum cut them in really small pieces and then freeze on cookie sheets for a couple days. You got to burst the cell walls open so the yeast can get to the sugar stored inside.

The water expanding inside the cells you didn't cut open with your knife 9as the whole freezes) will finish the job.

Next you got to get all your little pieces in the jug, and get them thawed out without spoiling. You might blanch or parboil the plums in boiling water to kill the hitchhiking microbes before the freezer bit.

Then fill the jug with water. So now you got smooshed up unspoiled plum and some water in the jug. And you got an airlock. Now you need yeast, and probably yeast nutrient, most beer yeasts need some kinda yeast nutrient to deal with fruit.

Ask the wine guy at the store.

I think I hit the simple highlights anyway. This is a hobby where you can make it as hard as you want.

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Old 07-14-2009, 05:06 AM   #3
nebben
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Hey Niki, welcome to HBT!

First off, the plums and bananas might make a better wine than a beer. Fruit wines are pretty easy to make, in fact, I would dare say wine is easier (but not faster!) to make than beer since you have less factors to control. For fruit wines, I would recommend checking out Jack Keller's Winemaking website. There is a TON of information about making wine over there, and a bunch of recipes.

Basic Equipment:
1. The gear for making beer and wine are both pretty much the same and can be interchanged to a point. I am assuming you are talking about making fruit wine in this case, as making beer and making wine are two very different things.

  • Fermenter: can be a 5 gallon food-safe plastic bucket, glass carboy, 1 gallon glass jug, and so on. It MUST be foodsafe and be cleanable. I recommend glass containers for secondary and later, as they allow you to monitor the clearing process.
  • Sanitizer: I use iodophor, a type of iodine. Star-San is a favorite for many here as well. Bleach can be used, but it can leave chlorine odors.
  • Campden Tablets: These are used to help kill wild bacteria and yeast on/in fruit when making wine.
  • Pectic Enzyme: This breaks down pectin in many fruits' cell walls, helping to clear the wine.
  • Hydrometer: a glass instrument that is meant to measure the density of a liquid. Water at 60F reads 1.000. An unfermented must at 60F with dissolved fruit sugars + table sugar will be more dense and read higher, such as 1.080 for instance. This works since sugar makes the liquid more dense, thus increasing the hydrometer reading. Ethanol and CO2, which yeast produce during fermentation, will gradually replace the sugars and cause the gravity reading (originally dense sugar liquid) to lessen (eventually the liquid is less dense with ethanol). Dig?
  • Airlock with rubber stopper: these are meant to allow CO2 out of the fermenting wine/beer, and keep everything outside from getting in.
  • Tubing: you don't want to oxidize your wine/beer when you are transferring it. Tubing is a must (no pun intended!) to keep the splashing to a minimum and the sediments at the bottom instead of into your next container.

Wine can be made with less than that: imagine leaving a bucket of crushed grapes in your laundry room, and coming back a year later and drinking the resulting wine. The stuff in the list above is really a basic, yet functional list of stuff. I started out with a 6 gallon bucket with a sealing lid+airlock fitting and made a bunch of cider and fruit wines.

You will need to figure out about how much sugar you'll have from your fruit, and which recipe you'll try to use. Once you get your recipe figured out, find your local homebrew/wine store to get supplies. If you can't find one in your locale, find a reputable homebrew/wine supply shop online and start shopping right away before your overripe fruit goes totally bad.

Once you get your supplies, here's some rough steps:
  1. Sanitization is key. Gently clean your bucket or whatever fermenter you want, rinse, and use the prescribed amount of sanitizer mix. Most sanitizers are no-rinse types- if you must rinse, use boiled water as to not defeat the purpose of sanitizing in the first place. Every time you need to touch the must or wine, you absolutely need to sanitize every object that will contact with it. Tubing, spoons, turkey basters, buckets, carboys...everything always needs to be sanitized immediately before touching the wine or must.
  2. Get a painter's strainer bag (or better yet, homebrew strainer bag!), and put your prepared fruit in. Gently crush the fruit and try to extract as much juice as possible. If you have a juicer machine, you can use that instead. Some wines will benefit from prolonged contact with the crushed fruit, even during fermentation. If you do want to heat up the fruit, as if to take skins off or something, don't boil or expose anything to >150F , as this can set the pectins in the fruit and make the wine permanently cloudy.
  3. Add to the juice/bag in the fermenter any extras, such as pectic enzyme (helps break down cell walls and aid in clearning later), grape tannin, acid blend, sugar, and anything else the recipe might call for. Crush 1 campden tablet for each gallon of juice volume, and mix this into the fermenter as well. Once everything is mixed thoroughly, cover and leave for about 24 hours.
  4. The next day, draw a sample of the must (unfermented wine) and put it in the clear plastic test-vial that your hydrometer came in. Put the hydrometer in, spin the hydrometer to dislodge any bubbles, and read what the gravity reading shows at the surface of the liquid. Many scales might be present, but the scale everyone here (and almost everywhere) is the one that goes from roughly 0.980-1.120+.
  5. Record the reading that your hydrometer reports, and keep it for later. Drink the sample and don't return it to the fermenter. Yum! Tastes like....it's missing something...
  6. Now, your must has been cleaned by the campden tablets, mixed thoroughly by you, and is ready to go. Get your yeast that you got from the homebrew store and sprinkle it onto the must. Stir again and be vigorous! You want the yeast to have air at this point- stir 'em up good!
  7. Put the lid on the fermenter and add an airlock. Fill it up with water up to its mark and hopefully it will start bubbling within a few hours, assuming the container seals well (a lot of buckets don't seal worth beans). Don't worry if you don't see bubbling for the first 3 days. Usually wine yeast rocks out since there is so much good sugar for them to eat, but leaky seals and crappy airlocks can lead to confusion.
  8. Pop the top and stir daily. If your airlock hasn't bubbled, watch for bubbles rising in the must when stirring...they should be visible.
  9. After about 5 days, draw another sample and measure it in your hydrometer's test tube (avoid putting the hydrometer into the fermenter). If you're getting close to 1.030, you're ready to rack (transfer to another container).
  10. When racking, your goal is to move the liquid and not the sediment that might be in the bottom of the fermenter. Gently siphon from the fermenter into another container, preferably a glass one. At this point, you want to minimize air exposure to the wine. 1 gallon glass juice jugs (Whole Foods Apple juice @ $6.00) , or 3 gallon glass carboys are preferred since you can minimize air headspace in the container and also watch the final fermentation happen.
  11. Once you have racked to the second container and fixed a rubber bung with an airlock, this will be the secondary fermentation (at least this is technically true with wine). The yeast are finishing converting sugars to ethanol, and things will be quieting down. Leave the wine in secondary for at least 6 weeks, preferably in a cool dark place. The wine will slowly clear on its own. Keep it stored and after 6 weeks you should start seeing some clearer stuff than when you started fermenting it.
  12. If you see lees (sediment on bottom), rack again to another container and while you're there, take another gravity sample and record it+drink it for taste testing. It should be fully wine'd up at this point, meaning it is at 1.000 or below that, meaning all sugars have been converted and the yeast no longer is eating anything. If the gravity reading is 1.000 or lower, add crushed campden tablets and gently stir in until dissolved. Let the wine sit again in this third container for a few more weeks.
  13. Take another gravity reading and hopefully it will match the last reading exactly (if so, no more fermentation has occurred). It should be just about ready to bottle at this point. Find soda or beer bottles, wine bottles, or anything else that can be sanitized and capped reliably. Get yourself a corker, crown capper, or whatnot and gently siphon your cleared wine into bottles. Allow your bottles to age for 6 weeks or more to recover from bottle-shock, and drink up!


WHEW!

quicker:
Always keep everything sanitized. Add 1 campden tablet per gallon volume. If only using juice, pick something with no preservatives. Mix stuff together, take a gravity reading, and add sugar or juice if necessary to dilute or increase the sugar content. Visit Fermcalc to calculate everything if you need some numbers crunched. Add wine yeast, and stir daily. After 4 or 5 days, draw off a sample and test it with your hydrometer. Once around 1.030'ish, siphon the still-fermenting wine into a glass secondary container. Add an airlock+rubber stopper to this container and minimize the wine's contact with the air from this point on (also do not stir anymore, except if mixing in crushed campden tabs). Wait 6 weeks and draw a sample to test with your hydrometer. Once gravity is stable and hasn't changed (it should be 1.000 or lower), fermentation is done and no sugar remains to be fermented. Add/mix in crushed campden tablets @ 1 per gallon every other racking, and at bottling. Once clarity is sufficient to your liking, bottle the stuff in wine bottles, beer bottles, or whathaveyou.

Cider is done pretty much the same way. A 15 day cider is something I'm not familiar with...especially since fermentation might not even be finished by then.

Remember to be patient, and with time will come better wine.

Good luck!
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Last edited by nebben; 07-14-2009 at 05:12 AM.
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Old 07-15-2009, 05:46 AM   #4
knomadic_niki
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THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! This is exactly what I needed to get started. Thanks for taking so much time to help this newb to become a brewer. Its much appreciated. I'll let you know what becomes of it all.

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Old 07-15-2009, 03:59 PM   #5
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Rockin'! Keep us updated on your progress, and have fun!

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