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Old 01-18-2013, 07:42 PM   #1
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Default Apple Wine Hangover

So here's the deal. A few months ago I decided to take a stab at some homebrew apple wine. It seemed like an easy, inexpensive way to make some diy alcohol, and since I had the equipment just sitting around I went for it. I kept things simple, using the following recipe.

5 gallons organic apple juice
8 lbs honey (looking for a high alcohol content)
1 packet champagne yeast (can't remember the exact brand)

I let it ferment in my modified cooler at 64 F, and racked it after about 3 weeks and things seemed to be going great. Fast forward a couple of months; I decide to crack one of the bottle's open, and enjoyed it enough that I put away about 5 (5 oz glass) glasses in one evening. I woke up the next morning with the most excruciating headache I have ever had in my life. It was so bad that all I could do was lie on the couch for about an hour waiting for the ibuprofen to take the edge off.

Mind you, I'm an unashamed drinker. I put away 2-6 drinks (scotch and/or wine) almost every evening, more a couple of times a month with friends, and never experience bad hangovers unless I just go really overboard.

Since that night, my wife and I have tried smaller samplings with similar results. As little as 1-2 glasses seems to be sufficient to give either of us headaches the next day, even when making sure to chug plenty of water. It's starting to look like I'm going to have to make apple cider out of the stuff, but I'm just really curious as to what went wrong. Everything I read says that apple based alcohols can sometimes have a higher methonol content, but not to any degree that should be concerning. It certainly shouldn't be high enough that 1 glass would be toxic. Any thoughts?

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Old 01-18-2013, 07:49 PM   #2
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Sounds like fusel alcohol if I had to guess.

Rick

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Old 01-18-2013, 07:58 PM   #3
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That's a thought, though I was under the impression that fusel alcohol had a very noticeably "hot" flavor. The wine is quite mild, even milder than white wine with a slight apple hint. As I said, I kept the temps a constant 64F through the entire process. Would it still be possible that the fusel alcohol content is too high?

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Old 01-18-2013, 11:16 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Mr_Manhands View Post
That's a thought, though I was under the impression that fusel alcohol had a very noticeably "hot" flavor. The wine is quite mild, even milder than white wine with a slight apple hint. As I said, I kept the temps a constant 64F through the entire process. Would it still be possible that the fusel alcohol content is too high?
I'm not sure to be honest. At that fermentation temp you wouldn't think you'd get any fusels, or not enough to be an issue. It's just the only thing I can think of that would give you a raging headache. It's a bummer for sure and without pinpointing the cause it'll be hard to avoid next time out. Hopefully someone will chime in that knows more than I, I've never used champagne yeast.

Rick
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Old 01-18-2013, 11:25 PM   #5
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Have you regularly drank a large amount of wine before without any issues?

My husband only drinks wine with food, because he gets wicked effects from drinking wine besides with dinner.

With 8 pounds of honey (assuming a 5 gallon batch?), you're looking at a 15--18% ABV wine (depending on how much natural sugar was in the juice). That'd be enough to give me a rocking headache if I drank more than a glass or two.

You definitely got your wish- you wanted a high alcohol wine.

Maybe some of the higher alcohols will age out a bit with some time, so you can try putting some away.

In the meantime, many people like apfelwein mixed and served with sprite, so if you like wine spritzers, you could try that.

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Old 01-18-2013, 11:53 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by F250 View Post
I'm not sure to be honest. At that fermentation temp you wouldn't think you'd get any fusels, or not enough to be an issue. It's just the only thing I can think of that would give you a raging headache. It's a bummer for sure and without pinpointing the cause it'll be hard to avoid next time out. Hopefully someone will chime in that knows more than I, I've never used champagne yeast.

Rick
I agree that the symptoms do sound a lot like fusel alcohol contamination, but none of the other signs are there. Tis a mystery

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Have you regularly drank a large amount of wine before without any issues?

My husband only drinks wine with food, because he gets wicked effects from drinking wine besides with dinner.

With 8 pounds of honey (assuming a 5 gallon batch?), you're looking at a 15--18% ABV wine (depending on how much natural sugar was in the juice). That'd be enough to give me a rocking headache if I drank more than a glass or two.

You definitely got your wish- you wanted a high alcohol wine.

Maybe some of the higher alcohols will age out a bit with some time, so you can try putting some away.

In the meantime, many people like apfelwein mixed and served with sprite, so if you like wine spritzers, you could try that.
Yeah, I have no problem with wine. I can polish off a bottle over the course of an evening on my own and not regret it the next day. I did try cutting the apple wine with apple juice recently to bring the alcohol lvls down, but still ended up with a headache after a couple of glasses. It's just a bummer to put the effort into it and not know why it didn't come out properly.

BTW, is that a young Tom Waits in your avatar? Cool pic.
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Old 01-18-2013, 11:56 PM   #7
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It's just a bummer to put the effort into it and not know why it didn't come out properly.

BTW, is that a young Tom Waits in your avatar? Cool pic.
Just let it age. I'm not sure why you're getting headaches, but age can't hurt. I often age 15-18% wines for three years! So age can't hurt, might help mellow the higher alcohols.

And yep, Tom Waits. I just love him!
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Old 01-19-2013, 05:39 PM   #8
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I've been bumping around different threads involving apple wine and haven't really seen anyone else posting these problems, but after thinking about it for a while, I realized my insistence in using honey over sugar really makes this stuff half mead. Long story short, I'm starting to think that F250 hit the nail on the head. I've found a couple of different forum posts on this very same subject.

http://www.addisonhomebrew.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=1217

The good news is that aging for a year+ seems to help, so it looks like I'm just going to have to make another batch using sugar to fix me for the short term. I appreciate everyone's input. You've saved a perfectly good batch of alcohol from being turned into apple cider vinegar.

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Old 01-19-2013, 06:02 PM   #9
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Well, hopefully you discovered the cure.

Rick

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Old 01-20-2013, 08:39 PM   #10
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Probably not the reason, but I have noticed that at least with me, sweeter drinks seem to cause more headaches. Apfelwein, which is close to your recipe, only 2 lbs dextrose in place of the honey will give me the headache hangover, where when I drink the equivalent amount of alcohol in beer feel 10X better in the morning. Easy drinking dry high ABV drinks also seem to drain the glass much much quicker.

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