Hard Lemonade

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DmentD

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Time for a progress report, I s'pose.

The EC-1118 starter, with 6 hour spin/additions failed spectacularly. Not a bubble or gravity shift 72 hours after pitching... just a nice, growing layer of yeast on the bottom of the carboy (and yes, I did give the whole thing a whirl once or twice daily with a drill-mounted stir paddle... a de-gasser to be specific).

I thought to myself "Self, you're read endlessly about the perils of making a starter with dry yeast, that they are dried at the peak of nutrition and that making a starter actually sets them back." So, I took a trip to the LHBS to seek advice, and a vial of liquid yeast to make a starter with.

Talking with my usual guru there, he advised that if making a starter, especially in this case, to definitely start with liquid yeast. He also suggested building a 2L starter in one go, with a gravity of ~1.040, no staggered additions, and spinning it for 24 hours before pitching, using nutrients and energizer as per the original technique. Additionally, he mentioned that most wine and mead yeasts will do well in environments as acidic as 3pH, and even as low as 2.5pH but with some difficulty. Incidentally, the lemonade must is 2.75pH (I have a lovely pH meter... might as well get some use out of it).

I bought a vial of White Labs Champagne Yeast (WLP715), and as an afterthought, two more packets of EC-1118 dry yeast... I figured that if the starter from the liquid yeast failed, this batch was going to become a grand experiment, and that I was going to write it off anyway and start anew, so I may as well tinker extensively with it.

Built my starter from 2Q water and 1 can of MinuteMaid lemonade concentrate -- which, by the way, was a perfect 1.042 gravity without adding any sugar. Added the liquid yeast with ¼ TSP each nutrient and energizer, and spun it for 24 hours. Nuked the must with Campden tablets when I built the starter to give it 24 hours to build a clean slate. The starter turned a lovely creamy color with a tiny bit of foam on top by the time it finished. Pitched it, aerated the hell out of the must, and waited anxiously.

Nothing.

72 hours, and two daily stirs later, nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Just a thicker layer of yeast on the bottom of the carboy.

*sigh*

Again, I turned to my best brew partner "Self, I guess we go all mad scientist and try some unusual things now." I rehydrated the 2 packets of EC-1118 yeast in 100°F water for 15 minutes and pitched it, thinking that it would never work without a starter, but also figuring that if dry yeast works better when pitched without being made into a starter, this was its best chance.

3 hours later, I was getting bubbles in my airlock. Slowly, but surely. All the old, dead yeast that had settled to the bottom, but got stirred up when I added the new yeast, hadn't settled again... they became a krausen. I kid you not, there is a squishy, fluffy layer of off-white/pale-yellow krausen floating on top. After every daily stir, it comes right back with almost nothing on the bottom of the carboy. 36 hours later, the gravity had dropped ~10 points, at 60 hours the airlock is bubbling ferociously -- 1 bubble every second.

Thinking this was a fluke, I decided to build another batch from scratch, and try the liquid yeast starter method again. Described what happened to my guy at the LHBS, and he was baffled, but insanely curious to know how this new batch went. Bought another vial of WLP715 and 2 more packets of EC-1118 (just in case).

Built another starter with 2Q water, 1 can of lemonade and ¼ TSP each nutrient and energizer. Built the must with 9 cans of lemonade, 5 LBS of sugar, and added water to make 5 GAL (incidentally, that was a spot-on 1.080 gravity). Campden in the must for 24 hours before pitching, 4 TSP each nutrient and energizer, and pitched.

At this time, 36 hours later, there is zero activity. I'm giving this batch 5 days -- 120 hours -- to show me some sign of life, either by airlock activity, a krausen, or a gravity drop. After 5 days, there should be little to no chance that any yeasts are still alive, and for the sake of being completely sure there are no survivors, I'm going to nuke the site from orbit with Campden and wait another 24 hours before pitching rehydrated-only EC-1118 to see if I can re-create the magic from the first batch.

If that works, that means the process just got a whole lot simpler, and much more reliable.
 

LooyvilleLarry

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hmm. I followed the process I wrote about, wished I'd kept better notes on the starter (next time). I just checked and this is at 1.028 and still burping through the airlock. About every 5 secs or so..
 

scray24

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The best luck I've had has been with EC-1118 (with the exception of a port that just won't ferment out - damn thing) and I detailed what route I went a few pages back in this list but essentially built up a must that was less acidic (2-3 cans of lemonade conc along with about 3g of water and a pound of malt extract) and pitched the EC-1118 normally. Once it got to going on this "starter", I started dumping in another can of lemonade conc on about 12-24 hour intervals. I didn't go too heavy on sugar as I wasn't trying to get a double digit ABV. 4 gallons with 8-10 cans of concentrate, a couple pounds of sugar and a pound of dry LME were fermented out in under 2 weeks.
 

DmentD

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Still no change on batch #2 with the starter made from White Labs yeast, but somehow I was expecting that.

Batch #1 that got kicking with the EC-1118 is fermenting like gangbusters. Dropped to ~1.032 as of today (and the last 20 points were in the last 24 hours), 1-2 bubbles a second through the airlock, and the must is alive with some serious CO2 activity (the material from the prior krausen is constantly circulating from the top to the bottom with all the turbulence and hasn't had the opportunity to re-form). Gave it a boost with a little extra nutrient and energizer, and I swear I could hear it making nummy noises at me. Never underestimate the power of a carboy going "mmmmm" at you to freak you out. *grins*
 

NeonBrew

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Well, I've yet another hard lemonade on the go. Up till now I've had great success, but this latest batch seems to be stuck at 1.020 after a month and a few days in the secondary. Any advice as to what I maybe should do? Istill can actually see a few bubbles coming up, so there are still some yeast active anyway.
 

NeonBrew

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Oh...Ok!

I guess I'll relax then.

My other batches were done by now, so I thought my yeasties were dead or something.

Have you started a limeade yet Larry?
 

LooyvilleLarry

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Nope, I'm finishing up FrankenBrew 3.0 :) It is nearly done (as in I might be able to brew this weekend !). Then I'll start a batch of limeade for the 4th. Heck better do that this weekend!!!
 

NeonBrew

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Well... longer to ferment, but on the other hand it's almost ready to drink right away after that. So...all in all, much quicker actually.
 

DmentD

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Man, once my batches got going, they fermented out in less than 2 weeks. I used 2 packets of EC-1118 (rehydrated) and pitched directly into 5 GAL of lemonade with no starter...

Oh yeah, as a postmortem on the yeast starter/no-starter adventures:

The second batch never started from the starter made from the liquid White Labs Champagne yeast. I used Campden and 24 hours later pitched 2 packets of rehydrated EC-1118, and got a few farts in the airlock, then nothing, which is odd because the first batch took off like a bat out of hell when I pitched the same thing. Waited 3 days (and 3 gravity readings later to confirm no activity), then pitched another 2 rehydrated packets, and it took off like a shot.

My theory so far is this: Campden, when applied to a regular wine or mead must, usually dissipates sufficiently within 24 hours to pose no threat to the yeast. In Hard Lemonade, however, which is already a severely hostile environment, there may still be enough sulfur dioxide remaining after 24 hours to make that environment that much more hostile (and as I'm thinking about this, I'm using RO filtered water, which has very little chlorine left in it to react with, and help dissipate the sulfur dioxide). After 72 hours and a vigorous daily stir, though, there was likely little to no sulfur dioxide left, and the yeast were able to go nuts.

And like I said, once they got started it was a photo finish -- after 24-48 hours there was less than a 10 point drop, but after that, it dropped 20+ points a day for 2 days, then it slowed down once it hit 1.010, but still finished in less than 2 weeks.

Batch #1 is finished at .992 and is up for backsweetening and bottling tomorrow. Batch #2 is at 1.031 and shows no signs of stalling.

I have a friend that started a batch of cherry limeade using EC-1118, and he said it took off in less than 24 hours. I'd be curious to see if anyone else has any luck double-pitching the same with no starter (and sufficient Campden dissipation time) and seeing if they have any success. My goal is to contribute a consistently reliable yeast solution to this recipe, as it sounds to me after reading this entire thread, that's the biggest obstacle most folks run into.
 

jamesjensen1068

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Started my first batch last Saturday with an OG of 1.094. I started two packets of yeast and pitched them 24 hours later and it's been fermenting nicely since then. Checked the gravity today and I'm at 1.056 today. SWMBO tried the sample today and really likes it. This may be a mainstay in my brewing arsenal. I'm using a 4 1/4 gallon frosting bucket from Walmart to ferment in. I didn't have to stir as per the instructions as it seemed to realy take off right away. I will secondary in the same kind of bucket. Thanks again for this recipe.
DmentD,
I posted back on 3-22-10 about pitching with two packets of yeast (EC-1118). Worked very well for me too. Any future batches I make will always be fermented with two packets.

Cheers!
 

LooyvilleLarry

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Ok, my lemonade appears finished at 1.02, which is just fine for me.

I am going to start a limeade today, and double pitch EC118.
 

DmentD

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DmentD,
I posted back on 3-22-10 about pitching with two packets of yeast (EC-1118). Worked very well for me too. Any future batches I make will always be fermented with two packets.

Cheers!
Gah! Sorry I didn't give you props! It must've been your post that gathered the neurons together in my head to fire off when I was getting frustrated with starters.
 

LooyvilleLarry

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Ok, some Hard Limeade is in the fermenter. I went the super easy route on this one. This is for a 2g batch.

Threw 4 cans of limeade in, added 4 1/2 c sugar, couple of tsp of yeast nutrient and yeast energizer, and a couple of crushed campden tablets. OG 1.080

I'm going to let this sit for 24 hrs then pitch 2x EC118 that I've rehydrated.
 

CA-LT1

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Here's my first go at hard lemonade. I tried to keep it simple. 10 cans safeway brand concentrate, 5 lb. cane sugar, nutrient, and enough water to make 5 gal. Pitched one packet of red star premier cuvee (re-hydrated). We'll see...
 

TVarmy

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I have five gallons of it gone dry in my fermenter. I tasted some from the hydrometer without backsweetening, and it tasted harshly sour, more sour than I would expect lemonade to taste. I'm going to try killing the yeast and backsweetening, as I don't think it's an infection (it was just strongly sour, with a yeasty aftertaste).

To be certain, it's one campden tablet per gallon to kill the yeast, right? So I want to stir in 5 campden tablets, wait 24 hours, and backsweeten and bottle? I'm not worried about sanitization of the sugar, as I'm planning on making a simple syrup, bringing it to a boil to sanitize, and adding it to taste. I'd add the sugar at the same time I backsweeten, but I unfortunately don't have the sugar right now, and my fermenter is a glass carboy filled near the brim. I'm planning on backsweetening in the bottling bucket after going to the store tomorrow.
 
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I have five gallons of it gone dry in my fermenter. I tasted some from the hydrometer without backsweetening, and it tasted harshly sour, more sour than I would expect lemonade to taste. I'm going to try killing the yeast and backsweetening, as I don't think it's an infection (it was just strongly sour, with a yeasty aftertaste).

To be certain, it's one campden tablet per gallon to kill the yeast, right? So I want to stir in 5 campden tablets, wait 24 hours, and backsweeten and bottle? I'm not worried about sanitization of the sugar, as I'm planning on making a simple syrup, bringing it to a boil to sanitize, and adding it to taste. I'd add the sugar at the same time I backsweeten, but I unfortunately don't have the sugar right now, and my fermenter is a glass carboy filled near the brim. I'm planning on backsweetening in the bottling bucket after going to the store tomorrow.
No, campden doesn't kill yeast. You need sorbate and campden together. Sorbate doesn't kill yeast either, but it keeps it from reproducing. So, you rack off of the yeast into the sorbate/campden solution. (Sorbate works better in conjunction with campden, that's why you use it together.) Mix up 1/2 teaspoon sorbate per gallon with one crushed campden tablet per gallon, dissolve it in a little hot water or use some of the lemonade. Pour that into a carboy, and then rack the lemonade into it. There is still some yeast in suspension, but if it's clear much of the yeast has flocculated out. Wait three days. Then you can sweeten to taste. I wouldn't do that in the bottling bucket, since you want to add the sweetener and then let it sit a few days to ensure fermentation doesn't restart. You can use a simple syrup, lemonade concentrate, etc, whatever you want to sweeten. Then, after you're certain that fermentation hasn't restarted, you can bottle.
 

LooyvilleLarry

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Update on dual pitching. It just works. 24 hours after pitching 2x EC118 onto 2g of hard limeade I have active fermentation. I've not had a start like that ever with lemon/limeade.

I'll be updating my original post with modifications
 

DmentD

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Update on dual pitching. It just works. 24 hours after pitching 2x EC118 onto 2g of hard limeade I have active fermentation. I've not had a start like that ever with lemon/limeade.

I'll be updating my original post with modifications
*whistles and cheers*

Awesome! Another success story with a simpler yeast solution. Reliability and simplicity loom on the horizon. *grins*

Keep us updated on the speed of fermentation -- hopefully this'll be a lot faster than 4 - 6 weeks.
 

George7845

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Update on dual pitching. It just works. 24 hours after pitching 2x EC118 onto 2g of hard limeade I have active fermentation. I've not had a start like that ever with lemon/limeade.

I'll be updating my original post with modifications

so you can make it simple by just duel pitching ec-1118? ive never done a starter before so it would be a good learning experience, but duel pitching seems easier. I think im going to make a one gallon batch of this to see if swmbo will like. If im just making a gallon batch, i wonder if one packet of one ec-1118 would be sufficient. Also anyone know of a frozen lemonade concentrate brand to look for on store shelfs ?
 

TVarmy

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Well, I have some bad news. That harsh taste was sulfur, and I think the Montrachet yeast just simply hated that acidic environment. I had to dump mine.

I will definitely try it again later, with a more tolerant yeast. I might also add some malt next time. Sounds like ec-1118 is the favorite. And the dual pitching sounds way more convenient.
 

LooyvilleLarry

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so you can make it simple by just duel pitching ec-1118? ive never done a starter before so it would be a good learning experience, but duel pitching seems easier. I think im going to make a one gallon batch of this to see if swmbo will like. If im just making a gallon batch, i wonder if one packet of one ec-1118 would be sufficient. Also anyone know of a frozen lemonade concentrate brand to look for on store shelfs ?
I left the starter in there, but on this 2g batch I just double pitched after hydrating with cooled boiled water. I think you *might* be able to get away with it, but I also think that is a pretty big shock on the yeast.

I'd suggest 2 gallons. Really. I haven't come across a woman that hasn't enjoyed it, and most of the guys as well.

The brand I use is Minute Maid.
 

George7845

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ec-1118 has a good temp bracket right? think i could let it ferment at room temp, hell i could just do a 5 gallon batch if that is the case, im going on a 3 week trip soon down south, so i can moniter temperature, but when i have the ac on full blast it keeps room temp at steady 65-70, but ac on whole time while im gone seems kinda crazy.
 

LooyvilleLarry

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Yeah, as a matter of fact, I think it likes a little warmer temp. I ferment in a corny in a room that averages 73-75, and it bubbles away.

My last one, it took a while to start because the temps were in the 60's. Once it gets going though, it works like a freight train.
 

DmentD

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I left the starter in there, but on this 2g batch I just double pitched after hydrating with cooled boiled water. I think you *might* be able to get away with it, but I also think that is a pretty big shock on the yeast.

I'd suggest 2 gallons. Really. I haven't come across a woman that hasn't enjoyed it, and most of the guys as well.

The brand I use is Minute Maid.
I agree, rehydrating the yeast is a good idea, and it only takes about 15 minutes... according to the EC-1118 packet, you use 2 OZ of ~100°F water (previously boiled) per packet of yeast.

Each packet is normally suitable for a 5 GAL batch, and since we're double pitching here you'd use 2. If you're going to do a 1 GAL batch, use half a packet, and that'll be the equivalent of pitching 2½ times the yeast... a tiny bit more than a double pitch, but easier to estimate the yeast used.

+1 on the Minute Maid Premium Lemonade concentrate. Down in my neck of the woods, it's about $0.89 a can. I can make a 5 GAL batch of hard lemonade -- concentrate, sugar, yeast and nutrient included -- for less than $18.

As a note, I found that 32 GR of Splenda (the "cup for cup" variety -- not the "blended with sugar" type) per GAL of hard lemonade provides a sufficient sweetness to a must that ferments down to ~0.994 -- just enough tartness to be enjoyable without an overbearing sweetener taste. Be sure to dissolve it into some boiled water and allow it to cool before adding it at bottling time.
 

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Well, I've yet another hard lemonade on the go. Up till now I've had great success, but this latest batch seems to be stuck at 1.020 after a month and a few days in the secondary. Any advice as to what I maybe should do? Istill can actually see a few bubbles coming up, so there are still some yeast active anyway.
Well...two weeks later this batch has only gone down to 1.018. It tastes pretty good. Any harm in bottling it?
 

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Well...two weeks later this batch has only gone down to 1.018. It tastes pretty good. Any harm in bottling it?
I suppose it depends on if you want to carb it, or leave it still. If you're leaving it still, from what I understand, you knock out the yeast with potassium sorbate and campden, let sit for a few days, then bottle. If carbing, it sounds like you need to wait until completely fermented out to avoid bottle bombs.

Now on to my question. I whipped up a 5 gallon batch of this and duel pitched EC-1118. Got a great start to the fermentation and am now at a point where I want to "bottle" it. I want it still, like, juice still. Right now there is a fair amount of CO2 suspended in it. I plan on nuking it with pot sorbate and campden, and then degassing it. Is this the right order? Do I need to transfer to another container before/after nuking/degassing?
 

LooyvilleLarry

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Ok, some Hard Limeade is in the fermenter. I went the super easy route on this one. This is for a 2g batch.

Threw 4 cans of limeade in, added 4 1/2 c sugar, couple of tsp of yeast nutrient and yeast energizer, and a couple of crushed campden tablets. OG 1.080

I'm going to let this sit for 24 hrs then pitch 2x EC118 that I've rehydrated.
Ok, this is *DONE*. It actually finished a couple of days ago, but I've not been able to check it.

FG: .984 (I have to double check this, seems real low) leaving about 12% abv.. wow. I'll try it on Sunday. Tomorrow, I *have* to go to a local Top of THe hops beer fest. Only 275 beers to sample :ban:
 

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Well I'm still new to brewing. I have made a few kits with great success.My wife hates the smell of brew day( which always smells so good) so I tought that this looked like a good way to even things out. The OG was1.08 7 days ago. Today it's at 1.02 and the yeast is still cooking strong. The abv I think is at 7.8. If I leave this go it will be really high in alcohol. Too high I think. The taste that I had today was sour and strong with alcohol. I have no potasium sorbate to stop things and my home brew shop is an hour away. what should I do?
 
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Well I'm still new to brewing. I have made a few kits with great success.My wife hates the smell of brew day( which always smells so good) so I tought that this looked like a good way to even things out. The OG was1.08 7 days ago. Today it's at 1.02 and the yeast is still cooking strong. The abv I think is at 7.8. If I leave this go it will be really high in alcohol. Too high I think. The taste that I had today was sour and strong with alcohol. I have no potasium sorbate to stop things and my home brew shop is an hour away. what should I do?
Potassium sorbate isn't really good for stopping an active fermentation anyway.

You could chill it down, but it'll start fermenting again when it warms up.

It's not easy to get a sweet fermented beverage without kegging. If you bottle it now, the bottles will probably blow up.
 

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I have started a 2 gallon batch on Sunday and brought up the yeast slowly and it is off and running nicely. OG was right at 1.100 :rockin: Im using an old Mr Beer fermenting and keeping the lid loose and stir it 2 times a day. It smells like a margarita right now. Im excited cheap kit and people that dont like beer might like it.
 

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When you say: When it's foamy, add a bit more of the must. Do this about 3-4 times by just adding more must a little at a time.

Do you mean to add a little bit of the foamy primary liquid into the small 2 cup must with the pinch of yeast starter and nutrient? And then after 2 days, add the 2 cup mix into your primary liquid?

As for sweetening and then carbonating to make like Mike's hard lemonade, should sugar be added with some potassium sorbate and left to sit for a couple days? I add the carbonation drops into each bottle. Will the bottles explode?

Thanks,

Suziebr

This has been requested many times, but I haven't been able to find my original recipe. This is a recreation from my notes.

3 gallon recipe

7 cans lemonade concentrate (without sorbate)
4-4.5 pounds sugar (1.5 pounds of sugar per gallon)
3 tsp yeast energizer
3 tsp yeast nutrient
3 campden tablets
Wine yeast (any works fine)

Sg should be in the range of 1.070-1.100. Use less sugar for a lower ABV, but don't go under 1.060.

This is a tough ferment, due to the high acidity of the lemonade. So, I recommend a yeast starter. A good way to do this is to start your must and then use some of it to make the starter.

Thaw the lemonade and put 1/2 in primary. Boil a gallon of water and dissolve the sugar (start with 3 pounds and add more later if needed). Add to the primary. Stir well, and top up to 3 gallons. Take out two cups of this must and put in a large bowl or measuring cup. Add a pinch of yeast nutrient and yeast energizer and put the remainder of the nutrient and energizer in the must. Make sure the temperature of the must in the starter vessel is 70-80 degrees, and add the yeast. When it's foamy, add a bit more of the must. Do this about 3-4 times by just adding more must a little at a time. Then, add the rest of the thawed lemonade and the crushed campden tablets to the primary and stir well. Check the OG and add more sugar if desired to raise the SG (but don't go over 1.100) Continue adding must to the starter, a little at a time, until the yeast starter is still looking foamy and going well, in about two days, and then pour the yeast starter into the primary. During primary, cover with a clean towel and stir frequently. After about 5-7 days, or when the SG reaches 1.030, pour into secondary and airlock. This will finish dry, so you can sweeten to taste if you'd like by adding unfermentable sweetners, or by stabilizing and then backsweetening. My experience is that this tastes best around 1.020. I actually siphoned it out of the carboy and into pitchers when it was in the 1.010- 1.020 range.
Bottle in beer bottles or soda bottles, carbonate if desired, or keg.

I liked the OG at 1.080, at the start after all ingredients are added.
 

LooyvilleLarry

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When you say: When it's foamy, add a bit more of the must. Do this about 3-4 times by just adding more must a little at a time.

Do you mean to add a little bit of the foamy primary liquid into the small 2 cup must with the pinch of yeast starter and nutrient? And then after 2 days, add the 2 cup mix into your primary liquid?
My last batch of HardLimeade, I simply hydrated TWO packs of ec1118 and added that. It took off right away, finished in a couple of weeks, and is deli-i-cious. BTW, it makes a great Margarita Base lol

As for sweetening and then carbonating to make like Mike's hard lemonade, should sugar be added with some potassium sorbate and left to sit for a couple days? I add the carbonation drops into each bottle. Will the bottles explode?

Thanks,

Suziebr
I hit it with the pot-sor, let it sit overnight, then backsweetened it with (I think) 110g of Splenda.
The Potassium Sorbate should kill the yeast, so once that happens, there will be no further carbonation.
 

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I just bottled a 3G batch started on 7/10 and finished on 8/10. 1.080-.995. This was with the yeast starter method. I'll be trying again with the double pitch. A 2 week ferment sounds much better. I tested a pint on bottling night and found it to be quite a strong elixir.
 

sily_rabit

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It's a little late in the season to start lemonade, but I had to give this a try. I used the updated version by LooyvilleLarry. I hydrated 2 packs of EC-1118 for 15 min and stepped up the starter. I guess I didn't follow the time line though. I had signs of fermentation in 10-20 mins each step. I was up to 2 Liters in under 2 hrs. As long as it had a layer of foam on top, I called it good. I pitched it into the 4-1/2 gallon must and stirred it up. That was 3 days ago. I haven't seen any activity since I added the starter. Do I wait, add more yeast, add more nutrient or energy? I'm not a wine guy and by now, my beer is chugging along. There were 4tsp of energy and nutrient in the must along with 4 crushed campden tablets. I used 10 cans of concentrate and 3-1/2# sugar. OG was 1.082
 

LooyvilleLarry

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I'd give it a few more days. That was some quick fermentation time. Note that later on, I just drypitched the EC1118 and was good to go.
 

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