27 September 2007

Mead Fermentation

My latest mead in the process of fermentation for those of you who have never seen mead, beer or wine ferment before.

Pretty exciting, eh? It took 36 hours for it to reach an active fermentation. That lag time always scares me.

26 September 2007

Royal Metheglin

Since I'm posting about mead I'll tell you a little tale about a mead I did a few years ago. It's a metheglin. A metheglin is any mead with herbs or spices added. I got the recipe from the book, Making Wild Wines & Meads: 125 Unusual Recipes Using Herbs, Fruits, Flowers & More. Or, at least, the basic recipe. I may have altered it some. Here it is -

Royal Metheglin
One of the Autumn Meads of 2003
(Apparently I prefer the start meads around my birthday)
# 22
1 gallon
September 24, 2003

Ingredients -
3 Pounds of Huckleberry/Maple Honey from Tahuya River Apiaries, Hood Canal area.
Filtered tap water
Wyeast Laboratories 3184 Sweet Mead Yeast in the smack pack
1 tablespoon Rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon Fresh Thyme leaves
1 tablespoon Fresh Chopped Ginger
1 tablespoon Orange Zest
1 tablespoon Lemon Zest
3 Fresh Sage leaves
3 Fresh Bay leaves
1 teaspoon Dried Hyssop (Had to go to the Pike Place Market spice store for this one.)
4 Allspice Berries
6 Cloves
1 teaspoon Malic Acid
3/4th teaspoon Tartaric Acid
1/4th teaspoon Citric Acid
1 1/4th teaspoon yeast nutrient
½ teaspoon Tannin

Specific Gravity –
OG – 1.105 or 14%
October 6th, 2003 – Racked 1.072 or 9.5%
October 15th, 2003 – 1.072 or 9.5%
1.070 or 10% after adding water
October 21st, 2003 – 1.056 or 7%
November 17th, 2003 – 1.004 or 0% 
1.038 or 5 ½% after adding honey
January 27, 2004 – 1.038 or 5 ½%

Process –
Heated honey and water to a boil and then lowered the heat to a simmer and skimmed off the foam. Added all herbs and cooled. Added acids and 1 teaspoon of yeast nutrient. Added yeast. This mead sounds gross but smells wonderful!
Started fermenting 2 days later.
Racked off most herbs and zests on October 6th, 2003. Fermentation slows.
October 10th, I added ¼ teaspoon of yeast nutrient. Still slow.
October 13th I added ½ teaspoon of yeast energizer.
October 15 and there has been no gravity change in 9 days so I added some tap water and a pinch of Epsom salts in case this may be a PH problem. I also aerated.
October 18th, 2003 fermentation resumes!!! One bubble through the airlock every 8 seconds. On October 19th I was getting one bubble through the airlock every 3 seconds!
Racked and added ½ cup of water and 1 cup of honey on November 17th, 2003.
Bottled on January 27th, 2004. Excellent flavor. Going to Estrella XX.
Mid Feburary, Estrella XX. Did not place in the Atenvelt brewing competition, although everyone in our camp thought for sure it would win. Judges comments were, ”Improved a lot with breathing. Spices overpowering to start but improves. Might try less spicing.”
Sometime in 2005 I tasted another bottle and very displeased in the flavor.
Decided to give it another taste yesterday. It is now 3 years old and it has a good flavor. Very complexed. All the flavors seem to be there at the same time but in a good way. The judges could have been right. There may be to much spice but I like it again. Maybe the last bottle was corked or it aged in a strange way. I will take it to my friends at next years Estrella.

25 September 2007

Harvest Mead

It was a mead day yesterday. I call it a mead day instead of a brew day because technically making mead (and wine for that matter) are not brewing. Brewing is a beer making term. But I think people use brewing to describe the process anyway because we get all our supplies from the local home brew shop. Think about it. Have you ever sampled wine at a brewery? No, you go to a winery. Likewise there are meadery's. Anyway it's been a long time since I did any mead and I was feeling the need. Plus a friend from work has a back yard full of lavender. I've done a lavender mead before and loved the result although last time I added the lavender during the initial fermentation and this time I'm going to add it after. I've also done a spearmint mead with good results. My wife loves it. But I'm not to into spearmint. However I recently saw dried peppermint in the grocery and so I'm going to give that a shot. It will also be added after the initial fermentation. So my plan is to do 3 gallons of a regular sweet/semi sweet mead in the initial fermenter and then split it up into 2 gallons of lavender and one gallon of peppermint. Here's the recipe of what I've done so far -

Harvest Mead

(Birthday Mead)

(2 days from now is the harvest moon and my birthday)

# 28

3 gallons. The intent of this mead is to become 2 gallons of Lavender and 1 gallon of Peppermint, both of which I will add after the initial ferment.

September 24, 2007

Ingredients -

8 pounds of Twin Peaks Mountain Honey from Snoqualmie Valley Honey Farm in North Bend, WA purchased at the Pike Place Market

Filtered tap water

Wyeast Laboratories 4184 Sweet Mead Yeast in the smack pack

1 1/8th teaspoon Superfood

3/4th teaspoon DAP

Specific Gravity –

OG – 1.104 or 13.5%

Process –

On the night of Sunday the 23rd I sterilized all the equipment and chilled 2 gallons of filtered tap water. At 09:45 on Monday the 24th I activated the smack pack of yeast. At 13:30 I noticed the smack pack was swelling nicely and so I started boiled 1 gallon of filtered tap water for 10 minutes. I removed this from the heat and added the 8 pounds of honey, 1 - 1/8th teaspoon of Superfood, 3/4th teaspoon DAP and brought the temperature back up to 160 degrees F for 10 minutes more. I then poured 1 gallon of the chilled water into the 3 gallon carboy with the must and enough chilled water from the second gallon of chilled water to top it off. This left my must at still over 100 degrees F so into the refrigerator it went. About 18:30 the temperature finally cooled down to about 78 degrees F so I pitched the yeast.

Here also are some photos from mead day -

Here you can see the expansion of the smack pack yeast pack as the yeast is actively working inside.

Next is one 12 pound container of honey, nearly empty now.

Aeration it the key to getting a good start.

Everything in the carboy.

Update on this mead here - Harvest Mead Update

24 September 2007

Feast Fit For A King

So as I may have stated before we have trees that grow up to the level of our balcony where I trim them off for the view. Well there has been this squirrel foraging around in those trees eating the seeds. The other day he discovered our deck and in about 2 days made quick work of all the sunflower seeds there. The place was a wreck! Seed shells and leaves everywhere. But the birds weren't eating them so at least something did. Squirrels are crazy. This one hangs upside down, by his hind legs, and picks off the seeds.

05 September 2007

Replacing our trim and the Home Depot Morons

Labor day weekend meant work would be slow this week, for me, so we decided to replace our crummy ghetto apartment baseboards with something better. Christine's still in good with the construction company that she used to work with and they had a lot of trim piling up from old jobs so they let us have some. The trend for base boards here is white and they be getting taller. The stuff we picked up is about 3 1/2 inches tall. We've seen between 3 and 6 inches in the new homes we've toured.

In Arizona my dad had all the tools I ever needed and would usually come over and help me with our projects but now that we live 1500 miles away it's not so easy. Although dad is still a great resource on the phone almost any time of the day. But I still needed some tools. So off to Home Depot to rent a miter saw. The process went well, wasn't too much money (although I've never rented tools anywhere else to compare) but I'm convinced the people working are morons. Now I know there's a lot of tools for them to have knowledge on but this is your job here. The miter saw I rented worked great. I've used a circular saw before but never a miter and frankly they scared me. But this was nothing. However for some reason my miter saw came with an extra piece. A table saw miter gauge. Well of course I didn't use it. And then I forgot it and had to make 2 trips returning the stuff. All the while thinking, "How does this fit on the miter saw?" and "It looks like it's for a table saw."

When I got back to the Homely Depot I asked the guy, (we'll call this guy HD1) (that could mean Home Depot 1, Head Dummy 1, Highly Dysfunctional 1 or what ever you see fit) "How does this fit on that miter saw?"

Well, he looked at it for a minute, scratched his head and then asked the other guy (we'll call the other guy HD2). HD2 looked at it. The you could see a light bulb go on as he realized it was for a table saw. "That's for a table saw. Must of got mixed up when the orders went out."

When the orders went out. Think about that. It sounds like there was this big order being picked up by some contractor with all these tools. Truck loads of tools. Well when I got my order filled that morning it was for one, just one, miter saw. And the best part is HD2 (the guy who just made that comment) is the one who filled the order. HD2 helped me carry it out, complete with the odd table saw attachment. I can't help wonder who got the table saw without the table saw miter gauge.

So now a day goes buy and I'm sanding and painting all the trim and it's ready. All I need is a nail gun. Back to you know where! Who should be behind the counter of the rental dept.? HD1. I go with a Paslode cordless "brad" nailer type nail gun. It's like a brad nailer but without the compressor and hoses and all that stuff to lug around. Uses these little compressed air cylinders they call fuel cells. Not that I think of when I think fuel cell but anyway. So I rent the thing, and buy some nails and 2 of the "fuel cells". HD1 gets a few kudos because he actually gave me the instruction manual with the thing. Which I proceed to read when I get home only to realize that HD1 rented me a nail gun that uses 16 gauge nails and sold me 15 gauge nails. Nails which also happen to load into the nail driving firing chamber at an angle. The nail gun I rented doesn't load nails at and angle, they come straight up from the bottom (such as the first picture here, not the second). Back I go with the nails. HD1 happens to still be there. I tell him the problem and hand him the unopened nails.

"Well, so they didn't work? Did you try them?" HD1 said.
"Ummmmmm no " said I. (Thinking now about nails jamming in the gun, injuring myself, or not going far enough into the wood, etc.) I read the instructions you gave me and they called for 16 gauge nails. These are 15."
HD1, now looking dumbfounded at the cage full of nail guns and the nails on the shelf beneath them, says, "Well all the Paslode nail guns use these nails that load at an angle and we don't have any of those in 16 gauge."
I proceed to explain what I just told all of you about how the nails load, blah blah blah. But HD1 doesn't believe me and goes looking in a file cabinet for another copy of the instructions. Finally finding one, he goes through, it page after page, looking for some thing that tells him the nails don't load at an angle but never finds such page, only the note that says 16 gauge nails. The whole time I'm looking over his shoulder as diagram after diagram go by showing the nail gun and the obvious way it loads.
"Well it says 16 gauge here but it doesn't say if they are angled or straight" says HD1.
I'm like, "It's right there! Look at the picture, the nails load this way. They're straight."
He still looks like he doesn't believe me, mumbles something about the tool tech being here tomorrow (tool tech . . . I gotta meet this person! Shouldn't you all be tool techs?!?) but gives me the box of nails and reprints the contract. I ask him is there is a difference in the price of the nails (I already know the answer is yes but I ask him anyway).
"Well you can just bring them (the wrong nails you sold me) back tomorrow and we'll take them off your bill."
That's nice, I'm thinking, since, "I just gave you the nails when I walked in!"
HD1 reprinted the contract, yet again, grumbling when he should have been on the floor kissing my shoes by now.

So the nailer worked just fine. Hmmm I guess those were the right nails after all. I guess I do know how to read directions. When I took the nail gun back I had to wait for 15 minutes while THREE of those Home Depot knuckleheads tried to figure out how to ring me up right. And there were no other customers at the time! Anyway . . .

For such a small place replacing the trim was quite a job. Picking up the trim one day, sanding and cutting on day 2, painting the on day 3 and finally today nailing in place, chalking, filling the nail holes, and paint touch up. Of course moving and ducking under all the furniture didn't help. I also painted the window sill in the bedroom and the step transition board for the sliding door to the balcony. Both of which were just a bare/finished wood and slightly weathered. I'm so relieved everything is back in place. Next we'll replace all the interior doors and door frames to match. Once that is done this place will really look less apartmentish and more condo like.