Homebrewing Journal #1

I have a spotted past when it comes to homebrewing.  My grandfather made hard cider and on my grandfather’s farm where I grew up, we had lovely hard nameless apples in his orchards that we would crush in the fall in a beat up antique (even in the 60s) cider press and then bottle in gallon glass jugs.  My grandfather would set some out on the counter in my grandmother’s kitchen and let wild yeasts do the work.  The house was surrounded by apple, plum, damson, and fig trees, as well as two different kinds of grape vines, so I’m sure there were plenty of friendly wild yeasts floating around.

I ran moonshine when I was in high school for a man who had a still back over through the woods.  I’d drive it to Richmond, and got paid for doing it.  I got to hang around the still some, and picked up one or two things, but not a whole lot.  I was more interested in driving and getting paid.

My father used to make bitters and stout; I learned a couple of things from him, and he made good stuff, but mostly my contribution was making him some nice labels on my Mac and crawling under the house (where we stored cases of the stuff).

My father still has that old cider press, and has recently refurbished it.  And it seems likely that it will be stored in my basement (hooray! caloo ca-lay!).  I thought I’d start getting into making some hard cider myself, so here goes.

My basement brewing setup

I dug up an old 6 gallon carboy from the depths of the basement.  Took inventory, made some notes, and drove down to our local homebrewing store in Carrboro.  There I bought 2 airlocks (handy little inexpensive gadgets), some siphon tubing, an auto-syphon tool, a hydrometer (ok, currently overkill but I expect to need it soon), some pectin enzyme for clearing the cloudy apple juice, some yeast nutrient, so Campden tablets for establishing my own yeast culture instead of leaving it totally up to the wildness, and some Nottingham brewing yeast.

My father brought me 2 gallons of freshly crushed and squeezed apple cider juice from Hickory Nut Gap Farm just south of Black Mountain in the mountains of NC today.

Fresh Cider

I sanitized my carboy with Star San (a non-bleach sterilizing agent), poured the juice through a funnel into the carboy, added the pectin enzyme and yeast nutrient, and capped it with a rubber plug and the airlock.  Then I poured a bit of the Star San water into the airlock.  I’m gonna wait overnight, just to see if there is any natural fermentation starting.  But what I’m planning on doing is going down tomorrow and stopping any ongoing yeast production with a Campden tablet, then use Nottingham yeast for the primary fermentation.

Handy-Dandy Airlock - Much bang for your buck

I saved some of the juice to taste.  It comes from a blend of their organic apples, and has a good solid apple flavor with just a hint of tartness.  It is a rich brown color and fairly cloudy and dark.  If it had been (for example) all Stayman apples, it would have been much tarter than this.

I will be tracking my progress and my setbacks in a homebrew journal here, as I have anything significant to report.  But it will be a good place for me to keep notes and pictures.

Carboy & Airlock



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2 Responses to “Homebrewing Journal #1”

  1. Robin Says:

    Oh, the things we learn about our fellow garden bloggers 🙂

    I know absolutely nothing about brewing….just drinking! It will be fun to watch your progress!

  2. kitsapFG Says:

    My folks used to make homemade wine all the time and it was always an adventure to see what they would end up with. Much of it was not very good – but occassionally they hit a winner. It’s always fun to learn something new and try your hand at something. Looking forward to the updates on how this progresses.

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