Cherry Wine Recipe – A Full Flavoured Red

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Cherry Wine Recipe

Cherries make a wonderful fruit wine with a great depth of flavour. Out of all the fruit wines I make I think cherry wine has the best colour and it always comes out better than you expect, there are other health benefits too. If you can source some cherries for yourself the this cherry wine recipe is definitely one to try.

In temperate northern regions there is usually an abundance of cherries during the summer, either from a pick your own farm or lots of people grow the trees in their gardens. I live close to a pick your own farm which has rows of cherry trees which makes picking enough to make wine pretty easy. However, one great thing about this recipe is you can use frozen or canned cherries and the wine is just as good as using fresh cherries.

This means you should be able to make this cherry wine year round as most grocery stores will have cherries of some sort, either fresh, frozen or canned year round.

Fresh & Frozen Cherries

Cherries are a bold flavour and this flavour really does well even after freezing the cherries. The real difference between frozen or fresh cherries is the texture and for us wine makers the texture is not really an issue for us. In fact freezing cherries is actually beneficial as it breaks down the structure of the fruit which when thawed will release more of the sugars and juices we want in the wine.

Canned Cherry Wine

In fact, even canned cherries will work on this recipe. Usually canned cherries are in a light syrup which can also be added to the wine as long as there are no preservatives in it. Using canned cherries in this cherry wine recipe is exactly the same, you just need to work out how many cherries are in the can, usually there is a net weight that you can use to work this out.

If you are using the syrup from the tinned cherries you will want to decrease the amount of sugar you add. The can will usually detail how much sugar is in the syrup on the nutritional information or you can use a hydrometer to work it out.

Sweet or Sour Cherry Wine

This is personal preference I have most often used sour cherries for this recipe but if you use sweet cherries you will of course end up with a slightly sweeter wine. It is also worth trying a mix of both sweet and sour cherries so you can balance the sweetness yourself, you may have to experiment a little to get the perfect mix but it is definitely worth it.

Preparing The Cherries for Wine Making

It is important to destone the cherries.

To get the cherries ready to make wine is simple but a little labour intensive. You will want to wash them thoroughly and remove any bad cherries. As well as this you will need to remove the stems and destone the cherries. As we are going to be mashing the flesh we do not want the stones in the wine as the insides of cherry pits are toxic if you consume enough.

Most of the time frozen cherries are pre-prepared so this makes them great for making cherry wine.

Equipment You Will Need To Make Cherry Wine – Makes 1 gallon / 4.5 litres

Cherry Wine Ingredients

Cherry Wine Recipe Method

1. Start by heating half the water and all the sugar in a large pan. Heat gently to dissolve all the sugar and stir to prevent any scorching of the sugar on the bottom of the pan. Bring the sugar solution to a boil for a few minutes and then turn off the heat.

2. In a sanitized fermenting bucket, place the fine straining bag and add the prepared, washed cherries. Take the potato masher and pulp the cherries to extract the flavour and the juices. Secure the pulp in the straining bag and then pour over the boiling sugar solution. Mix thoroughly and then pour the remaining cool water to bring the temperature down.

3. Add the tannin, yeast nutrient, acid blend if using sweet cherries and then the Campden tablet. Mix thoroughly throughout the must then secure the lid for at least 12 hours.

4. After 12 hours add the pectic enzyme and mix thoroughly, secure the lid and leave for a further 24 hours.

5. After 24 hours add the yeast by sprinkling onto the surface of the must. Secure the lid and airlock and allow to ferment for around 2 weeks.

6. After two weeks it is time to remove the straining bag and what remains of the cherries. Lift the bag out and let it drain but do not squeeze. Cover the cherry wine again with the lid and let is settle for a couple of days before racking to a demijohn.

7. Once racked into a demijohn allow the wine to condition for at least three months racking to a new demijohn once or twice when sediment builds up. The wine ages well and can be left up to 6 months before bottling.

This cherry wine is great as it is but if you prefer a sweeter wine then back sweetening it is the way to go, if you use sweeter cherries you will often end up with a less tart wine anyway so always sample before sweetening.

Why You Need An Auto Siphon

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Siphoning is one skill that is essential to the home brewer. There aren’t many reasons in a day to day life which would require you to siphon anything so must home brewers will not have ever had a chance to practice it. The problem is, home brewing involves moving lots of liquids around whether it is beer, wine or mead and it is important not to aerate the home brew to get the best results. A piece of kit that is indispensable to racking beer or wine, in my opinion, is an auto syphon, it is one of the most efficient methods of racking beer or wine at the same time as being the easiest and most hygienic.

auto siphon

What Is An Auto Siphon?

An auto siphon is an all over upgrade to a regular siphon hose which might not sound like much but a regular syphon tube has some inherent issues that make it difficult if you are not used to siphoning or starting a siphon.

An auto siphon comprises of a racking cane with a filter, a PVC tube and an outer housing for the racking tube which is vital for starting the siphon automatically. This might not sound like a lot but in practice the auto siphon is a whole lot easier and more efficient than a regular siphon tube and racking cane.

When using an ordinary siphon tube the issues begin in starting the siphon. If you have ever had occasion to siphon fuel before then you may, unfortunately, know that the most common way to start a siphon is by sucking it (if you want to know how to siphon read this). For the home brewer this is probably the worst way you could consider to start a siphon as we want to keep bacteria out of the beer in all cases. Starting the flow is where the auto siphon comes into its own.

The way in which a siphon is able to start a liquid, in our case beer or wine, is to create a vacuum that pulls the liquid from one vessel, down via gravity into a lower vessel. This initial stage of creating a vacuum is handled by the auto siphon with a simple pull on the tube the siphon is housed in. As you do not come into contact at all with the beer this is a much more hygienic way to start a syphon and introduces no air at all.

Using An Auto Siphon

Using an auto siphon is very easy and takes even a complete beginner only one or two practices to get perfect every time. The first thing you will want to do before using the auto siphon is to thoroughly sanitise it inside and out.

1. Position the vessel to siphon from higher than the vessel you are siphoning into. The auto siphon still relies on gravity once you have started the siphon.

2. Lower the sanitised auto siphon into the beer or wine to be siphoned. The rigid end with the racking tube goes into the home brew, carefully, to avoid disturbing the sediment and the PVC hose goes into the empty vessel to be siphoned into.

3. To start the auto siphon you need to pull the inner racking cane upward while holding the outer tube stationary in the beer, this draws beer or wine into the outer tube of the auto siphon.

4. Next push the racking cane back down and the liquid will be drawn into the tube and down into the awaiting vessel. The siphon is not working via gravity and there is nothing else for you to do.

The auto siphon works with a simple pull – push motion. It becomes so intuitive after a few attempts that you will wonder why you ever bothered with a regular siphon at all.

Key Benefits of Using An Auto Siphon

The biggest selling point of the auto siphon is the ease of starting the siphon. Using a regular siphon you have to either pre-fill the siphon or the biggest no no is to suck the hose which is not recommended under any circumstance. The auto siphon take all the bother out of actually starting the siphon so you can concentrate on keeping the beer or wine from splashing into the vessel.

Oxygen is another problem for home brew, you want to minimise oxygen exposure for your beer and wine and the auto siphon removes all possibility for oxygen pickup, all you have to do is make sure the end of the hose is submerged. This is a really key point, for a new home brewer, poorly siphoning a beer can greatly diminish the quality once it all bottled up. Using an auto siphon removes the hassle of siphoning and pretty much anyone will be able to do it perfectly.

If you do not have an auto siphon I thoroughly recommend you get one. Out of all the vast array of home brewing gadgets out there a simple auto siphon has to be on of the best in terms of ease, efficiency and value for money.

Banana Wine Recipe – A Wine You Need To Try For Yourself

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Banana wine might sound odd, believe me, I was unsure of how this wine recipe would taste too but it is definitely worth trying. Bananas are full of sugars and are one of the sweetest fruits available to most people. This sweetness is perfect for wine making and with just a few additions to balance the acidity you will have a very memorable, full-bodied banana wine that will make you wonder why you even questioned this in the first place.

It turns out that bananas are great for winemaking. You will often see recipes for other fruit wine and especially floral wines that call for the addition of bananas because the provide sweetness, body and a subtle flavour boost to wines that would otherwise be a little insipid.

Banana Wine Recipe

The great thing about making a banana wine is that you can do it at any time of year. You can buy bunches of bananas from almost any supermarket across the globe at almost any point of the year. You aren’t constrained to a seasonal harvest like you would be with other fruit. The other thing is that in many places bananas are one of the cheapest fruits by weight so it makes this banana wine recipe very inexpensive to make.

Banana Wine Recipe With Endless Possibilities

Banana wine is also a great wine to blend with other fruit wines. If you find a fruit wine you have made is too tart to your liking, for example, blending it with a finished banana wine made with this wine recipe is a great way to bring it back into balance. Banana pairs so well with other fruits and spices the possibilities are endless with this recipe.

A good thing to experiment with is starting this banana wine recipe as laid out below and then adding additional fruits to the wine to create your own blends, banana and raspberry work well together and I have made this wine a few time. Spices work well too if you like a sweeter tasting wine banana and vanilla wine when back-sweetened makes a great dessert wine.

As you can tell there is plenty of scope to come up with your own signature wine using a simple banana wine recipe. You can also be sure that not many people with have tried a banana wine before as there is virtually no industrial production of banana wine only small home scale production. This is why you are going to have to make this banana wine recipe for yourself.

Picking and Prepping Your Bananas For Making Banana Wine

This recipe requires you to use the sliced bananas, peel and all so when you are picking bananas you will probably want to go with something that is organic. This way you will know there are no pesticides or other sprays on the banana peel that will get into your wine.

The next thing you will want to do is to keep the bananas around for a while to ripen. The riper the better without going completely black. We want the skins to have large brown spots and the bananas to be as sweet as possible so buy the bananas ahead of time and allow them to get over-ripe.

Lastly, it should be noted that this is a recipe for banana wine and will not work for plantains.

Equipment What You Will Need For This Banana Wine Recipe – Makes 1 gallon / 4.5 litres

Banana Wine Ingredients

Banana Wine Recipe Method

1. Bring half of the water to a boil in the large stockpot. Whilst the water is heating up slice the bananas including the skins and secure in the straining bag. Submerge the straining bag in the boiling water and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

2. After simmering for 30 minutes remove the pot from the heat. Lift out the straining bag with the bananas and set to one side for a moment. Pour the liquid from the pot into a sanitised fermenting bucket and then add the straining bag with the bananas as well.

3. Take the remaining half of the water and add to the stockpot with the sugar. Heat to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar and prevent from burning. Simmer for a few minutes, remove from the heat and then add this to the fermenter. Along with this add the acid blend, tannin and yeast nutrient. Allow to cool to room temperature.

4. Once cooled add the crushed Campden tablet and mix thoroughly, allow to stand for at least 12 hours.

5. After at least 12 hours add the pectic enzyme and mix thoroughly. 24 hours after adding the pectic enzyme add the yeast by sprinkling onto the surface of the must, fit a lid and airlock. Fermentation will begin a few days after this.

6. Allow fermentation to progress for a week stirring daily, after this remove the straining bag and the remains of the banana. Leave for a further 3 days and the fermentation should have died down completely. At this point you can syphon the banana wine into a demijohn or carboy, fit with a bung and airlock.

7. Allow the wine to condition in the demijohn for 3 – 4 months racking to a sanitised carboy once or twice after sediment builds up.

8. After conditioning, for at least 4 months or up to 6 you are ready to bottle the wine. You may want to sample the banana wine and back sweeten it if you prefer a less dry or sweeter wine. Once bottled I like to set aside a few bottles for a number of months and you will notice the banana wine will keep improving with age up to a couple of years.

Fermenter Heaters: Home Brew Heat Pads & Brew Belts

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Fermenter Heaters

Brewing as the weather cools can pose a few problems depending on where you live. As the weather cools we have to make sure we are still getting a good temperature for yeast to ferment the beer. Ideally, we want to control fermentation temperature as close as possible to the optimum temperature range for the yeast strain we are using. Using the help of fermenter heating devices like brew belts and heat pads it becomes a lot easier to dial in a consistent temperature in the fermenter even when ambient temperatures begin to fall.

Most ale yeast strains require temperatures ranging around 18°C – 23°C depending on the strain. Devices like brew belts and heat pads provide enough heat to keep the fermenter warm but not enough to warm the fermenter too much and distress the yeast.

Home Brew Fermenter Heaters

Heat pads and heat belts are the most economical way to keep you fermenter temperature from dropping too low. Rather than having to heat a whole room you are directly heating the fermenting beer or wine. Both types of device use very little energy and are suitable for both fermenting buckets or carboys and demijohns (although I would urge caution directly heating cold glass).

Heat belts and pads are also fairly inexpensive and with the addition of some other tools can be used to accurately control fermentation temperatures to within a few degrees.

Home Brew Heat Pads


Heat pads or heat trays are designed to sit your fermenter on top of. Heating the fermenter from the bottom and maintaining a constant temperature throughout fermentation.

Power Usage: Most heat pads have heat sources around 30 – 40 watts so are pretty energy efficient, more so than a traditional incandescent light bulb in most cases. This provides a low heat so as not to shock the yeast in the fermenting beer.

Big swings in temperature are not good for yeast health and may cause unwanted flavour compounds to be produced by the yeast. The gentle heat from a heating pad gradually brings up the temperature of the beer and depending on the ambient temperature will maintain it in temperature ranges required for most ale or wine fermentations.

Controlling Fermentation Temperature With A Heat Pad

Most home brew heat pads do not have thermostats which means you will want to monitor the temperature closely throughout fermentation.

The concern is that the fermentation temperature will rise too much and this will put the yeast under stress which will generate undesirable flavours in the finished beer. A few things you may want to consider are:

Placing the fermenter in an area that is fairly stable in temperature (albeit cooler), without large fluctuations in the temperature range.

Enclosing the fermenter in a confined space such as a cupboard will gradually build up heat compared to an open space.

Additional measures like timers or third-party thermostats will give much finer control of fermentation.

Additional Fermenter Heater Temperature Control

With regards to the last point a means of moderating the heat output can be a very good way to ensure the fermenter stays exactly in the range you want. If the heat pad has a tendency to warm the fermentation too much then by cycling the heat pad on and off with something like a timer can greatly aid the degree of control you have.

Another option could be to use a dedicated thermostat controller such as an Inkbird which I have reviewed here. This will cycle the home brew heater according to the current temperature of the beer or wine. This would be the most precise way to control the fermentation temperature with a heat pad or tray.

Home Brew Heat Belts – Brew Belt

Heat belts or Brew Belts are similarly energy efficient like heat pads but are designed to wrap around the fermenter and provide heat along the length of the belt.

Most fermentation brew belts are simply a rubber strip with the heating element inside that has the flexible power cord threaded through. The heat belt is wrapped around the fermenter and the cord pulled tight so it grips around the fermenter at the height you choose (more on this in a moment).

Power Usage: Most fermentation heat belts are pretty efficient, using between 25 – 40 watts in most cases so running for a week or two costs very little.

One benefit of a heat belt is that they tend to be slightly cheaper than heat pads in some areas.

The real difference between brew belts and heat pads are that you position the heat belt up or down the fermenting vessel allowing some degree of temperature control. Generally, it is advised to place the belt lower down the fermenter to provide more heat and higher up the vessel for less heat. Without taking a direct temperature reading of the beer this is quite a tricky thing to get right and I would still be inclined to use some additional controls mentioned above, such as a temperature controller or a timer.

Direct Heat From A Fermenter Heater

The way in which a heating device heats the fermenting beer or wine is another thing to consider.

A heat pad heats from the bottom of the fermenter whereas the heat brew belt is positioned around the side some way up.

The thing to think about here is that the heat pad spreads heat across a large surface area, however, at the bottom of the vessel where all the yeast tends to flocculate toward the end of fermentation. Heating the yeast directly for too long is probably not ideal so you may want to limit the length of time you use a heat pad to just a week to avoid putting too much stress on the mass of yeast.

A brew belt applies heat in a smaller surface area but directly on the fermenting wort or must rather than the yeast which you may or may not be better. I have done no tests on this so you have to decide for yourself which you prefer.

Are Fermenter Heaters Worth It?

I use a brew belt during the cooler months of the year as the room where my fermenter sits is a little colder than the rest of the house. I would find it a struggle to ferment properly without one. I use the fermenter belt with a temperature controller so it cycles on and off and keeps my home brew within a few degrees either side of my target temperature.

In my setup it is indispensable, I have talked before about how important temperature control is so if you find you need some help keeping your home brew at a good temperature range a fermenter heater such as a heat mat or a brew belt may be an inexpensive way to do it.

Tips for Buying Home Brew Supplies

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home brew supplies

When it comes to buying home brewing supplies, there are a few things you need to think about. Things like ingredients you need to think about quality, cost and freshness. Equipment purchases mean thinking about how useful is it, practicality and price.

In this article I want to give you some tips on buying equipment and ingredients because (and I know) there are plenty of opportunities to spend money and end up with something you hardly use or is just not right for you.

Open Fermentation Without the Contamination

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I’ve read a lot of people making a big deal about open fermentation, especially home brewers thinking anything other than a carboy fitted with a bung and an airlock will lead to infected beer and spoiled brews. Open fermentation makes many people think of the sour beers brewed in Belgium or in quaint 19th century farmhouse settings.

On the opposite side of the coin though, if you walk into any number of breweries here in the UK, Belgium, Germany and even some in the US, all fermentation will be carried out in open vessels. I know this from personal experience because this is how all the beer I brew at work is fermented. So what’s with all the controversy with open fermentation?

Open Fermentation

So You Don’t Have To Keep Fermentation Airtight?

As a home brewer I have gone through stages of open fermentation and closed fermentation using demijohns and airlocks not once have I had an infection in one of my batches. Nor have I ever been that worried about it.

The first 4-5 batches of beer I made (probably 9 or 10 years ago now) I used a book published in the 1970’s that suggested you ferment in a bucket and skim the yeast off every day it didn’t actually say you can store the yeast for later brews. So this is what I did for all of my first batches of beer. It was only when I got more involved with home brewing and read further that I switched to closed fermentation believing that an infected beer was inevitable.

Since those early years though and many more years of practice and research I’ve learned that some of the best beers in the world are openly fermented and it’s not just because the breweries that brew them have any special conditions under which they ferment them.

Fermentation Under Sterile Conditions

Most breweries that I’ve visited here in the UK have fermentation rooms but there are no special environments just air filters to remove impurities and dust from the air, pretty much every FV I’ve seen on a brewery tour has been open although a lot of craft breweries now use closed tanks to aid kegging and carbonating the beer. I know many breweries around the world use open fermenters too and mostly under conditions the same as you would have at home.

Once the krausen has built up on top of the beer and CO2 is being produced no further protection from the air is needed

The Home Brew Scale Open Fermentation

Pretty much all of my fermentations now consist of racking the cooled beer into a fermenting bin (plastic bucket), pitching an adequate amount of yeast and setting the lid loosely on top to stop dust from getting in. No airlock or completely closed and airtight fermenters.

As long as you have aerated the wort properly and created a healthy amount of yeast to pitch then fermentation starts between 2 – 6 hours. The krausen builds up and the carbon dioxide sits over the top of the beer stopping any oxygen from contacting it.

It is only after the initial burst of fermentation (say a few days to a week) has completed I then move the beer to a closed container with an airlock fitted and allow it to condition. This process is very much like a lot of commercial breweries in the UK who use condition tanks to store the beer in before casking or bottling.

Leaving the fermentation open after until the krausen has sunk back into the beer allows you to do whatever you need to such as adding fruit, dry hopping or harvesting yeast and secondary fermentation can then be completed under closed conditions when less CO2 is being emitted to form a blanket over the beer.

What’s The Benefit Of Open Fermentation?

  • I believe open fermentation leads to more yeast character. There is less pressure on the yeast in an open fermenter and as beer ferments, the undesirable compounds that are produced can easily disperse which is less likely in a closed fermentation. If it leads to better beer, you will have to deciede for yourself.
  • Convenience, there is less equipment to sanitise especially if you have to use more than one carboy for a batch and an open fermenter with a wide neck is far easier to clean than one with a narrow neck
  • Adding fruit and hopping during fermentation is far easier both in terms of access and cleaning
  • As long as your fermenter is big enough you don’t have to worry about airlocks clogging or fitting blow off tubes. I’ve had numerous clogged airlocks but never had an open fermenter overflow.
  • Probably the best reason is to harvest yeast for reusing. It’s simply a case of skimming it off the top with sanitised equipment and storing. You’ll notice the earlier stages of fermentation will bring dark trub material to the surface which can be discarded but after this you have a plentiful supply of clean, fresh, healthy yeast and is one of the best ways to collect it, rather than from the bottom of the fermenter after primary fermentation.

Apple Wine Recipe – Simple & Rich Apple Wine

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Apple Wine Recipe

Apples are one of the fruits that can be easily gathered around the beginning of autumn. There are countless trees not only in people’s gardens but also escapees that grow wild. The problem with a lot of these apple varieties that have grown free is the way the apples taste. Many wild apples can be bitter and sour. Whilst this means they aren’t all that good for eating the plus side is they are perfect for making wine.

This apple wine recipe is very easy to do and if you can find a couple of trees near you then the fruit will be completely free. If at all possible you will be best served if you can find a mix of apples. Blending different varieties together will even out your wine and create a more complex finish.

This wine recipe really is better with foraged apples which are usually more bitter, astringent and tart. If you have to use sweet eating apples then blend them in with other varieties such as crab apples or even cooking apples if possible.

No Need To Juice The Apples

This apple wine recipe does not involve pressing the apples as you would make juice for cider making. To make a wine from apples is far simpler as we will be fermenting the pulp. What this means is that we are relying on pectic enzymes and yeast to do the work for us. Just a wine from grapes is made by simply crushing the grapes and then fermenting on the grape skins, making apple wine follows this same process. We just need to chop or crush the apples and then ferment with the apple in contact with the yeast. This action breaks down the structure of the fruit and releases the sugars and juice that we want.

Pectolase or pectic enzyme is used prior to fermentation which is an enzyme that naturally breaks down the structure of any fruit. This aid in the extraction of juice without the need to juice the apples.

Preparing The Apples For Making Wine

Before we can make the wine you will want to sort through the apples. You will want roughly 3kg of apples to make a gallon (4.5 litres) of wine.

If you have foraged apples from trees in the wild or from your garden give them a good clean first of all. Remove and bad apples or cut out parts of any damaged apples. You can leave the peel on the apple but you are best removing the seeds if possible. Remember that you aren’t going to eating the apples so the cores still contain juice and flavour still.

If you are foraging apples then you can prepare them and freeze them in batches. By freezing the apples before making the wine the cell structures will breakdown. When defrosting the apples more of the juices will naturally be released. This means if you cannot gather all the apples in one go you can save them and make the apple wine later in the year.

What You’ll Need To Make Apple Wine – Makes 1 gallon / 4.5 litres

Apple Wine Ingredients

Apple Wine Method

1. Begin by heating half the water with the sugar in a large pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes.

2.Take the prepared apples and place in the fine straining bag. Put this in the bottom of the fermenter and pour over the boiling water. Add the remaining half of the water and this will bring the temperature down so it is lukewarm. Add the tannin, yeast nutrient and acid and stir thoroughly.

3. A few hours later when the must has cooled even further add the crushed campden tablet and stir through the must. Cover and leave the wine for at least 12 hours.

4. 12 hours after adding the campden tablet add the pectic enzyme, stir thoroughly and leave for 24 hours.

5. After 24 hours add the yeast by sprinkling onto the surface of the must, no need to stir. The yeast will now ferment the wine. Stir the must daily with a sanitised spoon to ensure all the apples are broken down.

6. After a week lift out the straining bag with what remains of the apples. Let the bag drip dry but avoid the temptation to squeeze the straining bag. Leave the wine to settle for at least 24 hours.

7. After the wine has settled for around 24 hours you can syphon the wine into a demijohn. The wine now needs time to condition and to clear. Rack again after a couple of months to aid clearing. Condition for at least 4 months before bottling.

8. Should you wish, you can back sweeten the wine following this method. If you prefer a sweeter, richer wine then this is a good option.

Elderberry Wine Recipe – A King Among Fruit Wines

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Elderberry Wine Recipe

Elderberries are one of the UK best fruits for making wine. Often referred to as the “Englishman’s grape” elderberry wine is a rich, full bodied wine and there is usually a plentiful supply of the fruit throughout much of the UK you can pick for free out of the hedgerows.

I know many enjoy making wine from elderflowers and even I have a batch made from this year. Elderberry wine, however, is in my opinion far superior. Despite the obvious difference in colour with elderberry making a deep red wine, elderberries do not require much work to go from grape to glass.

Elderberries have many of the qualities that grapes have that make them so well suited to wine making. In fact, elderberries have often been added to grape wines by commercial wineries to boost tannin and colour. The only difference between wine grapes and elderberries is that elderberries require a sugar addition at the sugar content of elderberries is around 7%.

Elderberries also possess some acids to balance the finished wine. As in many country wines, an addition of mixed acid is required or the finished wine or it will be flat or flabby tasting. Elderberries are high in citric, malic and fumaric acids.

Foraging For Elderberries

As far as I’m aware there isn’t a readily available supply of fresh elderberries available to buy. Although you can buy dried elderberries which are used for making wine, you will want fresh elderberries to make this wine.

The great thing about elderberries is they are abundant throughout the UK and they are very easy to harvest and prepare for wine making.

Elderberries are small dark purple to black coloured berries, they hang in umbrella shaped clusters and are ripe around August to October.

It goes without saying that if you are unsure of the identification you should not pick the berries. Take a good identification guide with you when you are looking for the elderberries to ensure you are picking the correct thing.

The easiest way to pick elderberries is to take a pair of scissors and snip each cluster of berries at the base of the stem. You should be able to quickly harvest a fair amount and when you get them back home separate the berries from the stems with a fork.

 

Preparing Your Elderberries For Making Wine

Once you get the elderberries back home after picking you will want to remove the berries from the stems, the stems are slightly toxic so this is an important step.

The easiest way to remove the elderberries from the stems is by combing them with a fork. Gently comb the berries away from the stems a few at a time into a bowl and repeat for the whole harvest.

Once you have the berries de-stemmed it is time to clean them. Fill a large enough bowl to accommodate the berries with cold water and add the elderberries. The ripe and mature berries will sink to the bottom. Any green, damaged berries will float as will any leaves and bugs. Remove the bad berries and debris with a sieve and drain the well-cleaned elderberries.

After cleaning, if you are not planning to make wine straight away you can freeze the elderberries in a freezer bag which gives you the flexibility to make the wine at any point you choose.

 

What You’ll Need To Make Elderberry Wine – Makes 1 gallon / 4.5 litres

 

Elderberry Wine Ingredients

Elderberry Wine Method

1. Heat the water in a pan on the stove, add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Bring to the boil for a minute and then turn off the heat.

2. Take the prepared elderberries and place them in the straining bag inside the sanitised fermenting bucket. Use a potato masher to thoroughly crush the berries. It should be noted they will stain so try not to get any on your clothes. Your straining bag will never be the same colour after making elderberry wine!

3. Pour the boiling water over the crushed elderberries and give them a good stir. Allow to cool for a few hours and then add the yeast nutrient, acid blend and the crushed Campden tablet. Mix thoroughly, cover and fit the airlock and wait for at least 12 hours.

4. After 12 hours add the pectic enzyme mix thoroughly and wait for a further 24 hours.

5. After 24 hours add the yeast onto the surface of the must, there is no need to stir. Cover and fit the airlock and patiently wait for fermentation to begin.

6. Stir the wine daily for the first week of fermentation, after 2 weeks lift out the straining bag and allow the wine to drain from the berries. Avoid squeezing the bag.

7. Leave the wine to settle for a day and then syphon the wine into a demijohn. You may check the gravity now if you have a hydrometer. The wine should be close to, if not fully fermented out.

8. Allow the wine to condition in the demijohn for at least 3 – 4 months, racking when any sediment builds up. After conditioning for at least 3 – 4 months you should sample the wine. You may want to back sweeten the wine if you prefer a sweeter taste if so follow this guide before bottling. If not rack straight to bottles and try to keep hold of them for as long as possible.

Elderberry wine ages very well and will continually evolve so try and hold onto a few bottles for a year or more. You will be pleasantly surprised at how good an elderberry wine can get.

Clone Beer Recipes – Recreate Your Favourite Commercial Beers

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When I started brewing my first few beers were commercial beers I’d tried to recreate. In essence, they were a clone beer. I would say that was somewhat of my motivation to start brewing in the first place, I wanted to recreate some of my favourite beers that I could buy in the shops. I still do brew the occasional clone beer but now it’s more of a case of brewing a beer I cannot otherwise get here in my corner of the UK and I think brewing these clones is a great way to learn your craft especially if you can compare them with the actual beer.

Clone Beer Recipes

Making Your Own Clone Beer

There is always something satisfying about cloning a commercial beer and measuring your efforts against those of a proper brewery. I have written about clone brewing before, but recently I came across the website for Deschutes Brewery and was pretty surprised to find a list of home brew recipes to recreate some of their most popular beers.

Deschutes Clone Recipes

Of course, they haven’t given you the exact recipe for all their beers, they have, however, listed all of the ingredients used in say their Obsidian Stout. Any home brewer that has that information is going to be able to make a fairly good approximation of Obsidian after a couple of attempts.

I think this is a great thing that Deschutes is doing and I’m sure most home brewers who have ever tried to clone a commercial beer will appreciate them connecting with the home brew community. If you have ever tried contacting a brewery about the recipe for one of their beers it can be a hit or miss affair.

Brewdog Clone Recipes

BrewDog has gone one step further and released all their recipe for pretty much every beer they have made. In effect, they have open sourced all their recipes and released them all in a book.

BrewDog have even scaled their recipes for a typical home brew setup, provided quantities and tips on getting a close clone of the beer. They have released all their recipes in a free pdf ebook called DIY dog and I think this is an unprecedented movement for breweries being open about their methods.

In a lot of cases, modern craft breweries start out as homebrewers who take their hobby professional. Giving their recipes away like this is great for the home brewing community and I am sure it has won BrewDog a lot of fans in the process.

Avery Brewing Clone Recipes

Avery brewing is another brewery that is completely open with their recipes. On each of their beers pages on their website, they have a home brew recipe scaled to 5 gallons and listing the quantity of each ingredient.
For a home brewer like me who has little chance of getting one of their beers here in the UK, this is a great way to be able to get an approximation of one of their beers and give me further inspiration for my own beer recipes.

What Are Your Experiences With Contacting Breweries?

Some breweries are completely fine with telling you what hops are used in their beers or the makeup of the grist, where as in my experience the majority of emails to a brewery receive no response. This is why, when I came across Deschutes home brew recipes I was slightly taken aback and excited they have chosen to be so open. Hopefully, more breweries will take a similar stance. Of course, now you’re going to go out and buy that breweries beer because they have reached out to you, plus to see what your clone is like.

If you have ever contacted a brewery and they’ve been only happy to help you out then let us know in the comments section.

Books on Clone Beers

The first beer I ever made was a clone beer, it was Fullers London Pride. I seem to remember it was a pretty good replica of the actual beer and this is what really spurred me on to learn more about home brewing. At the time I knew hardly anything about brewing, everything I did was following the instructions set out in this book:

Brew Your Own British Real Ale

Graham Wheelers – Brew Your Own British Real Ale. There are over 100 recipes in this book of British real ales and if you are looking to brew any clone beer from the UK then the best bet is to look here first.

Clone Brews

Next up is a book called Clone Brews. This is a book I have only flicked through briefly. I haven’t attempted any of the recipes in it but there are plenty there and some good commercial beers are included. If clone beer recipes are your thing then you need this in your library.

North American Clone Brews

Lastly, a book heavily referenced in forums is North American Clone Brews. With such a huge craft beer scene in the US at the moment this book has 150 odd recipes for brewing US and Candian beers, although some reviews are mixed it may be worthwhile for getting ideas on brewing a particular American or Canadian craft beer.

Forums

Forums are a great place to find recipes, there are so many people brewing recipes and trying to replicate beers you can get a good idea of the ingredients in a beer and then tweak to your liking. The first place you need to check out is the recipes section on Home Brew Talk there is more information on this forum alone than any of brewing website on the web.

If you are looking for British Beers then check out  The Home Brew Forum for good recipes. If you can’t find the beer you are looking for then post because I’m sure someone on the forums will have brewed it.

Podcasts

Lastly, I’m pretty sure most people have heard of the Brewing Network. There are some pretty detailed and in depth podcasts on cloning commercial beers. The Jamil Show/Can You Brew It is the one to look for and the whole archive is available for you to look through. So if they have covered the beer you are wanting to brew this is a must listen, however, if you want to brew something a bit more obscure they are likely to have not covered it.

Hopefully, you have found some of these resources helpful in brewing your own clone beer. Anything to add then put it in the comments.

How To Make Mead

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Here at Home Brew Answers there are hundreds of articles about beer and wine, there are recipes for liqueurs and even soda but so far we have neglected the oldest of all alcoholic beverages which is Mead.

In this article, we are going to cover how to make Mead which is indeed one of the most ancient of all fermented alcoholic drinks. The ingredients are simple, the method is simple and the results can be truly phenomenal so let’s take a look at how to make mead.

How To Make Mead

What Is Mead?

Mead is essentially a honey wine and is sometimes referred to as such. The main thing we need to understand is that mead is an alcoholic beverage made with honey that is most often between 8 – 20% ABV.

The honey is what is providing the fermentable sugars to create alcohol and at its simplest mead is just honey, water and yeast, that really is all that goes into it. The honey is diluted with water and then yeast is added to ferment all the sugar, converting it to alcohol. What you end up with is called a mead.

There are certain variations of Mead that you may have heard of, here are a few of the most common variants:

Melomel: This is a type of mead made with fruit. The fruit adds another layer of flavour and some people prefer this to a plain honey mead.

Metheglin: This is a variant of mead with spices and herbs added.

Hydromel: This is a style of mead that is less than 8-9% ABV, most traditional meads are made to around the same alcoholic strength as a wine or sometimes slightly higher.

Cyser: This is a combination of cider and mead. To make cyser instead of diluting the honey with water you would use apple juice to create a hybrid of mead and cider.

Pyment: Pyment is similar to Cyser but rather than using apple juice you would use grapes or grape juice to create a hybrid of a wine and mead.

Braggot: Braggot is a hybrid of mead and beer, usually without the hops. Most often braggot is 40 – 50% honey with the rest of the fermentable’s coming from malted barley. Traditionally braggot is not hopped but if you choose to it can be worth experimenting with hops to add a further dimension to the drink.

Start By Making A Basic Mead

I think the best way to begin making mead is to start with a basic mead, get to grips with the process (and the result) and then begin experimenting with fruit, spices or other variations. This way you can get a true sense of exactly what a mead is.

What You Need To Make Mead

The equipment needed to make mead is fairly minimal. In comparison to brewing beer, mead making requires much less equipment so it is a great way to start brewing your own alcoholic drinks.

Here is a checklist of the basic equipment you will need to make your mead. This guide is for making 4.5 litres / 1 gallon of mead but the vessels can be scaled up for larger batches should you wish.

Fermenting Bucket: A simple plastic bucket is the best vessel to start the fermentation of your mead. A bucket with an airtight lid and airlock attached makes it easy to get the ingredients in and mixed thoroughly and then the initial burst of primary fermentation to get underway. These buckets are a great size for gallon batches.

Demijohn: A glass or plastic demijohn is a vessel perfectly suited for conditioning mead and leaves a small surface area to avoid any oxidation while the mead is aging. After fermenting in a bucket for a short time the mead is transferred to a demijohn for more extended aging.

Airlock & Bung: An airlock allows carbon dioxide created whilst the mead is fermenting out of the fermenter but allows no air in. You can attach the airlock to the fermenting bucket and then to the demijohn with a bung after the mead is transferred.

Syphon Hose & Racking Cane: To move mead from one vessel to another you will need a syphon and a racking cane. Using a syphon is simple, you can find a guide here which explains how to use a syphon efficiently and hygienically.

Bottles: When your mead is ready you will want to bottle it. I prefer to use wine bottles and cork them but you can also use beer bottles and secure them with caps should you wish.

Capper or Corker: Depending on what bottles you use you will need a device to secure the closures. A capper or corker will serve the purpose and will last a lifetime in my experience.

Thermometer: We occasionally will need to hit specific temperatures during the mead making process to having a thermometer is handy.

Hydrometer: This instrument measures the density of liquid and can be used to tell us how much sugar is in our mead. This can then tell us how much alcohol will be in the finished mead, this guide will explain a little more about hydrometers.

Large Pot: Should you wish to pasteurise the must before you ferment the mead you will need a large pot to heat the honey with water before you combine all the ingredients in the fermenter. The method for this will be detailed in the recipe below.

The Ingredients You Need To Make Mead

Once you have the equipment needed you can then begin to gather the ingredients to make your first mead. Let’s start with the star of the show.

Honey

Honey making mead

The main ingredient of mead, of course, is honey. In the case of a plain honey mead it is the only fermentable and with the exception of the yeast the only ingredient that will provide flavour. With this in mind, we need to consider what type of honey to use, we want to make sure the honey has a good flavour, to begin with as this is what is going to provide the vast majority of the meads flavour.

There are a few things to keep in mind when sourcing honey for your mead:

Liquid vs. Set: It doesn’t matter whether the honey you use to make mead is a liquid/runny clear honey or a set/creamed honey. Most liquid honey will crystallise if you give them enough time anyway. If you do choose to use a set honey to make a mead then you can sit the jar in some warm water and the honey will soften and liquidise enabling you to pour it out of the jar easily, ready for fermentation.

Varietal Honey: When bees predominantly visit certain blossoms the flavour and colour of the honey can change. When you come to make your mead if you have a varietal honey the flavour and colour will come through in the finished wine.

You do not need to use a varietal honey to make mead but it can help to create a more unique or slightly different mead suited to your taste.

Orange blossom honey is a varietal honey most people will be aware of, there are other varieties such as lavender, acacia and other blossoms but also by location. If the bees are visiting flowers in a mountainous area it will produce a different flavour of honey than bees whose hive is in a woodland because of the different plants.

Raw vs. Pasteurised Honey: The differences here are in the way the honey is processed. Raw honey has had less processing than pasturised honey. The differences between the two are that raw honey is likely to have a more flavour than pasturised honey, pasturisation is likely to remove some of the more delicate flavours of honey and of course we want as much flavour as possible.

The reason why honey is pasturised is that it increases the stability of honey whilst it is sitting on the shelf in your cupboard or supermarket. Raw honey contains wild yeast, enzymes and lots of particulates that are removed, filtered and heated up in pasturised honey.

Honey is naturally resistant to going bad, in an airtight container it will last indefinitely because honey is primarily sugar which means there is very little water, this in itself prevents spoiling. The pH of honey is another contributor to its shelf life, it is acidic with a pH of between 3 and 4.5.

When water is introduced to honey if there are any particulate or wild yeasts present these will eventually spoil the honey. This can be something to consider if using raw honey to make your mead, whilst there will be a broader range of delicate flavours there is also a need to carefully control fermentation so as to not let spoilage organisms, like wild yeasts, take hold.

We will cover ways to prevent spoilage of your mead in the methods section below, usually, it will be a case of heating the honey and water to pasteurisation temperature or using a chemical additive, we will cover this in a moment. These are optional precautions that aren’t totally necessary, many mead makers do not do this and produce fantastic quality meads they are only safeguards (a spoiled batch of any sort of home brew will not make you ill it will just taste bad).

There is a vast array of honey to choose from just at your local supermarket, each subtly different so try a few and see what you like. In this recipe I will use a wild flower honey as I like the flavour and it makes a wonderful mead.

Water: If your tap water tastes good then it is fine to use this, if you don’t drink your tap water or it is not to your taste for any reason then use bottled water to make your mead.

Yeast: Wine yeast is the most common choice for making mead. Dry wine yeasts are easy to keep around and will last a lot longer than liquid yeasts so I always have some of these laying around for when I want to make mead. For making sweeter meads you can also use ale yeasts which will not ferment out all the available sugars and leave a sweeter finished mead.

Lalvin D-47 is my choice for a mead recipe in most cases and is very versatile. Lalvin EC-1118 is also a popular choice for mead makers and is very robust, in this recipe I have used Lalvin 71B.

Yeast Nutrient: Most meads will call for yeast nutrients to provide enough nutrition for the yeast to ferment out the sugars fully. Yeast need an environment that supports their growth and reproduction, yeast nutrients enable this.

Campden Tablets (optional): Campden tablets of Sodium Metabisulphate can be used to pasturise the must before fermentation. This will kill any organisms or wild yeasts in the honey to ensure the mead ferments as intended. Campden tablets can also be used at the end of fermentation to stabilise the mead. Used in conjunction with another additive, potassium sorbate this will enable you to backsweeten a mead. We won’t be doing that in this recipe but it is a useful technique to know.

How To Make Your Mead

It is now time to bring everything together and finally make your mead.

In this recipe, I am going to make a wild flower honey mead with honey from the supermarket. Most honey will say if they have been pasteurised or not and will almost always tell you if they are raw honey. It is up to the mead maker whether you want to pasteurise the honey yourself before you make mead. I most often do not and have never had a problem with the mead spoiling, that is not to say it could not happen.

If you wish to pasteurise the must before you ferment the mead then it is a simple case of two options

Heating the honey with water to pasturisation temperature.

Or

Chemical pasturisation with Campden tablets.

In this recipe I will go through the steps to pasteurise the mead via heat so you can see the process, if you decide not to do this then you can skip those steps.

Mead Ingredients – Makes 4.5 litres / 1 gallon

Method

  1. Gather together all your equipment and make sure everything is clean and sanitised, for more on this take a look at this guide on how to sanitise your equipment.
  2. We now need to heat the must and pasteurise the honey. To do this you will need to place a large pan on the hob and add 3 litres of water. Begin to heat gently and add the honey, stir thoroughly and do not allow the honey to sit at the bottom of the pan and scorch. We need to reach a temperature of 71°C. Once you get the honey solution to 71°C turn down the heat and keep the must at this temperature for around 10 minutes.
  3. After the 10 minutes at 71°C the honey will be sanitised and we can add everything to the sanitised fermenter. Add the remaining 1.5 litres of cool water to the fermenter and then carefully pour the hot honey solution into the fermenter as well. This pouring will help to aerate the must which is beneficial for yeast health.
  4. Add the yeast nutrient and mix thoroughly through the must. It may still be fairly warm we want to let the must cool to at lead 24°C before adding the yeast. Check the temperature with a thermometer, if the yeast is added when it is too warm the yeast could fail to ferment at all.
  5. It is recommended to rehydrate the yeast, almost all yeast packages will have rehydration instructions on them. It is a usually a case of adding the yeast to a small amount of warm water between 30°C – 35°C in a sanitised container for 15 minutes. Check the packet instructions, if there are none check this guide on rehydrating yeast here.
  6. When the must is cool enough pitch the yeast there is no need to stir, place the lid on the fermenting bucket and fit an airlock.
  7. The yeast will now begin reproducing, fermenting the sugars from the honey and producing alcohol for your mead. The fermenter can be left at room temperature (18 – 22°C) alone whilst the yeast do the work, after a week or so the airlock will begin to slow it’s bubbling and stop. After 2 weeks almost all of the sugar will be fermented out this can be checked with a hydrometer. It is now time to rack the mead to a demijohn.
  8. Sanitise your demijohn and rubber bung and now you can transfer the mead from the fermenting bucket to the demijohn with the syphon and racking cane. If you have never syphoned before read this first. The mead can now age for a few months, it will clear in this time and after it has completely cleared it is ready to bottle.
  9. To bottle your mead is simple enough, syphon into your bottles and either cap or cork depending on what bottle you chose to use.

Mead recipe

That is it, set the bottles aside for a few months, within 6 months the mead will start to come into it’s own and will last for years, slowly maturing and most often getting better. This recipe will make a medium sweet mead up to around 14% ABV. Making a mead is a really simple process when you get the hang of it and this guide really is just the tip of the iceberg. There are 1000’s of possibilities to experiment with from here so why not give it a go, make your own mead.