Thursday, December 19, 2013

How to Make Christmas Hard Cider With Mulling Spices

The following recipe is my Annual Christmas Cider that I bottle and gift every year. It's the perfect "sit by the fire" type of drink with a warming amount of alcohol. I only make this at Christmas since the spices are for the season.

This is a still cider, so there is no carbonation involved, and is meant to be warmed before serving. Do not allow the temp to get above 170°F, otherwise you will burn off the alcohol.

If you don't own brewing equipment, ferment juice in a gallon container like the one used for juice packaging. However, only fill 3/4 full and place foil over opening. But, don't put the cap back on. The fermentation will blow off the cap under pressure.

There are two cups of sugar, one white and the other dark brown, which will move the OG from around 1.03 to 1.055-1.06. The brown sugar only adds a slight fullness, or caramel flavor. But, definitely makes it better.

I use two vials of English Ale Yeast and nutrient so that it ferments out properly. This yeast strain leaves
some remaining sweetness and produces a slight fruitiness, which compliments the Cider.

The tea bags add a slight tanic flavor similar to wine. I use a pinch of Sulphate to preserve it from spoiling and possibly becoming a bottle bomb (gifts that explode are typically frowned upon).

I prefer Tanic Acid additions after fermentation has completed. Apples contain natural Tanic Acid, so using this type compliments the drink. I usually start with a teaspoon and work my way up from there. Don't skip this, it gives the Cider a nice bite, or tartness. Unfortunately, some apple juice is not very tart and needs some help. There are two steps as follows:

Primary fermentation-

3 Gal Apple Juice
1 Cup dark brown sugar
1 Cup white sugar
1 tsp nutrient
2 tea bags – Black tea (tanic additive)
2x Vial English Ale Yeast – White Labs WLP002
Bi-Sulphate, 1 pinch (1 gram)

 Secondary Fermentation - time to add the Christmas spices

When the primary fermentation has slowed, place the following spices in two cups of boiled water (low boil the water 20 minutes prior to adding the spices, which removes extra Oxygen molecules (allowing oxygen in your fermented cider will make it taste like cardboard). Make sure the spices are added at flame-out. You can add the water along with the spices. You will need a funnel, and make sure the orange pieces are small enough to easily pass through the carboy neck. Otherwise you'll be digging them out with a stick.

Here are the mulling spices:
3-5 Cinnamon sticks
1 Tblsp all spice
1 Tblsp Nutmeg
1/4 Orange, sliced into thin 1/4 sized pieces
1 Vanilla beans, cut and scrape

Post fermentation:
1 tsp +/- Tanic Acid (preferred), Phosphoric Acid, or other (add to taste).

OG: 1.057
FG: 1.01 to 1.02
ABV: 5-6%

Serve warm with a stick of cinnamon and slice of orange.

Cheers and enjoy,

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How to Clean Beer Lines Cheap and Easy

Clean Beer Lines Cheap and Easy

How many of homebrewers actually clean the beer line? Until recently, like myself, probably not that often. When I first started kegging my beer, the beer line was cleaned by running new beer though it. I didn't know that dirty beer lines made my beer taste funky. This applies to any draft beer lines connected to a keg of beer.

Beer line at restaurants, bars, clubs etc is typically cleaned as often as weekly. In watching the process of cleaning the line at a bar, I noticed a lot of cleaning liquid flowing through the keg spout. So, where does that leave a homebrewer on a limited budget? I wanted a do-it-yourself project that used existing equipment and was quick and easy.

The challenge: Clean beer lines, including ones with debris and discolored lines. I found that if you let the lines soak in Oxyclean for an hour or two, it will clean the line to like new. Oxyclean is amazing at cleaning equipment. Beer, trub, hops and anything else is easily oxidized and cleaned out of the line.

If you clean on a regular base. It's as simple as Moving cleaning solution through the beer line. How to: A keg, cleaning solution (BLC Beer Line Cleaner by National Chemical) and CO2. It's that simple, and these are items readily available to a homebrewer.

Fill the keg with water and cleaning solution per the instructions, hook the beer line to the output and the CO2 to the input and let it flow. I think you should run at least a gallon of cleaning solution through each faucet. Follow up a second time with clean water to clear out the cleaning solution. It's that simple. I use a 3-gallon keg for cleaning my kegorator, but a regular keg work as well.

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