Archive for the 'brewing' Category

Homebrewing update

February 27, 2008

I racked the mead last night, which is homebrewing parlance for “moved the stuff from one container to another”. I disinfected the glass carboy with some bleach and water, rinsed it well and siphoned the mead from the primary bucket, being careful to avoid stirring up the lees – the yeasty-sludge at the bottom. Now we can at least see it while it’s aging for awhile. It looks like a giant glass jug of cloudy apple cider. Fermentation is pretty much over – the airlock was going about once every sixty seconds, so now we’re just letting it settle and age. With any luck, it’ll start to clear up on its own and I can plan for bottling in a month or so. There’s stuff you can mix in to clarify it as well – I may try some of that too. I couldn’t resist tasting it. It definitely tasted like mead, and I’m looking forward to letting it mellow a little bit.

Anyway, some progress. As soon as the carboy is freed up, I’ll start looking at beer recipes. Or maybe I should just buy another carboy. And start now. We’ll see.



February 8, 2008

We I just realized the other night that things are getting pretty medieval around here. The kids are studying the medieval period for history.  E. has started the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy, and I’m about halfway through Pillars of the Earth. There’s mead brewing in the closet, and we’re counting the days until we can get the herb garden re-planted. We can probably do without the rest.

Oh, and we’ve recently discovered the game of Carcassonne. Highly recommended – it took us a little while to get into the swing of it, but the gameplay goes quickly and scoring is pretty quick. Basic premise: lay down tiles that gradually build up a countryside of roads, farms, cities and cloisters. Claim various parts throughout the game. When the last tile is laid, scores are determined. It plays well with two players – better than Settlers of Catan, which we also have but have not played lately.

Tonight’s dinner will be soup (homemade) and bread (also homemade). We keep our Fridays meatless as a matter of course, but we try to pay particular attention to them during Lent. Assuming that folks ae feeling up to it tomorrow, I’m going to try to head back to the local fish store for some replacement plants (the cabomba looks nice, but was shedding fine bits of itself all over everything and clogging the filter intake) and a pair of Oto cats.

As of Monday, the mead will have been fermenting for three weeks. I think it’s starting to slow down a little, so it may be ready to move to the secondary vessel before a whole lot longer. The second stage is mostly for clearing and settling, and will last until it’s as clear as we want it, at which time it will be bottled to age for the rest of the year. Once the vessels are free and clear, I will probably try a beer recipe. Something lightly-hopped and generally moron-proof, or at least that’s the plan. Various among us are still battling the sniffles, and in fact I’m working from home today so I can run interference with The Brood while E. rests.

For movie night, we’re going lowbrow: The Simpsons and the latest Harry Potter.


January 25, 2008

…will continue to be light.

I’m taking off early today to accompany our oldest son and the rest of his cub scout pack on an overnight cave trip, which should be a whole lotta fun. I’m not exactly relishing the idea of sleeping on the cave floor, but it’s only for one night, and we’ve got some new foam pads. We’ll rejoin the rest of the family to celebrate Tulip’s birthday on Saturday, so there’s plenty going on.

We lost two more neons and the nitrite levels were still really, really high. I did a 25% water change and as of last night, the level seem to be dropping. The ammonia has disappeared, so I’m expecting the nitrite to follow up here shortly. Our other little pets (technically, a happy little colony of yest) seem to be doing pretty well – the airlock is bubbling every 8-10 seconds or so right now.

Why mead? I’m not really sure why, except that I’ve bought it a few times and liked it well enough, and you can’t deny the whole Beowulf vibe. Next stop, the mere.

That about sums it up. The friends we hosted last weekend passed through again last night before starting their return trip home today, so we had another table (their 6 + our 6)  full of kids at dinner. A good time was had by all, if the noise was any indication.

Now if only it would start warming up a little. I’m ready for the ground to thaw out a little, and we have all of our plant and seed catalogs at the ready. They’re stacked up, dog-eared and circled, just waiting.

Homebrewing, fossils and whatnot.

January 22, 2008

Last night I started a batch of mead. I didn’t take pictures because, frankly, there wasn’t a whole lot to see. One pot of steaming honey/water mixture (the must), a few odds and ends disinfecting in the sink and, finally, a sealed bucket with a little water airlock thingie on top. Now we wait. The recipe I’m following says to allow up to two weeks for the first fermentation stage, then the mead is siphoned off to a secondary vessel for about a month of aging/settling. After that, it’s bottled and let to sit for upwards of a year. My plan is to have this stuff ready, more or less, for this coming winter. Here’s hoping I haven’t created 5 gallons of honey-flavored vinegar. Once I’ve moved the stuff to the secondary (which is glass), I’ll take a picture. We’ll actually be able to see the stuff then. I was originally intending to try beer next, but the local homebrew shop has some nifty wine kits that look pretty idiot proof. Further reports as events warrant.

Tank is doing well…we think. The nitrites are still high, but the ammonia seems to have come down so I think we’re nearly done with the cycle. We’re down to one lone surviving glass shrimp, but the wood shrimp seems to be pretty happy. Fish are perky; plants are green.

Our guests have come and gone and I feel pretty safe in saying that a good time was had by all. They have six children as well, so for a glorious 48 hours or so there were twelve kids running around and 4 adults doing their best to stay out of the way. I took some of the older ones fossil hunting on Sunday afternoon, and we had a pretty good time pawing through piles of rock looking for crinoids and brachiopods.

The tiramisu was stellar, by the way. Easily surpassing anything we’ve had in a restaurant. The November issue of Cook’s Illustrated has it, but registration is required to see it at their website.

Otherwise things are going well. This will be a curtailed week on both ends, thanks to MLK on Monday and the cave trip this Friday.

Many have entered The Tank…

January 15, 2008

…and most have lived.

We lost one neon (within hours of introduction) and flushed a danio last night. Everyone else looks hale and colorful. Neons are wee, highly-strung little fish so I wasn’t too surprised to see one go fins-up. The danio had been a bit of an outcast for awhile. Anyway, enough about that. Our pH, nitrite and ammonia levels are still well below nasty. A few dwarf corys and we’ll be done with the fish population. We added a pair of dwarf flame gouramis who spend most of their time hanging around, trying to decided who is The Big Fish.

We’ve got our eyes on some ghost shrimp, and one local store has a bamboo shrimp that I just think is as cool as can be. Even though they don’t add much to the bioload, I want the tank to mature a bit longer before we add them. The ghosties need some detritus in the gravel to eat, and the bamboo shrimp will be filtering tasty treats directly from the water via some nifty fans on its front legs. The plants are all looking pretty good, too – new growth on the ludwigia and anubia, so the light levels are probably just right.

This past weekend, I also paid a visit to the local homebrew shop and came away with a basic kit for wine: two fermentation vessels (one of which is a glass carboy), some scrubbing brushes, racking cane, air lock, tubing and a hygrometer hydrometer. If I add a second carboy, I could make beer, but all in good time. All I need for mead is water, honey and time.