Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Equipment and instructions

I've been posting my recipes without explicit instructions, since my methods haven't changed much since the beginning. But let me go into a little more detail for those who've been asking.

Essentially, I boil water, throw in the dry ingredients, let them simmer for half an hour, and remove the wort from the heat. I've started adding the sugar at that point so I don't get sticky splatters all over the stove. Usually I only simmer the ingredients in half the water. Once it's cooled a little, I strain the wort and pour it into a gallon jug with the rest of the cool water. When it's down to 100 degrees (or the temp suggested on the yeast package), I pour a little into a dish and add the yeast to proof for 15 minutes and then pour that back into the wort. I've found that I get more evenly carbonated bottles if the yeast is totally dissolved (and thus evenly distributed.) I cap and shake the jug a bit to mix and aerate.

Then it goes into the bottles and capped. I use a powdered sanitizer to get everything clean, though I don't think it's as crucial as it is with beer, since it's only fermenting for a few days.

As far as equipment goes, you ought to be able to make do with what's in a regular kitchen and some used plastic soda bottles. (And I've had people highly recommend not using glass, since it will explode if you let it ferment too long with so much sugar.) I have managed to collect a few semi-specialized tools though.

I think this is all the equipment I use to make a batch:

pot for simmering
measuring cup and spoons
stirring spoon
bowl for proofing yeast
strainer and finer splatter guard to strain
bottle caps and capper

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ginger Ale #5

Throwing together a batch with dry lemon zest and a bit more ginger than last time for the holidays.

2 1/2 oz fresh ginger
8 cardamom pods
1/4 cup yarrow
2 Tbsp juniper berries
1 tsp white pine bark
1 tsp dry lemon rind
1/2 tsp citric acid
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 2/3 cups sugar
1/4 tsp champagne yeast
1 gal water

Fermented for 72 hours, mostly at 72 degrees. It got up to 80 with the oven light and no thermostat one evening, so I cracked the oven door overnight. Down to the low 60s in the morning.

When I tasted the wort, I was worried: it didn't seem to have any ginger bite to it. I picked up the ginger at an Asian market in Daly City, and biting into some leftover root, I didn't find much spice. Perhaps it was grown fast and wet? The spiciest ginger ale I've made was basically the same recipe, but with young ginger with very thin skin from Rainbow.

Once it had fermented, though, it came out quite nice. It doesn't really have any bite, but it is gingery nonetheless. The yarrow is quite pronounced and it tastes more like the standard canned ginger ale. With some rye whiskey, it makes a really good highball.