Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Using Oak in a Mead for the first time

In a pumpkin mead ready for racking, I decided to go for it and acquire a little oak. In this case, medium-toast Hungarian oak, at 1 ounce for the whole batch. Attempts to rig some sort of weighted bag or somesuch were futile, as it was impossible to get the silly things into the mouth of the carboy and the weight I would usually use (a clean, sanitized, stainless steel spoon) won't fit through the mouth. Fudge it. Let 'em float. I read on-line that many a home winemaker just takes a light hand with the oak, and waits for them to sink to the bottom. With this 5.5 gallon batch, a single ounce is 1/3 less than the recommended amount, and I am happy to exercise that restraint.

I poured just-boiled water on them to sanitize and dumped them into the carboy.

My hoses don't fit? Get a match.

I picked up an auto-siphon that I thought matched me extant tubing. No luck. The tube was too small to get over the mouth of the siphon, and too large to squeeze inside of the thing.

Auto-siphons are an important thing. Moving beer from one bucket to another cleanly, without muss or unsettling, is critical to the brewing process.

I was working on homebrew late at night, when all good homebrew shops were closed.

First, and this worked one time, I did my best folding and shoving job to get the mouth of the siphon to swallow a jammed-up tube. The tube was folded and bent to make this happen, and it did not form even remotely something resembling a good seal. I wrapped it, then, with saran wrap. I needed to tighten it more, so I also got some rubber bands rigged them above and below the saran bandage, tightening them with a plastic knife that I could twist inside the rubber, and leave in place.

Ugly, but it worked once. I was concerned about sanitation so I stripped the saran wrap, and thought I'd try something else.

The second thing I tried was taking a knife and cutting a harelip out of the tube. Then, I jammed it on as best I could, and got out a match to melt the plastics together. This worked for a little while.

When I was racking the home-toasted wheat malt porter down to the secondary, I heard the sucking sound of air in the line. Oh, no! I pushed hard while racking to seal it with pressure.

The whole mess is in the trash, now. Everything worked. Once.

It gets you through a brewday and replacements aren't too expensive. Next time double-check the line.