Your First Cider

I began thinking about apple cider last year, but this year I’m actually making some. I wanted to create an easy recipe so that most people could make their own cider, have fun doing it, and be proud of the result – a bit like the hard cider version of Leslie’s Apple Wine.

Ingredients: Apple juice and yeast

The juice can come from anywhere as long as it’s 100% apple juice with no preservatives. Advanced cider makers blend specific varietals to get just the right mix of acid, tannin, and sugar – not to mention flavor and aroma. For beginners I strongly recommend clarified, pasteurized juice. I’ll be using not-from-concentrate apple juice from Costco. From here you can just pour the juice into a fermenter and add yeast.

Wait! Don’t you have to measure the sugar and acidity? Aren’t they supposed to be within a certain range? Yes and yes, but if they were outside the broad targets for making cider, the juice wouldn’t taste very good (too flabby, too tart, too bland, etc …) so the manufacturer will be managing the sugar and acid of the commercial juice. Even though he won’t have cider in mind, you’ll probably be ok – I did say this was an easy recipe.

I really do encourage good measurements, though. Acidity should be between 3-5 g/L, as malic, or 3.4 – 5.6 g/L the way we usually measure wine (as tartaric). Specific gravity ought to be at least 1.045. If it’s not add sugar. For what it’s worth, I’ll be measuring.

Since the ingredient is just apple juice, the quantity is up to you. You want five gallons of cider? Use five gallons of juice. Have a small primary fermenter? Just use one gallon of juice. I’m using two gallons of juice and pouring it into a 3-gallon carboy – that will be my primary, and I’ll ferment it under an airlock. For each five gallons of juice, use one packet of yeast.

Best yeast for cider?

I think most yeast will work great – just keep in mind that each one has it’s own nutrient requirements, optimal temperature range, and alcohol tolerance. I usually recommend Red Star’s Premier Cuvee because it’s a reliable yeast that’s forgiving and gives good results. But I’m not taking my own advice this time.

I used to brew a lot of beer, and one yeast from my homebrewing days stands out: White Labs San Francisco Lager – it’s the only one I would pay up for. For this year’s cider, I’m using Wyeast California Lager (2112) a very similar (the same?) yeast that retains lager characteristics up to 65F. At $5/packet it’s not very economical, but it’s something I wanted to do – I’m hoping it’ll add something to the finished cider.


  1. Optional: Measure the specific gravity and titratable acidity of your juice. Adjust to SG 1.045 – 1.065 and TA 3.4 – 5.6 g/L as malic.
  2. Pour juice into primary fermenter.
  3. Add yeast.

If you want to make it more complicated, check out the “Variations” section, below.

Why not press your own juice?

Crushing and pressing apples yourself can be rewarding, and you’ll be able to control the blend that goes into your cider. If you know what you’re doing, you have the equipment, and you have access to high quality cider apples, you can make better cider this way. But if you’re new to cider making, it will just add an extra step – keep it simple when you’re starting out, get the basics right, then you can decide if the equipment and time are worth the cost.

And for small batches, the cost will be high. A combination apple grinder/press like the one pictured will cost about $750. A machine like that can be invaluable to a backyard grower, but not for someone just starting out making cider or someone who just wants to make a gallon or two.

Finally, buying clarified juice – juice that looks clear to the eye, not cloudy with sediment at the bottom – means you don’t have to worry about fining. In practical terms, it means your cider will be ready sooner with less work.


Cider can be sweet or dry – carbonated or still. Dry, still ciders are the easiest to make, but a lot of people, especially those who are new to cider, will prefer sweet and/or carbonated ciders. You can sweeten a still cider the same way you would a wine. You can carbonated a dry cider the same way you would a beer. Producing a sweet carbonated cider is tougher. You should get a few completed ciders under your belt before you try. But it can be done.

One approach is to carbonate a dry cider the way you would a beer, but disgorge the spent yeast as in the traditional method of Champagne production, and then, without spilling, add a syrup made with sugar, sulfite, and sorbate. Then quickly cap with a crown cap. I don’t have the space to cover this here, and it’s an advanced technique – don’t try it your first time!

So yes, you can make it as complicated as you like. But for your first cider, get some juice, add some yeast, and make cider!

Blending for Better Wine

Think Blending-Not Varietals ~ Bert Dunn

A lot of people know about Canadian wine, but some still think its too cold for wine grapes. In much of Canada it is too cold for the wine grapes that we’re familiar with. But hardy wine growers tend hardy grapes in the Great White North, and they make good wine by blending. Varietals that survive and ripen in cold climates may not be able to rival traditional wine grapes on their own, but if you blend good components, the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts. I think fruit wine makers have something to learn from this and we can up our game by blending.

Three simple wines and some thoughts on blending them

I’ve made apple wine for years, but my recipe for a simple step by step apple wine recipe is more recent. It started with a comment from Leslie asking for a simple recipe. A quick answering comment grew up into a blog post: Leslie’s Apple Wine Recipe. I made this wine and I’m really happy with it; it’s an easy drinking white with good flavor and aroma. I plan to make more, lots more, but I’ve also been thinking about blending it with other “grocery store wines.”

Like my white wine from Welch’s grape juice. If you haven’t made this, you really should – it’ll surprise you. Here’s the recipe: Bailout Blanc. It’s cheap, easy (not like that! easy to make) and versatile. Pop open a bottle when neighbors drop by on a summer afternoon. Use it to top up almost any other wine you make. Not sure if that new white you brought home is worth buying more? Blind taste it against some Welch’s Wine. If it can’t clear that hurdle, and some can’t, you have your answer. It costs less than $1/bottle, and for that you get a lot. But you don’t get everything. For one thing, the aroma is lacking. Might blending produce a wine with better aroma? Maybe a little complexity? One idea is blending with apple wine, which has good flavor and aroma.

Another is to blend it with Produce Department Chablis. I made a balanced wine with no faults and nice aroma that was bland. Maybe blending it with Welch’s Wine would produce good flavor and aroma – a better wine than each was individually. I haven’t made wine from supermarket grapes again, but I might – if only to see what sort of alchemy I can cook up by blending it.

Have you tried blending? How’d it turn out? I’d love to hear about it.

Mead Lover’s Digest Shutting Down?

For those that don’t know, the Digest has been a great source of mead making information. I’ve read it for years, and I’d hate to see it go. Still, Dick Dunn, “the Digest janitor” as he likes to call himself, makes a good point:

it’s wrong to hold out the MLD as a potential resource for new meadmakers, and then not deliver the goods. There are 12 new subscribers just since the last digest, who’ve seen absolutely nothing.  And the digest content has been falling year-on-year since 2005

Dick’s announcement triggered an outpouring of support, and he agreed to keep it going for now. The only question now is, will we get meaningful traffic. I don’t know how (or when or if) this story will end, but I just want to say thank you Dick for providing a great resource!

Also of interest to mead makers

Got Mead is the largest mead making forum I know of.

If you could only buy one book on mead making, it would have to be Ken Schramm’s The Compleat Meadmaker.

My own Simple Mead Recipe is a great way to get started making mead.

Leslie’s Apple Wine – Bottled!

Leslie's Apple WineTen months ago I posted a simple recipe for apple wine, at the request of a reader:

I really want to try making apple wine. I know pretty much nothing about wine making. I know of a homebrew shop about 45 minutes from me. I need to know everything I will need to make a sweet apple wine, and I also need step-by-step instructions.

I created an easy recipe for Leslie on the fly. Now, it’s one thing to say that a recipe is easy to make, but how do you know until you try it yourself? That’s what I did, and I’m very happy with the result: an easy to make wine that was ready to bottle quickly and tastes good. What really jumped out at me from this experience was the importance of choosing between unfiltered and clarified juice.

Make wine fast with clarified juice

I’ve made a lot of apple wine, but this is the first time I used clarified juice. I would always buy unfiltered juice; it’s cloudy with a visible sediment at the bottom, and a lot of people (including me!) expect it to taste better than the bright clear juice that next to it on the grocery store shelf. To find out, I’d need to make two batches, as identical as I could except that one used clear juice and the other unfiltered, taste them blind and see. I haven’t done that, so I don’t know.

But I do know that if you want to make good wine quickly, the clarified juice wins hands down. I bottled bright clear wine ten months after pitching the yeast without fining. Doesn’t sound quick to you? It had been bulk aging for four months and hadn’t thrown sediment – not a hint, even after agitating. So I could have bottled four months earlier – that’s only five months after pitching the yeast.

Even accounting for delays or snafus, I’m confident I could bottle bright clear wine in six months every time. Faster with a fining regimen.

Be patient and take notes

Ready to bottle and ready to drink aren’t the same thing. It’s good now, but I’ve seen apple wine improve up to two years. So if you make this, try to spread it out. Drink some now, and open a bottle every few months. Take notes – even if you don’t think you have much to say. Was it smoother (harsher) than you remember? Is the aroma more or less pronounced? Or different in some other way? How about the color? Write it down! You’ll want to know this when you bottle your next batch.

Running the numbers

You’ll also want to know how the wine analyzed out. If you haven’t looked into the nitty gritty of calculating the alcohol content from specific gravity readings, you’ll be surprised at how complex and inexact it can be. I plugged in my original and final gravities into a number of online calculators, and got a range of 13.3% – 13.7%. I’ll save the discussion of just what goes into these calculations, and why different online calculators might not agree for another time. For now, I’ll just call it 13.5% alcohol. It had a final gravity of 0.994 and a TA of 6.5 g/L, as tartaric. pH was 3.5. On paper, it looks like a crisp, dry white.

How does the apple wine taste?

And that’s exactly what it tastes like. Apple wine can be fruity or neutral or anything in between. This one has good flavor, with a hint of apple, and a nice finish. I’ve tasted country wines that seemed watery, and others that were full bodied. This one was right in the middle with a just-right medium body. The aroma was muted and it had a refreshing acidity that wasn’t too tart.

About the label

A good wine deserves an attractive label, and for that you need good artwork. I struck gold when Courtney Bell agreed to let me use this image. The color scheme, the apples, and the first rate photography make it perfect on an apple wine label.

Since there isn’t a lot of room when it comes to the text, what you leave out is as important as what you put in. My labels usually have a header, “Apple Wine,” in this case. At the bottom goes a footer, and here I included my website url and a copyright notice from Courtney. Informational text includes the batch number, so I can refer to my notes, and some basic measurements.

What about your own labels? Think about wine that you’ve bought. Were you curious about something, but couldn’t find it on the label? Put that in yours. What about things that you glossed over? Don’t clutter up your label – leave those sorts of things out.

A great way to start

If you’re thinking about making wine, this recipe is a great way to start. By using clarified juice, you save a lot of steps like processing the fruit and fining the wine. That makes it an easy recipe that’s ready quickly. Another good choice is Welch’s Wine. So stop thinking about it and do it!

Plum Liqueur Recipe

Liqueur is simpler than wine because it’s not fermented, and though some will age well, most are ready to drink quickly. That’s why I wanted to make liqueur from my small plum harvest. Like all fresh fruit liqueurs, this one will need some time for extraction – pulling the sugar, color, and flavor from the fruit into the liquid. In a way, that extraction step is a bit like the primary fermentation step in making wine. Making liqueur starts to look very different from winemaking, however, when you think about alcohol, sugar, clearing, and aging. I’ll have more to say on that later, but first, here’s the recipe:

Ingredient Amount US Measure
Plums 1 kg 2.2 lb
Table Sugar 500 g 1.1 lb
Vodka (80 proof) 2 L 2 L*
Fruit Protector 22 ml 1.5 Tablespoons

* Yes, “2 liters” is the US Measure of vodka. Don’t believe me? Go into any liquor store in the US and try to buy vodka by the quart. Go right now, I’ll still be here when you get back 🙂

I based this recipe on a recipe for Umeshu, Japanese liquor made from unripe plums. It’s different enough from other liqueurs I’ve seen and different enough from Umeshu (made from unripe ume plums – which I understand are more like apricots than plums) to be interesting. It’s also easily scalable. How often do you have exactly 1 kg of plums? When I made this recipe, my plums weighed in at 825 g, so I scaled everything by 0.825:

  • 825 g plums
  • 413 g sugar
  • 1650 ml vodka


You’ll need a container that can hold all of the ingredients (like a bucket with a lid), a strainer, and a jug with stopper. After that, it’s quick and easy:

  • Clean and sanitized the container.
  • Add plums.
  • Pour sugar over plums.
  • Add vodka.
  • Stir.
  • Cover and let sit in a cool dark place for a 2-4 weeks, stirring occasionally.
  • Strain into a cleaned and sanitized jug. Let sit in a cool dark place for 4 more weeks.
  • Bottle.

Sugar and alcohol

There’s more alcohol in liqueur than in wine (about 20% by volume), and you add it directly (as vodka, usually). Liqueurs are sweeter too – from 15 – 30% sugar (by weight). Sometimes higher. Making a recipe revolves around the amount of alcohol, sugar, and water you want in the final product. This recipe will yield about 25% alcohol (by volume) and 18% sugar (by weight). I wouldn’t go below 20% alcohol, but feel free to vary the sugar and alcohol to your taste.

If you’re wondering why I report alcohol content by volume and sugar content by weight, it’s because you’d get some weird results if you tried to figure sugar content by volume. Try dissolving 2 cups of sugar in 1 cup of water (you may need to boil briefly). Once it’s back a room temperature, you’ll have about 2 cups of syrup. So is it 50% water and 100% sugar? If you do it by weight, it’s roughly 60% sugar, 40% water – adds up to 100%, like it should. I’d do alcohol that way too, but it’s just too common to report alcohol by volume.

Fruit Protector

Were you wondering about that ingredient? It’s a combination of sugar, vitamin C, and citric acid that’s used in home canning to keep fruit from browning. I’ve seen it in some liqueur recipes, so I decided to try it in mine. As a winemaker, I’m tempted to use sulfite for the same purpose, and I also wonder about how acidity affects the final taste. It’s available in supermarkets, and you can order it online.

Those are things I’ll look into later. Right now, it’s time to open a bottle of plum liqueur and hit the send button 🙂

Know Your Ingredients: Blueberries

With a nice flavor and spicy aroma, blueberries make a good dry red wine.

First some basics: There are about 109 blueberries in one cup (240 ml), and they weigh about 5.2 oz (148 grams).1 Fresh blueberries keep best when stored cold, just above 32F (0C).2 They keep well frozen, too, and the freeze/thaw cycle helps in extraction.

Citric is the dominant acid, and all titratable acidity (TA) numbers in this post will be as citric. Almost all the sugar is glucose and fructose.

Composition of blueberries

Table 1: Blueberry and grape composition1
Component Blueberries Grapes
Water 84.21 80.54
Protein 0.74 0.72
Fat 0.33 0.16
Ash 0.24 0.48
Fiber 2.4 0.9
Total Sugar 9.96 15.48
Starch 0.03 0

The amounts are g/100 g, and do not add up to 100 because the test for each component is subject to experimental error3. About 5%, by weight, will be refuse – things like stems or unsuitable berries – so either use the data on sorted, stemmed fruit or scale your answer by 95%. To find the amount of sugar in 100 lb of fresh blueberries, for example, multiply by 0.096 (9.96% sugar) and by 0.95 (95% usable fruit). That would be 100 lb * 0.096 * 0.95 = 9.12 lb.

Measuring sugar content

Hydrometer and refractometer readings don’t work well to estimate sugar in raspberries, like they do for grapes. Ever since I found this out, I’ve been wondering about other fruit. What about blueberries? They look more like grapes than raspberries in table 1. Oh, they have more fiber than grapes, and this can make sugar a smaller proportion of soluble solids, but they have only a third the fiber of raspberries. Also, blueberry sugar content is double that of raspberries. Both of those things should mean that your hydrometer or refractometer will get you much closer to actual sugar content of blueberries than they will for raspberries.

Some data to quantify “should” and “closer” in the table below. This is from a study on how peat, sawdust, and cocoa husks affect blueberries, but I was more interested in the brix and sugar numbers they reported:

Table 2: Brix vs Sugar Content in Blueberries4
Substrate Brix Total Sugar Sugar Brix Ratio
Average 14.15 12.11 85.6
Peat 14.45 12.04 83.3
Sawdust 13.95 12.30 88.2
Cocoa Husk 14.05 11.98 85.3

Total Sugar is percentage of fresh weight, and if all soluble solids were sugar, then Brix would equal Total Sugar. The Sugar Brix Ratio expresses sugar as a percentage of soluble solids. What a difference! Sugar is over 85% of soluble solids in blueberries, compared to not quite 30% for raspberries.

How much pectic enzyme for your blueberry wine?

I have seen blueberries listed with “low pectin fruit” in some places. Others have said that blueberries have a “medium” pectin content, and at least one described blueberry pectin content as “high.” I wasn’t able to find reliable numbers, so I fall back on indirect methods. Pectin is a form of soluble fiber, and according to table 1 blueberries have about 2.5x the fiber as the same amount of grapes. Does that mean blueberries have 2.5x the pectin as grapes? I really don’t know, but sometimes you’ve just got to work with what you have. There’s no downside to adding more pectic enzyme than you need, so I recommend using 2.5x the recommended dosage for grapes on your blueberries. Remember to use weight of the fruit and not volume of the must – your blueberry must is likely to contain added water.

Average Stats
Brix: 13.234,6
Sugar (g/100 g): 11.471,4,5
TA (% citric): 0.9374,5,6
pH: No Data
Yield (%): 87.944

Making blueberry wine

Blueberries have more acid and less sugar than grapes, but they are similar enough to make dry red wine. Use the weight of your fruit and the juice yield in the average stats to estimate the volume of juice in your fruit. Don’t worry if you don’t get that yield. Most home winemakers wont, but with time the free run juice and the juice trapped in the pulp will become more similar. At pressing, after several days of fermentation, the juice you leave behind will be very close in composition to the juice you press out.

A hydrometer or refractometer can be a pretty good guide to sugar content of blueberries, so the place to start is with a good clear juice sample – filter with a paper towel, then a coffee filter. Test the specific gravity and titratable acidity, then use the Wine Recipe Wizard for recommendations on how much water and sugar syrup to add.

Say you have 100 lb of blueberries and they test out to the values in my average stats box. That would be about 45 kg, and a 87.94% yield indicates 39.6 liters of juice. A brix of 11.47 is equivalent to a specific gravity of 1.046, and we’ll use the average titratable acidity of 0.937% as citric. I don’t know how you like your red wine, but lets pick a target gravity of 1.090, for this example, and a target acidity of 0.6%. The Wine Recipe Wizard suggests 10.3 liters of water and 12.1 liters of sugar syrup. It says you’ll have 62 liters of must after that, but remember these calculations are juice only – you’ll be fermenting on the pulp so your must will be larger.

Freeze and thaw the blueberries to break the cell walls, release the juice, and allow the yeast to do their work. Ferment your must for 3-5 days, then press. Continue fermenting the pressed wine under an airlock.

Is blueberry wine prone to stuck fermentation?

I’ve read a lot about stuck fermentation in blueberry wine, but I’ve never been able to get anything more definitive than, “lots of people say so.” For the record, I’ve had a stuck fermentation on a country wine style (3-5 lb fruit/gallon must) blueberry wine. It turned out to be a nutrient deficiency. I say that because I got it going again after adding more nutrient and a new starter. Another blueberry wine, made more like a red wine from grapes, fermented out normally and quickly.

If you’re worried about a stuck fermentation in blueberry wine choose a hardy yeast like Red Star’s Premeir Cuvee or Lavlin’s EC-1118. Stay well within the yeast’s temperature range. Blueberry wine lends itself to a red style anyway, and red wines are normally fermented at warmer temperatures than whites. Use yeast nutrient and follow the directions. Keep an eye on pH, especially if you’re making it like a country wine.

Bookmark this page, and help keep it up to date!

The Know Your Ingredients series is a way of collecting useful information on various wine bases. Its the sort of thing I’ve googled for, but couldn’t find, when starting a new style of wine. I hope I’ve saved you some trouble. Nobody’s perfect, though, so if you notice a mistake or something worth adding please leave a comment and let me know. I’d especially like well-sourced data on blueberry pH and pectin content.


1) USDA National Nutrient Database Great information on the composition of many foods. I used the keyword “blueberries” and the food group “fruit & fruit juices,” and selected raw blueberries to find information for this post.

2) On Food and Cooking – Haraold McGee
This is a book on cooking that every winemaker should have. It’s packed with information on all sorts of ingredients, like blueberries and other fruit. It puts blueberries at 11% sugar and 0.3% acid (a little low compared to my other sources), by weight.

3) Documentation for USDA National Nutrient Database When you really want to know how the USDA determined the amount of fat in raspberries – or how and why they did anything in the nutrient database – look here.

Evaluates the influence of three types of substrates (peat, sawdust and cocoa husk) on yield, quality and chemical composition of highbush blueberries. Good data on sugar content, soluble solids, acidity, and juice yield of blueberries.

Studied the nutritional properties of highbush blueberries and how they changed during storage, but I was interested in the total sugar (10.87, 11.83, 11.22, 11.53 % fresh weight) and titratable acidity (0.54, 0.80, 0.81, 0.87 % fresh weight) at time zero.

6) Chemical composition of selected cultivars of highbush blueberry fruit – Katarzyna Skupien.
Compared the basic chemical composition of four varieties of highbush blueberries. These four are tested over three years giving twelve observations of brix and titratable acidity.

Notes and Further Reading

The Average Stats table is just me with a calculator averaging the values in my sources. Real world agricultural commodities vary, but I’ve tried to make this a good starting point.

There are many Brix/Specific Gravity tables on the web. Here is one.

Hopefully your yeast will always ferment out, but if not, here is how I deal with a stuck fermentation.

Raspberry Wine: How the pros do it

Winemaker magazine has a good article on commercial raspberry wine and how two wineries make it. There are striking similarities between the two, but each has a unique style and that means there are some important differences. Lets look at both and see what we can learn.

Denny Franklin of Pheasant Hollow Winery

Mr. Franklin aims for a must of 21-22 Brix, ferments dry, then sweetens to 4-6% sugar. That’s a lot of sugar, but the high acidity of raspberries leaves it tasting less sweet that you might think. He notes that pressing can be difficult and advises patience – be slow and deliberate. He doesn’t use recipes, but provides a lot of info on the typical quantities he uses. I was able to scale those down and distill his method into a recipe:

Ingredients for 6.25 – 7.5 gallons (23.7 – 28.4 liters) of Raspberry Wine
Item US Measure Metric Measure
Frozen Raspberries 40 lb 18 kg
Sugar 10 lb 4.5 kg
Water 1 gallon 3.8 liters
Superfood 7 g 7 g
Pectic Enzyme unspecified unspecified
Bentonite 7 g 7 g


  • Use frozen raspberries, dissolve sugar in water then add to raspberries
  • Add pectic enzyme and stir
  • Pitch yeast (Lalvin EC-1118) when the must reaches 50F (10C)
  • Ferment at 75-80F (24-27C), punch down the cap twice per day
  • Press when it has fermented out (about 7-8 days)
  • Fine with bentonite (1 g/gallon)
  • Cold settle at 26-30F (-3 to -1 C)
  • Filter or age & rack until clear
  • Stabilize and sweeten to taste ~ usually 4-6%, 0.68–1.0 lb/gallon (81–118 g/L)

Christine Lawlor-White of Galena Cellars Winery

Lawlor-White offered less detail about quantities, so no recipe. But experienced winemakers should be able to make good use of her method. She notes the same difficulty in pressing as Mr Franklin, and suggests rice hulls. She doesn’t specify a residual sugar level or discuss sweetening, but I’ve got to think she’s not out to make dry wine with 100% raspberries.

  • Use frozen raspberries, freeze fresh ones, to get better extraction
  • Sugar to 23 brix, 8-14 Brix from raspberries & 1 Brix for each 0.084 lbs. (0.038 kg) sugar
  • Sulfite frozen raspberries to 50 ppm, then cover with dry sugar
  • Stir in sugar when the raspberries have thawed
  • Pitch yeast when must reaches 50F (Lavlin EC-1118 or V-1116)
  • Ferment between 50-60F (10-16C)
  • Skim off cap w/slotted spoon and discard to avoid cloudy bitter wine from ellagic acid contact
  • Press after 5 days, even if still fermenting, to get the wine off the fruit ASAP
  • Press with rice hulls to improve yield

One’s like a red, the other like a white

Both use frozen raspberries, neither dilutes with water, and both pitch the yeast at 50F. They both recommend Lavlin EC-1118 yeast. Mr Franklin makes his raspberry wine a lot like a conventional red wine: punch down the cap, press after it’s fermented out, ferment at a relatively high temperature. Lawlor-White, on the other hand, ferments cool and presses early. She also scoops out and discards as much of the cap as she can. It’s more like a white or rose. And yet, I imagine her white is full bodied and brimming with flavor – unlike any white or rose you’ve ever had.

Lesson learned: Avoid acid reduction – sweeten instead

What really stands out is that they both make undiluted raspberry wine, while nearly every raspberry wine recipe I’ve seen calls for a small amount of fruit (3 lb or so per gallon) and a lot of water. The reason for this, aside from cost savings, is that raspberries are so high in acid. Yet, neither winemaker mentions reducing the acid, and here I’d like to talk about my own experience. My last raspberry wine was from juice, like Lawlor-White I don’t want my raspberry wine fermenting on the fruit, and much less water than most recipes. I tried to make a dry wine and reduce the acid. It was a pretty drastic reduction and I think it affected the flavor. I wasn’t happy with the result, and I now recommend sweetening to bring raspberry wine into balance.

Red or white?

As I said, I’m wary enough of fermenting on the fruit that I make raspberry wine from juice. That said, the decision to make it like a red or white is a stylistic difference. The only way to know which is right for you is to make both and try them. Yes, that means drinking a lot of raspberry wine, but you’ll just have to take one for the team and drink up!

Best Of Twitter

I’ve been posting to twitter – I still can’t bring myself to say “tweeting” – for about a year now, and here are some of my favorites:

October 24, 2010: You are 90 percent more likely to buy red wine if you buy onions & more the wine industry has learned about you:

October 13, 2010: Want to make beer in a coffeemaker with Vegemite and raisin bran? Me neither, but it’s fun to read about!

August 18, 2010: Were wine bottling just invented, would we “stop up the end with chunks of Portuguese tree bark?” The case for screwcaps:

August 14, 2010: A home winemaker from a little town in Pennsylvania became an international champion with plans to go pro:

May 12, 2010: What’s really going on with sulfites? Here’s a great article on sulfites, histamines, allergies and wine:

March 17, 2010: Winemakers use hydrometers to measure sugar content. Works well for wine grapes, can be way off in other fruit:

I think my twitter experiment is going well. I’ve been able to share a lot more information than with my blog alone. You can click here to follow me on twitter.

More Bees, More Honey, and Higher Prices

The USDA just released their latest honey report, and it was a banner year in 2010. Domestic honey production surged by 20% to 176 million pounds, and the number of producing honeybee colonies rose 7% to 2.68 million. Per colony yield was up 12% to 65.5 pounds (29.7 kg). Inventories grew, for the first time in a long time, to 45.3 million pounds (20.5 million kg) – a 21% increase – and the USDA’s “all honey” price climbed 9% to a record $1.603/lb.

Last regular post on CCD

Here we have another year – the fifth – that honeybees have not been wiped out, that US honey production did not plummet, and that US agriculture did not collapse because of Colony Collapse Disorder. It’s becoming a challenge to find different ways of saying that, and it’s becoming sillier every year to speak of extinction or “spring without honeybees.” So this may be my last regular post about CCD. It was first reported in 2006. I started writing about it the following year, and every year since. But going forward, I expect to write only if there is a significant development.

I’ve summarized production, colony count, and yield since 2005 (the last full year before Colony Collapse Disorder struck) in the table below.

US Honeybee Colonies And Honey Production
Year Production (millions) Producing Colonies Yield
2005 174 lb (79 kg) 2.41 million 72.4 lb (32.8 kg)
2006 155 lb (70 kg) 2.39 million 64.7 lb (29.3 kg)
2007 148 lb (67 kg) 2.44 million 60.8 lb (27.6 kg)
2008 161 lb (73 kg) 2.30 million 69.9 lb (31.7 kg)
2009 144 lb (65 kg) 2.46 million 58.5 lb (26.5 kg)
2010 176 lb (65 kg) 2.68 million 65.5 lb (29.7 kg)

Record honey prices in 2010

I still plan to track and report on honey prices. As mentioned earlier, the USDA reported that their “all honey” price set a record high last year, and that agrees with my own data. I keep track of the price of honey at Costco and honey packers that sell in bulk online. That gives me a good idea of what a mead maker would pay when buying honey in bulk. I’ll go over my spreadsheet and distill that into an article on honey prices.

Twitter For Windbags?

I don’t text, therefore I don’t tweet. Maybe if Descartes were alive today he might say something like that. I just never saw the point of Twitter – heck I’m probably past the 140 character limit already and I haven’t really said anything. So what am I doing on Twitter? I probably still don’t “get it,” but I think I see how it might be useful.

What’s twitter good for?

I come across interesting things that relate to wine all the time. News, blogs, talking to people, or what have you. It’s an interesting world and by paying attention I end up with a lot of scribbled notes, bookmarks, and half-remembered conversations. If I have enough  time, interest, and knowledge some of this turns into blog posts. The rest? Well I can’t just say, “here’s a link that might lead to something.” What kind of a post would that be?

Then it hit me. It wouldn’t be a post at all – it would be a tweet!

That got me thinking about twitter some more, and I realized it could complement my blog feed. Anyone can subscribe to the feed. It’s easy, it’s free and it automatically notifies you every time there’s a new post. There’s even a separate feed for comments. No need to check back manually to see if there’s a new post or if someone responded to your comment. But sometimes I update old posts as I learn more about the topic, and there’s no good way for people to monitor that.

Unless maybe I tweeted about it.

So I’ve experimenting with twitter, and I think it might be useful. You can click here to follow me on twitter to find out about new posts, updates to old posts, and links that might be interesting. In the meantime, I’ll try to find a good profile picture. And maybe figure out what all those numbers and abbreviations mean!

More about twitter

More than you wanted to know about the psychology of Twitter ~ Twitter: 10 Psychological Insights

Twitter like communication circa 1900 ~ Tweets of Old