Friday, December 02, 2016

Cherry Wine

UPDATE 12/9/2016 

First racking complete.  The gravity reading was already at 1.000.  I am floored.  Already nearing the 10% ABV.  The smells thus far have been fruity, slightly banana-y.  I hope the banana is not a sign of amyl-acetate, which could lead to acetic acid.  From smelling it to tasting it so far, I do not think that is the path this will take.  The smell is very light, and it may even just be that I do not recognize the fruitiness of the cherry fermentation.  When I stick my nose in a glass of it, I don't get the banana smell.  The other reason for the smell is that its a naturally occurring byproduct of the fermentation.  I have been keeping it at a steady 19-20 C (66-68 F -- I have been using Celsius more since the STC-1000 is more accurate with that scale), so it is definitely in the Montrachet yeast temperature range.  The probe is actually taped to the side of the carboy.  I think it is time to invest in a bung that allows me to insert the probe deeper.  Time will tell, I suppose.

Speaking of sticking my nose in a glass, I tasted it.  It is tart.  But not too tart, and it is getting dry.  I feel like I have lost some of the cherry taste, but it is so early to make that decision.  I am tasting a lot of different chemicals that are being released that will either be dissipated or transformed into a different molecule.  The end product will be interesting.
Lots of yeast, clarity comes in time.

Going back to the tartness, I had a feeling this might come about due to the fact that my mother-in-law thought they were sour cherries.  I guess the smart thing for me would have been to taste them and see....

I can't get over the color....



I was given nearly16lbs of cherries from my mother-in-law down in Ste. Genevieve, Mo.  Wine Country.  This was almost a year ago.  My son was just turning 1, and life was crazy, so I froze them.  They laid in the deep freeze for nearly a year.  Until a few days ago, I took them out and let them defrost in their bags for 24 hours in a cooler, and than another 24 hours in my keg side of my side-by-side keezer.  It sits around 36F.

Once the kids were asleep I put together my plan that I had formulated over the month from reading what others have done, what I have done in the past, and aiming for what I wanted.  It went something like this:

Day 1
  • I have hard water, well actually soft now because of the water softener.  I am particular about water when it comes to beer, but I know it doesn't matter as much with the wine.  I still wanted control.  So I fired up BeerSmith, gathered 6 gallons of distilled water, retrieved a water profile from East California, and measured out my salt additions.
  • I fired up the propane burner, put my SS HLT on and dumped all my water plus salt additions.
  • I waited for a boil, added 10lbs of sugar, let it dissolve.
  • Put all the cherries in a Brew-in-a-bag.
  • Add tsp of tannin to the water.(Looking back at this, I don't know if this was smart since I never pitted the cherries, and the tannins can leak from the pits if I am not careful. We'll see.)
  • I also than added...wait for it...8tsp of Tartaric Acid.  Yeah, you read that right.  I though I grabbed Acid Blend....nope.  Again, we'll see how it goes.  I hope not missing out on the acids that are normally found in this fruit doesn't come to bite me.  
  • Poured the boiling water on the cherries. Only 5 gallons, the other gallon was used due to dead space.
  • Crushed 5 campden tablets and stirred it in.
  • Covered with a cheese cloth for 24 hours.

Day 2
  • Tested the pH, hoping that maybe it was high enough that
    I could add some Acid blend...nope. 3.22 pH.  Lower than I wanted, but I will take it.
  • Titrated for  TA%, 7.125%, a % point to high for what I wanted.
  • S.G. 1.072.  This will probably ferment out dry.  I am going to watch it and see if I can stop it.  If not, I may back sweeten.  The alcohol % will probably float around 8-9%.
    • Yes, I could have added more sugar at this point, and I had 4lbs of it ready to go, but I want to see what happens.
  • Sprinkled a packet of Montrachet yeast, capped it, and put it in its home, the fermenter side of my keezer at 70F.


Day 1 took an hour to complete, Day 2 took roughly 30 minutes. The taste of the wine was sweet and cherry.  The color was beautiful blush pink.  I have high hopes.  Even though my percentages were off, and the wrong acid was added, I still feel good about this wine.  That may change later...but all it will cost me is a few hours, and about $10 worth of supplies, I can drink to that.  Updates to come as anything new changes.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Matuz's Side by Side Keezer/Fermentation Chamber Build

I wanted to write and document this process for two main reasons.
  1. The main purpose of this blog is for us, the authors, to stay up to date with what we are doing in regards to brewing and winemaking.
  2. Create a DETAILED guide for those interested in doing something similar.
I know there are numerous message boards/forums of people talking about this same type of project, and posting pictures, but I always felt like it was lacking details with just a posting of 2-5 pictures and then the author saying something along the lines of, "Your situation may vary."  True, depending on the make and model of side by side you get, whether you are working with 110v or 220v, or if you choose to do your wiring with or without a junction box, it will vary.  But not by too much.  I feel like a lack of a detailed process for people to follow causes many people to shy away from doing something like this because they may think that it is to much of an undertaking for someone with just a beginner's or moderate amount of skills/knowledge in DIY or electric work.  I hope this changes your minds.  Anyone with motivation, electric screw driver/drill, saw, socket set, and something to cut metal(Dremel or tin snips) can do this.  If you don't have those things then I suggest getting them (you should have basic tools!), or borrow from a friend/neighbor.

Before we get started, here are all of the tools that I used and equipment..  You may need less or more, but this will pretty much cover anything you need to do.

  • Really big screw driver(mostly for prying)
  • Red and Green Tin Snips
  • Dremel
    • Bit to grind through metal and plastic(sometimes one bit can do both)
  • Hammer
  • Electric Drill with 1/4" bit, but really most any size will work...just making a hole.
    • Step bit, not entirely necessary....I had one, I used it.
  • Ryobi Impact Driver
    • Phillips head bit
    • Socket head bit (not necessary if you just want to use the socket wrench, but this is faster)
    • Quick change magnetic bit holder(the open end actually fit the hex bolts)
  • Power saw
  • Level
  • Tape Measure
  • Pencil
  • Safety Goggles and Mask (Trust me...with the plastic and foam flying everywhere...)
  • Plastic Junction box
    • Standard wall outlet
  • 8' of a power cord
  • 115v AC powered cooling fan
  • 4" dryer vent
  • Wire strippers
  • Electric Tape
  • Wire nuts
  • Can of spray foam
  • Wood for taps to to be installed on
  • Plywood for shelves (Had some laying around)
  • Angle Iron, I used about 8-10'
  • ~50 1/4" Hex head self tapping screws and washers
  • (2) ITC-1000F Thermostats (

Alright, so this is what I started with. A Kenmore Coldspot Model 106.59702992. I got it off Craigslist for $150, the seller wanted $170...the usual Craigslist haggling.  I made sure he had it one before I got there so I could test to see that the freezer side was working properly as well as the fridge side.  I looked for all areas/possibilities that a hose or wire could feed through, and I also checked for, and this is a BIG MUST, that the thermostat controls were dials...NOT DIGITAL.  I also liked that it had the water/ice dispenser on the front...makes a great place to feed tap lines and place a wood plate for taps to install on.

Nothing special...yet.

Check the FULL LOAD amps...make sure it does not exceed what your temperature controller can handle.  Mine was 6.5amps and the ITC-1000F I got said it could handle up to 10amps.
All shelves on this side are coming out, as well as the ice maker.
 A lot of fridges are made with the same parts.  Antonio needed a new ice maker...guess what ice maker fit his fridge perfectly?  Yep, that's right.  I also used those baskets in the freezer as organizational baskets in my deep freeze.  Reuse as much as you can, or sell parts on Craigslist...recoup some cost of this project if you can.

Dial thermometers...Good!  All glass shelves are coming out, and the door shelves, I will hold on to in case I have room in the fermentation chamber to possibly store items.

Pulling and detaching shelves is the easy part.  Now it is time to go after the stuff that is screwed in.
The icemaker was easily removed by unscrewing three screws in which you can see their holes on the left.  Then detach the electric plug.

Now remove the motor for the ice crusher...again just screws...4 on each side.

This plate can get removed as well to give you  more space for your kegs.  The bottom plate will stay to protect the freezer coils.
Now I went ahead and got rid of the spout that would drain water into the ice maker.  You can see the light from the sun coming through.  This is a good sign...and I'll show you why...

Back side of spout.  Two screws, get rid of them.

Now just pull it out...and voila!  A hole to send your Carbon Dioxide line through, therefore freeing up more space in the freezer and fridge sides!

Now it is time to disconnect the water lines.  We don't need them and they will just get in the way. Follow the polyethylene plastic tubes to the bottom and unscrew/cut the lines.
I removed the cardboard.  Inside was dust and mouse poop....I don't see much of a reason to use that cover again.

The blue spigot with threads is where the water line was coming from, I just unscrewed it.

Two more lines, each going in/out of the fridge side.

There was a huge dirty, moldy, coiled up roll of tubing in the fridge side behind the drawers.  No need for it.  Cut and pull it all out.  In to the trash.
Ok, I removed, unscrewed, cut, and pulled a lot of things out right now.  Time to do some cleanup before I tackle the electrical stuff.  Help is never to far away...just chuck it all into the garden wheel barrow, I'll roll it to the trash later.

I started by removing anymore light bulbs I could find.  I also looked inside and under for all possible screws that hold the control panel together.

You can see one of the two or three screws that I had to remove.

Taking the cover off was easy, just get behind it with your nails or a flat head screwdriver and pop it out. Work your way down and the tabs come out easy.  Remove the dials first, and memorize, or take a picture of which dial controls which side.

Oh look, more screws. One the left and right(out of picture).

Almost all of the wires you will now see are non-essential to our purposes.  For example, the yellow and white wire hanging down from the top and going to a connector then to the control panel...yeah that is for a light bulb.   How do I know?  Because the same two wires are popping out in the middle of the fridge where a light bulb outlet is located.  DO NOT CUT ANY WIRES RIGHT NOW!
Gently let it down and take in what you see.
For the most part we will be cutting into only three wires: hot, neutral, and ground.  Hot is almost always RED, Neutral is almost always WHITE, and Ground(earth) is always GREEN.  If you do not see any of those colors, or are still unsure, than I suggest looking up your refrigerator's wiring diagram online. is a great place, as well as a little Google-fu.  If they do not provide what you are looking for, take a picture(more the better), and contact me.  I'll see what I can figure out for you.

Let's look closer....shall we...
Disconnect the yellow and white wires from the clip, and unscrew the green ground wire.

This plug has about 9+ wires coming in and out of it.  Our main power wire(RED) is coming through here.  Disconnect this clip. DO NOT CUT!!

That circuit board helps control the defrost timer and the ability for the door to dictate when the lights turn on and off.  We do not need that.  Get rid of it.  Yes this means, from time to time you will have to do a manual defrost.  Just remove the kegs, remove the metal shield protecting the coils, blow dry the coils and remove the frost, put it all back together.

Freezer thermostat.  You can see the red wire in the back left, and the white wire.  Green/ground is coming out to the right.

Getting ready to disconnect the plug, and remove that screw that hold that cover going to the cold air vent.

More wires leading to plugs, unclip them.  You can also see the temperature probes.  They are translucent and gray.

I am getting rid of these as well, the STC-1000 comes with probes.  Just pull them out.  They are metal, but they bend.

Here is the freezer side probe.  I'll pull it through the cold air vent.

I got rid of the vent that came with the fridge because I installed an AC(alternating current) fan with a dryer vent cover(like the one on the outside of your house).  Much better control and power.  It will hook up with the STC-1000 and turn on when I need more cold air, and the vent will close when the fan is off.
Just pull.

...but don't forget about any clips that may be on the freezer side holding the vent in place.

The only thing holding this all on is the main plug...time to unclip.

I highly recommend taking several shots of the original wiring.  Use different angles.

The freezer door has wires going through the top hinge.  Just a know what to do.
There is also a ground wire that can be left screwed in place.

Time to clean.  Bleach and Vinegar.  I filled a large bowl with two capfuls of bleach, and half to a cup of vinegar.  Put on the rubber gloves(TRUST ME) and start scrubbing with a NEW sponge and abrasive pad, (Not metal).  Use some elbow grease, if the stains do not come out let it soak a bit and try again.  


After. There is just something about the smell of bleach that says,"CLEAN!"

 The tap lines will come out of the drink dispenser, so all of that has to be removed.  The cover had some tough clips holding it on.  Took a flat head screw driver, claw of a hammer(and rag), and some muscle to remove it.

Oh hey, more wires...unclip.

Unclip everything...there were some wires that went up through the dispenser into the door.  I cut those.  They lead to that previous clip I showed you on the freezer door hinge.

Just pull the wires up from the top of the door.  I had to remove some rubber around the wires at the dispenser to make it pull easier.

Unscrew the ground wire now.
 Back to the dispenser.  Find screws, remove them, pull and push to get all of those contraptions out.

That was all the time I had for that day, so I cleaned up and took my wires with me.  I returned that evening when the kiddos went to sleep to make the first hole for the STC-1000.
Keep the control box, we will use it to house, hide our wires.  Find the screws and take them out.  This will release all thermostats and circuit boards.
 Now you are ready to LABEL THE WIRES YOU NEED!!!
H for hot, N for Neutral, G for Green....not that hard.

I wrapped up and tapped all the non essential wires and plugs to get them out of the way.  I am not going to just cut them....then I have to cover them with tape, or wire nut, etc.  It is just easier and less time consuming to do this.  Plus it will all be hidden.
I don't have any pictures of the first slot I cut for the fermentation chamber thermostat because it was too dark.  I used the same process the next day for the keg side.  Antonio helped me with the first one, and he brought beer.  What a guy.
You can see the first thermostat.  I measured to the middle of the butter bin and...

I brought the measurement to the front of the door.  I also measured from the side as well.

You can remove the back plate to get a better outline of the size you need.

I used a step drill bit that I had when making holes in my SS kegs for my all grain system.  If you have a Dremel, I suggest using it.  I had one, but not the correct bit.

So I resorted to tin snips.  A red snip and green snip should get the job done.  Dig out the insulating foam with a screwdriver.

AWWWW, MAN!!!!  This is what happens when your mind is in two places at once.  I was snipping and talking/watching my daughter play around me.  Not the end of the world.  I was planning on putting a plate over each hole anyways to cover up any boo boos, this just happens to be a bit bigger of a boo boo. BUT FIXABLE!  Also, the instructions that come with the ITC-1000 list dimensions for you to use to cut a proper hole size.
Matuz, you dumb, dumb....

I did have a dremel bit to take care of the plastic on the inside.  I first drilled 4 holes at each corner from the outside to mark my corners.  Then used the dremel to cut out the plate.  Doesn't have to be pretty, and it will be filled around with spray insulating foam at the end.

Let's go back into the fridge.  Remember that cold air vent?  Remember how I said was putting a fan in there?  Well, the fan came in the mail while I was working...NICE!
I measured the outline of the fan, and transferred those measurements over.  You could also trace if you want.

I did have a dremel bit for the plastic.  I cleaned out the foam, and pried out the plastic vent.

Remove any screws form the freezer side, if you have any, before you remove the makes it a lot easier.

Same as the thermostat holes.  Drill the corners, and dremel.  I used the tin snips to clean it up a bit.

Time for shelves.  I went to the hardware store and bought two 4-5ft pieces of angle iron with holes.  I am not going to spend the time drilling each hole.  I got above the bump in the bottom of the fridge, leveled it out and made a line.  I then used 1 1/4" screws with a hex head and a washer to install the braces.  I put about 7-8 on each side....just being cautious. 

Look out for any side contraptions, like the humidity controller on mine.  I was lucky it was not in the I did not try to remove it.

I had some left over plywood from...something.  So I used that.  It does not need to be fancy...just needs to work.

Next I measured how tall a carboy(my tallest carboy) would be with my tallest airlock.  This will give me my height to my next shelf.  I believe I went with 26.5" or 27" so that I had some wiggle room.

I used the tin snips to cut the angle iron and installed the second shelf.  Then I went to the freezer side.  Get some kegs, empty is easier, and start getting measurements. I had a bump in the back/bottom of the freezer, but instead of cutting the angle iron all the way to the door, I just did enough for a small shelf.  My thinking is that I will want the keg in front of the one on the small shelf to be a bit lower, so then getting to the locks on the kegs and the tubing would be less congested.  The second shelf is equal height all across, and will have enough room between the top of the kegs and the freezer ceiling.
I also removed the shelving on the freezer door, as you can see.  I took my dremel, a metal hand saw, tin snips, and a big screwdriver(to pry) to remove the shelves.  Any major holes in the insulating foam can be easily filled in with a can of expanding spray foam.

First coat of chalkboard spray paint.
MOST of the interior work as been done at this point.  I just need to mount the fan, junction box, and wire up the thermostats.  I took the time to start covering the fridge with spray paint.  I had two cans, both of different brands because I had one from a previous job.  I suggest using the same brands.  I ended up needing a third can.  I was going to just do one side and the front since the other side would be facing the wall, but I had the time and paint, so I did it all.  I needed it to dry(which it does in roughly 30 min) so I could get it all inside my house using a dolly.  It was going to rain that night...and nature did not disappoint.

Some of the paint rubbed off where there was a block of wood on the bottom of the dolly to push the fridge away from the wheels.  This was a dolly that was modified with bigger and better wheels for more stability and ability to work on rockier terrain.  The doors had to come off to fit in my house. Easy to take off, just remove the three screws on the top of hinge of each door as seen in previous pictures.

Now all the interior wiring can be done.  The junction box will be mounted in the fridge on the back corner opposite of the fan.  I could use screws, pre-drill the junction box and mount it that way, but I am just going to go with the Gorilla Glue.  It's fast, strong, and if I need to I'll come back and use screws, but I highly doubt I will have to do that.

I could draw what I did, but it is the exact same as this diagram.  There are so many diagrams out on the web, Google Image Search, and I just went with a simple setup that seemed to resonate through the forums and images.

This is all wired up into a junction box. Top runs fan, bottom runs ceramic heater.

I found a ceramic "bulb" on, and ordered a light fixture base(like the ones in a garage), as well as acquiring some more 16 gauge extension cord wires.  I spliced off the female end of the cord, wired up the base, and put in the heater bulb.  When I want cold, the fan turns on, warm, the heater turns on, all monitored by the STC-1000.

Some foam insulation came out, I need to get an exacto knife on that.

Right now, only the fan is plugged in.

One wire for power, one wire going to keg side with temp probe.

Once I started running it, I noticed I had to disconnect my defrost timer from getting any power.  It would kick on, but then stay on and not turn off.  I cut the wire, but may come back someday to figure out what exactly went wrong.  This may not be the case for you and it could just be my model of fridge.

The chalkboard paint actually scuffs really easily.  I would recommend a paint primer first.  I wish I did that.

I am waiting to get a piece of wood cut to mount my taps.  Then I will cut out the foam plug and feed the tubes.

If you do go through with getting an STC-1000, I highly recommend a few things to make it work best.
  1. Use Celsius, it is more accurate to the temp by 0.5 degrees, Fahrenheit is only 2 degrees.
  2. Put your temp probe in your keg side into a bottle of water for more accurate temperature reading and to keep from over cooling when you open the door, let warm air in and BOOM, the fan turns on.
  3. When first lowering your temps, do it in 15 degree increments.  My fridge actually became way to cold and ended up freezing the water in the bottle.  I set to go to 2C, and it went below 0C. 
  4. Be ready to turn the temp up every 3 months or so to defrost if you have to deactivate your defrost timer.
  5. On the fermentation side, apply the probe to the side of a carboy and surround with Styrofoam and tape on. OR, purchase one of those rubber bungs that allows you to stick a thermometer in it, and instead stick the probe in there.
  6. Relax, have a home brew, and take your time.  

If you have any questions or ideas, please feel free to make a comment below!