Saturday, November 27, 2010

Moonshine - homemade grappa!

I've taken the next obvious step in the evolution of a home-brewer; homemade hooch! A buddy of mine made a still recently and let me use it to make grappa. Grappa is a spirit made by fermenting and distilling the pomace left over form the wine making process. Typically making white wine involves squeezing the juice from the grapes and leaving the pomace behind as a waste product. This pomace has residual sugar that can be fermented. I was able to get 10 gallons of Riesling pomace from a local winery. The fermentation process was ridiculously easy with little to no sanitary precautions taken. I simply watered back the pomace until the skins were fully submerged and added 2.5 lbs of honey. The honey was some cheap crap I had bought at the store but didn't care for the taste of, so as an afterthought I through it in the mash. I then pitched a champagne yeast and let it go. The next morning it was fermenting away like crazy and the skins were rising well above the tops of the containers. For the next couple of days I punched the pomace down as often as I could, sometimes every half hour. The whole downstairs smelled pleasantly like a winery. From this I ended up with 5 gallons of "wine" that I took down to my friends house. From the 5 gallons I ended up with 1L of a 122 proof spirit. Not a lot to show for the effort but I have to say the results are fricking fantastic. It is very soft and fruity with a nose that is both fruity and floral.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Drunken Goat 6 - 2010

This year's festival was incredibly great again. My mom and dad made a stellar rendition of the famous Piraat ale from Belgium with a whopping 10% alcohol and they had custom shirts made for the occasion (see pic below). Rob A (with some artistic guidance from Jen) made a Kolsch ale spiked with apple cider and lavender.  The lavender was used sparingly and the end product was a delicious light and summary ale. Tarah and I made our first rye ale. It was also a good example of a summary ale with some citrus notes. A small volume of three other homebrews brought the total to 6 this year. Daren and Brina (seen above) didn't have time to build an ale so they did the very next best thing, they came as ale. Brina with a grain wreath and Daren with one of hops. In all my dad counted ~60 people and we cooked ~55 pizzas. I'm really thankful to my friend Andrew who allowed me to mix the dough up in the 20 qt. Hobart mixer he keeps next to his bead in his studio apartment (now that's a sign of a real baker). I made 50 doughs and Anna made ~5 gluten free doughs.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Seattle Urban Garden

Putting in the planter boxes has been a wonderful addition to our house. The only real drawback is that we aren't going to the farmer's markets at all.

The neighbor's cat Calie (AKA Peaches as she's known to the owner) loves gardening with us.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Steel Planter Boxes; urban garden

After looking at an untold number of single family houses to buy and getting out bid four times on shit holes that weren't even move in ready, we were worn out and completely discouraged. So we decided to take our landlord's offer and buy the townhouse that we had been renting for the past 2+ years. Buying a townhouse at first seemed like we were settling due to the lack of a garden. So this year (now that we're done with the inside re-model, the sauna, and the pizza oven) we have decided to focus on getting a garden in.  The 19th and Union corner of the house was completely overtaken by ornamentals doing us no good. These just had to come out. It has now been 5 weeks of a completely full yard waste bin and one full truck load to the dump and we are finally rid of the corner ornamentals.

Instead of using untreated lumber that breaks down quickly (but is nice and cheap) or cedar that's really expensive we decided to try something a little different with our raised beds. They are made of some 3/16 and some 1/8 inch plate steel. We were able to get most of the metal as scrap at 50 cents per pound and the rest of it was 90 cents a pound. But with it all weighing in at over 400 pounds it wasn't cheap at roughly $300 for the set of three beds. Two of the beds are ~8x3' and one is ~5x3' for a grand total of ~65 square feet of urban gardening fun. We also built  a 6' tall trellis for peas and beans. 

Monday, February 8, 2010

Hard Cider - Our new tradition

We set out with the idea of grabbing enough apples from the farmers market to make a gallon or so of hard cider. We planned to use our Acme juicer which if you have one of these juicers you know that even a gallon is pushing it. After just a few minutes at the farmers market it was clear that we would have to rent a real press. We ended up with ~60 lbs of random seconds and a press from Bob's Homebrew.

Pressing the apples was a bunch of fun and Ana, David, Nora and Natalie all helped out. It came out to be a perfect 5 gallons; just right for a carboy. I used some sulfite on it and pitched champaign yeast in the morning.

I'm pleasantly surprised just how well it turned out. (I just got around to posting about this but we made it in the fall.)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Ridiculous Overkill; Stainless Steel Tamper

My brother-in-law Brandt has gone nuts over coffee. He got himself a crazy fancy home espresso machine and an equally nice burr grinder. For a while he was using sub par beans but recently a roaster opened up just across the street from him. After chatting with the owner/roaster and beginning to buy his beans, Brandt has started pulling some creamy delicious shots.

So the other day Brandt was preparing to pull me a show and I noticed that the tamper that came with his fancy machine was far less than fancy. It was totally out of place with all the cool equipment so I decided to machine him a new one. I got a 5" long 2.5" diameter cylinder of solid stainless steel. I've never worked with stainless steel before but I got lots of advise from my machinist friend at work and just started cutting.

The final product is ridiculously heavy and a gross overkill but also so fricking cool that you can barely even believe it. I took it to my neighborhood coffee shop, Tougo, and had Dannel my favorite barista make me a shot with it before I gave it to Brandt.

Friday, January 15, 2010

El Horno de Union Design

Here are some plans (or sketches) for the wood fired clay oven we made. We were able to finish the entire project, not including the roof, in about three days of work. Since we live in Seattle it's necessary to have a roof over the cob. We had some guys that build bicycle tailors and work down at 20/20 cycle weld us up a roof frame that we then covered with corrugated sheet metal.

The clay for the oven came from a local gravel quarry. They hate hitting clay veins and happily give it away. I got it from a woman who bought an entire semi load of this clay for only the cost of the driver's time. She used the clay to make an entire cob house (see picture below).

I tried to use some old fire bricks that I got off Craig's List. It quickly became obvious that used bricks are just too imperfect and would simply not work for the oven floor. So we had to purchase new bricks but ended up using all the old fire bricks to build the attached grill area.

The only other building component that had to be purchased was the sand. I'm sure that if we had of just tried, we probably could have gotten the sand for cheap or free but instead we just got it from the masonry section at The Home Depot.