Sap's rising

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Sap's rising

Postby Mark Allery » Tue Mar 04, 2008 10:51 am

Not surprisingly the sap is rising early this year. I notice that the birch is in full flow now so its out with the brace, bit and demijohn this afternoon....life is awakening, time to shake off the blues and get going. Can you tell the sun is shining at the moment?

Talking of which I did my first show of the year at the weekend. Mothering Sunday at the Weald and Downland museum, the weather was kind and so was the crowd, a good day and the usual springlike thirst for all things dibber-like! A good omen for the coming season I hope......

cheers

Mark
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Birch

Postby Robin Fawcett » Tue Mar 04, 2008 12:17 pm

Yes we've made birch sap wine before and fermented it on "extra high alcohol tolerant yeast" - it was like rocket fuel!

The book I mentioned in an earlier post "Celebrating Birch" (ISBN 978-1-56523-307-2) has just come out. It's a bit coffee-tableish but has some nice illustrations. Photos are a bit yellowy and indistinct. I even had trouble making a simple finger ring in the "how to sections". I think you would be very hard pushed to turn a birch ale bowl on the springpole lathe from the instructions and photos.

They do talk about tapping birch sap but to make syrup(like maples) and root beer - no mention of wine.
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Postby Mark Allery » Tue Mar 04, 2008 11:38 pm

Not had the temerity to try high alcohol yeast, the normal seems good enough for us. Still trying to get a consistent good result from the process though.

Have tried boiling down for syrup - but with very unsuccessful results. It seems the sugar content of the sap is not very high at all.

Will look out for the book,

cheers

Mark
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Postby Robin Fawcett » Wed Mar 05, 2008 10:55 am

Yes apparently the birch sap has only 1% sugar whereas the maple is 2%!

We also had good results with the birch fermenting it on a champagne yeast - experiment!
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Postby Mark Allery » Tue Mar 11, 2008 11:52 pm

Sap is running very strong now, filled demi-johns overnight. Last one should be done by tomorrow.

bubble, bubble, bubble.......

Have to finish the tapping now as I am off for a few days beachcombing and then its a 4-days of pole lathe turning at the Weald and Downland museum over the Easter Weekend :-)

dibbers, dibbers, and more dibbers.....

cheers

Mark
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Dibbers

Postby Robin Fawcett » Wed Mar 12, 2008 8:21 am

You may not realise it Mark but the dibbers are actually mainly bought for other uses!
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Dibbers

Postby Robin Fawcett » Wed Mar 12, 2008 11:20 am

A thought occurred . . . perhaps you are selling the dibbers too cheaply. Try pushing the price up gently to slow the sales down and earn a bit more. Then you could concentrate on rounders bats or baby rattles!
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Postby monkeeboy » Sat Apr 12, 2008 6:57 pm

Can anyone offer me any advice as to fermenting the birch sap the "natural" way. Ie; by not adding any yeast and just hoping the wild yeast will do the job.

I've got one deni-john of sap with an airlock on it and I've been keeping it relatively warm but it hasn't done anything in the 2 weeks since I airlocked it.

Any ideas? How long does it normally take to do it this way? I don't mind waiting for the fermetation to finish, but I am getting a bit worried that it hasn't actually started.

Also, is it ok to just pop a bit of my brewing yeast into it at this stage to get it going?

You lot in the South are pretty lucky by the way, the birch trees in north Lancashire are only begining to leaf now, and the big ones that I'm tapping have no leaves yet at all. It took about 3 weeks to fill one demi-john! And one of my other demi-johns got vandalised by grey squirells! The little f**kers.

Any advice appreciated.

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Postby Mark Allery » Sun Apr 13, 2008 9:32 pm

Hi Mike,

I can't claim to be an expert! But will help if I can.

First off on when to tap. Live trees will always leak some sap when you cut them, but its normally a slow seeping. At the start of the season when the buds start to swell, but well before the leaves start the tree increases the amount of sap moving up and down the tree and at the same time stored sugar is moved into the sap to move it to the growing points. For this period of a couple of weeks, the sap should pump strongly from the tree and have its maximum sugar content. When I get it right a demi-john will fill over just one or two nights.

Down south here this period is normally around middle to late march, you are right it will be later 'up north', but probably only by a couple of weeks. Having said that it seems that most people do their own thing time-wise and I am generally a little early.

From what I can gather the maximum sugar content of the sap is still quite weak and not enough to make a good wine unless you boil the sap down considerably. I generally add about 1 kilo of sugar per gallon plus the juice of a lemon (to add a little acid for the yeast to work). As you collected the sap over 3 weeks, it seems probable that you missed the surge of sap on this particular tree - I would think that the sugar content will be too low to ferment unless you have added some.

I use general purpose wine yeast, purely because birch sap wine is hard enough without the vagaries of air-borne yeast. Generally the air-borne yeast strains will be fairly weak and may not fully ferment the wine. The weak yeasts can then allow other bacteria to generate off flavours in the brew resulting in less predictable results and more complex tastes. Although I admit my knowledge here is mainly from the problems of using natural yeast in cider-making rather than wine.

Add some sugar, lemon juice and yeast and see what happens. Good luck - and don't get put off, if at first you don't succeed...........

cheers

Mark
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Birch sap wine

Postby Robin Fawcett » Sun Apr 13, 2008 9:57 pm

I can honestly say that if you ferment this on an "extra high alcohol tolerant yeast" it can turn into the best liquor you will ever drink - it's like rocket fuel ! I don't think there will be any wild yeast involved here - they're normally only present on the skins of wild fruits.

This fermenting on a wild yeast can be a double-edged sword in itself - we have had successes but we have also ended up with eleven gallons of elderberry vinegar !

Champagne yeast is also worth investigating too . . .
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Postby Mark Allery » Wed Apr 16, 2008 11:35 pm

Robin,

how much sugar do you add for the Rocket Fuel version? I must admit I'd also been thinking of a second fermentation as well. My dad used to make a very good elderflower champagne and birch sap wine has similar characteristics so I reckon it should be worth a try?

cheers

Mark
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Postby Robin Fawcett » Thu Apr 17, 2008 9:36 am

Don't add all the sugar at once - keep "feeding" it gradually. Not sure of the exact quantity though. Just ferment it out like this and it'll get as strong as it can get.
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Postby monkeeboy » Fri Apr 18, 2008 7:19 pm

Just to let you know,

I added some sugar, yeast and citric acid on Wed night and it was fermenting nicely by Thurs morning.
I'll be more prepared next year probably, I'll maybe go for a few demi-johns.

Good times!
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