RIP

There are many phrases I never thought I would write, and one of them was, “Well, now I’ve been to a funeral on Facebook Live.”

My cousin Joey Koch died from COVID-19 this week and his funeral Mass was in D’Hanis this morning. There were actually more people at the service than I expected. Most of the people I talked with weren’t attending, and they were family. I find this tragic, but not surprising in this times.

His was not only a COVID case, it was a Facebook case. On January 21st, he posted that he had been fighting COVID for eight days. Two days later, he posted that he was in the hospital. By February second, his blood pressure was low and he was on a ventilator. He seemed to rally, took a turn for the worse, and then he left us this week. In the midst of all this, he had his fifty-seventh birthday.

So, this morning, Holy Cross Church live streamed his funeral. Without this, I wouldn’t have attended. His sister sent me the link to the livestream during the rosary. I was crying in my recliner. I hate funerals, but I really hate funerals through a small lens that somebody in the back of the Church remembers to adjust randomly.

At the end of the rosary, before Mass, while everyone was readjusting things, the camera panned around the front of the Church, and I saw Joey in his coffin with his Texas A&M cap beside him before they closed the lid. I am not sure this was helpful for me.

Watching one of my cousins’ funerals online was a very strange occurrence. Usually, a death in my Mom’s family implements the same drill. Call or text relatives you haven’t spoken with in a while. Coordinate arrivals in Hondo or D’Hanis. Assume you will meet at least some of the mourners at Hermann Sons the night before the Mass. Attend the reception after the services, and somewhere in the afternoon, realize you are probably laughing quite a bit more than proper at a memorial.

However, this is the time of COVID-19. When we talked online during the drill, I think we were each waiting for the other to say, “I don’t think I’m going to attend.”

Finally, my brother suggested we have a Celebration of Life (a memorial where you’re expected to laugh) some time this Spring, when people are vaccinated and everything is back to normal-ish. This way, nobody had to feel badly about skipping the funeral.

That’s when I realized we’re also celebrating the one-year anniversary of the two-week lockdown. Everything is probably never going to get back to normal-ish.

This morning, I realized I still felt badly about skipping the funeral.

So, now I actually know someone who died from COVID. I have friends that have recovered. I know people who lost relatives. I know people that know people. This one was close to home.

I hate funerals. I hate saying “Goodbye.” I don’t like endings that I don’t control. However, I don’t like skipping funerals even though it was the right thing to do from a safety standpoint. I never thought I would regret not going to a funeral, but this one is close.

I really don’t like endings that were pointless. Joey’s ending was pointless. His ending was pointless because he died of COVID-19.

Joey was being cautious. He had mentioned on Facebook that it wasn’t just about you, it was about the people around you. If someone in your household is in a high risk group, you’re in a high risk group by default.

However, caution does not beat stupidity. It is rumored that he contracted the disease at work. Someone in his office went to Florida to visit family for Christmas and someone there was showing early symptoms. His coworker came home and just went back to work. No mention of any disease. Oops.

COVID-19 is the idiots’ disease. Not that idiots contract it, but that idiots spread it. If you travel somewhere, self-isolate when you get back. Not because it’s the law, but because it’s just common sense. If you think you’ve been exposed, get a test. If you think you’re sick, warn the people you’ve been around. If you don’t feel well, just stay home. If you don’t, you may find yourself feeling better just in time to bury someone you knew.

Happy Accident

My Brewsy kit contained three airlocks, so I can have three bottles of wine or cider fermenting at a time. Plus, my half-gallon glass bottles arrived from Amazon this afternoon. Virginia wanted to try black cherry and the basic advice from Brewsy (which I ignored) was to do cranberry first, so I had ordered RW Knudsen Just Black Cherry and RW Knudsen Just Cranberry – both 100% juice. The slight problem with the juices is that they are only available in 32oz bottles, so I needed two of each. (A Brewsy packet will process between 1.5 quarts and 1.5 gallons, but I’m not going for volume, yet.) The bottle size issue is why I did apple juice first – the Kroger juice is a 64oz bottle, and it is processing in the actual bottle.

I don’t really have to obsess about 100% juice, since some of my co-vintners are fermenting Hawaiian Punch and Dr Pepper, but I haven’t been that brave yet.

This was going to be the same simple procedure as yesterday, and I was going to do Cranberry, since that is supposed to be your first project, and I was running back and forth, checking the Sweetness Calculator, and trying to learn how to use my hydrometer, and measuring sugar and a lot of other steps. Plus, the added “complexity” of fermenting in a bottle other than the bottle the juice came in.

The process still went well, I don’t really believe the specific gravity reading, but I will ask for help on that later. I’m pretty sure I did something wrong or I can’t read. I really need to remember to get large print everything from now on.

So, everything mixed, sugar measured, juice measured, magic packet added, dogs tripped over, and it’s in the closet, ready to become wine. Whew.

Then, Virginia said, “Hey, you used one bottle of Black Cherry and one bottle of Cranberry!”

She was drinking the juice I had left out to leave headspace, so I said, “Wait! What juice are you drinking?” She said, “It’s cranberry and it’s tart.”

So, we have a mistaken mixture, or what a vintner would call a “blend.” It is 32 ounces of Black Cherry juice and 18 ounces of Cranberry. I call it “Happy Accident”, because I don’t think I should put “Dammit!” on a wine label.

So, I have sugar measured to make Cranberry semi-sweet, when 2/3rds of the source is actually Black Cherry. This is going to be interesting.

5 Feb 2021 9:45pm

Source Juice: 32 oz RW Knudsen Just Black Cherry (100% juice), 18 oz RW Knudsen Just Cranberry.

I followed the Brewsy “semi-sweet” recipe from the Sweetness Calculator, based on Cranberry juice. We’ll see what happens.

  • Removed 14 oz of juice from the bottle – later had to figure out which bottle it was from
  • Added 229 grams sugar
  • Added one Brewsy packet

Proposed Schedule (updated with actuals):

DateTimeStepCompleteComments
Fri Feb 59:45pmFermentation BeganHere’s hoping for a happy accident
Sat Feb 6 Morning
11:55am
Check for bubbles – swirl the bottleBubbles – had to swirl the bottle to wash some yeast residue back into juice
Feb 6Afternoon
7:10pm
Check for bubbles – swirl the bottleA bit late! Bubbles – still some yeasty residue on bottle, another swirl
Feb 7Evening
4:15pm
Check for bubbles – swirl the bottleBubbling happily
Mon Feb 8Afternoon
11:00am
Check for bubbles – swirl the bottleSlowed down but still bubbles
Feb 89:45pmEarliest End for Fermentation(Will probably need more time) – Decided to leave it until morning, at least
Feb 8 9:50pmEarliest Racking after FermentationPostponedRack before Cold Crash
Feb 8 10:00pmEarliest Start for Cold CrashPostponedRemove airlock, replace cap, into fridge
Tue Feb 91:35amTaste TestWee bit boozy. Think I will leave it until morning and then cold crash.
Feb 99:25pmRacking Prior to cold crashing
Feb 99:30pmCold CrashInto the cold
Wed Feb 10 MorningCheckingSome sludge developing, will rack this evening
Feb 10EveningRackingSkipped
Thu
Feb 11
3:05pmRackingNot too much to filter
Feb 119:30pmEarliest End for Cold CrashWe have wine!
Feb 11 9:35pm Tasting
Checkpoints – Wine-making

Opening a Winery

Well, a cidery, anyway. Well, I started one bottle. My Brewsy kit arrived today, so it’s time to make some cider, since we have apple juice in the house. (OK, I ordered it because I wanted to try cider.) Wine comes from grapes, cider comes from apples, hangovers come from either.

This is supposed to be a really simple process – you add a magic Brewsy packet and sugar to the base juice, ferment it for three days (or more) and then a couple of days in the refrigerator to kill off the yeast. This is not standard wine-making, rather,this is wine-making with Brewsy.

Now, if you read the online (very detailed) manual and follow the conversation on the private group on Facebook, it is a simple process with a couple of key steps involved. If you watch the random YouTube videos of people using the kit, none of them have read the manual or followed the conversation on Facebook.

So, I have some confidence I will be making different mistakes than the people on YouTube. However, being married to someone who actually cooks, we do have measuring cups, a digital scale and a funnel, and I actually know how to use them, unlike some of the YouTubers I saw.

My notes for YouTubers:

  • Read the instructions, but not live on your video
  • Measure, measure, measure
  • Don’t split Brewsy packets
  • Sugar amounts are important and based on the amount of sugar in your source juice
  • Measure, measure, measure
  • Rack the chilling wine (cider)
  • If there are lumps in your wine, you didn’t rack it (don’t drink it)

I ordered a hydrometer so I can check specific gravity and actually calculate alcohol by volume (ABV), but it’s arriving tomorrow, so I think I will just make my first cider as the kit says, and see what happens. (Apparently, you need an initial specific gravity and a final specific gravity to calculate the ABV. I think you multiply ABV by two to get proof which is what we old folks care about.)

Here is what I like about Brewsy before I even get started – the support is amazing (others have mentioned this, as well.) I got a text when I ordered the kit and it said to save the number in case I had questions. They were serious. I texted this afternoon about trying to determine carbs, and got a response almost instantly. It was actually a conversation, and it wasn’t a chatbot because it was coherent.

So, updating this post as we progress. We should be fermenting through the weekend.

4 Feb 2021 9:45pm

Source Juice: 64 oz Kroger Apple Juice (100% juice) – well, I think they added Vitamin C. We will have cherry and cranberry juices arriving tomorrow, along with the hydrometer and extra bottles (for racking and making larger batches.)

I followed the Brewsy “semi-dry” recipe from the Sweetness Calculator.

  • Removed 1 1/2 cups of juice from the bottle (it was tasty)
  • Added 162 grams sugar (weight is probably more accurate than volume)
  • Added one Brewsy packet
Prepared for fermentation

The cider-to-be is wrapped in a dish towel and resting in the bottom of the pantry. I’ll be checking for bubbles from the airlock.

Waiting for the yeast to do its thing

Here’s the plan, according to Brewsy’s basic timeline:

Over the next few days, we will check for the rate of bubbles from the air lock. Hopefully, fermentation will be slowing down by Sunday or so – I’m a bit concerned about the temperature in the house, although my wife likes it about as warm as Brewsy fermentation requires. After that, it’s into the fridge for a couple of days to kill off the yeast. This will also be the time to rack the cider (siphon out the good stuff and get rid of the dead yeast – the tun) – a step many YouTubers have missed. I’m planning to rack the cider at least twice, so I don’t have to swirl it around to disperse the dead yeast before tasting.

Proposed Schedule (updated with actuals):

DateTimeStepCompleteComments
Thu Feb 49:45pmFermentation BeganHere’s hoping for the best
Feb 411:30pm Started my personal wine-making logShould have done this sooner
Fri Feb 51:00amCheck for bubbles in the airlockThank you, insomnia
Feb 510:00am 10:40amCheck for bubbles – swirl the bottleBubbling
Feb 5Afternoon 2:00pmCheck for bubbles – swirl the bottleBubbling
Feb 5Evening
9:45pm
Check for bubbles – swirl the bottleBubbling
Sat Feb 6Afternoon
11:50am
Check for bubbles – swirl the bottleBubbling
Feb 6Evening
7:10pm
Check for bubbles – swirl the bottleBubbling
Sun Feb 7Afternoon
4:10pm
Check for bubbles – swirl the bottleVery slow bubbles and sludge on the bottom – may be getting close
Feb 74:45pmTaste TestWe have firewater with an apple aftertaste. It’s not very sweet, and it is certainly not just apple juice any longer. I think I will cold crash it later tonight. I may have to figure out how to rack it first.
Feb 79:45pmEarliest End for Fermentation(Will probably need more time) Will cold crash, based on taste test.
Feb 7 10:40pmCold CrashDecided to skip the racking before the cold crash. Will see how much sediment is produced in the fridge.
Mon Feb 8MorningRacking Skipped12 hours after cold crash
Feb 8EveningRackingSkipped12 hours after previous racking
Tue Feb 9 Evening
9:20pm
RackingFirst racking – goodnight, sludge!
Feb 910:40pmEarliest End for Cold CrashPostponedWe have cider! (Hopefully)
Will leave one more day after racking
Feb 9 10:10pm TastingPostponed
Wed Feb 1011:00amCheckingSome sludge developing, will rack this evening
Feb 10EveningRackingSkipped
Thu Feb 113:00pmRackingA lot less sludge than first time, but still some. Almost ready.
Checkpoints – Wine-making
Cold Crash: Cloudy, with a chance of cider.