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Eh! Steve
11-22-2006, 02:37 AM
OK, first a summary of what I've done:

Ingredients
10lbs honey (5 of fireweed, 5 of blackberry)
2 tbsp yeast nutrient
2 tbsp acid blend
Distilled water - enough to make 5 gallon batch
1 packet ec-1118 yeast

Must preparation
Honey, nutrient, and acid blend boiled in 1 gallon of water just until foaming stopped.
Added water to 5 gallons in primary.
Rehydrated yeast in 1/2 cup warm water for 20 minutes
aerated must via vigorous stirring and with electric mixer
Pitched yeast into 103 degree must


Strong fermentation in less than 24 hours. Within a few days fermentation began to slow noticeably. I left must undisturbed, no stirring throughout primary fermentation. By 16 days airlock was producing one small bubble burst (3 or 4 bubbles) every 2+ minutes. At this point I racked into a secondary. Specific gravity at this point was 1.002 (I did not take an initial measurement).

My questions are:

1. I hear that there should not be any air space in secondary, my secondary is a 6 gallon carboy, but my batch is 5 gallons. I don't want to add a gallon of water and I don't have a CO2 pump. Is it ok to have all that air space?

2. If I need to rack again can I rack back into my primary bucket? If I do should I immediately rack back into my carboy (I only have one)

3. My mead tastes aweful (it doesn't smell too good either), is that to be expected at this point? Is a specific gravity of 1.002 normal?

4. Should I do a ph test?

5. I see no sign of fermentation now (nor any clearing). It has been in secondary for only 10 days. Am I on schedule?

I realize that this is a lot of questions. Thank you very much for your help. Also note, I did do many searches before I posted, I know that these sorts of questions have been asked but not for my exact situation.

Todd

kace069
11-22-2006, 03:03 AM
1. Got a 5 gallon carboy? If not just go buy one. Unless you don't plan on making mead, wine or beer after this.

2. You could do that, I would refer you to question 1. You want to handle the mead the least amount. Like I said, if you want to take up ferm,enting go buy another carboy. If not let the mead sit on this yeast for a while. I don't have much expereince with this yeast so someone else will chime in on how long you can keep it on this yeast.

3. Yes, It may smell noxious right now, prolly a lot of CO2 coming out of it still. Making mead is a test of patience. I would expect this recipie to have a lower FG than 1.002, your close to the mark here though.

4. To late for ph to tell you anything now.

5. Looks like you are doing well right now especially with the distilled water. I am currently using RO water and seen my fermentation times legnthen. Wait 6 months and be ready for the amount of change in your mead then. Time is always on your side when making mead.

Eh! Steve
11-22-2006, 11:57 AM
Thanks KACE069, your comments are helpful and much appreciated. I have a follow-up question with regards to water. Regarding your comment, "especially with distilled water", is the use of distilled water inappropriate? I did this for sanitation reasons. Also, what is RO water?

Thanks,
Todd

kace069
11-22-2006, 01:23 PM
The distilled water has no mineral content. You want some trace mineral content for the yeast health. RO is missing these minerals too. My ferments seem more sluggish now, even with an upgrade to pure oxygen. I will buy spring water for my next batch, prolly this weekend.

akueck
11-22-2006, 01:29 PM
RO is reverse osmosis. Water is basically pumped through a membrane against the osmotic pressure (hence the reverse). The membrane is there to keep out, well, everything but water. The end result is similar to distilled water.

If you do want to use distilled or reverse osmosis, some brew supply stores sell water salt kits which you can use to restore the mineral content. I think they're usually meant for beer though, not mead.

Oskaar
11-22-2006, 02:47 PM
Steve,

Welcome to gotmead.com

Akueck and Kace are giving you good advice.

The other reason your mead tastes less than spectacular now is the amount of honey and the amount of acid blend you put into your must. I don't add acid blend in about 95% of my meads, actually in the past several years I don't remember adding any acid blend to my meads. This is one of those "old wives tales" that's been floating around mead making for a long time. You don't need the acid up front. You can always add it at the end before bottling if it really needs more acid. Also by adding acid up front you may very well drive the acid level to a point of where your fermentation will be very sluggish, and end up getting stuck.

OK, next you used a very small amount of honey in your must, and with the yeast you chose (EC-1118) your mead will be thin and bone dry. By thin I mean that at about 2 pounds of honey per gallon of water your mead will not have a lot of body because the amount of honey you used is very light (your original gravity is about 1.09 or so. Next, back to the yeast, the EC-1118 has an ABV tolerance of about 18%, and your must would have a maximum of 10% ABV based on your starting gravity. I like my meads at a minimum of 12% ABV because the concentration of alcohol will pretty much kill off other bacteria, yeast, etc. that my try to take hold in your batch and spoil it.

Also, as mentioned by the other two gentlemen, distilled water is not good for making mead. Then, you boiled the water which will drive off any oxygen that it may have had in it, so when you cool your must you're really fighting an uphill battle to replace the lost minerals and oxygen.

The good news is that you have options. I'd say that adding some honey at this point is probably your best option but I'd need to know how old the batch is, if you've done anything subsequent to the initial racking, and what the current gravity is. (if it is different from the one in your post) It would also be a good idea to pull a pH reading. I'm guessing it's not too bad though because the EC managed to complete the fermentation, but EC is a pretty hearty yeast!

Let us know,

Oskaar

Eh! Steve
11-23-2006, 11:58 PM
Oskaar,
Thanks for all the great tips. One point that I should clarify is that I only boiled one gallon of the water. I did attempt to oxygenate the must by pouring everything through a strainer into the primary and then stirring the primary vigorously with a slotted spoon and an electric mixer.
A couple of follow-up questions:

1. I thought that my honey content was a bit too low, but I was going for a dry mead. Is it possible to make a dry mead with a high alcohol content (12-18%)? The threads that I read seem to suggest more honey for a higher alcohol content, but also for a sweater mead (I don't like it too sweat).

2. You mention adding more honey now (possibly depending on where my process is at). I racked into my secondary 12 days ago. The specific gravity that I mentioned in my previous post (1.002) was of of 12 days ago. I have not checked the s.g. since then (I have a 6 gallon carboy with 5 gallons of mead in it, I don't know how to get the hydrometer in there to test the specific gravity and then get it back out, unless I tip the carboy). The question I have here is, if I add more honey know, will I need to pitch a new batch of yeast (there is very little or no activity right now)?

I do not have a current pH or s.g. right now, but I will post them when I do. I am hesitant to disturb the secondary because I have a big air space and am hopeful that there is currently a layer of CO2 sitting above the mead. Also I don't have a ph test kit, but will get one soon.

Cheers,
Todd

akueck
11-24-2006, 12:47 AM
Sounds like this mead is less than a month old. There should be enough active yeast still floating around in there to start in on the new honey you add, unless it's super clear already.

You should get a wine thief to take samples from your carboy. The one I have even fits the hydrometer inside, though it's usually not deep enough to check something with a SG of 1. A turkey baster will work, if it's long enough. Make sure to santize it and also the opening in the carboy so you don't drag any little nasties in with it.

EC-1118 yeast should hit 18% alcohol, so you can make a high alcohol dry mead. If you're worried you could put in enough for 15-16% and your yeast shouldn't have a problem with it at all.

Happy thanksgiving!

Eh! Steve
11-24-2006, 01:04 PM
Happy Thanksgiving,

I have been careful during secondary fermentation not to disturb the must, to avoid adding additional oxygen. However, if I add additional honey, to encourage new fermentation, should I aerate again (possibly with a vigorous stir)?

Thanks again.

Rhianni
11-24-2006, 05:44 PM
1. The more air space in the secondary the more its gonna make the flavor off. If possible you should have it as filled as possible. I have a 6.5, 6, 5, 3, and 1 gallon containers for this mixing and matching. I am horrible at estimating how much room fruit will take up vs liquid. You might want to eventually grab some extra carboys and sizes. Its not the end of the world. One thing you can do though is to only leave it in the secondary until it clears. Then bottle and let it age in there as there will be less air space in the bottles.

2. As others have said you want to have as little contact with the air as possible and less mixing and activity. I again suggest to get some extra secondary carboys. If your mead is going to age for a couple months keep in mind that you wont be able to start another batch until the secondary is almost done.

3. What do you mean awful? Not very sweet and alcoholy 'hot'or sour/bitter ? I agree with Oskaar that 2 lbs of honey per gallon is going to be light. It wont be sweet if you let it go to 1.002

4. I havent done anything with PH testing. I believe its just for the primary fermentation process. Afterwards you can add acid for taste but not much else.

5. Any mead at 1.002 will be pretty much done fermenting

About dryness / sweetness
The major factor in dryness and sweetness is how much honey is left in your mead. You can start with a whole lot of honey and use a high alcohol tolerant yeast and get a dry mead. You can also start with very little honey and stop the fermentation very early and get a sweet mead. It really matters on what the gravity is after fermentation has finished.

Oskaar
11-24-2006, 06:54 PM
About dryness / sweetness
The major factor in dryness and sweetness is how much honey is left in your mead. You can start with a whole lot of honey and use a high alcohol tolerant yeast and get a dry mead. You can also start with very little honey and stop the fermentation very early and get a sweet mead. It really matters on what the gravity is after fermentation has finished.


This is a good point and I agree.

To take it a step further you can make a nice dry mead by using just a couple of pounds of honey per gallon of water, or you can make the same recipe sweet by rigging your fermentation to leave some residual sugar (i.e. cold crashing, filtration, sorbate/sulfite, yeast with a low ABV tolerance, etc.) so there is a level of sweetness you find pleasant. One of the things that makes a huge difference in mead and wine, and beer for that matter is volume. Volume in the glass, volume in the mouth and on the finish.

I'm not talking about volumetric measurment, but how it feels/hefts in the glass when you swirl it) does it feel like water, or is it more viscous, glyceric, thicker and heavier. When it hits your palate does it rush along the tastebuds or does it flow across them and leave a little something to remember it by? Does the sensation on the finish feel light and airy, or does it linger and develop? When you start with a higher gravity and run to your yeasts ABV tolerance leaving some residual sugar you end up with more volume, mouthfeel and an overall "bigger" mead than with lower amounts of honey per gallon of water. This is also true for dry meads with higher starting gravity in my experience. Yeast with a higher ABV tolerance can take a honey heavy sweet recipe to dryness, but the volume and mouthfeel will really benefit from the extra honey. Couple that with some oak, tannin, fruit or spice treatments and you'll have something special.

This is one of those things that I'm really working on in my meads at present. The difference is pretty amazing between batches.

A word on oxidation. Mead is incredibly resiliant stuff. I'm a very lazy bottler, that is I don't like to bottle. Probably because my relatives never really bottled and just siphoned off enough wine into a couple of carafes for dinner or meals, or just plain sitting around and socializing. The point is, and this comes with a disclaimer, all of the meads that I entered into competitions were out of carboys that were close to 75% empty. None of them were downchecked for any oxidation or off flavors associated with oxidation. I do top off with CO2 from time to time, but I'm not totally rabid about it like some others are. Does this mean you can do the same thing with your mead, no, not without a lot of experience and not without doing things the same way I do. But, you can get away with stirring and some simple blending or agitation in your secondary without ruining your batch. Winemakers do this quite a bit when they are lees aging or lees aging in a barrel.

There are also lees exposure protocols that call for adding fresh yeast to the secondary and stirring it in vigorously, and then stirring several times a week for several weeks and then weekly for a couple of months. Just make sure when you do it to minimize your oxigenation as much as is practical, have some CO2 handy to top it up once in a while and make sure your airlocks are topped off well and have a good seal in your vessel. A little controlled oxidation is a good thing, ask any winemaker that invests over a million dollars a year in cooperage!

Cheers,

Oskaar

Eh! Steve
11-25-2006, 11:29 PM
Additional readings:

- pH ~3.6 (I think, I couldn't really tell what color it was closest too).
- S.G. ~1.000 (this is a bit of an approximation as well, the miniscus of the wine theif interfered with that of the hydrometer).
- Smell - still smells off, but I think that it is just yeasty.
- Taste - still not that great, may be slightly improved.

Rhianni, you asked how it tasted "awful" (my earlier description). I have a hard time describing taste. I asked my wife to taste it and she said it tasted kind of sour. I would have to say it tastes like I mixed honey, water and a little vodka. Not a lot of vodka, its not that it tastes strongly of alcohol, its just that the flavors don't seem well blended. It seems like I get little hints of sweet and hints of alcohol, but they don't seem to make a smooth combination. I'm not sure that makes sense, but it is the best that I can come up with. I have heard others describe there mead as "harsh" before aging. I am hoping that this is what I am experiencing. But, not having past experience, I don't know for sure if it is just a bad batch.

I haven't seen any sign of clearing yet, its been in the secondary for 2 weeks now.

Do these numbers, results, seems on track (at least for a first batch).

Thanks,
Todd

Rhianni
11-26-2006, 11:49 PM
Rhianni, you asked how it tasted "awful" (my earlier description). I have a hard time describing taste. I asked my wife to taste it and she said it tasted kind of sour. I would have to say it tastes like I mixed honey, water and a little vodka. Not a lot of vodka, its not that it tastes strongly of alcohol, its just that the flavors don't seem well blended. It seems like I get little hints of sweet and hints of alcohol, but they don't seem to make a smooth combination. I'm not sure that makes sense, but it is the best that I can come up with. I have heard others describe there mead as "harsh" before aging. I am hoping that this is what I am experiencing. But, not having past experience, I don't know for sure if it is just a bad batch.

I haven't seen any sign of clearing yet, its been in the secondary for 2 weeks now.

Do these numbers, results, seems on track (at least for a first batch).

Thanks,
Todd



It makes perfect sense and you have yourself a good batch of mead. The tastes right now are going to be very seperate. First sweet and honey and then the alcohol burn of like vodka. Its still very young and in the secondary. I've had it take over a year before some of my meads were drinkable in that the honey and vodka like flavors matched enough that I didnt think I was doing shots. As time goes on these will blend together and the alcohol burn should eventually disappear.


I bet you didnt use sulfites or campden tablets in your secondary did you? I say that because when I first started I didnt and it does a long time for the yeast to settle down on its own.
Also there 2 different types of cloudiness that I have noticed.
1: Milky and creamy. This is caused by the yeast still swimming around and not yet sinking. Time will clear this up.
2: Hazey. Think of looking through glass with steam on it. It can still be kind of clear but its hazey. Its been my experiance that its hard if even possible to get this out naturally. One meadary (Smokey Mountain in Larkspur CO) does not use any sulfites. It is a very tasteful mead but is cloudy and not as crisp looking.

Eh! Steve
11-30-2006, 01:57 PM
Thanks Rhianni, Oskaar, akueck, and Kace069! Your feedback has been very helpful. For now I am just leaving my mead alone and waiting. Hopefully it will clear soon!
-Todd