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fatesjoke03
08-27-2007, 08:41 PM
Okay, first post on the forum and first batch I have ever made. Just need a little reassurance.

I am using a white plastic 5 gallon bucket with a lid and airlock. Using a recipe that called for 10lbs honey and 3 1/2 lbs water I started my mead 3 weeks ago. Used what I hope is standard ingredients(ie. yeast, nutrients). The recipe I used is at work right now so I can't recall exactly what brands were used. I am getting bubbles approx. every 15 seconds and I can smell a really good mead smell coming from the airlock if I press down on the lid.

I have only had mead once a few years ago but have searched high and low ever since and decided I would rather make my own than buy the really commercial stuff. The mead sits in my office at home and is kept between 75-80 degrees most of the time. I had to move it across the room once and it got a little shaken up about 1 week ago.

I realize this is a basic mead and my first time out so I am not expecting really great results but I am hoping this is something people will like and enjoy as much as I did my first batch. So I have a few questions I am hoping to get some help with.

1) Can I use the same bucket for secondary fermentation if I minimize oxygen exposure while cleaning it out? (hard to justify the expense of a carboy to my wife without her know what the big deal is)

2) Does shaking during 1st fermentation mess up the process?

3) Is the smell a good sign?

4) Are first batches doomed to failure?

5) Was using a commercial honey a mistake?

6) What is a good way to bottle after secondary fermentation?( I have 9 more weeks min. per the recipe)

Thanks in advance for the help and answers. I have found a lot of really cool info on this site already.

fatesjoke03
08-27-2007, 08:59 PM
I just opened her up for the first time since racking. Very cloudy color with white bubbles on top. Smell was very good. I screwed up and bought a vinometer instead of a hydrometer so I cannot measure SG. I took a small sample and tried to use the vinometer. Didn't work. I tasted what was in the sample and except for being bitter it wasn't too bad. I wouldn't drink a glass but I know I have a long way to go before it's near drinkable.

Oskaar
08-28-2007, 05:15 AM
Welcome to Got Mead!

For us to help, please post your recipe in tabular format with the process you followed directly below it, for example:

10 lbs Costco Sue Bee Clover Honey
3.5 gallons water
5 gr some kind of yeast
5 gr some kind of other ingredients


1. Mixed it up real good
2. Rehydrated my yeast and pitched it in after 15 minutes of rehydration
3. WTC out of the must for aeration
4. Checked gravity with my hydrometer (if you don't have one, get one, this is one of the most important tools you'll use, NO EXCUSES!)
5. When fermentation was done the mead was racked into a glass carboy (plastic won't do since the alcohol will react with the plastic and taint your mead, again, NO EXCUSES!)

Cheers,

Oskaar

fatesjoke03
08-28-2007, 12:45 PM
10lbs Wild Mountain Honey
3 1/2 gallons tap water
2 1/2 tsp LD Carlson Acid Blend
1/4 tsp Empty Barrel Grape Tannin
3 1/2 tsp LD Carlson Yeast Nutrient
10 gm Lalvin K1-V1116 Yeast

Brought honey, chemicals & 1 1/2 gallons water to simmer skimming all any floating objects. Rehydrated yeast for 20 minutes and mixed with honey/water mixture. Poured into primary fermenter and added remainder of water. Pitched honey/water/yeast for about 10 minutes before putting lid and airlock on. I am now a little over 3 weeks into primary fermentation.

Oskaar
08-28-2007, 03:50 PM
OK, thanks for posting your recipe. This makes things much easier and I can tell you what's going on with your mead with relative confidence at this point.

Based on what I'm seeing, your mead will be dry, tannic (bitter) and acidic (tart). This is not necessarily a bad thing if you like white wines like Chablis.

If you were looking for sweet mead do this with your next batch.

1. Buy a hydrometer

2. Get a glass secondary (if you already haven't. the plastic isn't the culprit here, but down the road it would be if you use it as a secondary vessel)

3. Use more honey and measure with your hydrometer.

4. Go here (http://www.lalvinyeast.com/strains.asp) to learn about which yeast you are using. This is important because you absolutely need to know what the alcohol tolerance of your yeast is in order to formulate your must correctly so that it will end up sweet, medium or dry. Your yeast (K1-V1116) will ferment to 18 percent ABV (Alcohol By Volume). Your must will only support fermentation to 14% ABV which means that your must does not have enough fermentable sugars in it to ferment to completion with enough residual sugar for sweetness. That is, unless you plan to stop the fermentation. You may also backsweeten in order to bring some sweetness to your mead, but that's down the road.

5. I don't recommend heating your must, it's not necessary and it drives off the enzymes, protiens, and most of the floral aromas and subtle nuances of the honey you use. If you do heat your must I feel that you might as well use a generic honey from Costco or Sam's since that in my opinion is what you're pretty much doing to your honey with heat. YMMV

6. In your next batch lose the acid addition up front. This is a carry over from period meadmaking, along with some brewing recipes. You don't need acid up front. You also don't need Irish Moss, Gypsum, etc., etc. These are not necessary and do not really add anything beneficial to your mead's final flavor.

7. I'm also a strong proponent of using the nutrients made by Lallemand specifically for their yeast. Yes you may use other nutrient, but to me it makes better sense to use the nutrient designed specifically for the yeast made by the manufacturer. Use GO-Ferm to rehydrate your yeast, and Fermaid-K for additions once the fermentation has started.

8. Get a lees stirrer (do a forums search) it is an invaluable tool and takes any guesswork out of whether or not your honey is completely dissolved, thus eliminating the need for any heating of your must. Again, you don't see winemakers boiling or heating their must (except in Beajolais Nouveau to pasteurize it when it is done fermenting to prevent Malo-lactic fermentation and prior to bottling and shipping)

9. Going forward please feel free to post your recipe before you actually whip it up. You can get comments from us board denizens and decide for yourself in a more informed fashion on how you want to proceed, as well as being forwarned about the possible consequences.

Hope that helps,

Oskaar

fatesjoke03
08-28-2007, 04:10 PM
Thanks Oskaar.

I have already called my LBS and got prices for the carboy, hydrometer and bung/airlock. I will pick those up before racking. Backsweetening is something I am probably going to do, as I wanted a sweet mead. I know I should have read a little more before starting my first batch. Seems like I found the first recipe that seemed simple enough and ran with it. At least I am trying to learn from my mistakes(hopefully).

I have read more since starting this batch that people do not recommend heating the must. Seems like every recipe I read when I was starting said to do so. Won't make that mistake again.

I will check on getting a lees stirrer and I will switch to a more preffered brand of yeast. Also I am nixing the acid.

So in about 5 weeks I will post a new recipe that I will start or if anyone can point me in the direction of their favorite recipe that isn't too difficult. I am not worried about the time it takes any more. That was my motivating factor the first time around and I have already learned to wait for the results.

Oskaar
08-28-2007, 04:42 PM
The waiting is the hardest part as always.

Sounds like you're on your way to a lot of good mead. Post up that next recipe and we'll see if we can help you make an outstanding mead!

cheers,

Oskaar

AsharaLyn
08-28-2007, 08:43 PM
I made a lot of those same sort-of-mistakes with my first batch. The problem is that there are so many old recipes out there that use old techniques that are either unnecessary (like heating) or just wrong (like adding acid up front) and don't really have a lot of information about how the mead will turn out.

But you have found the mecca of all mead info, GotMead! Welcome :)

Rhianni
08-29-2007, 09:24 AM
1) Can I use the same bucket for secondary fermentation if I minimize oxygen exposure while cleaning it out? (hard to justify the expense of a carboy to my wife without her know what the big deal is)
I dont see how you will be able to minimize oxygen exposure enough by transfering out of a bucket, cleaning it, then putting it back in. Definately get that second carboy. Hopefully when your wife tastes the mead she will change her mind about the expenses :)

2) Does shaking during 1st fermentation mess up the process?
You can shake it during the first couple days to get oxygen in there. If by shake you mean moving the fermenter around and it sloshes a little bit thats no problem at all.

3) Is the smell a good sign?
Not during the primary fermentation no. Its going to be honey and yeast smelling. If there is something bad in there it wont become noticeable by smell until after fermentation.

4) Are first batches doomed to failure?
Not always but first batches of mead like this are more often then not learning experiences. I think though you will still get something good to drink when you are done. You did come to gotmead after all to post at :)

5) Was using a commercial honey a mistake?
No they are fine. It really depends on what they did to it during their processing. The quality of ingredients you use will make a quality end product. If a person wont be disappointed by less then perfection I would advise a first batch to be a cheap honey.

6) What is a good way to bottle after secondary fermentation?( I have 9 more weeks min. per the recipe)
Get a bucket with a spiggot and a bottling cane. Hopefully you will have some more funds after the 9 weeks. Its possible I suppose to bottle with just a syphon hose but the amount of work and quality of bottling is not worth it.

fatesjoke03
09-01-2007, 12:35 PM
Okay, I racked to a 5 gallon glass carboy last night. After spending $80.00 on supplies I think I have everything but bottles. Racking seems to have went well. I have a very amber colored mead in the bottle. Small amount of foam on the top. SG is 1.100 which seems kinda high to me. I checked it twice though. Has a very strong "rocket fuel" taste. From what I have read here that will go away as the alcohol backs off and the mead smell goes away.

So, is this all going okay for a first batch? Is there anything I can do to help ensure it comes out good?

I also picked up a book. Can't remember the title at the moment. It is the same one you get for signing up with the AHA. Haven't had the chance to read it yet though. Thanks in advance again for any help.

Oskaar
09-01-2007, 01:02 PM
That is a bit high and sweet. Is it dramatically oversweet? If not you may be reading your hydrometer incorrectly. The rocket fuel taste will go away over time. I'd suggest taking another reading and verifying that gravity. If it is that high, you'll need to do a couple of things, but we can burn that bridge when we come to it.

The book should be Ken Schramm's book The Compleat Meadmaker which is the current bible of meadmaking.

Cheers,

Oskaar

fatesjoke03
09-01-2007, 03:07 PM
That is the book I got. I have actually just started reading it. Working and reading are hard to do together but I am managing.

I will retake the SG tonight or tomorrow and post what I get. Is the a preffered way to get some of the mead out or just tip the carboy and fill a clean glass? The book says how to do it during racking but haven't read other than that so far.

wayneb
09-01-2007, 03:54 PM
It's better to siphon out a sample than to tip and pour, since you'll introduce less O2 that way.

If your LHBS has one, consider investing in a device called a "wine thief." It is a long plastic or glass tube that allows you to draw out a small sample from your carboy that you can then use to check SG, or just taste-test. A very handy device! There is even a version that supports a standard hydrometer in the glass tube, so you can check your SG and then allow the sample to flow back into the carboy, with a minimal introduction of oxygen in the process.

Though why anyone would take an SG reading and NOT want to taste how the mead is progressing is a bit of a mystery to me! :drunken_smilie:

AsharaLyn
09-01-2007, 04:48 PM
You can take a sample, let *most* of it back in, and then taste the last bit :).

wayneb
09-01-2007, 05:47 PM
You can take a sample, let *most* of it back in, and then taste the last bit :).


Ahh - Waste not AND want not! I like that!! :icon_thumleft:

Oskaar
09-01-2007, 07:04 PM
You can take a sample, let *most* of it back in, and then taste the last bit :).


I don't put anything back into the vessel that I thieve off. Don't want to take the chance on a hitchhiking bug. Get one of these devices (http://www.midwestsupplies.com/products/ProdByID.aspx?ProdID=4356) for theiving off samples. You won't be sorry.

Cheers,

Oskaar

wolf_tracker
09-01-2007, 07:33 PM
:wave:

the only thing about not putting back is you loose so much of the mead on reading of
small batches ...

say one to two gallons

the larger batches leave more for ageing

:cheers:

wolf

Oskaar
09-01-2007, 09:59 PM
:wave:

the only thing about not putting back is you loose so much of the mead on reading of
small batches ...

say one to two gallons

the larger batches leave more for ageing

:cheers:

wolf



That's why you make six gallon batches! LOL

wildaho
09-02-2007, 12:27 AM
Oh, agreed! I figger if I'm going to try it, I might as well do a full batch. If I end up with a bunch of bottles of something so-so, c'est le vie. It's still gonna be better that what I can buy!

I dunno. From brewing beers, I've seen some definite differences in recipe between 1-2 gallon batches vs. 5-6 gallon batches. It's not a linear translation.

I've never tried 1 gallon batches of mead so I can't say for sure things won't translate. I definitely understand the appeal of taking a low risk$ try at something. This obsession ain't cheap! I just have my doubts based on other fermentation experience. And I don't mean to thread-jack here but can anybody tell me their differences between 1 and 5 gallon batches of mead?

fatesjoke03
09-02-2007, 05:32 AM
I agree with Wildaho, can any one point out benefits to 5 gallon batches versus 1 gallon aside from the total quantity after all is said and done?

AsharaLyn
09-02-2007, 11:20 AM
I can think of things such as transportability (1 gallon carboys are much easier to move than 6 gallon ones) and storage space, but I don't think that's what you're after, either.

I did read on one of the threads that a larger volume can sort of insulate the mead from temperature changes that could disturb your fermentation.

Oskaar
09-02-2007, 01:57 PM
See here (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_smf&Itemid=412&topic=5241.msg42503#msg42503) for a run down of larger volume benefits; and here (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_smf&Itemid=412&topic=693.msg5034#msg5034) for benefits from bulk ageing and bottling.

As far as the difference between one and five gallon batches. The things that I notice are differences in volume when sample taking. I'm a heavy sampler during primary and secondary so one gallon batches are a losing proposition for me, especially when you regard the fact that you will be transferring from the primary and losing volume going into the secondary. When I do a one gallon run I generally do five of them and mix the must up in one of my brew kettles or a 10 gallon bucket, then rack or decant into the one gallon vessels. I do use anti-foam in one gallon batches so I can fill them a bit further.

I notice that whenever I move the one gallon batches they upset much easier than the larger volume batches, they are more susceptible to temperature and barometric pressure changes (check your airlock, this is why I use Vodka or S shaped airlocks). Personally I'd rather use a 6.5 gallon carboy because I can fill it up pretty high and then do my sampling and still fill a five gallon vessel to the neck in secondary.

Hope that helps,

Oskaar

wildaho
09-03-2007, 08:51 PM
I guess the volume issue is becoming more important to me, especially for brewing. When I first started making beer, I was making 2-3 gallon batches due to equipment restraints. When I got better equipment and could do 5 and six gallon batches, I found that recipe scaling is not linear. Not by a long shot! And from my conversations with local brewmasters at several of our local brewpubs, they always have a problem scaling from a 5 or 10 gallon pilot batch to 5 barrel production batch. There's always a lot of tweeking involved. Some ingredients have be increased or decreased anywhere up to 30% after scaling to get the same flavor profile.

This becoming an issue for me because my brewing partner and I were recently gifted with a 20 gallon brew pot and a 15 gallon stainless steel conical fermenter. And the pieces parts to make three more 15 gallon conicals (one of us is going to have to learn to weld first!). I'm not looking forward to get my smaller scale recipes work properly in the equipment. I am, however, looking forward to the increased capacity.

I understand that mere fact of the boil when brewing beer will introduce a lot of variables that don't exist in my mead making. That and questions of effeciency when scaling.

Since I don't do a boil or add any heat with my meads, I've often been curious on the scale issue. I guess I really should do a side by side comparison between a one gallon and a six gallon batch of mead. If that works out, then I think that 15 gallon conical is just screaming out for a full batch of mead! (maybe it would be enough to survive my "quality control sampling" and some would make it into a bottle)

I do understand the benefits of bulk aging. I've seen it in my beers and meads. The stuff that survives the carboy for a couple of months before bottling is always more complex, subtle and well-rounded than the ones that are bottled asap.

I guess I was most curious though about how well the recipes scale. And thanks for the links!

Oskaar
09-03-2007, 10:59 PM
Beer is beer, wine is wine, mead is mead. Brewing beer at volume does not equal mead or wine at volume so you need to be clear on your mead making methodology and batch recipe.

As long as your starting brix/gravity is where your recipe puts it, and your mead making technique is solid you won't have problems. You definitely need to be more aware of temperature and aeration/cap management/treatments (if you'r making melomel/cyser/pyment/meth, etc) because of the volume. With larger fermenters temperature management is an issue, the smaller the less of an issue.

I've made batches of wine and mead from 1 gallon to over 150 gallons and haven't had a problem with the same recipe. You need to make sure you have your recipe down, and your aseptic technique in tight. The starting brix, the proper inoculation methodology with the proper amount of yeast rehydrated prior to inoculation, timely aeration/oxigenation, and a well established nutrient addition regimen is common to large and small batches. The techniques are the same, the volumes are different and there are methods to deal with larger volumes. For brewing you have boil off and other issues to deal with, when making mead or wine the starting brix/sg, pH and volume are the key factors.

Consider subscribing to Got Mead? as it enables the site to stay solvent and Vicky and I to keep adding things to benefit the folks who make Got Mead? the great mead site that it is, not to mention addressing issues that are more than just for the 6 gallon a shot home mead maker.

Cheers,

Oskaar

wildaho
09-03-2007, 11:19 PM
Thanks Oskaar! Maybe that new conical fermenter will see a mead after all before it sees a beer!

And yes, subscribing is a priority. I'm surprised at the amount of info here for the general public. I've been itching to see what's "on the other side"! Some extra hours at the store over the last couple of weeks should make that possible on the next paycheck. It will definitely happen soon!