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View Full Version : My first mead. Help me make it perfect!



yaeyama
03-21-2008, 10:41 AM
Hi all:

I'm preparing to start on a mead, and want it to be fairly simple, with a taste as close to honey as possible. I have tried a couple of commercial meads, and my favorite so far has to be Lurgashall's English Mead. It tastes, looks, and smells like honey but has a nice alcohol kick and is sweet but not cloyingly so.

For my own mead, I would like to make something in the range of 14% - 16% ABV. I plan on aging it for at least 4 years before drinking. I have a 6 gallon carboy and 1 gallon demijohn, so I would like to make about 7 gallons to give me a little extra for topping up. Before getting started, I am wondering about the following:

- Due to the incredibly high cost of honey in my area, I am planning on the majority of my honey to be wildflower. I will then blend this with progressively smaller quantities of clover, orange blossom, manuka, and finally beechwood honey dew (a rather dark honey) until I reach the desired SG. Okay so far?

- Does about 3 lb (1.5 kg) per gallon sound about right? I think I should be shooting for a SG of about 1.100 (which is the SG I aimed for when making my wines); should this be higher?

- As I have already stated, I am aiming for as pure a honey mead as possible. However, I of course want to balance acidity and other factors. What kind of quantity of yeast nutrients and tannins should I use? Should I use raisins to add body? If so, how many grams per gallon?

- I plan on fermenting to dryness, and then topping up with a honey water mixture between rackings (once I have used up my topping up material, anyway). I would like to continue doing this until the yeast is eventually overpowered and dies out. I do not care how long or how many rackings this takes.

- What kind of yeast should I use? I have used Lalvin EC-1118 for a peach wine in the past, but I have the feeling this will push up the ABV a bit too much. I have also used Cote de Blancs for a mixed berry red but the fermentation seemed to go rather slowly (mind you, I haven't tasted the red yet). What would give me the desired ABV while allowing me to continue honey feeding until the yeast is overpowered and I can obtain the desired sweetness?

- I plan to ferment at carefully controlled temperatures (about 18 C for 2 to 3 months). However, for bulk aging followed by bottled aging, can I expect any taste degradation by temperature swings? I obviously cannot maintain air conditioned conditions for 4 years! The temperature swing would likely range from about 12 C to 28 C depending on the season. Is this likely to affect the quality of the finished product?

- For my wine making experiences, I have done fermentation in a brewer's bucket for 7 to 10 days, and then racked to a carboy. Should I do the same thing with mead, or is this step unnecessary? Skipping this first step and starting with the carboy would be a welcome time saver. However, I do worry about foaming overflows.

Based on your advice, I will try to come up with a decent recipe which hopefully we can fine-tune to perfection together. :)

Thanks in advance for your advice!

wayneb
03-21-2008, 01:03 PM
Hi yaeyama! Welcome to "Gotmead?"!! Your questions are pretty common ones for new meadmakers. One of the first things I'd suggest is that you check out the Newbee's Guide, which will not only answer most of what you've asked, but also jump-start your knowledge base and get you up to speed with current meadmaking process and technique. Check it out here. (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=27&Itemid=437)

wayneb
03-21-2008, 01:58 PM
Additionally, I would recommend against the step-feeding approach that you have outlined in your post. Step-feeding a yeast culture will repeatedly place the colony under stress, which will eventually cause the yeast to permanently poop-out, but during the "feast or famine" periods leading up to culture termination, will cause the yeast to create fermentation byproducts in addition to the desired ethanol, and will add funky flavors to the mead that may take months to years to age out... if ever.

It is much better for yeast viability to pick a yeast strain that will "top out" at a predicted ethanol tolerance near your desired final ABV, then mix your must to finish dry near that target value, then either stabilize the mead chemically (metabisulfate and sorbate) or by repeated rackings, perhaps coupled with cold-crashing, to eliminate all viable yeast.

The non-chemical approach takes longer and involves more rackings before you are sure the mead is stable enough to backsweeten and to bottle, but to end up with the best possible mead from any batch, multiple rackings to ensure all undesired components have precipitated out is a good thing anyway.

Medsen Fey
03-21-2008, 02:47 PM
Welcome yaeyama!

You might want to start with a proven recipe - Ancient Joe's No-Age Sweet Mead (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_rapidrecipe&page=viewrecipe&recipe_id=119&Itemid=6) might be a good one. Just because it is ready quickly doesn't mean you can't age it.

If you want a sweet mead, I would not use EC-1118 for yeast. It is a strong fermenter and will consume all the sugar you give it up to about 18% ABV. If you happen to step feed it, you may push it over 20%, (and it will require long aging). To keep a sweet mead, ICV-D47, or 71B may be better choices, as they die at the alcohol tolerance you are shooting for. If you give them a little more sugar than their tolerance at the beginning, it will leave you with sweet mead when they die off naturally.

Temperature swings are not good for long term aging - consistency is probably more important than if the temp is a little higher than ideal - aging at 28C is too high.

I salute you for planning to age something so long. That takes great patience and commitment. There are several patrons that have started "Leap Year" Meads. Our plan is to age them for 4 years and arrange a bottle swap in 2012. This way we can taste several variations of aged mead. There's still room to join in. A side note - Oskaar's recipes in the patron's area are amazing - more than worth the nominal fee.

Please post up the recipe you choose and let us know how it goes. Good luck with your batch!
Medsen

akueck
03-21-2008, 03:25 PM
I would definitely consider ponying up the $25 for access to all the best recipes in the patron's section. You can also look for Ken's book The Compleat Meadmakerat the library or Amazon. Also I would suggest wading through the brewlog section and searching for recipes that you like. My <a href="http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_smf&Itemid=412&topic=4741.0">Orange Blossom Mead</a> is turning out to be spectacular, and consists of just honey, water, yeast, and tannin. I used D-47 yeast, got about 15% ABV and finished at 1.013 (semi-sweet?). Obviously it's made with OB honey and not wildflower, but perhaps it will jumpstart you with some ideas.

Also I would skip the JAO recipe, since you already have experience with fermenting fruit. It's not a bad recipe, but I feel like it's more of a foot-in-the-door/hook for those who have no idea how fermentations work but want to give it a shot. If you like the idea of a spiced orange mead, I think Angus posted his version in the brewlogs. Similar inspiration, no bread yeast. :laughing7:

Welcome to the boards and I wish you luck on your first mead.

GrantLee63
03-21-2008, 03:58 PM
I would definitely consider ponying up the $25 for access to all the best recipes in the patron's section.

Also, all the other great info in the Patrons Only - Equipment, Patrons Only - Fermentation Management, Patrons Only - Techniques, Patrons Only - Brewlogs, etc., etc. etc. .....

If you are serious about wanting to make great meads, the 25 bux you spend on becoming a Patron on this wite will be the best 25 bux you can spend. Period. Oh, and by the way:

Welcome To The Forums !!! :cheers:

-GL63

beachfrontmeadman
03-21-2008, 04:49 PM
i also have a onage cinnamon mead up in the brew log that is going to come out very nicely
its great to hear that you are planning to do a basic traditional mead as your first
oskaar brought up a great point not to long ago saying tht so many people just in to mead making and try to make strange wild brews and only make ok mead because they haven't mastered the basics

fatbloke
03-21-2008, 08:07 PM
Ok so for a straight mead, 4lb of honey to the gallon will give you an SG in the region of 1135(ish) so maybe try 3.5 lb to the gallon and see what it measures up as.

Tannin ? Tea isn't bad, but even then it can be a little on the thin side, but if you're gonna top off with honey, then 2 honey to 1 water will eventually give a reasonable viscosity.

Yeast ? Lalvin's 71B has made a nice brew for me, or D47 (I prefer 71B). You should get between the 14 and 16 % you are looking for. You mentioned EC-1118 in your original post, well if you're gonna ferment to dry, then you could use that because any additional honey will eventually burn it out (the data sheet suggests 18%), any medicinal taste you may get when the yeast is first off the lees will fade with age. Plus you're basically suggesting that you're gonna back sweeten with honey anyway.

My next batch, I'm planning to start it at 1090, ferment down to 1020 or 1010 then top up with honey to either 1030 or 1040 a couple of times then I should get the 15/16 % mark without much difficulty. I'm planning to use a B1 tablet with the second topup and it's gonna be with 71B - I'll be testing different honeys though i.e. 1 gallon batches using a different variety each time to see which one I like. Straight "wild flower" is OK but for me, it produced an unremarkable mead.

maybe that helps some.

regards

fatbloke

wildaho
03-22-2008, 02:11 AM
... snip ...
My next batch, I'm planning to start it at 1090, ferment down to 1020 or 1010 then top up with honey to either 1030 or 1040 a couple of times then I should get the 15/16 % mark without much difficulty. I'm planning to use a B1 tablet with the second topup and it's gonna be with 71B - I'll be testing different honeys though i.e. 1 gallon batches using a different variety each time to see which one I like. Straight "wild flower" is OK but for me, it produced an unremarkable mead.

maybe that helps some.

regards

fatbloke


Why not just aim for your final gravity/yeast tolerance to begin with and then aim just a little lower on sugar than you want? Backsweeting is easy. Correcting for fusels is not.

Step feeding can introduce funky things. It's a good way to push your yeast past it's normal tolerance but it also stresses the yeasts and can introduce fusels and other ugly things if you're not very, very careful.

Me? I like things I can enjoy right out of the carboy and hopefully I can save enough from my quality samplings (multiple) to bottle...

yaeyama
03-24-2008, 07:43 AM
Thanks for all the tips! Okay, so I will probably end up using D-47 yeast, shoot for a high enough SG to give me the desired fermentation level, and then stabilize and backsweeten as many of you have suggested.

For a 14% - 16% mead using D-47, would a SG of 1.100 be reasonable? Or should this be a little higher?

ken_schramm
03-24-2008, 08:29 AM
Shooting for Lurgashall with D-47, go for at least 1.125, and maybe 1.135. Rehydrate the yeast with Go-Ferm. Nutrients? To keep it simple, use 1 tsp of diammonium phoshate and 1/2 tsp Fermaid K 6-10 hours after your pitch, and then add 1/2 tsp DAP and 1/4 tsp Fermaid K with a brisk stir each day for 3-4 days.

yaeyama, I'm pleased that you are shooting for as much info as you can gather for this batch, but don't put too much pressure on yourself to have your first batch come out perfect. Granted, there is a much better body of knowledge out there for you to tap into than when us old farts got started, but it's not a reasonable expectation that perfection will come on the meadmaker's first attempt. Substitute "sculptor" or "painter" in the equation, and you'll see why first time perfection for a meadmaker might be asking a bit much.

If the cost of honey is an issue, get out there and buddy up with some local beekeepers, and see if they are willing to be collaborators in your efforts. The barter system is a wonderful thing.

Medsen Fey
03-24-2008, 12:04 PM
Hi yaeyama,

I'm curious to know where you are located that has incredibly high honey prices. Here in Florida, local honey can usually be found between $2-3 per pound - certainly expensive but not outrageous.

In your original post, you expressed concern about foaming up. One easy answer is to use antifoam drops. Whatever your fermentation container, these drops can prevent a big mess - and I, for one, don't like clean-ups.

As Ken mentioned above, enjoy the meadmaking without anxiety. I'm still pretty new at this, but I can tell you I have not made a perfect batch. I suspect I never will..... But that won't stop me from pursuing that likely-unreachable dream. Reading and learning from Ken's book, and from all the generous contributors here has improved my technique and my understanding of how to manage the fermentation process, and the results are that my meads are getting better with every batch. In artistry, I would say that I have moved from apprentice to journeyman, and I am now reaching to produce masterpiece quality work. Whether I will achieve that level, I cannot say, but what I can state without equivocation, is that even my worst early meads still taste pretty good (and better than some commercial offerings).

So my take on this is to enjoy the learning process and have as much fun with meadmaking as you can - the perfection is the process itself. But if you do succeed in producing a perfect mead, I beg you, please share a bottle with me. I would like to have at least one small sip in this lifetime.

Good (Perfect?) Meading!
Medsen

yaeyama
03-25-2008, 10:00 AM
I'm located in Japan. I figure I'll be out about $300 USD just getting the honey together, and that's for pretty much the cheaper varieties. Oh, and home brewing is ILLEGAL here (5 year prison sentence :p ) unless the ABV is 1% or lower. So, I'll be uhh, shooting for 1%. (P'yeah, right.)

yaeyama
03-25-2008, 10:05 AM
I'm located in Japan. I figure I'll be out about $300 USD just getting the honey together, and that's for pretty much the cheaper varieties. Oh, and home brewing is ILLEGAL here (5 year prison sentence :p ) unless the ABV is 1% or lower. So, I'll be uhh, shooting for 1%. (P'yeah, right.)


Oh, and for obvious cost reasons, this is why I am going for quantity as well as quality. A few months of risk until they are bottled, with a lot of quantity so I don't need to do this again for awhile, with a nice amount of aging so I have some nice mead to drink for a LONG time.

Japan is still in the stone age for a lot of things, unfortunately. Maybe one day the people will vote the LDP (spit!) out of power... :(

Medsen Fey
03-25-2008, 10:24 AM
$300 - Ouch!!! :sad2:

It sounds like taking up bee keeping as a hobby might be a better plan - if they haven't made that illegal.

I admire your commitment - Good meading!

Medsen