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View Full Version : My First Mead! Tupelo honey mead. What do you think?



rex1030
03-23-2008, 11:44 PM
Hey everyone!

I have loved mead for a long time. I like sweet mead. After reading as many of the articles on this site as I could, and with the helpful guidance of a friend of mine and a local homebrew store I made my first mead last night. Anyways, I felt after all the help I have gotten from the site I should post my recipe and procedure and find out what you guys think. Do you think I did anything wrong? Do you think it will turn out good? Let me know.

My Recipe:

Ingredients:

16 lbs Tupelo Honey
5 gal. water (minus volume of honey) - I used zephyrhills distilled drinking water (because I like the taste the reverse osmosis process leaves)
2 packets - Cote Des Blanc Yeast, dry,
5 teaspoons - Fermaid-K Yeast Engergizer (recommended 1 tsp per gal)


Equipment:

one 6 gallon carboy (i used glass)
Stopper and bubbler
Large Funnel
2 Large pots - one for sanitizing, the other for warming the honey
knife - for opening the honey bags
teaspoon
Gravity measuring kit
2 Drinking glasses

Procedure:

Sanitation was really important to me because tupelo honey is very expensive and I didn't want this batch to go bad!
I first sanitized the 6 gallon carboy with IO Star Sanitizer. It's an iodine-based sanitizer that doesn't need to be rinsed out with water after emptying. I filled the carboy to the top with hot tap water and put a cap full of sanitizer in and let it sit for 25 mins. I then poured some of that sanitizer into a big pot and put everything that would be touching the mead at any time into the pot of sanitizer and let it sit for 20 mins. Whenever I was done using something it went right back into the pot of hot sanitizer. I also had a dispenser of alcohol based hand sanitizer in the kitchen so whenever I touched anything that wasn't sanitized, I sanitized my hands quickly.

The tupelo honey was put into two equally-sized sealed bags by the beekeeper so I simply ran steaming hot tap water (my water heater is set really hot) into the other pot, set the bags of honey into that pot of hot water, and let the honey warm up / quasi-pasteurize. While the carboy was sanitizing I also filled the sink up with hot water and set the two 2.5 gallon jugs of distilled water into the sink of hot water. This warmed the distilled water without opening the containers. To make the yeast starter the way the yeast packet suggested, I filled the drinking glass with the amount of water the packets suggested, added the yeast and mixed it a little bit.

After one of the jugs had been warming up for about 20 minutes I poured about 2 gallons out of one of the jugs into the carboy. I then added all the honey to the carboy (via funnel). I put the stopper in it and shook and swirled and mixed the honey up into the warm distilled water until it looked a consistent color (a homogenius solution). I then added the rest of the water (the second jug had been warming in the sink this whole time) and the 5 teaspoons of yeast nutrient and shook the mix up again (to both mix and airrate) until it was an even color. I poured out half a glass of the mix into the other drinking glass to take a gravity measurement of later. I added the yeast stater I made and then gave it a slow swirl. I put the bubbler into the stopper, added some of the distilled water to the top compartment. And I let my mead sit.

Results:

I measured a gravity of 1.080

The bubbler started bubbling within hours and now the mead is fizzing nicely. It definitely seems to be a very active fermentation. It has very interesting aroma coming from the bubbler. Sort of a sweet, almost fruity smell.

Background Information:

I have a real sweet tooth and I love honey. I used to sneak tastes of tupelo honey right out of the bottle when I first discovered tupelo a few years ago. Tupelo honey is a sweet, very rare and expensive honey. It is only grown in the Apalachicola River basin. I am fortunate enough to live in Tallahassee, Florida and I am about a 25 minute drive from a tupelo honey bee keeper. So I bought my honey directly from the bee keeper.

Mead truly is the 'Nectar of the gods" and I am trying to achieve exactly that. I want a sweet, delicious mead that just tastes like alcoholic honey. I am planning on making mead for the rest of my life so I don't expect to achieve perfection in my first batch. But I would like to perfect this recipe and process over few batches to produce a truly magnificent mead.

I haven't decided how many rackings I am going to do or when I will bottle, so any suggestions in that area would be helpful. I would like to prevent any possibility of accidental carbonation after bottling and I would like to achieve a mead that is nice and clear. Thanks for your help, suggestions, and comments.

wayneb
03-24-2008, 12:03 AM
Hi, Rex! welcome to "Gotmead?"!!

It sounds as if you are serious about taking good care of your tupelo honey, and I applaud your initiative to learn all that you could before starting the batch! :icon_thumleft: That said, there are some things that I'm not clear on regarding your recipe and your process. You say that you used 16 lbs of honey and mixed up a 5 gallon total batch. I would expect that ratio of honey to water to yield a starting gravity more on the order of 1.110, rather than the 1.080 that you measured. Even a 6 gallon batch made with 16 lbs of honey should start at about 1.090. If you're truly at 1.080 as a starting gravity, then your mead will very likely finish dry. That's not a high starting gravity, and the estimated ethanol concentration when all sugars are completely fermented out will only be around 11% ABV. With cote des blancs yeast, you should be able to reach 14% ABV without too much trouble.

Also, do you know what kind of yeast energizer you used? It is hard to know if a generic product provides all the nitrogen and micronutrients that yeast need in a honey-only must. That is why you'll see most of us recommending the use of brand name nutrients such as Fermaid-K, with additional supplementation with a little di-ammonium phosphate (DAP).

Finally, I have to ask, have you read the Newbee's Guide pages that you can get to from the Gotmead main page? Many of the questions you still want answered, as well as more guidance on how to ensure success with your very first efforts, are covered there.

rex1030
03-24-2008, 12:18 AM
Thanks for your reply wayneb and your warm welcome to this community. I definately measured that gravity. I know it is low, but that just means I will be able to enjoy more of my mead in one sitting without getting too sloshed :D. If you are right about my mead finishing dry, that will be disappointing but not a tragedy. I intend to perfect this recipe over time with subsequent batches anyways. Also, I have heard of resweetening later with more honey later. I will have to look into that. I will also read more of those starter articles you're referring to and decide about racking and bottling. Thanks for your good advice.

I did use Fermaid-K, which was my yeast nutrient, by the way. I am going to edit my post so that is reflected in the ingredients (i see now that if forgot to write that).

wildaho
03-24-2008, 07:17 AM
Welcome to GotMead? REX!

I have a couple of questions too. With that much honey in that volume of water, are you sure you stirred things enough to truly mix your honey with the water?

That is some damn fine honey, I'd hate to see you waste it.

Did you use a lees stirrer or carboy brush to make sure it was properly mixed up before you took a gravity reading? Simple stirring or shaking may or may not give you equal distribution. Honey is pretty dense. Make sure that is is fully integrated with your other liquids.

Without looking at the Calculator, I'd guess you should have been around 1.120-1.140 with that mix. Make sure that your honey is fully integrated into to the water!

It's early days. Whip the shi*t out of it! You need the oxygen anyway. As a matter of fact, give it it a WTS (whip the sh*t out of it) twice daily until you get to your 1/3 sugar break. Your nutrient schedule is odd but I'd add another .5-1tsp at the sugar break. (but first, make sure of what your OG is, I still think you haven't mixed well enough yet). After that, stir it gently every day without oxygenating until you are ready to rack.

So.

Give it a BIG wts and let us know what your new SG is. I'd almost bet that is why you are reading low right now. Let us know what your new SG is and the number of hours since your lag time stopped. And keep giving it a WTS until you hit 1.080, 1.065 or so.

I know, you say that's where you are now. I just think that you didn't get your honey mixed in well enough and your "OG" is actually in the range of your 1/3 break.

I could be wrong. It won't be the first time!!!

Good Luck!
Wade

Medsen Fey
03-24-2008, 02:11 PM
Welcome to GotMead rex1030!

My family lives about 30 miles north of Tallahassee - I'd love it if you would PM the contact information of that bee keeper. Perhaps the next time I am up for a visit I can pick up some fresh tupelo - but I'm going to check his scale.

I would echo the others that have pointed out that something is not adding up. 16 pound of honey in 5 gallons should easily have you near 1.120 for a gravity. I would double check my scale and my fluid measurements to make sure everything is right. Double check your hydrometer as well - Does it read 1.000 with the distilled water? If all your measurements are correct and all the honey is dissolved, your reading should be up over 1.100 unless you had some diluted honey.

Could your warming procedure have allowed water into the honey, diluting it? Did you weigh the honey on your scale?

Anyhow, if you want sweet mead, you can either ferment this to dry, and then stabilize and backsweeten, or you can added enough honey to this batch to bring the gravity up to about 1.120-1.130. There are numerous posts regarding stabilizing and backsweetening if you use the search tool.

Wildaho's advice to WTS out of it is important. The yeast need oxygen during the early fermentation period to develop strong cell membranes that can resist alcohol toxicity and allow them to complete the fermentation. Distilled water lacks O2 and aerating vigorously helps. Distilled water also lacks minerals that yeast like. To me, spring water is better.

You may not need any other nutrients in this batch. Although the yeast do better when the nutrients are added in stages, it is not absolutely essential unless you are trying to push them to their maximum. Again, if you do a search on Staggered nutrient additions, or SNA you'll find several threads to read. Typically Fermaid K is recommended to be added at about 1 gram per gallon in conjunction with some DAP. If you were not to use any DAP and went with 2 grams per gallon of the Fermaid K, that would probably work fine. 1 teaspoon of Fermaid K = 4 grams or so, and therefore you have added about 4 grams per gallon.

Excess Fermaid K can give you off flavors, but at this level you are probably okay. I wouldn't get concerned, but I wouldn't be adding any more unless absolutely necessary. Another disadvantage of excess nutrients is that it may make it easier for spoilage organisms to take hold once the yeast are done.

One other important issue in FL - what temperature are you fermenting at?

With all that said, I hope your batch takes off well and that you get to enjoy some great mead from it! Please don't let any of these questions cause you angst - this is supposed to be fun.

Medsen

butterlily5
03-24-2008, 10:34 PM
Welcome, Rex!! :wave:

Glad to see you here. I feel I must agree with the well-versed men before me and ask, "I know you mixed it a lot, but was it mixed all the way?" About a week and a half ago, I began my 3rd mead ("Batch 2: The Sequel"). Although I don't remember how exactly I had mixed it the first time, this time I mixed it all together in the carboy at room temp, and since I don't have a stirrer or any other type of handy drill attachment, I had to do LOTS and LOTS of swishing, shaking, and rolling around on its side (don't worry, my kitchen linoleum is that cushioned stuff, and I was very careful!). More than half an hour, and I thought my arms were going to fall off! :BangHead: When I was just about to pitch the yeast, I stirred it with my long spoon to make sure no honey had settled out (about 10 min after I stopped mixing), mixed it a little more for good measure, then took a gravity reading: 1.121, and that was 15 lbs of honey for a 5 gal batch. You've got a pound more, it should be higher than you're reading.

After my very first batch, when I realized I had only put in 11.5 lbs of honey for a "semi-sweet", I invested in a good scale for home. I highly recommend it. Now, I always measure out my honey before I add it.

Again, welcome to your new obsession! Remember, when you start to stress, RDWHAHB! (Relax! Don't Worry! Have A Home Brew!) You've started off your batch swimmingly. Now, WTS! ;D

kaferwerks
05-27-2008, 10:26 AM
I saw the Tupelo and had to read. I grew up in Sumatra Fl and my family owned a honey house and kept bees. It was great growing up having all of that honey at your disposal. The family had free access to it all of the time. It is sad that the younger generation did not carry on the business.

My Gradnfather was a Park Ranger down there and had many people from FSU come down and study the area. It seems the the Tupelo tree is dying off at a pretty alarming rate. This is rather disturbing for people that like this honey. I havent had a lot of different exotic types of honey but of the honey that I have eaten...it has to be the best.

Sorry to have replied to such an old thread but I just thought I would share the fact that this honey is getting expensive and harder to get away from home...Everyone should try it atleast once. Actually, maybe you shouldn't...that way you will not know what you are missing.