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fatbloke
04-05-2008, 08:44 AM
The recipe is as follows

Mead, a drink that can take on many characteristics - sweet or dry - depending on the amount of honey used - about 1.5kg (3lb) for a dry wine or about 1.75kg (4lb) for a sweet wine.

Makes approximately 1 gallon (imperial) or 4.5 litres.

Set Honey - 1.5 -1.75 kg/3-4 lb
Cold Tea - 600 ml/1 pint
Campden tablets
Boiled water
Citric acid - 1 teaspoon
Wine Yeast compound OR Special Mead Yeast and Yeast nutrient.

Add tea and 1 campden tablet dissolved in a quarter pint of boiling water
Place in 1 gallon fermentation vessel
Top up to almost three quarters full with boiled water and shake to mix thoroughly
Add citric acid
Prep must (did the original recipe say this or is it just the way my mother wrote it down? i.e. did she mean prepare a starter ???) The yeast mixture as per the instructions on yeast packet/or yeast compound/or the "special mead yeast".
When must (starter) has been fermenting for about 3 - 5 hours it should be added to the fermentation vessel.
Ensure it's mixed well and top up with more cooled water. Fit air lock and put in warm place to ferment.
WATCH IT CAREFULLY
If heavy sediment builds up, syphon mead into separate vessel, taking just a little of the sediment.
When fermentation is complete (4-6 weeks) syphon mead into clean, sterilised vessel i.e. no sediment.
See campden tablet instructions Dissolve 1 or 2 in a little hot water and add to mead. This will ensure fermentation stops and wine clears.
Leave sealed under and airlock till the wine is cleared and sediment formed (you can filter it if you have the equipment available).
Bottle in sterilised bottles, cork and label.
Store for at least 6/12 - The longer the better.

The recipe is one that my mother found in the "Gales Book of Honey" (Gales being a UK brand - now part of those well known food nazis, Nestle). I've previously had no problems with it, but now I have.


After the nearly 20 on heather honey, extensive reading up, considering the various "choice" type things...........

Then coming to actually put the batch together and it's still going to a SoS!

For reasons that I currently can't fathom.

I've followed the procedure, correctly, as far as I can tell (well that'd be as closely as possible, given the differences between "modern" materials and what is suggested by the recipe for example, I'm using Lalvin 71B for the yeast, and the nutrient is Gervins' "Minavit") i.e.

Honey into DJ/brew jar, rinsing the jars in warm tap water.

Shaking it to mix/dissolve the honey.

Great, it seems to have done that.

Then, following the instructions on the box of Minavit - opting for the 6 grammes per litre suggestion, because of the suspected high gravity, and taking into account that honey is notoriously low in nutrient so as it's a gallon DJ/4.5 litres, that equates to 27 grammes.

The cold tea - well OK, not that cold but still a pint of it.

Then the campden tablet - crushed and dissolved.

Then the top up to about 3 quarters full (mineral water i.e. locally sourced but with lower than "tap" calcium, from a "low calcium" spring - I live in a hard water/high chalk area).

Excellent.

For there on (apart from the 5 minutes agitation for aeration purposes) it goes into "mystery mode"/SoS/WTF etc.

Why?

Because the intention was to measure the gravity and pH at this point.

The gravity, as expected is about 1135, but the pH is showing as 6.67 i.e. damn near neutral. WTF is going on?

Stress sets in.

OK, get the 7.00 buffer solution and check the calibration of the pH meter. OK it seems to be a couple of hundredths out - set it so that it reads 7.00

Rinse it with water, shake it off and try again.

No! still showing 6.66 - hell that can't be right? surely? (baring in mind that 3.3 would be a good level to start the ferment?).

OK, check the stage of the recipe, and the only thing that isn't in it at this point, is the citric acid.

1 teaspoon full? Yes, that's what it says. So measure out 1 tsp and dissolve in a little water. Add it to the must, cork the DJ/brewing jar and shake to mix.

Measure pH again? OK, except it now seems to be showing 6.37, still way out.

So, what to do? OK, clean everything off, wipe down, cork the DJ/brew jar and leave it (oh and rinse the 71B that was re-hydrating in a glass with 2oz's of water down the damn sink).

The only thing that I can think of that might be giving incorrect readings is due to temperature.

I haven't measured it (apart from making sure of the temp of the water for rehydrating the yeast) yet. Though using blood temp as a guide, the must isn't warm (suggesting over 37 C), but it's not cold either.

The buffer solution came out of the fridge (apparently it's better kept in there) so might be as low as 2 to 4 C. So for the moment, rather than screw everything up, leave it to come up to room temp and the must to come down (that's if it's high) to room temp.

I'm convinced that I can't be that far out with the must. Because I've not had any occassion where it would need such a potentially huge amount of acid addition (being so far - currently - away from the apparently ideal 3.3 or thereabouts).

I'm a bit irritated at having to dump the yeast, but it's the cheaper option than panicing dumping the must.

Hum? Confused, dazed, stressed, etc etc.

If, when it's all settled down, it's still such a high pH, what would the next step be ?

regards

fatbloke

liff
04-05-2008, 09:19 AM
Then, following the instructions on the box of Minavit - opting for the 6 grammes per litre suggestion, because of the suspected high gravity, and taking into account that honey is notoriously low in nutrient so as it's a gallon DJ/4.5 litres, that equates to 27 grammes.

I don't know what Minavit is specifically, but when you dissolve a little bit in some water, does the pH change? If "minavit" has some types of minerals in it, then that can cause a rise in pH. Also, DAP can cause a rise in pH I have read on this site.

Liff

Edit:
Prep must (did the original recipe say this or is it just the way my mother wrote it down? i.e. did she mean prepare a starter ???)


"Must" is the term for the honey/water right before the addition of yeast.

fatbloke
04-05-2008, 10:15 AM
I don't know what Minavit is specifically, but when you dissolve a little bit in some water, does the pH change? If "minavit" has some types of minerals in it, then that can cause a rise in pH. Also, DAP can cause a rise in pH I have read on this site.

Liff

Cheers for the response Liff,

Minavit is Gervins (they went bust last week) answer/equivalent to Fermaid (as far as I can tell).

It contains : "A mixture of mineral salts, amino acids, and vitamins, including inositol, nictotinic acid, pyridoxine, thiamine, pantothenic acid and biotin."

The label goes on to say : "Typical analysis nitrogen 12%, phosphorous 20%, potassium 8%, magnesium 2.9% contains no urea".

and then finishes with : "Suggested dosage 1-2 grams per gallon for wines: 6 grams/litre for fermentation of sugar solutions to high alcohol levels".


"Must" is the term for the honey/water right before the addition of yeast.

Yes, I understand the differences in the terminology, but that's as it was copied from the book. Gales are/were honey "producers" not brewers/mead makers so I suspect it's a bit of confusion on their part.

I did a bit more checking to see if I could have tested/checked wrongly - it appears not. I checked the pH meter by checking the temp of the buffer solution for it - the label says that it should give a pH reading of 7.0 at 25 degrees C, 7.01 at 20 C. It measured 20 C on my digi' thermometer so I check the calibration to read 7.01 so I think it's reasonably accurate.

I then took a sample of the must, the temp of which was 25 degrees C, but also gives a pH of 6.29 - very high considering anything I can find out about the acidity of honey.

The must has already had it's dosage of citric acid. So it appears that the question now, is whether to add enough acid to reduce the pH or not.

I understand from a comment by Ken Schramm (posted elsewhere) that ideally I should have a pH of about 3.3, the wide difference here is what's causing my confusion/frustration. He also pointed out that he's one of the "no acid before fermentation" brigade.

Hence I don't know what to do for the best, because to get the pH down to anywhere near ideal should (as I understand it) need quite a considerable amount of acid???

So any further advice/suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

regards

fatbloke

Medsen Fey
04-05-2008, 11:07 AM
My suggestion would be to forget the acid additions for the time being. The yeast will take care of the acid as they start to multiply and do their work. They will produce a considerable amount of organic acids that will lower the pH down to a level they like. Since meads and honey musts don't have a lot of buffers, the drop in pH can sometimes be precipitous, and may go down to a level (3.3 or below) where it actually impedes the yeast. My leap-year heather mead (in Patron's Brewlog) started with a ph of 5.4 and immediately dropped down to a pH of 4.1 after the yeast started.

Your pH is a bit higher than mine was, and this may be due to the composition of your honey, your water, and the nutrient additions but yeast can handle it. I have pitched rehydrated yeast into must with pH level of 6.5 and had them take off fine, and end up with ph below 3.5. If you add a bunch of acid now, when the yeast add their acids, it could cause you to stall. Trust your yeast to handle the pH of your must.

The nutrient additions you are making do seem awfully high. Most energizers I have seen call for a couple of grams per gallon. 6 grams per liter seems like a load, and it wouldn't surprise me if that leaves you with a flavor you can taste from the nutrient. If you are shooting for high alcohol mead, you are better off doing a staggered nutrient addition that gives them the nitrogen spread out over a period of time. By giving it to them all at once, the cells may "overeat" and grow larger which lowers their alcohol tolerance later.

Excess nutrients with amino acids may also cause higher production of fusel alcohols and some sulfur compounds by the yeast based on some of what I have read, so trying to get them just enough to do the job is the challenge.

You may not want to airlock it immediately either. To get the highest alcohol tolerance, the yeast need to be aerated vigorously for the first few days - say until the 1/3 sugar break.

I couldn't quite tell from you post how many campden tablets you used in the must, or how long you wait to pitch after the sulfite addition. While most wine yeast are able to tolerate a fair amount of SO2, it is probably a good idea to wait 12-24 hours after sulfiting a must before pitching. Otherwise the sulfite may slow the yeast down.

One last thing - the heather honey I used foams like crazy - you may want antifoam drops.

I hope this is of some help. Good luck with it!

Medsen

liff
04-05-2008, 12:40 PM
fatbloke,

Sorry, I did not know what you meant by the 'must'. No offense meant.

I also agree with Medsen Fey, just pitch the yeast. I bet they will do just fine.

Lastly, if you add some of the Minavit to water, does that change the pH? It seems like it would with your reply of what is in it. That could be the reason for your very high pH. Also, great job on the very detailed step by step description of this ferment.

Liff

fatbloke
04-05-2008, 05:52 PM
OK, thanks for the answers both, much appreciated.

For info, I did find a link about using "acidulated water", but as it's supposed to be a 1 gallon batch - which is already made up to 4 litres i.e. nearly 1 imperial gallon, that doesn't look like the answer.

So, after doing as much digging around, it seems that I don't have much choice or options.

I think I'm gonna stick a couple of teaspoons of acid in it (only 2), which might help a little but not affect it too much, then instead of using 71B I'll pitch EC-1118 (what with the gravity being 1140 last time I measured).

If I do end up with any "medicinal" taste (that's presuming that the bu99er ferments at all ;D) I can always sorbate it and then back sweeten it as I still have 1 lb of the honey left to use up.

As for Liff's questions - it's only had 1 campden tablet so far - as per the recipe, and I pH measured 2 oz of water (7.17) and then added 1 tsp of the minavit, but it only changed it fractionally to 7.11 so that doesn't seem to give me any clues as to what's actually gone on here.

For Medsen Feys points - No the initial intention wasn't about high alcohol, I'd intended to use 71B for the 14 to 15%. Yes I also agree that it does seem like a large amount of nutrient, but from the box instructions it's correct.

As for fusels ? I've noticed comments about them here, but I've only read about them before when reading discussions about distillation. How they'd affect flavours etc in mead I don't know. They'd be reasonably dilute though (as far as I can work out).

I don't have any anti-foam drops so if it does foam, I'll just have to try to manage it.

Plus the sulfite thing you mention shouldn't be a problem, because it will have been just under a day when I actually pitch the yeast.

I'll report back when the yeast has been in there a couple of days.

regards

fatbloke

p.s. and there was me thinking that honey is supposed to be acid, not damn near neutral. This mead making lark can be very confusing!

Medsen Fey
04-05-2008, 06:54 PM
Well, the change to EC-1118 is going to give you a high alcohol mead. I pretty sure you're going to see it ferment. The 71B would probably work, but leave you with a sweet mead, where the EC-1118 will likely be close to dry, but as you say you are ready to back sweeten.

If you do run into any sluggish fermentation here, check the pH to make sure it hasn't dropped too much.

Honey is an extremely variable product. The variation even between batches of the same variety collected in different locations, or in different years (it is a vintage product) can be significant. Even though it is acidic, when you dilute it, some musts will have a relatively lower pH and some will be higher. Perhaps it is my water, but my musts are always above 5.0. Fortunately, the yeast are quite adaptable and they will make themselves at home in most any must.

As for fusel alcohols, all I can say is when you get a batch with excessive fusels, you'll know it - it won't be subtle. When you taste it, there will be a hot, burning alcohol sensation, that will have you asking, "Who put the grain alcohol in my mead?" The surest way to get them is to ferment at too high a temperature. Backsweetening usually won't fix it - you have to age them out, though it might take decades (at least for a couple of my early batches). :D

Here's wishing you success.

Medsen

fatbloke
04-05-2008, 07:45 PM
Well, the change to EC-1118 is going to give you a high alcohol mead. I pretty sure you're going to see it ferment. The 71B would probably work, but leave you with a sweet mead, where the EC-1118 will likely be close to dry, but as you say you are ready to back sweeten.
I did manage to find a few links that suggested that it should (theoretically) ferment, plus a few that did, briefly, acid "issues". I did find one suggestion that sounded reasonable - I'm now of a mind that I'll add 1 tsp of citric (extra to the 1 the recipe calls for) and 1 tsp of tartaric.

As for the yeast, well the gravity is too high to give anything but a very sweet mead with 71B, but the current measurement of 1140 (apparently enough to produce 19.02% ABV) might still have a little sweetness with the 1118 - but I had a bit of a brainwave, and I'm thinking of "splitting the difference" and using K1V because that should go to about 16 (ish) % ABV - yes it will be a bit rough on finishing, but all the stuff I've read on heather honey suggests that it does need ageing so that possible roughness should age out of it.



If you do run into any sluggish fermentation here, check the pH to make sure it hasn't dropped too much.

Honey is an extremely variable product. The variation even between batches of the same variety collected in different locations, or in different years (it is a vintage product) can be significant. Even though it is acidic, when you dilute it, some musts will have a relatively lower pH and some will be higher. Perhaps it is my water, but my musts are always above 5.0. Fortunately, the yeast are quite adaptable and they will make themselves at home in most any must.

Sure. There seems to be no end of info describing all the possible differences in honeys i.e. the differing levels of the different sugars it contains, ash levels, possible pH permutations, etc etc etc.

If the 2 tsps of acid I'm planning to add can drop it into the 5.X range I'll be happy.


As for fusel alcohols, all I can say is when you get a batch with excessive fusels, you'll know it - it won't be subtle. When you taste it, there will be a hot, burning alcohol sensation, that will have you asking, "Who put the grain alcohol in my mead?" The surest way to get them is to ferment at too high a temperature. Backsweetening usually won't fix it - you have to age them out, though it might take decades (at least for a couple of my early batches). :D

Here's wishing you success.

Medsen

I did wonder if that's what you meant with the "fusels" comment. In distillation, I understand that they're normally removed by dumping the first X amount of foreshots as they include any methanol that's produced, plus a few of the higher, more volatile types of ethanol that are produced (and make for mega hangovers). I haven't had a problem where they've been produced in any of my batches so far, only a couple of the batches tasting "medicinal", whether that's just the higher alcohol ones I don't recall - but that also aged out of the mead. So I'm hoping that one way or another, I'll end up with something drinkable.

Thanks for the advice and guidance, it's very much appreciated.

regards

fatbloke

wayneb
04-06-2008, 12:34 AM
FB, since everyone else has chimed in with their interpretations of honey, must dilution, yeast, etc., let me go back to first concerns and ask you a bit about your pH and the local water that you're using. Could you try a few simple tests of your meter for me, please. First, use your pH meter to measure the pH of standard distilled white vinegar. If your vinegar is mixed to the "standard" dilution of 4 to 5 percent acetic acid to 95-96% water, the measured pH ought to be in the 2.5 to 2.7 range. Next, mix your vinegar 10% with 90% distilled water by volume. That should provide a pH of around 3.0. Finally, mix your vinegar 10% to 90% local water (that you used in mixing your must). If the result deviates significantly from the value you observed from the 10-90 mix of vinegar to distilled water, then you have likely identified the source of your rather high pH measurement. It is unusual, but certainly possible, to have local water that is excessively alkaline -- and I know several water sources in parts of the UK are both rather high in mineral content and high in pH. If these tests confirm the proper operation of your pH meter and indicate that you have alkaline water, it may be necessary to drop the pH of your further, to discourage growth of spoilage organisms in the must.

Otherwise, you appear to have things well in hand. Don't stress yourself excessively about the finishing ABV of your must. I suspect that even with 1118, you are unlikely to get a final ABV in the vicinity of 19% unless you take great pains to carefully aerate the must and nourish the yeast using a staggered nutrient addition protocol. It will be a bit of a challenge to get any yeast, even 1118, to start in a must gravity of 1.140 without some coaxing. That said, K1V would also be an OK yeast to use in this batch.

So you'll end up with a high ABV finish using a honey known for "harsh" characteristics in finished meads -- be prepared to age for a long time! ;)

ken_schramm
04-06-2008, 01:30 AM
I understand from a comment by Ken Schramm (posted elsewhere) that ideally I should have a pH of about 3.3, the wide difference here is what's causing my confusion/frustration. He also pointed out that he's one of the "no acid before fermentation" brigade.

Just to clarify, what I said on the other board was "I would recommend against a starting a fermentation at a pH of 3.3 unless you have a honey that is loaded with buffer. " That is to say, starting with a pH as low as 3.3 could lead to problems. You will want to finish with a pH that low, but the pH will drop as reproduction and fermentation progresses. As a rule of thumb, I would recommend starting between 3.5 and 4.0.

Wayne's comments on water hardness and your starting pH are very valid. I would guess that your fermentation would go along just nicely if you started that close to 7. You could then adjust acidity after the ferment with any number of acid supplements that are available.

Ken

fatbloke
04-06-2008, 05:59 AM
FB, since everyone else has chimed in with their interpretations of honey, must dilution, yeast, etc., let me go back to first concerns and ask you a bit about your pH and the local water that you're using. Could you try a few simple tests of your meter for me, please. First, use your pH meter to measure the pH of standard distilled white vinegar. If your vinegar is mixed to the "standard" dilution of 4 to 5 percent acetic acid to 95-96% water, the measured pH ought to be in the 2.5 to 2.7 range. Next, mix your vinegar 10% with 90% distilled water by volume. That should provide a pH of around 3.0. Finally, mix your vinegar 10% to 90% local water (that you used in mixing your must). If the result deviates significantly from the value you observed from the 10-90 mix of vinegar to distilled water, then you have likely identified the source of your rather high pH measurement. It is unusual, but certainly possible, to have local water that is excessively alkaline -- and I know several water sources in parts of the UK are both rather high in mineral content and high in pH. If these tests confirm the proper operation of your pH meter and indicate that you have alkaline water, it may be necessary to drop the pH of your further, to discourage growth of spoilage organisms in the must.

Otherwise, you appear to have things well in hand. Don't stress yourself excessively about the finishing ABV of your must. I suspect that even with 1118, you are unlikely to get a final ABV in the vicinity of 19% unless you take great pains to carefully aerate the must and nourish the yeast using a staggered nutrient addition protocol. It will be a bit of a challenge to get any yeast, even 1118, to start in a must gravity of 1.140 without some coaxing. That said, K1V would also be an OK yeast to use in this batch.

So you'll end up with a high ABV finish using a honey known for "harsh" characteristics in finished meads -- be prepared to age for a long time! ;)

Ok, that'd definitely be a good idea, though the water I've used to dilute the honey, while local, is from a sandstone based spring, rather than a "chalk based" one, which predominate in the area i.e. vvv hard water, which when tested for my fish tank shows high "general" hardness but not too higher levels of "carbonate" hardness - so the mineral content is probably there, but what it might actually be could be anyones guess (and I certainly don't have the money to get a full analysis :D).

I understand (at the moment and without the testing) that the local water hovers around neutral, possibly a little bit up into the alkali end of the scale - having got a reading of 7.17 for tap water, but your test idea will, I hope, clarify that one way or another.

I'll have to get the vinegar though, as we only generally keep "distilled malt" (the brown coloured stuff) in the house. To conduct the tests, which whatever the case is currently, would be good to know so I don't have to try to source lots of mineral/spring water. I'll report back on that one later.



-----%<-----
Just to clarify, what I said on the other board was "I would recommend against a starting a fermentation at a pH of 3.3 unless you have a honey that is loaded with buffer. " That is to say, starting with a pH as low as 3.3 could lead to problems. You will want to finish with a pH that low, but the pH will drop as reproduction and fermentation progresses. As a rule of thumb, I would recommend starting between 3.5 and 4.0.

Wayne's comments on water hardness and your starting pH are very valid. I would guess that your fermentation would go along just nicely if you started that close to 7. You could then adjust acidity after the ferment with any number of acid supplements that are available.

Ken
Yes, I'm starting to understand what "the score is" with this "pH business" Ken. Right now I'm stuck with all the info that seems to be around the net that labours the point of starting a ferment between 3.0 and 3.5, your point (that concurred with other advice from DAW at the WAH boards) seemed to "glue" some of the info I've read together.

Unfortunately, in this case, the readings that the must was giving me "threw me a real curved ball". So far, I've got the must made and had to add some acid to try to knock the pH down some (I haven't re-tested it yet though), and spent many an hour scouring my books and the net for anything that might point me in the right direction - equally I might have mis-interpreted some of the advice I been given/read (two countries divided by a common language ? :D), and have missed the point completely.

Your guidance on not adding acid before fermentation is what I'm aiming to follow, though until I get it out of my brain that the must has to be in the 3.X region before fermentation, I'll continue to have problems. Though it should work brilliantly when I work out how to progress (damn! this mead making "lark" is taking some learning :icon_scratch:).

Right now, I'm thinking of pitching the K1V, but trying to work out how and when, further aeration should be done/for how long/etc etc. I'm still confusing some of the terminology as well, which doesn't help any as I keep having to stop and look things up.

Ha! like our local trains, I'll get there eventually - if a little slowly.

Thank you both for outstanding advice and guidance. As ever, it's very much appreciated

regards

fatbloke

fatbloke
04-12-2008, 12:34 PM
Well, I did my first set of checks today.

And apart from the fact that it's been bubbling away nicely for a week, it's now showing a SG reading of 1045 (down from 1140) and a pH of 3.95 (down from the 4.30 I managed to get the must down too before pitching the yeast - K1V).

I tasted the little drop that I took the pH reading from and I'm very pleased as it shows definite promise i.e. apart from the obvious yeastiness to the taste, there is still a very strong honey flavour, with some reasonable sweetness - hell I could have drunk the lot there and then ;D but I managed to resist :tard:

I might be completely wrong, but at the moment, it has all the signs that this batch is gonna be a "good'un".

regards

fatbloke