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Brew2Drink
05-13-2008, 03:46 PM
Greetings folks. I'm new to mead making, but have been brewing beer on and off for about 15 years. I recently made my first batch of mead. Recipe is as follows:
5 Gallon batch
15# clover honey
1 tsp gypsum
4 tsp acid blend
1/4 tsp irish moss
4 tsp DAP

I boiled the honey moss and gypsum for 25 min with 1.5 gal of water and spooned off the foam during the boil. OG 1.075 (does that seem right?)
I cooled down and added 3.5 gal. of water. I then rehydrated 1/2 oz red star champagne yeast and pitched with 2 tsp of yeast energizer at 68 degrees.
I racked to my secondary 25 days later and forgot to take a s.g. reading, Q:is it normal that the mead would still be fermenting at this time?

Today I pulled out the secondary to have a gander at it, it sat in the secondary for ~6.5 months. The mead still looks hazy, but its hard to tell how much as it got shaken up during moving it from the closest to the kitchen counter.

Q: I have what appears to mold growing on the carboy above the level of the mead :-[ basically white to golden fuzzy patches about half the size of a dime. i have 9 colonies growing, all above the liquid level. Is my mead now useless?

Q: If i can salvage the mead, how long should I let the carboy sit and settle before I rack into my bottling bucket?
I'm planning to bottle in 12 oz beer bottles, perhaps I should let the mead sit another month? Problem is i'm moving at the end of June so I need to have it bottled then.

Q: DAP should be, have been added when I pitched the yeast?
Also when is the appropriate time to add the acid blend, and how much?

Q: Is clover the "standard" type of honey for making mead? Where I'm at is a lot of knapweed honey and the local winery told me that would make a more bitter mead.

Any help is greatly appreciated, I wish I would have looked at this resource before I started this back in Oct.

wayneb
05-13-2008, 04:56 PM
Q: I have what appears to mold growing on the carboy above the level of the mead :-[ basically white to golden fuzzy patches about half the size of a dime. i have 9 colonies growing, all above the liquid level. Is my mead now useless?

Q: If i can salvage the mead, how long should I let the carboy sit and settle before I rack into my bottling bucket?
I'm planning to bottle in 12 oz beer bottles, perhaps I should let the mead sit another month? Problem is i'm moving at the end of June so I need to have it bottled then.

Q: DAP should be, have been added when I pitched the yeast?
Also when is the appropriate time to add the acid blend, and how much?

Q: Is clover the "standard" type of honey for making mead? Where I'm at is a lot of knapweed honey and the local winery told me that would make a more bitter mead.


Hi, Brew2Drink! Welcome to "GotMead?"!! You've stumbled on the right place to get answers to all your meadmaking questions -- it is too bad that we didn't get a chance to consult with you before you started this batch (Search on "gypsum" or "irish moss" using the Search tool and you'll see lots of postings that will tell you why... ;) ), but better late than never! :cheers:

On to your questions...

1) Those dime-sized colonies may indeed be a mold, especially if they either look like solid fuzzy masses or if they have apparent dendrites extending down into the must from the surface. Hard to say without being able to look at it directly, but if it is mold, you'll want to deal with that right away.

2) To determine if it is salvagable -- use a wine thief or similar long probe sampler to grab a bit of the must from well underneath the surface. Put the sample in a glass, assess the clarity, smell it, and if it doesn't smell objectionable, take a small taste. If it tastes OK, then rack the clean must from underneath into another carboy, and sulfite it (treat with potassium metabisulfite) to raise the estimated free SO2 level up to at least 50-75ppm. Even as much as 125 ppm would be OK in this case. The exact amount of K-meta to add will depend on the pH of the must. Then let it set under an airlock for at least another month to confirm that nothing else is growing in there, and you can safely bottle at that point. If more of the fuzzy colonies start growing, I'd toss this batch and carefully re-assess your cleaning and sanitizing regimen.

3) DAP is of most use to yeast in the first 30% of the fermentation, so adding some DAP immediately after the lag phase, with subsequent additions to the 1/3 sugar break point, is the best way to go. In fact, search "staggered nutrient" in the forum search tool and you'll learn a lot about why a combo of DAP and a multi-ingredient nutrient such as Fermaid-K is probably the best approach to nourishing your mead yeast. Don't add any past the 1/2 break, ever.

4) Only add acid blend after the fermentation is completely finished, and then add only to taste. Frankly, I see no reason ever to add acid blend to a well-proportioned mead recipe, unless you happen to be working with very alkaline water in your must. Mead shouldn't taste like a grape wine, and so doesn't need as much acid as many winemakers seem to think should be in there.

5) There really isn't any "standard" varietal honey that is "best" for meadmaking. Clover is the most readily available to most folks in North America, so it is featured in many recipes. But any honey can be used to successfully make mead. Experimenting with the results obtained from different varietals is part of the fun! I've never used "knapweed" honey and so I don't know what characteristics that it might impart to the finished mead, but I'd suggest that it is worthwhile to freely experiment with whatever honey stocks you have readily available. "Take a chance...!"

beachfrontmeadman
05-13-2008, 06:12 PM
hey welcome to got mead
not really much to add to what wayneb has said already
other than that in the future you really don't need to boil your must
it breaks down the some of the more volitile bit in the honey and detracts from the overall finish
most of use go with the no boil method

butterlily5
05-13-2008, 06:54 PM
Welcome to GotMead?!

Also, compared to beer, a 3 month total fermentation (or longer, sometimes) is perfectly normal. I racked mine to secondary after a little more than a month, and it continued to ferment for at least 2 more months before my hydrometer showed a stop.

As for the starting gravity, it's a little lower than I would expect, but (and I realize this is a not-so-helpful answer) it really depends on what you were going for when you mixed it. I'd do a forum search on "OG" or "starting gravity" or something similar, and see what comes of a similar OG.

Also, if you haven't done it yet, check the main website (gotmead.com; just click the big graphic at the top of a page) and read the Mead NewBee Guide: it gives lots of valuable tricks and info for the beginner, and the rest of us as well! If you expect to see something there and you don't see it, you probably don't need it. Remember, mead is mead: it isn't wine, it isn't beer.

Good luck with your science experiment; I think wayneb gave you good info, and good direction on dealing with that.

Happy to see you here!! Any more questions, and you can't find what you need by looking around (this site has a mind-boggling amount of info already!), go right ahead and ask! We here love to share!
:wave:

Brew2Drink
05-13-2008, 07:40 PM
2) To determine if it is salvagable -- use a wine thief or similar long probe sampler to grab a bit of the must from well underneath the surface. Put the sample in a glass, assess the clarity, smell it, and if it doesn't smell objectionable, take a small taste. If it tastes OK, then rack the clean must from underneath into another carboy, and sulfite it (treat with potassium metabisulfite) to raise the estimated free SO2 level up to at least 50-75ppm. Even as much as 125 ppm would be OK in this case. The exact amount of K-meta to add will depend on the pH of the must. Then let it set under an airlock for at least another month to confirm that nothing else is growing in there, and you can safely bottle at that point. If more of the fuzzy colonies start growing, I'd toss this batch and carefully re-assess your cleaning and sanitizing regimen.

so it looks like i'll need to get a Ph testing kit of some sort. once I know my Ph then I'll know how much K-meta to add, correct? I've never dealt with Ph or K-meta before so I'm a steep learning curve ;) I see I really should have read more on the forums before doing my initial mead batch. Next time no additives and I'll go with a no boil method for sure. Only bummer is i'll have to wait a couple of months before I can start my next batch :angryfire: I was just a little miffed by the whole mold thing as I've never had contamination brewing in the past, :BangHead: live and learn I suppose. Thanks for all the good advice and I'll keep you all posted as to how things turn out.

Brew2drink, learning to make mead

Medsen Fey
05-13-2008, 07:59 PM
Welcome to the forums Brew2Drink!

While you get the pH meter and do some reading on sulfites (there are some good posts if you use the search function), you can take the shortcut approach. Adding 1 Campden tablet per gallon of mead give about 78ppm of total sulfite and about 48 ppm free sulfite. 1.5 Campden tablets per gallon will give about 87 ppm free sulfite. I would probably go with the latter amount. You can fine tune it later based on pH if needed. This should help keep the unwanted beasties beaten down.

Good luck with it!
Medsen

wayneb
05-13-2008, 08:10 PM
What Medsen says is true for a pH of 3.5, which is pretty much average for a traditional must that has been fermented from clover honey, assuming that your water was near neutral pH and not too hard. I'd also go with the 1.5 tablets per gallon -- crush them completely, and dissolve the resulting powder in some room-temp water before adding. Stir in to the must slowly until dissolved, then airlock it right away.

Brew2Drink
05-15-2008, 01:38 PM
ok 2 days since i racked from the moldy carboy to the new one, in an hour or two I'm planning to rack once more adding 7.5 crushed and dissolved in water, campden tabs. my SG was 1.018, which according to my LHBS is pretty high, also what i thought since my beers usually come out lower than this. so OG 1.075...FG 1.018 AC ~ 6% it appears thats not a wine at all. I've never drank mead so i'm not quite sure what to compare it to, but it was sweet tasting but sour smelling. Sounds like an impossible combination. It certainly smelled like some of the homemade wine i've drank before so I really don't know if its any good or not. My LHBS suggested not storing it long in the bottle if I do indeed decide to bottle it. I guess if I don't see any growth on it I'll go ahead and bottle. If anyone thinks I should do something different I'm all ears. Thanx for all the advice thus far.
Brew2drink

wayneb
05-15-2008, 01:52 PM
I think that "sour" smell might be problematic. Does it smell vinegar sour, or more like citrus fruit? If it has hints of vinegar (acetic acid), then the stuff you found growing on the surface most likely could have been an acetobacter colony. If so, then the batch will always taste of vinegar, and it isn't really worth saving. The fact that it stopped fermenting at such a high final gravity is also not good -- an alcohol content of 6% ABV in a mead must at that gravity will always taste thin and cloyingly sweet. It will also oxidize easily and may develop a secondary bacterial infection (i.e., it will spoil).

It might be best to chalk this one up to experience, and get another batch going after you move.

Either way, we're here to help -- and now that you've read the Newbee's Guide you already have a leg up on where you were when you started your first batch.

Brew2Drink
05-15-2008, 02:09 PM
yep vinegary sour, as i expected, not good, well no sense in messing with it then, i'll dump it and start from scratch :( Not quite sure what I did to make it spoil, as I always soak my brewing equipment in bleach water for at least 2 hours, all I can think is maybe my hands were dirty and touched the siphon hose when I racked to the secondary. And now that I think about it i didn't soak my jet carboy washer so that could have been contaminated as well. So whats the best way to siphon 'quietly'? I normally fill my racking cane and tubing with tap water and then put it into the primary on the kitchen counter and put the tube end into my secondary about 3 ft. below on the floor. my tube doesn't actually touch the bottom of the secondary so the must freefalls into the carboy until its about halfway full. should I get longer hose that touches the bottom of the secondary when I siphon? Also, is it worth racking the mead every month or so to pull off the good mead and leave the sediment behind, or just take a SG reading and rack to secondary after its fermented then leave till clarity? So much to learn still.
brew2drink

wayneb
05-15-2008, 03:06 PM
Acetobacter is pretty much everywhere so unless you are scrupulous about cleaning and sanitizing, you can get an infection. Additionally, the environment you provided, low ABV and exposure to the air from the racking, might have been enough to mix some bacteria into the must. Acetobacter has a harder time gaining a foothold in higher concentrations of ethanol. Your siphon method, the "water primer" technique, is basically sound. I would get a longer hose to minimize the amount of air mixing that occurs from splashing into the lower carboy. That's good practice to avoid oxidation. It isn't necessary to rack that often -- I usually rack once, from primary to secondary once the energetic fermentation is over, and again once all the lees have settled out and the mead is mostly clear for long term bulk aging in a storage carboy. My primary ferments usually last only on the order of a week to two weeks, since I carefully manage aeration and pH at the beginning of fermentation and I feed my yeast nutrients according to a staggered nutrient addition protocol.

I'd suggest using something other than bleach to sanitize with. Bleach is an effective anti-microbial agent but it usually takes so many subsequent rinses to get rid of the bleach residue, especially on plastics (which will flavor your must in a bad way), that you end up possibly introducing new spoilage organisms in with the rinse water. The nasty bleach flavor sticks around long after the bacteria-killing capability of the bleach has been diluted away by the rinsing. Better alternatives are some of the "no-rinse" sanitizers out there, such as Iodophor or Star-San. I personally like Star-San because concentrated Iodophor can leave stains on fabric if you happen to spill some, and the Star-San is basically clear. It does leave a bit of a sudsy residue which I get rid of with one rinse with clean water, so I'm cheating a bit on my sanitization philosophy by doing that. ::) Iodophor, once diluted to working strength, leaves no noticeable residue of any kind behind when you dump out the solution.

Medsen Fey
05-15-2008, 06:03 PM
Wayne is giving some very good advice here. In addition I would add to make sure keep your secondary container full with minimal headspace and/or use inert gas or CO2 to blanket it. While sanitation is very important, Acetic acid bacteria are all around us floating in the air, and anytime you expose mead to air some bacteria can float in. The Acetic acid bacteria cannot function in an anaerobic environment, and when you transfer from primary to secondary there is usually enough CO2 being released from the mead to chase out the O2. However, over a period months, that protective blanket will be lost with samplings, rackings, and slow leakage out. If you keep it topped up in a carboy, you minimize the surface area that air can contact and lessen the risk of acetic acid. Replacing an inert gas barrier every few months will also work. There are threads on "topping up" if you do a search.

I wish you better fortune on the next batch. And remember, if you've never lost a batch, you just haven't done enough batches. ;)

akueck
05-15-2008, 09:31 PM
In case you haven't dumped it all already, I would save some to use as a marinade/meat tenderizer/salad dressing. No sense throwing out good vinegar! ;D