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deenis
05-18-2008, 10:01 AM
Hello again. I am making 10 gallons of traditional sweet mead today and was hoping someone could check my procedure before I start. This is what I am doing (5 gallon):

5 gallons sweet mead

Ingredients:
15 lbs wildflower honey
2.5 tsp. acid blend
2 tsp. yeast nutrient
tsp irish moss
Yeast: Lalvin EC-1118, ferments to 18%, 45-95 F, Flocculation: low

Process:
1. Sanitize everything.
2. Bring 2 gallons of water to 150 degrees for 5 minutes. Then cool to room temperature.
3. Bring 3 gallons of water to 150 degrees for 15 minutes.
4. Add 15 pounds of honey to the 3 gallons of water.
5. Add yeast nutrient, irish moss, and acid blend into the honey water.
6. Spoon off residue at top of must.
7. Cool to room temperature.
8. Splash (adding O2) the 3 gallons of cooled must into carboy.
9. Add the water from the 2 gallons that was pasteurized into the carboy, splashing, until the carboy is almost full.
10. Attach an airlock.
11. Ferment at 70-75 degrees F. for 7-10 days.
12. Rack to secondary glass carboy. Let set for 90 days.
13. Rack again and let clear. When specific gravity reaches 1.015 or lower and the liquid is clear, the mead is ready to bottle.
14. Mead will be ready to drink in about 9 months, but will benefit from more age.
15. I may add potassium sorbate and additional honey to adjust sweetness once finished.
16. 14% alcohol?

If you have any ideas where I can improve, don't be shy as I want to get this right. I will be trying to blend different types of honey in the future, Thanks..... Deenis

Medsen Fey
05-18-2008, 10:52 AM
Hello deenis,

I'll share a few thoughts with you, and I'm sure others will chime in to provide you more details.

For a sweet mead, you may want to use a yeast other than EC-1118. It is a strong fermenter with an alcohol tolerance of about 18% that will easily take 15L lbs of honey in 5 gallons completely dry. If you want a sweet outcome, you may want to consider a yeast with a lower alcohol tolerance - perhaps Lalvin's ICV-D47 (14%) or 71B (14%) or Red Star Cote des Blancs (12-14%). You can see a yeast chart Here (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=625&Itemid=42). Even with a lower alcohol yeast, you might need to add a bit more honey to reach a starting gravity of around 1.120. This should leave it sweet. If you start with a lower gravity, it is certainly okay because if it goes too dry you can backsweeten with honey to get it right where you want it. If you decide to use the EC-1118, you still have the option of stabilizing and backsweetening the mead to make it sweet, so you do have options here.

I would not add any acid up front. Meads sometimes drop their pH down to a level where the yeast struggle - adding acid only makes it worse. After the mead has completed fermentation, then you can add acid to get the right flavor.

For most meads, irish moss is unnecessary. Time will usually allow it clear completely.

Boiling/heating really doesn't do much. The honey doesn't need it, and it takes extra time and effort for no benefit that I can detect.

I would rehydrate the yeast using Goferm. There is a thread with a link to a video demonstration (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_smf&Itemid=412&topic=5719.0). There is another good thread discussing rehydration of yeast Here. (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_smf&Itemid=412&topic=4638.0)

To have your yeast do their very best and complete the fermentation, it is a good idea to aerate the must during the first 2-3 days of fermentation. It won't produce oxidized results, but will make sure the yeast have the healthiest cell membranes possible.

If you do wind up backsweetening, you will probably want to use sulfite in addition to sorbate. The sorbate helps prevent the yeast from restarting, but doesn't keep bacteria from getting going with the sugar. The sulfite will keep the bacteria out.

Hopefully this helps you to get the exact results you are aiming for.

Good luck,
Medsen

deenis
05-18-2008, 11:25 AM
Thanks Medsen, I'll take your advice. So the acid blend is just to take the harsh alcohol notes away? I was just reading where Oskaar was saying not to use acid blend while fermenting. Sounds like you guys are in agreement. I guess I'll make a run to the homebrew store and pick up some sulfite later. The Lalvin EC-1118 caught my eye because it will make a higher alcohol percent (18) and has a broader fermentation temperature range. I can backsweeten later I guess. I have never tried a mead that was higher than 11% alcohol. Is 18% more of an acquired taste that many newbies such as myself might not like? Guess I better stick with the lower alcohol content for now anyway.

I also was thinking of force carbonating the mead with my kegging system and then bottling from the keg. Currently I am drinking what is left of my first attempt (1gal). I put it into a 2 liter plastic bottle (after adding additional honey) and force carbonated using a carbonator cap. Awesome.
Thanks so much for your help........deenis

Medsen Fey
05-18-2008, 12:09 PM
I don't think the acid will do much for harsh alcohol, only time will mellow that, though you can mask it somewhat with sugar in sweeter meads. The acid is really more about flavor and having the right amount of tartness to suit the amount of sugar in your mead. Some folks find they don't need any acids added at all and enjoy the sweetness as it is. I will take a glass of mead, and if I don't think the taste is quite tart enough, I will acid in small amounts until I find that I like where it is. Then I can estimate about how much I need for the rest of the batch. Then I add in less (about 20% less) than the amount I think I need and recheck, and if I still think it needs more, I'll gradually add in the rest. You can always add in more acid, but it isn't easy to take it out.

The EC-1118 won't make an 18% ABV mead unless you give it enough sugar to get there. With 15 lbs in 5 gallons you will be in the range of 14.5-15% with a very dry mead and no residual sugar. To get to 18% you would need about 18lbs of honey. The Gotmead Mead Calculator (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=745&Itemid=16) is a very useful tool to estimate these things and you may want to try it when planning recipes.

The amount of alcohol you want in mead is very subjective, and truly a matter of personal taste. Many new meadmakers do try to produce very high alcohol meads - I've certainly done it - but the results are not always so good. You may find a harsh, burning flavor that is really not all that pleasant to drink. The extra alcohol gives more body and some sense of "sweetness" but often you wind up with something that might be tolerable as an after-dinner drink, but not something you would enjoy having a couple of glasses of with dinner. Personally I find the meads I enjoy the best are between 12-14% ABV, but that's just me - others will give different opinions. If you are planning on serving it at the wedding, you may want to stick to the lower range as the guests may not really appreciate a very high alcohol beverage.

One thing I did not mention in the prior post is that I would let the fermentation finish in the primary. It might get done in 7-10 days, but it could take longer. When it is finished (If using EC-1118, the final gravity will probably be well below 1.000), I would rack it and let it clear. I usually wait for it to clear quite a bit before backsweetening (usually a few months) so that the yeast flavor and harsher alcohol flavors have cleared or mellowed. Then I can get the level of sweetness just right.

I hope that helps.

Medsen

liff
05-18-2008, 12:58 PM
Deenis,

Generally, it seems to me, that us at Gotmead have a "hive" sort of mind. We all think alike/similar in too many ways. Or maybe not enough, but either way, I agree with what Medsen is saying. Just to give you more of that 'warm, fuzzy feeling'.

Liff

wayneb
05-18-2008, 02:52 PM
I'm piling on here, too. I am in complete agreement with all of Medsen's comments -- I would only add even more emphasis on the lack of any need to heat or boil anything in your recipe. Heating or boiling honey to "pasteurize" it is totally unnecessary, since the organisms that can tolerate the harsh environment of undiluted honey (and there are very few) are unable to survive in your diluted must, so mixing your must straight from room temperature honey using slightly warm water (only warm enough to assist the honey in dissolving) is all that you need or want to do. Honey contains many volatile aromatics that are driven off when it is heated -- and that will take aroma and flavor away from your mead.

fatbloke
05-18-2008, 05:30 PM
Ditto the others remarks.

Oh and I know that "they" say that EC-1118 will do 18% ABV, but I understand that if you manage it carefully you can push it too over 20%.

The only downside with that, would probably be that the mead, to use Ken Schramms' analogy, would taste like listerine! Well that's not necessarily a problem but it's probable that you'd only cure if with a damn good "ageing too" :D

My first one came out like that, it took about 18 months to become drinkable.

Just my 2 cents worth.

regards

fatbloke

deenis
05-18-2008, 06:06 PM
Well, I am done with my first 5 gal. and am waiting for it to cool so I can pitch the yeast. I went and got some Wyeast 4184 for sweet mead. 11% alcohol. Ran out of time to make the other 5 gallons. Sounds like a good project for next Sunday. After reading everyones advice (and utilizing the advice), I think I will be very happy with the results. Medsen Fey, Liff, Wayneb, fatbloke Thanks, you guys are the best!

Medsen Fey
05-18-2008, 06:21 PM
That Wyeast sweet mead strain is notorious for causing difficulty. It is finicky and may produce stuck fermentations. If you are using it, provide plenty of nutrients, aerate the must well, and if you can, watch the pH, and be prepared to add some potassium bicarbonate if you see it drop below 3.4. The activated dry yeasts with moderate alcohol tolerance are much more reliable as a rule.

I know we are making this sound complicated, but compared to beer brewing, mead actually requires very little intervention - it mostly needs patience (always the hardest ingredient to find). ;)

Good meading!
Medsen

ucflumberjack
05-19-2008, 08:47 PM
Ditto on that bit... I used that yeast a while ago in some JAO and had problems getting it to ferment all the way out. Just make sure you aerate and use nutrient to help get the best results possible.

deenis
05-21-2008, 06:47 AM
Well, I am alittle late getting back but here is what I have done. After cooling, I added the Wyeast 4184 for sweet mead. 11% alcohol as stated earlier. 24 hours went by and no fermentation was obvious. I went back to the LHBS and purchased some Lalvin ICV-D47 with an alcohol tolerance of 12-14%. (This time I did not use the advice of the LHBS). Within 5 minutes of adding the dry yeast, (no exaggeration) I had fermentation bubbles. 2 days later, no problems so far. Guess I will have a higher alcohol content than I was shooting for with this new yeast. I will backsweeten after fermentation and clearing as suggested.......deenis

Medsen Fey
05-21-2008, 11:49 AM
I strongly suspect that the bubbling that you noticed 5 minutes after pitching the D47 was actually CO2 being released from the solution that had been produced by the sweet mead yeast. When you stir or aerate a batch, the fizzing that you see is sometimes the first sign that things are actually going. In any case, your batch is off and running and I hope it tastes great!

fatbloke
05-24-2008, 10:17 AM
Well if you used 15lb of honey into 5 gallons deenis, then with D47, I doubt that you'll need to back sweeten. You'd get a similar result with 71B, but it might taste a little different because of the yeast.

Either way, it sound's like it's "up 'n runnin'". You should get a result of some sort, even if it's not quite what you'd hoped for.

So, if it doesn't actually turn out how you expect, you can just "bulk store" it and see how the flavour develops. My early attempts tasted pretty much as Ken Schramm suggested in his book (listerine/blleeeaaaarrrrrgggggghhhhhhh), but 6 months plus ageing worked miracles on them. I was very pleased with the eventual outcome.

Good luck.

regards

fatbloke