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virtualy
08-04-2008, 04:56 PM
Hello Board. I've been reading and experimenting, trying to get a handle on the making of mead. I'm on my third batch now and have some questions.

THIS batch:

MUST -
6# mesquite honey (from TJ)
2 gal. Mango juice (pasteurized, no additives)
1 packet pectic enzyme
1 capsule servomyces
1 tsp acid blend
3/4 tsp DAP

Nothing boiled
SG 1.096
pH ~4.4 (test strips, hard to read difference in colors)

Yeast Starter Mix -
24 oz Must
16 oz sterile H2O
0.5 TBS + 0.5 tsp GoFerm
SG 1.060 @ 104*
added 0.5 TBS Lalvin K1-V116 yeast

First, a mea culpa. I now realize I should have rehydrated the yeast in water only, then added it to the starter mix. Another lesson learned.

The Must sat for a day before pitching the yeast, with two (sterilized) aquarium bubblers running in the Must during this time. The yeast starter mix was next to the Must so that temps equilibrated. I pitched the yeast after 24 hrs, then stirred the combination every 8 hrs for the next 24. Then I sealed the container (5 gal "Deluxe Fermenter" plastic bucket).

That was 3 days ago. The bucket is in the garage, on a table next to the water heater. The temperature strip on the bucket indicates between 66* and 72* F. I have seen NO evidence of activity. Not a bubble. I just opened up the bucket and saw no bubbles on the surface of the liquid. There were floating "clots" of...orange colored material that looked something like pulp. There was no pulp in the Must before. I stirred the mixture (which immediately foamed) and checked the SG (1.060).

The taste was Fantastic! Easily the best tasting product of the three I've tried so far. It even seemed to have a bit of tingle, almost as though it were carbonated. Though there was no alcohol taste, I'm feeling just the tiniest bit tipsy as I type this. However, I'm concerned about the complete lack of bubbling when sealed, especially after three days.

That brings me to the first question. How active should these liquids be? I read about active fermentation for a week or more. The first batch I made, straight mead, was not very active, bubbling only every 10 minutes for a day and a half. The second batch, essentially Applejack, bubbled very well for maybe three days. Both batches bubbled within 24 hours of sealing the bucket.

Should I be stirring these mixtures, trying to aerate them? I read that I should, I also read that it's unnecessary. I'm not clear on the life processes of yeast. Do they go through an aerobic phase, followed by an anaerobic phase? Does stirring the pot, so to speak, slow the onset of fermentation? Is fermentation strictly an anaerobic process?

How long should I leave the liquid in the plastic bucket before racking to a secondary fermentation bottle? I've been waiting two weeks. Too long? Too brief?

Finally, does anyone else struggle with removing the lids on these plastic buckets. I thought at first that I was never going to get the lid off. It is VERY difficult to pry the thing off, even holding the bottom of the bucket tightly between my feet. I need to really strain to get a small portion over the lip, then work around the lid until I can lever it off. I'm not a small guy, nor a particularly weak one. I have two buckets and they are both a challenge to open.

Sorry, long post. Thanks ahead for your responses.

--V

wayneb
08-04-2008, 06:45 PM
Hello virtualy! Welcome to the "GotMead?" community! I know that the last thing you want to see when troubleshooting a mead that appears sluggish is the suggestion to "use the SEARCH tool" in the forum, but I have to make that recommendation, since I know that virtually (no pun intended) all of your questions have been answered for other folks having similar experiences within the past few months. However, to put your mind a little at rest, you said that when you stirred your batch, you saw foaming. Your mead IS fermenting! ;D Additionally, you went from an initial gravity of 1.096-ish to 1.060 in three days. That is a drop in gravity of just a little over .010 per day -- that is right on the money for robust fermentation. The quick answer to your concerns is that you are probably fine -- but your buckets, despite the ultra-stiff lids, are not making an airtight seal. That is incredibly common with plastic brew buckets, and it causes folks no end of unnecessary worry.

Bubbling in an airlock is not a reliable indication of ongoing fermentation. Always measure the SG of your must, and keep records to track the changes, if any. In short, when it comes to characterizing your fermentation, your hydrometer is your best friend. And active stirring to incorporate additional air into the must is a good idea for the first 1/3 of fermentation. With your starting gravity, that would be until your gravity drops to about where you are now: 1.060. From now on, you can stir slowly to get yeast re-suspended in the must, but try to NOT aerate any more than absolutely necessary from now on. Don't splash it any more.

BTW - Great posting of your recipe and process! Thanks for that -- it helps us to get to the root of any problem with as little delay as possible! :cheers:

Now I've gotta run, but I'm sure other folks here will chime in and answer your other related questions -- that is if you don't find the answers using the search tool first! ;)

Yo momma
08-04-2008, 09:30 PM
Racking to your secondary actually depends on your SG reading and where you are to end up at. I like my meads sweet, about 1.015-1.030, so I rack at about 1.060-1.050 so I can watch the last of the fermentation through glass. Small things for small minds. :laughing7: Anyway, being you started at 1.096 and your yeast is K1v-1116 ( my favorite by the way ) your mead is going to dry quickly. Kv is a hearty strain and has a tolerance of 16% or more. I usually start my meads a little sweeter, about 1.130-1.140, as to leave some sweetness behind after it reaches it's target. THe higher the ABV the better for me! :drunken_smilie: If I was brewing this batch I would rack at 1.010 and see where it ends up. If you desire a sweeter mead then use the search for the term backsweetening and follow the instructions there. If you do not find your answer there then ask it here and we will help where we can.

:cheers:

virtualy
08-05-2008, 02:39 PM
Wayne-

I get the need for search, to lighten the load on the board and all you gurus. And I appreciate the very gentle way you ...redirected my focus. In truth, I was being a bit lazy. Sorry for that. I've since read through dozens of threads and done a few searches. I've gleaned much information and the answers to a few of my concerns. This is an excellent repository of knowledge.

That said, I have to add that the search function is not the best I've encountered. I've also found several links within threads that point to other threads/posts on this board but that lead to an error page telling me the page was not found. I know the site is in transition and that may be the cause of the broken links.

And just to let you know; your (appropriate) frustration with this noob notwithstanding, your post did put my mind at ease. I was suspicious of the lack of bubbling, given the foaming with stirring and the drop in gravity. I just needed to hear from someone more knowledgable. Thanks for that.

Now I have to figure out a way to get the final product to taste as good as that sample from yesterday. Even my wife loved it - and that's saying more than I can convey. She hates the taste of alcohol. I'm fearful that taste will change as the fermentation matures. I suppose I can make another batch with a higher starting gravity and a less attenuating yeast. I know there's a formula for converting gravity change to ABV but couldn't find it - using the search tool. Maybe it's in Schramm's book.

Anyway, thanks again for your gentle direction.

--V

Medsen Fey
08-05-2008, 03:22 PM
Dan McFeeley originally posted a link (which may or may not be working) to a site with a great explanation of the ABV calculation (http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/question532.htm). I hope it helps.

virtualy
08-05-2008, 04:46 PM
Medsen-

Thanks for the link. It worked, BTW. It's only the on-site links that seem broken.

I ran through the math and came up with a simplified equation which is well within the presumed margin of error (especially for the engineers in the crowd).

Here's my simplified equation for converting the change in specific gravity (∆ SG) to alcohol by volume (ABV):

∆ SG/FG * 133 = ABV

where ∆ SG is the difference between the starting specific gravity and the finish specific gravity (FG). ABV is, of course, the percentage of alcohol by volume.

For those preferring words to symbols:
Subtract the finish SG from the starting SG. Divide that number by the finish SG. Multiply that number by 133.

Hope this helps someone doing a search. ;)

Thanks again.

--V

wayneb
08-06-2008, 12:03 AM
That said, I have to add that the search function is not the best I've encountered. I've also found several links within threads that point to other threads/posts on this board but that lead to an error page telling me the page was not found. I know the site is in transition and that may be the cause of the broken links.

And just to let you know; your (appropriate) frustration with this noob notwithstanding, your post did put my mind at ease. I was suspicious of the lack of bubbling, given the foaming with stirring and the drop in gravity. I just needed to hear from someone more knowledgable. Thanks for that.



Ah, well. ::) Was it that obvious that I was redirecting? ;D Sorry about that. BTW, I'm far from frustrated -- it is obvious from the way you phrased your questions that you are sincerely interested in learning all you can about the meadmaking process -- I'm happy to share what I know with anyone who wants to make better meads! It is just that with a limited amount of time that we all can devote to the site, it is not the best use of our time to type the same answers to common questions over and over. Glad that I didn't discourage you with my "gentle prodding"! I'd feel really bad if I found that through a casual inappropriate comment, I'd chased away a new meadmaker.

Regarding the search tool, yes, it is rudimentary, and it requires you to read through a lot of stuff that may or may not be germane to your specific question -- Vicky and Oskaar are aware of that, but it is a limitation inherent in the platform software that Gotmead lives on. It would take far more work (and more time) than those two fantastic folks can devote to this "Labor of Love" to improve it. Still, compared to other "homebrewing sites," it ain't bad! ;)

I like your simplified approximation to the ABV calculation, BTW. Thanks for the contribution!! :cheers: And I am one of the engineers in the crowd!

So, if your wife likes the product as it currently is, you might want to consider stabilizing it with a one-two punch consisting of potassium metabisulfite and postassium sorbate. With a sweet must that is still actively fermenting, I'd suggest that you first "cold-crash" it if possible. Put it in a fridge at some temp below 40F and above freezing, and allow most of the yeast to go dormant and precipitate out. Then rack the resulting liquid to a new carboy, and add metabisulfite to kill most of the remaining yeast, and sorbate to effectively inhibit any straggler yeast cells that survived the sulfite treatment from reproducing. Then after you've allowed it to clear some more, your sweet mead will be ready to bottle.

virtualy
08-06-2008, 03:33 AM
Regarding the search tool, yes, it is rudimentary, and it requires you to read through a lot of stuff that may or may not be germane to your specific question -- Vicky and Oskaar are aware of that, but it is a limitation inherent in the platform software that Gotmead lives on. It would take far more work (and more time) than those two fantastic folks can devote to this "Labor of Love" to improve it.



I set up a forum awhile back using phpBB. It was a time sink. Don't know if SMF is better or worse, but I feel their pain.

I decided to try using google in a site-specific way [search term site:gotmead.com] to look for info on SG -> ABV conversions and found the following:

http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=745&Itemid=16

Who knew? I say again, this site is an excellent repository of info and, apparently, tools as well.




...you might want to consider stabilizing it with a one-two punch consisting of potassium metabisulfite and postassium sorbate.



I'll keep that in mind. I want to finish out this fermentation and see what happens. I may follow your suggestion with another batch. Ultimately, I'd like to create great tasting meads with a nip that isn't obvious - or at least doesn't interfere with the taste. Like a really smooth wine, but that is immediately pleasing without one having to "acquire a taste". If that makes any sense...

--V