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View Full Version : Even more noob questiions, when will it end?



Maeve
09-13-2008, 02:01 AM
Let me preface this, my first post, with an introduction and a hello!

I’m new to brewing, having been excited to get started with production for years, and finally able to realize it.
I simply adore beer, and also very-much enjoy mead. I ‘ve decided to start-off with some mead and go from there.

Know that I am continually making the effort to read-read-read instead of bugging y’all to death with newbtastic questions. The technical matters are not beyond my capacity, I’m just ignorant, and that is a feeling I can do without.

I’m working up several different recipe concepts, and I have a few stumbling-blocks at the moment:

1) Sugars: Everything sugars seems to point to proper SG in the very beginning. I understand very little of what SG indicates. Is there some sort of comparision/side-by-side chart for various types of sugars? I see in the calculator many fruits, and that’s mighty handy, but only one choice of sugar. What about brown sugar, molasses, corn syrups or inverts just to name a few? I know from baking experience that brown sugar yields more sweetness in the end product than white granulated does. Perhaps it in-fact has less sugar available for fermentation, but how do you determine this? Is there a standard, or at least an “in general” to go by?

2) Melomel: It seems shooting for a higher ABV than I’d actually like, in the primary, is what I’d want to do if I were adding more fruit in the secondary. Is this the “proper” way to achieve balance, to compensate? Or a hokey way of achieving the desired end result?

3) Does fermentation concentrate the plant essences in a must? For example, if I were to use poppies, would I end-up with an opiate hellbroth? (another :notworthy: TooL-inspired brew perhaps?) Is this just a self-appointed guinea pig and test-batch-it process, or is there some type of established reference or mathematical application one might experiment with on paper and in theory, beforehand? Is there any documentation, or a current authority on entheogens in metheglin brews, or do you know of anyone experimenting in this area?

4) Are alcohol-soluble additives well-extracted in the must? Should those be extracted first, and then added? OR would an extraction be ruined by fermentation and perhaps better added later in the process? (not necessarily flavor Im after here, but the properties of the plant, medicinal, for example.) Would a strong alcohol used for the extraction, added in a small volume, say 4-6 ounces into a 5 gallon batch and say.. Vodka, marginally or seriously influence the batch? Just the alcohol itself, not the flavors in the extraction, but please feel-free to comment to that aspect as well.

If you could point me to a reference for any of these questions, share experiences, advice or comments, all are very-much appreciated.
Thank you.

1BraddogsBBQ
09-13-2008, 03:03 AM
I'll let the "old timers" answer your questions as I'm a newbee too.

Welcome to GotMead!

Dave

Wolfie
09-13-2008, 04:55 AM
I'm no old timer myself, but heres what I would say about your questions:

0) Welcome to gotmead!

1) SG is a measurement of the density of sugar dissolved in solution (must), a hydrometer reading will show you the potential ABV bassed on that amount. White sugar, brown sugar and honey may not be equal in density, to get a clue try dissolving 1/2 lb of each into a gallon of water and take a measurement with your hydrometer. As another note: If you don't have a hydrometer, get one, they will save you a lot of grief.

2) I assume what your talking about is the ferment restarting if you didn't top out the alcohol tolerance of your yeast. Yep that can happen, it's not as bad as you might think. It is preventable by using sorbate and sulfite to stop your fermentation or by cold crashing your mead to clarify. As for higher ABV, keep in mind that on average you want a mead to be at least 10% in order to preserve well enough to age. 12%-16% are not at all uncommon.

Is this the “proper” way to achieve balance, to compensate? Or a hokey way of achieving the desired end result?
Compensate for what? As for hokey, many people use different methods of fruit primary or secondary, or both. There isn't really a "right" way or taboo one way or the other, dont worry about it :)

3) Steeping in a must will bring out soluble compounds, keep in mind theres alcohol in that there thing. I don't think you'd make an "opiate hellbroth" without a significant dose of seeds in solution, though you might not want to drink it near a scheduled piss test.

4) As above: Alcohol soluble additives will extract in must once there is alcohol in the brew. I do not recommended adding alcoholic tinctures to your brew, it would likely give some weird flavors.

IMHO, these weren't bad newbee questions, this information would have been vague looking under the search tool, which is here (http://www.gotmead.com/smf/index.php?action=search;advanced;search=) and useful for a lot of stuff.

Best of luck ;)

/wolfie

Medsen Fey
09-13-2008, 08:59 AM
Maeve, welcome to GotMead?

To start, let me say that none of your questions are "noob," but I'll try to hit a few.






1) Sugars: Everything sugars seems to point to proper SG in the very beginning. I understand very little of what SG indicates. Is there some sort of comparision/side-by-side chart for various types of sugars? I see in the calculator many fruits, and that’s mighty handy, but only one choice of sugar. What about brown sugar, molasses, corn syrups or inverts just to name a few? I know from baking experience that brown sugar yields more sweetness in the end product than white granulated does. Perhaps it in-fact has less sugar available for fermentation, but how do you determine this? Is there a standard, or at least an “in general” to go by?

This Chart (http://www.honey.com/downloads/conversion_chart.pdf) has some conversion values that may be of some help. Generally speaking, I don't use sugars in my meads (except for a mojitomel I attempted) so I mainly use honey. It is important to use a hydrometer because each honey has a different percentage of moisture and to get to a consistent gravity level, you need to measure gravity rather than just adding by weight or volume of honey.



2) Melomel: It seems shooting for a higher ABV than I’d actually like, in the primary, is what I’d want to do if I were adding more fruit in the secondary. Is this the “proper” way to achieve balance, to compensate? Or a hokey way of achieving the desired end result?

Hokey or not is irrelevant. The only relevant question is, "are you happy with the final alcohol level and flavor?" If the answer is yes, whatever method you used to get there is okay. There are many ways to make melomels - adding fruit (fresh or dried or frozen) adding juice, adding concentrate, adding flavored extracts or syrups. You can add to the primary or the secondary. If you are going to be adding large volumes of liquid after fermentation is complete, you may want to factor that in and adjust your planned alcohol level upward.



3) Does fermentation concentrate the plant essences in a must? For example, if I were to use poppies, would I end-up with an opiate hellbroth? (another :notworthy: TooL-inspired brew perhaps?) Is this just a self-appointed guinea pig and test-batch-it process, or is there some type of established reference or mathematical application one might experiment with on paper and in theory, beforehand? Is there any documentation, or a current authority on entheogens in metheglin brews, or do you know of anyone experimenting in this area?

No, fermentation does not concentrate plant essences, but it does provide good extraction having both aqueous and alcohol components. You can even do extractions into honey itself as it is so hygroscopic. I don't know an authority on hallucinogens and metheglins. The book "Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers" does, as I recall, discuss some issues such as the ergot associated with heather blossom mead. If you have a particular recipe or combination of herbs, you can post it up and I'm sure some of the folks with expertise in these matters will lend some advice.



4) Are alcohol-soluble additives well-extracted in the must? Should those be extracted first, and then added? OR would an extraction be ruined by fermentation and perhaps better added later in the process? (not necessarily flavor Im after here, but the properties of the plant, medicinal, for example.) Would a strong alcohol used for the extraction, added in a small volume, say 4-6 ounces into a 5 gallon batch and say.. Vodka, marginally or seriously influence the batch? Just the alcohol itself, not the flavors in the extraction, but please feel-free to comment to that aspect as well.


Adding alcohol to a mead will make some impact on flavor as it is perceived as having some "sweetness" but I don't find that the effect is too pronounced other than making the mead more "hot" from alcohol - I see this in meads I have fortified. Using herbal tinctures and teas can give you the opportunity to add the essences in a controlled way so that you do not over load your mead. When I have used tinctures, I have added them after fermentation was complete, but I don't think that is a requirement. Everyone's taste varies so you will have to do some trial and error to dial in exactly what levels suit you best.

My one suggestion would be to start with a simple recipe, perhaps a nice traditional mead, or even a Joe's ancient orange just to get the mechanics of how to manage sanitation, fermentation, racking and so forth down pat before trying to mix complex herbs and flavors into a batch.

I hope that provides some help. Good luck in starting your meads.

Medsen

Maeve
09-13-2008, 02:08 PM
Thanks for the replies, very helpful!

As far as compensation, I'm under the impression that adding fruits in a secondary (plus liquids, sugars) would lower the overall ABV. To compensate, starting-out with a higher level in the primary and bringing that down to target during secondary. Is my reasoning off here?

I love the freedom brewing offers. I do however have some reservations about publishing my methods, as I'm so inexperienced. I think I'm probably approaching some aspects from a strange angle, and that there is most probably an established (better, easier, more exact, etc.) way of going-about it. I'm not too worried about it though, I'm rather unconventional by nature in so many ways already...

Recipe idea: I'm a plant sciences major. I've conducted many an odd botanical experiment. Several years ago I made an absolutely divine compote from Atropa belladonna fruit. I've since moved from an area conducive to growing the plants, but I'm intrigued by the idea of a nightshade mel. All parts of this plant are deadly poisonous, however, once fully ripened, the fruits contain very little toxins and boiling completely destroys them (but not baking, don't try this at home please)
The compote was delicious! If you like plum or pomegranate, you'd appreciate the flavor. The berries were wonderful to work with in jelly-making, and I'd think they'd do well in brewing applications. I've already produced data on toxicity, constituents, acidity and tannins, etc for this fruit, so I have that much at least as a start.

This is not the only "idea" of it's type. I'd like to incorporate many botanicals that I've already spent a lot of time working with, and understand well.

I do agree, and will continue with very basic recipes until I have a firmer grasp of processes and reactions in brewing. I know from culturing sourdoughs, that even the most experienced baker with perfectly weighed ingredients, following a recipe religiously can and does end-up with variances, and sometimes complete and total failures. Outside of environmentally controlled production areas, and standardized processes, there are just too many factors involved. I appreciate that though, I like surprises!

Medsen Fey
09-13-2008, 03:36 PM
As far as compensation, I'm under the impression that adding fruits in a secondary (plus liquids, sugars) would lower the overall ABV. To compensate, starting-out with a higher level in the primary and bringing that down to target during secondary. Is my reasoning off here?



No, your reasoning is correct; the additional amount of fluid added will reduce the alcohol percentage by dilution. As for the sugars, the result depends on where the yeast are at. If they are past their alcohol tolerance, then they will add residual sweetness. If the yeast are still active, and have not been stabilized, then additional sugar in the secondary will result in continued fermentation with a higher level of alcohol produced. Usually when adding fruit to a secondary, there is minimal impact on the alcohol level as a result of volume.

Obviously, the use of potentially toxic plants warrants using the utmost care, and is not recommended. However, you clearly have some interesting knowledge and insight that may help all of us with making better metheglins, so I'll look forward to your posts.

Good meading!
Medsen

capoeirista13
09-14-2008, 01:43 AM
just wanted to say I thought this thread brought up some interesting points, like the poppyseed mead thing