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Jord
03-30-2009, 10:47 PM
Well I looked and didn't see a forum for posting introductions and I do have a question so I thought I'd take care of both in one post here. Apologies if it should go somewhere else.

I'm a 31 year old Cancer living in outside of the Toronto area in Ontario, Canada. I'm married to a wonderful woman that has given me a strapping 17 month old boy and a little girl that is due to arrive at the end of April. I like long walks on the beach, smoking and barbequeing various vittles in the back yard and enjoying a nice cold glass of something fizzy at all times of the year.

I've only had mead a couple of times in my life as it is surprisingly hard to come by, at least good non-commercial stuff, in my area so I figured I'd make some myself. I mean, why pay others for what you can do yourself right? Not to mention learning a new skill.

So I've been researching mead making online for a while now and currently have:

2 23L (sorry about the metric but I'm Canadian:)) glass carboys
15 lbs of wild flower honey
1 package of Lavalin EC-1118 yeast
syphon tube
airlock
spring water as needed to fill the carboy

I want to make a traditional mead as opposed to a melomel or any of the other permutations and I would like something that is somewhere right in the middle of sweet/dry but to be honest will be quite happy to have something that turns out tasting better than white vinegar....at least for the first batch. ;D

Now do I need to use a bucket of some sort to mix everything or could I just do it in a 1-gallon container in batches and pour it into the carboy?

Do I have to use a yeast nutrient or energizer?

I'm planning on putting it in my basement which, according to the thermometer I put in there the other day, is around 61-62 degrees F and will likely rise another 5-8 degrees as the weather continues to get warmer is this an okay temperature range? I've seen some sites that have said 70-74 is ideal and I've seen some threads on here that say 60 works perfectly.

I think that's it for now....I'm sure more will come up.

....and yes I realize that I'm probably worrying far too much and should just mix up all of the ingredients, put it in the basement and watch to see what happens.

Any and all help is appreciated. Thanks.

wildaho
03-30-2009, 11:37 PM
Hi Jord and Welcome to the GotMead? World!

You don't "have to" do any of the things you questioned. But your mead will be better if you do! I'll also throw in aeration as another thing you don't "have to" do but will make a big difference in the quality of your mead and the speed of the ferment.

Using the Mead Calculator (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=745&Itemid=16), you will find that you don't have anywhere near enough honey, with that yeast, to end up with a semi-sweet mead in a 5 gallon batch. You can either change your total volume or pick a yeast with a lower alcohol tolerance. The EC-1118 is good to 18% and would eat through that amount of honey without even blinking.

One investment you will definitely want to make is a hydrometer. They are cheap and probably the most important tool you can own as a fermentation hobbyist. It can tell you when there are problems and help you avoid others.

You might want to read over the NewBee Guide (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=108&Itemid=14). There are lots of great pointers and explanations in it that can help you on your way!

:cheers:
Wade

Medsen Fey
03-31-2009, 09:33 AM
Now do I need to use a bucket of some sort to mix everything or could I just do it in a 1-gallon container in batches and pour it into the carboy?

Do I have to use a yeast nutrient or energizer?


....and yes I realize that I'm probably worrying far too much and should just mix up all of the ingredients, put it in the basement and watch to see what happens.




Welcome to the forums Jord!

GotMead? is certainly the place to come to learn more.

You've asked many good questions, and Wade has given some good information. I'll add a couple of more tidbits.

You can mix the honey and water in a bucket, or a gallon jug, or in a big pot and pour it in. Whatever you use should be cleaned and sanitized. Sometimes I pour everything into a carboy and mix it with the long plastic handle of a mixing paddle. As long as you get the honey dissolved in the water, it makes little difference how you do it.

The temperature in the low 60s will be fine for most yeast, though you should always check to confirm the temperature range for a specific yeast you use. As a general rule, lower temperatures work better.

You can ferment without using nutrients and aeration, but these are the fermentations that can plug away for months and months before they finish. This is what has given mead the reputation for being slow and difficult to make. If the yeast are nourished properly, they can do it smoothly in a couple of weeks.

The yeast you have, EC-1118, is a good but strong yeast with a high alcohol tolerance. If you try to make a semisweet mead with it by starting with more honey, you will have a very powerful (18% ABV) semi sweet mead that may be stronger than you want to sit and drink with a meal.

If you start with 15 lbs of honey in a 23L batch, most any of the yeast will take it dry. However, once that happens, you can add sorbate and sulfite to the mead (stabilizing it) to prevent the yeast from fermenting any more, and then add more honey to backsweeten it up to the level you prefer. This will allow you to get it to just the right amount of sweetness to suit your tastes. If you read the NewBee guide, and do some searches on these terms, you'll find lots of good information.

Rather than just mixing things up and seeing what happens, I think the approach you are taking by doing some homework, and planning it more carefully will give a result that is far from being vinegar.

I hope that helps.

Medsen

Jord
03-31-2009, 03:16 PM
Wade and Medsen thanks for the welcome and information.

The only reason I got the Lalvin EC-1118 is because I didn't really know what to get when I went to the brewing shop and that is what the guy there said he uses for the mead they make on site. While I'm certainly not against a dry mead I do prefer mine a little sweeter and 18% sounds like it may be a little strong for my tastes so maybe I'll try to get a hold of some 71-B or ICV D-47 as 14% should be a bit more palatable for me (read: I can drink more of it at a time with a longer period before total ass-hattery takes place. :))

I'll definitely re-read the Newbee Guide and pay more attention to the parts about stabilizing and backsweetening the mead but I would imagine that I'll have plenty of time to figure all of that out while the mead is fermenting. Who knows maybe it'll complete fermentation, be completely dry, and I'll find that I quite like the taste already.

Thanks again for the information.

Jord

Jord
03-31-2009, 06:16 PM
Okay so I was able to procure some yeast nutrient and D-47 yeast from a local wine shop....and it didn't cost me anything. The only "problem" I have though is that the shopkeeper was not sure what brand of nutrient it was as they get it in bulk. He said he usually uses about 1/2 tsp in the wine if the fermentation has slowed but didn't know how that would relate to mead as he has never made it.

From what I've read on the site there are a number of different nutrients that you can get and they all seem to have slightly different dosages. Is there a baseline amount that I could use that wouldn't likely have an adverse impact on the overall taste? I know it's hard to guess without knowing what nutrient it is but if anyone has any thoughts it would be appreciated.

Thanks,

Jord

Medsen Fey
03-31-2009, 06:33 PM
Is the nutrient white crystals (like salt) or a cream/tannish powder?

Jord
03-31-2009, 06:50 PM
White crystals like salt - only finer than salt.

akueck
03-31-2009, 07:35 PM
So we're going to guess that the nutrient is all or mostly DAP (diammonium phosphate), an inorganic nitrogen source. This is a typical yeast nutrient and a common ingredient in the nutrient blends (aka "energizer", etc).

DAP is good during the early fermentation stages (and not good during yeast rehydration). After about the 1/3 to 1/2 point, you're going to want to find some organic nitrogen sources. Some yeast won't need much food at this point, but some will. Organic nitrogen is usually derived from exploded yeast, and is found in products like Fermaid K (which also contains DAP) and Fermaid 2133 (which does not have DAP).

Jord
04-01-2009, 07:21 PM
Thanks for the info akueck. So if my understanding is correct and I'm making a 5 gallon batch of mead:

1. Sanitize everything.

2. Rehydrate my D-47 yeast for 15-20 minutes in about 50 ml of water.
Mix everything else (including 2.5 tsp of the nutrient - Newb guide said 0.5 - 1 tsp/gallon so sticking to the low side to limit the chances of affecting the taste by adding too much) to the bucket while the yeast is rehydrating.

3. Aerate while mixing.

4. Take temperature of the must and get the SG using my shiney new hydrometer.

5. Pitch the yeast.

6. Cover with the lid, put in the airlock and place in a cool dark place.

7. Wait for the magic to happen.

Now from what I've been reading on the site some folks suggest aerating a couple of times over the course of the first few days of the primary fermentation but then there are others that don't think it is necessary. I guess it couldn't hurt really.

Once it hits the 1/3 sugar break (have to look more into that one!) I may want to add some organic nitrogen based nutrient that does not contain DAP though it may not be necessary and, if added, should be done at both the 1/3 and 2/3 sugar breaks.

Once the bubbling slows to around 1 bubble every 30 seconds rack it off into a secondary fermenter. Now, I've read that it can actually help generate more depth of flavour if the mead is left on the lees generated using d-47 yeast for a longer period of time. Is this so? If so, is there a period that is too long or just leave it until finally racking a few weeks prior to bottling to help with clarification?

I know I've basically regurgitated a large portion of the Newbee Guide in this post but it helps me to get my head around the process by writing it out myself. :)

Since I'm sure that my patience will be sorely taxed watching this process unfold I think that in the meantime I'll also get the ingredients for my first JAO so that I hopefully have something to taste before the larger batch is completed.

Thanks again for your help.

Jord

fatbloke
04-02-2009, 05:45 AM
Welcome Jord,

It's my understanding (and that's probably different from a lot of people here) that it's often better to use a "combined" nutrient to start with. Then a little of the DAP/Energiser when the ferment has used up between 1/3 and a 1/2 of the sugar.

You may well be able to get something like Fermaid-K or Fermax from down the road in the US.

Theres the "re-hydrate" yeast with GoFerm and then add Fermaid-K route as per instructions from Lalvin/Lallemand, or maybe the Fermax in the must before pitching yeast re-hydrated with just water method.

Either way, meads are often very low in nutrients, so it usually helps to have something in the must for the yeast to "get it's teeth into".

Plus, you haven't mentioned as to whether you're gonna add or just make sure about acid additions for the must. I like the suggestion from "Ashton & Duncan" in the now out of print "Making Mead" book. They suggest a mix of 2 parts Malic to 1 part tartaric. It usually helps to have at least some idea of where you are acid-wise. Some older recipes suggest using the juice of a lemon. I'm not so keen on citric acid as I find it gives too much of a "citrusy" profile to the mead.

If you don't have, or don't know anyone to borrow a pH meter from then the HBS often keep paper test strips (litmus paper). You probably don't need to be overly accurate, but if you can get the must to somewhere between 3.5 and 4.5 pH (lower the number the more acid) then it should be good to go.

regards

fatbloke

akueck
04-02-2009, 11:34 AM
Up-front acid additions are generally not necessary, and if used blindly can cause more harm than good. Traditional meads can easily plunge below pH 3.0 all on their own (my yeast test batches all did this recently), as fermentation lowers the pH of the must.

If you want to add acid, it is best to do so after fermentation is complete (to remove the risk of stalling the ferment) and to taste. So far I have not found a need for additional acid in my meads.

"Complex" nutrients are a good thing to go get, but I'm sure you can make it on DAP alone. People have been making mead for thousands of years, well before modern chemistry. ;) If you can, aeration during the first 1/3 of the fermentation will help the yeast build strong cell walls.

All of the nutrition, aeration, etc steps are there to help you achieve predictable and reproducible results (as far as you can with a living system). You can and will make mead by skipping some or all of these steps, but your results will vary much more from batch to batch. Variation is part of the fun, so don't let us bully you into a process that you're not comfortable with. It's your mead after all, and you make it for yourself and not any of us. ;D

Oh, and regarding the "sur lie" treatment (leaving the mead on the yeast)--for a first batch I would recommend against it. Proper sur lie requires a lot of attention to produce the right flavors and not any of the wrong ones. Focus first on good technique and learn what you like and don't like about mead. Once you're making mead you like, then you can play with some of the "advanced" techniques like sur lie.

Jord
04-02-2009, 04:08 PM
Thanks again for the help folks. I think I'll do things as I listed above. I don't know that I'm going to worry about the pH level of the must right now though I do have both a pH meter and litmus paper at my disposal so I may check it just for interests sake. I'll add the 2.5 tsp of DAP when mixing the ingredients prior to pitching the yeast and then aerate the must a couple of times during each of the first few days.

I think it is sage advice to not worry about the more advanced techniques (sur lie) for my first batch as I'm sure if things go right I'll have something quite enjoyable and can worry about developing the bouquet in the future. I figure I'll rack it into a secondary fermenter (carboy) after 3 or 4 weeks.

Now, quick question - I purchased a bucket from a local HBS to use as my primary fermenter which I assume is a 5 gallon container but I have 6 gallon carboys (obviously wasn't thinking too much at the time) - should I top off the carboy with water when I rack the mead into it (ending up with a drier end product), should I mix the original must a little richer in honey so that when I top up the water it doesn't end up quite as dry, or do I even need to worry about topping up the carboy? Admittedly I don't really have a clear understanding of how oxidation would affect the final flavour of the mead or if I should really worry about that at this stage.

I put together my first batch of JAO today in hopes that I'll have something tastey to enjoy while I'm watching this larger batch do its thing.

STLBrewer
04-02-2009, 05:19 PM
I wouldn't worry about topping up. As long as you are careful not to splash the mead around too much when you rack to the carboy, there should be too little oxygen in there to worry about (IMO).

Hopefully all goes well and welcome to the addiction!!

akueck
04-02-2009, 06:18 PM
I agree, don't worry about topping up. I've accidentally heavily aerated a mead during racking (hose shorter than I thought issue) and it is only very slightly oxidized. What you really need is a larger primary bucket. ;)

Medsen Fey
04-02-2009, 06:48 PM
Unfortunately, I've had some mead oxidize, and while it may not be as prone to oxidation as grape wine, it certainly can happen. That's to say nothing of acetic acid bacteria and other spoilage organisms that like oxygen and which can flourish if you have headspace with air.

When you first rack into the carboy, the dissolved CO2 in your mead will come out and provide a layer of CO2 for protection as long as the carboy is sealed. However, if you take the stopper out to do a bit of sampling (strictly for quality control purposes of course ;) ), or if it pops out accidentally (who hasn't had that happen), or it you want to put some oak in, or add some acid blend, or whatever, then your mead can be exposed to oxygen and the larger the headspace, the more oxygen exposure will occur. Obviously on subsequent racking, the CO2 is gone, and the headspace will be filled with air.

The best way to prevent these issues is to keep air out of the headspace. You can either get rid of the headspace (topping up, using marbles or the like for displacement, or using a smaller carboy) or you can get rid of the air in the space (flushing with CO2, Argon, Nitrogen, or wine preservers like Private Preserve) or even by putting a blanket of mineral oil on top of the mead. Any of these alternatives works, and any of them is preferable to leaving headspace that can fill with air.

The use of sulfites also helps protect against oxidation and I am using it regularly now after having some of my earlier efforts oxidized in the bottles at a relatively young age (especially the melomels).

That's my take on it.

Medsen

Jord
04-08-2009, 01:51 PM
Thanks again for the information.

It looks like I'm going to have to put my 6 gallon batch of mead on hold for a couple of weeks....:( (Guess I'll have to get a hold of some one gallon carboys!!) We're in the process of finishing our basement and the area I was planning on putting my carboys is full of furniture. On the plus side I'll have virgin space (easy now) to build/set up things the way I want them when the furniture is moved.

Any low-tech ideas/tips for how things could/should be set up to make my homebrewing easier? I'm afraid multiple temperature controlled fridges are out....

Now I'd imagine that if I got a hold of 3 single gallon carboys I could mix up a 3 gallon batch in my plastic fermenter and split it amongst the three vessels after primary fermentation without any forseeable adverse effect on quality correct?

Now, if I'm using the Mead Calculator correctly, if I mixed up 10 lbs of honey with enough water to make 3 gallons of mead (along with yeast, nutrients, etc of course) that would put me in the neighbourhood of a FG 1.122 and a ABV: 16.53. If I was to use ICV-D47 for this batch which has an estimated alcohol tolerance of 14% would that in theory leave a decent level of residual sweetness in the mead? I've read that yeast can function past their limits in given situations but let's just assume that doesn't happen.

Also, when the mead was racked to the individual carboys could I then introduce another heartier yeast such as EC-1118 to take one gallon of the mead completely dry? I know that 16.6% ABV might be a little hot if it took it all the way but I'd be interested in trying it.

Also, also, should I be concerned with scaling back the amount of yeast I use to 3 grams for a three gallon batch or would it be fine to use the whole 5 gram package?

akueck
04-08-2009, 10:24 PM
On the plus side I'll have virgin space (easy now) to build/set up things the way I want them when the furniture is moved.


Easy virgins? :3some:

Ok, now that that is out of the way...

One suggestion for brewing space could be to have several sturdy surfaces at different heights, to facilitate racking. I always pull things out into the kitchen, up on the counter, rack, and back in the closet. That gets annoying.

Use the whole 5g of yeast. I will often use the whole pack for a single gallon.

1.122 should leave you with some residual sugar. I did an OB traditional with D-47 starting at 1.125 and ending at 1.013, very tasty.

Check out threads on repitching yeast into high-alcohol meads. Personally I would rather make a separate batch than try to repitch with another yeast.