View Full Version : Looking for easy first recipe for 5 gallon batch

07-14-2009, 04:14 PM
I've brewed beer (from kits) numerous times, and even have a couple batches of the Ancient Orange and Spice Mead working away right now. I'm now ready to up my game a bit, and am looking for a flavorful and forgiving recipe that will let me put my five gallon buckets and carboy to use.

I've not yet even tasted either of the Orange/Spice gallon's I'm working on, but have high hopes. I already bought plenty of honey (friend of a friend), and am hoping to make something lightly sweet and fruity - something to impress friends and give me hope and inspiration to make more.

Beyond that though, I'm stalling out with ideas. There's so much stuff on the net that I'm suffering paralysis from analysis.

So, knowing what I've posted above, what's the general wisdom on what I should try for my first 5 gallon batch? I was considering the recipe hinted at as being available for Patrons (Orange Blossom Traditional), but without seeing it, I'm a little hesitant to sign up for that level when I'm such a newbee. I'm afraid I'll it will require skills or ingredients I don't yet have access to.

Thanks to all, this is a wonderful forum.

07-14-2009, 04:34 PM

Personally I would recommend a cyser (apple mead). The apple juice base adds nutrients, so while nutrient additions are still necessary it is easier to manage the yeast in a cyser than a plain honey must; the juice is also easier to handle than whole fruit and not very acidic like some other fruits. I have started a few folks off on cyser with good results, in addition to my first mead being Norskersword's 4-week cyser (I think it is in the brewlog or recipe section of the forum), which while good at 4 weeks was much better at 6 months.

There are lots of cysers floating around in the forums and several in the recipe section of the main page as well. There are even more in the Patron section which will blow you away.

(Now you've got me thinking about digging out a bottle of my Oaked Cyser. :) )

Traditional meads are also great, but a little more demanding of your attention during fermentation. Just as a warning, fermenting apple juice will often produce sulfur smells even when the yeast is not stressed out. Apples are just like that. This stage has lasted only a few days for me, but be sure to store things where SWMBO won't mind. ;)

07-14-2009, 04:42 PM
You're supposed to start out easy?



Medsen Fey
07-14-2009, 06:46 PM
Welcome gazpacho!!!

The recipes in the patron's section vary from simplex to quite complex, but will all produce really good results. The $25 dollar cost is well worth it in my opinion, for the recipes alone, much less all the other info. That $25 plus the amount you spend for the Compleat MeadMaker will be some of the best money you can spend for meadmaking.

Being relatively new to mead, you should take time to read the NewBee Guide (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=108&Itemid=14). It will help you get some more insight into the process and how it differs from brewing.

As for a recipe to try - certainly a cyser can be easy and tasty. If you do want to go with a traditional mead, give us a bit more insight into what you're looking for. Do you want it sweet or dry? How much alcohol? Do you like oak in your wines? Give us a bit more info, and we may just be able to help you zero in on something good.


07-15-2009, 05:34 AM
I've been working my way through the newbee guide, hitting it in random order. Quite good. And, on your recommendation, I've just placed an order for the Compleat MeadMaker.

As to the questions...
Sweet or dry? There are times for both, certainly. I'm thinking I'll get more friends to enjoy it if its slightly on the sweet side though.
How much alcohol? Not that important a factor to me. I of course look forward to the happy feeling it all brings, but the goal on this pass is flavor, not buzz. ;)
Oak flavor? Yes, actually, but gentle, not overpowering.

I like the cyser idea. Hadn't considered apples... somehow was focusing on orange or berry.

Medsen Fey
07-15-2009, 10:08 AM
Norskersword's recipe is a good choice if you have the ability to refrigerate it to stop the fermentation. Otherwise you could consider a variation of This Theme. (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_rapidrecipe&page=viewrecipe&recipe_id=62&Itemid=459)

You can scale it for 5 gallons.
I'd probably pick ICV-D47 for yeast (though other yeast with a relatively low alcohol tolerance would also be fine).

Ideally you'll add about 2-2.5 pounds of honey per gallon using your hydrometer to get the gravity to a goal of about 1.120.

Then rehydrate the yeast and pitch it. I'd probably add Fermaid K 10 grams to the must before pitching.

The biggest questions will be which honey are you using, and what apple juice do you have? It sounds like you already have Orange blossom honey which is good. I find that a combination of orange blossom and wildflower works really well with apples.

If you use the D47, keep the temp below 70F if possible, it will give better results. Once it is fermented, you can rack it onto a little oak - perhaps 1/2 oz of medium toast French oak cubes (works good with apple for me). You can taste it a few weeks and decide if you want more oak or not.

This should leave you with a semi-sweet to sweet result, but realize that apple juice has a way of charging up yeast and they sometimes will take a batch dry. If that happens it is no problem to stabilize and then add more honey to get the level of sweetness you desire.

How does this strike you so far?

07-15-2009, 12:30 PM
Holy cow! Now we're talking. Simple recipe, with some excellent, detailed notes on how to bring it home. Thanks!

I live in upstate NY, and drive right by several orchards on my way home each day. The season won't be at it's peak for a few short months, but at that time I'll have plenty of cider available to work with.

The honey I have is also local... friend of a friend... and all wildflower. Gentle flavor.

I noticed the original posting with the recipe mentions Campden/Metabisulphate, but that he no longer uses it. Your thoughts on this?

Also, what about aeration? It's not directly mentioned... is that just a given that I have to aerate? And if so, when? Just prior to pitching the yeast?

This forum is great. You guys rock.

Medsen Fey
07-15-2009, 01:51 PM
If you are getting fresh pressed juice, make certain they don't add any sorbate. There are some out there that claim no additives, but put some in anyway because fresh pressed apple juice will ferment like crazy from the wild yeast on the skin.

Which comes to your question about sulphites. If you don't add sulfites (or the juice isn't pasteurized) the wild yeast will start fermenting. When you add the wine yeast is will normally take over the fermentation and kill off the others as it brings the alcohol level up above their tolerance. However, while they are in the mix, the wild yeast add some other flavors and aromas. Some find this increases the complexity of the resulting mead, but it could also give you some off flavors - you can never trust a wild yeast.

So the decision to use sulphites comes down to a simple question, "Do you fell lucky?" Since you are relatively new to meadmaking, I'd be inclined to say use the sulphites and pitch the yeast 24 hours later so that wild yeast won't be an issue.

As for aeration, I normally recommend aerating at least daily until the 1/3 fermentation point. However, this tends to help the yeast become more alcohol tolerant and may cause it to dry out. In this case, since you are looking for a sweet result, not aerating might lessen the chance of it going dry, especially with the apple juice in there.

07-16-2009, 08:06 AM
New York state requires cider to be pasteurized (some info here (http://vivo.cornell.edu/individual/vivo/individual21069)) so you may have hunt around for juice without sorbate. You can get UV pasteurized juice which is better. Better still would be to make friends with someone who can press fresh juice for you but I haven't gotten that far yet.

07-16-2009, 01:52 PM
New York state requires cider to be pasteurized...

I believe that was the saddest day of my college career, when the orchards stopped selling their unpasteurized juice. It was even sadder than the day the hockey team lost to UConn in the Frozen Four (the whole campus shut down that day out of exhausted misery).

07-16-2009, 03:27 PM
If you go up to Apple Hill in the fall, one of the orchards has their huge apple press going where you can see it--hooked up to a tap with freshly-pressed juice coming strait from the machine.

At least they used to. :)

One of life's small pleasures.

04-06-2010, 08:33 PM
I was startled to find that a little over a year has gone by since my first post on this thread. Sorry for having been away so long.

I did my best to follow the instructions suggested by Medson Fey earlier. In truth, all went quite well, and I was pleased with myself. The end result, was crystal clear, and to my palate, rather drinkable.

Delicious? Not quite. It certainly has a heck of a kick to it (~15.7% ABV), but I've not yet got many fans. I started it in late September, and racked it in January and then again in early March, bottling it around 3/14/10. The most common reaction is mild excitement, or pleasant courtesies. A couple of people have mentioned that it reminds them more of dandelion wine than of apple cider.

Is this common? How much will aging it effect the flavor?
Part of me wonders if I did too much aeration.

Thoughts anyone?

In the mean time, while waiting for the above, I've charged ahead with a half-dozen other recipes (maple mead, raspberry/lemon, blueberry/apple, etc), but want to make sure I've got some of the kinks out before I get more courteous pleasantries.

Thanks all,

Medsen Fey
04-06-2010, 08:53 PM
I'm sorry if I caused you to scorch your palate :( . 15.7% is pretty strong - that's one of the hazards of apple juice. Which yeast did you use? The original recipe uses an ale yeast, and that helps keep the alcohol lower. Another year of aging will probably help it settle down quite a bit, but at 15.7% it is always going to be a bit "hot". One easy cure for that is to blend it with a lower alcohol batch which you can make using a lot less honey. If you make a dry batch with 9-10% and blend it in and you will tone it down to a pleasant level.

Sweetening can also help cover the heat.

I'm glad the heat didn't dissuade you from launching some other batches. Hopefully they will develop more along the lines of what you are aiming for.


04-07-2010, 12:46 PM
Put it away and wait another year, you'll be amazed. The cherry cyser I made that took off and landed somewhere in the 16-18% range went from "it burns!" at 6 months to "I can taste cherry, cough cough cough" at one year to "wow!" another six months down the line. Don't be surprised if you get some port-like attributes from the high alcohol, and sip slowly.