View Full Version : Intro

09-09-2009, 09:32 AM
Is this the right place for an introduction?

I'm Tim Vaughan, professional beekeeper who's made mead, but not very good. I've just started my first batch the "right" way partially in jealousy of a close friend who just made the best beer I've ever had. Here's my site


and the bee/honey pics


I've a climate controlled room, and excess honey in the way of "cappings" if any of you know what that means. Mostly wasted honey, but I hope to get ideas of how to use them for mead. Hope to learn a lot here.


Medsen Fey
09-09-2009, 10:07 AM
Welcome to GotMead Tim!

It is great to have beekeepers here. The great secret for great mead is starting with the freshest best honey possible. Getting it right out of the hive is only a dream for most of us. Of course where the honey comes from is a huge factor in the quality of the mead it produces - Apple blossom may be great; Eucalyptus maybe not so great.

I enjoyed reading your site - especially your experience with Africanized bees (http://webpages.charter.net/tvaughan/ahb.html). We've had some discussions here regarding CCD and its impact. I am hopeful that Africanized bees will prove to be helpful.

You might want to take a look at the NewBee guide (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=108&Itemid=14). It has some really useful info on mead making.


09-09-2009, 10:50 AM
Tim, let me add my welcome to "Gotmead," too!

As Medsen recommended, you should have a look at the newbee guide. There you'll find lots of great info about how to manage your fermentation. Since I see from your other message that you're making a traditional mead with your raspberry blossom honey, you'll especially want to pay attention to nutrient management for the yeast. Honey, especially the lighter ones, contains scant little in the way of useful yeast nutrient (such as yeast assimilable nitrogen compounds). You'll get a much cleaner fermentation if you carefully add nutrients to the must.

09-09-2009, 11:14 AM
Based on Ken Schramm's tests that he posted on his blog, the free nitrogen difference between light and dark honey musts is pretty negligible compared to the amount of free nitrogen you actually want. 10 ppm vs. 20 ppm, as compared to the desired 200-300 ppm. Nutrients are going to matter a lot regardless of the color of your honey.

Edit: Blog link (http://www.gotmead.com/forum/blog.php?b=41) for TimV's edification.

09-09-2009, 02:21 PM
Thanks, all. My honey is not treated, so it has lots of pollen. Hopefully there's enough nitrogen and minerals between the pollen the the six tablespoons of yeast activator that I put into the must.

Reading the linked article, do I assume I need to stir in the yeast? I've a good background in chemistry, and I appreciate the importance of theory, so thanks again. I've ordered a book from Amazon by Schramm.

Medsen Fey
09-09-2009, 02:48 PM
To get enough nitrogen from pollen, you probably need to have at least 4 oz in a 5 gallon batch. That's a lot.

I'm not familiar with the activator you added. What brand is is? Does it say on the label what it contains?


09-09-2009, 03:02 PM
Well, Tim, if you have a good background in chemistry, then search on the terms Staggered Nutrient Additions or 'SNA' and read up on the research that has been documented over the course of about the past 6 to 10 years on properly feeding yeast in a honey-based must. Medsen is right - it would take far more pollen than you'd likely be comfortable with in your mead for it to be an adequate source of yeast nutrient for a traditional mead fermentation. And don't take my earlier comment the wrong way - I was not trying to say that darker honeys come anywhere close to providing enough nutrient. I was just pointing out that there are differences in net nutrient content amongst the different varietal honeys.

So, unless you don't mind a very slow, potentially very stinky (from H2S produced by yeast starved for nitrogen) and potentially stuck before it finishes ferment, consider adding some additional nutrients. If you do know the brand of your activator, that would help us to determine if the quantity that you added is sufficient. Commercial yeast nutrient products vary widely in the amount of different nutrients that are actually available to the yeast, so we can't even take an educated guess about the situation in your must without knowing where the activator came from.

09-09-2009, 03:41 PM
Yes, that makes sense. I decided to do my first batch from a kit. Dadant sells a mead kit, and they're the big honey suppliers, so I just put in the amount specified by the kit. Better to get one under my belt an easy way, I figured. The only thing that on the directions that wasn't clear was whether or not you stirred the yeast in, and I need to do that this afternoon, so I figured I just ask you guys.


Medsen Fey
09-09-2009, 04:10 PM
If THIS (https://www.dadant.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=633) is the kit you are using, it comes with a package of yeast energizer (https://www.dadant.com/catalog/popup_image.php?pID=639) from E.C. Kraus that contains Diammonium Phosphate (DAP), Soy albumen, Calcium Phosphate, and Thiamine. Did that recipe say 6 tablespoons or 6 teaspoons?

That will certainly provide enough nitrogen for the yeast.

The yeast is ICV-D47? While you can pitch it dry, you get better results if you rehydrate the yeast (1 packet) in 50cc 104F plain water -stir the yeast in the water, wait 20 minutes, then stir and pour into the must. Then aerate the must really well.

The one potential problem I see is that their kit has acid blend. Adding acid at the beginning of a mead fermentation can drop the pH too low. We generally recommend adding the acid after the yeast have finished their work. Have you already added the acid to the must?

09-09-2009, 05:12 PM
Yes, I've already added the acid base. I'll rehydrate the yeast right now, then stir it in. For aeration, I have a shelf in my controlled temperature room set aside for aquariums. Can I use an aquarium "stone", and if so, for how long should I use it?

Medsen Fey
09-09-2009, 05:50 PM
You can use an aquarium pump and stone for a few minutes and achieve good aeration, but cleaning and sanitizing them can be a pain. If you are using the kit in the picture, it has a large open bucket - with that you can just use a kitchen whisk and give it a good beating for a minute or two. You should do that at least once a day until the fermentation is 1/3 complete. After that you can seal the bucket lid on and just swirl it a couple of times a day to keep the yeast up in the solution. Do be sure and measure your gravity with the hydrometer before starting.

There are a couple of things you are going to need if you don't have them already. First is a glass carboy (http://morewinemaking.com/view_product/16582//Glass_Carboy_5_Gallon) to move the mead into once it has finished fermenting (plastic "better bottles" also work). This will allow it to age and clear without being oxidized. Once it is clear enough to read through, you can bottle it.

The second and third thing will be a stopper (http://morewinemaking.com/view_product/16630//Stopper_-_%237_With_Hole) and airlock (http://http://morewinemaking.com/view_product/16598//Airlock_-_3_Piece) to fit in the carboy. This protects the mead from air. You will also need to top up in the carboy to make sure it is full up to the neck to prevent air exposure.

The fourth thing you need is an auto-siphon (http://morewinemaking.com/view_product/8126//The_Easy_siphon_3_8_inch) with some hose for racking (transferring from one container to the next while leaving the sediment on the bottom of the old container).

These items are relatively inexpensive and are available at most homebrew stores, or online. They will help you get a better result.

This may all seem like a lot to take in at once, but truthfully, if you have a few basic pieces of equipment, it really isn't too bad. After all, the yeast do most of the work.


09-09-2009, 06:05 PM
OK. Hydrated yeast stirred in as ordered! Will aerate every day.

This kit says open bucket and towel on top until fermentation slows (7-10 days) then put the lid that comes with an air lock on for another couple.

If I were to buy a carboy (there's a shop in the next town), do I take it that I would pour the 7-10 day old must with yeast straight into that? Naturally siphoned off.

Do you approve of what they say about the open bucket covered with a towel for the first week or so? I've set the temp in the room to about 70-75F 24/7.

I've got space and lots of honey, so I don't mind spending a couple hundred to kick start things.


09-09-2009, 07:44 PM
After reading through this site, let me guess. The reason that the direction from my kit say a towel covering for a week is that they assume you won't aerate. So, if I aerate, I can cover with the lid and trap. Right?

Medsen Fey
09-09-2009, 08:08 PM
Keeping it open with a towel covering it works as well. It you aerate it, you can keep the lid either loose or sealed on top. However you do it, things will work. However, I wouldn't recommend going 7-10 days with it uncovered. Personally, I would aerate it only until about the 1/3 fermentation point, and then I'd keep it sealed.

If you start with 13 pounds of honey, in a 5 gallon batch you can expect a gravity of around 1.096 - you'll have to measure to get the exact number. If the gravity is 1.096, the 1/3 fermentation point in that case would be about 1.064 - but you don't have to be perfect about these things, just somewhere in that general area. Then seal it in the bucket and let it finish. You'll know its done when the gravity stops going down (and it should be 1.000 or below on the hydrometer).

At that point you siphon it off, leaving the sediment on the bottom and transfer it a carboy, and stopper it with airlock. It will be cloudy, but it will then start settling clear, though that can sometimes take weeks or months.

For the ICV-D47 yeast, you want to keep the temperature on the lower side. Above about 73F it creates mead that tastes a lot like paint thinner that takes a long time to age out. If you can keep the temp to 70F or the upper 60s you'll get a result that will be drinkable much sooner.

Good luck with your batch - I think you're going to get a good one.


09-09-2009, 08:18 PM
Thanks. I'm a mod on a couple forums, and I know how painful it can be to talk novices through stuff.

If you guys are going to take the time and effort to help me, the least I can do is to read and buy proper equipment, so I'll try to get a couple carboys, and a paint stirrer for my drill to aerate tomorrow and the next day. Today I did what was suggested and stirred the yeast in vigorously.

I put the heater on a timer, and it will only go on at night, so hopefully it won't spend more than a few hours over 73.

Thanks much, and while I may be a black hole for now when it comes to knowledge, I do appreciate it, and will hopefully add to the forum in the medium term future.

Medsen Fey
09-09-2009, 08:24 PM
Knowledgeable beekeepers add a lot to a forum like this so we are glad to see you and look forward to your contributions. Some of us would also definitely be interested in buying some honey depending on what you have running.

09-10-2009, 08:27 PM
OK, I got one of those paint stirrers, attached it to a drill and very thoroughly aerated it just now. So I'll plan on doing it tomorrow, and the next day siphon it into a carboy I bought today with a siphon deal with the thingy on the bottom to keep gunk from getting sucked up as well.

At this point I can smell some fermentation, but can't really see anything yet as far as bubbling.

09-11-2009, 12:16 AM
I would wait for the gravity to drop more before racking to carboy, If you go to soon and don't leave enough head space in the carboy you'll have a delicious volcano on your hands! I usually don't rack to glass until its about 95 percent finished. Oxidation isn't an issue because of the co2 being produced.

09-11-2009, 07:49 AM
Thanks. So how do you tell when it's 95 percent finished? I suppose if everything were perfect, temp, amount of food for the yeast, oxygen, you knew perfectly how much sugar was in there, etc.. but other than that, do you get the 95 percent figure by how much it slows down?

Thanks, and you struck a nerve that came from an incident with elderberry wine in a white kitchen.

Medsen Fey
09-11-2009, 08:51 AM
To determine where you are in the fermentation, you check with the hydrometer to see the gravity of the solution. As the sugar is consumed during fermentation, the gravity of the solution drops, and in your case, it should end up below 1.000. Usually it will take a few days at least to reach that point (say 4-14 depending on the recipe).

Did you measure the gravity at the start?

09-11-2009, 08:55 AM
Exactly what Medsen said. I'll rack my meads once they're about 1.005 or lower.

09-11-2009, 06:01 PM
I wonder if my meter works. It's stayed the same for the three days, and I can see it fermenting. Or, I didn't take an accurate take, and should buy one of those tubes to make it easier.

I aerated again with the drill, and it smells wonderful, and I can see the little bubbles come up. I suppose I'll wait a few days as to prevent a geyser.

So, after three days in a row of aeration, then it's not needed?


09-12-2009, 12:20 AM
I wonder if my meter works. It's stayed the same for the three days, and I can see it fermenting. Or, I didn't take an accurate take, and should buy one of those tubes to make it easier.

I aerated again with the drill, and it smells wonderful, and I can see the little bubbles come up. I suppose I'll wait a few days as to prevent a geyser.

So, after three days in a row of aeration, then it's not needed?


Yea you can use almost anything for a test tube as long as its stable and clear. Not sure if there's truth to this but my assumption is it would give you a more accurate reading, and one that you could read more clearly as well. And for aerating technically you should aerate until the 1/3 sugar break. Which is the point in the fermentation where 1/3 of the fermentable sugars have been consumed. This is where brix comes in handy if you hate decimals.
As Medsen pointed out you had a starting gravity of 1.096 so your 1/3 would be 1.064 or about 24 brix and 16 brix respectively. To find the 1/3 break and 2/3 break you:

Take your original brix which is 24 and divide it by 3.
24/3= 8

This answer is your two-thirds break. So to find the one-thirds break, you multiply the two-thirds break times two. So:
8*2= 16.

So you should aerate until your brix says 16. These figures don't, by any means have to be on the money. Just relatively close. The breaks are also important for staggered nutrient additions.

09-12-2009, 12:22 AM
Oh, and when taking a reading you should make sure your temperature is correct for the hydrometer. Which they are usually calibrated at 60 degrees Fahrenheit. And also should spin your hydrometer to dislodge bubbles stuck to the bottom which will also throw off a reading.

09-12-2009, 09:16 AM
OK, that's clear. Thanks

09-12-2009, 12:45 PM
OK, I'll take it more accurately next time from the beginning. Just now, I got a reading of 1.068, and there's lots of activity, so I'll wait until the 1.00 mark before racking. And I did another good aeration.

Medsen Fey
09-12-2009, 01:22 PM
It sounds like it is moving along. You probably don't need to aerate it any more and can keep it under airlock. It will be helpful to swirl it once or twice a day to keep the yeast up in suspension.

Using a testing jar to take hydrometer readings is helpful. When you use one, you can shake the sample really well to degas it and get a reading without the bubbles to make sure it is accurate.

09-12-2009, 02:24 PM
OK. I'll it under airlock now and perhaps Monday or Tuesday transfer it into the carboy.

09-13-2009, 11:07 AM
1.052 just now! Yey! And an aroma to die for.

I've read all about the difference between glass and plastic carboys, so with that in mind, would there be any problem with putting my batch into a plastic water bottle for two weeks before the second racking? Then I would put it into a specially made plastic or glass carboy. Or should I just spend the money for glass or that plastic made for fermenting?

The reason I ask is that my honey bottling room is easy to heat, but in high summer can get up to the high 80s, and I'd like to get my cappings all racked up by spring, so there will of necessity be 10 carboys needed, and I don't really want to spend 40 bucks or more each (until I can find some cheap at garage sales or on craigslist.

So, with plastic water bottles (yes, I know there are variables) could I get some opinions on how long it would generally be safe to hold must/mead in the works without loosing quality in regular plastic water bottles?

Thanks much

09-14-2009, 05:28 PM
Stalled!!! I'm at 1.052 for two days! Temps are perfect, at 70-75 degrees 24/7. Everything smells wonderful, but I don't see any bubbles. pH 3.5.


09-14-2009, 08:01 PM
I read the relevant section in Schramm's The Complete Meadmaker aerated once more, and added a bit of yeast food this morning. Nothing happened, so I did the second thing he suggested and added yeast again. I used an aggressive champagne style yeast. I also added something to raise the pH a bit, and for good measure added 2 pounds of honey, since I'm starting almost from scratch again in any event. This second step (yeast etc..) at 4:45 the 14th. Reading 1.054, and I put the lid on the bucket air tight with the air trap on the theory that I probably should try using up all that oxygen.

Medsen Fey
09-14-2009, 09:46 PM
It does not help to add honey to stuck fermentations - there is enough honey that hasn't been fermented already. Your pH seems fine. Yeast hulls are useful to add at 1 gram per gallon if you have a slow fermentation.

I'm not sure you are stuck - follow the gravity for the next few days and see.

09-14-2009, 09:54 PM
Thanks, Medsen. Is it typical for a fermentation to not progress in 2.5 days at the one third fermentation stage?

Medsen Fey
09-14-2009, 10:37 PM
No it is not - typically the gravity will drop at least 6-10 gravity points daily.

Did you take that pH with a meter? was it calibrated?

09-15-2009, 08:48 AM
No, I spent the money and got a nice wine makers pH kit. Schramm's book has 3.5 as too low, and with everything else being seemingly fine, I figured I'd raise the pH a bit. I aerated it just now (5am, 9/15) and sealed it with the air lock on top. Over night the reading had dropped to 1.050, so perhaps the extra nutrients have helped, or the pH increase. I'm sure it's too early for the yeast to have helped.

09-15-2009, 08:51 AM
PS, I can see why you guys didn't want me to add the acid during the must making stage. Strange that the kit would say to put it in. But live and learn!

09-16-2009, 10:26 AM
7:30am 9/16

Reading down to 1.05 and one bubble every 4 seconds. Container feels very warm.

09-17-2009, 08:35 AM
5am 9/17 one bubble every two seconds. That vigorous yeast seems to be doing it's job. Still have to figure out where I went wrong and it stalled.

Finished Schramm's book last night, and I have some ripe Santa Rosa plums, so I plan on trying some of those with capping honey today or tomorrow. No acid in the primary must this time!!! And two packets of yeast, as per Schramm's reasoning.

09-19-2009, 06:51 PM
One bubble every 8 seconds. Tastes rough, but almost drinkable. My 23 year old son want to start quaffing now, but I said "no".

09-19-2009, 06:53 PM
One bubble every 8 seconds. Tastes rough, but almost drinkable. My 23 year old son want to start quaffing now, but I said "no".

Have to keep an eye on those cellar rats, Tim. They'll drain your stock before you know it.

09-19-2009, 09:10 PM
And when you're a young'n, almost anything with a bit of alcohol is drinkable, right Al?

(ask him about the kool-aid)