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AsbjŲrn
10-08-2009, 12:26 AM
Before anything I must say that Iíve been looking forward to Ďmeadhingí for over 2 years now, but havenít done any yet. First time I read an explanation, it was very simple and I thought I could do it so easily. When the opportunity of buying the equipment showed up, I realized it wasnít as easy as what I had read previously. I bought the equipment that I thought was the basic, along with Ken Schrammís ďThe Compleat MeadmakerĒ.
When I read the book, I realized that it was even harder than I had come to think! All the measuring, pH balance, temperature control, specific gravity, controlling acids, clarifying agents, yeast energizer, yeast nutrients.. Plus I realized I didnít get all the equipment I needed.

Before doing my questions, Iíd like to put out that I am planning to mead traditional mead, Iím not sure of the nomenclature I should use, as in my understanding, traditional mead, show mead and hydromel are all the same: honey + water. Also, Iím going to make my meads on the No-Heat method, as I donít have a 5 Gallon Stock Pot, and I think itís simpler and more beneficial by what Iíve read on the book.

Now to the questions, which Iíll put on topics to be more objective:

● When I bought my equipment, I bought a plastic 6.5 Gal fermentation bucket and a 6Gal Better Bottle. Then I realized that the musts on a fermentation bucket of this size are usually 5Gal, and one of the most important qualities of the second fermenter is that it has small surface area of must open to the air, thus reducing risk of oxidation. This got me a little shaky, since I donít know if I can make a 6 gallon batch on my 6.5 gallon fermenting bucket to fit my 6 Gallon Better Bottle. The ideal for a 6.5 bucket is a 5 gallon batch, right? Any insights?

● Hydrometer. This is a very newbie question that I should know but am confused with the lack of information given to me. Should I just throw it in my must and try to read it in the midst of the foam produced by the fermentation or should I buy a test jar (like Iíve seen on some sites but give me no explanation what they are for), fill it with must and put my hydrometer in it? Iím completely lost on this one.

● Readings. By what I understood, I should do pH, temperature and SG readings all of the days, until I rack my mead to the secondary fermenter. After that, I should do the final gravity and pH readings when bottling my mead. Did I get this right?

● Considering what I said previously about me intending to make Traditional Mead and using the No-Heat Method. Which fining agent do you recommend? Still considering the aforementioned situation, do you expect me to find pH or acidity problems in my mead? Because I wasnít planning on buying a pH Meter. If so, what compounds should I buy alongside, calcium carbonate? Also, am somewhat confused with pH and acidity, I read that theyíre not the same subject, what is the difference?

● Iíve read some bad things about dark honey, and wildflower also (high mineral content). Problem is that I have 8L of Dark Wildflower Honey. Should I worry?

● Would like some recommendations of what to buy for my meadmaking . Nutrient, additives, acid adjustments, sulfites, finings.. But only if you think Iíll need them.

● I intend on doing my first batch as a high alcohol dry mead. But I donít know how to calculate how much of honey I should put in my must. Have tried Hightestís Spreadsheet and Gotmead Calculator. Canít say I had an understanding of either.

● What are the cons of making high alcohol mead? Lose the flavor?

● Another thing is that I donít have a scale, and some ingredients are measured by weight (most notably honey), do you guys have a scale and recommend me getting one or do you use some alternative method to measure how much honey to put in?

Bah, Iím sorry for making this so extensive, but I really had lots of questions. Any tips not related to what I asked are also very welcomed! This will be my first batch and I hope itíll be a great one.

Arcanum
10-08-2009, 12:59 AM
When I read the book, I realized that it was even harder than I had come to think! All the measuring, pH balance, temperature control, specific gravity, controlling acids, clarifying agents, yeast energizer, yeast nutrients.. Plus I realized I didn’t get all the equipment I needed.

Welcome to GotMead! You're in roughly the same place I was back in February!

For your first mead, you don't need to worry particularly about pH, controlling acids, and clarifying agents. If your house tends to the cool side (68-72 degrees or so) you don't even need to worry much about temperature control.


Before doing my questions, I’d like to put out that I am planning to mead traditional mead, I’m not sure of the nomenclature I should use, as in my understanding, traditional mead, show mead and hydromel are all the same: honey + water. Also, I’m going to make my meads on the No-Heat method, as I don’t have a 5 Gallon Stock Pot, and I think it’s simpler and more beneficial by what I’ve read on the book.

Hydromels are typically lower alcohol (<10% or so), but otherwise yes.



● When I bought my equipment, I bought a plastic 6.5 Gal fermentation bucket and a 6Gal Better Bottle. Then I realized that the musts on a fermentation bucket of this size are usually 5Gal, and one of the most important qualities of the second fermenter is that it has small surface area of must open to the air, thus reducing risk of oxidation. This got me a little shaky, since I don’t know if I can make a 6 gallon batch on my 6.5 gallon fermenting bucket to fit my 6 Gallon Better Bottle. The ideal for a 6.5 bucket is a 5 gallon batch, right? Any insights?

Picking up a 5 gallon carboy or Better Bottle to use is probably a good idea, yes. Doing 6+ gallons in a 6.5 gallon fermenter will make aeration difficult. There are other tricks for taking up the space in the Better Bottle, like using lots of plain glass craft beads or topping with inert gas, but acquiring another bottle is going to be the simplest.


● Hydrometer. This is a very newbie question that I should know but am confused with the lack of information given to me. Should I just throw it in my must and try to read it in the midst of the foam produced by the fermentation or should I buy a test jar (like I’ve seen on some sites but give me no explanation what they are for), fill it with must and put my hydrometer in it? I’m completely lost on this one.

When the must is in the primary fermentation bucket, I've been doing my readings there as long as I can find a location without foam. A test jar is convenient. If your hydrometer came in a plastic tube, and the tube doesn't have any leaks, you can do your reading in there as well.


● Readings. By what I understood, I should do pH, temperature and SG readings all of the days, until I rack my mead to the secondary fermenter. After that, I should do the final gravity and pH readings when bottling my mead. Did I get this right?

Sounds about right, except like I said, you probably don't need to worry much about pH for your first batch. On the other hand, it's easy to measure and won't hurt anything if you do want to check. You'll want to check SG in secondary every so often so you can tell when fermentation has really stopped. You may or may not need to worry about temperature.


● Considering what I said previously about me intending to make Traditional Mead and using the No-Heat Method. Which fining agent do you recommend? Still considering the aforementioned situation, do you expect me to find pH or acidity problems in my mead? Because I wasn’t planning on buying a pH Meter. If so, what compounds should I buy alongside, calcium carbonate? Also, am somewhat confused with pH and acidity, I read that they’re not the same subject, what is the difference?

You probably don't need to worry about fining, and if you do, it can be done at a relatively late stage (if I remember right). You can buy pH strips relatively cheap ($5 for 50 or 100). Not as exact as a meter, but cheap and relatively simple.


● I’ve read some bad things about dark honey, and wildflower also (high mineral content). Problem is that I have 8L of Dark Wildflower Honey. Should I worry?[QUOTE]

The minerals in dark honey aren't necessarily a bad thing. It depends on the particular honey. Likewise, there's nothing necessarily wrong with "wildflower honey", but it's unpredictable. The question is, what does the honey taste and smell like besides sweet?

[QUOTE=AsbjŲrn;130594]● Would like some recommendations of what to buy for my meadmaking . Nutrient, additives, acid adjustments, sulfites, finings.. But only if you think I’ll need them.

A second carboy or Better Bottle of the same size as the one you'll be using. It makes multiple rackings and preparing to bottle easier. :)


● I intend on doing my first batch as a high alcohol dry mead. But I don’t know how to calculate how much of honey I should put in my must. Have tried Hightest’s Spreadsheet and Gotmead Calculator. Can’t say I had an understanding of either.

Did you read the help on the Gotmead calculator? It explains better than I can how to figure out how much honey to get a particular gravity.


● What are the cons of making high alcohol mead? Lose the flavor?

Possible alcohol burn/flavors. Honey covereth a multitude of sins: Sweetness can conceal flaws, so sweeter meads are drinkable sooner. Even a good dry mead can take a long time to age to drinkability.


● Another thing is that I don’t have a scale, and some ingredients are measured by weight (most notably honey), do you guys have a scale and recommend me getting one or do you use some alternative method to measure how much honey to put in?

I'm still faking it with teaspoons and such. Thinking about getting a scale soon. :)


Bah, I’m sorry for making this so extensive, but I really had lots of questions. Any tips not related to what I asked are also very welcomed! This will be my first batch and I hope it’ll be a great one.

No worries, that's what we're here for!

akueck
10-08-2009, 01:29 AM
Hello and Welcome!

If you haven't checked out the NewBee guide, you should. A lot of your questions are addressed there, such as hydrometers and equipment. The mead calculator has a how-to instruction set if you haven't found that yet. There are many forum posts on it as well if you wanted to take a look at those. Love the search function. Be the search function. ;)

Mead does not have to be as complicated as it might sound. A lot of the things you seem stressed about are details, you can get going and make mead with a lot less precision. The more controlled are your methods, the more reproducible are your results and the more improvements you can make. But don't stress out about measuring the pH every day if that is going to make your hair fall out, I personally have only started tracking pH recently and turned out some pretty good stuff before I worried about negative log of the concentration of hydrogen ions.

To your specific questions...

1. Yes you probably want to stick to ~5 gallons in your 6.5 gallon bucket. With just honey + water and nothing missile-shaped you could probably fit 6 gallons in there. I would suggest aiming for 5.5 instead and picking up a 5 gallon container (Better Bottles do come in 5 and 3 gallon sizes). The extra half gallon gives you wiggle room for losses in the process, which you will have.

2. Hydrometer jars do what you think they would. You put some must/mead in the tube and float the hydrometer in it. If you want to try and read the hydrometer through the bubbles in the must, go for it. Just remember to sanitize it first. Conventional wisdom is to "scrap" the sample you put in the hydrometer jar, which really means you have to drink it. Darn your luck!

3. Take as many readings as you want. Daily readings gives you a good snapshot of how things are going, but it's labor intensive. You might want to start with a less picky mead than a traditional for your first try. Traditionals are actually kind of tough and often require some coddling. Search around for some "fool proof" recipes for beginners that you can cut your teeth on and get used to the process. Joe's Ancient Orange is famous for being hands-off; cysers are popular as well.

4. Time is the best fining agent. If that doesn't work for you, we can suggest some options. Different compounds drop out different things. Bentonite is widely used. I use Sparkolloid. There are lots of other ones too like Polyclar and egg whites. But really, time is best and works on just about everything.

pH can be a problem in traditional meads (show mead is honey, water, yeast and nothing else, traditional allows additions like nutrients, and hydromel is generally understood in English to mean "low alcohol mead" though the definition varies in other languages). A plain honey must is poorly buffered and the acids secreted by yeast can move the pH around a lot. It is common to need to adjust pH upward at some point. pH and titratable acidity (TA) are different measurements. For mead, TA is pretty much a useless number so we just use pH. You can search around for "gluconolactone" by "McFeely" for why that is. One more reason to try a "made for beginners" recipe first so you don't have to worry so much about that yet.

5. Minerals are good. Honey is pretty devoid of things that yeast need to grow, so the minerals in dark honey are a good source of vitamins for yeast health. Some honeys are strongly flavored and might not make good mead (mint, heather, eucalyptus) and these can often also be dark honeys. But wildflower is usually ok.

6. Equipment: read the NewBee Guide. Find some recipes to try and see what equipment is mentioned. Make a few batches with what you have. You'll figure out what you need and probably magically start "needing" more things as time goes on. You have been warned. ;D

7. Calculator: read the instructions, read some threads about it. If you still have questions, let us know what specifically you aren't getting and we'll help fill in the blanks.

8. High alcohol...well there's more of it. Usually the biggest "downside" is it takes longer to become drinkable. New alcohol has a lovely harsh flavor, and more alcohol means more harsh. It will mellow and integrate with time, but more time is needed when there is more alcohol. Time is good for things like clearing though, so it's not all bad. The other thing with high alcohol mead is that it will stress your yeast out more. Depending on your recipe and process, that could lead to the production of higher alcohols which also need time to age out.

9. Weights and measures. Weight is more accurate than volume for measuring, but your hydrometer is most accurate. Honey will vary in moisture content from year to year and place to place (and storage conditions, etc). It's best to aim for a particular SG and keep adding honey until you get there. This way you can make the "same" mead again by getting to the same SG, even if the amount of honey you add is different. I have a scale, but I just roughly weigh the honey. You can calculate about how much you'd expect to need. I get close to that amount, measure the SG, and adjust as needed. The weight or volume of honey you end up using is just a number to write down as a guideline.

Phew! Lots of typing. Surely Wayne has already written this by now and I am too late as usual. ;) (Nope, it was Arcanum this time. I must take a typing class!)

Bottom line: Hello! Welcome! You found the right place. I suggest picking up a simple beginner-style recipe first so you can get used to using the equipment and doing all the other basic mead-making tasks before you dive into the benchtop chemistry version of mead. Mead making is fun, don't let it stress you out!

Jess
10-08-2009, 01:54 AM
I'm new to mead making myself but I have brewed many a bucket-o-beer and this is what I always tried to keep in mind.

150 years ago and beyond there was no such thing as sanitation, carbonation (unless by accident) or multiple specialized yeast strains. People just whipped up whatever wort or must, threw it into an open container and waited for mother nature to sprinkle it with yeast and ferment. Fermentation vats were usually left wide open and anyone could walk up and stick their whole arm down inside if they so desired. And yet they still came up with a palatable alcoholic drink.

Keeping that in mind, even if you completely botch your first attempt, you're still head and shoulders above the techniques of our forebears. Also remember that prisoners regularly brew thrown-together concoctions in plastic baggies and their finished product "does the job".

Your finished product may not taste all that great but more than likely, after a couple of glasses, it really won't matter that much. LOL! You and your friends will enjoy it nonetheless.

Oskaar
10-08-2009, 04:48 AM
I'm new to mead making myself but I have brewed many a bucket-o-beer and this is what I always tried to keep in mind.

150 years ago and beyond there was no such thing as sanitation, carbonation (unless by accident) or multiple specialized yeast strains. People just whipped up whatever wort or must, threw it into an open container and waited for mother nature to sprinkle it with yeast and ferment. Fermentation vats were usually left wide open and anyone could walk up and stick their whole arm down inside if they so desired. And yet they still came up with a palatable alcoholic drink.

Keeping that in mind, even if you completely botch your first attempt, you're still head and shoulders above the techniques of our forebears. Also remember that prisoners regularly brew thrown-together concoctions in plastic baggies and their finished product "does the job".

Your finished product may not taste all that great but more than likely, after a couple of glasses, it really won't matter that much. LOL! You and your friends will enjoy it nonetheless.

As mentioned above in the ancient times just about any fermented beverage did not have the benefit of modern technique, technology or designer yeasts.

That being said, we are in the modern era, and one should take advantage of the most up to date information, technique and ingredients available in order to help formulate, ferment and produce the best mead possible. I think anything less is a waste of time, money and effort. I don't buy in to "if it was good enough for the Vikings, it's good enough for me" style of mead making. That's just me however, and there are a ton of different ways to make high quality mead. My approach is to adopt the techniques, processes and methodologies that yield great mead consistently.

My advice would be to detail out what you like, and what you would like to produce. Then read everything you can from what's available and determine a course of action. Once you do that, post it up here and we'll help you fine tune it.

Cheers and welcome to Got Mead?

Oskaar

wildoates
10-08-2009, 10:13 AM
Thanks for the well-organized list of questions!

Jess
10-08-2009, 09:56 PM
As mentioned above in the ancient times just about any fermented beverage did not have the benefit of modern technique, technology or designer yeasts.

That being said, we are in the modern era, and one should take advantage of the most up to date information, technique and ingredients available in order to help formulate, ferment and produce the best mead possible. I think anything less is a waste of time, money and effort. I don't buy in to "if it was good enough for the Vikings, it's good enough for me" style of mead making. That's just me however, and there are a ton of different ways to make high quality mead. My approach is to adopt the techniques, processes and methodologies that yield great mead consistently.

My advice would be to detail out what you like, and what you would like to produce. Then read everything you can from what's available and determine a course of action. Once you do that, post it up here and we'll help you fine tune it.

Cheers and welcome to Got Mead?

Oskaar



I agree with everything you said. I was just trying to help alleviate someone's first-timer jitters. I know that I always get nervous whenever embarking upon a new hobby and always appreciate the person of experience that says, "Jump in there and just do it. You'll be o.k." It can go a long way towards calming the nerves.