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dr9
12-12-2009, 11:54 PM
I have brewed beer, I have a stout brewing now. But I'm no expert. I want mead.

I've read the beginner stuff here and many other posts. I have some questions.

First, what I want to brew first is a Moody Melomel.

17 pounds local Sourwood honey (upstate SC)
4 gallons spring water from Moody Spring (upstate SC)
1 gallon fresh press cider from Mountain Rest SC

I like the regional feel, all ingredients from the same square mile.

Wyeast 3632 Dry Mead (17%)

According to the calculator on this site, the yeast should give out while there's still a decent amount of sugar in the brew, but that's 100% assumption.

I want a still product, not sparkling.

I want to add the apple cider after the fermentation to retain the flavor and sweetness.

Using 2 gallons of the water to heat up (low, like 120, just to ease the stirring but not lose many aromatics and such) and stir in the honey, I would use the other two gallons (cold) to oxygenate in batches in a food processor before combining in the bucket.

I want a ~17% ABV product that is sweet and still.

Questions:

1: What jumps out as a potential FAIL?

2: What kind of yeast nutrient do I need? The beginner guide sort of glossed over the nuances of this.

3: Since I want to taste the apple, is 1 gallon plus 4 enough, or should I go 2/3? And should I add the cider right off the bat, or wait until secondary or bottling?

4: What is the ultimate benefit of simulating Oak aging in this kind of recipe?

5: How long should I expect to have this bottled before it could be considered "done"?

Thanks!

Edit: I see it's a Cyser, not a melomel.

6: How do you pronounce Cyser?

wayneb
12-13-2009, 12:40 AM
First, as a beer brewer you're probably familiar with RDWHAH (Relax, Don't Worry, Have a Homebrew). Those sage words are probably even more applicable to meadmaking, since even more patience is required as your mead develops and ages.

With expertise in beer, you've already got the basic skills required for meadmaking. However, at first glance some things don't quite seem to add up in your proposed recipe. You're planning to use 17 lb of honey, and you plan on mixing that with 4 gallons of water. By my calculations, that would yield a must of around 5.45 gallons total volume, at an initial gravity of 1.110. Even if that ferments totally dry (down to a final gravity in the vicinity of 0.997) you'll only end up with a 15% ABV mead (rather than the 17% you're shooting for). I'd recommend that you check your calculations again, and I'll suggest that perhaps you weren't using the calculator correctly.

That said, let me have a shot at your questions in order:

1) Nothing overt, as long as you follow good practice with respect to initial equipment sanitation, aeration and nutrient additions for your must, and be prepared to check things like pH if the fermentation appears to slow for no apparent reason. Keep in mind that meads are not beer, so some things considered anathema by beer brewers (such as vigorous stirring to aerate the must down to about the 1/3 sugar break) are common practice in making meads. Also, just like wines, meads will generally need a primary fermentation period, then a secondary fermentation period, and for high gravity recipes often a tertiary, or extended bulk aging interval, to be their best.

2) Unfortunately the old vinquiry page (linked in the Newbee guide in Chapter 10) that detailed the use of Lallemand yeast nutrients in a staggered nutrient addition protocol is apparently now a broken link. Let me now instead suggest that you either do a search for older posts on Staggered Nutrient Additions (look especially for posts by Oskaar in that regard), or you can have a look at some of the other web resources out there that speak to nutrient additions specifically in mead musts. One thing to keep in mind about mead is that honey is almost completely lacking in yeast assimilable nitrogen, so even the commercial nutrient formulas put together for wine musts will be a little short of nitrogen for optimum mead fermentation. So you will see that the SNA (staggered nutrient addition) dosages that are recommended here have a commercial nutrient (such as Lallemand's Fermaid-K) augmented by additions of DAP (di-ammonium phosphate - a great source of inorganic nitrogen that your yeast can use in the first third to half of your fermentation).

3) That's a personal call, but IMO only one gallon of apple juice in a 5 gallon batch will not give you more than a hint of apple flavor, even if it is added entirely after fermentation has finished. I'd go for the 2/3 ratio that you suggested, and I personally would use half of that juice (or more) in primary. I like the complexity introduced when fruit or fruit juices are fermented along with the honey. But of course YMMV.

4) Oak + Apple + Honey = Nirvana. But again, that's just my taste, and my recommendation. ;D Oak can do a number of good things for your mead, and again that is discussed more fully in an earlier posting by Oskaar. He's the resident expert in all things mead here at Gotmead, and I recommend that you take any of his posts that address subjects you're interested in, to heart. Anyway, aging with Oak cubes or staves will bring tannic structure, depth and complexity to your finished mead, and that tannin will also give your mead some added staying power in the bottle, as tannins are good antioxidants. To consider adding apple juice as a sweetener (or honey, or any source of fermentable sugars) after you think fermentation has completed, first read up on "backsweetening" technique and stabilization (using metabisulfite and potassium sorbate). If you search those terms with me as the author you'll find some things that you'll want to know about keeping your sweet mead still, and avoiding bottle bombs.

5) Every mead is different in that respect, but in general I think you'll need to adjust your beer-based timing expectations by more than a little. Your plan for a high ABV mead will likely result in a product that you'll want to age in bulk (in the carboy) for many months before even considering bottling. Meads take time to integrate, smooth out, and develop. IMO many fine meads never reach their full potential because impatient meadmakers drink (or offer to friends) their products well before they've hit their prime. It is not unusual for a high initial gravity product to not be ready for a year or two, and not really come into its own for another year or so after that. World class meadmakers learn patience, above all else. ;)

One or two more things worth considering -- since apples are a high pectin fruit, if you want your mead to not develop a pectin haze, add some pectic enzyme to the must before pitching yeast, and also add some to any fruit juice additions that you might choose to make after primary fermentation is done.

Ahh... 6) The common pronunciation is (SEYE-zer) with an accent on the first syllable.

One more thought... if you really "want mead" NOW, as is suggested in your first paragraph, then I'd recommend also getting something like a batch of Joe's Ancient Orange (JAO) started along with this one that you're planning. Joe's will be drinkable in about 3 to 6 months, which is far earlier than the recipe that I think you're ultimately after!

Hope that helps!

fatbloke
12-13-2009, 06:44 AM
Ha ha! just read dr9's post. Interesting. Then thought I might offer some "pearls of wisdom", because waynes post isn't very, erm, comprehensive is it ;);D8)

So no further comment necessary eh! :p

regards

fatbloke

dr9
12-13-2009, 10:10 AM
"sizer"?

Thanks for all the info. I had 5 gallons finished product clicked and 17 lbs of honey and 1 gallon apples. I suppose I would just end up with less than 4 gallons of spring water as I top it off with the blended/oxygenated water, in which case the calculator was right, and my estimation of 4 gallons of water is just wrong.

There will be more calculating.

And having slept on it, I think I will do the JAO for some personal reasons involving a "Sumble" (sp) coming up this summer.

But the Cyser above will also be done, but I will probably start with JAO.

dr9
12-13-2009, 12:13 PM
Question #7

After doing a search here, I have the impression that bottle caps are fine for still mead, but a sparkling mead should have corks because the caps can't handle the pressure. Is that about right?


Question #8

After searching here and elsewhere, on Oak, I've decided to take a try in splitting some "splines" off some Georgia white oak I have, seasoned, and toasting one spline lightly, a second spline to medium, and a third spline dark. Using some sterilized dental floss, cinnamon flavor perhaps :p , hanging them in the carboy individually during the secondary. The dark one comes out after 1 week, the medium after two, and the light one after 3 weeks. Since I'm going for a high ABV, my understanding is that the Oak flavors will be absorbed much more quickly. Is any of that a flat-out "no-no" or shall I proceed with the experiment?


Thanks again!

dr9
12-13-2009, 12:19 PM
Question #9

My source for the fresh press has a yeast that's on their apples, and it's pretty vigorous. My first attempt at hard cider, several years ago, was accidental. A week after buying it, it was fermenting in the jug. So I poured it in the bucket and covered with a clean pillow case. It became contaminated, but the lesson is that there is indeed yeast on them thar apples. I like the idea of letting the yeast compete with the store-bought strains, I will just need a little more info on how to culture it. I've read alot about it online, but have read condradictory information. Here, I've read that you just pour some of the cider into a sterilized jar with some yeast nutrient, let it go for a few days, repeat, and viola, natural yeast culture. Yes yes? No no?

Question #10

How many questions am I allowed to ask in a 24 hour period?

fatbloke
12-13-2009, 12:26 PM
Question #7

After doing a search here, I have the impression that bottle caps are fine for still mead, but a sparkling mead should have corks because the caps can't handle the pressure. Is that about right?
No. Still meads etc, are routinely bottled using cork, either "pure" cork, composite cork or synthetic ones. There's not supposed to be any pressure in that instance. Whereas, sparkling meads would need champagne/sparkling wine type bottles and either proper champange type corks (haven't got the faintest idea how you'd do that) or the plastic type champagne stoppers. Both types are normally held in place with a wire cage and then foiled over to make them look pretty.

You can also use flip top type bottles (like Grolsch beer bottles) or even normal beer bottles and crown caps (as mentioned in Ken Schramms book). Handy as the mead is in smaller quantities and less likely to be wasted if someone decides they don't like it....


Question #8

After searching here and elsewhere, on Oak, I've decided to take a try in splitting some "splines" off some Georgia white oak I have, seasoned, and toasting one spline lightly, a second spline to medium, and a third spline dark. Using some sterilized dental floss, cinnamon flavor perhaps :p , hanging them in the carboy individually during the secondary. The dark one comes out after 1 week, the medium after two, and the light one after 3 weeks. Since I'm going for a high ABV, my understanding is that the Oak flavors will be absorbed much more quickly. Is any of that a flat-out "no-no" or shall I proceed with the experiment?


Thanks again!Well other than using a wood that might not actually be of "barrel making" quality, I can't think of any reason why not.

Personally I prefer to use oak chips/staves from barrels that have already been used to contain spirits. Oh and I also prefer French or Hungarian oak. I'm not so keen on the way that American oak seems to flavour stuff so quickly, or the flavour it imparts (unless it's something like a Bourbon or Sour Mash I'm drinking :p ).

Some of the others might have better suggestions on that one......

regards

fatbloke

dr9
12-13-2009, 04:55 PM
Question #11

If I ferment with Rush YYZ playing through headphones around the carboy, will the mead be more exotic and powerful?

wildoates
12-13-2009, 05:02 PM
What are you getting into? If you're like me, in over your head. And let me warn you that the people around here are very bad influences in that regard, being only too gleeful to first of all help you go under, then to watch happily as you do. :) They call it "advice," but I know it for what it is, and soon you will too.

This place is way worse than any crack house.
:evil6:

AToE
12-13-2009, 05:04 PM
Question #11

If I ferment with Rush YYZ playing through headphones around the carboy, will the mead be more exotic and powerful?

Yes. I have no evidence for that, but I can't see how adding Rush to anything could possibly fail to improve it.;)

wildoates
12-13-2009, 05:05 PM
And I have just noticed that I seem to be over 1k posts, which amply proves my recent assertion.

Hmmmmpf.

:disgust:

dr9
12-13-2009, 05:07 PM
My mead will choose free will. And if some trees have to come down in the forest to add oak flavor, so be it. Cest la Vie.

AToE
12-13-2009, 05:31 PM
If you do end up toasting your own (or using real oak cubes) make sure you rinse them with sanitizer and then water before putting them in, or the charcoal dust on the surface will over-oak (over-smoke?) your mead in roughly 1.5 seconds. I've done this, and even a while of aging doesn't seem to put much of a dent in it.

wayneb
12-13-2009, 11:30 PM
Some of your questions seem to have been lost in the shuffle. We can't have that now, can we? :rolleyes:

9) Yes, yes, no, no. As in, yes you can culture a wild strain of yeast from fresh pressed apple juice, but you don't just add the juice to some nutrient or energizer. If you'd like to know how I did it, you'll have to join as a Patron. ;)

Sorry about that - but we have to reserve some things for the good folk who keep this site going by their contributions.

Anyway, you can achieve wonderful results using a wild (or more likely, feral) yeast culture. However, be warned that results are highly unpredictable, and many wild yeast strains are not as robust as their commercially available brethren. They are also as likely as not to produce more volatile acids (acetic acid is the most common) as byproducts of fermentation. Contamination is also more of a possibility when you're populating your must with whatever happened to be alive on the skins of those apples. Still, if you are a gambling man, the payoff can be quite rewarding, and you will have succeeded in making cider or mead as the ancients did.

10) As many as you'd like, provided the answers aren't readily available with a quick spin of the search tool or in the Newbee Guide. We're happy to answer almost anything related to meadmaking, but we do get tired of repeating ourselves, and if you ask too many questions already covered elsewhere, we'll call you on it -- politely of course! ;D

Medsen Fey
12-13-2009, 11:30 PM
Question 7
Crown caps are capable of holding Champagne pressure. This is what Champagne is capped with during the secondary fermentation before disgorgement to remove the yeast.

Question 8
You can make you own oak, but use it carefully. The oak used to make barrels and alternative such as cubes is typically cured for 2-3 years. During that time the wood undergoes several chemical and microbiologic changes that alter the flavor profile. Using green wood (even toasted) may give more green, bitter, sappy, character than the toasty smoothness that comes from wood that has been cured. Let your taste buds guide you.

There is a good thread on oak in the Patron's section entitled Got Wood?

Question 9
Wild yeast can be fun, but they are unpredictable. They may produce more sulfur odors and may not have the tolerance for higher levels of alcohol. They can also produce some off flavors. On the other hand, they can add great complexity. To quote Oskaar, "Take a chance.....Custer did."

Dan McFeeley
12-13-2009, 11:41 PM
What are you getting into? If you're like me, in over your head. And let me warn you that the people around here are very bad influences in that regard, being only too gleeful to first of all help you go under, then to watch happily as you do. :) They call it "advice," but I know it for what it is, and soon you will too.

This place is way worse than any crack house.


Be aware that this is a person who drinks mead with cat hairs in it. ;D ;D ;D

Ducks and runs quickly before this thread gets highjacked . . . .

--

wayneb
12-13-2009, 11:45 PM
No worries, Dan! It is truly difficult to hijack a thread that has questions going off in 11 different directions, and starts off with an open-ended question in the title! ;D

Dan McFeeley
12-13-2009, 11:56 PM
Question #7

After doing a search here, I have the impression that bottle caps are fine for still mead, but a sparkling mead should have corks because the caps can't handle the pressure. Is that about right? !

You've already gotten good advice on bottle caps, but of course, be sure to use a bottle that can handle the pressure.



Question #10

How many questions am I allowed to ask in a 24 hour period?

No limits, but if there's a lot of them, you may have to wait for the replies! ;D

--

dr9
12-14-2009, 12:23 AM
On Oak, I'm familiar with the "curing" process, we call it "seasoning" in the bbq world. Toss fresh oak on a fire and your meat will taste like burnt pinestraw. The white oak I have is local, native, and was cut over a year ago. With a hatchet I will "spline" it... basically hack it up longways and find the best three pieces and toast them to the different levels of ineptitude. That's the plan anyway.

And yes, I want to be a patron, but I don't want to jump into patronitude willy nilly and noob-up your fine forum. I've got the $25, but don't have the pride. Make sense?

Dan McFeeley
12-14-2009, 08:15 AM
And yes, I want to be a patron, but I don't want to jump into patronitude willy nilly and noob-up your fine forum. I've got the $25, but don't have the pride. Make sense?


No. ;D ;D ;D

Medsen Fey
12-14-2009, 10:07 AM
And yes, I want to be a patron... I've got the $25, but don't have the pride. Make sense?

Pride and experience are not necessary to become a Patron - just the desire to learn more (and $25 :) )

wildoates
12-14-2009, 11:10 AM
Be aware that this is a person who drinks mead with cat hairs in it. ;D ;D ;D

Ducks and runs quickly before this thread gets highjacked . . . .

--

Nice dodge McFeeley.

:)

wildoates
12-14-2009, 11:12 AM
On Oak, I'm familiar with the "curing" process, we call it "seasoning" in the bbq world. Toss fresh oak on a fire and your meat will taste like burnt pinestraw. The white oak I have is local, native, and was cut over a year ago. With a hatchet I will "spline" it... basically hack it up longways and find the best three pieces and toast them to the different levels of ineptitude. That's the plan anyway.

And yes, I want to be a patron, but I don't want to jump into patronitude willy nilly and noob-up your fine forum. I've got the $25, but don't have the pride. Make sense?

Hey, they let me in, so no actual excellence needed. Lucky for me!

dr9
12-16-2009, 09:32 PM
Apple Blossom Honey, I see it for sale on a few websites, I contacted a honey company in the region I want to get all my ingredients from (lots of apple orchards in the area) and they said they never heard of apple blossom honey. According to their website, they have all kinds of honey from all different types of local flora, so it's one thing to not offer apple blossom honey, and another thing altogether to have never heard of it, particularly in their area (upstate SC). I am trying to get in contact with my orchard to see if they have a lead, but it appears they are old school, no website/contact info exists for them (Mountain Rest Orchard SC) What do yall think about that?

wayneb
12-17-2009, 04:12 PM
Apple blossom (and most other fruit-tree blossom) honey does exist, but it is often available only in small quantities, and not every year. The principal reason is that in most parts of the world where fruit trees are cultivated, they are the first plants to bloom in the spring. So most beekeepers will allow their hives to keep most/all of the honey from fruit tree blossoms as nourishment for brood.

The bees have to come first, that early in the season.

dr9
12-19-2009, 10:28 PM
"4) Oak + Apple + Honey = Nirvana. But again, that's just my taste, and my recommendation. Oak can do a number of good things for your mead, and again that is discussed more fully in an earlier posting by Oskaar. He's the resident expert in all things mead here at Gotmead, and I recommend that you take any of his posts that address subjects you're interested in, to heart. "

I did a search for "Oak" in advanced search by user Oskaar in both title and text, and had zero results. :(

A little help pretty please?

trennels
12-19-2009, 10:53 PM
There's an issue with 3-letter search terms. "Oaked" (without the quotation marks) will come up with some good posts.

wayneb
12-19-2009, 11:42 PM
Also the terms "oak cubes" or "oak chips" (again without quotes) will yield some relevant hits.

dr9
12-27-2009, 08:21 PM
Wayneb, others....

I may have found a source for apple blossom honey, I'll know tomorrow. It turns out I have a friend who's wife's family is in the honey business in apple country SC and they do get apple blossom honey, I'll know about quantities and availability tomorrow, I am told. I'll post their contact info after I make sure they have enough for my own endeavors... :p

wayneb
12-27-2009, 09:06 PM
Oooh! I'd definitely like to try some. Hopefully they do get a decent amount of production every year.

Big Mac
12-27-2009, 09:13 PM
I'm interested, too dr9, as I'm right here in SC.

dr9
01-04-2010, 08:13 PM
Just an update, it's going to be a no-go when it comes to apple blossom honey. Apparently, everyone likes to say "Oh yeah, I get it all the time at such and such, call them" and it turns out people don't know what they are talking about. The best I've got so far is a lady in NC who says they get some rarely, and to check back in 6 months.

wayneb
01-04-2010, 10:32 PM
Bummer! Although I'm disappointed, I'm not surprised.

dr9
01-17-2010, 12:02 PM
As to the OP:

I just got a call from gf at the grocery store, told her to pick up a new honey, some local sourwood.

"Your new little hobby is getting expensive"

That's what I'm getting into.