View Full Version : mead making for the broke and inventive

08-31-2010, 01:54 AM
To start, I've been picking large amounts of blackberries, and have been considering what to do with them. A batch of mead sounded like a good Idea.

It looks like I'm going to have to do some improvising on my equipment. As it is I have two 22 oz bottles full of blackberry sludge in my fridge... basically all the juice and pulp as rendered by the Foley Foodmill. I've got a selection of stainless steel stock pots, all in excess of two gallon, four Grolsch bottles, and one old gallon glass jug that I'm willing to boil- soon to be two, I'm gonna buy a gallon of cheap sangria. That leaves me to improvise an airlock, and a siphon I can both rack and bottle with. It's not perfect, but I figure I can probably run without a hydrometer....

I figure I want to make something fairly sweet, and just keep it fermenting until the yeast just dies. I'm not sure, but I think that might be the best preventative of bottle-bombs I could do for my first time out.

There's also an outfit called 'the honey store' up the highway a piece, so good honey shouldn't be an issue. I'll be putting out a swarm trap next May, my outbuilding has a wild hive in it.

Wisdom or ideas are appreciated.

Medsen Fey
08-31-2010, 08:59 AM
Welcome to GotMead heviarti!

I hope you'll list yourself on the GotMead member map (it seems like we are witnessing an explosion of meadmakers in Idaho - 2 in the last month :) ).

As for your plan, I would encourage you to get a hydrometer; even if you are broke. Honey costs $3 per pound (give or take). Sugar costs $0.89. You'll be better off making a fruit wine with sugar and spending the saving on a hydrometer for your first batch.

See this thread (http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php?t=16506&highlight=cock+ale) for airlock idea.


Chevette Girl
08-31-2010, 10:43 AM
See this thread (http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php?t=16506&highlight=cock+ale) for airlock idea.

Medsen!! :rolleyes: ...scaring off the newbees again ... as I recall, safes aren't exactly cheap and are hard to find without lube, ick...

A double layer of plastic wrap plus an elastic band will also work. Probably cheaper than txtwisterchaser's solution... and doesn't send the wrong impression about you to any visitors or children who may see it!! >:D

08-31-2010, 11:34 AM
Medsen!! :rolleyes: ...scaring off the newbees again ... as I recall, safes aren't exactly cheap and are hard to find without lube, ick...

A double layer of plastic wrap plus an elastic band will also work. Probably cheaper than txtwisterchaser's solution... and doesn't send the wrong impression about you to any visitors or children who may see it!! >:D

I got some to use in the lab for a test. We needed a thin, flexible container that was liquid-tight. Seemed like a good, cheap idea. Turns out they rupture after 3 million crush cycles, go figure!

In any case, I vote for a "real" airlock. Even a length of hose/tubing that is a press-fit in the neck of the jug works, just leave the other end in a container of water.

08-31-2010, 11:50 AM
I know it’s tough to make “luxury” purchases when you’re broke, but some of the extremely basic equipment will make your life infinitely easier for just a few dollars. If quickly found these prices on-line. Expect to pay at least 50% more at you LHBS, but then you will not have to pay shipping.

3-Piece Airlock - $1.25
Rubber stopper with hole, various sizes (to accommodate airlock) - $0.60
Siphoning Tubing, 3/8” dia. - $0.55/ft. x 6 ft. = $3.30
Hydrometer - $5.95
Racking Cane, 24” x 3/8” dia. – $2.25
Bottle filler, spring tip - $2.75

Total price of admission: $16.10, the price of a few pounds of honey. And you’ll only need an additional airlock and stopper for a second batch (assuming you are inventive with your carboy, e.g., old wine jugs, large bottled water jugs, etc. and primary fermenter).

Of course as you progress, you’ll want more… like the fruit of the lotus. Hmmm… lotus melomel, what a GREAT idea!

08-31-2010, 12:01 PM
re: airlocks, you can always do what they do in the prisons supposedly; just poke a pinhole in one finger of a glove and rubber band the glove onto the jug.

I got that out of the Alaskan Bootlegger's Bible, where they also mentioned you can (if you're just that bored) tape down some glove fingers to send a political message with your mead. ;D

Chevette Girl
08-31-2010, 12:13 PM
Another possibility, if you use 2-litre pop bottles: remove the little rubber seal from the plastic cap, drill a 1/4" hole in the centre of the cap (if you don't have a drill use a knife, it doesn't have to be pretty), make a pinhole in the centre of the rubber seal, put the seal back into the cap. Got that idea from these brew-your-own-beer-in-a-bottle kits I saw at my LHBS.

08-31-2010, 12:27 PM
The nearest place I could possibly come up with any equipment is Boise... but with my differentials being in the shape they are, and that little rattle at 2500, it'd as well be mars.

And since the MoneyTree in Emmett went out I no longer have a debit card... so online purchases are out.

I do have one possibility for a hydrometer on hand.... I picked up an extremely old B*K (NAPA) coolant hydrometer that has never been used. The only contamination is dust from the red rubber some of the parts are made of. It has a graduated float inside that is just like one of those drop-in-the-tube hydrometer. It's also fitted with a thermometer and a correction scale by temperature. Only problem is some of the rubber components are showing their 50 years... I'd just have to sanitize it and figure out how to convert the scale. I'd also try slathering the cracked areas of the rubber is gasket silicone.

Rubber ballons would be more suitable than a jimmy-hat... however if I could come up with a cork the right size and some stainless steel tube, I could bore a hole in the cork and bend the tube into a cane shape and put one end in a bowl of water... however stainless steel tube isn't forthcoming, and glass tube is hard to work

Is there a reason why liquid locks are used, and springloaded blowoff valves are not? I may have a small steam blowoff I can adjust to 5psi or so.

Wouldn't be the first time I'd jerried something.

Chevette Girl
08-31-2010, 12:36 PM
The reason you use the liquid lock is in case there's a negative pressure for whatever reason (temperature decrease, etc), it will let some air back in...

Hmm, I'm not sure I'd want to put wine back into the fermenter after using that, what range of specific gravities are on your floaty hydrometer part? You'll want something in the range of .990 to 1.200 or so... can you get the floaty part out of the rest of it?

Medsen Fey
08-31-2010, 12:38 PM
Actually, if you uses a PET plastic container, you can actually do without an airlock. While this is not the approach I would necessarily recommend, it can certainly be done. To start with, you don't need an airlock during primary fermentation. So if you want you can ferment in an open container. If you use a gallon glass jug, you can cover the opening with a sanitized cloth to keep bugs out, or you can stuff clean cotton into the opening. Air can get in, which is okay during active fermentation, and CO2 can get out, which is necessary, but dust and critters are excluded.

Once the fermentation has finished, if you transfer the mead to a PET container , you can squeeze it to remove any airspace, then seal the lid. If more fermentation occurs (or as it de-gases) the container will swell and become firm. You just need to release the pressure until it stops. then you can let it settle and clear. You can transfer it out of the PET contain to glass at that point and top up as needed to allow final clearing before bottling.

Like I said - not exactly the way I would choose to do it, but it can be done without an airlock.

08-31-2010, 03:07 PM
Well, I've gotta do something for a lock, because my pantry has always had an unusual odor. I sure don't want to taste the smell of the pantry.

I can get the float out.. pull the bulb and plug, it's out. The whole thing is rubber and glass, so if rubber is a problem.... oh well. If rubber's not a problem, I don't think I'd worry. The problem is that it only has an alphabetical scale that is to be used with the table on the thermometer. I can say ethyl glyc is heavier than water... and normally it's mixed about 50/50. I guess if I weighed two samples of known weight with it, I could graduate it from there.

Maybe I'll post a pic, If this forum allows it.

08-31-2010, 04:58 PM
A one-way pressure relief valve sounds ok to me. Use it!

08-31-2010, 06:58 PM
For a first attempt that one-way valve should be fine. A good technique for calibrating hydrometers is given in a post at the bottom of this page: http://www.honeycreek.us/hydrocal.php

Have fun, and continue to think about ways to improvise! You might just come up with the next handy-dandy brewing device that everyone's gotta have -- and you might not be completely broke after that!! ;)

Angelic Alchemist
08-31-2010, 08:27 PM
A friend of mine went totally ghetto and made wine out of natural grape juice in a glass jug by adding brewers yeast and putting a condom over the top with a rubber band and a hole poked in it. He said it worked fine. Of course, after he tried my mead he went to our LHBS to buy proper equipment and yeast.

08-31-2010, 09:05 PM
Good pointer on the hydrometer calibration page. I'll have to email the dude and see if he knows a test for salt.

Is there any problem with brass imparting flavors? the blowoff is brass....

I figure if Ijust mount it in a flat piece of stainless with a flat packing, and some wire to hold it down at a greater torque than that required to pop the blowoff

I have an idea for a tool already, but it would be fairly expensive to prototype... it'd auto-rack and aerate, plus keep a c02 atmosphere in both carboys...

I invent all kinds of stuff... never have been able to afford a patent. This year I've invented three new types of automatic knife, a valve with a single moving part to switch from aspiration to boost with a supercharger on an electric clutch, and the future of remote controls... which sony sent back because it wasn't patented... never mind it's not patentable because it's primarily a software toolchain.

09-01-2010, 08:13 PM
I picked up a gallon of cheap sangria.... I'm on my way to having a second gallon carboy. As a sidenote twisted tea tastes awful. I imagine extraterrestrial urine would have a better flavor.