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w.raleigh
09-05-2010, 10:53 AM
Just wanted to say greetings from Indiana! I've been a lurker here for a while and finally decided to register. I've made mead on and off over the past few years but always in a overly casual way (no proper equipment, no recipes, hands off not on). Recently i discovered a little store in my town that carries brewing supplies and i've finally decided to try and make a "legitimate" mead.

I'm getting ahead of myself though. Let me show y'all the random crap i usually make. Keep in mind that compared to you guys i'm more like a kid making crap in his closet than a true brewer/mazer.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_sC1AvN7oPNI/TIOmT5CPvXI/AAAAAAAABuo/0-hEc-1Khg0/s1600/meads.jpg
In the past i've used a simple honey+water+breadyeast+balloon recipe but since discovering this site i decided to try Joe's Ancient Orange. That was about three weeks ago. Using the growlers i had on hand i made a few variations of the recipe- apple juice in this one, more cloves in that, lots of raisins for fun, et cetera. They all bubbled nicely for about two weeks, then the balloons went flaccid so i racked 'em to other growlers and stuck it in the fridge for a couple days to make sure fermentation is stopped.

I just racked 'em over yesterday and they tasted fine (which in my world means they taste like alcohol and not vinegar) but i still have no idea what a "real" mead should taste like. I've bought some "commercial" varieties in the past (can't remember the names) that tasted like sugar water, whereas at least my stuff has a depth and heaviness to it. I don't know though. One time about three years ago my friend and i made two small batches. One was weak and meh, but I'm almost certain the other one "went bad". Even though it had an off flavor and vinegary smell my friend (a consummate alcoholic and living in a state that doesn't sell liquor on sundays) drank the whole thing. He did get drunk but he also got sick.

Since then i've operated off of "common sense". If it looks like it's fermenting then i probably is. If it tastes like alcohol is probably is. If it tastes bad and vinegary than it probably is. And so on and so forth.

Anyway, i just wanted to share my short history with y'all and let you know that this site has inspired me to be a little more serious and intentional with my meadmaking!

- - - - -

And may i ask a few random questions while i have you here?

(1) i refrigerated the racked mead for two days- am i at risk of "bottle bombs"? i had never even heard the term before reading the newb guide...

(2) is it ok to rack and age without filling the container to the top? note front/right growler in my picture...

(3) how do you know if a mead has gone bad or is undrinkable? to me if it smells and tastes bad i just don't drink it, but is there a degree to which a mead can become dangerous (not just unpalatable) to drink?

- - - - -

I apologize in advance for my novice questions and hillbilly methods. I'm buying a hydrometer tomorrow and hopefully it's smooth sailing from here on out. Thanks!

mmclean
09-05-2010, 11:14 AM
First of all, let me say,

Welcome to "Gotmead?" Fourms

I will leave the tech stuff to the "mead mentors", but I'd like to throw this out for you to think about...

Find a simple recipe that sounds like it might be good, "...if it sounds good it just might be...", then follow it exactly.

If all goes well then tweek it to your taste...make it yours.

Start small (one gal) til your happy with the results, then go big (5-8 gallons) this way you can save some to age for a few years to see just how good it can be.:o

Chevette Girl
09-05-2010, 12:20 PM
Congrats on de-lurking :)

Typically for a JAO you just let it do its thing for a couple months and then it stops, clears up and should be mostly safe, but I still bottle mine in screw-top caps so I can check to see if pressure is building up, I did have it happen once. I'm not sure on your time frame for how long your batches sat around after the first racking, but cold-crashing by putting in the refrigerator for two days is not a safe way to prevent bottle bombs. The safest way by far is to treat it with potassium metabisulphite and potassium sorbate (to halt the yeast and stop it from replicating) or a long secondary fermentation whereby you have checked the specific gravity and it hasn't changed at all in a couple of months. I highly suggest you get a hydrometer, it's probably the most important investment you'll make. And if you use it before you add the yeast, you will be able to tell how strong you've made it!

I am a fan of not adding chemicals if I can get away with it because I have some friends who are sensitive, but I have found when drinking my own stuff that if I overdo it on non-sulphited mead/wine, I get a much more wicked hangover than if I overdo it on treated stuff... but that's just me, your mileage may vary.

With respect to headspace, my general rule is if it's still offgassing (making small bubbles), I consider it OK to leave some because the carbon dioxide should eventually get the oxygen out of there, and with Joe's Ancient Orange variations, I usually do end up with an inch or two of headspace when I rack it after volume losses with the fruit, etc, and I have left it like that for months with an airlock and didn't find I had any problems with oxidation. That said, I actually LIKE a little bit of oxidation in some of my creations so I occasionally do it intentionally. However, I have occasionally had it happen in a wine I didn't want it to because I didn't top it off, but meads seem to be a little more resistant to oxidation than wines made with sugar.

I see you've got everything capped, I'd suggest loosening the caps now and then and see if there's any hiss of gas escaping, if that's the case, something's still fermenting and could be a potential bottle bomb. Now, if you're aware of it, you can just loosen the cap and let the CO2 escape once a week or something and you'll be fine.

I haven't had a bottle explode on me but I have had corks fired across the basement and wine all over the shelving, the floor and the hot water tank (and lime melomel eats the galvanizing on steel shelving!), so another trick I use is to try to open one bottle of most things within a month of bottling, if it makes bubbles then I either refrigerate the rest and drink them within a couple of months, or open them up and dump back into a carboy and either wait it out or sulphite it.

akueck
09-05-2010, 12:30 PM
(1) i refrigerated the racked mead for two days- am i at risk of "bottle bombs"? i had never even heard the term before reading the newb guide...

(2) is it ok to rack and age without filling the container to the top? note front/right growler in my picture...

(3) how do you know if a mead has gone bad or is undrinkable? to me if it smells and tastes bad i just don't drink it, but is there a degree to which a mead can become dangerous (not just unpalatable) to drink?


To get a bottle bomb, you need two things inside a closed container: live beasties (yeast or otherwise) that make CO2, and something for them to eat. Most often this means yeast + sugar. No time in the fridge is guarantee that a mead with residual sugar and live yeast will stop fermenting when you bottle it. Your best friend here is a hydrometer, which will tell you 1) if there is sugar left, 2) if that sugar level is stable over time [e.g. several months], and 3) about how much alcohol there is [by knowing or guessing the starting sugar level]. With that you can have a good idea of what will happen if you bottle it.

Anytime after the main bit of fermentation is over, headspace in your containers is not desirable. Oxygen exposure at this stage can lead to off-flavors ranging from nutty/toasty/sherry [not so bad] to wet cardboard [considerably worse]. More headspace generally corresponds to more oxidation risk, but it will depend on how many times you open the container, how much CO2 was in the mead when you racked it, temperature, etc. You can purge the headspace with an inert gas, use a smaller container, or fill the space with an inert solid (some people like marbles).

General wisdom is that mead/wine/beer that goes bad won't kill you (any more than the good stuff will, take care of your liver ;) ). Bugs that make us sick don't survive well in alcoholic environments. That being said, you can usually tell by smell and taste if something has gone amiss. Typical smells you might get are vinegar, acetone, moldy, musty, etc. Usually there will be a visual sign of infection as well, like ropes, clumps, or films of bacteria. If it looks and smells like something you shouldn't drink, don't drink it.

tatgeer
09-05-2010, 02:22 PM
Welcome to the forums from a former Hoosier! :) I've learned an amazing amount here.



(1) i refrigerated the racked mead for two days- am i at risk of "bottle bombs"? i had never even heard the term before reading the newb guide...

(2) is it ok to rack and age without filling the container to the top? note front/right growler in my picture...


My husband, who is more science-y than I am, says that airspace in a bottle is more dangerous for explosion than liquid is. He compares the air to a spring - when the pressure builds up in the liquid and causes an explosion, there's not as much gas in it, and the liquid doesn't expand much after the explosion, but when the air builds up enough pressure to explode, the released gas expands a lot more, throwing shards of glass farther and with more force.

I've had a few bottle bombs, but they were full bottles, and rather than exploding glass everywhere, it was just a seam in the bottle that cracked and let out all the delicious, delicious mead. Sad, but not too dangerous.

To sum up, I agree with the previous comments about cold crashing not being enough to stop all fermentation, and I'm worried about the capped jugs with lots of airspace that are in your photo.

skunkboy
09-05-2010, 06:11 PM
Welcome! Small, big, hey, your making mead! ;-)

mmclean
09-05-2010, 06:25 PM
I apologize in advance for my novice questions and hillbilly methods.

You say "hillbilly methods" like it's a bad thing. :icon_scratch:

w.raleigh
09-06-2010, 08:44 AM
Chevette Girl - wow so helpful! thanks for the advice. don't worry the hydrometer is a planned purchase for today! though i just realized that they might be closed on labor day... ok, maybe one more away from hydrometer use... and i'm adding potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulfate to the list

akueck - thanks for the clear explanation of oxygenation-- "off-flavors ranging from nutty/toasty/sherry [not so bad] to wet cardboard [considerably worse]". now i actually know what to avoid.

tatgeer - "airspace in a bottle is more dangerous for explosion than liquid is". That's a concise way to put it. i thought as much but thank you for the confirmation!

mmclean - hah, yeah i just meant to highlight my "authentic" methodology. i am a hoosier after all ;)


Many thanks to all of you for the kind welcome and helpful advice. I'll keep y'all updated as my meaducation progress.

crimsondrac
09-07-2010, 04:14 PM
OK, no one else asked, so I gotta...what's with the golfbag full of mallets and hammers? ;D

AToE
09-07-2010, 06:50 PM
My husband, who is more science-y than I am, says that airspace in a bottle is more dangerous for explosion than liquid is. He compares the air to a spring - when the pressure builds up in the liquid and causes an explosion, there's not as much gas in it, and the liquid doesn't expand much after the explosion, but when the air builds up enough pressure to explode, the released gas expands a lot more, throwing shards of glass farther and with more force.

I've had a few bottle bombs, but they were full bottles, and rather than exploding glass everywhere, it was just a seam in the bottle that cracked and let out all the delicious, delicious mead. Sad, but not too dangerous.



Wow, I had never thought of it this way... and not to doubt your husband, but can anyone else confirm this? Any time that I've worried I might have over primed something I've tried to leave extra airspace under the logic that gasses can be compressed, liquids cannot, and thusly having more headspace leaves more leeway before an explosion would take place.

Now, that just means that more pressure is required to cause an explosion, but what you're saying about the violence of the explosion makes a lot of sense too. I'd rather have bottles that would explode at a lower pressure but with less force... maybe I should be leaving less headspace/none when I'm worried about bottle bombs...

skunkboy
09-07-2010, 10:01 PM
The few wine bottles that I've had continue to ferment shot the corks out, I don't tend to use cork wrappers or whatever they are called.

The couple bottles of beer that have had issues, not many just a few, have stealthfully blown off their bottoms. So that I find them a couple of months later empty, and with the bottom sepparrated from the top. Usual gap of gas between beer and cap.

wayneb
09-07-2010, 10:18 PM
My husband, who is more science-y than I am, says that airspace in a bottle is more dangerous for explosion than liquid is. He compares the air to a spring - when the pressure builds up in the liquid and causes an explosion, there's not as much gas in it, and the liquid doesn't expand much after the explosion, but when the air builds up enough pressure to explode, the released gas expands a lot more, throwing shards of glass farther and with more force.


I respectfully beg to differ. While the airspace in the bottles does indeed act more like a spring (since the gas therein is compressible), that compressible volume acts primarily to mitigate the possibility of an early catastrophic failure of the glass container. With a container that is only partially filled, allowing some gas space in the container, the contents will release gas into the headspace which will increase in pressure up until the point where the failure limit of the glass is reached, and only then will the bottles blow. However when the bottles are filled completely with an incompressible fluid (such as your mead), the pressure will build within that medium to the fracture limit of the glass far more quickly (since it has far less compressible volume to escape to), and so the bottles will blow more easily.

w.raleigh
09-08-2010, 08:05 PM
OK, no one else asked, so I gotta...what's with the golfbag full of mallets and hammers? ;D
Hah, i didn't really notice those were in there... I play the wonderful sport of hardcourt bicycle polo, a modern, poor man's version of grass (bicycle) polo. If you've never tried it, i'm sure there's a club (http://leagueofbikepolo.com/clubs) in your area! It's seriously the most fun i've ever had.

So i got my hydrometer and started a new batch! I haven't done this exact combination before, but it's all things i like and (i think) in the right proportions. Here's the details...

~2/3 gallon water, city, boiled and cooled
2.5 lbs honey, wildflower, dark, local
2 cups black tea, earl grey, 2 bags brewed and cooled
4 cloves, whole
1/2 package yeast, pasteur champagne, red star
1/2 tsp yeast nutrient

Starting gravity 1.055.

Aerated (shook hard) for 3 minutes.

Airlocked and out of the way...

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_sC1AvN7oPNI/TIfBTB7mA9I/AAAAAAAABvA/K40Y9zsGizQ/s400/mddd+009.jpg

teejay58
09-10-2010, 01:48 PM
However when the bottles are filled completely with an incompressible fluid (such as your mead), the pressure will build within that medium to the fracture limit of the glass far more quickly (since it has far less compressible volume to escape to), and so the bottles will blow more easily.

Heya Wayne. I think the point is that the bottles will blow more easily but with less violence. And that seems to be a preferred outcome if a bottle bomb is indeed occurring. I.e., if they blow, and if there is very little headroom, the glass shards don't travel as far or with as much velocity. Feel free to correct this greenie, but it sounds to me, that minimizing the force of the explosion is the goal, not necessarily postponing it.

Medsen Fey
09-10-2010, 02:20 PM
Heya Wayne. I think the point is that the bottles will blow more easily but with less violence. And that seems to be a preferred outcome if a bottle bomb is indeed occurring. I.e., if they blow, and if there is very little headroom, the glass shards don't travel as far or with as much velocity.

I don't believe this is the case, but if someone can show proof that more airspace in the bottle is going to cause more explosive glass, I'd like to see it. Pressure is pressure, whether it be hydraulic or pneumatic. It is defined as Force/Area. Whether from gas or liquid the same amount of force is being exerted against the inside of a glass bottle from both the liquid and the gas.

Acceleration = Force/Mass

At the same level of pressure, the force will be the same, regardless of the liquid level in a bottle, and any piece of glass (of the same mass) will be accelerated equally if the glass shatters. Smaller-mass pieces will have greater acceleration.

Glass breaks very unpredictably. You may develop a crack that leaks, or the seam at the bottom of a bottle may break loose letting the bottom fall off. Or it may explode. I'm not aware of any method by which you can control how a glass wine/beer bottle breaks (but I'm no materials engineer - Akueck, are you reading this?). Anyone wanting to test this out it, please exercise all possible caution, especially eye protection.

wayneb
09-10-2010, 04:25 PM
NOTE: The CO2 in any carbonated beverage is a "supersaturated solution," and if left alone it will eventually come out of solution, with the CO2 released to the surrounding gas, until an equilibrium condition is reached where you are right at the saturation limit.

The gas dissolved in an incompressible fluid (such as CO2 in carbonated water, beer or mead) does not contribute to an increase in pressure within the container. However, gas that comes out of solution and fills the headspace in a sealed container DOES increase the pressure. With a larger headspace volume, it will take far more molecules of gas coming out of solution to raise the pressure in the headspace than it would take to raise the pressure in a smaller headspace volume by the same amount.

Thus, larger headspaces in bottles, even though they would contain more net energy (more volume at a given pressure means more total energy in the entire volume of gas), would not reach the fracture pressure of the glass anywhere near as quickly when the gas is forcibly taken out of solution (such as when a bottle is shaken) as would the smaller volume of a smaller headspace. Thus, it is far easier to reach the fracture pressure in a small headspace than when the headspace is larger.

Don't believe it? (Or, don't understand my explanation??) ;) Well then consider the following experiment. Fill two bottles with carbonated liquid. Fill the first so that there is the smallest possible headspace (almost to the brim), and with the second one, add only about 1% of the total volume of the container. Seal them both, and shake the c%@# out of them. Which one do you think will blow the top first? ;D

I am not suggesting that ANYONE try this at home. I'm only using this "limiting case" argument to show you that as you reduce the saturated liquid volume in the container more and more, your chances of overpressurizing the bottle go down more and more, until eventually in the limiting case you can't under any circumstances get enough gas out of the liquid to come anywhere near the fracture pressure of the bottle.

That all means, in general, that more headspace is a safer option.

w.raleigh
09-13-2010, 10:48 AM
Update:

So when i started the Wildflower/Black Tea/Clove it had a SG of 1.055 and was bubbling like crazy. At least one every 3 seconds. It's been about a week and yesterday the bubbling slowed dramatically- about 1 every 30 seconds. I re-measured the gravity at it's right at 1.000. The mead calculator puts the ABV at ~7.5% - does that sound about right?

My question is this- how much lower can/will the gravity go? I'd like the highest ABV possible, but i thought i remembered reading that a little below 1.000 is as low as it gets. Also, (and i can't find the term for it) but i remember reading about people adding honey and/or yeast nutrient to the bottom of the jar as a sort of "step feeding" to get the ABV higher... would that be applicable here? Or should i just start a new batch with a much higher gravity?

Thanks again for the all the help!

wayneb
09-13-2010, 11:06 AM
Yup - 7.5% is about where it should be for a starting gravity of 1.055. You will find that, since ethanol is slightly less dense than water, the final SG may drop a slight bit more... but it won't be very much. Your current batch is practically done at this point.

Rather than try to step feed it up to a higher alcohol level, I'd suggest that you try a new batch with a starting gravity more in the 1.090 - 1.100 range. That will result in a wine-strength mead that will still, in most cases, finish dry. Step feeding a batch late in the fermentation will likely produce some off-flavors that you wouldn't be subject to if you started fermentation from the get-go at a higher gravity.

w.raleigh
09-16-2010, 10:51 AM
Hey all. My cat broke my first hydrometer so i'm already on a second one, but otherwise everything is going great!

The initial batch of 7.5% wildflower/blacktea/clove is now on the shelf aging, and i started a second (gallon) batch using the same recipe but with a good deal more honey. SG is 1.114 and i'm still using the Pasteur Champagne, which i read is good to about 15% which is my goal. Hopefully it'll finish a lil sweeter than the first batch which i think will help balance out the extra alcohol content.

i really like the flavor profile that the black tea adds, really balances out the honey. i drink a lot of dark, heavy beers, so i've been thinking about adding a bit of hops to the recipe. From reading here though i can't decide if i should boil them and add at the beginning, or throw them in after the fermentation to get a sharper flavor. Any advice?

AToE
09-16-2010, 01:33 PM
From reading here though i can't decide if i should boil them and add at the beginning, or throw them in after the fermentation to get a sharper flavor. Any advice?

You won't get a charper flavour persay, you'll get a fresher one and more aroma from adding them during/after fermenation - but you won't get any bitterness. In order to get the bitterness that hops are known for they have to be boiled.

If you're doing a dry mead then I would probably add them in secondary. If your mead is sweet, then it could probably use some bitterness to balance it, so I would boil the hops in water first, then add honey to the water once it's cooled.

How much for how long and what kind are all other questions to consider.

w.raleigh
09-16-2010, 02:31 PM
Wow thank you, that's very concise advice! Exactly what i was wondering..

So what you're saying is a little of each ;)