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View Full Version : A few (hopefully) simple questions



mccann51
11-11-2010, 11:41 AM
A quick background: my first attempt at brewing was with mead a few weeks ago. Last week I brewed another batch. I've been getting info from a number of sources (sometimes conflicting), and have been brewing one gallon jugs to test out different honeys, yeasts, and ingredients.

Thus far, I have brewed with a Red Star Champagne yeast, a Lalvin 71B-1122, and a Wyeast Activator Dry Mead (4632, I think); all yeasts have been added at the suggested amount on the package (ie a gallon jug will receive a fifth of the packet contents). I've added Crosby-Baker Fermex Nutrient and Energizer (in the suggested amounts) to the dry yeast batches (the Red Star and Lalvin), and just Fermex Nutrient to the Wyeast batches. Campden 2oz tablets have been added to all jugs 24 hours before pitching the yeast. I have not boiled any of my honey, though I have put the jars of honey in a hot water bath to lower the viscosity. I oxygenated the musts by shaking the jugs vigorously.

My questions:
1. Should I be adding more yeast to the jugs due to the high specific gravity? How much more?
2. How necessary is it to add the Energizer? Will it affect the taste? (a friend I brewed with insists the mead tastes off, as though it were too quickly fermented) Was it correct not to add the Energizer to the Wyeast jugs because of the nutrient packet in the yeast packet?
3. What are your thoughts on the necessity of boiling the must and/or adding Campden tablets?
4. When is a good time to add other ingredients like ginger, cocoa, fruit, etc? Before or after fermentation? I realize some of this depends on the ingredient, but are there general rules of thumb?
5. How do you know when fermentation is stuck and not simply completed for a particular strain of yeast? What are good "un-sticking" methods?
6. Are there any whole ingredient alternatives to Energizer and Nutrient? An obvious example would be malt, but are there others? Is fruit enough?
7. Is there an issue with leaving the mead in the fermentation containers after fermentations has ended? Will the mead take on an overly yeasty flavor? (I plan on racking, but have no intention of clarifying, so I don't mind a little "yeastyness")
8. Does mead really just keep getting better with age? Is there some upper limit where the law of diminishing returns starts to kick in?
9. In one of the gallon jugs, I made a "traditional" mead that contained nothing but the activated Wyeast, honey, and water; how long should I expect this to take?

I think that's all for now. Thanks in advance!

YogiBearMead726
11-11-2010, 12:12 PM
My questions:
1. Should I be adding more yeast to the jugs due to the high specific gravity? How much more?
2. How necessary is it to add the Energizer? Will it affect the taste? (a friend I brewed with insists the mead tastes off, as though it were too quickly fermented) Was it correct not to add the Energizer to the Wyeast jugs because of the nutrient packet in the yeast packet?
3. What are your thoughts on the necessity of boiling the must and/or adding Campden tablets?
4. When is a good time to add other ingredients like ginger, cocoa, fruit, etc? Before or after fermentation? I realize some of this depends on the ingredient, but are there general rules of thumb?
5. How do you know when fermentation is stuck and not simply completed for a particular strain of yeast? What are good "un-sticking" methods?
6. Are there any whole ingredient alternatives to Energizer and Nutrient? An obvious example would be malt, but are there others? Is fruit enough?
7. Is there an issue with leaving the mead in the fermentation containers after fermentations has ended? Will the mead take on an overly yeasty flavor? (I plan on racking, but have no intention of clarifying, so I don't mind a little "yeastyness")
8. Does mead really just keep getting better with age? Is there some upper limit where the law of diminishing returns starts to kick in?
9. In one of the gallon jugs, I made a "traditional" mead that contained nothing but the activated Wyeast, honey, and water; how long should I expect this to take?

I think that's all for now. Thanks in advance!

Hey mccan51, first off, welcome to GotMead! :)

I'll try to go in order.

1. This all depends on what strain you're using, and how high of an original gravity you start off with. I personally use a full 5-6g packet of yeast in a gallon. At that rate, you're not going to have any issues with the colony getting off to a good start. That said, a scaled down addition should also work. You'll have to be a little more active with the fermentation management to ensure that the colony grows to an appropriate size (ie aerating and adding nutrients until the 1/3 sugar break)
2. Energizer is typically yeast hulls with some other ingredients, not as potent as Fermax or FermaidK on it's own. It is a useful addition though. On the count of taste or speed of fermenting, your friend might have a point about "fermenting too quickly" causing off flavors. However, they will mellow out with time. As for the Wyeast, I would add some nutrients and maybe some energizer to this yeast. The nutrient packet is really only to help your yeast get started inside the bag, and I doubt it would help much after that.
3. Don't boil your must. It's not necessary. If anything it just degrades your honey. Also, campden tablets in a traditional mead (if you don't add any fruit or spices) aren't really necessary. The honey is already sterile, and whatever wild yeast may be there will get overwhelmed by the sheer number of active yeast you're adding. The time you want to use campden tables is when you add something like berries or fruit or spices to your primary that may not be sterile.
4. Really, you'll just have to play around with this. Adding things like fruit to the primary will cause them to get fermented by the yeast. Adding them into secondary will just "infuse" the mead with that ingredient, but it won't get eaten by the yeast as vigorously as if it had been added into the primary. Keep in mind though, that adding fruit and other things can mess with your pH, so keep a close eye on that as you experiment to find what added when works best for your tastes. That's the real guide, your taste buds.
5. Using a hydrometer to monitor your fermentation's progress will really help to tell you whether it's stuck or finished. Also, doing some research into a yeast's alcohol tolerance will help you see if they've got any more fight left in them. Basically, get a hydrometer. :p
6. Some people use raisins (as per the JAO recipe in the NewBee section), but I don't know so much about using malt. Malt will leave behind some unfermentable sugar (at least for the yeast), and may affect the flavor way more than the nutrients or energizer would. There is a forum section here all about natural ingredients, and I would point you in that direction first.
7. Again, this depends on the yeast. Strains like 71B, you might want to rack off as soon as fermentation slows or stops, as it can impart flavors if you keep the must sitting on the lees. Other strains can be left with the mead with little to no impact of flavor.
8. Yes. Yes it does. As far as the point of diminishing returns, I don't think people know where that is yet, because if stored properly under perfect cellar conditions, a bottle should have no issue getting to be 20+ years old. However, for those of us with "less" than ideal cellar conditions, the 1-2 year mark is about where most meads start to "come into their own", if you will. You can drink some (like melomels) within months sometimes, but for traditionals (what you're making....for now) you'll want to wait that 1-2 years. That give it time to regain it's honey character, and not taste like rocket fuel.
9. Dunno! Haha, again, this is a job for your hydrometer. It'll tell you where you're at in the fermentation.

If you're feeling up for some reading, there is a guide called the NewBee Guide up on the left hand side of links that will provide you with more tips/info than I can here. It'll also help introduce you to a really quick mead to make/drink so you can have something to drink while you're waiting for your traditionals to finish aging. :) Good luck!

mccann51
11-11-2010, 04:56 PM
Thanks for the welcome and all the information, YogiBearMead! Your response was very helpful.

Medsen Fey
11-13-2010, 07:11 PM
Welcome to GotMead Mccann51!

The answers to many of your questions will depend on what you are making, and what you want to accomplish. You will find many answers if you use the advanced search tool to narrow it down a bit.

In the meantime, please check out the NewBee guide (see link in the column to the left). It will give lots of info.