View Full Version : In retrospect, maybe I was a bit too enthusiastic...

11-17-2010, 05:47 PM
I've been planning my brewing hobby for months, and finally dove in yesterday. I wanted to start with a simple, plain mead, so went to my local brew guy and bought 6lbs of honey and a packet of yeast (D47). I already had accumulated 2 glass 5gal carboys and some other stuff...but anyway long story short:

I boiled my honey in water. Added 1 tsp acid blend and 3 tsp yeast nutrient. Then I funneled it into my carboy and filled it with close to 5 gal water. http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs1203.snc4/155581_1702649729022_1321346584_31848126_2573290_n .jpg

After four hours it was still at 82F, six more hours later it was (finally!) below 80F so, as instructed by my brew guy, poured in my yeast packet.

I do have some foam/moldy looking buildup on top now around the yeast. I'm concerned that the yeast needs to be stirred in so it won't be stuck in that one spot, and I'm also wondering if I should just cover the top with a paper towel and rubber band or if I should attach my fermentation lock.

Also: I told my brew guy I wanted a "medium" 3-gallon mead. And stupidly I didn't realize that I was using my 5-gal carboy until it was already filled with water. So I have this 5 gallons of must, and only 6 lbs of honey. Is this going to be the lamest, weakest mead ever? Is it worth continuing?

And finally: I have a hydrometer. And I mistakenly believed I should take hydrometer readings after fermentation, didn't realize I should have already done so. Now that my fermentation is underway, should I take a hydrometer reading now? Or should I give the little yeasties some time to get their ferment on?

Thanks so much for any help.

11-17-2010, 06:12 PM
Hey Caine, welcome to GotMead! ;D

Definitely take a hydrometer reading now. It will at least give you a starting point to judge how far along it is with later readings.

And stir in the yeast! Those little buggers need oxygen to make healthy cell walls and to replicate during the growth phase. I will also say this; next time, rehydrate the yeast according to the back of the packet instead of just dumping the packet in dry. It gives the yeast time to wake up before being subjected to the new environment of your must. You should ideally rehydrate with some Go-Ferm, but that's not necessary.

Also, at this point, a sterilized towel or airlock work just fine. The towel lets more O2 in at first to help the yeast get going (see above). But after you get past the 1/3 sugar break (where your hydrometer reads 1/3 lower than your original value), you will probably want to put the airlock on. While mead is pretty resistant to oxidation, the yeast don't need any more O2 at this point.

Assuming your hydrometer tells you (over the next couple of days) that your must is getting lower and lower SG readings, then the yeast are going fine, and your rehydration faux paus :p didn't prevent the yeast from getting the ball rolling.

And finally, I'd recommend reading the "NewBee Guide" up on the left hand side of links. It's full of most of the info you'll need to make this hobby successful. There is also a pretty good "starting" recipe in there to try.

P.S. As to your mead being "weak", it will just be so from an alcohol stand point. Closer to a beer's ABV than a wine's. For now though, I'd hold off on adding more honey until you do some research into "step feeding" and decide for yourself if that's an avenue you want to pursue. There are benefits and drawbacks, it all depends on what you want from your final product. The search tool is up on the top row of links, and using "" around what you're searching for really helps narrow down the results.

Good luck!

P.P.S. It might not be so bad that your mead will be a lower ABV. Higher ABV is one of the reasons most meads need so long to become palatable. For the first few months, it's like drinking rocket fuel. So...who knows, could be a happy accident! ;D Plus, you can always add some spices in secondary if you want more flavor. Maybe some hops or vanilla. The possibilities are endless!

11-17-2010, 06:31 PM
Everything said above is good info, but personally I would add more honey and not worry about problems associated with step feeding. 6lbs in 5 gallons in my opinion would turn out too thin and weak (though from the colour of that must, looks like you have a nice rich dark honey!). Take a hydrometer reading and post the numbers for us to see and we can suggest amounts to add.

Also, I see you using very oldschool techniques such as boiling the honey/must, and adding acid up front, both of which are pretty antiquated. You should still get a good mead, but whatever honey you add if you do decide to add more, definitely do not boil it. (Modern practices are only to add acid after months of aging, and only if needed after tasting, as acid can mess with your yeast, and 9 times out of 10 simply is not needed - also, people discovered a decade or two back that honey does not need to be boiled to be sterilized, it's already sterile enough, and boiling it removes some of the honey aroma).

You might wind up with pH problems from that acid addition, but we'll see, you might be fine.

In the meantime, please take a moment to check out the newbee guide (in the left side menu of this site), it will teach you piles of information that will massively help you out with this batch, as well as future batches. EDIT: Whoops, this was already suggested!

A lot of people who haven't found this site will give you recipes and processes which can be vastly improved upon by talking to people here, and checking out the newbee guide. Meadmaking has come a long way in past decades, and most brew-store people are beer makers who are generally not up to date. This site is probably the single most informative and authoritative source on meadmaking in the English speaking world (if not the world, period!).

Good luck, and welcome!

11-17-2010, 06:52 PM
Thanks SOOO much for the info. My honey is a locally-harvested Alabama wildflower honey. Now, IF I did this right, my hydrometer reads (at 78F) 1.043.

11-17-2010, 07:03 PM
Ok, so what we'll do is assume that the yeast haven't really eaten anything yet, and that 1.043 is your starting gravity (which according to the mead calculator, a tool you'll have fun with later, is about right for how much honey you added).

Now, here's the tricky part - the more honey we add, the higher the alcohol, but you said you wanted it medium - so we're going to want a limit on that amount. But, if we don't add enough sugar to = a potential ABV that surpasses what your yeast are capable of (which for D47 is 14%, but sometimes D47 will ferment higher), this will end up dry, not sweet, as the yeast will eat all the sugar. For my personal tastes, this is a good thing, as I do not like sweet meads, but you may find that you prefer sweet.

If you want an ABV of around 12%, you're going to have to add 6-7 pounds more honey. This will almost certainly ferment to dryness (but not to worry, we can keep the ABV low-ish and sweeten it later, but we'll talk about that later).

So - the questions to answer first are these: do you know for sure if you'd prefer it sweet or dry (it's ok to not know at this stage too, as you can ferment dry, then stabilize (kill the yeast) with some additives, then add more honey to taste (and since the yeast will be dead, they won't be able to eat it))? Also, do you have an idea what ABV % you would like?

EDIT: Also, I just realized you're at too hot of a temp for this particular yeast. It can survive and ferment at this temp, but it will create some bad sulphur odours. Do you have any easy way to get the temp down to around 70F? Sometimes just putting a t-shirt over the carboy and keeping it wet will do the trick, it's also a nice way to go because you need to keep light off of your mead.

11-17-2010, 07:15 PM
12% ABV would be good, and I think I'd prefer a sweet mead for starters...

Now I'm concerned about the light/temp issue. This morning I noticed a shaft of sunlight lying right across my carboy and it stayed there for an hour or two. Is it possible I've killed my yeast off? After a hearty start my yeast seems to have petered out and haven't done anything since noon. The sunlight occurred this morning after sunrise as my window faces east. I did give it a stir just a little while ago...I thought it was weird that it should be 78F since my thermostat is set at 72. Could it be that the shaft of sunlight heated it up that much and it's not cooling down? I think I mentioned how slow it was to cool down last night...

11-17-2010, 07:20 PM
Ok, so in order to be around 12% and sweet, you'll have to let it ferment just enough sugar to get that ABV all the way to dry, then age it a bit, then add sulphite and sorbate to stabilize it (people can help with amounts and timing), then add more honey to taste. The longer you wait, the better, but I know patience is tough when you're starting out!

It's possible the light and heat damaged the yeast, but not too likely. I'd just keep it out of the light and cooled down for now. You'll also want to aerate it as much as possible until 1/3 of the way through the fermentation (we won't know what hydrometer reading represents 1/3 until you add that extra honey (take a reading before and after mixing in the honey thoroughly to make sure we know what's really happening with the numbers)), O2 is essential to your yeast for now (later it will damage the mead, so you'll have to fill up that headspace, but not until after the ferment is done). Check out the newbee guide for help with aerating.

Light can damage yeast, but the greater worry is it damaging the mead itself. You should be OK though, I wouldn't sweat what's already happened.

11-17-2010, 07:25 PM
Also, I'm realizing that adding this much honey might fill your container up too much. Usually we ferment in a food-grade plastic bucket, to give us lots of head room (these things can foam and errupt like crazy when fermenting), then rack to a carboy when fermentation is finished.

Do you have anything like that you can use for your primary container? If not, what you should do is split that batch in half, put half in each carboy you have (I'd split after adding the honey so both are identical), then when fermentation finishes you can combine them. This will save you TONS of greif with mead erruptions, will make aerating far easier, and also will allow you to make slightly more than 5 gallons to start, which means when you do rack to secondary you will have enough to fill it fully with no headspace (you don't want headspace while aging). Just make about 5.10 gallons to start, that should cover what you'll lose to sediment when racking to secondary.

11-17-2010, 08:44 PM
I think I can do that. But I won't be able to pick up more honey until tomorrow at least. Will I need to add more yeast? And do I just pour the new honey in? Won't it just settle in at the bottom?

11-17-2010, 10:51 PM
Alright, first, no, no more yeast should be needed (they reproduce after being added to the must). Yes you can just pour it in, and yup it'll settle. For special circumstances sometimes it's a good thing to leave it on the bottom, but in this case you'll need to mix it in (because you'll want to get good SG readings, which requires full mixture). Mixing is probably going to be a pain, I'm not going to lie!

11-17-2010, 11:15 PM
A PAIN!!! I GUESS!!! Especially considering the tiny little hole I have to stir through. I've got to make sure to buy a stirrer when I go to Alabrew tomorrow!!! Thanks for all your help, I'll keep you updated.

11-18-2010, 07:01 PM
OK, added 6lbs honey. Fermentation still seems to be chugging along. Hydrometer reading after adding was 1.070 @72F. I bought a 6gal bucket so I could do the primary ferment outside of my carboys. I now have the lid sitting on the must and my carbon lock inserted.

11-18-2010, 07:33 PM
You won't regret that bucket at all, now you can aerate with a whisk.

I'm not sure where exactly you are in your ferment, tough without knowing the SG before the addition. Maybe someone better with the math than me can help? (I would have expected it to be higher, which means the yeast must have plowed through a lot of the previous honey - or it's possible all the honey you added didn't dissolve fully, hard to say sometimes).

Also, if someone else could chime in with any other advice, nutrients etc, might be a good idea.

11-22-2010, 11:54 AM
The must has been active all weekend, but where I was expecting to see a lot of foam there's no foam at all. It bubbles and moves but you have to look close to see any action...is that normal?

11-22-2010, 01:24 PM
Some meads foam, some never do. I find really dark honey like buckwheat (almost black) tends to foam more, and the rest hardly at all.

11-22-2010, 06:05 PM
The must has been active all weekend, but where I was expecting to see a lot of foam there's no foam at all. It bubbles and moves but you have to look close to see any action...is that normal?

I typically only have foam in melomels. Typically, there is a clear head to my traditionals, but like AToE said, some darker honeys and some yeasts will foam more so than others.

11-24-2010, 01:10 AM
That's good to know...I was sure I was supposed to see a huge foam cloud over the must. Anyway...the must is coming along nicely, I think. It still looks active, but it does seem like it's slowed down a bit. Hydrometer reading at the very start was (with 6 lbs of honey)

I added 6 lbs of honey and blended it in and the new reading was

Tonight my hydrometer reads

It's been 7 days since I first added yeast to the must. I'm going over to the gravity calculator to see if I should be moving this over to the carboy now...any input is greatly valued.

11-24-2010, 01:40 AM
No need to move it before it's done. Let it finish, and some of the big particles will fall out. Then rack it, leaving the gunk behind.

11-24-2010, 01:41 PM
Seconded, wait until it's definitely done. It won't oxidize in such a short period, and once fermentation is done a lot of lees will drop, and the more you can leave behind the better.

11-24-2010, 09:54 PM
side note:
i know your brew guy. and i'm down the road a piece in "the gump." If you don't have a bee keeper up there, i can get you squared away with a slow processing keeper here in town.

12-19-2010, 01:12 PM
My mead is racked now, but my concern persists. It racked at 1.002 on the hydrometer, measured at 60F. The concern is that it doesn't taste very good. Nothing like the sweetness I've experienced with meads I've tasted in the past. I'm reading up on oxidation, because I'm not sure exactly how that will affect it, or if I need to add something to sweeten it now that it's racked.

Also, according to my hydrometer the alcohol content is close to 0%. Is that accurate? If so, I may need to throw this whole batch out and waste the investment :mad:

Any advice?

12-19-2010, 02:38 PM
That 0% is "potential alcohol". That means you've got as much alcohol ad possible from your must. To get an estimate, take your starting gravity and subtract your final gravity on your hydrometer. Or use the mead calculator. Again, this will be an estimate.

As to taste, don't throw it out! It'll get better with time. Wait a year, and be amazed. Also, I'd wait until then to backsweeten as well since sweetness can come back once the alcohol nellies out.

12-19-2010, 02:38 PM
The "alcohol" scale on your hydrometer doesn't measure how much alcohol is in your mead, it is intended to tell you how much you could generate if the sugars in there now were fermented. It is a "potential alcohol" scale. To get the amount of alcohol you have in there, subtract the final reading (0 in your case) from the initial reading (>0).

Your mead is still very young, the perceived sweetness will come back with time, and the harsh flavors typical of young mead will disappear.

Oxidation brings flavors that can be nutty (think sherry) or cardboardy (think white wine left in the glass overnight). Unless you've left this one open to air for awhile, oxidation is probably not going to be a problem at this point.

Edit: Simultaneous post! Jinx!

12-19-2010, 02:52 PM
Brilliant answers, as usual! Thanks for the reassurance and the awesomeness. I'm going to put this in a nice safe place and let it ride. ;D

12-19-2010, 07:55 PM
You'll find that dry mead can be amazing, but it certainly does seem to need longer than average aging.

12-19-2010, 09:38 PM
dont throw it out talk to one of the mentors... there sharp man ill bet the got some tricks for you, ask medsen