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View Full Version : A few newbee questions for you experts



koko0011
01-17-2011, 11:41 PM
New to meadmaking, familiar to brewing with a few questions here, that undoubtedly will lead to a few more and a few more.... or at least that is what I find so far, but hey thats what we are here for.

1. Is there a general rule of thumb on how much volume fruit adds to the must? I understand that most fruit is a lot of water. So how do you figure out how much volume say 14 pounds of strawberries will add?

2. Is there people that add potassium hydroxide to adjust their pH throughout fermentation? If so, I have heard that a 2 molar solution is what you should add - with no science background - how do you do that?

3. My first batch was very slow to start and I think it was because I did not have enough oxygen in there. I used a mix stir for about 10 minutes. After 18 hours I didn't see any activity so I hit it with some oxygen through a stone (have for brewing) and it took off in about 4 hours. Does the mix stir really introduce much oxygen or should you hit it directly upon pitching the yeast? and for the first few days I hear? Also, I know you are supposed to stir or degas for the first week or so - how do people do that? With a mix stir? Also, this kind of relates to above do you have to worry about putting oxygen in when stirring at some point during fermentation?

4. I know some people treat with Campden before they create their must. Doesn't campden shock yeast? Would the yeast be shocked upon pitching then?

Thanks for all the help if you can tackle any or all of these. I appreciate the help getting up and running!

TDMooney
01-17-2011, 11:58 PM
first off WELCOME TO GOTMEAD? !

Alot of your questions can be answered in the NewBee section of the web-page, and there is masses of information on the questions you have asked if you just use the search feature on the forum.

skunkboy
01-18-2011, 12:35 AM
1) Experience... don't know if anyone has posted specific information for volumes of fruit vs weight...

2) No clue, never bother with trying to figure out my musts ph...

3) How much volume of batch did you start, what gravity, and how much yeast?

4) The sulfites from campden tables will gas out, if allowed, within 24 hrs or so...

akueck
01-18-2011, 01:28 AM
Most folks will use some kind of carbonate or bicarbonate for upward pH adjustment. Easier to handle and much weaker of a base, so you're less likely to add too much. Potassium is the favored flavor since it dissolves easily (unlike calcium) and doesn't contribute much flavor (unlike sodium). For future reference, a 1 molar solution has 1 mole of solute (KOH) in 1 liter of solvent (water).

The oxygen hit you gave your must might have helped, or maybe not. It might have started on its own had you waited that extra time. Hand mixing can get about as much oxygen into solution as a stone with room air, if you whip it long enough. How much oxygen you need will depend on the specifics of the must. It is typical to aerate a mead must through the 1/3 break.

koko0011
01-18-2011, 09:25 AM
Thank you to all for the responses.
I think I will use some potassium bicarbonate for pH adjustment - just seems a little safer to me.
On the mixing vs. straight oxygen - so when people mention that you should stir your mead on let's just say day 7.... they must not mean to give a good mixing with a mix stir? Obviously at day 7 you are past that 1/3 break mentioned below. So are they saying just give it a gentle stir to kind of rouse the yeast at that point?
The mix stir just doesn't seem to introduce much oxygen to me. Maybe I am using it wrong but to me it just seems to get it spinning really fast not really splash it around or whip it to intoduce much oxygen.....

Thanks again!

mccann51
01-18-2011, 11:03 AM
Thank you to all for the responses.
I think I will use some potassium bicarbonate for pH adjustment - just seems a little safer to me.
On the mixing vs. straight oxygen - so when people mention that you should stir your mead on let's just say day 7.... they must not mean to give a good mixing with a mix stir? Obviously at day 7 you are past that 1/3 break mentioned below. So are they saying just give it a gentle stir to kind of rouse the yeast at that point?



You generally aerate/oxygenate your mead continuously until the 1/3 break, and don't be quick to assume the 1/3 break will be reached within a week. With mead, a week can be enough, but sometimes it can take up to two weeks depending on the variables (temp, nutrient level, yeast strain, OG, etc). Hydrometer reading is the only way to be sure.

Also, why are you adding potassium bicarbonate? Are you adding a lot of fruit and you are concerned the pH will drop too low? The KHCO3 is probably unnecessary.

Medsen Fey
01-18-2011, 11:21 AM
1. Is there a general rule of thumb on how much volume fruit adds to the must? I understand that most fruit is a lot of water. So how do you figure out how much volume say 14 pounds of strawberries will add?


You can figure roughly 13 pounds will give 1 gallon of juice. That will usually have you in the right ballpark.

YogiBearMead726
01-18-2011, 05:14 PM
On the mixing vs. straight oxygen - so when people mention that you should stir your mead on let's just say day 7.... they must not mean to give a good mixing with a mix stir? Obviously at day 7 you are past that 1/3 break mentioned below. So are they saying just give it a gentle stir to kind of rouse the yeast at that point?
The mix stir just doesn't seem to introduce much oxygen to me. Maybe I am using it wrong but to me it just seems to get it spinning really fast not really splash it around or whip it to intoduce much oxygen.....

Thanks again!

My experience with the lees stirrer (the kind that attaches to a drill...I think we're talking about the same thing ;)) is that it takes more than just a few bursts to properly aerate my must. I like doing bursts anywhere from 20-30 minutes. Plus, given my use of the "no-heat" method, it's really easy to stir up all that honey into solution instead of shaking a carboy around...

As to how to get the most use out of it, I would recommend stirring (with the drill off) in the opposite direction as the whirlpool that gets created. The paddles on the stirrer create a little splashing action to help get more O2 in. Then, when you've got it swirling the other way, hit it with the drill again, and repeat. This has worked well for me.

You are correct in your assumption that once the 1/3 break has been passed that any "stirring" done is gentle, avoiding splashing if at all possible. The goal is to re-suspend the yeast to:

A) Break up any contaminates/off-flavors lurking under/inside the lees cake, exposing them to the highly alcoholic environment, and hopefully driving the off aromas out through the continued CO2 production
B) Put active yeast back into suspension to allow for easier access to residual sugar, helping the yeast to finish up fermentation in a timely manner
C) To use the dead/inactive yeast as a crude, natural fining agent to help the mead clear faster.

Typically, you can stir them back up if you have a variable speed drill for the stirrer. Just set it on low, and be careful not to splash.

Hope this helps! :)

koko0011
01-18-2011, 09:23 PM
Thanks again for all the help guys. Just like when I started brewing beer it just makes it so much easier to learn quickly and do what we are all trying to accomplish - to make GOOD mead. It is fun to help people with the beer now and it is fun to learn again here.
When I brew beer I always change the temp (temp controlled fridge) towards the end of fermentation to get those last few gravity points off. I just kind of know when to do it with beer now depending on what yeast strain I am using. Do people do this with mead? When? Is too much of a change too quickly bad for the yeast?
I am planning on making a strawberry melomel using 13 pounds in the primary next (5 gallon batch). Is that excessive? How do I prepare the strawberries. I have done some research and found that you clean cut and freeze them to break down the cell walls. Do I then kind of "mash" them up after they are thawed out? I am putting it in the primary. How about if they were going in the secondary? How small should the chunks be or will the yeast just kind of destroy the whole berry?
The first mead I made was nothing but orange blossom (obviously very light colored) honey. My refractometer did not seem to work right - compared it with a hydrometer. When brewing I get the same readings on both. Is this common when using light colored honey?

Sorry for the novel.... I am sure you remember the feeling though when you are about to put $45 of strawberries and $45 of honey into a plastic bucket - obviously you want to do things right.....

Any words of wisdom are appreciated!

Thanks

icedmetal
01-18-2011, 09:49 PM
I'd add another 5lbs of strawberries at least; that's a fairly light addition, from my experience. I've had great success with 25lbs in 5 gallons, and the jury is still out on my latest batch that only got 18lbs.

YogiBearMead726
01-19-2011, 12:22 AM
The difference in refractometer and hydrometer readings is common. Because of alcohol's reflective properties, it can skew your measurements (up I think), making you think there is still sugar in the mead, when it could be dry. This difference is actually measurable, and using a calculator (Medsen pointed me to VinoCalc), you can more accurately determine your alcohol content with the two readings. Kinda nifty, but I suspect in beer, you haven't had this problem because beer rarely gets above 10% ABV.

koko0011
01-19-2011, 08:14 AM
The difference in refractometer and hydrometer readings is common. Because of alcohol's reflective properties, it can skew your measurements (up I think), making you think there is still sugar in the mead, when it could be dry. This difference is actually measurable, and using a calculator (Medsen pointed me to VinoCalc), you can more accurately determine your alcohol content with the two readings. Kinda nifty, but I suspect in beer, you haven't had this problem because beer rarely gets above 10% ABV.
I am a little confused on the refractometer vs. hydrometer issue now. I know that I have to adjust once fermentation has started for the alcohol as you do with beer (even if it is not over 10%) but are you saying that with mead the sg needs to be adjusted as well? That doesn't seem right to me but I could be wrong - just don't know that much about honey at this point. I thought maybe it was because the orange blossom honey was so light I was just getting a weird reading - thoughts?

Medsen Fey
01-19-2011, 10:44 AM
My refractometer did not seem to work right - compared it with a hydrometer. When brewing I get the same readings on both. Is this common when using light colored honey?


Prior to fermentation the reading from a refractometer and a hydrometer should be the same. Make sure both are calibrated and that you have temperature adjustment factored in. They should be really close, but you may need to average a couple of the refractometer readings. How far off are your readings?

Sometimes if you have lots of fruit or other particles it can interfere with the hydrometer and cause reading error.

And of course, after fermentation begins, the refractometer error due to alcohol has to be corrected for. This is not the case with a hydrometer.