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2h2o
03-31-2011, 12:51 PM
Hello All,

I've brewed a couple of batches of beer, and now have ventured into mead-making (I love Mead, and does my wife--she dislikes beer, so this is a delicious solution! :-) )

I've read a bunch, and am comfortable with sanitary and chemistry techniques (currently studying Chem. E.), but decided that I wanted to just dive in rather than succumbing to "paralysis by analysis." So here's what I've done so far:

Aiming for a 3 gallon yield. Heavily influenced by Ken Schramm's "Medium Sweet" recipe in his excellent book.

Approx. 9lbs Orange Blossom honey mixed into 2.4 Gallons of purified, mineral-added H2O. The final volume in the primary fermenter is about 3.4G.

I did not boil the must, but I did dissolve the honey into water at 105 F.

My original specific gravity before adding nutrients and inoculation is 1.120 @ 77 F. This converts to 1.122 @ 60 F. [28.42 Brix]

I rehydrated 10g of my friends (Lalvin 71b-1122) with approx 13g of Go-Ferm in 165 grams of H2O at 110 F. (my scale only measures in gram increments.) No proofing performed.

I inoculated the must after 25 minutes of rehydration; the must was 75 F and the yeast mixture was at 81 F. So hopefully no thermal shock.

I added to the must 3g each of DAP, Fermaid K, and K2CO3. The pH after these additions was at least 4.4 (possibly outside of range of my pH test strip.)

I stirred vigorously and "whipped" using a stick-blender to aerate, then left the fermentation bucket with a loose lid and non-airlocked--but covered w/cheesecloth--airlock port. I'm planning on leaving the fermentation "semi-open" until I reach the fermentation 1/2 point.

I checked the status after 16 hours (overnight +) and it's obviously bubbling, but is not at "defined active fermentation" yet--that is, according to hightest's guide. SG: 1.114@64 F corrects to 1.114 @60 F. [26.75 Brix] So the Brix has only dropped 1.7 degrees.)

Since I'm staggering the nutrient additions per hightest's guide, I'm waiting for the Brix to drop 2-3 degrees before my stage 2 addition.

Now, my questions:

1) Generally, anything wrong--or at least of concern--with my procedure/plan?
2) The OG came out a bit on the "sack" side of where I wanted it; should I plan on acid additions post-fermentation to balance the flavor so it's not "cloyingly sweet"?
3) Is a target final gravity of 1.010 realistic considering the high OG? I'm used to beer-gravities, so this seems really high to me; but I know it's supposed to be higher, I just don't have the intuitive sense of it yet.
4) What are the chances that this will be drinkable and enjoyable by end of August? I have the patience to let it age--but I'd like to share some with friends after our firstborn son arrives in August... :-)

Thank you!

References:

http://home.comcast.net/~mzapx1/FAQ/SNAddition.pdf
http://home.comcast.net/~mzapx1/FAQ/PotCarbonate.pdf
Schramm, Ken. The Compleat Meadmaker
http://www.brewheads.com/calc.php

Chevette Girl
04-01-2011, 12:28 AM
1) Generally, anything wrong--or at least of concern--with my procedure/plan?
2) The OG came out a bit on the "sack" side of where I wanted it; should I plan on acid additions post-fermentation to balance the flavor so it's not "cloyingly sweet"?
3) Is a target final gravity of 1.010 realistic considering the high OG? I'm used to beer-gravities, so this seems really high to me; but I know it's supposed to be higher, I just don't have the intuitive sense of it yet.
4) What are the chances that this will be drinkable and enjoyable by end of August? I have the patience to let it age--but I'd like to share some with friends after our firstborn son arrives in August... :-)



Welcome to the addiction!! I mean, hobby!!;D

1) I see nothing that concerns me overmuch. You sound like you're on the right track and did enough reading not to have to learn EVERYTHING the hard way, like some of us :p

2) Wait until you see how it finishes. Honey has a tendency to drop the pH significantly just on its own (and since you have strips, you can keep an eye on that during your fermentation, hopefully they're within a range to measure a pH btween 3 and 5?) and yeasties have this wonderful tendency to exceed your expectations if you treat them right. Acid blend's cheap, so if you get to a point where you're about ready to bottle and it still tastes too sweet, worry about it then. I don't have a lot of experience with 71B (working on that though), however I've had EC-1118 take something with the same OG right down to completely dry.

3) Don't forget, in meads you have almost no nonfermentables floating around like I suspect you do in beers, all the sugar can be eaten and they often end up below 1.095, I don't usually find 1.010 terribly sweet but it's certainly not dry. And honestly I can't even give you a good range because each batch is different, some of them taste a lot sweeter than they should given the residual sugar, and some take a lot of backsweetening to be decent, and there's also a perception of sweetness that often comes back after some ageing and makes mead taste a lot sweeter than it really is.

4) It might be OK, and even if it's not bottled at that point you probably won't regret skimming off two glasses for celebration (and then bottling it). But I'm willing to bet if you can leave it alone, it'll be frigging awesome for his first birthday :)

2h2o
04-01-2011, 11:15 AM
2)Honey has a tendency to drop the pH significantly just on its own (and since you have strips, you can keep an eye on that during your fermentation, hopefully they're within a range to measure a pH btween 3 and 5?) and yeasties have this wonderful tendency to exceed your expectations if you treat them right.

Ok, thanks. I'd read that about the pH, I was just concerned that the initial pH was too high after adding the K2CO3. I know that yeasts like to ferment in an acidic range of around 3-4, plus this also helps to ward off undesirable infections; given the open fermentation, hence my concern. But I just checked on it this morning, and the pH is at a comfortably acidic 3.4; and from the sounds of it, our friends are very active!


3)...I don't usually find 1.010 terribly sweet but it's certainly not dry. And honestly I can't even give you a good range because each batch is different, some of them taste a lot sweeter than they should given the residual sugar, and some take a lot of backsweetening to be decent, and there's also a perception of sweetness that often comes back after some ageing and makes mead taste a lot sweeter than it really is.

I'm just trying to define where the fermentation mid-point is for the final stage of nutrient additions. If the final gravity ends up higher than 1.010 and I've calculated the midpoint using 1.010, then I've added the stage 3 nutrients too late. I can err on the side of a higher TG, but I don't know how far I should "buffer" that calculation.

I'll worry about the apparent sweetness more when the timing is relevant.


4) It might be OK, and even if it's not bottled at that point you probably won't regret skimming off two glasses for celebration (and then bottling it). But I'm willing to bet if you can leave it alone, it'll be frigging awesome for his first birthday :)

I'm planning on stashing a few bottles of this mead away for his 21st bday; or college graduation. :-D For his 0th birthday party, I'll also be brewing some beer; maybe some "quick-mead" for my wife, and an Imperial Stout for the long-term celebrations (in addition to this mead.)

Thanks, cheers!

2h2o
04-01-2011, 11:46 AM
Time log and updates:

t_0 = 3:40pm 30 Mar 2011:
inoculation, aeration, +stage 1 nutrient addition, +3g K2CO3 (all as outlined above in initial post)
OG: 1.122 / 28.42 Bx
pH >=4.4

8:50am 31 Mar 2011:
fermentation temp 65 F
SG: 1.114 / 26.75 Bx

7:35pm 31 Mar 2011:
fermentation temp 64 F
SG: 1.110 / 25.90 Bx

9:35pm 31 Mar 2011:
Stage 2 nutrient addition: approx <2g ea. DAP, FermaidK.
Stirred/aerated.

9:40am 1 Apr 2011:
Stirred/aerated.
pH: approx 3.4

Medsen Fey
04-01-2011, 07:38 PM
Welcome to GotMead!

Your recipe and process looks good. With 71B there is a good chance that this will be between 1.010 and 1.015 when done. For my tastes that is an excellent place to be with a traditional mead most of the time. When it is clear, you can taste it and decide if adding acid improves the flavor.

With the cool fermentation, good management, residual sugar, and use of 71B, this mead should be drinkable very quickly. You might have to help it along with clearing by using fining or filtration if you want to have it bottled by the end of summer, and it will probably be drinkable by then, though it will continue to improve with age.

I hope it turns out well!

Medsen

2h2o
04-01-2011, 07:56 PM
Welcome to GotMead!

Your recipe and process looks good. With 71B there is a good chance that this will be between 1.010 and 1.015 when done.

How are you arriving at these numbers? Is it a calculation based off of the alcohol tolerance of the yeast, or something else?

Thanks for the insight,
Cheers!

Medsen Fey
04-01-2011, 08:10 PM
In most cases 71B will go to about 14% ABV (sometimes it will exceed that but usually not in traditional meads). 14% ABV corresponds to about 105 gravity points, so if you start at 1.120, and take away 0.105, you should be around 1.015 (more or less).

2h2o
04-26-2011, 06:25 PM
An update:

I added the stage 3 nutrients right on schedule, just before the fermentation midpoint, closed it off for the anaerobic phase and not long after, the airlock was bubbling vigorously.

A few days ago, I noticed the fermentation temperature drop (it had been hovering steadily at 65F) to a steady 63F, and airlock activity diminish.

Today, I measured the gravity at 1.013 (corrected for temp.) Took a small sample, and it tastes good! Sweet, but not overly so, alcoholic but not apparently "hot," a little yeasty still (expected, naturally) and overall very clean and balanced. I didn't detect any esters or phenols in the bouquet; so it looks like the fermentation has gone very well and stayed cool!

I'll measure again in 24, and 48 hours, and if no change, then I'll rack over the weekend.

Cheers!

AToE
04-26-2011, 06:36 PM
Sounds like a good plan, I find 71B a tad unpredictable, sometimes it goes past 14% but not generally when I've fermented below 70F. So you are indeed probably done, but waiting a day or two to confirm is a good idea. Plus it'll allow more sediment to drop before racking, which is good, as 71B is not recommended for lees aging.

On that note, you'll probably want to rack it again after a month or so, whenever you notice there's a decent amount of lees that have dropped.

Congrats on everything going well! Try not to drink it all before it gets to 1 or 1.5 years old, you'll like it at 6 months, but what happens after 10 or more will blow your mind!

2h2o
01-27-2013, 09:37 AM
Just some closure. We were too impatient to let it age... it was good!

It finished out at 1.003 (corrected for temperature 1.005). 15.6% ABV (http://fermentationriot.com/abvandattenuation.html)

I let it bulk age after racking and decanting three times to clarify (the 71B floc'd very nicely, I'll be using this strain again). Never did bottle it, just kept "stealing" from the bulk until it was gone. I know that it's not the best way to go (with O2 exposure, sanitary concerns etc. but I just got way too busy to have time for bottling.)

It finished out too dry/too alcoholic for both my and my wife's tastes, but nothing that couldn't be overcome with a little back-sweetening with OB honey. I didn't add any acid, although I suspect that it may have benefited from it. I may experiment with that in future batches.

Overall, I'm very satisfied with how it turned out and don't see a real need to change any of my process variables. I'll experiment with some of the finishing steps, as outlined below.

I'm in the planning phase of scaling up to a full 5G batch now. The plan is to make 5G yield, and separate 3G once fermentation is complete to be oaked, 1G for a berry-melomel, and 1G for a metheglin. Oh, and to increase my production rate so that we don't burn through the entire batch before it has had a chance to age, and "come into its own." :D

Cheers!