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mjl3434
06-19-2011, 03:46 AM
Hey guys I'm new here and aside from my hydrometer which broke in the mail I've got all of my equipment to make my first batch of mead. Once the replacement hydrometer arrives I'll get started, but before then I wanted to sanity check everything. Here's my plan:

Recipe/Ingredients:

5 Quarts Orange Blossom Honey
4 Gal Spring Water
5g Lalvin 71b-1122 Yeast
6.25g Go-Ferm
10g Fermaid K
20g DAP

Process:

1. Sanitize all equipment with Bleach, and rinse, air dry
2. Remove Lalvin 1b-1112 yeast from fride and allow it to come to room temperature
3. Take 1 cup of hard tap water and boil it
4. Let it cool to 110F
5. Pour 85 ml or ~.35 cups into yeast hydration bowl
6. Add 6.25g of GoFerm to the water
7. Measure temperature of water shoot for 104F
8. Pitch 5g of yeast into the water and stir
9. Wait 30 minutes
10. While waiting, combine 4 Gals of spring water and 5 quarts of Orange Blossom Honey in Plastic Fermentation vessel.
11. Add 42.5ml or ~.175 cups of must to the yeast solution
12. Measure Temp of Must
13. Measure Temp of rehydration solution
14. If the differene is > 15F, dilute the rehydration solution 50% with more must, wait 30 min, measure temps again. Repeat until temp diff < 15F
15. Pitch the must
16. Shake the fermentation vessel for a few minutes to aerate the solution
17. Measure the OG of the solution
18. Add 3 piece air lock, filled with vodka to fermentation vessel
19. Over next 48 hours look first signs of fermentation
20. On first sign of fermentation add 5 grams of Fermaid K and 10g DAP.
21. On 1/3 sugar break (when hydrometer measures ~4.66% alcohol) add another 5g Fermaid K and 10g DAP, shake it up again to aerate.
22. When fermentation slows siphon to glass carboy, be careful not to areate at this point.
23. Let age several months
24. Bottle and drink.

A few basic questions:

Q1) Are all my quantities right? (The yeast sounds low but this is what MoreWine! recommended.)
Q2) Have I missed any steps?
Q3) For my first batch should I worry about pH or should this be safe?
Q4) How slow should fermentation be when I transfor to secondary?
Q5) Is there a proper way to measure 1/3 sugar break? I just took the 14% alcohol tolerance of the yeast and divided by 3.
Q6) Do you just leave the hydrometer in the fermentation vessel, or do you generally sanitize it, measure and remove? My vessel is plastic so you can't see though it. Also for both the plastic fermentation vessel and glass carboy I'm not sure how much room will be at the top.

Loadnabox
06-19-2011, 09:06 AM
Q1) Are all my quantities right? (The yeast sounds low but this is what MoreWine! recommended.)

First off: This is a recipe for a traditional. If you've never done brewing before, this is the hardest kind of mead to make, you might consider something a little easier. Something like a JAO might be better for your very first batch.

As for the yeast, generally one .95g package is enough to innoculate 5 gallons. For a batch this sie you could actually use less, just one packet.



Q2) Have I missed any steps?


You need to be aerating at a minimum twice a day until the 1/3 break with a traditional. You also need to aerate your must like crazy before pitching. For a 5 gallon batch a lees stirrer and a drill is the best way.

Keep a nose on it, if it starts to smell bad (rotten eggs) add more nutrients and aerate even if past the 1/3 break to release SO2 and H2S. If it's after the 1/2 sugar break nutrients should be Fermaid O instead of Fermaid K. Fermaid K has DAP and DAP can slow fermentation that late in the process instead of helping it. Fermaid O uses organic YAN which is fine late in fermentations.

You might also want to ferment this in a bucket instead of a carboy. Carboys can have an MEA, buckets are hard to overflow and much easier to stir (large open space for sticking a stirrer)



Q3) For my first batch should I worry about pH or should this be safe?


In any traditional Ph is going to be a concern as well as nitrogen since honey is very low in nitrogen compared to grapes for which most of the yeast is designed for.



Q4) How slow should fermentation be when I transfor to secondary?


This varies a bit, but I don't tend to transfer anymore until I hit my target SG is where I want it or I'm seeing a decrease of only 1 point per day. Transferring to secondary (for me) has generally killed my fermentation.



Q5) Is there a proper way to measure 1/3 sugar break? I just took the 14% alcohol tolerance of the yeast and divided by 3.


more or less it, but generally measured by SG. Figure out your starting SG subtract your(target) ending SG, divide the answer by 3.



Q6) Do you just leave the hydrometer in the fermentation vessel, or do you generally sanitize it, measure and remove? My vessel is plastic so you can't see though it. Also for both the plastic fermentation vessel and glass carboy I'm not sure how much room will be at the top.


Generally you take it out of the vessel. Many of us use a cheap turkey baster to thief off wine for testing, and maybe a quick tasting. Again, buckets work best for primary, use a bucket twice as large as your batch, so for this five gallon batch a ten gallon bucket will ensure you don't end up with an MEA or overflow.


Again, traditionals are extremely difficult and take a long time to become ready. Check out the JAO recipe for something that will be a super confidence booster and generally does OK in a 5 gallon carboy.

fatbloke
06-19-2011, 01:26 PM
Potential alcohol hydrometers are a waste of space.

There's no guarantee that you'll get to the tolerance of the yeast, which is why it's best to be thinking of a hydrometer marked in gravity (or possibly Brix - most seem to use gravity judging from reading the threads.....) plus you'd be working from a theoretical number, rather than taking a gravity reading which is a definite number, not an approximation.

Whatever the starting gravity is (dependant on the amount of sugars the must contains), you need a drop of 103 to 104 points to achieve 14% ABV. I say whatever the gravity is, because you might have had it so that from the start to 1.000 there's still some sugars left for the yeasties to ferment. The easy calculation of say a start of 1.104 with 1.000 as finished would indeed give 14%, but if it was higher at the start, then the 14% would still leave you with residual sugars, so to give a gravity above 1.000 - a gravity scaled hydrometer will just give you greater control over the ferment, and to have a better idea of where it's got to.

Most of what you've done seems to be fine. Loadnabox mentions the aeration, people seem to aerate once or twice a day until it hits the 1/3rd sugar break.

Some people will ferment it to finished before racking, I like to move mine (if it's getting moved of course) at about 1.020 though if it's getting fermented in glass, then I just leave it where it is and just rack it off the sediment when it's done.

A good choice of yeast for a first go.

regards

fatbloke

AToE
06-19-2011, 02:01 PM
There's nothing really that hard about making a traditional, it's a show mead that's more difficult (no nutrients). It's hard to make a great traditional yes, and they take a while to age, but many of my first meads were traditionals with no problems - and if you want to really experience "mead" traditional is the way to go for sure.

For rehydration 30 minutes is the upper limit, 15 is better. Even better than 15 though, is rehydrate for 15 minutes, then add about a cup of your must to the rehydrating yeast, wait 10 minutes, add another cup, wait another 10, then pitch. This acclimatizes the yeast to both the sugar content and temperature of your must.

Oskaar
06-19-2011, 05:32 PM
I'm with AToE. I think traditionals are a great way to start, and that a great traditional is tough to beat.

Chevette Girl
06-19-2011, 07:34 PM
Hi, mjl3434, welcome to this wonderful addictio-- I mean, hobby! ;D

For sanity check as requested: Steps 16 and 21 suggest shaking the fermentation vessel? This may be easier said than done (a 5-gal pail full of must is HEAVY), and sudden agiation at the 1/3 break could well result in a MEA (mead eruption accident)... not as violent as dropping a Mentos in a diet coke, but sometimes it's close!

Might I suggest getting a long handled spoon and stirring vigorously enough to splash it around (try to keep it in the bucket though) at least once or twice a day until your 1/3 sugar break? And stir it before and then after you add things like nutrients or energizer, stirring it first will help dislodge some of the CO2 responsible for MEA's.

Regarding the 1/3 sugar break, once you get your hydrometer you'll be able to figure out how much alcohol your yeast could potentially make based on the honey you add, and you divide that number by three for your 1/3 break. If you go by the yeast's listed tolerance but don't put enough honey for them to reach that tolerance, you could possibly have a starting SG lower than 1/3 of what your yeast COULD do if they had enough food. Hope that's not confusing...

A lot of us use hydrometers with a litte test tube that needs something like half a wine glass full of must in order to give you results. I often use a wine thief (tube with a valve at the bottom) and just put the sanitized hydrometer inside the sanitized wine theif, then pull up enough must into the thief to ge a reading, then let it back out into the bucket. In a big (deep) batch you can sanitize your hydrometer and float it in the bucket to get a pretty good idea of the specific gravity (I make a lot of 1-gal batches which aren't deep enough), but it's not recommended to leave it in for a couple reasons - 1) you'll need it for the next batch that you start before this one's finished! 2) if you're aerating vigorously, well, you've already seen a broken one, they are fragile.

Good luck and have fun with it! Before long you'll be plotting your NEXT batch! And JAO's a nice easy start, plus it's something to drink while you're waiting for your traditional to age.

mjl3434
06-19-2011, 11:30 PM
Potential alcohol hydrometers are a waste of space.

>> The hydrometer actually has 3 scales, specific gravity, balling (which I guess is brix), and %alcohol. I'm not quite sure how you could calculate %alcohol using just density without making a bunch of assumptions, like the fluid is simply alcohol and water. Anyway it's got specific gravity which is what most people use here so that's should allow me to go along with existing recipies.


You need to be aerating at a minimum twice a day until the 1/3 break with a traditional. You also need to aerate your must like crazy before pitching. For a 5 gallon batch a lees stirrer and a drill is the best way.

Keep a nose on it, if it starts to smell bad (rotten eggs) add more nutrients and

>> I'll error on the side of too much aeration, and smell it frequently.


Hi, mjl3434, welcome to this wonderful addictio--

>> With me everything is an addiction.


sudden agiation at the 1/3 break could well result in a MEA (mead eruption accident

>> lol, good to know, I've got the long spoon too I'll use that.

~~~~~~~

I'm still not sure how to calculate the target or final specific gravity. Your honey and other stuff determines the density of the fluid, the yeast and it's health determine how much alcohol it can generate, but how does one know *ahead of time* what the final gravity will be? That's the part I don't understand for calculating the 1/3 sugar point.

Also, a good traditional might be hard but I wanted to do *everything* so since I couldn't decide what spices & fruits, etc to use I decided to go with a simple baseline, so I could improve and compare from there.

AToE
06-20-2011, 03:41 AM
Generally speaking you can use the yeast's rated alcohol tolerance to guess how many gravity points it's be able to ferment out of your total (71B is "supposed" to go to 14%, but I've seen it go further sometimes, sometimes only to 13% though - this is why estimating final gravity is a crapshoot), and with that you can guess how sweet it will end up. This is guesswork though, which is why many people choose to ferment from a starting gravity they're sure will ferment fully with their yeast, then after some clearing and aging they'll stabilize with sorbate and sulphite and add more honey to taste (or, like me, some people just like dry mead, so we'll always have our final gravities at or below 1.000).

As far as the 1/3 mark, you are technically correct that it "should" be 1/3 of "what will be fermented" rather than 1/3 of "the total sugar" - however in practice this really doesn't matter unless you're making an extremely high gravity mead, which it's unlikely you'll be making. Just use 1/3 of total and you'll be fine, especially factoring in that you don't really know what ABV your yeast will stop at.

When people say stop aerating or adding nutrients containing DAP at the 1/3, this is a ballpark - right up until the 1/2 mark is totally fine, the yeast don't follow a neat schedule. This is why it's safe to just use 1/3 of total sugar as your 1/3 mark.

Chevette Girl
06-20-2011, 04:13 PM
A single hydrometer reading only tells you what the potential amount of alcohol could be if the yeast ate everything (sugar) that raises the specific gravity higher than 1.000 (pure water).

The way you get your alcohol percent from hydrometer readings is you compare the difference in density (specific gravity) from where you started and where you finish, there are calculations that can tell you by the change in density (which reflects how much sugar your yeast ate) how much alcohol they produced. The Mead Calculator over to the left has a little green section called "potential alcohol conversion" where you fill in your readings and it tells you your alcohol content.

We usually assume your yeast will finish their sugar (finishing gravity goes to 1.000) when we calculate the 1/3 break, but as AToE said, it's not like the yeasties carry a calculator in there :) If your initial SG reading (when plugged into the calculator with an assumed finishing gravity of 1.000) gives you a higher alcohol percentage than your yeast is rated for, use the yeast's tolerance for calculating your breaks. If you use the Mead Calculator, you can estimate your finishing gravity by feeding in your initial gravity and then plugging in finishing gravity values until the % is close to your yeast's tolerance. There are more elegant solutions to this out there (as I'm sure someone will point out), but I'm more for the free-range yeasties theory, I do the best I can for them in the hopes that they do the best they can for me and just enjoy whatever they give me!

mjl3434
06-25-2011, 09:48 PM
Okay so I put everything together today and it's sitting in the primary fermentation vessel waiting for some CO2 bubbles. Everything wen't well on my first time except for a few things. My longer story is below but let me first jump to the questions.

1) The specific gravity reading was 1.072 so that aligned with about a 10% potential alcohol reading. That was bit lower than what I expected, I was expecting around 1.10. At this level does it mean even though my yeast can produce 14% alcohol that they will run out of sugar first?

2) Would 1/3 sugar then be 0.072 / 3 = 0.024, when the reading gets to 1.048?

3) If the yeast will run out of sugar they wont kill themselves with alcohol but fermentation will stop when the sugar is gone. Do I need to take extra steps to kill / make them go dormant before I rack off into a secondary?

4) How much honey would be required to get to a O.G. of 1.10, for 4 gallons of water? (Clearly 5 quarts of orange blossom honey was not enough)

I went a bit cheap on my gram scale and it's precision does not seem great. Sometimes I would slowly add material and it would jump from 3.2 grams to 3.9 grams instead of a more gradual reading. This caused trouble for me weighing out my yeast and Go-Ferm. I later realized that I could add a small bowl and tear the scale so it was easier to weigh stuff without it falling off of the scale. Either way the scale was giving my trouble so that my 110 degree water had already cooled down to 80 or so by the time I had everything weighted out. I just heated it back up again, so no problem there.

Another screw up was about 20 minutes into yeast activation I took some must to do my original gravity reading and stupidly just dunked my container in with my hand instead of using the sanitized turkey baster that I had planed on. My hands were sanitized ahead of time but who knows, that definitely was not the best thing to do. Hopefully my yeasts will have no problem taking hold vs whatever had a 10 minute start in the must. The yeast was bubbling like crazy and ready to go when I pitched it, so I hope things will be fine.

Chevette Girl
06-26-2011, 09:38 PM
1) The specific gravity reading was 1.072 so that aligned with about a 10% potential alcohol reading. That was bit lower than what I expected, I was expecting around 1.10. At this level does it mean even though my yeast can produce 14% alcohol that they will run out of sugar first?

Correct, your yeast will run out of sugar at 10%, there's not enough sugar to let them get any higher. Do give it a good stir and check your SG again though, sometimes there can be blobs of undissolved honey at the bottom causing a low reading.



2) Would 1/3 sugar then be 0.072 / 3 = 0.024, when the reading gets to 1.048?

Right!


3) If the yeast will run out of sugar they wont kill themselves with alcohol but fermentation will stop when the sugar is gone. Do I need to take extra steps to kill / make them go dormant before I rack off into a secondary?

You don't need to do anything for secondary. And if the yeast have eaten ALL the sugar and the SG is below 1.000 and isn't changing at all over a few weeks to months, you're probably safe to bottle without stabilizing, but if you want it sweeter, you will have to stabilize it first to make sure the yeast don't perk up when you dangle food in front of their noses.


4) How much honey would be required to get to a O.G. of 1.10, for 4 gallons of water? (Clearly 5 quarts of orange blossom honey was not enough)

I just poked around at the mead calculator (to your left there in the yellow panel) and if you want 1.10 for your SG with 4 gallons, it says you want just over 11 lbs of honey (assuming US gallons?).


Another screw up was about 20 minutes into yeast activation I took some must to do my original gravity reading and stupidly just dunked my container in with my hand instead of using the sanitized turkey baster that I had planed on. My hands were sanitized ahead of time but who knows, that definitely was not the best thing to do. Hopefully my yeasts will have no problem taking hold vs whatever had a 10 minute start in the must. The yeast was bubbling like crazy and ready to go when I pitched it, so I hope things will be fine.

If the yeast is bubbling like crazy you're probably safe. But hopefully you'll remember next time! :)

mjl3434
06-28-2011, 12:40 AM
Hit just under 1.05 tonight, added the rest of the Fermaid-K and the DAP. The yeasty beasties seemed to like that because they started foaming like crazy releasing CO2. I let that die down a bit and gave it a good stir. It seemed as if the yeast went into another 'mini' lag phase again since the CO2 production ceased for about 2 minutes but picked back up again.

I've to to say at ~5% alcohol the mead is still very sweet, too sweet to be called a beer and still quite bubbly. I'm a wine drinker so I am hoping for that sugar to be converted into alcohol soon.

Now I'm just thinking about getting another carboy and doing my own metheglin next. Maybe some cloves, oranges, cinnamon, nutmeg and some oaking later.

Chevette Girl
06-28-2011, 08:56 PM
Now I'm just thinking about getting another carboy and doing my own metheglin next. Maybe some cloves, oranges, cinnamon, nutmeg and some oaking later.

Looks like we have another meadmaking addict on our hands... ;D

mjl3434
07-03-2011, 02:35 AM
I racked off into my glass carboy today. I chose to use the siphon (instead of the tap which was available) so that I could avoid any dead yeast at the bottom. This turned out to be a good move since there was some dead yeast there.

I do enjoy looking at the mead through the carboy. It is all quite cloudy now, but there is a clearness at the top and a thickness at the bottom. I wonder how long will it take for things to clarify on their own, assuming all is going well?

Chevette Girl
07-03-2011, 02:45 AM
I do enjoy looking at the mead through the carboy. It is all quite cloudy now, but there is a clearness at the top and a thickness at the bottom. I wonder how long will it take for things to clarify on their own, assuming all is going well?

Well, if you're already seeing stratification like that, it's probably going to clear in days to weeks rather than weeks to months, and if you let it alone it'll clear from the top down, which is really neat to watch but I usually miss seeing it because I leave it in primary a bit longer so it's either already cleared or it's not going to for some months yet.

What was the SG? If it's not at or below 1.000 and there's still pressure through the airlock, you'll probably want to swir it for a couple days to keep everything suspended (an release CO2) if there are any yeast still at work, and it should settle out fairly quickly once you do finally leave it alone.