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Celedor
09-19-2011, 01:36 AM
Hello, Gang.

I'm a beer guy who decided to try some mead.

Here's what I started tonight:


12 lbs local wildflower honey
3/4 tbsp gypsum
1/4 tsp irish moss
WYeast 4766 "Cider" - 12% tolerance (this is a liquid smack pack with its own nutrients)
Distilled water to 3 gallons

So, I was following (roughly) the Antipodal Mead recipe in Charlie P.'s book, which I've been using for a while for beer. For various reasons I've always used a 3 gallon carboy as my fermenter and am used to translating recipes, since everybody does 5 gallons (although it looks like around here 1 gallon happens a lot...) Anyway, my mental math failed, because he said 15 lbs / 5 gallons which is 9 lbs / 3 gallons, not the 12 I used.

Point being, this is dense stuff. My hydrometer goes to 1.160 but we're off the charts here. I estimate 1.200. When I used your calculator, it said it should be 1.144.

Questions:

1. What's the deal with the OG?
2. How long is this going to take to age?
3. What's this thing going to be like? Sweet, I imagine...


Incidentally, I forgot that honey has more volume than malt, so I had a bit left over. Milk and honey really IS good.

Cheers,
Celedor

AToE
09-19-2011, 02:06 AM
Well, if you have a spare vessel you could just dilute that down to a much more reasonable SG, would probably give you a much better product in the end! As far as aging goes, mead generally is decent after 6-10 months, but it really starts to shine after 1 or 1.5 years (in some cases more).

Your SG shouldn't really be that high, the calculator is very close to accurate given normal-ish sugar content honey (even 12 lbs of pure sugar shouldn't have taken it that high I think) - BUT obviously you know how to use your hyrdometer, and if it's off the scale it's off the scale! Whatever the reason may be.

Lots of people like sweet mead, but anything over 1.160 is going to be extremely difficult to get any kind of healthy fermentation out of, and when it finishes it will probably be much lower alcohol content than the yeast's rated tolerance (due to stressing the yeast), and will be sickeningly sweet!

Echostatic
09-19-2011, 02:41 AM
I'm also for diluting it down ASAP.

Loadnabox
09-19-2011, 08:10 AM
Diluting the must is going to be pretty important.

With an SG of 1.2 there's extremely good chances of fermentation not starting, or stressing the yeasts causing off tastes, or causing the fermentation to get stuck early from the early yeast stress.

Get it down to no more than 1.155 at the worst.

IMO, after sampling many types of mead, 1.030 - 1.035 is a good target for a dessert mead, more than that it starts to get cloyingly sweet (this las5t piece of advice YMMV as usual) With an SG of 1.2 even with a yeast that can hit 18% you're still looking at an SG around 1.060 which would be OMG sweet!

Celedor
09-19-2011, 11:36 AM
Your SG shouldn't really be that high, the calculator is very close to accurate given normal-ish sugar content honey (even 12 lbs of pure sugar shouldn't have taken it that high I think) - BUT obviously you know how to use your hyrdometer, and if it's off the scale it's off the scale! Whatever the reason may be.

Well, I wonder about that, haha. Could it have not been mixed well enough, so I got an extra-concentrated sample? (I took it from the "dregs", after I had filled the carboy.)


Diluting the must is going to be pretty important.

With an SG of 1.2 there's extremely good chances of fermentation not starting, or stressing the yeasts causing off tastes, or causing the fermentation to get stuck early from the early yeast stress.

Get it down to no more than 1.155 at the worst.

IMO, after sampling many types of mead, 1.030 - 1.035 is a good target for a dessert mead...


Great info. I didn't even want a dessert mead :/

I'm going to take another reading and dillute as necessary. I was considering getting another carboy anyway, because I want to make a pumpkin ale this Fall, and apparently this mead is going to be hogging my glassware. Thanks, all.

wayneb
09-19-2011, 11:53 AM
Speaking from experience, getting anything with an initial gravity above 1.155 to ferment at all is a challenge, and usually the yeast will be so stressed from osmotic shock, even if you start from a lower gravity starter and acclimate them to the main must in several stages, that they will fall far short of their rated ethanol tolerance. I tried several experiments in Uber-high gravity ferments several years ago, and even though I was using yeast strains known for their high target ABVs and noted for dealing well with "problem fermentations," they still finished slightly under the ABV where I wanted them to be.

So I second the suggestions that you've gotten from everyone else here already - dilute that must down to a gravity that is more yeast friendly. I'd recommend shooting for an initial around 1.125 as the highest for your first mead, since you should get some mead fermentation experience before pushing the limits any higher than that. You're going to be experiencing the differences between mead and beer fermentations firsthand, so this will be a great way to see how mead really is a different animal. One of the first things to note is that although the smack-packs do provide generally enough yeast nutrient for beer and/or cider ferments, they are significantly lacking when it comes to mead since honey provides little to nothing in the way of assimilable nitrogen. Grains provide LOTS of in-situ yeast nutrient, and even fruit (such as the apples used in cider making) provides some, and the smack-pack nutrient dosing generally takes that into account.

I might also suggest that you consider not using the gypsum nor the irish moss in the future. If you search around the forum here a bit you'll find lots of postings discussing why these are not necessary - and in fact may be not good - for meadmaking. Charlie's beer recipes have generally stood the test of time because he based his initial formulations both on generations of beer makers experiences, along with his own extensive experimentation. With mead, honestly, the early recipes like Charlie's were all based on what beer brewers or winemakers THOUGHT a mead would need. Kind of like the ancient Greek philosophers trying to discern the nature of the universe simply by their personal observations and lots of logical extrapolation. Bottom line, they both got things wrong.

Over the past one to two decades, lots of folks (including many who frequent the Gotmead site) have undertaken countless experiments, keeping good quantitative notes, on how fermentation progresses and affects, mead. We've learned lots in that past 20 years -- most of it in the last decade. So I would encourage you to both read the Newbee Guide to meadmaking (a link is over on the left side of this page), and to pick up a copy of Ken Schramm's "The Compleat Meadmaker" if you want to dig more deeply into this mine of meadmaking knowhow. We've got lots of stuff just below the surface of these forums that will help you to become a much better meadmaker with just a couple hours of your time. Enjoy, and welcome to the mead side of the fermentation addic..., err, ahh, hobby! ;D

Celedor
09-19-2011, 12:20 PM
Awesome post, WB, thanks.

I think I'm going to go ahead and add 1 gal water, see where that puts me, and grab some champagne yeast and nutrients.

Thought this would be so similar to beer it would be an easy transition, but there's a bunch to learn it turns out. Just what I need, another hobby!

I was also sort of hoping I could just take a quick break from beer and make a special treat for the holidays. Looks like if I manage to figure this batch out, it'll be ready for next Christmas. Ai.

What I really should do is track down a 1 gallon carboy and make some JAO...

Chevette Girl
09-19-2011, 12:27 PM
I was considering getting another carboy anyway, because I want to make a pumpkin ale this Fall, and apparently this mead is going to be hogging my glassware.

Pumpkin ale? You've got my attention now, I had a local'made pumpkin ale and that's mostly what's got me wanting to start into beer! I hope you post the brewlog here in the beer section :D



I was also sort of hoping I could just take a quick break from beer and make a special treat for the holidays. Looks like if I manage to figure this batch out, it'll be ready for next Christmas. Ai.

What I really should do is track down a 1 gallon carboy and make some JAO...

Oh, do it. THAT should be drinkable for the holidays if you start it now! Soooo tasty.... And if you're just doing JAO and you can't get a 1-gallon carboy, you can use a plastic water or juice jug, it'll be fine...

Loadnabox
09-19-2011, 04:00 PM
...
Thought this would be so similar to beer it would be an easy transition, but there's a bunch to learn it turns out. Just what I need, another hobby!


I went the opposite way and have been surprised at both how much is similar and how much is different :)



I was also sort of hoping I could just take a quick break from beer and make a special treat for the holidays. Looks like if I manage to figure this batch out, it'll be ready for next Christmas. Ai.


Funny, I started brewing beer 'cause I wanted things that I could drink SOONER!



What I really should do is track down a 1 gallon carboy and make some JAO...

SOOOOO much glassware tied up in bulk aging right now :(

I'm actually waiting to put my beer into a Corny Keg just so I can copper-treat and back sweeten a JAO I abused (and broke the warranty on) Even then I'll be putting the JAO into a Primary -bucket- on a temp basis to get it off the fruit and add honey without sticking it to the lees :-P

Celedor
09-19-2011, 05:48 PM
Pumpkin ale? You've got my attention now, I had a local'made pumpkin ale and that's mostly what's got me wanting to start into beer! I hope you post the brewlog here in the beer section :D

I've never done it so I'm pretty excited, myself. As soon as the pumpkins start showing up I'm gonna give it a go.



Oh, do it. THAT should be drinkable for the holidays if you start it now! Soooo tasty.... And if you're just doing JAO and you can't get a 1-gallon carboy, you can use a plastic water or juice jug, it'll be fine...

I like this attitude.

Celedor
09-19-2011, 07:45 PM
Hello, friends.

Update:

As expected, there are no signs of activity; those poor little yeasties....ahem...Onward and upward!

Today I bought:

lid for my plastic bucket (to become my primary so I can dilute.)
Diammonium Phosphate
Yeast Energizer from Brewcraft (N, K, P, etc.)
4 yeasts from Red Star - Pasteur Red, Montrachet, Pasteur Champagne, and Premier Cuvee.

I'm about review the site again to try and figure out the best combo of yeast and nutrients. Feel free to chime in with opinions.

Cheers,
Celedor

Celedor
09-20-2011, 12:27 AM
New gravity is 1.092. More reasonable, I take it?

It got some air and a teaspoon each of yeast energizer and DAP. Not sure if that will do anything or not. If nothing happens by tomorrow, I'm going to try pitching the champagne yeast.

Any comments?

kudapucat
09-20-2011, 01:09 AM
New gravity is 1.092. More reasonable, I take it?

It got some air and a teaspoon each of yeast energizer and DAP. Not sure if that will do anything or not. If nothing happens by tomorrow, I'm going to try pitching the champagne yeast.

Any comments?

This will now ferment dry if you get it to start, with a healthy ABV of 12% or so...
If you're prepared to wait a year, you'll find it tastes a little sweet, even though it's dry. Wait longer and it will be much nicer.

So in answer to your first post.
-The OG is now fine
-It will take a minimum of 12 months to age
-It will be dry, but taste sweeter than you'd think for a dry wine.

wildoates
09-20-2011, 01:11 AM
At least you've been smart enough--out of all the problems that can crop up making mead--to have picked the easiest one to fix. Plus you'll have more mead at the end than you bought you would! Win!

Loadnabox
09-20-2011, 01:18 PM
I haven't used any of those yeasts and don't know if any of them are actively competitive.

Do a little research, if any of them are actively competitive that's good, avoid ones that have a "sensitive" competitive factor. Neutral is OK but not preferred for restarting.

The reason behind this is that having two different kinds of yeast -can- (not always) cause the yeast to stress causing off flavors. An actively competitive yeast will simply devour any other yeast it runs into and not get as stressed out.