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Diffan
10-01-2011, 09:45 AM
Hello all,

1st time poster and 2nd time Mead brewer, so obviously I don't really know much about the whole process (espically the science part) and I mostly go by the simplest route. My 1st batch was a disaster, tasted like olive oil. BUT it had great clarity and gave us a good buzz. That was over 3 years ago and I'm starting again.

Basically I got a two glass gallon jugs, 3 lbs of honey, some Lalvin yeast, and added this to just boiling water. I corrected the mistake I made last time and actually sanitized everything (with that no-rinse powder) then added the honey to the "Must". Stirred that up and with 1 cup of rasins (heard they make good nutrients?) with a juiced lemon (for acid content?) and then put it in the jug. Added the yeast with the air-lock and stored away.

Question is, I'm clueless on gravity (this is the Alc. content correct?) and other tools that I see referenced in making mead (and beer and wine) so is what I did too simplistic? Will it turn out well or will it end up like my last batch, bad-tasting? I'm hoping for a sweet tasting mead as neither my wife nor I like dry wines.

I should also reference the fact that I never racked the 1st batch of brew and drank it with my friends directly from the Primary jug (I'm assuming this was bad).


Anywho, I'm really excited to get things underway properly this time and I understand that some of the tools can get costly (not to mention honey itself) but I'm patient and willing to learn. Greetings to you all and I'm looking forward to having a lot of fun with this hobby!

Dan McFeeley
10-01-2011, 10:27 AM
Hello and welcome to the forums!

Take a look at the yellow sidebar on the left, click on NewBee Guide, also Meadmaking FAQ. That should give you a good start.

One of the better books on the market is The Complete Meadmaker by Ken Schramm:

http://www.amazon.com/Compleat-Meadmaker-Production-Award-winning-Variations/dp/0937381802

Basic books on winemaking are also good introductions to the ins and outs of meadmaking. Try this one:

http://www.amazon.com/Home-Winemaking-Step-Step-Iverson/dp/096579363X

Keep us posted!

--

TheAlchemist
10-01-2011, 10:39 AM
I love Pam Spence's book for an alchemical perspective:
http://www.amazon.com/Mad-About-Mead-Nectar-Gods/dp/1567186831/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1317479831&sr=1-1
You can't beat Joe's Ancient Orange for a "good, cheap, buy it!" mead recipe. Welcome to Got Mead and welcome to the addictio...er...hobby!

Oh, and Specific Gravity is a reflection of how dense the liquid is.

Diffan
10-01-2011, 11:10 AM
Thanks for the feedback. I'll look into the books and the FAQ is a good place to start. Ancient Orange does look like a nice recipe. I have another empty 1 gallon jug that I'd like to try something different in so Ancient Orange looks to be a great start.

I also just recently purchased a 5 gal bucket from Home Depot (orange in color with a air-tight lid) that I had high hopes of turning into a nice fermentation bucket. I checked the Recycling info and it seems OK as it's listed as a 2. Wikipedia says 3's and 7's are the ones that could possibly effect food and water storage. So by using a rubber grommet, tube, and balloon it seems like a cheap and easy air-lock.

For the mead recipe, an Apple Cider/Honey mead (called a Cysor I think) is what I'm gonna attempt. Simply because Apples are in season (being Fall) and rather simple to make from what I gathered. Since I'm using cheap-o honey from Wal-Mart and pasturized Apple Cider from our local farm I feel farily competent in doing a "no boil" if I use distilled water. Add in some cinnimon, nutmeg, cloves, and (again more lemon) and it should turn out OK.

I wonder though how important is it to know the gravity of your mead? And how long after the fermentation phase should the mead sit and age after racking? One site suggests that initial fermentation could last as early as 18 days to 3 weeks and after you rack it, 2 more weeks of aging and it's good to drink. I had figured once I hit that peroid I'd keep some stuff on the shelf for 6-8 months and drink the rest to see the difference.

Thanks again for the info and links.

AToE
10-01-2011, 12:37 PM
Actually, if you're taking good care of the mead, 18 days would be a long fermentation, 3 weeks would just be insane! As for how long it takes to age - totally depends on the recipe and a bunch of other factors. JAO is supposed to be ready to drink after a month, but apparently just gets way better after some age... depends how patient you are.

Most normal mead recipes aren't as fast as JAO, while fermentation usually lasts only 1-2 weeks, most of my meads age for a minimum of a year before bottling, often much longer than that.

How important is it to know your gravity? With JAO, not that important because of the yeast - with the rest of your mead making it is VERY important, a hydrometer is the single most important tool you can buy. It lets you know your sugar content, lets you monitor how fermentation is going (bubbles in airlocks are basically meaningless), tells you what your alcohol content is once fermentation is done, and lets you know when a mead is safe to bottle (bottle a mead that isn't ready to be bottled and you could seriously injur yourself/damage your property with "bottle bombs"). So yeah,, it's the best 10 bucks or so you'll ever spend.

Chevette Girl
10-02-2011, 01:17 AM
I used to boil every ingredient that came in contact with my meads and wines but I've loosened up over the years, a good vigorous fermentation pretty much trumps anything else in there.

Also, watch out adding lemon juice to meads, it can drop your pH too low and tick off your yeasties and make them give you off flavours. If you want lemon flavour, use just the zest, and don't add the juice until your fermentation's done (when your SG measured by your hydrometer is no longer dropping). That said, the acidity from the orange is an intrinsic part of the JAO recipe, so it does have its place, but honey itself causes acidity (low pH) so you want to be careful not to compound that.

You mentioned adding the honey to just boiling water, did you add the yeast at that time too? If you did and it's not doing anything after a day or two, you may need to pitch another packet if it was too hot at your original pitch.

And welcome to the forum! The more mistakes you make, the more you learn, or at least, that's what my Sensei says ;D

Diffan
10-02-2011, 07:33 AM
I used to boil every ingredient that came in contact with my meads and wines but I've loosened up over the years, a good vigorous fermentation pretty much trumps anything else in there.

Also, watch out adding lemon juice to meads, it can drop your pH too low and tick off your yeasties and make them give you off flavours. If you want lemon flavour, use just the zest, and don't add the juice until your fermentation's done (when your SG measured by your hydrometer is no longer dropping). That said, the acidity from the orange is an intrinsic part of the JAO recipe, so it does have its place, but honey itself causes acidity (low pH) so you want to be careful not to compound that.

Yea as I read further and further into the process apparently the acidity of lemons helps stop the fermentation process. However, I went by the recipe and it was very clear on adding lemon juice (or juicing 1 lemon) into the must prior to the yeast. As for adding additional flavors to your mead, should this be done during the primary fermentation period or after you rack it? I've read that other fruits can be added to give it a different flavor, thus calling it something other than mead but I'm not sure when this is included during the process.



You mentioned adding the honey to just boiling water, did you add the yeast at that time too? If you did and it's not doing anything after a day or two, you may need to pitch another packet if it was too hot at your original pitch.

And welcome to the forum! The more mistakes you make, the more you learn, or at least, that's what my Sensei says ;D

Na, I knew enough to wait for the must to be around room temp. before pitching the yeast. I did, however, chill the must in my sink with ice and cold water to expedite the process of bringing the temp. down, hope that was ok?

Another question I have is it generally rule of thumb for 1 packet of yeast per Gallon or does it matter? As I get ready to attempt a 5 gal. brew, I only have 4 yeast packets (that Lalvin EC-1118 stuff) and need to figure out if that's enough for one 5 gal. brew and a 1 gal. brew or should I buy more?

BTW, went out and bought a Hydrometer so that should help figuring out when my current brew's fermentation is finished and all my future brewing needs. Is it imperative to know the SG for your mead to get an idea for the ABV content?

And thanks for the warm welcome!

fatbloke
10-02-2011, 10:53 AM
-----&<-----
Another question I have is it generally rule of thumb for 1 packet of yeast per Gallon or does it matter? As I get ready to attempt a 5 gal. brew, I only have 4 yeast packets (that Lalvin EC-1118 stuff) and need to figure out if that's enough for one 5 gal. brew and a 1 gal. brew or should I buy more?

BTW, went out and bought a Hydrometer so that should help figuring out when my current brew's fermentation is finished and all my future brewing needs. Is it imperative to know the SG for your mead to get an idea for the ABV content?

And thanks for the warm welcome!
The small packs of yeast supplied by the home brew shops, are for batches up to 5 gallons i.e. people tend to use a whole pack whether it's 1 gallon or 5 gallons (or anything in between). One thing I will suggest though, is to investigate other yeasts. Because I try and stay away from EC-1118 and other champagne yeasts as they do seem to blow a lot of the aromatics and seemingly some of the more subtle flavouring elements straight out the airlock i.e. they do what they do for champagne, which doesn't mean that it's good for meads necessarily (giving you a bland, wine like brew with less aromatics etc). Personally if you prefer to stick to the easily available "usual suspects", then I'd suggest that you give K1V-1116 a try. It's excellent for meads etc, and is my second favourite (first is D21 but that's a little harder to find).

As for knowing the gravity readings for a batch ? Well yes, if you know the starting gravity and the final gravity, you can indeed work out the % ABV with a reasonable degree of accuracy. You can always use the mead calculator as well, but that needs to presume a reasonable amount of other points, like that they honey you have would have the same percentage sugars and water etc, as the tested batch by the mead calculator writer, like-wise, with fruit and other ingredients, hence it's a reasonably good "guesstimate", but still a guess. Your gravity readings will give a more accurate picture.

Not only will the hydrometer do that, but it also allows you to know many other things that are good to know, like how the ferment is progressing. From the starting gravity, you then can work out whether there's likely to be any residual sugars, whether the ferment is stuck or whether it's finished, etc etc. It's pretty much the most important piece of kit outside the fermenter(s) and ingredients.

Chevette Girl
10-02-2011, 02:53 PM
Yea as I read further and further into the process apparently the acidity of lemons helps stop the fermentation process. However, I went by the recipe and it was very clear on adding lemon juice (or juicing 1 lemon) into the must prior to the yeast. As for adding additional flavors to your mead, should this be done during the primary fermentation period or after you rack it? I've read that other fruits can be added to give it a different flavor, thus calling it something other than mead but I'm not sure when this is included during the process.

The "old" theory was that you wanted any non-grape wine to mimic a grape wine in sugar content, pH, tannin, etc. And I've done plenty of recipes with lemons up front and most of them worked out just fine because I don't mind if it stalled out a little early as I prefer sweeter :)

But we've discovered that honey doesn't behave quite the same way as fruit or granulated sugar. For more info, do a forum search on the term "gluconolactone" with poster "Dan McFeely".

With respect to adding fruits/flavours in primary versus secondary, well, that's an ongoing debate, some do mostly primary fruit additions (I'm in that camp as most of my experience is wine rather than mead), some do mostly secondary additions because the vigorous fermentation sometimes blows off some of the more delicate qualities, and some do both just to cover all bases.




Na, I knew enough to wait for the must to be around room temp. before pitching the yeast. I did, however, chill the must in my sink with ice and cold water to expedite the process of bringing the temp. down, hope that was ok?


:) We never know from a new poster's post exactly how "newbie" they are, so we will occasionally point out the blindingly obvious because to some people it really isn't.

Chilling the must in ice is just fine, I've done it a time or two and I think some folks here might do that with their beer worts as well.



Another question I have is it generally rule of thumb for 1 packet of yeast per Gallon or does it matter? As I get ready to attempt a 5 gal. brew, I only have 4 yeast packets (that Lalvin EC-1118 stuff) and need to figure out if that's enough for one 5 gal. brew and a 1 gal. brew or should I buy more?

BTW, went out and bought a Hydrometer so that should help figuring out when my current brew's fermentation is finished and all my future brewing needs. Is it imperative to know the SG for your mead to get an idea for the ABV content?


As Fatbloke said, 1 packet will do for a 5-gal batch and most of us toss in a whole packet for a 1-gal batch. But I make so many 1-gal batches that I often use half a packet, then fold the cut end over a few times and refrigerate the unused half... And EC-1118 does have its uses, don't be afraid to use it but don't be afraid to try other yeasts either. You can still make a decent-tasting mead even if some of the more delicate aromas are gone, and that one and K1-V1116 are both pretty sturdy yeasties and will generally do the job without much complaint whether you cosset them or not.

As for the ABV, yeah, you do need an initial SG reading, but you can get an approximate idea using the mead calculator tool if you knew measured what you put in.

kerbythepurplecow
10-05-2011, 04:01 AM
If your mead ends up too dry in the end you can always back-sweeten. In fact, many of the wine primers I've read suggest that as the preferred method. Once fermentation has stopped and you're about ready to bottle, you simply add more honey to sweeten it up. If you haven't added potassium sorbate, fermentation may start up again. So, that's something to watch for before actually bottling.

AToE
10-05-2011, 01:19 PM
To clarify that, you need to add both sulphite and sorbate, it's a one-two punch thing that makes it much more likely to work.

Of course there's my solution for when things go too dry... leave em. No such thing as too dry once there's some age in there I say! ;)

Diffan
10-06-2011, 12:47 PM
The "old" theory was that you wanted any non-grape wine to mimic a grape wine in sugar content, pH, tannin, etc. And I've done plenty of recipes with lemons up front and most of them worked out just fine because I don't mind if it stalled out a little early as I prefer sweeter :)

But we've discovered that honey doesn't behave quite the same way as fruit or granulated sugar. For more info, do a forum search on the term "gluconolactone" with poster "Dan McFeely".

Hmmm.. thanks for the info. I'm thinking that it'll be ok since it's just the lemon juice. Time will only tell. :)



With respect to adding fruits/flavours in primary versus secondary, well, that's an ongoing debate, some do mostly primary fruit additions (I'm in that camp as most of my experience is wine rather than mead), some do mostly secondary additions because the vigorous fermentation sometimes blows off some of the more delicate qualities, and some do both just to cover all bases.

Well I just started a batch of the JAO recipe and it calls for 1 whole orange (cut up) and so we'll see how that works. I still used the EC-1118 yeast but I figured that's just as good or better than grandma's breat yeast. I think as I get more familiar with the process I'll start tweaking the recipes to include diverse and flavorful fruit (like cherries...mmmmmm).


:) We never know from a new poster's post exactly how "newbie" they are, so we will occasionally point out the blindingly obvious because to some people it really isn't.

Chilling the must in ice is just fine, I've done it a time or two and I think some folks here might do that with their beer worts as well.

Excellent news. Yea I tried making mead one other time a few years ago and it just turned out bad. Clear as a crystal with a beautiful gold color but tasted like olive oil. of course, I didn't take any heed of sanitation or racking and let it sit in the primary for like 4 months.


As Fatbloke said, 1 packet will do for a 5-gal batch and most of us toss in a whole packet for a 1-gal batch. But I make so many 1-gal batches that I often use half a packet, then fold the cut end over a few times and refrigerate the unused half... And EC-1118 does have its uses, don't be afraid to use it but don't be afraid to try other yeasts either. You can still make a decent-tasting mead even if some of the more delicate aromas are gone, and that one and K1-V1116 are both pretty sturdy yeasties and will generally do the job without much complaint whether you cosset them or not.

As for the ABV, yeah, you do need an initial SG reading, but you can get an approximate idea using the mead calculator tool if you knew measured what you put in.

I like the idea of only using half. Yeast isn't really expensive but conserving some for more batches is a good idea. Next time I go to the brewing supply Co. I'll be sure to see what selection of yeasts they have. As for the SG readings, well my newest batch was SOOO dark I couldn't read the Hydrometer. When I put a sample into the tube, the hydrometer floated really high, almost above the Dessert Wine line. Not really sure if that's good or bad. ???


If your mead ends up too dry in the end you can always back-sweeten. In fact, many of the wine primers I've read suggest that as the preferred method. Once fermentation has stopped and you're about ready to bottle, you simply add more honey to sweeten it up. If you haven't added potassium sorbate, fermentation may start up again. So, that's something to watch for before actually bottling.

I think I may do just that. I'm suprised that after 12 days the Air Lock is still bubbling rapidly so I figured I'm going to have to wait even longer (recipe said 18 days) but I figrued that's ok. But if I were to back-sweeten, doesn't that create Sparkinling Mead? Not that I mind carbination, just I wasn't shooting for a carbonated beverage.



As for my JAO mead, well I made it up last night and "shook the hells out of it" like the recipe says but one ingrident, cinimmon stick, i used powdered cinimmon which may or may not have been a good idea. Then, my second mistake was not waiting for all the foam to dissipate so when I pitched my yeast....well I got something called blow-off all throughout my Air-Lock. I hope this isn't a bad or uncommon problem and won't effect my mead much. I cleaned it all out and put it back on. Is my brew in trouble?

Soyala_Amaya
10-07-2011, 12:31 PM
[/COLOR]


Well I just started a batch of the JAO recipe and it calls for 1 whole orange (cut up) and so we'll see how that works. I still used the EC-1118 yeast but I figured that's just as good or better than grandma's breat yeast.

As for my JAO mead, well I made it up last night and "shook the hells out of it" like the recipe says but one ingrident, cinimmon stick, i used powdered cinimmon which may or may not have been a good idea. Then, my second mistake was not waiting for all the foam to dissipate so when I pitched my yeast....well I got something called blow-off all throughout my Air-Lock. I hope this isn't a bad or uncommon problem and won't effect my mead much. I cleaned it all out and put it back on. Is my brew in trouble?[/COLOR]


To answer the question, yes, but not for the reason you think it is. See the sentence up there that says "as good or better than grandma's bread yeast"? Yeah, you voided the warranty hard core. Changing the yeast is pretty much the single most dramatic change you can make to any recipe, ESPECIALLY JAO. This has a MUCH high alcohol tolerance and will make your JAO very dry. JAO is not meant to be dry, the sweetness is supposed to counteract the pith and spice. Also, I wouldn't let it sit on the EC1118 like you're supposed to on the bread yeast, once again, like your other batch, it will get nasty yeast characters.


As for the other questions, JAO is supposed to have a very high SG, for the reasons I mentioned. It's supposed to end sweet, not dry. And backsweetening won't carbonate your mead unless you do it just right, bottle it at the right time, and use the right bottles. Mess up those three criteria and you just make bottle bombs (if you bottle it too early), or a cloudy mead. Age it in the carboy till it's completely clear after backsweetening and it should be fine.

Diffan
10-07-2011, 01:01 PM
To answer the question, yes, but not for the reason you think it is. See the sentence up there that says "as good or better than grandma's bread yeast"? Yeah, you voided the warranty hard core. Changing the yeast is pretty much the single most dramatic change you can make to any recipe, ESPECIALLY JAO. This has a MUCH high alcohol tolerance and will make your JAO very dry. JAO is not meant to be dry, the sweetness is supposed to counteract the pith and spice. Also, I wouldn't let it sit on the EC1118 like you're supposed to on the bread yeast, once again, like your other batch, it will get nasty yeast characters.

Well............crap, lol. Hey, I learned something today so that's good! Hmm...the recipe calls for waiting 2 months for it before bottling so I figured 1 month might be ok? And I'll probably have to back-sweeten this to make it taste ok. Good thing I only did a 1 gal. batch. Thanks for the tips and info.



As for the other questions, JAO is supposed to have a very high SG, for the reasons I mentioned. It's supposed to end sweet, not dry. And backsweetening won't carbonate your mead unless you do it just right, bottle it at the right time, and use the right bottles. Mess up those three criteria and you just make bottle bombs (if you bottle it too early), or a cloudy mead. Age it in the carboy till it's completely clear after backsweetening and it should be fine.

Thanks and noted. I was gonna do a 5 gal. braggot because my friend does a lot of beer making and he has some extra stuff he might give me (Malt Extract for one) but based on these two batches, I might hold off. We'll see.

Medsen Fey
10-07-2011, 07:46 PM
Because you used EC-1118 yeast in the recipe, when it finishes sweet (or before you sweeten it up) you are most definitely going to want to use the combination of potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulphite to stabilize the mead. Otherwise you risk making bottle bombs.