PDA

View Full Version : Some Basic Questions:



MightyJesse
10-05-2011, 01:21 PM
Hi. I haven't yet started brewing of any kind, but looking over the tools required to start up this hobby, I appear to have many in advance. My current hobbies seem to have quite a lot of overlap to this one (cheese making and charcuterie) so I could get started here with very little initial investment. But those are not exactly my questions.

My reasons for exploring brewing are a bit odd, in that I really don't drink much. I don't drink much because I am in possession of a bizarre and as of yet unidentified set of allergies (and also a toddler, who requires me to stay pretty sharp) that cause some pretty annoying and scary reactions to certain types of alcoholic beverages. I believe some of it is a sulfite allergy, but I even react to things that were supposedly brewed "sulfite free." (I CAN eat small amounts of dried fruit without a problem, so I'm not 100% sure it's sulfite sensitivity that's the problem. On the other hand, I've never had the urge to eat more than 1-2 pieces of dried fruit, but I have had the urge to drink more than a sip of wine...) At any rate, I plan to explore the brewing of wines and meads to gain some insight into what could be causing my allergic reactions, and also so that I can have an isolated and controlled supply of things I know I can drink safely.

To that end, I'm not really looking to brew in any kind of bulk. I'm thinking about starting with 1-2 gallon batch sizes. It really only takes a sip or so of anything for me to figure out whether or not I'm allergic, and since the purpose of this exercise is to experiment with my own allergies, I'd hate to have 5 gallons of something I couldn't drink. Similarly, once I've identified something that I CAN safely drink, I'll be able to check that off the potential "causal" list and move on to the next "human experiment." My question is whether or not there is any significant quality or flavor difference (or caveats) between my planned small batches and say, the standard 5 gallon batch? (My other reason for using small batch sizes is that I am a relatively puny human and the thought of lifting even a 3 gallon carboy is a bit daunting, though I could manage it if there was a significant advantage in this strategy.)

My "plan," as it were, is to start out with some "show" mead (basic ingredient list to establish a baseline flavor/allergy profile without extraneous items to confuse the issue.) and move on to some sparkling meads (I ADORE champagne, but have violent allergic reactions to most brands.) and then gradually start working my way into potentially problematic additives. (I know grapes contain natural sulfites, which is why wine is a general no-no for me.) My current taste in alcoholic beverages runs toward the dry-smokey end. Whiskeys and scotches have never caused me allergy problems, so they are generally what I stick with in a social drinking setting. If anyone can suggest recipes that they think would appeal to me and my set of tastes, that would be FANTASTIC. Caveats and concerns are likewise appreciated. (Also, anyone with similar allergies with suggested culprits, PLEASE share.) (In general, I'm not terribly intimidated by things like sanitation and correct measuring/calculation as I've already mastered most of those skills through my other hobbies. Which also require OCD levels of cleanliness and attention to detail.)

Thanks everyone!

wayneb
10-05-2011, 02:29 PM
Hey, MightyJesse, WELCOME TO "Gotmead!"

Let me start off by saying that your plan, to work up from a straight mead (just honey, yeast, and water) in order to try to isolate the source of your allergic reactions, seems like a sound one to me. But let me suggest that you work on a straight traditional mead, rather than a show mead, since the fermentation process can be pretty challenging to manage in a mead that has had no nutrient additions. BTW - Yeast nutrients are generally comprised of ammonium nitrogen and dead yeast parts, all things that will be completely assimilated by the active yeast in your fermenter, so adding a little nutrient shouldn't introduce anything to the mead over and above what would already be there from the natural death and autolysis of yeast cells. And traditionals with nutrient additions are much easier to manage, and much more likely to go to completion, than a pure show recipe would be.

If you haven't already read the Newbee Guide (a link is over on the left side of this page), I encourage you to do that, and get out there and make your first gallon of mead! ;D If you'd like, you can post a brewlog/meadlog chronicalling your adventures, and that way if you run into a snag we can jump in and offer additional advice.

Good Luck, and Enjoy your new addict... err, ahh, hobby! ;D

MightyJesse
10-05-2011, 03:12 PM
Thanks for your response! Since I'll be starting out with a traditional mead (per your recommendation) I was thinking of doing something with buckwheat honey. Given my love of smokier, more dry flavors, (I am also fond of carmel and vanilla notes, but again - not too sweet.) this seemed like a logical choice. Because I won't have other additives here to really alter the flavor, the honey selection seems rather important. Do you have other recommendations for honey types I should try? I was thinking about initially trying out something heavier in flavor and something lighter. (Because if I ever figure out how to properly create a "sparkling" mead, I doubt the heavy, smoky flavor will really be suitable.)

PS - I read the NewBee guide twice in my consideration process of taking up a new hobby, but I suspect that some of the details will take a bit to sink in... ;-)

Chevette Girl
10-05-2011, 03:55 PM
Welcome to the forum!

Woo-hoo, a challenge! (some of around here are always up for new and interesting experiments ;D)

I'll leave the advice on honey varieties to others as I don't have a lot of experience outside of clover and goldenrod, but allergies and sensitivities, those I'm familiar with... I've tried to maintain some sulphite-free brewing because I have friends who get migraines and one actually has a full-on histamine allergic reaction from sulphites, but what I have been told is that certain yeasts like Lalvin EC-1118 also produce sulphites, and that is listed as a "champagne" yeast, so you may want to do some research in that vein before choosing a yeast to start with and if it IS sulphites, that might explain why you have problems with champagne... I also know a few people who react to the tannins from red grapes, some of them even have problems with oak-derived tannins but if you can drink barrel-aged hard spirits you should be fine on that front.

You'll also want to make sure you know what's in your sanitizers. I use potassium metabisulphite solution and I know I can drink it (I've knocked back a slug or two at sanitizer strength over the years while siphoning) but I sure as heck don't want to breathe anywhere near it, seems it's a major irritant to my lungs and hits almost as soon as I can smell it, I've learned how to sniff for it without drawing the air into my lungs.

If you want a cheap and easy way to find out if you ARE sensitive to sulphites, a small packet of campden tablets (sodium metabisulphite) can be obtained at wine supply stores for a buck or two, pop a tablet in a gallon jug of water, let it dissolve, then try some see if it causes you problems. But keep your epi-pen/benadryl/usual reaction remedy handy just in case. By dilutions you might be able to find your sensitivity threshhold. I trust that you will use all caution when messing with your allergies/sensitivities, presumably you know how to experiment as safely as possible. I am allergic to hazelnuts but "may contain traces of" doesn't ever bother me and the odd bite of "Oh crap, did that filling contain ground hazelnuts?" usually doesn't cause a reaction (of the four or five times it's happened, I only reacted once, and mildly), but a significant amount of the stuff still will, all my non-food allergies seem to be like that too.

Once you've got a few gallons under your belt, making something sparkling isn't too difficult, especially if you like drier wine-like beverages. It's just an extra step before bottling, and you have to make sure you bottle in bottles that are meant for it, regular wine bottles are not safe for anything carbonated.

I've not found much difference in the taste if I do a 1-gal batch or a 5-gal batch, I do a lot of 1-gal experiments and batches with limited ingredient supplies, but given the choice I prefer the 3-gallon size because it gives you enough bottles that you have something to show for it at the end but I can move it without calling in my husband :p

Oh, I'd also suggest you aim low for your first time, don't go for too much alcohol content. It'll be more likely to finish faster and be drinkable sooner if you aim for 9% than if you try for 16%.

Good luck, and I hope you find something you can drink! If not, I'm sure your friends will appreciate your efforts, I think we've got a few people on here who brew but don't drink.

MightyJesse
10-05-2011, 04:19 PM
Thanks for the suggestions on alcohol content and aging. Do you know if there's a listing anywhere of the yeasts that produce sulfites in larger quantities? That may be it right there, and the answer to all of my problems drinking the home brews of my friends may be to ask "what yeast did you use?"

I usually test new drinks in the presence of a "baby sitter," and then my "test" is usually to just mouth but not swallow the product, followed by 20 minutes of waiting around to see if I start itching and wheezing. Sadly, in my experience with my friends' lovely home brews, this usually means that by the time I discover whether or not the product is drinkable for me, the REST of the bottle has been consumed by OTHER friends. >_<

It's also good to know that my initial gallon sized tests should be OK. I may eventually move up to 3 gallon carboys if I ever determine that I can make a "sparkling" mead, but the smaller size will be much less disappointing to bin if I find I've either failed at my craft or at my allergy test.

I'm lead to believe that I can bottle sparkling mead into beer bottles, and they should be able to withstand at least 2-3 atmospheres of carbonation pressure, is that correct? A beer bottle would be about the perfect serving size for home drinking... Is it possible to bulk age something like that in 2 liter soda bottles or something? Would a carboy hold up to that kind of pressure? The questions... They are beginning to flow...

kudapucat
10-05-2011, 04:59 PM
Thanks for the suggestions on alcohol content and aging. Do you know if there's a listing anywhere of the yeasts that produce sulfites in larger quantities? That may be it right there, and the answer to all of my problems drinking the home brews of my friends may be to ask "what yeast did you use?"

I usually test new drinks in the presence of a "baby sitter," and then my "test" is usually to just mouth but not swallow the product, followed by 20 minutes of waiting around to see if I start itching and wheezing. Sadly, in my experience with my friends' lovely home brews, this usually means that by the time I discover whether or not the product is drinkable for me, the REST of the bottle has been consumed by OTHER friends. >_<

It's also good to know that my initial gallon sized tests should be OK. I may eventually move up to 3 gallon carboys if I ever determine that I can make a "sparkling" mead, but the smaller size will be much less disappointing to bin if I find I've either failed at my craft or at my allergy test.

many of us make 1 gal batches.
If you can eat bread, try a JAO, its terribly sweet, but ready so fast it'll be worth the test, also, no chemicals and you'll find friends who love it.


I'm lead to believe that I can bottle sparkling mead into beer bottles, and they should be able to withstand at least 2-3 atmospheres of carbonation pressure, is that correct?

yes. Champagne bottles will withstand more, so it will depend on your desired level of sparkle

A beer bottle would be about the perfect serving size for home drinking...

I use a range of beer bottles for this from 1/4 pint up to 1 1/2 quart depending on the company I have.


Is it possible to bulk age something like that in 2 liter soda bottles or something?

yeah, soda bottles are stronger than champagne, and less destructive if they do rupture.


Would a carboy hold up to that kind of pressure?

no. Absolutely not. They will not hold ANY pressure.


The questions... They are beginning to flow...
This is normal. Welcome to gotmead.

Medsen Fey
10-06-2011, 06:00 PM
If you can eat dried fruit that is sulfited, it probably isn't an allergy to sulfite as the dried fruits usually contain an order of magnitude more sulfite than wine does. There are a lot of things that go in wine that come from oak and from malolactic fermentation (the bacteria) such as biogenic amines that can cause allergies, headache, flushing and redness, and a variety of other symptoms. Folks with a true sulfite allergy usually have asthmatic symptoms, and it would be unwise to try to precipitate them with testing as you'd run the possibility of creating an attack that might require a call for an ambulance. If you want to try some wine, try one that has not been put through malolactic fermentation, and which has not been oaked. If you tolerate such a wine, you'll know more about what is linked to your symptoms.

Making a traditional mead, that uses nutrients is probably a good idea. However, all fermentations produce SO2, and folks who are really allergic probably can't tolerate any of them, or dried fruit either. But if you do want to ferment with a lower lever of SO2 production from the yeast, I think you'll find 71B is a strain that tends to produce less SO2. Other strains that promote malolactic fermentation, such as, Lalvin BM4X4 or Enoferm CSM are probably also relatively low SO2 producers. You can check out the Lallemand yeast summary (http://www.lallemandwine.us/products/yeast_strains.php#AMH)

In that summary you will find two strains specifically identified as being low SO2 producers, Lalvin Rhône L2056 and Vitilevure M83. These are not commonly available for home brewers, so you'll probably have to order a package that is about 1 Kg, but don't fret because if you store them properly, they can last for several years.

MightyJesse
10-06-2011, 06:15 PM
My symptoms are generally flushing and itching, followed by strong asthmatic symptoms, wheezing and inflamation. Over the last decade, they do not seem to have gotten worse due to repeated exposure, but my version of the scratch test (rinse and spit with whatever I'm testing) seems to alert me to a problem before I get to wheezing phase. As a lover of tea and barreled whiskey and scotch, I don't believe my problem is tannins, however both purple carrots and red wines have the interesting side effect of making my mouth numb. The carrots, I can eat without further difficulties, the red wine, i can not. Anthocyanins shouldn't cause allergic reactions anyway, but I'm not sure what else purple carrots and red wine have in common.... The wheezing problem also seems to crop up with certain beers. I don't like the taste of beer anyway, so its not tragic, but is there an ingredient link?

AToE
10-06-2011, 07:40 PM
I'm no expert but it does sound like there's a high likelihood that you are in fact one of the exceedingly rare people with a real sulphite allergy. :(

(We get a LOT, and I mean a LOT of people that think they or someone they know has a sulphite allergy come through this website, and they all pretty much just have classic wine headaches!)

Have you tried the dried sulphited fruit? Raisins might be a good test (assuming you want to risk a reaction just to make extra certain that it is the sulphite?). OR you could mix up a sulphite solution (very VERY dilute, because the vast majority of sulphite added to wine is gone within a day or two of adding it, we could help with the amounts) and do your spit test with that - if you have a reaction to just water and sulphite then it'd be 100% cute and dry confirmed. (Don't go near that idea without being extremely careful about amounts though!).

Medsen Fey
10-06-2011, 07:59 PM
It is not a good idea to provoke allergic reactions. They don't follow a typical or predictable dose-response pattern; more of an "all or none". When you hit the threshold, and the threshold is usually quite low, it triggers a cascade that is independent of the dose of the trigger.

AToE
10-06-2011, 08:01 PM
Alright then, good thing I put a disclaimer in there saying not to try it without further discussion or some such! :rolleyes:

Sometimes I get curious and get carried away... :p

MightyJesse
10-06-2011, 08:33 PM
It seems like it has to be more complicated than that, since I can drink SOME champagnes (Dom, of all the ridiculous things.), but not all. I can eat me some raisins and crasins, but Foster's (my first ever beer) had me wheezing in a scary way before I even finished a half of one.

I'm ok with some schnapps, but Frangelico put me down.

Honestly... This crazy "mystery allergy" has been driving me insane since before I could drink. I'm seriously considering driving myself to the Emergency room and spit testing some campten water in the lobby with an epi pen in my pocket, just to get my fast, cut and dried answer.

I would also like to note, as an aside, that sulfite sensitivity (not allergy) is caused by a shortage of the enzyme that is used to process sulfites that naturally occur in the environment. Thus, if I don't ingest much, I shouldn't swell up and die, as I might with an allergy. This would also explain my problem never got worse. And why I might have a tolerance to certain amounts but not larger amounts....

MightyJesse
10-06-2011, 11:40 PM
Also worth noting for the nerds helping me troubleshoot, I am half Japanese and probably heterozygous for the ALDH2[2] gene that causes "alcohol intolerance" and "Asian Redface." I get red face no matter what I drink, and my blood pressure drops through the floor, but I'm pretty used to that. It's the wheezing I can't handle, since it happens with relatively small amounts of the offending beverage. Whereas, I can drink scotch all day long, and only get redder and colder and drunker. (It's amusing to me that once the red hits my knees, having started at my face, I know it's time to stop drinking, or I won't be able to walk soon...)

I read somewhere (and of course, now I can't find the reference) that alcohol intolerance is frequently linked with hightened sensitivity to other allergens. I am then wondering if that might have an effect on my sensitivity to something like sulfites... or some other mysterious wine/beer ingredient that I might not normally have a problem ingesting. As far as I know, I don't have any food allergies... Just some pollen, cats, and sulfa drugs (which are not the same as sulfites). I doubt anyone is brewing cat mead, so I won't worry about that at this time...

ETA: When I use the word "nerd," it is a compliment... I'm hoping to be considered one someday... (After all, I did use heterozygous correctly in a sentence.)

AToE
10-07-2011, 12:11 AM
Have you just went to the doctor and explained the issue and had them do allergy tests? They can't always nail it down, but they might.

MightyJesse
10-07-2011, 12:22 AM
It's nigh on impossible to get a referral for the "I can't drink beer and wine," allergy/problem/neurosis/whatever once you fail their "but can you eat dried fruit?" question. They just tell you to avoid beer and wine. >:(

AToE
10-07-2011, 01:49 AM
Weird, they won't even perform common allergen tests?

I dunno, move to Canada and get the tests?! ;)

MightyJesse
10-07-2011, 08:27 AM
I can get the testing done, but I'd have to pay an insane amount of money out of pocket, because the doctor doesn't consider the cause to be interferring with my "quality of life." It's not like I have to avoid all grains or even all booze. Just some beer and wine. Thus it's a nitpicky thing, and until I can give them enough specifics to really nail it down, it'll just be throwing money down the drain for me to get testing done... Unless I can go in there and drink a few sips of Foster's (do they still make that stuff?) and then have them check my blood to see what hystamines are running around in there... Only it's my understanding that the normal procedure is to "guess" based on your complaint, rather than specifically identifying what kind of antibodies or whatever you've got going on during the complaint.

Also, AToE, I don't want you to feel *too* bad about suggesting the sulfite sip test.... You're scientifically correct in your procedure... Just not the perfect procedure for preventing sudden death or a law suit - however, I looked up the test for sulfite sensitivity, and guess what they do? They do a threshhold test over about 2.5 hours, wherein they make you sip larger and larger quantities of sulfite (incrementally every 15-30 minutes) to see how much it takes to make you react. Then when you do lock up and start wheezing, they give you a bronchio-dialator and a piece of paper telling you what your problem is. ;-) So. Your smart is working. Just not your inner lawyer...

AToE
10-07-2011, 01:37 PM
Ha! Yeah I guess it's the reckless side of me coming out, at least the science brain is still working. ;)

And as far as I know we do the same thing here with allergy tests, they often just pick a whole pile of possible allergens, inject them all under the skin and watch to see what puffs up... cheaper than deep analysis of hystamines I guess!

Medsen Fey
10-07-2011, 03:02 PM
I doubt anyone is brewing cat mead, so I won't worry about that at this time...

Don't be so sure. ;D
Brewlog - Cat-Flavored Lucuma Mead (http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php?t=15279) (in the Patron's area)



..the word "nerd," it is a compliment... I'm hoping to be considered one someday... (... I did use heterozygous correctly in a sentence.)

I think someday is here. Welcome to the club. ;)

By the way, do you notice sensitivity to cheeses, yogurt, kefir or other foods fermented with bacteria?

MightyJesse
10-07-2011, 03:10 PM
No dairy issues what-so-ever, since the related hobby that brought me here is cheesing. I have four lovely camembert aging in my converted wine cooler. My toddler and I eat yogurt like fiends, and I have long-aging scotch soaked cheddars skulking in my closets...

It's constantly reading up on wine cooler conversions for cheese caves and wondering about wine pairings for my little "cheese pets" that got me to wondering about mead pairings, and wether or not I could plan enough in advance to put together some pairings of my own design.

:)

Boogaloo
10-07-2011, 03:45 PM
Jesse, you mentioned you also enjoy cheese making and charcuterie. I know this is off topic but could you reply or PM me with a good link for these hobbies? I would love to get into them as well.

Making Mead for me is just another way to become self-sufficient. The more I can rely on myself and rely less on others, the better I become. I think cheese and preserved meat is an appropriate addition to my knowledge base.

Oh Mead, how do I love thee?? Let me count the ways! 1 gallon jug ♪ 2 gallon jug ♫ 3 gallon jug ♫ ..... Muah hah hah.

MightyJesse
10-10-2011, 10:23 AM
Interesting... I was talking to my mother last night, while drinking a lovely sweet mead (sweeter than I'd have liked, but it wasn't making me swell up and die, so that was nice) that was bottled by a mysterious brewer in 2004, gifted to my husband in 2005, and forgotten about because he doesn't drink mead... We started dating in 2006, and by 2009 when we got married, I was comfortable enough with his habits to start going through his "stuff" and quaffing it as I was able. Thus... lovely aged mead in 2011. Anyhoot.

I was talking to my mother, we were going over allergies to wine and mead (she has the same set of problems I've got and noticed pictures of my JOA on facebook) and she mentioned that she can eat organic dried apricots that have gone black from oxidation, but she cannot eat normal dried apricots without wheezing and all the other bad stuff I get from bad wine experiences. I do not like apricots or peaches, so I'd never noticed this. I think this is due to sulfite content in the dried apricots... Yes? If this is the case, it's a simple matter of running tests on my finished products to make sure they come out below my sulfite threshold, and voila! Drinkable (for me) booze!

wayneb
10-10-2011, 01:08 PM
I think this is due to sulfite content in the dried apricots... Yes? If this is the case, it's a simple matter of running tests on my finished products to make sure they come out below my sulfite threshold, and voila! Drinkable (for me) booze!

Yes. The principal ingredient in most commercially dried fruits (aside from the fruit) is metabisulphite, which tends to discourage oxidation as well as provides a bit of antimicrobial activity.