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Twelve
01-02-2012, 10:49 PM
Hello all...I just started making mead (and wine) and apologize for the long preamble!

5 days ago I made my first mead (honey/orange/raisin/clove/tea) in a water jug with a balloon using Lavlin EC-1118. ( Recipe found online and used by a person who makes mead and shared it this past Christmas- yummy!)
Afterwards I made a similar setup with (honey/Saskatoon berry/raisins/tea) but used Fleishmann's yeast. The next day I made a split batch in two jugs of a sugar based drink that will be alcoholic but I won't describe it as it is odd.

Yeast notes: I didn't realize that Fleishmann's 3-in-1 yeasts are packaged strangely: a regular yeast in the middle flanked by 2 "instant rise" yeasts. Consequence: 2 brews were made with instant yeast which explained the explosive fermentation that followed and (I assume) the excessive CO2 being produced...at least that's what I believe.

Anyways, I'm wondering what is considered "normal" airlock activity in a newly brewed mead that is fermenting strongly with about 1/2 to 1 inch head space.

# 1 is behaving typical to what I've seen in pictures of people who are doing the same recipe...pretty clear water in airlock, bubbles escaping in the expected way- I had replaced the balloon with a proper airlock but it was behaving well even with the balloon and #2 (instant yeast) had the problem of fruit shooting up into the balloon but I've got it to calm down a bit and it also has a new plastic airlock.

#3 with regular yeast is behaving pretty well but #4 (quick rise) is emitting so many bubbles (C02?) that the liquid seeps out the top of the airlock- all of them are sitting on plates on account of this (slight messiness).

I'm wondering if this all seems "normal" (healthy) I also feel that I'm loosing a lot of liquid...since I brought the meads upstairs where it's a bit warmer all of them leak out a bit...any feedback would be appreciated.

Echostatic
01-03-2012, 12:08 AM
I would leave more headspace next time so you don't lose liquid. And, you shouldn't look to airlock activity as an indication of anything, it isn't reliable. If you don't have a hydrometer, get one ASAP, they make for a much better indicator :)

Twelve
01-03-2012, 12:49 AM
I would leave more headspace next time so you don't lose liquid. And, you shouldn't look to airlock activity as an indication of anything, it isn't reliable. If you don't have a hydrometer, get one ASAP, they make for a much better indicator :)

Thank you for replying Echostatic.

Will remember that on the head space...for future reference, if I leave 2 inches of space can it be topped up later with water or honey?
I assume activity in the airlock (which I couldn't see with the balloon) indicates active fermentation...or is there more going on?
I actually got a hydrometer two days later but it's kind of late in the game to use it considering how messy things could get...I am using it for the wine I'm making however.
I'm reading in your reply that my mead situation isn't abnormal sounding (?)

Loadnabox
01-03-2012, 12:57 AM
Thank you for replying Echostatic.

Will remember that on the head space...for future reference, if I leave 2 inches of space can it be topped up later with water or honey?
I assume activity in the airlock (which I couldn't see with the balloon) indicates active fermentation...or is there more going on?
I actually got a hydrometer two days later but it's kind of late in the game to use it considering how messy things could get...I am using it for the wine I'm making however.
I'm reading in your reply that my mead situation isn't abnormal sounding (?)


A hydrometer shouldn't be too messy. Use a turkey baster to suck some out of your carboy. Use the plastic tube that the hydrometer came in to hold the must and read the hydrometer in the tube. You should be able to do this without spilling a drop if you're careful :)

As for your situation it doesn't sound abnormal to me at all. Airlock activity is a sign of active fermentation, but can also be caused by temperature changes. A lack of airlock activity could indicate a problem but is not a for sure sign of an issue (check for another post in just the last couple of weeks where a newbee had zero activity thanks to his bucket lid not sealing well)

Airlock activity (or lack of) just has so many alternate explanations that we really stress on these boards to get hydrometer readings instead. Even if you don't know the starting point, changes from your first reading in the middle of the ferment still give a much better picture of what's going on.

An lots of head/foam/bubbles is often a sign of extreme activity. In the case of the rapid rise yeast it makes sense that it is more active, however it is likely that it will have a lower alcohol tolerance and likely stall out before the completion point (intended ABV) resulting in a much sweeter wine than desired.

Twelve
01-03-2012, 02:08 AM
A hydrometer shouldn't be too messy. Use a turkey baster to suck some out of your carboy. Use the plastic tube that the hydrometer came in to hold the must and read the hydrometer in the tube. You should be able to do this without spilling a drop if you're careful :)

As for your situation it doesn't sound abnormal to me at all. Airlock activity is a sign of active fermentation, but can also be caused by temperature changes. A lack of airlock activity could indicate a problem but is not a for sure sign of an issue (check for another post in just the last couple of weeks where a newbee had zero activity thanks to his bucket lid not sealing well)

Airlock activity (or lack of) just has so many alternate explanations that we really stress on these boards to get hydrometer readings instead. Even if you don't know the starting point, changes from your first reading in the middle of the ferment still give a much better picture of what's going on.

An lots of head/foam/bubbles is often a sign of extreme activity. In the case of the rapid rise yeast it makes sense that it is more active, however it is likely that it will have a lower alcohol tolerance and likely stall out before the completion point (intended ABV) resulting in a much sweeter wine than desired.

Thank you for such a great reply Loadnabox :)

I have been using the hydrometer pretty much exactly as you described for the four wine musts I started a few days after the meads. ;D I started this whole madness 3 days before new years simply because I had tasted mead on Christmas and followed a ghetto style mead making technique. I only learned about the hydrometer a few days later and thought it was too late for the meads but not for the new wines.

I do realize I can monitor the mead regardless but it definitely would entail mess as there is a combination of water and must peculating in the airlocks...but simply because of your thoughtful answer I will do it and learn from it. (this whole thing went from simply wanting to make that Christmas drink, to putting frozen fruit from last summer to good use, to making wine and learning some things a bit too late! ;D)

I'm greatly encouraged by your answer...I was looking for some assurance as a newbee to the craft and hope to learn a lot from this site.

Chevette Girl
01-03-2012, 03:39 AM
I was looking for some assurance as a newbee to the craft and hope to learn a lot from this site.

This is definitely the place to learn. I came here with six or seven years of winemaking and a dozen batches of meads already under my belt and I realize now how little I knew then :)

Do keep us posted with the differences in how your quick-rise yeast batches do in comparison to the regular yeast, it'll be good information to pass along to the next person who tries it!

Oh, and if you can get a wine theif that your hydrometer fits into, that makes the whole monitoring thing soooo much easier. Sanitize theif and hydrometer, put tip into must, draw enough up into theif so you can get a reading, then release it all back into the fermenter... sanitize between batches (unless you expect they'll be pretty close and you don't mind the idea of cross-contamination between batches) and you're good to go, less mess, less loss...

And I second the 'leave more headspace' suggestion. If I'm using a carboy, I try to have the level no higher than where the main body of the jug starts to narrow, so that there's at least a half-inch of space over the whole large surface and the whole neck of the carboy is empty. If you can get 1-gallon wide mouth jars, they're the best for 1-gal batches except for the airlock issue, I just use a double layer of plastic wrap and a rubber band, it releases the pressure and keeps fruit flies out.

Echostatic
01-03-2012, 04:34 AM
You can top up afterwards with water, but depending on how much you add, this can water down the flavor and drop the alcohol content. Another option is to measure your SG, and add a honey water mixture that is equal to the SG of your must. This will keep the sweetness from changing (unless you want it less sweet) but will still result in a lower alcohol content if you add a lot. Another option that I have used before is to add a mixture of honey, water and 190 proof everclear. It takes a little math but you can increase your volume while keeping the same sweetness and alcohol content, as long as you don't mind the addition of everclear. I can see how some might consider it to be "cheating".

Chevette Girl
01-03-2012, 01:08 PM
With the exception of JAO-style meads which I just don't top up, I usually do primary fermentations in a bucket so I can make a little extra must so that when I rack to a carboy, I have enough to fill it to the top. Easier to work around fruit that way too. But hey, there is no one true way, you just do what works for you. I "cheat" all the time by refermenting fruit that's already made one batch of wine or mead.

cabeasle
01-03-2012, 04:47 PM
Not to thread jack, but on the subject of an overactive fermentation, I just had to replace an airlock on a cyser I made up last night for the second time. I also used the bread yeast (left over from JAO), and it was bubbling so intensley that it filled the airlock with must and even bubbled out through the top holes!

I ended up having to siphon off a good 8 ounces of must to get the foam levels to drop back down. :(

Lets just hope I don't go through airlock number 3 when I get home.:)

Boogaloo
01-03-2012, 05:36 PM
Not to thread jack, but on the subject of an overactive fermentation, I just had to replace an airlock on a cyser I made up last night for the second time. I also used the bread yeast (left over from JAO), and it was bubbling so intensley that it filled the airlock with must and even bubbled out through the top holes!

I ended up having to siphon off a good 8 ounces of must to get the foam levels to drop back down. :(

Lets just hope I don't go through airlock number 3 when I get home.:)

I had the same problem before, now I do my primary in a bucket. Works great and there is no problem adding nutrients as well. It all just bubbles up and then goes back down.

Twelve
01-04-2012, 03:55 AM
A hydrometer shouldn't be too messy. Use a turkey baster to suck some out of your carboy. Use the plastic tube that the hydrometer came in to hold the must and read the hydrometer in the tube. You should be able to do this without spilling a drop if you're careful :)

You were right...I was expecting the worst and I didn't spill a drop! Then I stupidly thought I could add some sugar in the non-meads...lol! I know better now! Still a lot to learn- especially to just leave it alone and accept that I goofed up at the onset.


This is definitely the place to learn. I came here with six or seven years of winemaking and a dozen batches of meads already under my belt and I realize now how little I knew then :)

Do keep us posted with the differences in how your quick-rise yeast batches do in comparison to the regular yeast, it'll be good information to pass along to the next person who tries it!

Oh, and if you can get a wine theif that your hydrometer fits into, that makes the whole monitoring thing soooo much easier. Sanitize theif and hydrometer, put tip into must, draw enough up into theif so you can get a reading, then release it all back into the fermenter... sanitize between batches (unless you expect they'll be pretty close and you don't mind the idea of cross-contamination between batches) and you're good to go, less mess, less loss...

And I second the 'leave more headspace' suggestion. If I'm using a carboy, I try to have the level no higher than where the main body of the jug starts to narrow, so that there's at least a half-inch of space over the whole large surface and the whole neck of the carboy is empty. If you can get 1-gallon wide mouth jars, they're the best for 1-gal batches except for the airlock issue, I just use a double layer of plastic wrap and a rubber band, it releases the pressure and keeps fruit flies out.

Thanks for your encouraging words Chevette Girl. Wish I had come here sooner :) While it's a bit too late to gauge sugars and alcohol contents accurately on the meads I will certainly let you know about the flavour when the time comes...and with the wines I'm making I will have learned more because I started more carefully.

My sanitation is the only thing I actually feel 100% secure about...even while using a turkey baster. Regarding your recommendations for headspace in a carboy...I'm assuming that's during the primary ferment?
And thanks for the fantastic idea about wide moth jars which are probably easier to get a hold of than anything else...usually for free too. I hope to invest money in better honey as we have a local producer in this small town I live in.

Twelve
01-04-2012, 04:07 AM
You can top up afterwards with water, but depending on how much you add, this can water down the flavor and drop the alcohol content. Another option is to measure your SG, and add a honey water mixture that is equal to the SG of your must. This will keep the sweetness from changing (unless you want it less sweet) but will still result in a lower alcohol content if you add a lot. Another option that I have used before is to add a mixture of honey, water and 190 proof everclear. It takes a little math but you can increase your volume while keeping the same sweetness and alcohol content, as long as you don't mind the addition of everclear. I can see how some might consider it to be "cheating".

I think I will leave things as they are but those are good tips for future reference. As for "cheating"...I'm not a purist. Whatever works...unless it's someone elses mead! Don't even know if we have Everclear here- something to take note of.


With the exception of JAO-style meads which I just don't top up, I usually do primary fermentations in a bucket so I can make a little extra must so that when I rack to a carboy, I have enough to fill it to the top. Easier to work around fruit that way too. But hey, there is no one true way, you just do what works for you. I "cheat" all the time by refermenting fruit that's already made one batch of wine or mead.

I read about that technique of saving must for that purpose to late as well...sigh. And now I see that a lot of people use buckets to handle their primary meads...I learned a lot just from this thread!

Twelve
06-28-2012, 02:20 PM
I`m back about 6 months later. :)
Thought I would share some pictures of my meads and wines (which I stupidly forgot to take hydrometer readings for when I bottled...grrr). They are all fairly low alcohol content - I still have to figure out the amounts from the tags where I wrote the info. Anyways, I know the Ancient Orange one is awesome- almost too smooth!
Thanks for all the encouragement you guys- I will be doing this again in the fall!

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-NZf2y1pAZeM/T-ybyemeO9I/AAAAAAAABnk/Jr4kcEWRC4A/s1600/home-brewing-35.jpg

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-tReqRPoGlRE/T-ybyo6-SCI/AAAAAAAABns/uOLJ4bCFxIg/s1600/home-brewing-sampler.jpg

Might as well link to the blog post!
http://the-arty-miss.blogspot.ca/

Soyala_Amaya
06-28-2012, 03:26 PM
Why are a lot (almost all) of your corks popping out? On some of them there's almost more cork out of the bottle than in!

Boogaloo
06-28-2012, 03:28 PM
WOW. Those look delish! I'm super jealous. What program do you use for the labels?

Twelve
06-28-2012, 06:21 PM
Why are a lot (almost all) of your corks popping out? On some of them there's almost more cork out of the bottle than in!
That``s explained in the blog post actually...but to put it simply: when I bottled (a few days ago) I ran out of corks that fit and had to get new ones. The standard corks are too large for the bottle and were tapered to fit in but I still couldn``t get them down.
The wine making place was closed so I tried using a hammer- that worked. :) All the corks are down to about a milometer showing- I just don`t have a picture of that.

Twelve
06-28-2012, 06:24 PM
WOW. Those look delish! I'm super jealous. What program do you use for the labels?

Thanks Boogaloo! They all taste good except for the grape wine...time will tell if it improves.
I use Corel Draw and Photopaint for my graphics but any similar software will do. Because I photograph a lot I used all my own pictures for the labels except for the graphics of the flower on one of the Saskatoon wines and the banana clipart for the Saskatoon Berry-Banana wine.

Chevette Girl
06-28-2012, 07:01 PM
Don't pass judgement too soon on your grape wine, I had one that took two years to come into anything I wanted to share!

Very nice presentation, and if you're going to do a few batches every year, the $14 for a corker is well-spent :D you can hint to your loved ones that it would make a great gift...

Twelve
06-28-2012, 07:36 PM
Don't pass judgement too soon on your grape wine, I had one that took two years to come into anything I wanted to share!

Very nice presentation, and if you're going to do a few batches every year, the $14 for a corker is well-spent :D you can hint to your loved ones that it would make a great gift...

Thanks CG! I won`t give up on ``Nasty Bit Of Goods`` because of all the work that went into it. I know 14 bucks (more in Canada) isn`t a lot either but I will put it off till late summer.

Chevette Girl
06-28-2012, 10:08 PM
I know 14 bucks (more in Canada) isn`t a lot either but I will put it off till late summer.

<nudge> Hey, Ottawa's in Canada too you know... my brew store has 'em for $13.99

Twelve
06-28-2012, 11:31 PM
<nudge> Hey, Ottawa's in Canada too you know... my brew store has 'em for $13.99

I didn`t realize you were in Ottawa! (My browser also has about an inch of page hidden on the right; the html coding doesn`t seem to resize this site).

I will check out the cost of a corker tomorrow probably at the local supply place. :)

Chevette Girl
06-29-2012, 12:41 PM
I didn`t realize you were in Ottawa! (My browser also has about an inch of page hidden on the right; the html coding doesn`t seem to resize this site).

I will check out the cost of a corker tomorrow probably at the local supply place. :)

Aside from the memory leaks from leaving it open 24/7, Firefox doesn't give me too much grief over this website, I only lose the edges if someone's put a photo in that's too wide...

The plain old double-lever corker is what I have, they're easy to use (especially if you figure out how to use your whole weight on the slightly fatter corks that don't go in so easy!) and they run under $20 everywhere I've seen them. I think I paid $12.99 for my original one about eight years ago. If you've got $4 change, you may consider a bottle filler tip too (14" tube witha a valve on the end that opens when you press it against the bottom of the bottle you're filling) unless you've found a better way to bottle. I love mine, I'd make such a mess trying to bottle without it!

Twelve
06-30-2012, 02:48 AM
Aside from the memory leaks from leaving it open 24/7, Firefox doesn't give me too much grief over this website, I only lose the edges if someone's put a photo in that's too wide...

The plain old double-lever corker is what I have, they're easy to use (especially if you figure out how to use your whole weight on the slightly fatter corks that don't go in so easy!) and they run under $20 everywhere I've seen them. I think I paid $12.99 for my original one about eight years ago. If you've got $4 change, you may consider a bottle filler tip too (14" tube witha a valve on the end that opens when you press it against the bottom of the bottle you're filling) unless you've found a better way to bottle. I love mine, I'd make such a mess trying to bottle without it!

This is good info- thanks! I didn`t get out to the supply place because I decided to build a wine rack today. (this is what happens when you start looking at DIY pics on the web at midnight!) Now I have a better idea of what to look for.
I did stop by at our local glass recyclers for more clear wine bottles (and mason jars) and got lucky with finding two 1 gallon jugs and 2 half gallons. I`m moving up from the world of plastic water jugs!

Here`s the rack:

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-dcbhVevvspE/T-6b47LkwdI/AAAAAAAABow/Ub_Kszsbqwo/s1600/2012-06-29-rack+1.jpg

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-O1KdHqZLMLk/T-6b5ShKfqI/AAAAAAAABo4/3dSyFuCK_DA/s1600/2012-06-29-rack+2.jpg

Bit more info at the blog (http://the-arty-miss.blogspot.ca/) for those who are curious :)

Chevette Girl
06-30-2012, 07:04 AM
<grin> Nice Rack!