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View Full Version : First batch of mead - a couple of questions



Old_Skool
01-23-2012, 02:24 AM
Hi All

While this is my first batch of mead, I've brewed over 30 batches of beer and generally had good results. Most were good to very good batches. So a lot of this is somewhat familiar ground, and I've got all the equipment needed.

I'm going to do a 5 gal batch of simple traditional still mead. I'm using quality Orange Blossom honey and I'm not going to boil or heat the honey-water. After much reading and searching, I'm going to closely follow Curt Stock's method of staggered nutrient additions - stirring the must daily - and watching the ph. The final goal is an off-dry or semi-sweet mead. I definitely do not want a dry mead. I'll post the final recipe before brewing but its not much more than:

13 to 15lbs Orange Blossom honey
Spring water to reach 5 gal
Yeast
Nutrients

My two questions are:

Yeast - From my beer brewing experience it comes down to Fermentation-Fermentation-Fermentation to get a quality end result. Meaning that fermentation is a very critical process in any kind of brewing. So I am looking at doing a 1 liter starter using either White Labs WLP720 Sweet Mead/Wine Yeast or Wyeast 4184 Sweet Mead Yeast. Has anyone used these yeasts and what were your final results or impressions ? Do any of you use starters for your yeast ? I've used both dry and liquid yeasts and both work well, but my results with a 1 liter starter and liquid yeasts have always been stellar.

Bottling - All this corking seems much more complicated than bottle capping. I keep seeing the need to use number 9 size corks to ensure a good seal for what may be years of storage for some bottles. This requires a floor corker machine that runs over $70. What have some of you experienced in corking your batches ? Could you use a smaller cork and wax bottle sealing ? Have any of you bottled into 22oz beer bottles using caps ?

I do not want to cut corners on this first batch when it comes to yeast or final packaging.

Thanks for your time and help - very much appreciated.

Chevette Girl
01-23-2012, 02:54 AM
One of those two sweet mead yeasts is notoriously finicky, sometimes takes things right dry and sometimes barely gets halfway through a fermentation... but as I can't get either up here I've never tried them and can't remember which one it is. I'm sure the other folks who can remember if it's wyeast or white labs will warn you soon about the finicky one :)

If you don't want your mead dry you will likely end up wanting to stabilize and backsweeten, something you probably aren't familiar with if you make beer, I'm not sure whether those yeasts will leave you with enough residual sugar at that level of honey.

A lot of us use the Lalvin series of dry yeasts, they're very easy to use, high cell counts, all that good stuff, to the point where we don't usually bother with a starter unless we expect a stressful fermentation (very high starting gravity for example), just rehydrate for 15 minutes and pour it in. I think in my hundred and forty batches using Lalvin products I've only had one dud packet. 71B, D47 and K1-V1116 all seem to be widely recommended choices for meads.

I use a hand operated double-lever corker ($15) and an assortment of corks (I always thought they were all #8 but there does seem to be significant variance between manufacturers and styles), some of the ones that go in too easily have let a little bit of oxidation happen, but if I didn't actually kind of like that taste, I'd wax them, and that would be that. Most corks are fine, they go in with a minimum of sweat and swearing (although I do cork with the bottles on the floor so I can drop my weight on the corker if required), and the wine tastes fine years later... and I've only broken one bottle so far though I've pulled the lips off of three beer bottles with my capper. I actually am planning to wax one batch that's next up for bottling because it was an expensive and labour-intensive batch and I do want to store it for a long time. I'll probably leave a few unwaxed just to see how much difference there is in 5 years ;D

There's nothing wrong with 22-oz beer bottles, there are a number of members on this forum who cap their meads instead of corking, especially if they're the only one in the house who drinks it, it's safer to go with standard beer bottle sizes.

Also you might want to look for some energizer as well as your nutrients, nutrients tending to be DAP (Di-amonium phosphate) and energizer tending to be micronutrients and vitamins and a little bit of DAP.

Oh, and because you're a beer brewer first, I'll just reiterate what you've probably already read around here - you don't have to boil or pasteurize your honey, and we generally recommend against heating your honey at all. A good vigorous fermentation keeps the nasties at bay. Oh, and aeration/oxygenation is recommended for the first 1/3 to 1/2 of the fermentation.

Good luck with it, hope you post up a brewlog!

Loadnabox
01-23-2012, 09:29 AM
I'll second CG. Stay away from the White Labs yeast, they tend to be extremely unpredictable and high maintenance. Dry yeasts from Lallemand tend to be the most popular and most readily available.

fatbloke
01-23-2012, 04:01 PM
It's the wyeast sweet mead (tolerance 11%ABV) that is the PITA. I can't wary for the white labs stuff as its not available locally.

For traditionals, I go for D21, or failing that K1V-1116

JLindsey
01-23-2012, 04:39 PM
I've used the wyeast product only once, with positive results. It was a trad semi sweet. Over the first 2 weeks all the numbers progressed as I hoped; a nice vigorous ferment for the first 48 or so hours, then steady after that. This included scheduled nutrient additions (search SNA's in these forums).

At two weeks I racked onto nine pounds of plums. The wyeast got very active again. I cold crashed to keep it from going too dry.

Long story short, I liked the product.

I've only capped, being a brewer, too. Usually a twelver or so of 12's for competitions, then the rest in 22's for personal and gifts.

Enjoy!

Old_Skool
01-24-2012, 12:53 AM
Thanks for all the great info ! I'm going to brew this in 2 weeks so I am working to get my final plan together. I have used dry yeast for many good batches of beer so I may reconsider and go that way.

Thanks for the info on bottling CG - I may do a split bottling of both wine and beer bottles.

I will post up results as do this first batch. My goal is to keep this first batch pretty simple and have faith I can do the fermentation right. I've got temperature control equipment I use on beer so I should be able to dial the temperature in at 65deg during primary fermentation.