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View Full Version : A few questions about my first mead (JAO)



Nverinder716
03-14-2012, 01:45 AM
Hi guys,

When I first discovered mead, what it was, and how to make it, I soon found this website, and have referenced it throughout my first batch! A font of knowledge, make no mistake. And now, here I am, on bottling night, and hitting up the forums for some answers and advice! And of course, my thanks to Angus, Joe, and Vicky!

As was suggested, I started with the Joe's Ancient Orange recipe. This was perfect for me, because I could start it pretty cheap and I only needed to brew a one gallon batch, which meant in case I failed somehow, I wouldn't have too much to pour down the drain, which is a practice I'm avidly against...

But now I fear I may have come to that point. First, let me start off by saying I followed the JAO recipe to a T. As well as all the instructions. And everything has been moving along perfectly! My kitchen smells amazing. The airlock (s-bend) ran constantly for the first few days, and slowed to a halt right at 2 months. The mead cleared up all by itself (look at that, I wasn't so important after all :D ), and was one of the single most beautiful shades of gold I've ever seen. And tonight, I've bottled my very first mead.

Yeah... about that...

First off, I had some malfunctions in getting the mead from the carboy into the bottles. I simply could not start a siphon. (read: I failed to suck fluid through a tube, and thus, have failed at life :( ). I ended up having to transfer the mead into the bottles in small amounts by holding whatever the 2 ft length of tubing (capped one end with clean cheese cloth to act as a filter for the larger particles) would hold, and then pouring it into the bottle. My first question is: How the heck am I supposed to fill these bottles easily in the future???

Second, as I mentioned previously, I was using my mouth to provide the suction to start the siphon. As a result, I got to taste some of my mead inadvertently. And it occurred to me that I have no idea what this mead SHOULD taste like. It also occurred to me that this batch is, in a word, STRONG. It as though any flavor you can detect is a hard punch to the face, and not really in a good way, and I'll be completely honest, there's one subtle note to it, and it's sort of like paint thinner...... Can anyone give me any sort of clear reference as to what a JAO (or any mead for that matter) should taste like? And more to the point, regardless of all indications that I've done this correctly, have I, in fact, ruined my first mead?

Keep in mind that I followed the recipe EXACTLY, and thank you in advance for any assistance!!!

fatbloke
03-14-2012, 02:09 AM
Almost definitely not ruined.

Racking is a basic technique, that can be practiced with 2 containers, tube and water. Just make sure the container with the water in, is higher than the other.

With JAO, the bread yeast doesn't flocculate (settle and compact down) very well, so some like to rack/siphon carefully to another sealable container, to remove the fruit and most of the sediment. Then let it settle for another day or two, then rack it off the last of the sediment, to ensure its clear as can be before bottling.

The only way you'd know the taste is too taste different types, with different ingredients. Though any "alcohol hot" flavour usually mellowed with time. I don't find it drinkable when its young, so I age it for a minimum if 6 months, more often a year.

Have a read of.the NewBee guide linked in the left yellow box. It's invaluable.....

Chevette Girl
03-14-2012, 02:11 AM
Aah, a first bottling run...

A word to the wise, get two carboys and rack from one to the other without filtering it through cheesecloth or anything, just get it off all the orange junk and dead yeast, then let it sit again until it's all clear, and then try bottling it with only a little bit of sediment on the bottom instead of orange pieces and spices and an inch or two of fluffy yeast. If racking doesn't work or your hose keeps getting clogged, just pour it carefully and try not to get too much of the junk at the end.

As for getting a good flow going, siphoning depends on where you're siphoning from being higher than where you're siphoning to, and also having enough flow not to let air back up the hose. When you rack a JAO, especially if you put something over that end of the hose to keep the crud out, often the flow gets blocked enough that the siphon hose fills with air and the flow will stop.

Getting a siphon started is something else again, especially if you've got a long racking cane in a short carboy, you have to suck until it's right up at the top of the cane right where it bends, then I fidn three or four good quick pulls gets it flowing without soaking me (look at me, discussing sucking technique on a public forum!!) or getting a couple ounces before the air goes back up the tube and I have to start again. I ended up taking a saw to one of my racking canes and cutting it down to the right height for my short buckets and 1-gal carboys, the one that I use for 5-gal carboys is just too long for the small batches.

An alternative, presuming you're using a rigid cane (http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/brewing/brewing-equipment/siphoning-equipment/racking-canes/24-curved-racking-tube.html)in the carboy and a flexible hose attached to it, is to fill the hose with water at the tap, keep both ends at the same level or you'll lose it all, carefully attach one end to the racking cane, and then drop the other end into an overflow container, let the water empty out and it will pull the mead up, you should be able to tell when the water's through and you're getting mead flow, then pinch the hose and put it in the bottle you're racking to.

Better yet, a bottle filler attachment (http://www.brewps.com/springless-bottle-filler-wand-1-2-inch.html)lets you fill the hose without worrying so much about both ends, AND you don't dribble it all over when you pinch it, it's got a valve at the bottom and when you lift the tip off the bottom of the bottle, it stops the flow. Best $3 purchase for my winemaking equipment collection...

If you've got an empty carboy or even a pop bottle, fill it with water and practise siphoning a few times, so you can get your bottling procedure down without worrying about wasting mead... I suggest a drop or two of yellow food colouring if you're doing the water in the hose trick, so you get an idea what it looks like when you get to the good stuff.

Edit: And I second Fatbloke on the taste, it may taste very much of alcohol and orange rind while young but give it a couple months before you pass judgement on it.

Nverinder716
03-14-2012, 02:36 AM
Thanks for the advice guys. I definitely need to work on racking a bit. Might just have to go in on an autosiphon or something like it. And I've already set a few bottles back for long term storage, and the bottles that go to Mom and Dad will probably come with those instructions as well. Is it pretty safe to assume I haven't created any bottle bombs? I'm 99% certain there has been no activity in the airlock for several days now. I'm also 99% certain that if my wife has to assist me in cleaning up broken glass and booze, my ass will me out on the street :)

fatbloke
03-14-2012, 10:43 AM
JAO is a little unconventional in that respect. Relying on weigh and volume rather than the usual gravity numbers to attain a desired strength. Yet as long as it was clear (i like to let the fruit drop as well) its unlikely to be a problem. As you mentioned, you've followed the instructions and they are pretty bomb proof.....

If you're concerned, leave the bottles somewhere cool, then after a week or two, just open one that you're not sure of, there should be no popping from a cork, and no hissing from crown or screw caps. Then either reseal, or drink.....

Chevette Girl
03-14-2012, 01:03 PM
Seconded. I think I've made something like 40 various batches of JAO and variations, and only twice have I ended up with fermentation after bottling... although because I'm a little paranoid, I always make sure I have at least a few in screw-top or otherwise removable seals just so I can make sure nothing's getting carbonated on me. Do check a bottle in a couple of weeks.

TAKeyser
03-14-2012, 02:40 PM
other than the fact the recipe doesn't call for it (and it says to follow the recipe exactly) is there a reason that no one does the campden and sorbate to ensure no bottle fermentation? I've made an Orange Spiced Mead before but never JOAM, which I am rectifying tonight.

Loadnabox
03-14-2012, 04:17 PM
JAO has enough honey in it that the yeast reach their alcohol tolerance longer before the sugar is all eaten up (FG of 1.020-1.030 usually). This means that the yeast generally kill themselves off, and the ones that aren't dead can't do anything despite there being sugar left.

I also recommend secondary for a brief time. I rack into another jug just to get it away from the large stuff, not worrying about whather I suck up the yeast sediment. I let that settle out for a week, then rack again just getting the clear stuff. The remainders I put into a fridge to cold crash so I can get as much of the golden ambrosia as possible.

I generally throw away the crud mix that I am unable to separate. The final bit I run through a filter just because I love how nice and professional it looks with a polishing/sterile .50 micron filter. You can substitute more rackings though for filtration.

Once you're at the point where no more sediment is falling out after racking, THEN I will bottle. By this point it's usually had a couple of months to age as well and is quite a bit better than when you do your first racking.

I also dislike how harsh it is from the orange pith. My preferred style is to zest and peel half the orange(s) used in the batch. This way it isn't as harsh, keeps a good orange flavor, but the spice also gets a chance to show a bit more. IMO it's also drinkable sooner this way.

fatbloke
03-14-2012, 04:28 PM
I would suggest that the whole point of using the entire Orange pith and all, is to balance the excessive sweetness that results from just the zest and flesh.

Of course, that might be some peoples taste, I greatly prefer an aged original, as opposed to a modded version.....

TAKeyser
03-14-2012, 05:16 PM
Well it is in the carboy just cooling down to room temp so I can pitch the yeast after dinner. I followed the directions exactly!!!

I just did the one gallon size, but noticed most people after the first couple of batches bump it up in size, so if it is as good as it seems like it will be and I were to do a 3 gallon batch would I use 3 teaspoons of yeast instead of just the one? Never used bread yeast before since there has been a LHBS down the street since I started making Beer and mead in 2000 so I've always been able to the yeast I needed.

Riverat
03-14-2012, 05:55 PM
One pack will be just fine, it's a lot more than you need for a gallon but really too cheap to divide up for most.

TAKeyser
03-14-2012, 06:00 PM
One pack will be just fine, it's a lot more than you need for a gallon but really too cheap to divide up for most.

Well I'm following the directions exactly for this 1 gallon so I don't know if 1 packet is equal to the 1 teaspoon (or tablespoon, I'll check the thread before I pitch) that it calls for, but if I like it and bump up the size I'll just pitch a packet.

mmclean
03-14-2012, 06:52 PM
Well it is in the carboy just cooling down to room temp so I can pitch the yeast after dinner. I followed the directions exactly!!!

I just did the one gallon size, but noticed most people after the first couple of batches bump it up in size, so if it is as good as it seems like it will be and I were to do a 3 gallon batch would I use 3 teaspoons of yeast instead of just the one? Never used bread yeast before since there has been a LHBS down the street since I started making Beer and mead in 2000 so I've always been able to the yeast I needed.

I had very good results with making 6 one gallon batches and blending them together. I didn't have a chance to make any last year, but plan to rectify that this summer. Supply getting low.

TAKeyser
03-14-2012, 08:48 PM
well the JOA has starting bubbling already at only 2 hours after pitching the yeast. Having a bit of trouble with it though since it goes against every rule of Mead making lol

Loadnabox
03-15-2012, 08:09 AM
according to my bottle of yeast, 2.25 teaspoons equals one packet

TAKeyser
03-15-2012, 08:16 AM
according to my bottle of yeast, 2.25 teaspoons equals one packet

seems about right as I have around a half packet of bread yeast left. Guess i need to come up with a JOA variant so it doesn't go to waste :)

Jas53
03-15-2012, 08:43 AM
seems about right as I have around a half packet of bread yeast left. Guess i need to come up with a JOA variant so it doesn't go to waste :)

Have done 1 gallon variant with Trader Joes Maine Wild Blurberries - just give lots of head space!

TAKeyser
03-15-2012, 08:56 AM
Have done 1 gallon variant with Trader Joes Maine Wild Blurberries - just give lots of head space!

How much blueberries? Did everything else stay the same (clove, cinnamon)? I have a few carboys, honey and the yeast left so I can make a quick trip to Woodward lol

Jas53
03-15-2012, 01:29 PM
How much blueberries? Did everything else stay the same (clove, cinnamon)? I have a few carboys, honey and the yeast left so I can make a quick trip to Woodward lol

First batch I made on 2/20/2011 was a one gallon batch used 12 oz bag of TJ's wild blueberry, 3.5 lbs of clover honey, 1 split vanilla bean and 1tsp of fleishmans yeast. Suggest blow off tube for first week or so or a 2 gal bucket. Bottled it 5/1 - didn't last long.

TAKeyser
03-15-2012, 01:39 PM
First batch I made on 2/20/2011 was a one gallon batch used 12 oz bag of TJ's wild blueberry, 3.5 lbs of clover honey, 1 split vanilla bean and 1tsp of fleishmans yeast. Suggest blow off tube for first week or so or a 2 gal bucket. Bottled it 5/1 - didn't last long.

time to go buy some blueberries and a vanilla bean :)

ChadK
03-16-2012, 04:25 AM
Okay, I'm getting the stuff together to make a batch, but a question occurred to me: If you stuff the orange through the neck to get it in to the bottle, how do you get it back out?

fatbloke
03-16-2012, 10:00 AM
Once the orange has been in there for 2 to 3 months, its usually softened enough to be shaken out, at worst, you might need to use a bend wire coat hanger to fish out any stubborn pieces that won't shake out......

ChadK
03-16-2012, 11:34 AM
Okay, that's not too bad. I had images of having to throw out one gallon bottles full of orange segments, cause I just couldn't get them out.

TAKeyser
03-16-2012, 11:54 AM
If you have some stubborn pieces you can also fill the carboy with water and than tip it over the sink and the pressure of the water coming out usually pushes the fruit out with it.

ChadK
03-16-2012, 12:02 PM
Oooh. Physics is your phriend.

TAKeyser
03-16-2012, 12:05 PM
Oooh. Physics is your phriend.

lol. Maybe I should take that Physics class that I've been avoiding for my degree if it's that easy. Maybe I'll be able to find a Physics professer that brews beer/makes mead to be my tutor.

ChadK
03-16-2012, 12:19 PM
Everything's easier if you can relate it to beer--or mead, but I have yet to actually brew any of that yet.

TAKeyser
03-16-2012, 12:35 PM
Everything's easier if you can relate it to beer--or mead, but I have yet to actually brew any of that yet.

Plan on getting addicted. Which really isn't a bad thing with Mead since the aging process takes a while. I try to make Mead at least once a month so that I have a constant stream of mead in some stage in the process. Almost every month something is being enjoyed, something is aging in the bottles, something is aging in carboys, something is fermenting and something is being made.

The_Bishop
03-16-2012, 01:58 PM
I'm still in the beginning of that cycle! The stuff I fermented first is still aging.

TAKeyser
03-16-2012, 03:21 PM
I'm still in the beginning of that cycle! The stuff I fermented first is still aging.

It's a process. I stopped for a while when I knew I would be moving (full carboys are a pain to move) and it ruined the cycle and I ran out of bottled mead in the process. After about 18 months I'm fully into that cycle again.

ChadK
03-16-2012, 07:55 PM
Sounds like a good plan. I may have to get a few more gallon jugs to fully implement the cycle.

TAKeyser
03-16-2012, 08:10 PM
Sounds like a good plan. I may have to get a few more gallon jugs to fully implement the cycle.

I think I have a total of two 6 gallon carboys, two 5 gallon carboys, two 3 gallon carboys and 18 1 gallon carboys along with two 7.5 gallon buckets, three 6 gallon buckets and two 2.5 gallon buckets and a 5 gallon bottling bucket.

ChadK
03-16-2012, 11:06 PM
So you are saying that when I actually buy a house, it's gonna be to make room for my brewing habit?

TAKeyser
03-16-2012, 11:31 PM
So you are saying that when I actually buy a house, it's gonna be to make room for my brewing habit?

Yeah that is pretty much how it goes. Never used to care about a basement, but now it's a must have for storing those aging carboys and bottles. And lets not forget about extra sinks with enough space to wash the larger carboys in. A place to put a bar in would be nice.