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UKTony
12-24-2012, 08:40 PM
Hi All,

Quick intro. Tony, UK expat, now living in the USA.

Had been wanting to brew my own mead for ages, but I found both ingredients and equipment hard to source and expensive there.

Now I'm here, and this has been on my list of to-do's but never made it to the top of the list. Today I purchased some Chaucers Mead (one of three possible meads for sale at my local Kroger), because I finished the last of my stash of Moniack recently. I apologise if some people like this stuff, I'm a long way from being any kind of mead expert, but I know what I like, and this ain't it!!

I found it mostly tasteless, but the taste it did have was not nice (imho). So now my DIY mead project has moved to the top of my agenda!!

I've been reading "The Compleat Meadmaker" and was going to start with the Orange Blossom recipe the author recommends as a first attempt recipe.

About to order my ingredients, but before I do would love some feedback from anyone who's familiar with this particular recipe. Obviously if I'm making 5 Gals of the stuff I'd also like to know how it would compare to Moniack (if anyone is familiar with it?)

Happy Christmas everyone, looking forward to 2013 Mead!

Tony.

Vance G
12-24-2012, 08:55 PM
I have used that recipe twice. Came out a little sweet for me, but was very drinkable within a year. Now sixteen months after brewing the second, I think I am down to three bottles of the five gallons. When I do it again, I will go lower gravity, let it go dry and backsweeten. A good recipe.

kudapucat
12-25-2012, 06:53 AM
@UKTony.
Ken Shramm is a gotmeader himself. I think you'll find a few ppl familiar with his book ;-) you may even be privileged enough to chat to him ;-)
Most mead recipes are good with time.
Make a JAO at the same time, so you'll have something to drink whilst lamenting the wait time.

UKTony
12-25-2012, 07:30 PM
Thanks for the info; I must assume I'm in the company of very distinguished patrons which is reassuring. I'm not impatient, and so there's no rush to have something to drink, I'll likely be quite single minded in my pursuit to get the traditional taste that I'm after, and will probably move on to the next recipe once I've got what I'm looking for. I realise the initial recipe I'm trying isn't going to give me what I want, but I have to learn the process and technique first. I have a few questions though which might help me get to my goal, about the first recipe.

Firstly; I prefer dryer mead to sweet, is it easy to tweak this recipe just a little to bring it up slightly less sweet? I know the answer is in the book because I've read it at least once but haven't committed it to memory, I'll be rereading the sections again.

Secondly, my favourite mead (thus far) is made with heather honey, given that this appears to be significantly difficult to find, can anyone tell me the closest approximation to heather honey available in the USA?

Lastly, does the honey variety have a significant bearing on the final flavour? I'm guessing yes, but hoping to get in the ballpark with perhaps another kind of floral honey?

If I'm way off base with some of these questions, I look forward to being educated, every day is a school day!

Cheers

Tony.

kudapucat
12-25-2012, 08:05 PM
Thanks for the info; I must assume I'm in the company of very distinguished patrons which is reassuring. I'm not impatient, and so there's no rush to have something to drink, I'll likely be quite single minded in my pursuit to get the traditional taste that I'm after, and will probably move on to the next recipe once I've got what I'm looking for.

LOL. I look forward to watching the struggle for patience ;-)


I realise the initial recipe I'm trying isn't going to give me what I want, but I have to learn the process and technique first. I have a few questions though which might help me get to my goal, about the first recipe.

Firstly; I prefer dryer mead to sweet, is it easy to tweak this recipe just a little to bring it up slightly less sweet? I know the answer is in the book because I've read it at least once but haven't committed it to memory, I'll be rereading the sections again.

You can dry out any recipe by adding less honey.
Be warned though, this can seriously impact the balance.
It can also increase the ageing time by 5 years or more.



Secondly, my favourite mead (thus far) is made with heather honey, given that this appears to be significantly difficult to find, can anyone tell me the closest approximation to heather honey available in the USA?

Not being from the US, I can't really say, but I love Leatherwood traditionals, and Banksia. Both known for overly strong character, not prized as table honeys.
I believe 'buckwheat' may fit that description.


Lastly, does the honey variety have a significant bearing on the final flavour? I'm guessing yes, but hoping to get in the ballpark with perhaps another kind of floral honey?

Oh YES. It certainly does.
I've just realised you may have been talking of adding heather as a bittering agent to mead, and not heather honey.
There are many herbs that can be used. I suggest you get a copy of 'sacred herb and healing beers' it is the bible for pre-hops bittering agents and can be applied to mead just as easily as it is to beer.
There's also recipes for heather mead within.

To answer the question, mead is more varied than wine IMHO, with people often blending different honeys for different characters.


If I'm way off base with some of these questions, I look forward to being educated, every day is a school day!

Cheers

Tony.
Meh, we can't know everything about everything!

UKTony
12-25-2012, 10:25 PM
So, firstly I'll add some context around what I'm discussing.

Moniack Mead has been (allegedly) made within Moniack Castle in the Scottish Highlands since (allegedly) 1600's. How much of that is genuine and how much is marketing is a matter for debate, I have no argument to either side.

The honey ingredient is (allegedly) heather honey, this would make lots of sense, since the Scottish highlands are blanketed in heather. They describe their mead as "Smooth & floral, with hints of caramel & strong fermented honey", the alcohol content is 14.6%

You can see it here: http://www.highlandwineries.co.uk/moniack-mead.php

Looks like they are owned by Lyme Bay wineries now, who makes fair mead in their own right, including a spiced Christmas mead which is quite palatable, but I think this is recent, as I don't think this was the case a year ago, so I'm concerned that the aren't company may want to fiddle, potentially spoiling a great drink.

Everyone I know that has tried it holds it in very high regard (clearly including me!).

To be clear I'm not looking to make a facsimile of this brew, but, I'd like to, using the little info i have and get in the ballpark of sweet/dryness, and subtlety of flavour even if it's different flavours and work from there. What I'm trying to avoid is mixing up a batch of cough syrup (my wife's term for sweet mead), and spend the next 5 batches trying to get in the same ballpark. Not looking for shortcuts, but more of an educated starting point.

Does this help?

Tony

kudapucat
12-26-2012, 03:38 AM
Yep. Sounds like a traditional mead alright. Perhaps with some residual sweetness.
Look up traditionals, then spend a day tasting honey, until you find one you like.

fatbloke
12-26-2012, 05:06 AM
http://wineandmead.blogspot.co.uk/2008/04/some-half-bottle-samples-of.html

Well I've no idea about any relevance, not having tried the moniack mead, but the above link is my rather unscientific review of 4 UK made commercial meads.

As you'd see, I found all of them cloyingly sweet (other info/data in the blog post), but taste-wise not too bad.

As far as working out the dry/sweet thing, you'll notice the 2 general methods used i.e. the work out the amount of honey required to reach a given FG, which is then mixed into the required amount of water or the mix an approximate amount of honey into water for a target volume, then measuring the start gravity to ascertain the suspected resulting/final gravity post-ferment.

What you would probably find, is that the former method, can give incredibly high starting gravity figures, which can (not always, but often) make for a batch that needs a lot of care, especially in the early stages, because too higher gravity can cause a number of issues, like failure to start fermenting or off flavours from overly stressed yeasts (and other issues of a similar nature).

Or my preferred method, the latter, which starts easily enough generally, follows a normal fermentation profile to a potentially limited strength as you already would know the approximate tolerance of the yeast and by deducting the start from final gravity (presumption of 1.000 as finished, though there's often room for a further drop down to the 0.990 area) and the resulting gravity drop can be easily worked out into a reasonably accurate strength.

Likewise, with the latter method, it's also relatively straight forward to step feed extra honey into an active ferment to increase the final result, maximising the gravity drop to achieve a desired strength, or even to keep step feeding so that the yeast will poop out at about the published tolerance and leave you with residual sugars - and resulting sweetness.

Personally I use the latter method generally, as most of my batches are worked out to be about the 14% ABV mark, which are fermented dry, and then back sweetened - the bonus of which is that I can back sweeten incrementally so that I end up with the approximate level of sweetness that I like in my meads (and that is nowhere near the kind of high numbers I alluded to in my test results, as per my linked blog post).

A couple of other points that may be relevant to a newer mead maker, is that the stronger/higher alcohol you make a batch, the longer it can take to age.

Back sweetening with honey, can cause a protein haze in an already cleared batch - which is why I ferment dry, then once I'm happy it's not fermenting any more and has dropped a sediment, I will rack onto stabilising chems (sulphite and sorbate) and then a couple of days later while the batch is still cloudy, back sweeten to the level that I enjoy my meads at (about the "medium" level or a final gravity of 1.010 to 1.015). Then worry about the clearing/racking process later. That way I only have to clear a batch the once, and not get myself stressed out by having to clear a protein haze from an already cleared once batch (and being a tightwad, increasing the racking losses having to clear a batch twice).

Finally, you'll notice a lot of us tend toward using mainly Lallemand/lalvin yeasts. That's not because we all have shares in Lallemand or anything, but because they publish more data about their products that any other yeast producer - and while the data is mainly alluding to how the yeast works with grape musts, still gives us more manufacturer guidance of how the yeast will likely react with meads/honey musts.

So it's worth your while finding either a local dealer to you or just to mail order from whoever you can find, will supply the widest range (which will more than likely be Morewine (http://morewinemaking.com/search/103215///Wine_Yeast) - notice that they do both Lalvin, Redstar and some liquid yeasts). It seems that the over-riding majority of us use dry yeasts - even if we make starters.

Hey ho! dunno if any of that lot is of any use........

Oh and Scottish heather honey seems to be very expensive wherever you are - I can get English heather honey here for about the 4 per pound mark. It's not an equivalent, but a number of places sell Buckwheat honey - it's "Eastern" buckwheat honey that is reputed to have the darker colour and more "farm yard"/Barn attributes - which is probably why most use it only in part i.e. say something like 3lb of clover or other wild flower honey with a half to 1lb of buckwheat for flavouring etc. A good place to look to see what's available and what you might like to try would be places like the Bee Folks (http://www.beefolks.com/shopdisplayproducts.asp?id=5&cat=Honey%2C+Bulk), but obviously cost will increase if shipping is needed.......

Golddiggie
12-26-2012, 04:25 PM
I use Lalvan yeasts (http://www.lalvinyeast.com/strains.asp) almost exclusively for my meads. I have one batch that I need to start making the flavor additions to (use Wyeast Eau de Vie in it) that's over a year old now, and another I'm about to start with WLP099 (White Labs yeast) that will be a few years in the making. I've tried almost all the strains from Lalvin already, and plan on giving the rest a try very soon.

Something to keep in mind about making a mead. You do NOT need to cook the must, at all. If you go above about 110F with the solution, you'll start blowing off a lot of the more delicate flavors and aromas (which can give it more complexity).

Go with a honey you like to eat by itself. Just be sure it has a strong flavor in that form. Dilution with water, then fermenting it will take away a good amount of what it starts with.

I tend to aim for slightly sweet meads (around 1.006 FG or higher). My initial batches, from 2010, are really getting good now. At 18% they really benefited from the aging time. IMO, you would do well to wait until they're really great before pouring any to glass. I wish I had more bottles left of the traditional I aged on oak for a while. But, I'll be doing that again, so not much of an issue.

While the main site has some good information on it, I would take methods advise from the forums. The main site is in need of updating to be more current (for methods). The calculation tool works pretty well, provided you know the sugar percentage of your honey (or it matches the default).

I would also suggest making a simple recipe (minimum flavor elements, or none other than honey). You can also use other things, besides honey, to make a mead. I have a batch of maple mead/wine that's now in bottles (started it early December 2011). At ~14% it has tons of maple flavor since I used all grade B syrup, grade A is crap for this (I won't even buy grade A for other things anymore). You can get grade B from places like Amazon if you're not where they have it on shelves (I have yet to find a store that sells the grade B since most would assume A is better).

Once you start down this road, there's little chance of turning back. ;D You're in for a long, sometimes crazy, ride. Just be sure to use a large enough vessel to primary your mead in. Otherwise, be ready with wet towels and/or a blowoff hose/tube assembly. :eek:

UKTony
12-27-2012, 06:42 PM
Hi Guys,

This is all really great information, so much so, that I've dug into my pocket to contribute to the site (same price as two books on the subject, but a much wider information base, that's great value!!). However all of your great information has (unsurprisingly) given birth to yet more questions, hopefully I've not worn out your patience yet. So here goes.

I have now bought my 6 Gal Glass Carboy starter kit. I also bought an extra 2 hydrometers because I keep reading posts about how people keep dropping them and breaking them!!

I was about to purchase some Orange blossom honey as I originally mentioned, when my eye caught sight of some Tupelo Honey, which Ken mentions in his book as "highly sought after by mead makers".....

1. Will I need an entirely new recipe for Tupelo (including different yeast etc), and if so, is it likely to be too advanced for a NewBee?

2. You mentioned I don't need to cook the honey (which saves me a bunch of money on stockpot purchase), but how does that work with temperatures?? Does the honey have to be at a specific temperature to pitch the yeast? Do I still need to refrigerate most of the water, I'm guessing not since the honey won't be heated?

I guess question 1 is all I need to know for short term as it depends on which honey purchase today/tomorrow. The rest I can discover while I await delivery of the honey?

Sorry again for all the NewBee Q's!!

Cheers

Tony

Medsen Fey
12-27-2012, 07:22 PM
Tupelo makes great mead; some of my favorite honey. If you have an orange blossom recipe, you can just convert to Tupelo.

And you don't have to heat anything. Just mix the honey in room-temp water and you are ready to go.

fatbloke
12-28-2012, 03:20 AM
Tupelo makes great mead; some of my favorite honey. If you have an orange blossom recipe, you can just convert to Tupelo.

And you don't have to heat anything. Just mix the honey in room-temp water and you are ready to go.
Just as Medsen says........

If its a "traditional" recipe (honey, water, yeast and nutrients) I like to use what we managed to learn when we were trying to suss out the yeast that were used by the late Brother Adam at Buckfast Abbey (as in , down west, Devon I think it is), which would seem to be the same strains as Lalvin D21 or K1-V1116 (Maury yeast or Montpelier yeast respectively). Both can be found at Morewine! mail order or you might be able to get the K1V locally.

Excellent yeasts for traditionals.

All the mentions of Tupelo honey seem to be very favourable......wish I could get it here......

UKTony
12-28-2012, 07:11 PM
UPDATE: I paid a visit to the local, non-chain health food store. They work with a local apiary, who supplies them with a number of varietals. So today I bought sample jars of Tupelo, Summer Thistle, (generic) Widlflower and Sourwood. I'll be tasting a little tonight. I hope my tastebuds are up to the job!

UKTony
12-28-2012, 07:33 PM
UPDATE 2: The Summer Thistle wins hands down.

The wildflower was very non-descript or perhaps had too many flavours fighting for notice. This was my least favourite.

The Tupelo, for my money was overly sweet, I wish I was better at describing flavours, but it was overwhelmingly sweet, and perhaps notes of citrus too.

The Sourwood tasted quite dark and complex. I'll definitely be trying this as a mead in the future.

The Summer Thistle, was light and yet had a full round flavour, and wonderful green notes (chlorophyl?), without being overly sweet, had a wonderful long finish, I could go on tasting that for hours, and never get tired of the scent or the taste.

Sorry for the amateurish descriptions....

Tony.

kudapucat
12-28-2012, 07:50 PM
For an amateur newbee, those descriptions are great!
Usually we only get nice, Sweet or ick.
In fact, I'm still curious about many US honeys and the Aussie equivalents, as I just can't get a decent description.
Your wildflower notes were interesting.

WRT Tupelo, the sweetness of mead is under your control, so perhaps water down a sample and try it. See if you like the flavours.

UKTony
12-28-2012, 09:00 PM
So I do much better with music.... so here is, in music how I would describe each:

Tupelo
http://youtu.be/q9r1cFJZW7E

Wildflower
http://youtu.be/Fd_Rizjub5o

Summer Thistle
http://youtu.be/pSEDRvNkw7I

Sourwood
http://youtu.be/odY8nff3h0w

Whilst I realise that you can control the sweetness in the fermenting process, it's more than sugar sweetness with the Tupelo, it kind of lacks any sort of robustness, it's like daisies and retriever puppies, it's candy floss, and kittens that play with a ball of string. It was the sort of sweet you can't untaste, if that makes sense? I'm happy to be proved wrong, and maybe one day I'll give in to popular opinion in the mead circles... but for now... it's too expensive too hope it might taste significantly different enough at the end of the process for my tastes.

Sourwood is just really interesting. It has a very short finish, with a hint of smoke or wood, or perhaps earthiness that I really liked. But it strikes me as more Zeppelin style straight-up rock and roll with added complexity, rather than a symphony of taste, it's a burger with cheese and bacon, rather than the souffle and creme brle of the thistle honey.

UKTony
12-28-2012, 11:42 PM
And you don't have to heat anything. Just mix the honey in room-temp water and you are ready to go.

If you don't heat the must, how do you reconcile the differences in temperature when pitching the yeast? As I understand it there should be no more than 18 degs difference between the yeast mix and the must its being pitched into?

The yeast will be at 100f +; the must will be at ambient room temp which will be probably in the region of 70f, should I warm the honey, spring water before prepping the yeast, or is there a way to cool the yeast first?

The newbee guide says "additional steps may be required" but I've not yet been able to find out what those steps are?

Thanks again,

Tony

TheAlchemist
12-29-2012, 12:18 AM
The rehydrated yeast is usually in a much smaller volume that cools to room temp kinda quicker. Or you can add a tiny bit of must to bring the temp of the yeast down to room temp faster.

Beethoven's Sixth?! I love that!

fatbloke
12-29-2012, 02:11 AM
Well if you think on it (when just rehydrating as per pack instructions) its as Alchemist says, but I'm sure if you've read around you'll have noticed mentions to some just sprinkling the dry yeast on top and stirring it in, or using GoFerm in the water then a little bit of must or a teaspoon of honey befor adding the yeast to rehydrate it and leaving it for longer, or even making a full yeast starter the day before (or at least a number of hours prior to mixing) etc etc.

So as you can see, there's many ways of prepping the yeast so it goes in and is either doing its thing straight away or with the sprinkle method its just left to get on with it....

There's likely to be a longer lag phase if its not rehydrated in some way but that doesnt mean its wrong etc....

As with anything mead, there's no set standard and a lot of variables.

Nice descriptions of the honey though.....

Medsen Fey
12-29-2012, 08:07 AM
I can confirm that sourwood honey makes an excellent mead. The thing to remember when tasting honey is that most of the sweetness will be gone and the underlying flavors come through more clearly. I commend you for comparing the different types as that is how we learn the differences; something a lot of folks don't realize actually exists.

You'll get the best performance from the yeast if you rehydrate them properly then after 20-30 minutes if they haven't cooled down to within 15 F of your must temp you add a volume of must equal to the rehydration volume. Give that 30 minutes to an hour to start bubbling and confirm the temp is within 15 and pitch. If for some strange reason the temp is still too high (I never see this) repeat another addition of must.

Sent from my DROID RAZR using Tapatalk 2

UKTony
12-29-2012, 10:02 AM
Again, thanks for taking the time to respond guys, I have lots of info that's all brand new to me, I'm just trying to connect the dots.

For my next trick I'll be searching the forums for ways to guarantee that my first batch doesn't CO2 explode and paint the spare room, thereby leaving me no option other than a month of sleep on the sofa, and weeks of stink-eye from the long suffering spouse!

I promise the dumb questions will come less frequently, at least I hope they will!

Cheers

Tony

Chevette Girl
12-31-2012, 01:57 AM
I've had Moniack a bunch of times mostly back in my pagan days but I actually haven't tasted it since I started making my own meads. I do remember it being sweet but not sickeningly so. I have a bottle in the closet given to me as a wedding present, but I think I'll save it a few more years, maybe by our 5th anniversary I will have drunk all the special bottles we brought back from our honeymoon.

Don't be turned off all wildflower honeys forever, they will differ depending on the time of year they were harvested, the hive location and the growing season that year, every year can be different and some of them are just fantastic (of course, the only honeys I've tased are golden (mostly goldenrod), clover, buckwheat, and a goldenrod-aster honey that's too expensive to make mead with but boy is it fantastic, and wildflower, the current batch I've got is almost as good as the goldenrod-aster...

I was also curious to see how it would change your perception of the tupelo honey if you cut it with some water, you might be able to taste the underlying flavour if the sweetness was knocked down a little.

And don't worry about it just yet, but you may at some point want to combine different honeys to balance their qualities, you may find backsweetening with some tupelo adds more sweetness to a mead that turned out more sour or bitter or tannic than you'd like... both of my big traditional batches were predominantly golden honey with a small amount of the very strong buckwheat honey for some complexity, and I recently tasted some that's been aging since 2006 or so and it tastes about like what I remember Moniack tasting like.

Chevette Girl
12-31-2012, 07:48 AM
Well, let us know if you don't come up with answers, but here's a hint, look at stabilization.

UKTony
05-26-2013, 02:53 PM
So am about to finally get around to making this mead of mine.... however I have some (more) business trips coming up, which has been the main difficulty for getting this started, which means I need to try and plan this very carefully. So I'm hoping that if I detail what I hope to make, people can give me guidance as to timings on the process. I know that it can't "calculated" exactly per se, but I'm hoping it can approximated. For example, if it needs to ferment for about 3 to 5 days I can plan it for a down week.

As I understand it, there are three main stages I need to worry about.

1. Mixing + Fermentation
2. Racking
3. Bottling.

Also if I recall correctly, the transition from 1 to 2 is the most time sensitive, and a mead can stay racked until a person is ready bottle (in my case quite some time for a traditional mead?). The problem is my business trips can often range from a day or two, to a week or more. The last thing I want to do is start a 3 day process if I'm about to disappear for a week.

So here is the recipe I plan to use.

Mead Type: Traditional
HoneyVariety: Summer Thistle
Target ABV: ~14.6
6 (US) Gallons
~ 3lb 1oz per Gallon (for target ABV) = 18lb 7oz Honey
Yeast: 71-B 1122

On a separate note, is it possible to over aerate?? Maybe this is a dumb question?

Thanks for any help in advance.

Cheers

Tony.

kuri
05-26-2013, 09:39 PM
Regarding aeration, yes it is possible to aerate too much, but it's only really a potential problem if you use pure oxygen. Yeast love oxygen up to a point, but too much is harmful and will stress them. With any method of aerating with normal air the highest level you are likely to get to is 8ppm, which is perfectly safe. With pure oxygen you can hit 26ppm, which can be harmful. According to the Wyeast Laboratories page on the subject (http://www.wyeastlab.com/hb_oxygenation.cfm), over-oxygenation isn't really a problem in practice since the yeast go through the oxygen in 3 to 9 hours. With mead making people aerate more often, however, and I suspect that if you aerated with pure oxygen 3 times a day for 5 minutes at a time you'd be stressing your yeast out quite a bit.

For low to mid-strength beers (up to 8% ABV) I've found that 30 seconds of oxygen given once in the beginning is sufficient. I've gone as high as 1 minute and found no real added benefit but also no negative results. For higher strength beers (up to 12% ABV) I've given 30 seconds of oxygen once a day for the first 3 days with good results. I haven't tried giving more than that, though it would probably be a good idea since higher gravity worts dissolve less oxygen than lower gravity worts. I would guess that this holds true for meads as well, meaning that longer oxygenation times would probably be in order. (I've read somewhere on this site a recommendation of oxygenating for 2 minutes at a time once a day for 3 days using pure oxygen. I'm betting that the yeast were perfectly happy at that level.)

Regarding other mead specific questions I'll defer to people with real mead making experience, though my gut feeling is that the time you mostly have to worry about is during the first 3 days when you want to be adding nutrients and oxygen. Most yeasts are fine with your leaving them in primary for an extra week beyond what's needed, and some are even fine with an extra month. I don't know if 71-B is one of these yeasts, though.

Medsen Fey
05-27-2013, 10:43 AM
For wine fermentation, the yeast need only about 10 ppm O2 to generate the sterols to achieve completion. Mead ferments are probably the same. Above that, the additional O2 is of little to no benefit, and could potentially become harmful to the mead at some point.

Very high gravity fermentations might need more.

Sent from my DROID RAZR using Tapatalk 2

UKTony
05-27-2013, 12:40 PM
Thanks Medsen,

Can you throw any light on the approximate durations and timeframes of the main stages of the process?

Regards

Tony