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RyStar
02-02-2013, 04:11 AM
I apologize in advance if this is covered ad nauseam elsewhere, but my iPhone and the search tab do not seem to care for each other. That being said, I am an occasional home brewer with experience in partial mash techniques. I'm doing my first cyser because I want to try something new, and more importantly, in about a month and a half my wife's second pregnancy will come to a close and I want to present her with something delicious to celebrate. Her tastes run to the sweeter side, so beers I can do well are out.

I have four gallons of homemade apple juice from my father-in-law's Pink Lady tree. It has been frozen for a couple of years, but not pasteurized. It was so sweet when it was fresh that I could feel the enamel on my teeth screaming in protest. I also have ten pounds of honey. My plan is to pasteurize the juice, add the honey while the juice is finishing its boil, cool, transfer to my beer carboy(5.5 gallon?) and pitch White Labs sweet mead yeast.

Now for the newbee questions.
1) What kind of ABV can I expect from this must? I tried the calculator, with four gallons of apples, but there was no apple juice option.
2) Am I leaving enough headspace in my carboy to prevent a blowout? I have poked around enough to see how energetically yeast ferments in mead and would like to prevent a mess.
3) How long will it take from "brewing" to drinkable? It will be at least three months from tomorrow until my wife has her first drink, so I have plenty of time. 4) Additionally, she is a lightweight so if the calculator was correct and I hit 14-15%, one or two will be enough for her so some of this will bottle condition for an extended period. How well does cyser keep?
5) Does any other part of my "plan" seem like it needs adjustment?

Any other tips and tricks I may have missed in my exploration of this site are appreciated.

And once more I beg your indulgence of a newbee and offer my heartfelt thanks for your advice. I look forward to learning and hopefully helping another newbee down the road.

fatbloke
02-02-2013, 05:06 AM
Don't pasturise the juice. It's been frozen and while you might have a little ice based dehydration and oxidation, defrosting it, hitting it with sulphites and tasting should be more than enough (its a mead not a beer).

I'd also suggest a yeast with a higher competitive ability like K1v1116. Beer people often go with liquid yeasts, whereas there's evidence, anecdotal at least, that a dry yeast is a better option.

You could defrost the juice, mix in the honey and then sulphite. Just leave it 2 or 3 days before pitching yeast so you can test gravity to establish likely strength and taste of the mix.

You can also keep a pound of the honey back for back sweetening. A yeast like K1v1116 would likely take it dry.

There's lots of choices here but I can't emphasise enough about "no heat"......

Cpt.Frederickson
02-02-2013, 07:36 AM
I would think about leaving it a good while after you've fermented it too. I also make beer (BIAB, like the Aussies), but its important to remember that the techniques differ vastly.

As Fatbloke said, there is no need to heat. I only ever apply heat if I have a particularly thick set honey, and that is with warm water. Heating can destroy many of the more delicate components of the honey that will create complexity of flavour and aromatic qualities.
I'd also second his suggestion of using K1V. A great yeast, and the first I used. Good temp range, very competitive...

Back to aging, you will need to leave it a good while. This is far from the 'bottle and condition for a month' that you get from beer.
I made a Cyser May 2012 (my second mead), which was 'drinkable' after about 4 months, but improving vastly now it is about 9 months. I plan to keep this for some time and see how it goes. The thing with mead is it really needs a good year to reach its full potential, so its definitely a patience game!

I started mead making about a month after the birth of my daughter (I'd been toying with the idea, getting kit together and researching since about this time last year) but so far I haven't drunk a great deal of any of what i have made except for samples when racking and/or measuring gravity.
Out of five batches to date (6th is underway and the rest were all done by last August) I have only bottled two batches (the first two) and the rest are still bulk aging.
So what I'm saying is, save it for his/her first birthday, or at least christmas! It'll be well worth it.

Best of luck mate.

Chevette Girl
02-03-2013, 02:56 PM
I've generally found that apple juice is around 1.050, if you go to the calculator and try that as a starting SG and see what happens when you add your amount of honey... you may well find that you don't need that much honey when you go to put this recipe together. I think mine ended up using something like 1-1.5 lb per gallon, if I recall correctly.

I agree that pasteurization shouldn't be required.

I think you will be able to make something really awesome with honey and apple juice, but I do have my doubts that it'll be good in a month and a half. If you want something that quick to drink, the Finnish lemon Sima recipe works pretty well (and you can just add more honey for a sweeter finish) or Joe's Ancient Orange, which is made with bread yeast and is drinkable in 2 months (better in 6 :D).

There might be a quick cyser recipe around that you could look at for ideas. The forum search function can sometimes be helpful :)

RyStar
02-18-2013, 03:49 PM
Here's my update. Mixed with a paint stirrer on 2/10 and added potassium metabisulfite and left refrigerated. Transferred to a carboy on 2/12, added yeast nutrient and pitched. It was still a bit cold from refrigeration, but so was the yeast. When I came home on 2/14 I had activity in the airlock, but temp was about 65 degrees. On 2/16 I put a heating pad on it and now it's in the recommended butter zone. I've also been shaking it a bit twice a day. I do not have gravity readings yet since I am waiting for the refractometer I ordered(I held back a sample for testing and it is in the fridge). I still have pretty active fermentation, but I'm wondering if I should add more yeast nutrient?

Other than that, I'm pretty much living proof that as long as your sanitation is good, you can't screw up to bad.

fatbloke
02-18-2013, 04:43 PM
Next mistake is relying on a refractometer when it arrives.

A refractometer is fine when you're just using it to test initial sugar content. The readings are thrown when you start to get some alcohol content so it will likely be too late for the refractometer but if you get a standard hydrometer and test jar too you'd have most bases covered. You still would only be able to get an approximate SG through the calculator but you will then be able to monitor the rest of what is going on.

WVMJack
02-18-2013, 05:00 PM
I havent seen any pectinase added yet? If not you can pick some up when you get your hydrometer, but dont you already have one from making beer? WVMJ

RyStar
02-18-2013, 06:11 PM
What is the pectin ate for? I didn't see that in the guide.

My hydrometer did what they do best and broke. I have another one coming, but I'll just be using it for fg, but for og and determining when it has stabilized I will use the refractometer.

Riverat
02-18-2013, 06:50 PM
Pectin is a polysaccharide that many fruits have in varying amounts, it is used in jams and jellies to make the juice "set up". it can cause a haze that can be hard to clear any other way, particularly if it has been heated.
Pectinase is an enzyme that will break the complex sugar into smaller units that can be cleared and digested

RyStar
02-18-2013, 06:55 PM
Ok. My juice was pretty cloudy to begin with. When is it typically added? I was going to try and clear it by cold crashing. I'm not terribly worried about appearance, just taste.

Riverat
02-18-2013, 07:17 PM
Idealy before fermentation, but it will still be effective afterward.

WVMJack
02-18-2013, 07:27 PM
My hydrometer did what they do best and broke. I have another one coming, but I'll just be using it for fg, but for og and determining when it has stabilized I will use the refractometer.

I had a bad day on brewing day and determined I need to have at least 3 to be reasonably sure I would have a working hydrometer! WVMJack

Medsen Fey
02-19-2013, 06:45 AM
I will use the refractometer.

A refractometer works well if you simply use one of the calculators (like vinocalc) to make the adjustment for the presence of alcohol.

RyStar
03-18-2013, 01:05 AM
Alright, I transferred to a secondary early on the 13th, a couple of days after airlock activity slowed to one bubble every 30 seconds. By the time I was able to transfer activity was nil.

I saved the lees in two one quart containers and threw them in the fridge to settle out so I could taste. It has settled and clarified well, so I decided to cold crash the whole batch.