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Ten Beers
02-10-2013, 06:31 PM
Greetings!

So i jumped in with both feet after watching a couple youtube videos and talking with a friend I work with who's made beer for years. (I thought this will be easy!) Bought A wine kit from Mdwest and put together a "show mead" with 17.5 lbs of honey and 6 gal. water, aiming for 12% alc, ...like what I'd buy. I didn't pay attention to the yeast, I just went with what the woman at the wine supply store recommended,(a mostly yellow packet) I now know I'll end up with a dry mead and it's likely to take a while to finish. I'll rack it one more time I'm thinkin' ...soon, as there seems to be a bit of dead yeast around.
Started it on the first if the year, racked it at 3 weeks, it has slowed quite a bit since then. I really want to keep things as raw as possible. Don't wanna add chemicals. I'll just let this finish.

That being said, I'm now thinking about my 2nd batch. What I would like to achieve is a raw mead, a basic mead, an old style mead. Something not dry. I'm willing to age a "great mead". I'll start with 1honey-4water as the oldest written mead recipe calls for.

My question is yeast...

akueck
02-10-2013, 09:38 PM
Check out the NewBee Guide (link at left bar), which will give you a good idea about how to choose the amount of honey and the yeast, etc.

Good yeasts to start with are 71B and K1V, both from Lalvin. They are easy to work with. I'd recommend going with a starting gravity of about 1.100-1.110, which should give you a 14-15% abv mead (rather standard for "wine-strength") and most likely a little bit of residual sweetness. You can always sweeten at the end if it is too dry for you.

Ten Beers
02-11-2013, 03:34 PM
Aye! TY akueck!

I find the calculator quite helpful. I guess my question is how much extra sugar will produce a sweet mead? If I use a yeast that dies at 14%ABV and start with 14.13%ABV (according to the calc.) Will that produce a sweet mead? Should I take it to 15%ABV? What would be the min sugar level? (assuming I use 71-B yeast that dies off at 14%ABV) Should I start at one step higher than max ABV for the yeast? That would take me to 17.5-18%. What's too High?

Some simple guidelines here would really help. I realize sweetness is a personal preference, but let's assume I'd like to start at a min sweetness and build from there.
TY

akueck
02-11-2013, 07:35 PM
There's no single answer to your question. Those "alcohol tolerance" numbers are not set in stone, and depending on your circumstances (gravity, temperature, pitch rate, nutrients, non-honey fermentables, etc) you can get a wide range of actual alcohol tolerances. 71B has gone to 17-18% for many people when used in cysers (apple juice and honey), although it does tend to stop in the 13-15% range for traditionals.

If you are just starting out, I would recommend beginning with the 1.100-1.110 range. See how the yeast does for you. Backsweeten to taste if you like, and measure the final SG when it gets to where you like it. Next time, you can start with an OG that incorporates your backsweetening addition (e.g. if you added 0.005 to your finished mead that started at 1.100, start the next one at 1.105). You'll probably need to tweak that one too, but it should require less tinkering. Eventually you will be able to find an OG that gets you the sweetness level you like, for your setup and your "typical" fermentation conditions. Everyone's setup is going to be a little different. Part of the fun, no?

Ten Beers
02-16-2013, 05:00 AM
TY again akueck!
I have been reading and learning. There's more in the NewBee Guide than I realized. I AM one to start in the deep end.
It seems maybe I should not set aside this first batch, but tweak it instead. As my only desire is to concoct a good basic mead with these three ingredients, then I perhaps I've got a good start here. It is quite tasty;D. I am resolute that there will be no chemicals added.
I now know that I've used RED STAR Pastuer Champagne yeast, as recommended by the lady at the supply store. "A strong yeast that can break down the complex sugars of honey." she said.
My original SG was 1.092, I am now at .996 (if I'm reading this thing right)
Currently looking for the basic process of back sweetening. Thought I'd add enough honey to take Grav up .4, a new batch of yeast and give it a month.
Yes?

akueck
02-16-2013, 09:52 AM
The complex sugars of honey? That's kind of funny, honey is almost completely inverted (reduced to glucose and fructose, i.e. monomer sugars). Anyway...

It's a good idea to let the mead age at least a little while before backsweetening. The flavors will change a lot over the next couple months, and you don't want to add too much sweetness now and find out later that it is sickly sweet. Let the mead drop clear, let it age as long as you can stand it, and then backsweeten to taste.

I'm curious about the "new batch of yeast". Are you looking to add more honey now and have it ferment? If so, that is called step-feeding (different than backsweetening) and you don't need to add more yeast. You should have at least a few hundred billion of them already. ;) Step-feeding is generally employed to get the yeast to very high alcohol levels.

Ten Beers
02-17-2013, 05:14 AM
Aye. The new batch of yeast... My thought is to add enough honey to take this yeast to its full 16%ABV capacity. Though I guess I won't need the new yeast.
As I understand things, there will almost always be live yeast in a honey/water/yeast mix, it can ferment for years. Unless the alcohol % kills it. With this low alc...

It has to clear, then you call it aging? Clearing signifies the death of yeast?

If I age it 4 months then back sweeten, then bottle, won't there still be live yeast, i.e. explosive bottles?

And yes, she did say the complex sugars of honey. I went to get a vile for my hydrometer to float in for monthly readings, and to find out what yeast I used. :p

CHEERS!

fatbloke
02-17-2013, 07:33 AM
The step feeding process already alluded to can just be used to increase % ABV a little, equally you can step feed until the yeast has made enough alcohol to die off, further additions of honey then would just increase the sweetness.

Whereas making a brew to a set level, then clearing before sweetening is considered as back sweetening. Just that even with a cleared batch there's likely some cells still present. So it's routine to "stabilise" the batch before back sweetening i.e. racking/siphoning the finished ferment off the sediment, then adding sulphites often in the form of campden tablets crushed (campden tablets are eithe potassium metabisulphite or sodium metabisulphite) at a dosage of 1 tablet per gallon. That will stun any yeast cells. Then you add potassium sorbate, usually a half teaspoon per gallon which stops the yeast cells re-multiplying if further fermentable sugars (honey) are added. With the sulphites and sorbates in the batch its safe to clear and sweeten to taste.

As akueck says, the sweetness level we enjoy will vary with personal taste. Now I know that I like my finished meads at about the 1.010 level, but I also know that sweetening with honey can cause an already clear brew to produce a haze (it proteins in the honey I understand), so I just stabilise my brews then set the sweetness with honey to about the level I like, then clear it (just time, unless I'm impatient to get on with it and will use finings).

Mostly I just let the yeast drop out on its own but if I made the batch with 71B yeast I'm more likely to hit it with finings as the 71B (Narbonne strain) yeast is known to produce autolysis related off flavours if the batch is left on the sediment too long (guesstimate of a max of 2 months) then it can be racked off the sediment quicker to be on the safe side.

The ageing process/time is recommended because young meads can taste horrible, yet after some ageing (6months is about my minimum) its like a completely different drink.

If it should taste a bit too sweet (meads can recover a perception of sweetness while ageing) after its aged for a while then you can usually mask that with some acid addition and/or wine tannin.

Ten Beers
02-17-2013, 07:51 PM
I'm finding that it's all about reinventing the wheel. It'll have to be my wheel.
You guys think with such clarity.

akueck
02-17-2013, 08:41 PM
Things make more sense once you've been through them half a dozen (or several dozen) times. Until then, keep drinking! Er, brewing!

Clarity does not signify yeast death. [Clear mead can actually have thousands of cells per ml, you just can't see them!] Even when the yeast reach their alcohol tolerance and stop fermenting, they aren't dead per se. Think of it more like hibernation; the yeast will stop working and hang out until conditions change and they can ferment again.

Since you don't want the yeast to wake up and go to work when you are backsweetening, you'll want to stabilize the mead somehow. As FB said, chemical stabilization is easy and most often used. You can also use sterile filtration (trickier and more expensive) or pasteurization (risks heat damage, usually easier to do on a commercial scale) to remove or kill the yeast, respectively.

Ten Beers
02-19-2013, 06:13 AM
Ah! I think my little brain is starting to grasp some things.
I pasteurized everything going in, pasteurizing everything when I'm done can eliminate a need for chemicals. I like that. :) (Don't know why that wasn't in my head.) A delicate hand will be needed but I can stop the fermentation process at any time to retain what sweetness level I like.
Heat damage?
I'm gonna go with heat.
I'm gonna go buy another bottle of "Oliver" mead and test it's FG. Aim for that.
I'm gonna bulk age for at least a few months.
I'm gonna need another glass carboy.
I'm gonna split my 2nd batch into 5 - 1gal steps of .005FG or so ...I'll have to think on that...Mostly I'll have to buy the woman's wine by the gal for now.

There really is so much info on this site.
Good lord I'm thinking about my 3rd batch!

Can't thank you guys enough!
CHEERS!
Beers

akueck
02-19-2013, 07:26 PM
Heat damage, yeah. It can get a cooked flavor if it stays hot too long. Generally the way it works is that you have two coils, one in a hot bath and one in a cold bath. The mead runs through the coil in the hot bath and then into the cold bath. You have to have enough hot coil to get the temp up to pasteurization temp and stay there long enough (there are tables for this, you can look it up, higher temp = less time).