View Full Version : All Natural Traditional

03-06-2013, 01:06 PM
I am new to brewing and I am very excited to be making my first mead. I'm going with a traditional mead with only all natural ingredients (no DAP, no urea, ect).

My wife is really into health/organic/all natural things. So to win her support for my new hobby, I'm making it a "health" thing.

Here's the recipe: (added straight with no boiling)
- 17.5 lbs Raw Clover Honey (Bee Flower & Sun Honey)
- Spring Water to make 5 gal
- WLP720 Sweet Mead Yeast
- HomeMade Yeast Nutrient consisting of the following:
- Powdered Amino Acids (taken from capsules)
- Bee Pollen, Y.S. Eco Bee Farms, Whole Granules
- Brewer’s Yeast (inactive)
- Powdered Multi-Vitamin (also taken from capsules)

I am aiming to use primarily the amino acids to achieve about 250ppm N.

I'm assuming that my formula for nutrient is something close to Fermaid O, which I read on another blog is about 6.5% Nitrogen. If my calculations are right, then every tsp of my homemade nutrient will give me about 10ppm N in a 5 gal must.

Since my nutrient is much less "nitrogeny" than DAP I'll need to add a great deal more. I think I remember a post by Akueck, in which he states that amino acids shouldn't negatively affect the mead. Basically I will need to add about 25 tsp between starter, initial must, and first and second staggered nutrient additions. (I plan on only doing two staggered additions).

Here's the nutrient information:
Starter: 3 tsp
Must before Pitch: 12 tsp
1/3 Fermentation: 6 tsp
2/3 Fermentation: 3 tsp

I will also not be adding any more than 3.5 g/gal of yeast hulls so as not to make my mead taste "yeasty"

I am aiming for an Initial SG of 1.125, and a Final SG of 1.01.

My concern:
I think this should work, but I still have one concern. I'm not sure what the nitrogen requirements are for WLP720 Liquid Yeast. I called over to White Labs and have emailed back and forth with one of their employees yesterday and today. According to the employee they don't do nitrogen requirement tests on individual strains. He told me that all of their Saccharomyces strains require the recommended 150ppm of nitrogen.

My question:
150ppm nitrogen seems low to me, particularly when I am targeting 1.125 SG to make a medium sweet mead at about 1.01 SG (15%ABV). Does anyone have any experience with WLP720, or any liquid yeasts with regard to nitrogen requirements and high initial specific gravities?

Thank you!

03-06-2013, 10:28 PM
I have seen recipes and tasted meads with even less than 150ppm N, usually with D47 or K1V, an I know D21 can do 1.110-0.998 with 150ppm YAN.
Do you have an aversion to using Fermaid O?
DAP is a natural mineral (just like sodium chloride), but it is not advisable to use it as the sole nutrient, 30% by weight is average. Some people here use Fermaid K as the sole nutrient, others mix DAP and K, and others mix K and O.
If completely bent on your own mix, add some potassium as potassium carbonate, and some epsom. They are certified in organic farming (in deficient areas) so that is good enough for me.
I have a poll about using pollen, you might want to check it out in the ingredients section.
I would bet that a batch with 200ppm of inorganic nitrogen, and a batch with 150ppm organic nitrogen come out very similar. Yeast work better on organic nitrogen sources and require less (think of it like eating whole grain vs sugar), so don't worry about short changing it too much.

03-07-2013, 12:18 PM
Thank you for the feedback. I feel much better about the nitrogen issue.

I have no aversion to Fermaid O. My shipment just hasn't come in yet.

I got my starter going yesterday at about 7AM. Before I left for work today (about 24 hours later) it was bubbling at about 1 every 10 seconds. I intend to pitch it later this afternoon.

A few newbee follow on questions:

1. Can I pitch the entire starter into my must, or should I decant most of the upper liquid first before pitching just the slurry?

2. What function does potassium carbonate and epsom salt perform during initial fermentation/post initial fermentation?

3. If I begin to have pH issues, are there any "organic" methods to correct pH?

03-07-2013, 03:52 PM
1. If you pitch while active, don't decant; if pitching after activity dies, decant.
2. Potassium carbonate raises the pH and adds buffering capacity to the must, it also supplements potassium levels which are vital for fermentation. Epsom adds magnesium which is also vital for fermentation. I use 1g/gal each K2CO3 and MgSO4*7H2O (they look way smatter when spelled out chemically ;)), but that is just me. BTW, Epsom is found in fermaid K so I use a lot of it in my meads, but my water is very soft.
3. Potassium carbonate and potassium bitartrate are both used for buffering the pH. The first can be easily found in homebrew stores, the second is cream of tarter from the spice isle. As for "organic", carbon molecules are not very effective at pH buffering so there realy are no organic solutions. But if you mean things that can pass USDA organic labels, yeast hulls might help, realistically that is probably the only truly organic thing you can add. I would bite the bullet and use either K2CO3 or cream of tarter.
Hope this helps, and I don't want to smear organics, I buy 90% organic, but some minerals/chemicals that are not certified are completely safe in my eyes, I just rather not use too much of them. :)

03-07-2013, 07:14 PM
Some old recipes use a chicken or a side of beef for both nutrients and pH buffering. So there is always that route. :eek:

Egg shells will raise the pH. They will dissolve slowly, so you need to add a little and check again the next day. Potassium carbonate is nice because it dissolves quickly and you can see the effect within an hour or so (probably much less, but I like to wait a little to be sure).

03-08-2013, 11:49 AM
Update on my Traditional:

My the multivitamin part of my nutrient contains some small amount of magnesium. I'm hoping that it is enough, but I'll keep a close eye on it. I also added potassium bitartrate in the form of cream of tartar to control the pH. I added 1 tsp for my 5 gal must. Hopefully this is enough. Thanks for the recommendation!

I missed by my SG target by adding a bit to much water (newbee mistake). My initial SG reading was 1.120 when I had wanted to get to 1.125. I went ahead and pitched my starter last night (with no decanting). It is now bubbling at about 1 bubble a min (12 hours after pitching).

What would be the best option to finish at my targeted 1.01 SG since I missed my 1.125 SG target?:

1. Should I rack from the primary early maybe at 1.03-1.05 and let it finish in the secondary? Will that get it to stop before it gets all the way down to 1.002ish? (WLP720 yeast has a 15% alcohol tolerance)

2. Would a better option be to rack into a secondary right at 1.01 and add potassium sorbate to halt fermentation right at 14.37% ABV?

3. I would like to rack into 5 separate 1 gal secondaries and experiment a bit with flavors on a couple of them, so would the potassium sorbate keep me from doing this?

Thank you for guiding me through my first mead!

03-08-2013, 07:22 PM
Stopping an active fermentation can be a bit tricky. Just adding sorbate is not likely to do much of anything, as it only prevents yeast budding (growth) and by the time you are around 1.010 they aren't growing anymore. Adding sulfite will knock the yeast out, but you need to add a lot to halt active yeast.

The more effective method is to cold crash, rack, and add chemicals then. Cold crashing will drop the yeast out of suspension; racking removes most of the sleepy yeast; and the chemicals will take care of the yeast that makes it through the previous 2 steps.

03-10-2013, 05:08 PM
I've finished with the staggered nutrient additions and fermentation is going strong.

Based on your advice Akueck, I think trying to stop an active fermentation would definitely be a bad idea for me. I'll let the yeast go until they kill themselves off. Hopefully its not too dry, but I'll enjoy it either way since its my first batch ever.

I'd rather not use Sulphates, but I think I'm ok with Bentonite to clear, and a small bit of Sorbate to add some measure of protection against bottle bombs.

Will aging about a couple months in secondary or tertiary after the last sign of fermentation (no bubbles and no change in SG) be enough protection against bottle bombs if I also use some small amount of Sorbate?

03-10-2013, 05:21 PM
The generally accepted idea is that sorbate and sulphites should be used in combination or not at all. I'm sure someone will chime in here with the theory, but the two work together. I believe sorbate on its own can actually cause more problems than it solves.
If I recall correctly, sorbate should be added a few hours after sulphites, but not more than twelve hours.

03-10-2013, 05:37 PM
You can sometimes use sulfites on their own, but you ought not use sorbate by itself. Sorbate only prevents reproduction, but it doesn't knock out anything that's in the mead already. Any viable cells will stay viable, they just won't be able to make cute little copies of themselves. If there is residual sugar in the mead, sorbate only is not sufficient to stabilize the mead. If you could get a truly dry mead with *zero* residual sugar (practically impossible), then sulfite would theoretically be unnecessary.

Sulfite on its own will knock out the current population, but not prevent any future contaminations from multiplying. So you usually use them together to give your mead the old 1-2 punch.

Sorbate can also be metabolized by some organisms, and it reduces to geraniol. That smells like geraniums, which is not usually what you're going for. The sulfite-sorbate combo prevents that.

03-12-2013, 06:45 PM
I've read several posts (including one by Medsen Fey) in which mead makers stated that they often don't use sorbate or sulphates.

My goal is to avoid bottle bombs (and to make great tasting mead). If some of the posts I've read can be trusted, I think I'd rather go medium-sweet to dry, never backsweeten, and age an extra several months (after the last fermentation), rather than use chemicals.

Please let me know if I read those other posts wrong and this is a really dumb idea.

03-12-2013, 09:03 PM
By no means are chemicals necessary to bottle a mead and not have it blow up. I almost never use sorbate, and sulfite I use infrequently and in fairly low doses (mostly as an antioxidant rather than a yeast killer). But I tend to make meads on the lower end of the FG scale, usually not more than 1.015, and they are "fully fermented" at 14-15% abv. Typically this mead will be fine in bottles, assuming you've let it age in a carboy for awhile. And once you've done a particular recipe several times, you can feel more confident about it being "done".

For newbees starting out, and for folks who backsweeten or want to bottle early, some sort of stabilization is a good idea. Think of it as insurance.

04-02-2013, 09:45 AM
Bubbles had slowed to about 1 per minute after 24 days, so I racked it last night. The SG reading was 1.006 (ABV% 14.84). It smells really good, but the taste is very strong. The mead is also very cloudy and has not even started to clear. It definately needs to age now.

2 follow up questions:

1. Will WLP720 (Sweet Mead Liquid Yeast) clear up on its own or will it need help from bentonite or something similar?

2. Is it normal that the color changes after racking? - The color was light yellow, almost a bright color. It is still lightly colored, but now it is more brownish. Could that be caused by oxygen getting into the mead during racking?

Thanks in advance!

Chevette Girl
04-07-2013, 10:58 AM
I also don't often use the chemicals, but I also keep most brews in secondary for at least a year before I bottle. I learned the hard way (popped corks and messes) not to rush the bottling if you don't use stabilizers.

We can't really predict when/whether any particular yeast will clear on its own, I've had some batches drop clear in a week and another using the same yeast still cloudy after 5 years. If it's not clearing up after about two or three months from the last time the airlock bubbled (or the SG stopped dropping), then I'd think about bentonite, although you're in for the long haul anyway if you're not stabilizing something that's still got residual sugars, you can just as easily wait until you're a month or two off from wanting to bottle this.

Colour changes are hard to predict, sometimes it looks a lot more white/yellow when the yeast is all suspended and active, and then more of its actual brownish/golden colour will show once the yeast starts settling out as fermentation slows.