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View Full Version : First batch racked - some questions!



Jarveye
06-10-2013, 06:10 PM
Hi Guys, im new here, im in Scotland and am making my first 5 gallon batch of mead heres exactly what i did (taken appox from the complete meadmaker)

appoligies in advance for the large amount of question!

recipe:
6.34kg Pure blossom honey (blend)
around 160g of local shetland honey
4 gallons of highland spring water
2tsp yeast nutrient (VinClasse, bottle advises 1 tspper gallon)
15 tsp Tronozymol nutrient and energiser salts (couldnt find any of the reccomended energisers in the UK this one recommended 1-2 tsp per 4.5 litres for dry table wines, i had to kinda guess an amount to use!)
Yeast: 2 packets (10g total) Lavlin EC-1118 (apparently good for champagne)

Method: i used the 'no heat method'
1) added 3 gallons water - room temp to my plastic 5 gallon fermenter
2) added the nutrient and energiser
3) added honey - mixed up a fair bit
4) added hot/cold water till around 19 degrees c or 66 degrees F
5) rehydrated yeast half a cup of water at 104F allowed to stand for 15 mins, mixed then added to must.
6) oxegenated - beat with hand whisk for 5 mins
7) hydrometer reading: approc 1.112 (was hard to read accurate!)
8) add extra water till 5 gallons
9) fitted airlock and put in a closet in the coolest room in the house and left for 16 days till today. around 19 degrees C

i wasnt sure how it was fermenting and i know you cant judge by bubbles, but it started around a couple of bubbles a minute till last few days when it was hardly any.


i sanitised my glass carboy and siphon etc. and i opened the fermenter - i had problems with my siphon and a little spillage, but i got some in my hydrometer tube and left rest to go into the carboy, i took a reading and i didnt quite have enough in it, but enough to see it was down to what appeared to be less than 1.00 - i tasted it and it was quite dry - certainly not as sweet as the mead ive tasted (Moniack mead).

the problems i wanted help with:

1) is this a success? is that reading so low mean its too dry? over femented? i quite liked the taste, but if i wanted it sweeter etc is there a way to adjust it? do i need to stop it fermenting any more?
2) how do i know the alchohol percentage exactly? i want to be accurate it tasted quite strong
3) siphoning was a pain - when i got near the bottom with the sediment it was worrying and i ended up finding it near impossible to siphone the last 1.5 inches of mead without sediment or the bubbled stopping the siphon, so it feels like im wasting around a bottle of mead! also the glass carboy isnt near full - i read the benifit of this glass carboy was when full to neck theres little area exposed to the air, but mine isnt full to the neck...

Right now ive poured the rest of it into a jug in the hope i can let it settle again and maybe get a bit more out of it easier than when it was in the fermenter? perhaps this is ill advised?

also if it is well fermented... what next? i plan to age it for atleast around 6 months and perhaps use toasted oak chips to add some character before bottling, but firstly i dont know how i could added the toasted chips to the glass carboy and easily remove them again.

I also might add fruit to make a melomel to a portion of the batch, if i understand correctly from what ive read some adivse to do this after fermentation to avoid the fruit fermenting and making effectly fruit wine and mead combined. so but they also say for apple flavouring to use cider? and also use raspberrys, strawberrys and soem spices including cinamon to make a kind of mulled spice and berry flavouring. any advice with this also appreciated!

Skol!

Jarveye
06-11-2013, 07:18 PM
any help much appreciated!

update: the leftover mead i had problems racking settled fairly well over 24 hours so i have siphoned this into a glass wine bottle for now till i find out if its safe to add this to the rest.

it is still a fair bit cloudier than the rest int the caboy

SilentJimbo
06-11-2013, 08:45 PM
1) Dry is fine, as long as you like the taste. You'll want to take a few more hydrometer readings over the next week to ensure it has finished fermenting. If you want it sweeter, stabilize with sorbate and sulphites, and then backsweeten it.

2) The yellow column to left contains a link to the mead calculator, where it'll work out the abv based on your hydrometer readings.

3) Many different solutions to the gap at the top of the carboy, all with pros and cons. Try doing a search for the term "headspace". As for siphoning, many siphons feature a cap at the end to stop the sediment getting sucked up. You'll always get some loss though.

THawk
06-11-2013, 09:37 PM
3) siphoning was a pain - when i got near the bottom with the sediment it was worrying and i ended up finding it near impossible to siphone the last 1.5 inches of mead without sediment or the bubbled stopping the siphon, so it feels like im wasting around a bottle of mead!

Generally the last inch or so gets tossed simply because of that -- all the crud and dead yeast at the bottom of the vessel. Worse if you have fruit in primary (e.g. blueberries) you'll end up with half mashed berries going into your hose and clogging it.

You don't have to get every last drop (although we'd all want to!) -- unless you really want to take the time to filter it all out... and people have tried coffee filters and cheesecloth... nothing really works...

Jarveye
06-12-2013, 02:40 PM
Right ok thank you for your responses.

i had toruble getting an accurate reading with my hydrometer, as the siphoning was happening so damn fast i was struggling to get the correct amount into the hydrometer tube and, well, excuses aside - it was a learning curve and messy!

is there an easy way to take a hydrometer reading when it is in the glass carboy? or should i use a baster to remove a small bit, do the reading then pour it back?

also a couple of extra/unanswered questions:

1) the extra mead near the bottom which i poured into a jug and left standing (exposed to the ait i'll add), as i said it settled fairly well over 24 hours so i siphoned a bottles worth of this into a wine bottle and poured the settled spent yeast away, should i use this to top up my carboy? it is cloudier than the rest i siphoned and has been exposed to air for around 24h... so i could either do this, use this less clear stuff to experiment with or drink, or perhaps i should throw it away?

2) im thinking depending on the answer above, to use a honey/water mix to top up my carboy, then it will be set for aging, im undecided on what exactly im doing yet, but it is fairly clear already, im guessing i need to rack it perhaps once a month over the next new months to clarify it more?

3) if i decide to make all or some of this batch into a fruit and spice mead - can i pretty much do this at any time before i bottle it?

B. Goldwater
06-12-2013, 03:41 PM
Right ok thank you for your responses.

i had toruble getting an accurate reading with my hydrometer, as the siphoning was happening so damn fast i was struggling to get the correct amount into the hydrometer tube and, well, excuses aside - it was a learning curve and messy!

is there an easy way to take a hydrometer reading when it is in the glass carboy? or should i use a baster to remove a small bit, do the reading then pour it back?

also a couple of extra/unanswered questions:

1) the extra mead near the bottom which i poured into a jug and left standing (exposed to the ait i'll add), as i said it settled fairly well over 24 hours so i siphoned a bottles worth of this into a wine bottle and poured the settled spent yeast away, should i use this to top up my carboy? it is cloudier than the rest i siphoned and has been exposed to air for around 24h... so i could either do this, use this less clear stuff to experiment with or drink, or perhaps i should throw it away?

2) im thinking depending on the answer above, to use a honey/water mix to top up my carboy, then it will be set for aging, im undecided on what exactly im doing yet, but it is fairly clear already, im guessing i need to rack it perhaps once a month over the next new months to clarify it more?

3) if i decide to make all or some of this batch into a fruit and spice mead - can i pretty much do this at any time before i bottle it?

There are many answers to your hydrometer question... in short "yes" you can take a hydrometer reading in the carboy using a CLEANED and SANITZIED hydrometer, but if your cleaning and sanitizing isnt up to par then you could be introducing nasties into your whole batch. Another potential issue with this method is if your mead is very dry your hydrometer might bottom out making it a tad difficult to retrieve it from your batch. Another option is to take a CLEANED and SANITIZED turkey baster, wine thief, straw, etc... and remove enough mead to float your hydrometer in the CLEANED and SANITIZED tube. The mead used for this can be returned to the carboy, but as I said before you run the risk of introducing nasties into your batch if your cleaning and sanitizing isnt spot on. I generally use this as my sample for tasting and make notes as my batch progresses.

your extra questions:

if you are hell bent on keeping your rescue, the question I pose is what was your gravity reading, was it done or still fermenting?

Either way I would hit it with some campden and if fermentation was complete I would cold crash it in your fridge. There will be sediment on the bottom of the bottle and you might want to rack it in a month or so. You could then use it to top off your carboy after the next racking, i would taste it before you add it if you go this route...

If your batch is still fermenting you "might" be ok just adding it back in as there was prolly a layer of CO2 in the jug.

Topping off your carboy with honey/water mix is a fine way to eliminate head space. if you are concerned about what your ABV is it might be trickier, but you can use the mead calculator in the yellow bar on the left to do the calculation. I try to keep it simple by using the same O.G. i started the batch with when I top off with new mixture. From time to time I might use glass marbles to take up the space if I dont have honey, juice, or fruit to make up the difference. If you use juice make sure it doenst have any potassium sorbate in it.

You cant really dictate to a mead when you will rack it, it clears at its own pace generally speaking. You can set a target of racking in a month, but it may or may not be necessary. If there are a ton of lees then rack it, if there is just a fine dusting, leave it alone and check back later.

Yes you can add fruit, spices, herbs, etc at any point, that is a liberty inherant of being a meadmaker, but remember that when you add it to the mead it will generally be months before it can be bottled. If you add fruit/juice/sugar/honey the yeast will come alive again if the ABV isnt too high or if it hasnt been sulfite/sorbated properly. You will need time for it to clear again before you can bottle. If you arent adding the fruit etc to primary I would suggest adding in secondary, to finish off fermentation and to start the clearing process. I wouldnt wait months in secondary or after first racking to then add the fruit etc, it would take that much more time to enjoy...

Just my .02 cents, but one of the more experienced forum members might have other suggestions...

fatbloke
06-12-2013, 03:53 PM
1.......yes. when I rack I run it down to where I can see any slight lift of sediment then stop. If you collect a couple of different sized plassy pop bottles, just cut the top off so the racking cane goes in easily. Then you can rack right down to the top of the sediment, cover with clingers and put it in the fridge. Any sediment drops into the molded feet and bingo, reduced racking loses......especially if you make small batches (given the availability of 1 gallon glass DJ's etc).

2.....yes you can indeed use it for topping up. Equally, if you stabilise you can use honey/water too. Your caveat being that honey can cause a haze when added for back sweetening, which is why I back sweeten while still cloudy, to a level that I prefer. Many commercial meads in the UK seem to be dessert sweet i.e. in the 1.040 are when tested. That's too sweet for my taste so I just ferment dry, rack, stabilise and back sweeten to the 1.010 to 1.015 area. Then just leave it to clear. If I'm feeling impatient then I'll hit it with 2 part finings.

3.....yes, provided that you've stabilised first. Using a yeast lime ec1118 leaves you exposed to possible refermentation without it, unless you've step fed the batch until the yeast dies. Most fruit just need freezing and thawing, then add the juice and all untill the brew reaches the desired colour/flavour. Read up wine recipes for some guidance on how much fruit per gallon to use. With spices, a little can go a long way, so with dried spices like clove, nutmeg, cinnamon etc use small amounts then taste after a week or two (in the JAO recipe, Joe mentions about cloves and yes, just 2 cloves can be more than enough.....)

As for gravity testing, I routinely just sanitise the turkey baster, hydrometer and test jar with sprayed on home mixed (5 crushed campden tablets and a teaspoon of citric acid mixed into a pint of water in a hand spray) sanitiser. Sample and test then put the test back in. Never had a problem thus far though it might draw black looks from the purists and beer makers who seem rather more anal about stuff like that.....

Jarveye
06-12-2013, 06:19 PM
great advice again, thanks guys!

no doubt ill be back with more questions soon

huesmann
06-18-2013, 02:29 PM
Regarding your siphon, they make these little plastic ribbed clamps that you can use to progressively pinch down the hose to limit the flow. Alternately, you could get a large binder clip like this (not sure what you all call them in Scotland):
http://reputeofficeneeds.com/shopping/files/1262181309_BindersClipN00004.jpg