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View Full Version : My next mead -- planning it out



Jim H
06-16-2013, 11:52 AM
I am starting to put a plan together for my next mead, and I'd like to bounce it off of everyone, and get suggestions to make it as well as I can. This will be my first traditional mead with some spices.

Traditional mead

VOLUME: 2.5 - 3 gallons total (made in 3 gal better bottles, with ports)
HONEY: between 9 - 10.5 pounds honey (probably spring wildflower, with a small portion of buckwheat - maybe one pound out of the total)
HERBS/SPICES: herbal tincture (I am right now experimenting with rosebuds, hibiscus, and "warmer" spices like black pepper, cayenne, and coriander that are crushed. I only want light spicing that provides interesting undertones, but want the honey to be the star.)
YEAST: EC-1118 (My apartment, being on the top floor, can get extremely hot in the summer, sometimes it can reach 100 or slightly more. This yeast has the highest temp tolerance.)
NUTRITION: FermaidK (staggered)
DRYNESS:barely semi sweet, 1.005 ( I want to aim for the sweet end of the dry range - don't want it bone dry)
Still (I'm skeered of 'splosions!)


For the volume, I am going to try the recently learned trick from this forum to make just over 3 gal must, but only to initially fill the carboy to about 2.5 gallons to account for foam and loss to blowoff. As blowoff happens, I will "top off the tank" in increments from my reserve must. I want to avoid using the antifoam drops, if possible.

But, I would like to know the group's take on the combination of honey, yeast, temperature, nutrition and dryness. What quantities, yeast type, nutrition schedule would you suggest? After reading a recent post by Fatbloke about judging the starting gravity compared to target gravity and choosing yeast, I must admit I would have planned it out exactly as he said would be as "stupid" "beer makers" would do it. :-\ Soooo, I will aim to make a nice dry mead, then backsweeten. While EC-1118 may have the best heat tolerance, it might have too much of an alcohol tolerance for what I want to do? Should I / Can I use another yeast to make it a little easier?

Speaking of heat, has anyone had good luck using the wet towel approach with plastic carboys? Any other ideas for a small apartment space? (think: no cool basement)

Flavoring wise, I have already decided that hibiscus can easily overwhelm, but gives a great bright red color. My two samples will be ready to taste by end of week. I am making the tinctures out of 40% vodka. Anyone here have any ideas to ensure success, when to add, how much to add? I imagine that I won't want to add a LOT of vodka. Each test tincture is 5 fl. oz vodka with

1 tsp coriander
5 dried rosebuds (food quality from a tea shop)
2 tsp dried hibiscus

the two different tests, each to add just a hint of warmth (not heat!) to the flavor:

one has 1/8 tsp ground cayenne (its all I had in the pantry)
the other has 1 tsp of black pepper corns

With the exception of the cayenne, I measured everything FIRST, then crushed or mashed it in a mortar.

What are some of the tincture, floral, spicing experiences from the group when it comes to light spicing?

Many thanks!

fatbloke
06-16-2013, 12:29 PM
Dunno about the rest of it, as I make mainly traditionals, not methyglins, but I suspect if you're concerned about the yeast and temperature (and not blowing all the aromatics and some of the more subtle flavour elements straight out the airlock), then change the yeast to K1-V1116 which I believe has the widest temperature range (without checking and besides it gets much warmer in the Montpellier area than it does generally in Champagne)..........

Plus its much, much better with aromatics, esters etc......

Jim H
06-16-2013, 01:09 PM
Dunno about the rest of it, as I make mainly traditionals, not methyglins, but I suspect if you're concerned about the yeast and temperature (and not blowing all the aromatics and some of the more subtle flavour elements straight out the airlock), then change the yeast to K1-V1116 which I believe has the widest temperature range (without checking and besides it gets much warmer in the Montpellier area than it does generally in Champagne)..........

Plus its much, much better with aromatics, esters etc......
Hmm. According to the site's easy peasy yeasty table, K1V has a range up to 86, and 1118 goes up to 95 degrees. Is that a typo in the chart? Is it really reversed? Or is it that you've found in your experience K1V to be more robust and reliable than the other?

And, I wasn't planning on necessarily adding solids, I was thinking tinctures only. Maybe half in the primary, and the other half in secondary. Or maybe in thirds: primary, secondary, then "to taste" in tertiary OR just prior to bottling. Does that seem like a sound strategy?

Thanks!

rmccask
06-16-2013, 01:52 PM
I have no personal experience with 1118 yet but according to http://www.lalvinyeast.com/strains.asp, K1V can go to 35 C (95 F) and 1118 can go to 30 C (86 F).

WVMJack
06-16-2013, 02:33 PM
If you do your whole 3.5 gallons in a bucket with a towel over the top you dont have to worry about a blow off tube or foam, plus you can stir it easily and if it gets really warm you can drop in some frozen bottled water in the bottle to cool it down. Your 3 part spice addition sounds the best way to keep from overspicing it. Good luck, WVMJ

Jim H
06-16-2013, 04:32 PM
I have no personal experience with 1118 yet but according to http://www.lalvinyeast.com/strains.asp, K1V can go to 35 C (95 F) and 1118 can go to 30 C (86 F).

Yes, right you are. So much for the yeast table link to the left. Both 18% attenuation, too. K1V definitely is the better strain for hot weather. Thanks for the heads up to you and FB.

Jim H
06-16-2013, 04:37 PM
If you do your whole 3.5 gallons in a bucket with a towel over the top you dont have to worry about a blow off tube or foam, plus you can stir it easily and if it gets really warm you can drop in some frozen bottled water in the bottle to cool it down. Your 3 part spice addition sounds the best way to keep from overspicing it. Good luck, WVMJ

Sounds like the voice of experience. Thanks for the ideas.

WVMJack
06-16-2013, 05:26 PM
I used to live in a townhouse when I first got married and started to make wine. Besides the foaming overs and valcanoes I also learned that a linoleum floor is just a linoleum floor to your wife until you crash a 5 gallon carboy onto it and cut a hole into it, then that linoleum becomes something special all of a sudden! I dont want you new guys to have to suffer the same growing pains :) WVMJ

fatbloke
06-16-2013, 06:27 PM
-----snip-----

And, I wasn't planning on necessarily adding solids, I was thinking tinctures only. Maybe half in the primary, and the other half in secondary. Or maybe in thirds: primary, secondary, then "to taste" in tertiary OR just prior to bottling. Does that seem like a sound strategy?

Thanks!
Well tinctures or whole spices, it'd still be a Metheglyn, not a traditional.

But yes, it does sound like a plan. You would still have to be cautious though. I'd have thought that 2 cloves in 50 mls of vodka could still have the same flavour strength as just putting 2 cloves in the batch, whether in primary or secondary (the cloves are just an example - used, because they're a good example of very powerful spice flavours - but other spices can be equally as strong tasting....)

I'd have thought that you may be better placed making up tinctures to set levels i.e. weight of spice in volume of alcohol, then you could easily do small scale blending before bottling or ageing to get the spice profile you like the taste of. If done before ageing, you can always add a bit more before bottling, if the ageing process changed the taste in a way that you could have thought of in a negative way.......

It's up to you, it's your batch, but that's the lines I'd be thinking along........

Jim H
06-16-2013, 10:24 PM
FB, I see you're a traditional purist. Being a noob at this, I'm still unsure of the lines drawn between them. I understand that some contend that traditionals can contain small amounts of flavorings, as opposed to show meads. So, yes, I am aiming for a metheglyn, just a mildly flavored one.

And, your suggestion makes sense, to split up the different flavor components so they can be added at varying levels.

Putting them together for my tests has already been useful... I already see preferences, and as I will be tasting every day I will get an idea of the infusion limits. I've already found that I will be reducing the hibiscus, and I prefer the black pepper to the cayenne.

jgoehring
06-16-2013, 11:08 PM
I have very little experience than most on this site. But so far most of my meads that I have done have been methlegins. I have used the 1118 in my early goings because it is a hardy yeast. But I just racked two batches one an Earl gray and vanilla and the other a lemon zest and peppercorn that I used the 1116 with and I am now a fan. The 1116 did not blow off the flavor that the 1118 seemed to do.

fatbloke
06-17-2013, 09:06 AM
FB, I see you're a traditional purist. Being a noob at this, I'm still unsure of the lines drawn between them. I understand that some contend that traditionals can contain small amounts of flavorings, as opposed to show meads. So, yes, I am aiming for a metheglyn, just a mildly flavored one.

And, your suggestion makes sense, to split up the different flavor components so they can be added at varying levels.

Putting them together for my tests has already been useful... I already see preferences, and as I will be tasting every day I will get an idea of the infusion limits. I've already found that I will be reducing the hibiscus, and I prefer the black pepper to the cayenne.
Not really a purist Jim, just that its proven easier to compartmentalise the different types as they can all need slightly different handling/producing techniques.

When you back sweeten with honey or whatever, if you over do it you can cheat and add vodka to dry it out some, with spices, if you over do it, you're stuck with it (you can blend it of course).

Plus we often don't realise how strong a flavour some spices can provide. If you just chucked them all in you could produce something thats bloody horrible or with too many conflicting tastes. The fact a lot of spices extract well in alcohol gives us the choice/opportunity to do a good job first time......

Jim H
06-17-2013, 09:53 PM
FB: you're spicing suggestion makes sense. It makes more sense after I taste tested the spice blends today. The rose and coriander are almost obliterated by the hibiscus and cayenne/black pepper. If I had wanted to use these spice blends, I would not have been able to control the flavor that I am trying for. In preparation for use, I will definitely break them up into components that are more easily controlled. (And, since I am new at metheglyns and mead making in general, the more I can control accidents like over spicing through prevention, the better.)

jgeohring: thanks for the extra info there, it's further confirmation. Do me a favor, tell me the amount of lemon and black pepper per gallon you treated your mead with, and your method. How is it coming along taste-wise -- is it what you expected? Stronger or weaker?

Jim H
06-22-2013, 11:07 PM
I am refining my approach. I am soliciting comments, suggestions and questions -- I appreciate all help.

The recipe:

VOLUME: 3 gallons total (made in 3 gal better bottles, with ports)
HONEY: 10 pounds honey (probably spring wildflower, with a small portion of buckwheat - maybe one pound out of the total)
HERBS/SPICES: herbal tinctures (Tonight, I made the tinctures, and have separated out the components that I will be using with recorded amounts per 2 oz vodka 40%abv, each. Rose - 4g or 12 buds, coriander - 2 tsp, hibiscus - 3/4 tsp, and black pepper - 1/2 tsp. After measurement, I crushed them. From tests, I can tell that the pepper and hibiscus can be very overpowering, so I pulled back on them. I will taste them in a week, and depending on bitterness, will let them sit another week with intermittent tastings. Dosages will be staggered at each racking, amounts per rack to be determined....)
YEAST: K1V (As per strong suggestions here, K1V is definitely the yeast of choice for this.)
NUTRITION: FermaidK (staggered)
OAK: Mix of medium toast French and heavy toast American, in cubes. I am open to suggestions with the proportions and total quantity, but I was thinking 1 part med. toast to 2 parts heavy, total weight 0.6 oz. I would put it in for the last two weeks of the secondary, then rack it off to the tertiary.


Initial fermentation, all in the primary:

No heat method. NYC water and honey. It's worked before.
Breaking down the honey and volume additions, in order to accomplish two goals. (1) I want to keep it from foaming over, and this was a suggestion to help with that. (2) I was informed on this forum that it is a good idea to add your honey in steps to avoid getting fermentation stuck.
First step: 2 gallons total, using 6 pounds honey of the total 10. 1/2 tsp Fermaid K.
Second step: 1/2 gallons add, using 2 pounds of remaining honey. 1/2 tsp Fermaid K.
Third step: 1/2 gallons add, using final 2 pounds of honey. 1/2 tsp Fermaid K.


Questions on the initial fermentation - Do I have the proportions right? What is the timing on these additions? Is it a good idea to add the Fermaid K simultaneously this way? (It seems to obvious thing to do.)

I am planning on two rackings, so three cycles.

Primary: The 3 step process, as above. Initial dose of herbal tincture. I'm guessing 3 to 4 weeks minimum, but I don't want it to sit on the lees for too long. It will be hot weather, and I don't want funk.
Secondary: 3 to 4 weeks. Second dose of tincture at start. Last 2 weeks will add the oak as above.
Tertiary: Last dose of tincture at start. Will sit until target dry SG is hit, 0.996 minimum. (Will backsweeten as needed.)
Wet towels, sitting in plastic bins with water and frozen bottles as needed in the hot weather throughout.


Questions on the rackings - With the 3 step process on the primary fermentation, is 3 to 4 weeks enough, or will it need more time?

According to the calculator:
10 pounds honey, 3 gallons volume -- OG 1.12, FG 0.996, ABV% 15.54

bigdan110
06-23-2013, 02:50 AM
To help keep the temp down you could put the better bottles inside another open container or bucket and fill that with cold water and reusable ice packs to help regulate the temperature. I would test the ambient temp water would get to in your chosen fermenter before you start so you have a base temp to work from. Note that fermentation will raise the temp of the must slightly.

WVMJack
06-23-2013, 05:44 AM
The thing on step feeding is you basically make the entire volume of mead and have a resonable starting gravity for your yeast, with KIV it will take 1.10 easily, then as the SG drops you add more honey to raise the final alcohol level and the last addition if you push it that far adds sweetness. This is easily accomplished in a 5 gallon bucket for your 3 gallon batch, it shouldnt foam over in a 5 gallon bucket so you wont have to worry about that. Just adding more must isnt going to do anything about keeping the foaming down, it could even trigger a bigger event. When you add stuff to a fermenting wine its a good idea to stir it up a bit to drive off a little gas before you add anything to knock the foaming back a little. Good luck, WVMJ

Jim H
06-24-2013, 08:00 PM
FB & WVMJ -- I need some additional help understanding both the step-wise honey and nutrient additions.

My batch is going to top off 3 gals, and I am using K1V, fermenting to bone dry. According to the mead calculator, this means that I should use about 12 pounds honey total to get to 18.25% ABV (I may backsweeten from there.) Of course, I am not going to start off with 12 pounds. This is based on FB's sage advice.

It looks as if I start of with somewhere between 7 to 9 pounds, I will be fairly safe with a SG of around 1.108 for 9 pounds. Is 1.108 a safe starting SG?

Assuming I put in 9 pounds to start, I have 3 pounds remaining to add. At what gravity should I look to add additional honey (50 point drop at 1.058?), and what quantities to add? (ie: two additions of 1.5 pounds? 3 additions of 1 pound each?)

For the nutrients, should I add 3/4 of them when I first rack it into the primary, and then the last quarter at a 100 point drop at 1.008?

Many thanks

WVMJack
06-24-2013, 08:16 PM
We like to step feed, you see a lot of stuck posts, eventually the poster mentions they started out at a very high gravity. If you start at a reasonable gravity that is easy for the yeast to acclimate to then let it eat the honey down to below where you want it to end up at. Say you want a final gravity at 1.02 for a sweet mead, you let the yeast take it down to 1.01, then add just enough honey to raise the gravity to 1.02, not higher. That way if the yeast cant handle the extra honey you never go above your target gravity and end up with the other main complaint on the list - a mead that is to sweet. You can add a little honey over and over until the yeast gives up and cant ferment anymore, just dont go over your target gravity. YOu have to be patient at the end, they will keep eating but at a slower pace. As long as its bubbling away you can leave it in your primary and keep stirring it up a couple of times a day, not crazy stirring to a froth, just whisk it around a bit to get all the sediment up off of the bottom.

As for staggared feeding, I am going to invent a saline style dripper that will have a little guage on it and you can add a bottle of premade nutrient solution and it will have a little adjustment valve on it to regulate the flow, like maybe from 1 drop every 15 minutes, or maybe have it start out faster at the start and slow down. It could be powered by the magentic stirrer bar that is going to keep the wine stirred up constantly, the flow will be monitored by an infrared laser so it goes in at just the right flow. I cant get the flow I want right now, it just squirts out all over the place, but one day I will have it right, we would even give GM peoples a good 20% discount (not including shipping).

WVMJ

Jim H
07-02-2013, 06:29 PM
Thanks for the info. The batch has started three days ago, and is bubbling away nicely. It looks like soda pop degassing on a warm afternoon -- a nice, steady fizz. I have a thread for it in the mead log. Maybe I'll post pictures if anything gets exciting.

I plan on degassing, then pouring honey straight in a bit at a time, each dose about a pound or so. I won't be going over my target quantity (12 lbs total for 3 gals), and I have five pounds left. I will be watching the honey level go down on the bottom as my guide to when to add the next.

I'm using this method because, with my current batch in tertiary I could not re-add the samples to the carboy without stirring up bubbles and oxygenation. So, I would like to reduce the sampling-and-returning to a minimum -- leaving it only to racking to secondary and tertiary, and then at the end run for finishing.

As for my SNA, I will be mixing the rest of the Fermaid K with a little warm water, and add it this weekend before another dose of honey.

WVMJack
07-02-2013, 09:16 PM
What is a tertiary and why is it hard to put stuff in it and take it out??? WVMJ

Jim H
07-04-2013, 11:15 AM
It's not "hard" to put stuff in or take it out. It's easy to get samples out. But, I have found that putting the samples back in the carboy has a tendency of making bubbles, and maybe providing more oxygen than I would like to the batch. In general, I am getting the idea that its best to keep sample-taking to a minimum.

I'm thinking of trying BDC DYF method: http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php?t=14437

WVMJack
07-04-2013, 07:50 PM
Those bubbles are probably CO2 not oxygen. WVMJ

Chevette Girl
07-05-2013, 08:54 AM
And even if you do get a small amount of oxygen entrainment when you're pouring a sample back in, if it's still fermenting or degassing, you're perfectly safe, the amount of carbon dioxide coming out of the must will protect it from oxygen. Don't be afraid to take readings, as long as you follow sanitary practices, it won't hurt your must. My favourite way is to drop a sanitized hydrometer into a sanitized wine thief, draw some sample into the thief, and take the measurement right in the thief, then activate the valve at the bottom to release the sample quietly back into the carboy.

Jim H
07-05-2013, 06:54 PM
And even if you do get a small amount of oxygen entrainment when you're pouring a sample back in, if it's still fermenting or degassing, you're perfectly safe, the amount of carbon dioxide coming out of the must will protect it from oxygen. Don't be afraid to take readings, as long as you follow sanitary practices, it won't hurt your must. My favourite way is to drop a sanitized hydrometer into a sanitized wine thief, draw some sample into the thief, and take the measurement right in the thief, then activate the valve at the bottom to release the sample quietly back into the carboy.

I think it will be easier to return samples with my new 3 gallon carboys. But, with my 1-gals, the opening is too small to finesse pouring it back in, and a wine thief won't fit. With the batch I am most concerned with -- a batch about a month away from bottling -- it is past it's vigorous fermentation and degassing. It is in a 1-gal, and still fermenting slowly at this point. I'd rather not futz with it.

On the other hand, I am trying out the bottom-feeding method with the new batch in primary. I am taking pictures of the process.
http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php?p=211166#post211166

WVMJack
07-06-2013, 06:48 AM
You are missing a critical piece of meadmaking equipment, the turkey baster, a nice easily cleaned suction device that easily gets into those pesky narrow gallon jugs. It can be taken apart and easily cleaned with KM and your sample returned. Everyone has gallon batches setting around for experiments and if you dont put the sample back in then we would all end up with a quart of mead at the end:) And funnels cant be much easier to clean and use to put you mead back into the bottle, we all do it with these small batches, I think you are putting to many worries in there. WVMJ

Jim H
07-06-2013, 11:39 AM
:)

Got the turkey baster. That's what I use to take samples out with. Got the funnels. That wasn't my concern. I think I do sanitation pretty well -- no issues so far, and I try to be as thorough as possible. Oxidation was the worry. I noticed that when I used the turkey baster to remove a sample it usually got some air mixed in with it. Then, when returning it to the carboy, samples get more air mixed in with it.

So, being a good n00bie, I was trying to avoid getting air in there, just as good advice has been given to me. I have read and been told that after the initial fermentation, air in the mead is a bad thing. Most of it reads along the lines of "avoid getting any oxygen in there, manipulate it as little as possible".

I am willing to change my ways! But, I'd like to know the limitations on how much air is bad, and I find it confusing. The batch in question is well along, has been transferred twice since mid April, and is most certainly in its final weeks in the carboy at 0.993 (or lower, by now).