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burntcandy
08-24-2013, 01:20 AM
First of all, hi everyone I am both new to mead & new to the forum.

A few days ago I decided that I wanted to brew up some mead on a whim (no prior brewing experience whatsoever) So I went on the internet and read up as much as I could on brewing techniques, equipment, and ingredients. Went out and picked up everything I think I need and started a brew. I'm going to post what I bought, and how I have brewed so far and hopefully you folks can tell me if I'm on the right track or if there is anything that I should pick up. For my first mead I decided to go with a plain mead, and unfortunately just got honey from my local supermarket, as it is a whole lot cheaper than my local beekeepers and I figured there was too big a chance of my screwing something up to get the good stuff for my first batch.

Supplies:
Sanitizer (One Time)
two 5 gallon Glass Carboys
Hydrometer
Giant Pot
Air Stopper

Ingrediants:
Honey: 12 lbs
Water: 4 gallons
Yeast Redmans champagne yeast (on recomendation of the brew supply store)
Yeast Nutrients: 4 tsp

Process:
First I used the One Time to sanatize everything that was going to come in contact with the mead. Then, since I decided to go with a no boil, so I simply combined all my water and honey into a pot, stirred it up until it was dissolved rather well. Then rehydrated my yeast, and added it and the yeast nutrients into the must. stirred it some more than poured it into the carboy and capped it off with the air stopper.

I am a little worried because after reading more about it I realized that I have no idea how long to leave it in the carboy, when to switch it to the next carboy, when to bottle. I'm not sure of the difference between primary and secondary fermentation ( was I supposed to leave it in the pot with a loose cover before the carboy?) It seems like every place I look has different awnsers to these questions. So any help from you who are more experienced than me would be very much appreciated. ;D

burntcandy
08-24-2013, 01:33 AM
http://i.imgur.com/Egv4Qdq.jpg?1

There is a link to a picture of the brew

fatbloke
08-24-2013, 02:05 AM
See, a good example of a home brew shop who want to be helpful and also sell.

Mostly fine but champagne yeast seems the default recommendation i.e. they all seem to think its a must, but it generally works but doesn't do the best job.

You'll most likely get a bland, uninspiring, neutral tasting brew.

Lots of other yeasts do a much better job.......

If you haven't already done so, read the NewBee guide in the left side yellow box. Its a bit of a read but IMO, worth the effort.....

The biggest potential problem with traditionals like this is stuck ferments caused by pH swings, so take note of stuff about checking the pH levels and get some potassium carbonate in stock.....

Chevette Girl
08-24-2013, 01:25 PM
Welcome!

First off, good job on choosing a no-boil method, honey really doesn't need to be heated. Second, good job on not caving and adding acid blend like most mead recipes (other than the ones on here) recommend.

And now on to your question about primary/secondary/how long? Well, the best way to track your fermentation's progress is with a hydrometer, I'm surprised your brew shop didn't recommend one. Then you know your initial specific gravity and can track it as it gradually approaches 1.000 and eventually stops changing. When it's close to 1 or stops changing is when you generally want to rack it off the lees because the main part of the fermentation is done. We call it racking to secondary because there's usually still a little bit of fermentation going on, but it's not an actual delineated phase of fermentation, the yeasties don't care that much, although if you rack it before it's almost done, you can sometimes get a stuck fermentation because you just racked off all the yeast that were doing the job. Of course, yeasties being yeasties, this will never work if you WANT them to stop! ;D

Some of us use plastic buckets for primary because it's easier to manage fruit additions and aeration than trying to do it in a carboy (plus you can make a little extra to make up for racking losses so you don't end up with a lot of headspace in the carboy), then once you're done with the fruit and most of the fermentation, racking it to a carboy to finish up and clear.

And don't worry too much about having used champagne yeast and grocery store honey, I did that for years myself. It'll probably still taste like mead! And if it doesn't (some young dry meads taste like white wine), give it six months and try again, a lot of time the honey flavour comes back with some age. Backsweetening can help with this too.

And I second Fatbloke's suggestion to go read the Newbee Guide, it'll answer a lot of questions, and if it raises more than it answers, just ask us!

burntcandy
08-24-2013, 02:44 PM
Thanks for the advice, I actually do have a hydrometer and will post the initial starting gravity when I get home to my brew log. How often should I check on the gravity?

Today the bubbles seemed to be slowing down, it went from a bubble every second or so to a bubble every 3 seconds so I quickly pipped the airstop off, took a smell (delicious) and put it back on. Bubbling resumed stronger than before. I hope that this limited exposure does not contaminate my brew.

I have already read the beginners guide but it is really a lot of information to take in all at once so I've just been referring to it as I go along.

Chevette Girl
08-24-2013, 02:55 PM
Actually, early on, you WANT some oxygen in there, it's only when it stops making bubbles that it's in any danger of oxidation. And there aren't too many buggies that can brave an actively fermenting must, just make sure you sanitize anything you stick into your must and you'll be fine.

I usually check the SG once a day until it's dropped by 1/3 of the expected change in gravity becuase I do staggered nutrient additions and aeration until the 1/3 point, then I check it every couple days till it looks like it's getting close to racking time. Having a wine thief big enough to drop your hydrometer into is a big help.

Heh, yeah, there's a lot of info in there. I re-read it every year or so even though I've been making wines and meads for almost a decade. And a lot of it will make more sense once you've put some of it into practice.

burntcandy
08-27-2013, 12:01 PM
Alright, I got my brew log here and just took a specific gravity of my mix.

The Starting Specific Gravity (August 21st) was: 1.54

My Specific Gravity as of now (August 27th) is : 1.72

My airlock still seems to be bubbling away, so I believe fermentation is still in full swing. The mead remains cloudy with no real head to speak of and no sediment building up on the bottom as of yet. Smells delicious, and I sampled a little bit from my hydrometer after I was done taking the specific gravity and it didn't taste bad, but if definitely did not taste done.

I am using Redman fleur de blanc yeast, but I have no Idea at all how to calculate 1st, 2nd, and 3rd sugar cycles, or what they really mean. I also do not know how to calculate the % alcohol content just based off the difference in SG so now I am off to read up on that.

Please let me know how I am doing

joemirando
08-27-2013, 02:04 PM
Alright, I got my brew log here and just took a specific gravity of my mix.

The Starting Specific Gravity (August 21st) was: 1.54

My Specific Gravity as of now (August 27th) is : 1.72



I think you need to check your hydrometer's markings. In a roughly 5 gallon batch with 12 lbs of honey, your SG should be somewhere around 1.086.

The way hydrometers are marked can take some getting used to. For one thing, with fermentation, your SG will drop, not rise. My hydrometer only goes to 1.160, so I think you are seeing something wrong. Take a good look at the hydrometer. If it's a "triple scale", it should have graduations for SG, Potential Alcohol %, and Brix. It is easy to confuse one for another. You can focus on any of the three, but you must compare apples to apples. It can get confusing, especially if you're juggling things and being careful to not drop your hydrometer or knock the tube over.

And as a side note, it is well worth using the mead calculator in the yellow box on the left side of the window on this page. Here's a direct link (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=745&Itemid=16).
It takes some getting used to, but it is well worth it.


Maze on,

Joe

fatbloke
08-27-2013, 02:11 PM
This comment isn't criticism or me being arsey......

Have a quick google about how to read a hydrometer. The numbers to quote are usually 3 decimal points but also they decrease not increase as your post shows.

The sugar break stages are easy. Say you've got your must all mixed and ready to go, before pitching the yeast you take a reading and for example its 1.100 so the 1/3rd break will be 1.066 etc. Hence its just the start gravity minus 1/3rd etc......

burntcandy
08-27-2013, 10:48 PM
...Ok so I don't know what I did wrong, I know that I took the reading from the correct meter on the hydrometer and that I took it from the same meter both times. I have came to a hypothesis that the .54 OG was actually at the lower five on the scale. I also rechecked the SG as it stands now and it was .62 rather than .72. I still don't really know what to think so I made a gallery and maybe one of you more experienced folks can tell me whats going on. Perhaps I jsut screwed up the first time I took the reading and will never know the OG?

http://imgur.com/a/cBXf7

EDIT: In the gallery there is my hydrometer on a piece of paper. I have drawn a line to where it was when I took it right now(I also added a picture of it in the cylinder to make sure I have the right value). The two lines with "?'s" are possible locations of the OG provided that I read it right the first time.


Anyway there is the gallery, thanks so much for the helps guys it is appreciated

joemirando
08-27-2013, 11:08 PM
Ok, typing this as I look at each picture...

First off, the first question mark is at approx 1.058
The "where it is now" is at approx 1.068 (each line is 2)
The lower question mark is at 1.152

The reading you're getting in the tube is 1.064

The good news is, ya got bubbles!
I am guessing that this batch is about 6 gallons total?

burntcandy
08-28-2013, 12:02 AM
Would 1.152 make sense as a OG?

joemirando
08-28-2013, 12:18 AM
Would 1.152 make sense as a OG?

If you had 21 lbs of honey in a 5 gallon batch, yes.

You originally said you had 12 lbs, right? You didn't transpose numbers?

Judging by the color of your must, I don't think you've got much more than 12 lbs in the mix.

If that is the case, and if it ferments dry (it will with champagne yeast), you are looking at an alcohol by volume of ~11.48%

All of my calculations, by the way, come from the mead calculator in the yellow box to the left on this page. Once you get the hang of it, it comes in really handy.


Hang in there,

Joe

fatbloke
08-28-2013, 06:17 AM
Yeah, TVM to joe for helping to explain some.....

Problem is, that its all in the numbers...

1.154 is quite high to start but ive seen posts of higher....

So 1.07x (cant find my readers) isn't bad progress at all.

If its a champagne yeast youve used, well most of those will do 18% alcohol if looked after and that equates to a drop of 133 points so if you can get it to 1.021 that'd be a nice level of residual sweetness....

Likely itd need some aging though as it may taste alcohol hot once its finished and young but that usually mellows....

joemirando
08-28-2013, 10:36 AM
Yeah, TVM to joe for helping to explain some.....

Problem is, that its all in the numbers...

1.154 is quite high to start but ive seen posts of higher....

So 1.07x (cant find my readers) isn't bad progress at all.

If its a champagne yeast youve used, well most of those will do 18% alcohol if looked after and that equates to a drop of 133 points so if you can get it to 1.021 that'd be a nice level of residual sweetness....

Likely itd need some aging though as it may taste alcohol hot once its finished and young but that usually mellows....

'bloke,

I think this is a case of a fumbled OG reading. Hell, I remember my first OG reading.... and I was used to using hydrometers (we called them Baume' gauges then).

12 lbs in a 5 gallon must should equate to somewhere around 1.086. And the pictures provided look about right for 12 lbs of honey, not the 21 lbs that an OG of 1.152 would point to.

At this point, I think that the original poster can be pretty sure that they're going to end up with somewhere around 11.5 ABV fermented dry.

THEN we'll guide them as to stabilizing and backsweetening. ;)

All in all, there's a new mazer on the block. ;)


Maze on,

Joe

burntcandy
08-28-2013, 11:03 AM
I must have screwed up the reading the first time that I took it, either that or I got a section of must that had a really high concentration of honey or something. Because I only used 12 lbs to five gallons of water.

Good news is that it tastes/smells really good so far.

I'm probally going to rack it when it becomes clear and there is a layer of sediment at the bottom, as due to my ineptitude with a hydrometer I can't really use that as a good judge of time.

joemirando
08-28-2013, 11:21 AM
I must have screwed up the reading the first time that I took it, either that or I got a section of must that had a really high concentration of honey or something. Because I only used 12 lbs to five gallons of water.

Good news is that it tastes/smells really good so far.

I'm probally going to rack it when it becomes clear and there is a layer of sediment at the bottom, as due to my ineptitude with a hydrometer I can't really use that as a good judge of time.

Time is a terrible way to judge anyway. There are just too many variables for it to work that way.

The best way to decide when to rack (I assume you are going to let it ferment dry) is to wait till your SG gets below 1.000 and then rack off the lees and let it sit and clarify.

And don't sweat the thing with the first reading. Look at it as a challenge. You know you've got 12 lbs of honey in a 5 gallon batch. That'll give you around 11.5% alcohol by volume if you ferment it dry.

While champagne yeasts tend to suck the flavor and aroma out of a mead, it will ferment it dry. Don't be surprised if it ends up with an SG of 0.994.

You have less sugar than the yeast can handle, and that's a good thing. When you get to the yeast's alcohol limit, you can get "rocket fuel". I have done this several times. Most of the time (so they say... mine are all <1 year old), the more 'rough tasting' or 'hot' elements will break down or otherwise disappear. But your batch will run out of sugar and ferment dry well before the yeast start dying off due to alcohol poisoning, so you may well avoid the rough edge.

Are you planning to stabilize and backsweeten? Very dry meads take a lot of aging, and backsweetening can hide a multitude of sins.

I think Mark Twain said it best: Experience is something you only get AFTER you need it.

So buck up and smile... you've made booze! ;)


Joe

fatbloke
08-28-2013, 02:35 PM
Some more excellent guidance there.....

For BC, it might taste good during the ferment, but often when ferments are finished, especially when the ferment has gone dry, young mead can taste bloody horrible.

Which is where the ageing process comes in. You give it 6 months to a year and its like a completely different drink.

Sometimes it recovers a perception of sweetness, sometimes aroma or when its tasted a bit rocket fuel or alcohol hot when young, then that mellows.

The actual ferment and clearing process is the base material to further "finish" to something special. It just depends on what else you do to finish it.....

burntcandy
09-05-2013, 09:30 PM
Checked the SG again today, and I think that I figured out why I was getting incorrect reading on previous attempts. I checked and re checked it a couple of times, the fist giving me a .64 the second giving me a .52 and the third giving me a .42. The next three subsequent attempts were all at the same .42. It was very bubbly and carbonated when I put it into the cylinder to take the reading, and as it flattened itself out the reading steadily dropped until the mead was no longer agitated an the readings leveled out. Has anyone else had carbonation mess with their specific gravity readings?

joemirando
09-05-2013, 10:13 PM
Checked the SG again today, and I think that I figured out why I was getting incorrect reading on previous attempts. I checked and re checked it a couple of times, the fist giving me a .64 the second giving me a .52 and the third giving me a .42. The next three subsequent attempts were all at the same .42. It was very bubbly and carbonated when I put it into the cylinder to take the reading, and as it flattened itself out the reading steadily dropped until the mead was no longer agitated an the readings leveled out. Has anyone else had carbonation mess with their specific gravity readings?

Yes, you should always spin the hydrometer a bit to dislodge bubbles. An active ferment can make it challenging to get an accurate reading.

And I think you mean 1.064, 1.052, 1.042.

If you start with the numbers at the top of the hydrometer, they should begin with something like 0.990.

Then you will see 4 lines below (each one is .002) it, then 1.000, then...

10. This should be read as 1.010.

Then you have the 4 lines (for 1.012, 1.014, 1.016, 1.018) then 20 (which should be read as 1.020), and on and on.

Then you get to ".100". This should be read as 1.100. And again, the "10" below that is read as 1.110, etc. etc. etc.

I am figuring you understand this, but I thought I'd take the opportunity to lay it out for anyone reading who's unfamiliar with it. And since you were good enough to supply the pictures (http://imgur.com/a/cBXf7)... <grin>


Maze on,

Joe