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McJeff
09-11-2013, 08:59 PM
Now i know you can have a SG that can be too low, is there something wrong with starting low? Is there a "sweet spot"(see what i did there) for a SG?

Was playing around with the mead calculator. Was looking at 2gallons of apple cider and 3lbs of honey which should be around 1.121.

bernardsmith
09-11-2013, 09:20 PM
Now i know you can have a SG that can be too low, is there something wrong with starting low? Is there a "sweet spot"(see what i did there) for a SG?

Was playing around with the mead calculator. Was looking at 2gallons of apple cider and 3lbs of honey which should be around 1.121.

I am no expert but an SG of 1.121 is close to an ABV of 16 % . You would need to pick your yeast carefully as the tolerance of many yeasts is perhaps 14% ABV... Moreover, the "hotter" the alcohol the more residual sugars you might want to have in the mead. My 2cents

McJeff
09-11-2013, 10:20 PM
I am no expert but an SG of 1.121 is close to an ABV of 16 % . You would need to pick your yeast carefully as the tolerance of many yeasts is perhaps 14% ABV... Moreover, the "hotter" the alcohol the more residual sugars you might want to have in the mead. My 2cents

Ok I'm kinda confused by that. I was goin to use D47 for this mead which is 14% as you said. Why would I care if I have enough sugar for 16%?

Jim H
09-11-2013, 10:40 PM
I think he was just pointing out that your recipe is in the vicinity of 16%, and that's more than your D47 are spec'd to tolerate.

This means that you will have a few points of sugar extra...which further means that the must will be a tad on the sweet side. That should be fine, if that is what you're going for.

But, if you're aiming for dry mead (or if you want to ferment dry and then backsweeten to an exact level of sweetness la Fatbloke's method), then your SG is a little too high.

kchaystack
09-11-2013, 11:01 PM
Plus, I remember reading that high SG to start can stress the yeast. It was recommended you make a starter instead of normal rehydration and pitching.

Chevette Girl
09-11-2013, 11:57 PM
I usually use the JAO starting point as my maximum SG for a mead or wine, 1.125. Anything over about 1.110 gets an acclimated starter, below that, the yeast just gets rehydrated and chucked in.

PitBull
09-12-2013, 08:34 AM
Ok I'm kinda confused by that. I was goin to use D47 for this mead which is 14% as you said. Why would I care if I have enough sugar for 16%?

Yeast will break your heart every time. I've had D47 hit 16% on a melomel that I was hoping would stop at 14% and leave a bit of sweetness. It may take several years to lose its hotness. After two years, one in particular still tastes somewhat hot. I've also had a couple of yeasts that crapped out a bit early.

IMHO, providing only enough sugars to reach 12 to 13%, and fermenting below 70 degrees F, greatly reduces the chances for "hot" tasting mead/cyser. Then you can back sweeten, to taste, using additional cider and/or honey.

I did that last year and it produced my best batch of cyser that I've made to date.

Medsen Fey
09-12-2013, 09:59 AM
Also, apple juice tends to rev the yeast up and cysers often go beyond the typical ABV tolerance. With cysers and with most meads mo' alcohol usually doesn't mean mo' bettah so keep that in mind.


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bernardsmith
09-12-2013, 12:47 PM
Ok I'm kinda confused by that. I was goin to use D47 for this mead which is 14% as you said. Why would I care if I have enough sugar for 16%?

Should you care? Well, here's why I would care if I am asking the yeast to survive if not thrive in an environment that will very likely kill them. Different strains of yeast have a tolerance for different concentrations of alcohol in a liquid. Some yeasts will keel over when there is about 8% alcohol in a volume of liquid and others will survive when there is about 12 % and still other strains might survive 15 or 16 percent. If your strain of yeast is virtually guaranteed to drop dead from alcohol poisoning at 14% but you have enough sugar to create an environment that COULD be as concentrated as 16% then that additional quantity of sugar is not going to be fermented (because the yeast has all died) and so your mead will be unintentionally (and uncontrollably) sweet. However, if you had used a strain of yeast cultivated to thrive at 16 % alcohol then you could ferment the mead dry so that there was no residual sugar at all left, and so you could stabilize the wine so that whatever yeasts were left would not reproduce and on their death would be the last of the yeast in your mead. You could then "back sweeten" the mead to whatever level of sweetness you preferred (intentionally and controllably), knowing that that additional sugar would be left to sweeten your mead and not be converted into alcohol and CO2. I dunno, but I think intent and control in wine making trumps happenstance and a lack of control almost every time.
So, should you care that your mead has more than enough fermentable sugars to kill your yeast before the yeast converts all the sugars to alcohol... I think so.. BUT I am no expert on yeasts and I have no idea what the tolerance for alcohol that D 47 has... I am also not an expert on the balance of sweetness, acidity and alcohol levels that bring out the best flavors of honey... but 16% ABV seem a wee bit high and might mask the flavors rather than enhance them..

anir dendroica
09-12-2013, 02:03 PM
Assuming you want a semi-sweet end product without sulfiting and backsweetening, then there is indeed a "sweet spot" SG. For medium-attenuating yeasts D47 and 71B (rated alcohol tolerance 14%) and ample nutrient availability, I have found this sweet spot to be right around 1.130. Anything below 1.120 ferments completely dry (below 1.005), and anything above about 1.134 tends to finish at or above 1.016, which to my taste is a bit cloying. I haven't had problems with slow starts even at 1.132-1.134 SG. It is something of an art for me to hit an SG that will ferment down to my preferred sweetness of 1.010, and this year I am trying some lower SGs (in the 1.105-1.115 range) that will most likely require backsweetening.

This of course assumes that you want your final product to be around 15-16% alcohol. If you want lower without sulfite/backsweeten, you will have to use a lower-attenuating yeast. If you want higher and are using a champagne type yeast, you might be able to get away with SGs up around 1.150. I haven't tried this myself and have been told it is unwise due to initial yeast stress, so in that case step feeding is probably the way to go.

Note also that temperature correction of SG is important:
http://hbd.org/cgi-bin/recipator/recipator/hydrometer.html?16375223
If you are mixing in your honey at 120F and measure an SG of 1.110, that will increase to 1.120 when the must is cooled to 65F. I've had a few batches bite me this way and end up starting a bit higher than I would have liked.

GntlKnigt1
09-12-2013, 03:31 PM
And no one seems to have mentioned that, in my experience, the higher the alcohol, the longer it has to age to become 'drinkable' and not taste like everclear mixed with Gatorade.

McJeff
09-12-2013, 04:15 PM
So I expected a .105-110 drop with D47. So starting at 1.121 I wanted it to end at 1.011-1.016. Is my thinking all wrong?

PitBull
09-12-2013, 04:37 PM
So I expected a .105-110 drop with D47. So starting at 1.121 I wanted it to end at 1.011-1.016. Is my thinking all wrong?
You're assuming that the yeast is will suddenly stop when you cyser hits 14% ABV. That is really a bad assumption. It can very easily drop below 1.000.

As medsen said "...apple juice tends to rev the yeast up and cysers often go beyond the typical ABV tolerance". You may very well end up around at 0.997 with a very dry, hot tasting, 16% ABV product. Back sweetening (after stablizing), cold crashing (and stablizing), and filtering (with a 0.5 micron absolute filter) are really the only reliable ways to pinpoint you ABV%. Backsweetening requires the least equipment and is a very straight forward proceedure. The same amount of honey is used. The only difference is that some of the honey is saved, to be added after fermentation.

Most of us here have experienced it for ourselves. More alcohol is not necessarily better.

McJeff
09-12-2013, 07:51 PM
Guess it just ain't as simple as throwing honey and yeast together.

Chevette Girl
09-12-2013, 09:17 PM
Guess it just ain't as simple as throwing honey and yeast together.

If it was, everyone would be doing it! :D

PitBull
09-13-2013, 10:45 AM
Guess it just ain't as simple as throwing honey and yeast together.
Experience is the best teacher. Unfortunately, it's also the most expensive and painful. The advice you can get here is incredible, but nothing beats hands-on experience.

We've all had a few batches that turned out less than perfect. But from those, we learned how to make it better "next time". My first batch of cyser was mediocre, the second was decent, and my third batch was very good. And I've got a few tweaks planned for this year's version, confident that it will make it even better.

I can hardly wait for the pressed-before-you-eyes, unfiltered, additive-free cider from the local apple festival in October.

Medsen Fey
09-13-2013, 03:27 PM
Experience is the best teacher. Unfortunately, it's also the most expensive and painful. The advice you can get here is incredible, but nothing beats hands-on experience.


There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.
-Will Rogers

sent from my THINGAMABOB with WHATCHAMACALLIT

fatbloke
09-14-2013, 02:18 AM
There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.
-Will Rogers

And most of us seem to be the latter hereabouts.......:D

WVMJack
09-14-2013, 04:56 AM
I waste my time doing the first 2 because the third is inevitable!

Summing up here a little. THere are 3 styles in this thread about fermenting meads:

One style is to raise the SG to a point high enough that your yeast cant ferment all the way to dry and leaves some residual sweetness. A simple enough strategy IF your yeast it told about your plans in the beginning. Its a little risky because you leave the final outcome in their hands. One risk is a stuck fermentation that doesnt come close to your goal, the other is one that overshoots it when the yeast get extra frisky and you added to much nutrients.

The second strategy it to take a little more control. Start at a lower gravity that is within your yeasts comfort zone to go dry. When it gets below your target, say 1.01 and your preferred sweetness is 1.02 you simply add back 0.01 of honey, and let the yeast eat that. If they have turned to ravenous monsters you can end up very much higher in alcohol than your planned or if they tucker out you land right where you wanted.

The third strategy is to let it go dry, let the yeast drop out, sorbate or pasteurize and backsweeten. This method gives you the most control over the end product.

Art vs science here, touch vs resource management. A little bit of each and you get the yeast to work for you instead of just standing back and watching the chaos your created go to far or not far enough.

WVMJ

WVMJack
09-14-2013, 05:01 AM
What has sulfiting go to do with this? Sulfite as usual, nothing special about sufiting when you backsweeten. Adding sorbate is a different matter, if you dont sorbate your sweet mead is can easily go efforvescent and paint your ceiling. I think my ceiling is rather unique among most people with its purple freckles, but not unique among beginning mead makers who decide they dont want to use "chemicals" WVMJ


This of course assumes that you want your final product to be around 15-16% alcohol. If you want lower without sulfite/backsweeten, you will have to use a lower-attenuating yeast.

Medsen Fey
09-14-2013, 12:48 PM
Summing up here a little. THere are 3 styles in this thread about fermenting meads:


The third strategy is to let it go dry, let the yeast drop out, sorbate or pasteurize and backsweeten. This method gives you the most control over the end product.



There is a 4th approach which you might consider a variation of the 3rd. Start fermentation at a reasonable gravity and stop it at the desired level by cold crashing. Then stabilize with sorbate/sulfite. You could also halt fermentation by sterile filtration or pasteurization, but that is more complicated.

Sent from my THINGAMAJIG with WHATCHAMACALLIT

bernardsmith
09-15-2013, 02:27 PM
[QUOTE=PitBull;215096]Experience is the best teacher. Unfortunately, it's also the most expensive and painful. The advice you can get here is incredible, but nothing beats hands-on experience.


Hands-on experience is great but only when you ALSO have a very strong grasp of the important issues. It's like the novice doctor who knows how to diagnose and knows what symptoms to look for. Knowing what to look for and what can develop involves "book learning" or learning from the knowledge of others, but finding the symptoms that are important and making sense of them while ignoring all the detracting "noise" of irrelevant symptoms - in other words, being able to appropriately, apply your knowledge in the real world - comes from hands-on experience. Which is only to say that forums like this one AND getting your hands dirty in making mead and wine are necessary. Neither is sufficient, nor is one better than the other. They are two legs. You need them both to walk.