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Mirakk
10-05-2013, 10:18 PM
Hey guys,

I'm making my first batch of mead right now. It's a 6 gallon traditional that I made using some 71B (20g).

I know this particular variety needs to be aged off the lees. When I hit my target gravity I stopped the ferment and racked onto sorbate and metabisulfite to ensure I'd stopped it from drying out my sweet mead. Starting gravity was 1.130 and now the SG is 1.020. When I'd racked it, it was obviously still fermenting so there wasn't a large portion of lees on the bottom of the bucket when I finished. However, I've noticed now that the lees are caking the bottom pretty thick the way you'd expect. Should I rack this batch again considering the large portion of lees on the bottom?

Thanks in advance

Chevette Girl
10-06-2013, 12:16 AM
It would have helped if you'd listed time/date information for this batch. If it's been a few days since you stabilized it, you could let it settle out a few more days, if it's been a few weeks, I'd rack it now.

GntlKnigt1
10-06-2013, 04:42 AM
Hopefully, there is no activity in your fermentation lock now.....

fatbloke
10-06-2013, 05:11 AM
Hey guys,

I'm making my first batch of mead right now. It's a 6 gallon traditional that I made using some 71B (20g).

I know this particular variety needs to be aged off the lees. When I hit my target gravity I stopped the ferment and racked onto sorbate and metabisulfite to ensure I'd stopped it from drying out my sweet mead. Starting gravity was 1.130 and now the SG is 1.020. When I'd racked it, it was obviously still fermenting so there wasn't a large portion of lees on the bottom of the bucket when I finished. However, I've noticed now that the lees are caking the bottom pretty thick the way you'd expect. Should I rack this batch again considering the large portion of lees on the bottom?

Thanks in advance
Well, it would seem that you made the n00b mistake of presuming that stabilising chems would kill the ferment........it doesn't (as you seem to have found out).

The only way it seems to work, is to cold crash first, for about a week or so, then while it's still cold, to rack it off any lees that has dropped out, onto the stabilising chems. It's not a cast iron, guaranteed method, but it's the only way people seem to have any success (and it's why, many of use consider the "put all the fermentables in up front" method is poor - it's a widely used beer making technique, which is much, much less suitable for mead making). Stopping an active ferment is quite a hard thing to accomplish. It's easier and much less hassle, too start lower (that might not actually achieve your target strength) and then either ferment dry/back sweeten, or step feed to either your target strength or to feed the yeast till it poops out somewhere around the yeast tolerance.

Anyway, as CG suggests. Because if you leave 71B lees in there for too long, it's known to cause the autolysis off flavours.

The guesstimate is 2 months from the end of fermentation. Now there's no scientific evidence to back that up, just that nobody seems to have reported the autolysis off flavours problem in that timescale.

Hence I'd likely rack it, as I would consider this as the gross lees. If it's only been a while and you wanted to make sure that you get rid of all the lees as quickly as possible, then I'd suggest that you use 2 part finings like Superkleer or Kwikclear or similar. These generally take about the 24 to 48 hours to do their thing and then you can rack it off as cleared mead and decide what the next step is, without many concerns......

Mirakk
10-06-2013, 09:39 AM
Yeah the whole process seems muddled right now. I was using oskaar's recipe and all was going smoothly until the rack. The SG kept dropping after I racked it and I panicked since it was going lower than the recipes final gravity. I have no way to cold crash a 6 gallon carboy so I took a gamble and for now it appears to be working.

Its been 1 full week since stabilizing chemicals were added and there's been no airlock activity. I'll proceed with a fining agent and rack again.

In the future what are your recommendations in a situation where you are passing your desired gravity? Just let it go and back sweeten? Also how do you propose doing so if you cannot cold crash a massive container?

fatbloke
10-06-2013, 10:03 AM
Yeah the whole process seems muddled right now. I was using oskaar's recipe and all was going smoothly until the rack. The SG kept dropping after I racked it and I panicked since it was going lower than the recipes final gravity. I have no way to cold crash a 6 gallon carboy so I took a gamble and for now it appears to be working.

Its been 1 full week since stabilizing chemicals were added and there's been no airlock activity. I'll proceed with a fining agent and rack again.

In the future what are your recommendations in a situation where you are passing your desired gravity? Just let it go and back sweeten? Also how do you propose doing so if you cannot cold crash a massive container?
Well if it's slowing/stopping, that's great. People often make the mistake that sulphites kill yeasts, they don't, they just stun them. The sulphites can dissipate over time and the yeast can "wake up". The sorbate just chemically castrates the yeast to stop it multiplying....

It's one of the reasons I often despair of some of the technique I see posted, often by new mead makers - and some of the worst ideas come from people who make beer.

Because they're used to putting all the fermentables in up front, they can't get their head round the fact that if you want, say a 18% batch, that equates to about 133 point drop, and when they say they also want FG of 1.020, that would mean a start of 1.155 or so. IMO a stupidly high gravity to start at, and then when it causes them problems, they wonder why......

If you aim for about 12 to 14% ABV initially, you will need scope for appox 90 to 105 drop. Which is a much better range to manage and much less likely to cause issues.

You can then just let it ferment dry, and back sweeten to taste, or you can make sure that you use enough nutrients initially for an 18% batch (350 to 400 ppm per litre) and then as the gravity drops down to between 1.010 and 1.030 or something in that sort of area, add some step feeds i.e. enough extra honey to push the gravity up 10 or 15 points, then let it ferment back down to wherever it was that you step fed it, then add a further small step, etc etc. You could do that until you've got the gravity drop total that causes the yeast to die off - say 18% for example and then you add a final step for back sweetening, then it's just time for clearing and ageing etc.......

IMO much better technique, than thinking it all needs to go in at once......

Chevette Girl
10-06-2013, 01:14 PM
The most reliable way to get a ferment to stop and stay stopped is to let it stop on its own, whether that's from being out of sugar or just sticking where it is because the yeast is done, and then stabilize and backsweeten as desired.

You can encourage it to stop because the yeast is done by step-feeding it at the end, every time it drops below your lowest accepted finishing gravity, add more honey to your upper sweetness limit (mine are usually 1.010 for low and 1.020 for high) and repeat till the yeast taps out, then stabilize it. This method can take a while to age out and it will sometimes cause the yeast to exceed its expected alcohol tolerance but I have liked the results every time I've done it.

Mirakk
10-06-2013, 03:30 PM
Okay, thanks for the input everyone. I'd never heard of using step-feeding outside the context of making some really strong sack mead.

I only know a few brewers in person and none of them seem terribly excited about backsweetening as a technique, so I wanted to avoid it as much as possible (they seem to consider it cheating your technique). Step-feeding offers an alternative to that, but honestly I think I'll try backsweetening a batch to see what results I yield from it and decide for myself. I'm running a 1 gallon batch on the side right now that turned out 1.000 and would be a good batch to give it a try on I think.

Despite making a plethora of mistakes my first time out, I'm learning a lot and that is pretty exciting in and of itself. I don't think I've had such an intriguing hobby before. I'm glad I've got a forum like this to pick people's brains to accelerate the learning process. Cheers!

danr
10-06-2013, 05:38 PM
I only know a few brewers in person and none of them seem terribly excited about backsweetening as a technique, so I wanted to avoid it as much as possible (they seem to consider it cheating your technique).

This sounds like nonsense to me. I am not sure if you were referring to brewing beer, but backsweetening mead is certainly an acceptable method to achieve your desired specific gravity.

FWIW, I use the term "making" not "brewing" for mead since there is not actually brewing involved unless you are making a braggot.

joemirando
10-06-2013, 05:49 PM
I guess it could be considered "cheating" in that the fruits or honey or other sugars are not "out there" for the yeast to get 'hold of and 'change', but fermented fruit tastes worlds different than fresh. I've got a ginger peach mel sitting there, clear as can be, but with no taste other than alcohol. The peaches and ginger went into the primary. I suppose the tastes may come out eventually with aging, but it's hard to believe that after tasting it now.

But backsweetening isn't cheating in my humble (believe it or not) opinion. If you took a three quarters of a pound of honey and mixed it with grain alcohol and water, THAT would be cheating.


joe

Medsen Fey
10-06-2013, 09:07 PM
(they seem to consider it cheating your technique)...


If you get great results, and if you get CONSISTENT results that you can reproduce, then whatever technique you use is OK. The end justifies the means. There is no rule book and there is no cheating (unless you are a commercial producer). There is only good mead and not-so-good mead.



Sent from my THINGAMAJIG with WHATCHAMACALLIT

Mirakk
10-06-2013, 09:33 PM
Hey I'm just the messenger. Seems like any serious mazer will do it which is why I get mixed up. Different feedback from different places and I don't know enough to decide for myself how I feel.

joemirando
10-06-2013, 11:02 PM
Hey I'm just the messenger. Seems like any serious mazer will do it which is why I get mixed up. Different feedback from different places and I don't know enough to decide for myself how I feel.

Well there's only one thing to do then: Think of anything you can and ask some of the guru's here. Hey, wait, you DID! ;)

Seriously, there are some things that there just aren't any hard and fast rules for. The bottom line is if you like the results of backsweetening or step-feeding, use 'em. If you don't, well then you know.

And yeah, it's true: The only dumb question is the one which remains un-asked. See, if YOU ask something the rest of us haven't thought of, then WE don't have to. ;)


Good luck,

Joe

Chevette Girl
10-06-2013, 11:49 PM
Makes me think your other brewer friends are grape snob type vintners... Grape wine finishes where it finishes and you should be happy with whatever you get, and the people who think like that often tend to look down on anyone who ferments things other than grapes, which is why fruit wines are not as popular even though (in my opinion, anyway) they're FAR more interesting and individual than grape wines :)

Of course, I've got my own biases, I tend to feel that putting your fruit only in secondary is cheating, because I come from a winemaking background where if I did that when making wine, I'd just be fermenting sugar water in primary, which would be missing the whole point of making fruit wine. But I'd never tell someone making mead not to put fruit in secondary becaue I know my bias is just that, a bias.

There really are no rules, there's just how to get what you've made to taste the way you want it to.