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sidestepper
10-19-2013, 05:21 PM
Hello all! This is my first post, and I certainly hope I'm putting it in the right place :) I recently made two batches of wine, which actually turned out pretty well, one was a basic grape wine and the other was an experimental cherry and pomegranate wine, so I am familiar with many terms and processes already, but I am definitely still a "newbee," and decided that I wanted to try a mead for my next project - which I just pitched about an hour ago.

My Question: Sugar breaks, racking and nutrients(When to do what) - also wanted to drop my recipe here, and state the specifics of my plan. Hoping to get some feedback on possible pitfalls, disasters or gotcha's I may have overlooked. Also looking for any opinions or advice on what to expect, given what I have started, so thank you in advance for anything you got! :D

Recipe:
1 packet, Lalvin D47 Yeast
6 lbs of pure Wildflower honey
2 gallons of spring water
~4 tablespoons Ground Coriander Seed
~4 tablespoons Nutmeg
~3 tablespoons Lemon Juice

Must volume is 3 gallons in a 6.7 gallon fermenter bucket

Starting SG of the must was 1.12

I have a 3 gallon glass carboy ready for when I rack.

Hydrated the yeast for 15 minutes in 50ml of tap water, then pitched.

I could go into great detail about each of these questions, but for brevity I will try to shorten them:

Question 1: I want the mead to be sweet, but not sickeningly sweet. I think the final SG should be 1.02 based on the yeast - would this end up being kind of sweet? Or is it not really possible to tell how sweet it will be?

Question 2: I've read about sugar breaks, but I might be unclear. If the target SG is 1.02, and the initial was 1.12, and there should be 3 sugar breaks, then that would mean the first sugar break is at 1.09? Or is there no determinate number of sugar breaks?

Question 3: Should racking occur at every sugar break? Or only after the target final SG is reached around 1.02 to 1.03?

Question 4: I have read mixed about aerating the mead. I plan to aerate every day until the first sugar break. When is a good time to add the nutrients though? Given a 3 gallon must - I am currently planning on adding 3 teaspoons of nutrients(1 tsp per gallon) after the SG reaches 1.02 to 1.03, but I've also read about "staggered" nutrients - if I want to stagger the nutrients, is it suggested to add a bit at every sugar break and/or racking?

I think that's about it. I am really hoping this turns out good, but I keep wondering about these details and I can't find any definitive answer and don't want to risk ruining the batch.

So again, any opinions or tips on how to go about making these decisions is welcomed, and thank you again in advance for any responses!

rmccask
10-19-2013, 05:54 PM
Your OG value seems a little high. The mead calculator claims you should have 1.072 and you claim you got 1.12. D-47 can go to 14% ABV.


Question 1: I want the mead to be sweet, but not sickeningly sweet. I think the final SG should be 1.02 based on the yeast - would this end up being kind of sweet? Or is it not really possible to tell how sweet it will be?

The yeast doesn't always do what you want it to do. Many people, me included, like to ferment the mead dry and then stabilize and backsweetened so that we can get the sweetness we want. If your OG was correct and the yeast goes to the 14%, it probably won't be too sweet.


Question 2: I've read about sugar breaks, but I might be unclear. If the target SG is 1.02, and the initial was 1.12, and there should be 3 sugar breaks, then that would mean the first sugar break is at 1.09? Or is there no determinate number of sugar breaks?

From the newbee guide (link is on the left side of the window)...


Sugar Break – A term used to describe the point where a specific amount of the fermentables have been used up. There are two important ones to note: the 1/3 sugar break (1/3 of the fermentables have been fermented to alcohol), and the 2/3 sugar break (2/3 of the fermentables have been fermented to alcohol). These two points are usually when additional nutrients are added, if needed. Example: if the starting gravity of your Must is 1.120 (28 Brix), the 1/3 sugar break will be when the gravity reaches 1.080 (19.2 Brix). It is at these points that nutrient additions such as Fermaid K, yeast energizer etc. are usually added. Recommended dosage is 1 teaspoon (5 grams) at each sugar break.

I usually stagger my nutrients between the pitching of the yeast and the 1/3 break but there are many different methods of doing nutrients. After the 1/3 point, the yeast doesn't seem to effectively use many of the nutrients. If the fermentation gets stuck then you will hear about adding things later.


Question 3: Should racking occur at every sugar break? Or only after the target final SG is reached around 1.02 to 1.03?

Usually you only rack after the fermentation is done. Otherwise you risk causing it to stall.


Question 4: I have read mixed about aerating the mead. I plan to aerate every day until the first sugar break. When is a good time to add the nutrients though? Given a 3 gallon must - I am currently planning on adding 3 teaspoons of nutrients(1 tsp per gallon) after the SG reaches 1.02 to 1.03, but I've also read about "staggered" nutrients - if I want to stagger the nutrients, is it suggested to add a bit at every sugar break and/or racking?

I like to add most nutrients when I pitch the yeast with more when I see airlock activity and the final bits at the 1/3 sugar break. This is just one of MANY ways of doing it though. Unless you have a problem, you probably don't want anything after the 1/3 point.

sidestepper
10-19-2013, 07:03 PM
Thanks so much!

Sorry, I didn't see the newbee link on sugar breaks before posting.

I think the calculator may have been off because I mistyped part of my ingredients - there's actually 9 lbs of honey in it, not 6 - this was my mistake because I forgot I had added 3 more lbs after crunching the numbers and looking up good honey to water ratios.

Thanks again!

rmccask
10-19-2013, 09:47 PM
Yep, going to 9 lb of honey takes it to 1.108 SG which goes to around 14.13% ABV. This is still a little lower than your OG but could be just a difference in honey. If the yeast is happy, then it will probably end up dryer that you want and you will need to sweeten it up later.

Welcome and good luck!

sidestepper
10-22-2013, 10:17 PM
Just an update.

Thanks for all the tips. I am sitting here at day 4 and it appears I've hit my first sugar break at 1.081(Planned was 1.08, but given it's rate, I'm sure it will get past that mark sometime tomorrow while I'm at work) - Each day I have added 1 tsp of nutrients, and ended today with my 3rd tsp(Per my 3 gallons of must). Specific gravity and original gravity are telling me my mead is likely at the upper 4 to 5.2% ABV leaving room for minor reading errors - after only 4 days! Is that normal? I sure hope this is going as well as I think it is :D

You mentioned sweetening later if this ends up dry - in looking it up a bit - am I correct in assuming that means after fermentation is done around my target of 1.02(13-14% ABV) I should add something like potassium sorbate to halt fermentation then add fresh honey? I've also read a combination of metabisulphite and sorbate(As mentioned in this thread: http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php?t=19618), also an article(http://www.northernbrewer.com/connect/2011/09/sweet-and-dry-mead/) mentioned potassium metabisulfite, which I'm not sure is the same thing as the metabisulphite/sorbate combination. What is the difference between these different ways of stabilizing?

Thanks

bernardsmith
10-22-2013, 11:28 PM
I am not offering you advice but it strikes me that it is simpler to ferment your mead completely dry (so that the gravity approaches 0.996 - certainly below 1.000). You then add K-meta and K-Sorbate to stabilize the mead. After about a week when the gravity has not moved you can then add honey to sweeten to a gravity you prefer (for sweetness). The alternative is to stabilize the mead (again with K-meta and K-Sorbate) before all the sugar in the honey has fermented. IMO, it is difficult to catch the process at precisely the point you want to stop the fermentation. Fermenting dry is like using your breaks in a car to stop a car, Stopping fermentation in mid flight is more like throwing an anchor out your car with the hope that it wraps itself around a tree and prevents your car from moving forward...

sidestepper
10-22-2013, 11:37 PM
I know it's against the rules, but I was asking for advice, I'm open to it, and it's very welcomed. Also I loved the analogy, had me rolling out of my seat :laughing6:

I will consider fermenting it dry, but I am concerned that would bring it over the yeast tolerance - I guess the worst that could happen is the yeast dies and it just decides to stop fermenting - in which case it's as dry as it's going to get - then sweeten.

Thanks again!

rmccask
10-24-2013, 12:08 AM
Sounds like your mead is doing well so far. Hopefully the little yeasties will continue doing their job. Now for your other questions...

Potassium metabisulfite can be used to kill off inactive yeasts but it isn't going to kill an active fermentation unless you put in enough so that it would spoil the taste of the mead. Some people have successfully chilled the mead to stop the fermentation and then racked onto the K meta. I haven't tried this and I don't know what % of the time it is successful. I prefer to let the yeast go until it chews up all the sugar. You can also let it go until it reaches its limit on alcohol but I think this causes stress to the yeast and may or may not produce off flavors. The k meta gets released as gas and is only a temporary thing so if you add honey with just it, the yeast can start back up in a day or two.

Potassium sorbate is added to prevent the yeast from starting back up once they are dormant. Some people add this at the same time as the k meta. I prefer to wait between 2 to 4 hours to add it. There is something that can break down the K sorbate and give a bad taste so I want the K meta there to kill it before I add the K sorbate.

Usually I wait at least a day before I add any honey (or other sugar) to backsweeten.

sidestepper
11-13-2013, 03:13 AM
Not sure if anyone is still following this, but my last post was awhile ago - got to the real waiting game for a bit.

My last reading was on October 29th, with a specific gravity of 1.011 which brings my ABV to about 14.5 and it still tasted sweet.

It is now November 13th(Roughly 2 weeks later). I did not do a reading tonight - as I'm certain it's done fermenting(No bubbles for over a week). I did, however, take a quick sample from the carboy and tasted it. It's definitely dry now, with a burning honey taste at the end. I don't think there's any off flavors, but I would like it a bit sweeter and of course aged well.

This weekend(t minus 3 days) I will be picking myself up a second 3 gallon glass carboy and siphoning, then I will take a SG reading since based on taste I think it must have gained more ABV unexpectedly.

Considering putting it in my mini fridge until then - if fermentation is done I wouldn't imagine any ill effects, but if anything bad is starting to grow it could slow it down.

If I wanted to back sweeten it as they say, is this just adding some more honey? Maybe a couple pounds and mixing it well? Would I normally do this as the last step after clarifying and such? Or before?

When it comes to the clarifying/stabilizing, I will pick up some K meta and add it when I rack it this weekend on Saturday. Then I will wait until Sunday to add some Potassium Sorbate. I will let this sit for a week then next weekend attempt back-sweetening by adding some fresh honey and begin the aging for a month(Rack again after a month) - I'm pretty sure that should do well, but any thoughts on that plan are welcomed.

Thanks everyone!

fatbloke
11-13-2013, 05:46 AM
I always sweeten first then clear, only because it (the honey) can cause a haze in a cleared mead. So I know roughly where I want my sweetness so I add small amounts of honey, mix it in well (carefully) then test. Until I high target FG. Then I clear it.

That saves me having to clear it a second time and increasing racking loses and faffing about......

sidestepper
11-16-2013, 05:31 PM
Thanks for everyone's input so far.

Had a minor crisis and freaked out for a minute. First I noticed a very thin translucenty white layer across the top that kind of marbled, nothing severe looking, but enough to make me think I had it infected. Tasting it was fine, smell was fine, and some research led me to believe it's probably fine.

Did a reading to see it had dropped a bit from my last reading of 1.011 on October 29, an now it was 1.002.

Racked it into a new 3 gallon glass carboy and added k meta(Campden tablets). Then in reading about infections and browsing pics that looked like mine, I caught wind of headspace. My carboy was now about 2/3 full, so I got scared and added water and honey(Which I was planning on backsweetening anyways, so maybe this was okay).

In my freak-out I added the honey right to the carboy and the water too, so it wasn't mixed, but I have a long wooden tool which I was able to use to mix it after it was in, then cleaned out the top of the carboy which had some honey along it and recapped with the air trap without remeasuring gravity, but I at least took a reading before and know where it stood before back sweetening…

… So did I just ruin anything from the sounds of it?

Jeeze, brewing a first batch is stessful :o

Chevette Girl
11-16-2013, 07:36 PM
Did you ruin it? Probably not, but the honey you put in probably won't ferment so whatever SG it's at, it's likely to stay at, so I hope you're happy with the sweetness level.

To make sure of this, I'd recommend using potassium sorbate too, the k-meta only stuns the yeast, some of them can wake back up, the sorbate makes sure they can't breed...

If it's not sweet enough, you can add more honey, if it's too sweet the best suggestion would be to try making a small batch of a dry mead and blending it with the sweet batch (after stabilizing everything so you don't kick fermentation back up).

MikeTheElder
11-17-2013, 12:35 PM
I've had white stuff on top of every Mead I've ever made.

I think it is inherent to raw(unprocessed) honey, most likely beeswax mixed with yeast.

If you added honey and water without stabilizing first it may restart fermentation because you've diluted the alcohol and fed the yeast so I'd keep it under an airlock a while longer and keep checking SG..

I wouldn't panic if there are no off smells.

fatbloke
11-17-2013, 02:37 PM
I've had white stuff on top of every Mead I've ever made.

I think it is inherent to raw(unprocessed) honey, most likely beeswax mixed with yeast.

If you added honey and water without stabilizing first it may restart fermentation because you've diluted the alcohol and fed the yeast so I'd keep it under an airlock a while longer and keep checking SG..

I wouldn't panic if there are no off smells.
If the honey is raw, but been strained, then it's less likely wax and more likely proteins settling out and coming to the surface...... One of the reasons why honey that's been heated can often clear a bit quicker, is that the scum that rises as the honey heats up is mainly proteins. It can result in a slightly smoother tasting mead, but also lacking in volatile aromatics and more subtle flavouring elements - which isn't a good thing for varietals, and IMO, not generally good for honey either......

As for the rest ? pretty much spot on IMO. All the time there's room in the tolerance (and no, those who say about published tolerance being irrelevant are full of sh1t), then there's always some scope for refermentation if it's not fully stabilised. Hell, even racking a cleared mead can stir up enough tiny amount of sedimentary matter (not necessarily lees/yeast either) for some of the carbonic acid to nucleate and raise the pH a fraction or two and allow for the yeast cells present to kick in a bit.....

sidestepper
01-23-2014, 05:54 PM
Been awhile everyone sorry! Got tied up with getting laid off and trying to figure out where I'm moving to for awhile, but don't worry, I didn't forget about the meade.

So after my freak out on Nov 16, it's been going well. Racked it again and added Potassium Sorbate on Dec 4th, tasted fine, no issues, and yes a little sweet, but honestly I wanted a sweeter meade anyways. The gravity went back up to 1.015, no signs of refermentation or infection.

After that I let it sit for awhile, and didn't come back to it until this past weekend on Jan 19th where I racked it one last time into a clean carboy, degassed and corked it.

Degassing was just a precaution, as I haven't seen airlock activity since early November. The taste was phenomenal if IMO :)

Final gravity as of this past weekend was at 1.018, which is somewhere between my readings on Oct 26th and Oct 29th, putting it probably at around 13% abv, which was oddly my target ABV.

Thanks again to everyone's input along my first meade batch journey. I'll post back here when it comes out of aging.

kudapucat
01-23-2014, 06:08 PM
I hope you dosed it with K-Meta too. Sorbate should not be used alone. Unless you like geraniums.

sidestepper
01-26-2014, 06:59 PM
It was dosed with K Meta first on Nov 16, then Potassium Sorbate on Dec 4th.

Seemed to be going well, but unfortunately, today while I was out getting stuff for homemade pizza and grabbing lunch - it uncorked itself.

I had read that when aging with a cork you should keep it on its side so the cork stays moist. So I had done this, the cork was fit very tightly, yet somehow it must have popped it. Two thirds spilled all over the floor, I have about a gallon left, and I'm not sure what to do. First I'm going to cry for awhile. Then maybe try to put the remaining in a smaller 1 gallon jug and see if I can save it. :(

Any thoughts are welcome. I still have no idea how it popped the cork.

kudapucat
01-27-2014, 03:47 AM
A rise in temperature of as little as 2° would be enough to release CO2 if it was saturated.
Sorry to hear it mate.
Keep it under airlock until you're sure it's finished and degasses.

joemirando
01-27-2014, 12:16 PM
That's a hard thing to watch. My sympathies on your loss.

I don't like to wait that long between adding K-Meta and Sorbate. K-Meta can dissipate over time. Sorbate does not. It is possible that your yeast 'woke up' in between doses. I have several different opinion on stabilizing, from them both at the same time to adding one or the other and waiting x days. If fermentation has stopped, I prefer to add them together... mostly so I don't have to scratch my head and try to remember which I've already added and when.

If I had to guess... well, hell... I'd hedge my bet anyway.... but I would wonder if the K-Meta had had time to dissipate so that the sorbate was only marginally effective, and the yeast woke up and, while unable to reproduce, resumed munching away and turned your batch into a sideways fountain.

If you have about a gallon left, I'd check it (carefully) and dose it again with K-Meta (since sorbate does not dissipate) and bottle it.

Joe


It was dosed with K Meta first on Nov 16, then Potassium Sorbate on Dec 4th.

Seemed to be going well, but unfortunately, today while I was out getting stuff for homemade pizza and grabbing lunch - it uncorked itself.

I had read that when aging with a cork you should keep it on its side so the cork stays moist. So I had done this, the cork was fit very tightly, yet somehow it must have popped it. Two thirds spilled all over the floor, I have about a gallon left, and I'm not sure what to do. First I'm going to cry for awhile. Then maybe try to put the remaining in a smaller 1 gallon jug and see if I can save it. :(

Any thoughts are welcome. I still have no idea how it popped the cork.

GntlKnigt1
01-27-2014, 05:03 PM
Alas....my guess would be that he didnt add enough sulfite and sorbate....speculation here.

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mannye
01-27-2014, 11:36 PM
Aw mannnnnn I read the thread from the beginning and I felt the pain of that loss.