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Hypnotoad
04-06-2014, 05:05 AM
Hi Everyone,

This is my first post and first batch of mead.

My recipe was:

1.5kg Bush Honey
1tsp Tartaric Acid
1tsp Citric Acid
1/20th tsp of Tannin
1/2 pack of EC1118 Champagne yeast
1/4 tsp of Fermaid A nutirent

Made up to 6L in a bucket fermenter.

My initial gravity reading was 1.075.

It has been sitting around 15 to 24 degrees for 1 month and the airlock activity has slowed right down to one bubble every 10 minutes or so. So i decided to rack to a 5L demijohn. All went well, however it looks really really pale. I guess its about the colour of a lager beer like Heineken or something. I took a gravity reading and it came back as 1.005. I had a sneaky taste of the sample and although it is not bad it is very very dry. I wasn't aiming for something super sweet but this seems a little far in the opposite direction.

So i suppose my questions are these:

1) is that gravity reading normal and within what someone would expect?

2) can it be sweetened a little and if so when and how? I understand just adding more honey would just start it fermenting again.

3) for batch #2 should I add more honey to start with or should i rack it earlier or stop it fermenting in the fridge or something?


As you can see I am not really sure what to do here. Many thanks in advance for your assistance.

fatbloke
04-06-2014, 06:37 AM
Hi Everyone,

This is my first post and first batch of mead.

My recipe was:

1.5kg Bush Honey
1tsp Tartaric Acid
1tsp Citric Acid
1/20th tsp of Tannin
1/2 pack of EC1118 Champagne yeast
1/4 tsp of Fermaid A nutirent

Made up to 6L in a bucket fermenter.
Fair enough. A bit light on the honey. There's no "fixed" idea of what should be used, but many like somewhere in the region of 1.100 to 1.110 sort of area gravity-wise. Because it will provide a drop IRO (presuming finished/dry as 1.000) 100 points or about 13.5% ABV to 110 points or 14.9% ABV. Given that many wine yeasts are alcohol tolerant to the 14% plus sort of area, it generally means that it's a workable number (some like to drop down a bit to about the 1.090 sort of level). There's no real way of purely working from weight of honey, because the sugar content can vary a lot i.e. 1.5kg of one type gives you 1.075, while the same weight of a different type or even just harvested from a different location could give you 1.090, or the other way and 1.060 or whatever.

It's easier to buy say, 2 kilo's, then dissolve 1.5 kilo's in 5 litres, once you're happy it's dissolved properly, take a sample and measure it - if there's no alcohol involved, you can either use a sample tube and hydrometer or if you have access to one, a refractometer to get a gravity reading.

If it's a bit low, add another .25kg of the honey, stir the hell out of it to dissolve it, let is sit so any bubbles/air come out and then sample and test. Yes it's a bit "hit and miss" but unless you know the exact sugar content of the honey, then you can only approximate it like this (and it can be reasonably accurate as well).

Anyway, "Fermaid A" eh ? Don't see that mentioned much here. Not sure what some of the other Aussie mead makers are using (or what the difference is without looking it up - just that it was formulated for Aus/NZ winemakers). Generally, most nutrient products will have some package guidance i.e. 1tsp per gallon or similar. dunno what packages the "A" is likely to be in.

Fermaid K is what ? about 12% nitrogen, so gives about 120 ppm nitrogen per litre per gramme. DAP/di-ammonium phosphate is about 20% nitrogen so 200 ppm per litre per gramme.

Here's a good link (https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/attachments/0000/1256/NDzym05_MasterMead.pdf) to read, yes it's a bit "sciencey", but explains a bit about nutrition levels that are considered good etc. You can use all "fermaid ?" if you know how much nitrogen is there, as you're using one of their products it's likely easier to find that out, to work out how much is best.


My initial gravity reading was 1.075.

It has been sitting around 15 to 24 degrees for 1 month and the airlock activity has slowed right down to one bubble every 10 minutes or so. So i decided to rack to a 5L demijohn. All went well, however it looks really really pale. I guess its about the colour of a lager beer like Heineken or something. I took a gravity reading and it came back as 1.005. I had a sneaky taste of the sample and although it is not bad it is very very dry. I wasn't aiming for something super sweet but this seems a little far in the opposite direction.
Well temp-wise that's not too bad at all - you can get a lot warmer....... The colour is just the result of the original honey. I'm presuming that "bush" honey is just local wildflower equivalent. There is some colour change during primary ferment because fermentation can have a slight bleaching effect - though that's normally more noticable with fruit based batches i.e. strawberry often doesn't come out red at all, it comes out a light straw/hay colour golden. Blueberry/black currant often come out dark from the fruit pigment, but the longer on the skins/fruit the darker it will come out...

1.005 is sort of medium. You can back sweeten, but you'd need to stabilise first i.e. sulphite and sorbate. only then add extra honey. Your strength currently is about 9.5% ABV (70 point drop), but because EC-1118 is an 18% yeast, any honey addition without back sweetening, could restart fermenting.

EC-1118 is a champagne yeast, and while it's not a bad yeast per se (a lot of home brew shops recommend it, but IMO that's through ignorance of meads and over generalising of a honey must), but there are better. Especially if you can control the fermentation temps. If you can't and it gets hot, then K1-V1116 is a better bet as it's more temperature tolerant, it doesn't blow all the VOC's and aromatics straight out the airlock etc. EC-1118 is good at doing what it's intended for i.e. champagne or relatively bland sparkling whites etc.......


So i suppose my questions are these:

1) is that gravity reading normal and within what someone would expect?

2) can it be sweetened a little and if so when and how? I understand just adding more honey would just start it fermenting again.

3) for batch #2 should I add more honey to start with or should i rack it earlier or stop it fermenting in the fridge or something?


As you can see I am not really sure what to do here. Many thanks in advance for your assistance.

Actually, IRO point 1, I suspect it might have stopped/stuck. Only the quarter tsp of nutrient, and I'm presuming you added the acids up front ? Meads, especially traditionals (honey, water, nutrient, yeast) are prone to pH swings. Because of the masking effect of the sweetness/sugar content, people forget how acidic honey is. These days, people often won't add acid up front, only at the end of the making process and then only to taste. If you tested the pH of the honey/water, you'd be surprised how low it was. Wine yeast seem to have a "sweet spot" at about 3.5 pH, and honey musts can be from 3.3 up to about 4.4 pH (margin for error as there will always be ones that fall outside generally accepted numbers). So there's little point adding something to make the must more acidic when it's there already, especially as a ferment can stall if the pH drops below 3.0 pH.

With point 2, some of the answer is already above, given the numbers you've quoted, it's not too bad a result. Yes, as I mention above if it's stopped fermenting at 1.005 a stuck ferment is possible, the nature of properly nourished EC-1118 is that is should have taken this down to 0.990 - you don't have to worry about that really. You can easily test it, and make sure that it's not dropping down any further gravity-wise, if it is, let it, if you get 3 identical readings taken across a period of about a week (each test taken 2 or 3 days apart), then stabilise it with potassium or sodium metabisulphite (depends what's available locally) which will most likely be sold as "campden tablets" - dosed at 1 per gallon (crushed up), and then add potassium sorbate (depends on the recommendation on the pack but) usually dosed at a half tsp per gallon (and yes, 5 litres is close enough to a gallon a.k.a. 4.55 litres for an imperial gallon or 3.78 litres for a US gallon). Give it a couple of days to do it's thing (not necessary but I like to leave it for a day or two), then you can add more honey to back sweeten.

I like to do that incrementally, say 50 to 100 grammes (2 to 4 ounces) at a time, as that way I can get it mixed in easily and taste/test to know the numbers of where I like my meads (I routinely back sweeten to 1.010/1.015 as that's where I like my meads).

Just remember, honey can be a pain. If you've got the batch clear etc, adding honey can cause a haze. So I like to back sweeten before I clear my meads, that way I only have to clear them once.

For your point 3, you can start it with more honey if you want to. Stopping an active ferment isn't quite as easy as it seems/sounds, it appears you already know that you'd have to "cold crash" it.

If you use a ferment dry, then back sweeten technique, you have much more control over the brew. Working out how much honey you need to achieve a specific strength with residual sugars is much harder to do with meads - it's a beer making method. Beers are quite different in how ferments are managed - the very nature of them makes them more easily damaged during the making. Meads are more forgiving and harder to mess up in many ways, but they're routinely made in a more wine-like way.....

Dunno if any of that lot is helpful or not. Once the main site is back up and running there's the "newbee" guide which is worth a read - or a search might lead you to an off line version of it........

Hypnotoad
04-06-2014, 07:18 AM
Wow! Firstly thank you very much for the depth and speediness of your reply.

Ok so next batch I should pretty much do exactly the same thing. Same ingredients and all and sweeten to taste after fermentation is completed/stopped by me. Only difference will be I will hold off on the acid addition until after fermentation and to see if it actually needs it i suppose. I did just put everything in at the start. I also have a sachet of Lalvin D-47 so I may try that instead.

'Fermaid A' was what was delivered to me when I purchased my initial equipment and ordered a sachet of "Fermaid". I guess I was sort of asking if that is enough nutrient to give the yeast or should i be adding something else as well/instead? I see a lot of recipes with raisins and oranges and things in them. I assume these are to give the yeast a boost as much as add some flavour?

My 'bush honey' is like you said, just wildflower honey. I'm told by the apiarist that it is mostly eucalyptus flowers with a bit of other stuff mixed in. In the tub it looks slightly darker than regular supermarket brand honey but I get it at a good price so will just stick with that at the moment.

If the transfer to a new carboy has invigorated the batch to kick along a bit that's fine, i have an airlock on it so should be OK. I might just leave it there for a while and see what activity takes place.

I think by the sounds of it I did OK and if its a tad dry its pretty easily rectified. Thank you so much for all that info. It has been a huge help.