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aczdreign
08-29-2014, 08:31 PM
Hello all,

I've been trying to do a little research on step feeding, but I'm coming up short on results, so I thought I'd just ask.

Let's assume that I've got a mead started that I intend to add honey to along the way.

At what stage should that honey be added? Should I be trying to keep the must in the heavy bubble stage of the first few days of primary, or should I be prepared to have the fermentation slow down as usual and plan to add honey during the secondary phase?

How would I go about calculating the (current and potential) ABV of a step-fed mead? I know Chevette Girl and I had a conversation about this a few weeks ago, and she had mentioned that she simply feeds the yeast until they stop eating. My issue with this ties into my first question: Should I be waiting until the SG is low to add more honey, or should I be keeping the SG of the must high? In the latter case, how would I avoid ending up with a really sweet mead when the yeast finally do sputter out?

Medsen Fey
08-30-2014, 09:46 AM
...I know Chevette Girl and I had a conversation about this a few weeks ago, and she had mentioned that she simply feeds the yeast until they stop eating. My issue with this ties into my first question: Should I be waiting until the SG is low to add more honey, or should I be keeping the SG of the must high? In the latter case, how would I avoid ending up with a really sweet mead when the yeast finally do sputter out?

If you follow CG's advice, you will be able to make sure it doesn't become too sweet. If you add the honey earlier it may be somewhat less stressful for the yeast, but you never know where you'll end up, and you can definitely wind up with really sweet mead.





How would I go about calculating the (current and potential) ABV of a step-fed mead?

It is a little tricky. You have to factor in the dilution created by the volume of honey added. So if you started with a 4 gallon batch that had an ABV of 10% and you added a gallon of honey, you'll have a total of 5-gallons of mead, but the gravity has been diluted to 8%. Now you can add the increase in alcohol level that you get from a further drop in gravity to 8% and have a pretty good idea where you are. If you do multiple honey additions it can get a little hard to estimate. However, if you don't do this and just keep adding gravity points up, you will come up with numbers that are way above the actual ABV. A lot of times when you see someone posting up about there 21% ABV mead, this is what they have done, and it simply isn't accurate.

You can confirm the ABV using combined hydrometer and refractometer readings and that will get you pretty close. You can also do spirit indication measurements but this does require fine scale hydrometers to be relatively accurate. Vinocalc (http://www.musther.net/vinocalc.html) has the necessary calculators.

Chevette Girl
08-30-2014, 09:14 PM
To calculate the current and potential ABV of a step-fed mead involves knowing the SG and volume of everything (both your batch, and whatever you're adding to it) and making math happen.

To calculate it when it's done, you use spirit indication: take a sample of known volume, check SG, boil sample until at least half the volume is gone to drive off all the alcohol (known SG), then make it back up to its original volume with water (SG=1), and check the SG. Then you can find online tools that'll tell you the alcohol content based on the difference after all the ethanol is gone.

As for how to step-feed, if you have a maximum SG for sweetness, then you only ever boost it up to that. I like mine around 1.015 so whenever it goes below 1.005 or so, I boost it back up to 1.020 so there's not as much chance of it stalling out at a much higher SG than I want. If you only want it at 1.010, then you only ever boost it back up to there each time you step-feed it so you can't ever overshoot it.

WVMJack
08-31-2014, 03:56 AM
Your fermentation is going to be rocking and rolling at the start but then will calm down to a simmer. I think its less stressful to start off around 1.095-1.100 on the yeast, feed them well with nutrients and as CG mentions above, let the yeast eat the honey to a lower SG and then only raise it 0.010 increments or so to match your desired final gravity. Repeat until the yeast gives up, if you dont go over your desired final gravity when you step feed then you wont end up with a too sweet mead. This method allows the yeast to get used to the harsh enviorment after they have had a good start which is different than just dumping all the honey in at the start and hoping the yeast can eat their way thru it all. We usually add about 2 cups to 5 gal at a time, stir it in real good and stir it up every day real good. As far as being particular about ABV, why spoil a fun hobby with a lot of math? WVMJ

aczdreign
08-31-2014, 12:56 PM
Thanks for the answers, everyone!

Chevette, I remember you saying that you keep your fermentation in a bucket until you're done with your honey additions...Is it relatively safe to keep it in my primary bucket and stir in honey as the need arises? I'm assuming that the CO2 output would be sufficient throughout the process to prevent oxidation?

As far as why calculate ABV, the only reason is because everyone asks and I like to have some sort of response, even if it's just an estimation.

Squatchy
12-08-2014, 06:31 PM
You could just replied that its X amount approx based on what your alcohol tolerance level is listed for your selection