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Lazarusknite
12-02-2014, 10:12 PM
It's been a little over 2 years since I began making mead as a hobby, and I've done several runs of JAO's standard recipe, to the letter, and had great success and enjoyment with my friends trying it. I've also tried a few show meads and a few variations of JAO with strawberries or something. But only recently did I get a hydrometer and start wanting to get a better picture of exactly what I'm ending up with in my mead.

I decided I wanted to experiment with JAO to see what difference a few changes would make, and the results raised some questions. I did 3 single gallon batches side-by-side, but with the change that one batch was fed nutrient, one was fed on raisins (the standard recipe), and one was fed neither. I also switch the cinnamon stick for All spice, but that was because I forgot to buy cinnamon sticks, not as an intentional experiment :-P

Stats:
3.5 pounds wildflower honey
1 navel orange, diced to fit into jugs easier
1 tbsp all spice
1 clove
1 tsp lavelin K1-V1116 yeast
either 1 tsp nutrient, handful raisins, or nothing

All 3 started with a Brix reading of 29 on my hydrometer; I used Brix because it was easier to read. I start all of them at the end of June and by mid-August they were done, no gas bubbles in the air locks and nothing happening in the jugs themselves. I measured the Brix and got a 0 for the Nutrient batch, a 7 for the Raisin batch, and a 4 for the Nothing batch. After that I let them settle and clear until about mid-October, and then racked them into clean jugs and let them settle until the end of November. I back-sweetened the Nutrient batch with about a half-pound of honey, but the fermentation never restarted. I figured that meant it was done as it was going to get. The Raisin batch gave a final Brix reading of 6.5 while the Nothing batch gave a Brix of 3.5

Here are my questions:
In the JAO recipe, it says the Raisins will feed the yeast and allow more alcohol to be produced, but the Nothing batch actually seems to have done more and ended up with a higher alcohol. Could this just be a fluke, or has anyone else found a similar result?

This was my first experience with Nutrient, and I'm wondering how much consideration I should give it. Adding it resulting in ALL the sugar getting eaten, and a ABV of about 17-18%. However, the Lalvin K1-V1116 has a tolerance of 18%. If I use Nutrient, is it always so potent? Do I need to always plan on using extra honey to avoid all the sugar being eaten, or does yeast alcohol tolerance trump nutrient and I can just plan for the yeast to die off when it hits the tolerance level?

I'd like to try the nutrient again, but in a show mead instead of a JAO. I don't want to end up with 0 sugar left again. For a single gallon batch, how much honey would you suggest I use with the K1-V1116 yeast, to end up with a medium to sweet mead?

Does anyone see anywhere else that I might improve my skill set or missteps I didn't explain or didn't notice, that will better help me control my outcomes?

Squatchy
12-03-2014, 11:30 PM
SO I am very new to making Mead (or any other fermentation for that matter) but I have read a ton and at this point I have more head knowledge than experience. So keep that in mind as you read what I think I might see.

The original JAOM was designed to use Flieshmens bread yeast and not the yeast you picked. On of the reasons it works, (especially as a pitch and forget it) is the alcohol tolerance in the bread yeast is such that it will crap out before it runs out of food. Thus the residual sugar left in it. The organic nutrients are what feeds the yeast and the combination off all the said ingredients together ends up with your final product.

Did you measure your starting brix before you added the fruit? Had you done this, and then added the fruit you would have diluted the brix reading because of the added water in the fruit. If so, then it started at a lower sugar per volume ratio. If this is right in my thinking, (and it may not be) then even with your yeast pick it still may have died of poison and left some food behind.

The nutrient batch seems to have been strong enough because of the additions to have been able to swim across the finish line still kicking, and then die of exhaustion.

I can't think of a reason as to how the nothing did better than the fruit.

I'm wondering how the results would have ended had you did the same, 2 different times (or maybe a subsequent to later) and compare the test again's a dry pitch and a re hydrated pitch.

I'm wondering how the readings would change and also the flavor as well.

Like I said I'm really new to this whole thing and saw your post as a mini test for me. I would like to see what the more experienced guys have to say so I can learn the real answers and to know where my understanding is at.

Lazarusknite
12-04-2014, 01:05 PM
It sounds like you and I are fairly close in terms of skills vs. knowledge. I've read a lot, from the forums and the newbee guide to other crafting sites, and run several batches that have come out nicely. But skill level is still closer to the Pitch&Pray level, as opposed to knowing what my outcome will be before I start :-P Though it has been working thus far.

I know people talk about the importance of rehydrating, but I've only ever just done dry yeast pitching, and my results have so far been more than acceptable. I'm curious to see how the additional the nutrient in the future will affect things. I'm going to start a Cotton honey batch later today, with the plan of using about 4.75 pounds of honey per gallon with a tsp of yeast and nutrient each. According the the Newbee guide and mead calculator, that should end up somewhere between medium and sweet, which is how my friends and I like it.

To answer your question about the Brix, I measured it immediately after adding everything together. I don't know that the Orange would have had a chance to dilute anything at that point. If I read your explanation right, that would mean the actual Brix total would have been lower, because the fruit would have diluted things as it broke down and released the water it contained. I'll need to read up on that some more.

Thanks for the response :-)

Squatchy
12-04-2014, 11:56 PM
I'm guessing that even though your having good results with a dry pitch you may even find better results doing a rehydration. As soon as the dry yeast hit any liquid they begin to absorb what ever liquid they are floating in. At such a young and fulnerable age they have yet to develpoe any filters as to good or bad. When they get pitched into the must,rather than in water, they become mutated. They end up building their cell walls and such out of the must and it causes them to never function like they should. I makes them weak and makes many of them unable to get to the finish line. I'm going to find an article I read in a manual by one of the top scientist for a yeast company. In it he explains things better than I have.

Squatchy
12-05-2014, 12:00 AM
Read this

http://winemaking.jackkeller.net/yeast.asp

EJM3
12-05-2014, 07:46 PM
The is another problem you may run into and that is the fact that at 4.75 pounds of honey to 1 gallon of water gives you a SG of 1.171. Pretty much any yeast you pitch into that will shrivel up and die due to osmotic shock. That is where there is so much sugar and so little water outside the yeast compared to the inside of the yeast, this will draw the water out the the yeast and kill them, you may have a few survivors but they will not be able to finish off such a huge SG.

If you were to start at a lower SG of say 1.120, then wait until the yeast get to 1.000, then add small amounts of honey say to a SG of 1.020 or so for sweet, then wait for it to drop down again, when it does just add more honey until the yeast konks out and gives up. This is called step feeding and can get you some good high ABV mead (17% to 21% roughly), but needs a commensurately longer aging time of 1 month per 1% of alcohol.

Another way is to ferment the mead dry, then stabilizing with K-Meta and K-Sorbate you can add honey to the point you wish without worrying about restarting a fermentation or having a bottle bomb.

I've only been at this myself for a year, but I do have a little over 20 batches under my belt. But there are other great members that can help you out. My mead went from experimental to serious after the generous gift of the other peoples knowledge from this site.

Chevette Girl
12-07-2014, 03:20 AM
What Squatchy said about bread yeast. That's what makes a JAO a JAO... otherwise you get... an orange spice mead that's likely to go too dry and need more than 2 months to age out to something drinkable.

Yeast usually die off somewhere around their tolerance level, but they can't read the literature so sometimes they crap out early and sometimes they go a lot further than you'd expect.

I'd be interested in seeing the results with this exeperiment done with bread yeast, just to see if it messes up the balance of sweetness versus bitterness and acidity or if you get something palatable by treating the bread yeast nicely. How far the fermentation goes in a JAO is not as important as the final taste. And if it's goen dry it's not going to be very nice (as you discovered). As for the raisin batch? I got nothing, except that maybe the raisins absorbed enough of the water to affect the sugar concentration, but I don't think the amount of water a handful of raisins would pull out of the must would be enough to affect it THAT much... I've forgotten to add the raisins a couple of times when making JAO and variants myself and though I've never done side by side comparisons, I'm not sure exactly how much of a difference they make. I usually get a drop of around .100 in specific gravity when using bread yeast in a JAO or variation.

If you want to expand your nutrient experiments to traditional meads or melomels, that's a great idea. And if you don't want to end up with 0 sugar left, the better solution is to add more after it's finished (whether you stabilize it and backsweeten or just step-feed until the yeast gives up), as EJM3 says, that's a really hard start for a yeast, especially if you don't rehydrate it first. And for the record, I dry-pitched for years myself. It's just nicer to rehydrate your yeast, they'll go farther for you if you give them a better start in life.

Maybe that could be your next experiment, two batches, identical yeast and nutrients, but add all your honey up front in one and add a more reasonable amount to start the other (I wouldn't go higher than 3.5 lb per gal without doing an acclimated starter) and then add the honey later on, after the specific gravity has gone to 1.000 so you can see the differences yourself. My theory will be that your batch with the honey up front will stall out early and remain lower alcohol and way too sweet and the other batch will give the yeast a better chance to eat more honey and produce more alcohol.

Looks like you're definitely off to a good start, keep experimenting and keep sharing your results!

Lazarusknite
12-08-2014, 07:02 PM
Thanks so much for all the advice, this is really awesome and I appreciate the encouragement :-)

Would it make a difference now to rehydrate another tsp of yeast and add it to the already fermenting yeast?

Step-feeding - how to best mix the honey? Remove must, heat and disolve the honey? Or just pour in and shake it up like normal? Other possibilities?

Anyone have any tips on back-sweetening? I'm always wondering how to accomplish it without over-aerating the mead. We use a siphon when bottling so as not to reintroduce a bunch of oxygen. I would assume we'd want to do that when back-sweentening as well? Or can I just remix it with extra honey and put the airlock back on to let the air/gas out again, without damaging the mead?