View Full Version : New, confused, and overwhelmed

07-26-2015, 11:39 AM
So I'm new. I mean new new. Greener than green. Lost, and very overwhelmed. And I realize mead shouldn't be like this. And yet here I am. Looking for some help.

First go at homebrew was a strawberry wine when I was 20 (30 now, for what it's worth). It turned to vinegar, and was gross. I decided to try beer. Made about a dozen brews over 5 years. Some were ok, others not so much. My wife (then girlfriend) was not a fan, and dissuaded me from homebrew again until we bought our first home. June of 2014 year we closed on our first home. So I'm back in the game.

I'm a beekeeper, which means I usually have ~300 lbs of honey lying around. Decided to try mead. Bought a book (http://www.amazon.com/Making-Mead-Honey-Wine-Equipment/dp/1878075047/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1437922942&sr=8-3&keywords=making+mead&pebp=1437922979447&perid=0EFWYP5D88R77N0CDQ7P) that was sold in the local homebrew shop when I was in college, by the beekeeping master Roger Morse. I got a recipe from it (per gallon):
1. 3.5 lbs honey
2. 1 gallon water
3. 4 grams ammonium phosphate
4. 4 grams urea
5. 4 grams cream of tarter
6. 4 grams of a mixture of tartaric and citric acid

Took the recipe to a local home brew shop (moved since college). Had the carboys, honey, and what not. Needed the rest. Homebrew owner was away on vacation, and his cousin was working the shop. Had no idea about mead, or any of the ingredients I was asking for. Left, went to a new homebrew shop further away. 2nd homebrew worker had no idea what items 3 through 5 were, and didn't sell them. Did a google search, and suggested that it was probably used for yeast nutrient. Gave me yeast nutrient instead. I showed him the recipe, he told me it was probably from the 70's and not to use it. I asked for a new recipe, he told me he didn't do mead . . . sorry.

So now it appears the whole book was worthless. I scroll through a few homebrew books I had, and came accross this one (http://www.amazon.com/More-Homebrew-Favorites-Than-Brews/dp/0882669680/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1437923367&sr=8-1&keywords=0882669680&pebp=1437923401557&perid=1MHFXJJSFXZ6XHN4XJ1K). It has a recipe for a basic mead on page 297 (but not much in the way of instructions). So I take the recipe from the second book, and use the method in the first book.

The mead:
The recipe I used was:
1. 17 lbs 8.5 oz honey
2. 2 tsp energizer yeast nutrient
3. 1 tsp citric acid blend
4. 1 tsp tartic acid
5. Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast
6. Fill to 5 gallons

The process started on 9/5/14. I boiled 1.5 gal of water, added honey, brought to "pre-boil", added other ingredients (not yeast and energizer), added to carboy (after sanitation, obviously), topped off with boiled water, let cool (approx 3 hours). Pitched yeast, added to carboy.

The recipe said starting gravity should be 1.100. My test showed 1.040. Don't know why, as 17.5 lbs of honey should have pushed it much higher, but probably too new to work it right. Acid test showed between .1 and .15%. Original ph was just below 4.6.

On 10/5/14 I racked it, added water to top, added a campden tablet. SG read at 1.055 (confirming inital reading was off).

On 1/3/15 I racked it again, added water to top, added a campden tablet. SG read at 1.039.

On 4/2/15 I racked it again, added water to top, added a campden tablet (no SG reading).

On 7/3/15 SG read at 1.039. I assume fermentation has been completed. Went back to local homebrew shop. Told current employee I needed equipment to bottle mead. He asked how long it was in the carboy, I said 10 months (all per the meadmaking instructions in 1st book). He looked at me like I was from mars. He said it probably went bad already. My heart dropped. I asked how long a mead should have fermented. He told me 6-8 weeks usually, or usually until it clears. Mine had been going for 10 months, and it hadn't cleared.

Forlorn, I figured the extra time period couldn't have hurt, and now I should probably just bottle what I had. So on 7/3/15 I bottled the mead. Glass bottles, real cork. Nothing added to bottles (other than sanitized first). I put the bottles back in the box, and laid it down on it's side.

The problem:
I wake up yesterday morning, and the pantry (where the mead is stored) smells like mead. See a puddle on the ground. Open up the box, and one bottle blew it's cork. I clean it all up, and pull the bottles out of the box, laying them on their side. At 6 pm last night, one cork had pushed it self halfway out. I pull it out, and recork. 10 am this morning, I hear a pop, and a third (different) bottle blew it's cork. Mead everywhere.

I check the SG of the mead that blew. It's carbonated more than some champagnes I've had. How the heck did that happen? Checked the SG (which isn't easy to do with a highly carbonated product) and it read at 1.039. Really, really confused. Some sedimentation in the bottom of the bottles. Weird.

So clearly, I did something wrong. I don't know what I did wrong, and I don't know how to fix it. Do I pull all the corks out? Is it a continued fermentation issue? How can it still be fermenting a year later? Why is the SG not dropping?

The real problem:
I had a carboy full of mead sitting in my kitchen for a year. My wife was not a fan. But she let it go, because soon there would be sweet mead (and it made me happy). Now, I've got mead leaking all over the place, making the pantry sticky. She's really not a fan. I would very much not like to have my bottles continue to explode, causing more "marital issues." I'd also like to learn what the hell I need to do, and make a successful batch of mead.

So much conflicting info out there. I'm lost, confused, overwhelmed.

Can someone:
1. help me fix my first batch, and
2. Point me in the direction of a basic, no nonsense, sweet mead recipe (and method) that I can follow and not waste my time?

Thanks thanks thanks.

07-26-2015, 12:44 PM
OK, so this is a great question!

I'll admit to being selfish and wanting a whack at this question before other folks chimed in and this thread turned into a maelstrom of posts.

This recipe as you got it from the book you referenced is/was the problem with many mead recipes flying around the internet, published in books and passed along in brew-clubs, LHBS and other anecdotal conveyances in casual "mead chat" at brew days and such. I'm including a link here (http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php/24776-SIMPLE-RECIPE-FORMAT-From-quot-Ask-Oskaar-quot-on-the-GotMead-Live-Show?p=246185#post246185)(and below, as per your request) for a simple no-nonsense sweet mead recipe, and would like very much to address this question on the "Ask Oskaar" segment of GotMead Live (http://gotmead.com/blog/gotmead-live-radio-show.html) on the August 4, 2015. In the mean time here's the link for the simple recipe to follow (also I'd recommend that you follow the recipe format for any additional recipe questions you have here. It helps us to see everything laid out simply and completely)

Click HERE (http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php/24776-SIMPLE-RECIPE-FORMAT-From-quot-Ask-Oskaar-quot-on-the-GotMead-Live-Show?p=246185#post246185)for the link

Please send me a private message here on the forums with your personal email so that I can get you going in the meantime. Your question is not atypical of some of the older recipes that were published around to old mead journals, mailing lists, brewclub recipes and such. It is what turned so many people off to mead when they tried making it. Short answer is that up front additions of acid blend, urea, cream of tartar are all unnecessary in the vast majority of cases. Longer answer will follow on "Ask Oskaar" on the GotMead Live (http://gotmead.com/blog/gotmead-live-radio-show.html/) show, August 4, 2015.