View Full Version : some advice re: clarifying my mead?

08-29-2015, 09:14 PM
Hi! I'm new here, and new to mead. I decided to give a simple 'ancient' recipe a try and see what happened, and now I'm looking for a little advice about what to do next, since the recipe isn't helpful for this. For the record, this is the recipe I used, plus some juniper berries for flavour (I'm a Skyrim nerd and couldn't resist the idea of making juniper mead): http://www.makemead.net/easy-bread-yeast-mead-recipe.aspx. Superficially, it seems similar in both method and ingredients to Joe's Ancient Orange Mead (which I will absolutely try for my next batch!)

First, a bit of background (maybe TMI, but here you go anyway): I missed the bit about fermenting for 7-10 days and left it for more like 1-1.5 months (which seems more in line with the JAOM instructions, so I'm less worried than I was). I transferred it to a clean container via the high-tech method of pouring it through a funnel, which means no filtration (I'm not clear on what 'racking' really involves or how to do it). When I did this, the original container had little in the way of sediment at the bottom, and it was pretty uniformly murky, but I made a point of leaving the last little bit in the bottom of the old container to avoid transferring what sediment there was.

So now the stuff is in a plastic bottle in my fridge (I read somewhere that chilling it can stop any left-over fermentation, and I had a minor disaster with some cider I tried before, whose fermentation had not actually stopped when I thought it had, so I didn't want to take chances), and some sediment has settled to the bottom. The rest is still fairly murky. I poked the bottle the other day to see if it felt pressurized and it did not, so I'm (semi) confident there's no fermentation going on. I read somewhere else that chilling it can help with clarifying it, so I'm so far just letting it sit in the fridge.

Anyway, my questions are:

1) Is what I've done ok so far?

2) The JAOM recipe says 'when it's clear, it's ready to drink'. Should it have cleared while still in the fermenting container (it also says not to rack it, so I'm thinking yes, but am not sure)? Since it didn't clear before I transferred it, is it likely to clear if I let it sit a while? Or should I just start drinking my cloudy mead and try a new batch?

3) This is a more general question, and relates as much to the aforementioned cider, which is still in my fridge and scares me, as it does to my mead, but how do I tell if drinking it is ok or if it will make me sick? Can it even make me sick, or will it just taste bad?

Anyway, thanks in advance for any advice anyone can give. I'm really hoping what I've got is ok, or can be saved if it's not ok. Either way, the JAOM is next, as soon as I can get my hands on more honey.


08-29-2015, 10:06 PM
Hi Obax and welcome. I am not a medical doctor or a microbiologist but my understanding is that home made alcohol made from fruits (apples ) or honey assuming that the fruits and honey are not themselves toxic cannot support any life threatening pathogens. No one has ever become ill from bacteria or spores in mead or wine (although, obviously, drinking too much can make you ill). So there is no need to worry. If the cider tastes good enough to drink it is OK... It may taste awful but that is another story. If it smells putrid or makes you gag - then don't drink it.
Racking is how wine makers refer to siphoning and siphoning wine from one container to another has at least two advantages over pouring..
1. It reduces the contact the wine has to air to the minimum ( a good thing)
2. It enables you to transfer wine without disturbing the lees (or sediment) and so ensures that the wine you transfer will be clearer than the wine in the the container you transfer from. Non winemakers who make wine (or mead) talk about filtering when they use funnels but winemakers (who may also filter) routinely use a siphon to siphon off fruit and sediment rather than filter out what they want to leave behind. Filtering may be done by wine makers but that is to "polish" their already clear wines... and we are not talking about cheese cloth filters here but filters that are smaller than yeast cells (about .5 micron filters)
I guess I don't really understand how you know that no fermentation is going on if you press or poke a bottle (presumably plastic) and it resists pressure. That would tell you that some fermentation HAS taken place but it cannot tell you if it is STILL going on. The only things that will halt fermentation are a) there is no more sugar for the yeast to convert to carbon dioxide and alcohol and b) you have not removed every last yeast cell or "stabilized" the fermentation process by preventing any yeast cells still in the cider (or wine or mead) from reproducing or converting sugar to alcohol. The latter can be done chemically, with the addition of two chemicals (K-meta and K-sorbate (where K = Potassium, and meta = meta-bisulfite) but they are effective only when there are few yeast cells in the mead or cider or wine..

08-29-2015, 11:53 PM
Thanks for the info! It makes me a bit more willing to try the cider. It didn't taste all that good when I tasted it before, but it didn't taste bad either, just kind of bland, but I'll have to give it another try. And thanks for the info about racking. I knew it had to do with transferring from the primary fermenting vessel to another vessel, but I didn't know if it was a particular technique or just another word for 'transferring'.

As for the 'poking the bottle' thing, I've got the mead in a 4L plastic jug that previously contained spring water (I emptied out the water into another container to use just as water, then immediately reused the jug). The minor disaster that happened with the cider is that it continued to ferment after I thought it was done and put it into a capped plastic container, which caused the container to bulge. If it hadn't bulged out the bottom so that it fell off the shelf, I probably wouldn't have noticed until it exploded (this also taught me the lesson to pay more attention). After that I cracked the cap daily to let out the pressure and eventually it stopped bulging (which I'm assuming means stopped fermenting). With the mead, the plastic jug is equally as squishy as it was when I first put the mead in it, and it's been a couple of weeks, so at least while it's in the fridge, I'm guessing it's no longer fermenting, or doing so extremely slowly.

Any thoughts on whether it might clarify more, or if I should just dig in? My original thought was that if the sediment settled completely while it was in the fridge, I could transfer it again, maybe this time with a siphon, to eliminate most/all of the sediment, but I don't know if I'm waiting for something that's not going to happen.......

08-30-2015, 04:10 AM
By putting it in the fridge, it will cause any yeast cells to go dormant. Even when most of them drop out leaving the sediment/lees, there will still be some in there and if the batch warms up once out the fridge, it's entirely feasible that some fermentation can restart.

With the JAOM recipe, it uses what ? 3 or is it 3.5lb of honey. Bread yeast can ferment to like 12% or so quite easily. The JAOM recipe would normally get there and then stop fermenting as the yeast dies off from the presence of alcohol exceeding the yeasts tolerance for it (dunno if any tests have been done with bread yeasts - but anecdotally from here, you will read of people who have taken the usual gravity readings and established that it will go to about the 12% ABV sort of area).

You don't say how much honey you used. So we can't guess whether you might have exceeded the tolerance level.

Also, unlike JAO, the recipe you've quoted doesn't use an orange, so that there is less nutrients available (the raisins provide some, as does dead yeast cells). It's still possible that fermentation can restart.......

09-01-2015, 05:58 PM
Ok, that's all good to know. I used about 3.5lbs of honey, it didn't measure exactly, but I had 2kg and eyeballed it to what would be approximately equivalent to 3-3.5lbs.

I guess I'll just let it sit for now and see what happens. Thanks!

09-02-2015, 12:40 AM
I recommend looking into a product called "super kleer" which is a combination of Chitosan (from a compound in shellfish exoskeleton) and something called Kieselsol (silicon dioxide) which have a positive and negative charge and clears up your mead in about a day. Of course it takes much longer than that to fully settle out (cold helps as already mentioned) but I have found this product to be easy to work with and effective if you can find it.

09-02-2015, 03:15 AM
https://winemakermag.com/26-a-clearer-understanding-of-fining-agents I found this article earlier and it covers most of the commonly used clearing agents, a helpful resource for new home fermenters for sure!