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View Full Version : First time at making my own mead... HELP!



MeadManDan
12-08-2015, 11:05 AM
Hi all.

So I've decided to make my first venture into the world of brewing mead. I've done beers a few times before so I'm familiar with the basics but could do with a little help in sourcing a fool proof recipe for a traditional mead.

Being my first attempt, I've decided that I would like to start off small with a batch of 5 litres (a demijohn). I've sourced a local honey and have all of my equipment from my beer brewing days standing by.

I've done some homework and like the idea of adding additional honey to the must during fermentation to increase the ABV. I understand this is called step feeding? Do I need to do this to make good mead? If so, how do I do this?

I've also read about acid blends of citric, malic and tartaric acids... should I use these?

Long and short of it all; I'm after a step by step recipe that tells me what to add, how much of, ideal specific gravity readings etc. A complete breakdown of mead making if you will.

Any help would be much appreciated!

Cheers,
Dan

Marshmallow Blue
12-08-2015, 05:21 PM
How much honey you got? Step feeding won't be needed unless you're making a big big mead (not really good for a first timer).

How sweet you want it?

You'll also NEED yeast nutrient. Look up SNA (Or staggered nutrient additions) for more info. Mead musts, unlike beer worts, have 0 nutrients. They need ot be added in or you'll get a hot, boozy tasting, stalled out mess. Don't be another statistic!

No acid blends needed.

After you answer questions 1 and 2, we can build a recipe plan. Mead is the opposite of beer in the fact that you put most of your work pre-pitch for beer and post-pitch for mead.

Nimrod
12-08-2015, 07:45 PM
I'd say you should start with a JAOM to establish a baseline, then step it up from there. There's a sticky that's worth reading about it. It's in the general recipe section and it's called "Joe Mattoli's foolproof ancient orange..."

bernardsmith
12-08-2015, 11:28 PM
I know I am a contrarian here but while Joe's JAOM may be foolproof and while it in fact treats the principles of fermentation very, very seriously, the irony is that you cannot use the techniques you use for JAOM and apply them to any other mead unless you in fact understand each and every detail of the recipe and why they each element has been included.
I would suggest that the OP buys some really good varietal honey (tupelo or orange bloosom, for example) - say 2.5 - 3 lbs and blends this in a blender (to aerate) with water to to make 1 gallon. Pitches 71B and some nutrient (fermaid K) and allows this to ferment dry - whipping air into this twice a day (and so removing also the CO2) racking when the gravity drops to about 1.005 (no headroom) and racking again every two or three months and so aging the mead 6 - 9 months. (the ABV should be between 12 - 16% . At 12% it may not need any backsweetening but at 16 % it may need to be stabilized (with K-meta and K-sorbate) and sugar may need to be added (adding honey to sweeten may not produce a nicely balanced flavor -the flavor of unfermented honey in mead does not blend well IMO) . It's unlikely to need any added acidity , or tannin or oaking... but it may..Your mouth is the best instrument here.

Last point - if you can drink beer after 5 weeks or so, the higher the ABV of mead the longer it will take until it is really ready for drinking but if you ferment at low temperatures and you are not looking for a high ABV , mead is - or ought to be very drinkable in six months or sooner... IMO, 71B is a low maintenance yeast. That is it is unlikely to show stress and is unlikely to produce hydrogen sulfide while at the same time it will not mask the flavors of the honey. Champagne yeast ought to be something you avoid as it is so aggressive and will likely blow off all aromatics and flavor molecules...

MeadManDan
12-09-2015, 08:42 AM
Thanks for all the wonderful replies, very helpful!

Marshmallow Blue, I have 3lb of blossom honey (was clear but has now set since being sat in the cupboard).

Regarding the sweetness, the only mead I've ever had here in the UK is 'Lyme Bay Winery Traditional Mead'; its 14.5% and referred to as having a 'sweet' flavour type. Its this mead that inspired me to venture into making my own... why buy it when I can brew it myself!

Thanks in advance,
Dan

Marshmallow Blue
12-09-2015, 10:07 AM
I'd use 2.8 pounds mixed with water to one gallon. Save the last fifth of a pound for back sweetening. Some people poo poo back-sweetening with honey, saying it gives a "raw" honey flavor. I don't know if they just use too much or what, but I don't think it's bad. Anyways, once it's mixed up, get a gravity reading, pitch yeast and add 1/3 of a gallon's worth of yeast nutrient (1/3 of a tsp I think, but follow your package). Then once fermentation starts (usually the next day), degas, aerate, and add 1/3 more nutrients. Then on the third day repeat one last time (add the last of your nutrient, aerate degas). Continue to degas after that until fermentation starts wrapping up, it should ferment to 1.000 or a little below that.

Some people rack to secondary right after the ferment is done or even a little before (to get CO2 in secondary head-space). I usually wait until a good portion of lees drop out (up to 6-8 weeks). I haven't had any autolysis from one gallon's worth of lees. Either way is up to you. In secondary you'll want to stabilize the mead using 1 Camden tab per gallon and potassium sorbate. This stops any new fermentation, mix the left over honey with a bit of water and add it in. Add it early. If you wait for the mead to clear, you'll need to wait again.

Once it's totally clear (clear enough to read 12pt font through), you can bottle it up in wine or beer bottles and continue to age in bottles until it's aged nicely.

MeadManDan
12-09-2015, 11:57 AM
Sounds like a plan, Thanks Marshmallow Blue!

What yeast would you recommend using? I have a packet of Lalvin D47 somewhere...

As for degassing and aerating; stir vigorously to aerate and swirl gently to degas right?

Finally, what is the maximum head space I can allow for in my demijohn?

Marshmallow Blue
12-09-2015, 12:27 PM
Sounds like a plan, Thanks Marshmallow Blue!

What yeast would you recommend using? I have a packet of Lalvin D47 somewhere...

As for degassing and aerating; stir vigorously to aerate and swirl gently to degas right?

Finally, what is the maximum head space I can allow for in my demijohn?

D47 is good if you have a way to keep it below 70, otherwise it starts to create a lot of fusels. Red Star Montrachet and Pasteur red are a little more forgiving of higher temps IME.
You are correct about aerating / degassing.
Less is better, but mead is more resilient to oxidising than beer. Also IRRC the stabilizing sulfites and sorbates also reduce head space issues?