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Ambaryerno
01-10-2016, 12:18 AM
Hello all, new to the forums, so first of all saying "HI!"

Anyway, I'm looking to get back into mead-making and was needing some help. I've played around with a few recipes in the past, including existing ones as well as trying to develop my own. The others turned out fine, but there was a particular one I really want to do that I ran into a serious problem:

The goal was both a sweet, but very strong (18-20% ABV target), mead using Heather honey. Because getting Heather honey in St. Louis is very pricey (I haven't been able to find anyone domestic who produces it, so I had to order from Europe. That shipping is painful) I'm only making a 1-gallon batch to get my recipe and process right. When I did my calculations for my target sweetness and alcohol content I came up with 7lbs of honey for a 1gal batch. Which is awesome, because that's the amount the honey I ordered came by. I went with the pasteurization method for this, rather than boiling, got it all going in my carboy, and for the first two weeks everything seemed to be working just fine.

Then after two weeks I racked it into a secondary fermenter.

At which point EVERYTHING stopped. No sign of fermentation whatsoever. I gave it a couple weeks, and after no further sign that the mead was doing anything I tried to pitch some fresh yeast, but no joy. I ended up with very expensive honey water.

Anyway, I've been looking to trying this again, so figured I'd see if anyone had some suggestions for what I can do on the second try so this time it DOESN'T die on me.

Squatchy
01-10-2016, 01:29 AM
So your leaving a good bit of left out info for us to help you much. If you started with all the honey in your 1 gallon batch your osmotic pressure was more than the yeast would be able to bare. You should start around 1120 and let the yeast eat it down pretty far and then add more of the honey. Let them eat it down again and repeat until you have added all the honey in incremental steps.

You will need to feed your yeast along the way so they stay strong and healthy. And lastly you will need to start your yeast off following a certain rehydration protocol using goferm.

Go to Scott labs website and learn of the "restarting a stuck fermentation" protocol. Do that until you have a healthy batch going at a lower gravity and then you can start adding your higher gravity must.

Not sure why you felt the need to rack so soon. You would be best served to keep the yeast in suspension for a few weeks after your fermentation is completely over. To often people here rack as soon as the ferment slows. They do this because they are in a hurry. If you keep your yeast in for longer they will clean up the mess so to speak. They will eat higher alcohols, diacetyl and such. In essence they will help so that the batch will taste cleaner, it will clear faster and age better sooner by leaving the yeast in the batch for a month or so. SO without them understanding whats going on, by being in a hurry they slow down the long term process.

Ambaryerno
01-10-2016, 02:28 AM
Yeah, I added it all at once. It's the first time I tried to make a mead aiming for that high ABV and sweetness. I assume that by start around 1120, you mean the gravity?

I racked it at two weeks because that's what most of the previous recommendations and advice I'd read suggested.

Squatchy
01-10-2016, 02:31 AM
There are only a few yeast that could take you that far too!

Ambaryerno
01-10-2016, 10:31 AM
I was using EC-1118, which I read can handle 20%.

Mazer828
01-10-2016, 12:32 PM
Honey adds around 38 gravity points per gallon, so your original gravity must have been way over 1.250. Incredible that you got fermentation to start at all! But EC-1118 is a brute; anything else would have probably quit before getting started.

And although EC-1118 can go past it's listed alcohol tolerance of 18%, it takes flawless fermentation management, including (like squatchy described) proper yeast hydration, careful step feeding, nutrition management, pH monitoring and buffering, regular degassing stirring and aeration, temperature control, etc. It becomes a real full time job to get more out of the yeast than advertised.

As said above, this is definitely worth trying again, but with a well laid out plan before you even start hydrating your yeast. So let us help! Lay out your plan and let some of the more experienced mazers here help you fine tune it!

pwizard
01-10-2016, 01:09 PM
Then after two weeks I racked it into a secondary fermenter.

At which point EVERYTHING stopped. No sign of fermentation whatsoever. I gave it a couple weeks, and after no further sign that the mead was doing anything I tried to pitch some fresh yeast, but no joy. I ended up with very expensive honey water.


Do you still have that batch in the fermenter? I would pour about a gallon of it off into another vessel, and replace that portion with pure spring water. Even when yeast shuts down like that, it doesn't really die -- it just goes to sleep. Thinning out the must may wake the yeast up again. Take the gallon of must you removed, add some more water, and put it in another carboy to ferment like the main batch.

If that doesn't work and your yeast is truly dead, add some sulfites (1 crushed campden tablet per gallon dissolved in cold water) and leave the carboy(s) open and covered with only a paper towel. The sulfites are to kill any unwanted microorganisms that may have gotten into the must since the yeast quit so you won't have a tainted batch. Wait 24-48 hours for the sulfite to do its work and dissipate, and then re-pitch new yeast.

Ambaryerno
01-10-2016, 02:57 PM
Unfortunately, no, I don't have it any longer, as it's been a while since I did this. I'm bringing it up now as I'd really like to try this again.

Anyway going through my notes, the process I'd written down was:

1) Bring the water to a boil
2) Add the honey
3) Return to boil, then cover and simmer 15mins
4) Add Yeast nutrient and spices
5) Cover and simmer another 15mins
6) Add Irish Moss
7) Simmer covered a 15mins more
8) Cool and strain into primary fermenter
9) Let stand 24hrs
10) Add yeast per instructions
11) Rack in primary
12) After 2 weeks rack again, check gravity. Repeat until fermentation finished
13) Rack into secondary and add oak
14) Check after 2 weeks, and rack off oak if acceptable.

#12 is as far as I got, because that's where it died. Some of the information I was working with suggested to rack every couple weeks, which is why I did it. For a number of reasons I don't want to go too detailed on my actual recipe, ESPECIALLY before I can actually get the process down and have a good batch.

pwizard
01-10-2016, 03:29 PM
Not sure where you got your instructions, but that process will produce a harsh mead that will take a long, long time to age out into something drinkable. Here's how I do it:

Don't heat the must at all. The end result will be much better (and require less aging) if you put this together at room temperature and feed appropriately. Keep your starting gravity <= 1.125 since you can always add honey later.
Rehydrate your yeast with an appropriate amount of Go-Ferm (I use 1 tbsp per yeast packet) and nothing else but chlorine-free spring water. Pitch it when there is less than 10 degrees temp difference between the starter and the must. Wait until the lag phase to finish (anywhere from 1-24 hours, depending on yeast and environment variables) and it begins to bubble. As soon as you notice activity, add 1 tsp Fermaid K and 1-2 tsp DAP. Since it is necessary to watch for the end of lag phase and since timing is important, I prefer to start batches on the weekend so I can check it hourly if need be. Every day during the first week, check your must and stir it up vigorously to remove CO2 and get oxygen to the yeast. During primary, try to keep your must under 70 degrees. Some yeast strains are more forgiving of high temperature than others.

You need to step-feed too. Check your gravity at least once per day during the first week and add more nutrients during the sugar breaks. The sugar breaks are the 2/3 and 1/3 milestones from your SG. The sugar breaks may happen within 24 hours of each other, so keep a close eye on it during this time. Generally, I check mine before work and after work each day while I have a batch in primary.

1. At the first break (2/3 OG), give another tsp of Fermaid K and 1 tsp of DAP. At this point, you can add a lot more honey if you want, since the yeast will eat it up real quick.
2. At the last break (1/3 OG) , add another tsp of Fermaid K or 1-2 tsp dead yeast hulls (boil some bread yeast or old brewing yeast that is past its prime. After it cools down, dump it in). Do not add any more DAP to this batch from now on.

After the last sugar break, keep checking the mead and stir/degas it regularly. It's time to rack into secondary when your gravity remains unchanged for a few days and activity has slowed down drastically. If you do your primary this way, you can breeze through it in 4-5 days instead of 2 weeks and the end result is much better than the old way.

Stasis
01-10-2016, 03:36 PM
Seems these directions are outdated so I would create a plan from scratch the next time around. Wrong steps, steps are in wrong order, doubtful ingredients, missing steps..... Since you need to start from scratch I suggest you should start by reading the newbee guide
Http://www.gotmead.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=1299&d=1395107076
Don't be disheartened though, if you read that guide and ask when in doubt you should have a successful ferment next time around ;)

Stasis
01-10-2016, 03:44 PM
I'm seeing many members mention adding nutrients at the 1/3 and 2/3 sugar breaks. I'm honestly curious where this information is written. I only ever saw mention until the 1/2 sugar break, and even then in very specific circumstances

Ambaryerno
01-10-2016, 07:03 PM
I do intend to use the boil method. Maybe it's not the BEST way, but it IS the historical way, and I'd like to make use of as much of the traditional practices (in reason. I can't at the moment afford or have room for an ACTUAL oak barrel to age in) as I can.

Regarding the sugar breaks, if I'm adding more honey at the 2/3 mark how do I measure for the second break?

Say let's take my 7lbs of honey, and I add half to 1 gal at the start to create the must. That puts me right about the 1.125 starting point. The first break would be at 1.081, and the second at 1.039, if I'm calculating it right. However if I'm adding the rest of the honey at the first break that's going to bump the gravity back up again. Will the second break still be based on the original gravity, or will I instead use the NEW gravity after adding the additional honey for determining the second break?

Squatchy
01-10-2016, 08:16 PM
[QUOTE=Ambaryerno;251832]I do intend to use the boil method. Maybe it's not the BEST way, but it IS the historical way, and I'd like to make use of as much of the traditional practices


So if you needed surgery, would you take a slug of whiskey and bite on a bulliet to cut off your leg just because that was tradition? Seems just as silly to adhere to ancient science for traditions sake. I would think if your making something to drink you would want it to taste as good as it could. Maybe it's just me. I wouldn't do anything if it made my stuff taste worse. Just sayin!

Squatchy
01-10-2016, 08:24 PM
[QUOTE=Ambaryerno;251832]I do intend to use the boil method. Maybe it's not the BEST way, but it IS the historical way, and I'd like to make use of as much of the traditional practices
Make sure to use ferrel yeast, skip the feeding and temp control too while your at it :)

pwizard
01-10-2016, 09:03 PM
I do intend to use the boil method. Maybe it's not the BEST way, but it IS the historical way, and I'd like to make use of as much of the traditional practices (in reason. I can't at the moment afford or have room for an ACTUAL oak barrel to age in) as I can.



It's your mead, so have it your way. I know if I were going to sink at least $50-75 into a batch, I would try to get the best possible results with modern practices. There are other ways to add oak influence besides a barrel (spirals, cubes, even infusions/tinctures).


Regarding the sugar breaks, if I'm adding more honey at the 2/3 mark how do I measure for the second break?

Say let's take my 7lbs of honey, and I add half to 1 gal at the start to create the must. That puts me right about the 1.125 starting point. The first break would be at 1.081, and the second at 1.039, if I'm calculating it right. However if I'm adding the rest of the honey at the first break that's going to bump the gravity back up again. Will the second break still be based on the original gravity, or will I instead use the NEW gravity after adding the additional honey for determining the second break?

I've always calculated the second break based on the OG I started with, even with step feedings. See, when you add honey at the first break and blend it in, all you're doing is delaying your second sugar break. You're giving the yeast more work to do to get there but that's ok since you should be feeding the yeast at this point too (and they should already be at maximum effectiveness). When the yeast eat through the extra sugar, it will be time to give them the last feeding boost anyway so they can finish strong. Step-feeding also keeps the yeast from taking your mead dry by eating every last bit of sugar.

Also, don't forget that adding honey adds volume too, so plan accordingly. It sounds like you're trying to make a super-strong 1-gallon batch when you're actually adding enough honey for 2 gallons (that may finish medium-dry, depending on yeast). Any particular reason for that? Even gradually step-feeding so much honey in such a small batch can overwhelm your yeast and make you stall out. Remember, the more alcohol you add, the longer it is going to take to smooth out, if it ever does.

Ambaryerno
01-10-2016, 09:37 PM
It's your mead, so have it your way. I know if I were going to sink at least $50-75 into a batch, I would try to get the best possible results with modern practices. There are other ways to add oak influence besides a barrel (spirals, cubes, even infusions/tinctures).

As for boil vs. not, there's this:

http://www.washingtonwinemaker.com/blog/2008/10/28/making-mead-testing-the-controversy-over-boiling/

Old experiment, but interesting results, especially since they use the same type of honey (heather) I'm looking at using.


I've always calculated the second break based on the OG I started with, even with step feedings. See, when you add honey at the first break and blend it in, all you're doing is delaying your second sugar break. You're giving the yeast more work to do to get there but that's ok since you should be feeding the yeast at this point too (and they should already be at maximum effectiveness). When the yeast eat through the extra sugar, it will be time to give them the last feeding boost anyway so they can finish strong. Step-feeding also keeps the yeast from taking your mead dry by eating every last bit of sugar.

Also, don't forget that adding honey adds volume too, so plan accordingly. It sounds like you're trying to make a super-strong 1-gallon batch when you're actually adding enough honey for 2 gallons (that may finish medium-dry, depending on yeast). Any particular reason for that? Even gradually step-feeding so much honey in such a small batch can overwhelm your yeast and make you stall out. Remember, the more alcohol you add, the longer it is going to take to smooth out, if it ever does.

So regardless of whether I add additional honey, I still do the second sugar break at 1.039 (based on my starting gravity).

Stasis
01-11-2016, 12:32 AM
My method would be:
- Start out like you're making a normal mead, except you add more nutrients (around 50% more). The amount of nutrients I would use would be at least half what pwizard suggested
- After 1/3 sugar break add final nutrients, then just wait for fermentation to slow down. Some threads here suggest aerating until 1/2 sugar break. If fermentation seems strong and you are confident yeast will not poop out I would add honey to take this mead to say... 16% abv
- Add honey each time fermentation slows down because mead is nearing dryness and add honey until not too much higher than your desired sweetness so that if the yeast poop out on you you don't end up with something too sweet you do not want to drink.

Ambaryerno
01-11-2016, 09:08 PM
What about this:

1) Add 1/2 honey to the water. Boil 10mins if desired.
1A) If boiled cool.
2) Pour it into the carboy.
3) Let stand 24hrs.
4) Add nutrients.
5) Hydrate yeast per instructions.
6) Pitch yeast and aerate.
7) At the first sugar break, add 1/2 the remaining honey along with final nutrients.
8) At the second sugar break add 1/2 the remaining honey.
9) Monitor fermentation. Continue adding 1/2 the remaining honey whenever fermentation slows until desired ABV reached or fermentation stops.
10) Rack to secondary fermenter.
11) Prepare spices by infusing in warm water as a tea.
12) Add tea to fermenter.
13) Add honey to desired sweetness.
14) Add oak.
15) Age on oak for two weeks.
16) Test flavor, and if acceptable rack off oak. Otherwise continue aging, checking flavor every two weeks.
17) Bulk age two years total (including time on oak).
18) Bottle and enjoy.

Farmboyc
01-11-2016, 09:36 PM
You will want to hydrate and pitch yeast and wait for fermentation to become active before you add the nutrients.
By doing this you will minimize the amount of nutrients that you feed wild yeasts that may be present and help to insure that your selected yeast is the dominant yeast.

Stasis
01-11-2016, 10:49 PM
Nutrients may also be toxic to yeast early on, so you'd want to add them after the lag phase. I would aerate minimally 2-3 times daily at least up until the 1/3 sugar break. More is better. I wouldn't add spices as a tea since you would have tried so hard to get a high gravity. I would probably add them directly to the mead much like the oak. Which spices are you adding btw?
On gotmead live I remember Oskaar mentioning step feeding creates fusels so I would keep it to a minimum. I am yet to create my second batch of a high gravity mead and have not refined my method. Finding the best way to step feed may knock off months from the required aging time. Having said that, my first try of a high gravity mead did produce fusels but nothing which didn't dissipate after extensive aging

Ambaryerno
01-11-2016, 11:44 PM
I haven't decided 100% what I'll be using for spices, however I'm looking at ones that could have been available either natively or by trade in Migration/Saxon Britain. One I'm looking at is heather tips since I'm already using heather honey. Figured that would be a natural pairing, and might help restore some of the aroma and flavor of the honey if any is lost to boiling. I tried breaking up the step-feeding like this for a bit more control of the final sweetness, as suggested earlier in the thread.

Anyway, to revise:

1) Add 1/2 honey to the water. Boil 10mins if desired.
1A) If boiled cool.
2) Pour it into the carboy.
3) Let stand 24hrs.
4) Hydrate yeast per instructions.
5) Pitch yeast and aerate (aerate 2-3x daily)
6) Once fermentation begins add nutrients
7) At the first sugar break, add 1/2 the remaining honey along with final nutrients.
8) At the second sugar break add 1/2 the remaining honey.
9) Monitor fermentation. Continue adding 1/2 the remaining honey whenever fermentation slows until desired ABV reached or fermentation stops.
10) Rack to secondary fermenter.
11) Add spices.
12) Add honey to desired sweetness.
13) Add oak.
14) Age on oak for two weeks.
15) Test flavor, and if acceptable rack off oak. Otherwise continue aging, checking flavor every two weeks.
16) Bulk age two years total (including time on oak).
17) Bottle and enjoy.

Chevette Girl
01-11-2016, 11:47 PM
I have successfully gotten EC-1118 up to about 18% a few times but always with step-feeding. I know Oskaar doesn't like that it makes fusels but I've found EC-1118 just doesn't like a really high starting gravity the way something like 71B does. It takes its time, so in future batches always rack according to SG, not a given time interval.

As for the boil/no boil, try your own experiments on this with other honeys. I tried a side by side comparison myself some years back and they do taste different, although I'd be hard-pressed to tell you which one I like better. I mostly don't bother with the boiling because it's an unnecessary step. In ancient times you had to boil your water for sanitary reasons, we no longer need to do this.

Your revised list - step 3, wait 24 hours, why are you doing this?

I'd suggest
1) add honey to water (I'd suggest not exceeding 1.125 with EC-1118 ), boil if desired, cool
2) make yeast starter (using goferm if you can get it),
3) pitch, aerate well
4) add first dose of nutrients when you see signs of life

... I'm not sure about the rest of the steps, that might be too much honey to be adding too early. You might ask Oskaar what the best approach is to get a high-ABV sweet traditional, I just know what's worked for me has been starting conservative and then adding more honey later in the process, every time it goes below my minimum sugar threshhold, I add enough to boost it up to my maximum sugar threshhold (how sweet I could stand it) and that way I make sure that wherever it does finally stop, it's not going to be TOO sweet.

You might want to refine your techniques on a few batches with whatever honey you can get locally before you go in for another expensive batch.

Squatchy
01-12-2016, 12:16 AM
I would add that you can't really know how long you will let your oak additions sit in your mead so putting a timeline on it isn't really appropriate. Same with your aging in bulk. You will learn that the mead will tell you it's timeline and not the other way around. Same for your racking schedule. It's my belief that all to often people on this forum rack too soon from primary to secondary. The reason is so it will hurry up and clear. In doing so they may very well be prolonging the overall finish time of their batch. I say this because if you let the yeast stay in suspension for a while once the fermentation begins to slow down the yeast will actually clean up the mess they made. What I mean is they will continue to remove undesirables. by doing this the time it takes to clear and to age out faults will be less by giving the yeast time to do that up front.

You will have to use your own discretion. Rough less versus fine lees are two different things. I'm sure even when talking about rough lees one can leave them in for a while with no ill effect providing you stir the must every day or two to keep everything in suspension rather than allowing everything to pile up on the bottom.

Squatchy
01-12-2016, 12:19 AM
[QUOTE=Chevette Girl

Nice to see you back on here. We missed you :)

Ambaryerno
01-12-2016, 08:43 PM
I have successfully gotten EC-1118 up to about 18% a few times but always with step-feeding. I know Oskaar doesn't like that it makes fusels but I've found EC-1118 just doesn't like a really high starting gravity the way something like 71B does. It takes its time, so in future batches always rack according to SG, not a given time interval.

As for the boil/no boil, try your own experiments on this with other honeys. I tried a side by side comparison myself some years back and they do taste different, although I'd be hard-pressed to tell you which one I like better. I mostly don't bother with the boiling because it's an unnecessary step. In ancient times you had to boil your water for sanitary reasons, we no longer need to do this.

Your revised list - step 3, wait 24 hours, why are you doing this?

I'd suggest
1) add honey to water (I'd suggest not exceeding 1.125 with EC-1118 ), boil if desired, cool
2) make yeast starter (using goferm if you can get it),
3) pitch, aerate well
4) add first dose of nutrients when you see signs of life

... I'm not sure about the rest of the steps, that might be too much honey to be adding too early. You might ask Oskaar what the best approach is to get a high-ABV sweet traditional, I just know what's worked for me has been starting conservative and then adding more honey later in the process, every time it goes below my minimum sugar threshhold, I add enough to boost it up to my maximum sugar threshhold (how sweet I could stand it) and that way I make sure that wherever it does finally stop, it's not going to be TOO sweet.

You might want to refine your techniques on a few batches with whatever honey you can get locally before you go in for another expensive batch.


Most of the guides I've read suggest to let it stand 24 hours after boiling before pitching the yeast, so that's why I included it here. I'll definitely consider trying a batch with something local first, although it won't be a good flavor match (though the heather tips might help that a bit).

@Squatchy

I wasn't going to only leave it on the oak 2 weeks. I'd keep it on there as long as long as I need to, I'm just writing in periodic taste-tests to figure out WHEN to remove it from the oak. Also, on this one I would leave it in the primary until fermentation actually stops entirely, even after adding more honey.

zpeckler
01-12-2016, 09:42 PM
Most of the guides I've read suggest to let it stand 24 hours after boiling before pitching the yeast, so that's why I included it here.

Resting 24hrs is only necessary if you add sulfite to your must. Otherwise it just provides an opportunity for spoilage organisms to gain a foothold.

Farmboyc
01-12-2016, 09:44 PM
Most of the guides I've read suggest to let it stand 24 hours after boiling before pitching the yeast, so that's why I included it here.

I think this is likely suggested with the boil method. It is a way to make sure the must had cooled enough to avoid thermal shock of your yeast.

Just make sure that when you pitch your yeast there is no more than a 10 C temperature difference between yeast slurry and must. Less difference is better.

The sooner you get your yeast in the less likely you are to have wild yeasts in the fermentation.

Ambaryerno
01-12-2016, 10:34 PM
Ok, so as long as the must is cooled to the proper temperature the yeast can be pitched the same day and it doesn't really need to be allowed to stand first.

Farmboyc
01-12-2016, 11:05 PM
That's how I do it.

Ambaryerno
01-12-2016, 11:25 PM
Ok, so:

1) Add 1/2 honey to the water. Boil 10mins if desired.
1A) If boiled cool.
2) Pour it into the carboy.
3) Hydrate yeast per instructions.
4) Pitch yeast and aerate (aerate 2-3x daily)
5) Once fermentation begins add nutrients
6) At the first sugar break, add 1/2 the remaining honey along with final nutrients.
7) At the second sugar break add 1/2 the remaining honey.
8) Monitor fermentation. Continue adding 1/2 the remaining honey whenever fermentation slows until desired ABV reached or fermentation stops.
9) Rack to secondary fermenter.
10) Add spices, honey to desired sweetness, and oak.
11) Bulk age on oak, tasting periodically.
12) Once level of oak acceptable rack off. Remove spice bag when desired flavor reached.
13) Continue bulk aging.
14) Bottle once bulk aging complete.

I haven't changed any of my step-feeding notes yet, pending more information.

Squatchy
01-13-2016, 01:03 AM
Where I'm from if you divide something into half that equates to two :) You have 3 halfs LOL

The idea is to add your honey, but not in such large doses so that you don't push your gravity back up over 1120 or so. That way you are not putting too much osmotic pressure on your yeast. I personally like to add what I think I need to make ABV% tolerance early on in the fermentation rather than making them work so hard when they are tired and worn out at the end of their life. Can't prove it, but I believe, it makes a difference in the ageing process.

Ambaryerno
01-13-2016, 01:25 AM
I think you're missing what I'm saying. Each time I'm adding honey, I'm using half of what's remaining.

So I add half my starting amount of honey (3.5lbs if I start with 7lbs) to create the must. Then at the first break I'm adding 1.75lbs. Then 14oz at the second break, etc. The idea is feeding more honey in, but in diminishing amounts to both not overwhelm the yeast, while also better controlling the final gravity.

Stasis
01-13-2016, 01:29 AM
I personally like to add what I think I need to make ABV% tolerance early on in the fermentation rather than making them work so hard when they are tired and worn out at the end of their life. Can't prove it, but I believe, it makes a difference in the ageing process.

I think this might be what Oskaar meant when he said that step feeding creates fusels. While some step feeding towards the end is inevitable, *maybe* the best approach is to add as much honey as you dare to risk (and is healthy for the yeast) during early and mid-fermentation

Chevette Girl
01-13-2016, 01:59 AM
I think this might be what Oskaar meant when he said that step feeding creates fusels. While some step feeding towards the end is inevitable, *maybe* the best approach is to add as much honey as you dare to risk (and is healthy for the yeast) during early and mid-fermentation

This is what I recall Oskaar saying, I just haven't done a step-fed batch since I heard that, and personally, I'd rather have some fusels to age out than have it stick too sweet, and it's nice to think the yeast knows when it will poop out but experience tells me they don't read their own labels :)

But if anyone ever finds themselves wondering whether to follow what Oskaar says or what I say, go with Oskaar. I probably would :D

Ambaryerno
01-13-2016, 06:57 PM
This is what I recall Oskaar saying, I just haven't done a step-fed batch since I heard that, and personally, I'd rather have some fusels to age out than have it stick too sweet, and it's nice to think the yeast knows when it will poop out but experience tells me they don't read their own labels :)

But if anyone ever finds themselves wondering whether to follow what Oskaar says or what I say, go with Oskaar. I probably would :D

Incidentally, is there a converter that calculates how much water to use to get a target volume of must with a given amount of honey? Or is it one of those things I'll just have to convert manually?

Mazer828
01-13-2016, 08:17 PM
If you want to go by pounds of honey, 12 pounds of honey is about a gallon. So then you would take the number of pounds of honey you have subtract that from a gallon and then you have the remaining volume of your must. You can do the same thing if you're adding honey to reach a certain target gravity, if you measure the volume of your honey prior to adding it and what's left in your honey container after you've added your honey. For example if you were adding 15 pounds of honey, that would be one and one quarter gallons. So for a 5 gallon batch you would have three and three quarters gallons of water.

Farmboyc
01-13-2016, 09:53 PM
Incidentally, is there a converter that calculates how much water to use to get a target volume of must with a given amount of honey? Or is it one of those things I'll just have to convert manually?
Yes here it is.

http://meadcalc.freevar.com/


Well kind of. Either wsy it is a useful tool.

Ambaryerno
01-13-2016, 09:53 PM
Ok, so I have to calculate the volumes manually.

To check my math, *IF* I end up using the full 7lbs of honey, (~.58gal) I'd need .42 gallons of water for my final volume.

Now if I'm step feeding, if I use the calculator on the site to determine my starting gravity I'd need to set my volume as starting honey volume + .42gal. Using the figures I've given in my process would be:

1/2 of target honey = 3.5lb honey = .29gal

.29gal honey + .42gal water = .71gal starting volume.

Using the calculator on the site, this would give me a starting gravity of 1.177, which would much too high.

I'd actually want to start at 2lbs of honey, which would give me .59gal starting volume for the must. This would yield a starting gravity of 1.122. It COULD go higher for starting gravity, but targeting this would give some tolerance. Also, as I calculate how much honey to add while step-feeding, I need to increase my volume along with it.

Sound about right?

Ambaryerno
01-13-2016, 09:58 PM
Yes here it is.

http://meadcalc.freevar.com/

That's the gravity/sugar calculator. I was looking for an easy VOLUME calculator that would convert lbs honey to gallons, and tell me how much water and honey I would need to get a particular must volume.

Farmboyc
01-13-2016, 10:04 PM
Ok fair enough. I guess you would need a specific gravity of your honey and work it out from there.

I would just use a large glass sterilized measuring cup but I'm not into the whiz bang math stuff for my hobbies.

Mazer828
01-13-2016, 10:25 PM
@ambaryerno I like your math for your volume calculations. I also like the idea of a 1.122 OG. It's modest, won't shock your yeast and you're giving yourself the room for future honey additions. Very well thought out.

I suppose if you wanted to you could set up a very simple calculator on an excel spreadsheet, but I think you have a handle on the math and it's really not all that complicated, as you showed. Well done.

Ambaryerno
01-14-2016, 02:15 PM
Thanks, although I think I might still want to create a calculator on the spreadsheet, because otherwise as I'm step-feeding I'll have to calculate the volume of the honey I'm adding AND update the total must volume, and recalculate the gravity, and then constantly play with those two numbers until it yields the gravity I want.

Whereas if all I have to do is plug in a weight for the honey, the spreadsheet can do the rest and save me a lot of time and potential errors. I can also set up the spreadsheet to automatically calculate my final ABV based on the total amount of honey I've added.

That, and I HATE math. :-P

Ambaryerno
01-14-2016, 11:15 PM
Ok, I think I've got a feeding plan:

First, I've played around with some more calculations. My ultimate goal is a 20% ABV sweet mead, so a FG of about 1.020. Recalculating, it looks like I'll need 5lbs honey/gal. IF I'm calculating everything right that would give total gravity of 1.177, which with a target FG of 1.020 will yield ~21% ABV. So I'd break it down as follows:

I'd mix the must at 2.9lbs honey in .58gal water. This gives me an OG of 1.124 My first break is at 1.080, at which point I add another 1.62lbs of honey. This will bring my gravity back up to 1.124. I let the fermentation resume, and when it's back to 1.080 I add the remaining .48lbs of honey and let things run per the process.

Now, the question is what do I do with that extra 2lbs of heather honey (remember the supplier I'm looking at ships the honey in buckets of 7lbs)? Well, simple solution: Take that 2lbs and make a dry at about 10-11% ABV alongside the big one, which will (hopefully) be ready for drinking sooner so I've got something to enjoy while waiting for the 20% to mature.

Does that all sound about right?

Mazer828
01-15-2016, 12:50 AM
If you can get EC-1118 to go to 21%, I want to be the first to apply to be your apprentice.

Ambaryerno
01-15-2016, 01:47 AM
Is there another yeast you would recommend for that target? What about WLP099?

Shelley
01-16-2016, 07:38 AM
I do intend to use the boil method. Maybe it's not the BEST way, but it IS the historical way, and I'd like to make use of as much of the traditional practices (in reason. I can't at the moment afford or have room for an ACTUAL oak barrel to age in) as I can.

Historical recipes also use raisins in lieu of yeast nutrients, and add the honey up front, not at sugar breaks. Digby used an egg for a hydrometer, and hair-sacks to filter, not Irish Moss.

If you're going to boil, then consider using cheap honey. Heather honey is just too expensive, and too full of beautiful aromas, to boil. I know medieval recipes called for boiling the must and skimming off the foam, but that method does lose a lot of honey characteristics. As a beekeeper it makes me wince any more to see someone boiling their must.

Don't forget, too, that beekeeping pre-1850s was a very different process. They had to take whole comb from the hives, not the nice extraction methods we have today. Boiling the honey then may have been necessary to produce a good mead, if only to kill any native yeast and bacteria in the honey they had.

Mazer828
01-16-2016, 11:22 AM
Is there another yeast you would recommend for that target? What about WLP099?
That would be one of my top choices. I have taken EC-1118 to 19% once, and I have later used the white labs super high gravity ale yeast to take a mead to 20+, with wonderful flavor profile. Matter of fact I just sent that in as one of my submissions to the Mazer cup this year. Happy to share details on the method if you're interested. Reading the instructions for that yeast strain it advertises that 25% can be reached with very careful fermentation management. So your 21% is definitely within reach.

Ambaryerno
01-16-2016, 11:55 AM
Sure! Any information you can provide would be welcome.

Incidentally, unless White Labs has two super high gravity ale yeasts, I think that IS the WLP099

https://www.whitelabs.com/yeast/wlp099-super-high-gravity-ale-yeast

Mazer828
01-16-2016, 12:36 PM
You're right. I forgot the number and had to go back and edit my post! Lol.

Ambaryerno
01-16-2016, 02:41 PM
You're right. I forgot the number and had to go back and edit my post! Lol.

Lol.

Anyway, main thing I read about that yeast is to use double the recommended nutrients when making a mead, any other suggestions?

Mazer828
01-16-2016, 06:41 PM
Here's a link to the white labs page for that ale yeast.

https://www.whitelabs.com/yeast/wlp099-super-high-gravity-ale-yeast

There are some pretty good comments at the bottom too. In general I can tell you it takes daily attention during the first four or five days of ferment, aerating and oxygenating actively at least once per day. It really does respond well to step feeding and staggered nutrient additions.

In my example I started with a wyeast dry mead yeast because I really like the flavor profile I get from that yeast, then at about 10% ABV I pitched a "started" SHG ale yeast to carry the ABV up to the top. I added honey in 5 pound increments up to 20, then 2 pounds after that. I added nutrient and oxygenated every day for the first three days, then added nutrient with every feeding. I used Fermax throughout as my nutrient, which I believe is very similar to Fermaid-K. My rate of nutrient addition was 1/2 tsp per gallon for every addition up to my last 5 pound honey feeding. From then on I only added honey, regularly stirred and degassed, and checked gravity.

Like I said, I might have veered off course in my method, there are probably a couple of tweaks I would make when I make it again, but that's how I did it. And it turned out well enough that it topped out at over 20%, took oak very well, cleared within about 2 months without any agents, and gets rave reviews whenever I feel generous enough to share.

Ambaryerno
01-16-2016, 11:50 PM
Ok, here we go:

1) Prepare the must, mixing 2.9lbs honey in .58gal water
2) Pour it into the carboy.
3) Hydrate and start yeast per instructions.
4) Pitch yeast and aerate (aerate 2-3x daily, say once first thing AM, once in the evening)
5) Once fermentation begins add 1/2 Fermax or Fermaid-K every day for the first thee days
6) At the first sugar break (1.080), add 1.62lb honey and 1/2 tsp nutrient
7) When it returns to 1.080 add the remaining honey and 1/2 tsp nutrient
8) Continue aerating and degassing daily, monitoring ABV
9) Once target ABV reached rack to secondary fermenter.
10) Add spices, honey to desired sweetness as necessary, and oak.
11) Bulk age on oak, tasting periodically.
12) Once level of oak acceptable rack off. Remove spice bag when desired flavor reached.
13) Continue bulk aging.
14) Bottle once bulk aging complete.

Alternately, with that yeast I can try to push it even higher with an extra pound of honey.

Start off 2.5lbs in 1/2 gallon for 1.125. Add 1.25lbs honey the first two times it ferments down to 1.080, and 1lb on the third. Add more nutrients on those first two feedings, but not on the third. Easier to measure, too, since I'm not dealing with funky fractions, and it gives me some extra honey to use if necessary. Downside is with that 7lb bucket it won't give me enough extra heather honey to do that dry 10% while this beast is aging.

Mazer828
01-17-2016, 11:19 AM
Are you going to feed it until it quits and then add honey to the desired sweetness? Sounds like you are, just confirming. That's what I did.

Also, what's your aeration method? You'll need to make sure you get oxygen into the must, so simple agitation will only degas, as there will be no oxygen in the head space. Easiest way would be pure oxygen using a tank and a diffusion stone, but you may not have access to that. Another way to do it might be to pop the top, splash rack it into a sanitized bucket, whip it to a froth with a sanitized wire whisk, and rack it back into the carboy. I know it sounds like a pain but that SHG yeast really needs extra oxygenation in the early days. 😉 🍷

Ambaryerno
01-17-2016, 01:04 PM
I was going to feed either two or three times, depending on whether I end up using 5 or 6lbs of honey, each time when the gravity gets to 1.080.

As for oxygenating, I was probably going to follow what was in the newbie guide and shake the hell out of it, but it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to get an actual aeration kit. Seems I can pick an inexpensive one up for less than 40 bucks.

This one (http://www.homebrewing.com/equipment/homebrew-wort-aeration-kit.php) seems to be getting pretty good reviews.

Ambaryerno
01-20-2016, 07:32 PM
Anyone have any further suggestions to add, or should this revised process be good?

Ambaryerno
01-30-2016, 01:11 PM
Looking to start this pretty soon, so if anyone has any further advice I'd appreciate it.

Mazer828
01-30-2016, 02:52 PM
I think you're on the right track! Get er going! Let us know how it progresses!