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View Full Version : First batch-Should I rack ? Various questions included



Botanyboy
01-25-2016, 03:17 PM
I brewed two 5 gallon batches in a 10 gallon primary before I "flavored". Also, I brewed with local brew store owner to start me out.

Primary-
24# wildflower honey
D-47 yeast
Energizer (don't know what we threw in-sorry!)

The yeast fermented for 10 days with a warming belt (cold in my neck of the woods) in the primary.

Secondary----------------------

Carboy 1- Melomel
Racked 5 gallons worth of mead into carboy on top of organic raspberry puree (canned)
Airlocked and left it.

Carboy 20-Metheglin
Made a strong tea of ginger, lemons, cinnamon, and clove by boiling components long enough to make a tasty, but potent flavored infusion. I then racked the mead into the carboy with the tea.
Airlocked and left it.

Its now been almost two months, and both meads smell REALLY good (airlock whiff) . :)
Both of my meads have had quite a bit of yeast die off. The metheglin has about and inch of yeast on the bottom, and the melomel has 2.5 inches or so (can't tell if its maybe puree too?).
Would it be wise to rack these meads into sanitized carboys? I read that the dead yeast can impart "off" flavors into the brew.
Also, the store owner gave me a few packs of Super Kleer, but I don't know if I need them (I do want them to look showy though). I read that the mead will clear on its own over time.

It appears that the metheglin has started clearing because I can see the textures from the bottom of my carboy (its from the 40's or so and has pretty cool designs).

I appreciate any and all responses.

Botanyboy

Botanyboy
01-25-2016, 07:00 PM
Also, when I started my mead, I did not know to take a gravity reading, so I wouldn't know how to measure a drop from the OG. I do understand it will stall or stop.
BB

Mazer828
01-25-2016, 07:18 PM
We can estimate based on total volume and total pounds of honey. Unless you know otherwise for your specific honey, lets assume honey adds 38 gravity points (thousandths over 1.000) per pound, divided by volume in gallons. So one pound of honey in one gallon of must would be 1.038. One pound of honey in a two gallon must would be 1.017. One in four would be 1.0085. Hope this makes sense.

So if you started with 15 pounds of honey in 6 gallons of must, you would have 15*38 or 570 gravity points, spread out over 6 gallons, for 95 points. Water is 1.000, so you've raised it to 1.095.

bmwr75
01-25-2016, 09:32 PM
Yes, it is time to rack. As a general rule of thumb, I rack after 1 month since pitching the yeast. But, all my ferments are usually done in 10 days.

Botanyboy
01-25-2016, 09:49 PM
Yes, it is time to rack. As a general rule of thumb, I rack after 1 month since pitching the yeast. But, all my ferments are usually done in 10 days.

Let me clarify, I fermented for 10 days after pitching, and then racked it into my carboys to age it. Now, I have a great deal of lees (I think that's what it's called) in the bottom of my carboys.

Farmboyc
01-25-2016, 09:59 PM
I would rack again to facilitate clearing and not use the Super Klee.

There is a technique that ages on the lees but apparently it is very sensitive to the type of yeast being used and presumably the type of product being aged. I know nothing about this technique but it seems kinda ambitious for a first batch IMO.

According to loveofrose Super Kleer can impart a medicinal taste if it doesn't completely drop out of suspension.

bmwr75
01-25-2016, 10:06 PM
Let me clarify, I fermented for 10 days after pitching, and then racked it into my carboys to age it. Now, I have a great deal of lees (I think that's what it's called) in the bottom of my carboys.

I understand. It is still time to rack. Letting your mead sit on lees for extended periods of time can lead to off flavors. Some yeasts are bad about this, some are not. But, I would rack anyway.

Mazer828
01-25-2016, 10:46 PM
As with oxygenation, I suspect we mazers tend to ascribe too much fear and mistrust to the possibility/potential for yeast lees to contribute off flavors to our beloved elixirs. As we all know, when yeast have done their job to the greatest of their wee little abilities, they do not die...they simply go dormant, intoxicated by their own hard work. They beat us to the punch, so to speak. But the important thing is they do not die. At least not right away. When they do die, several months later, they go through a process called autolysis, wherein the organelles within the yeast cell called lysosomes release digestive enzymes which literally begin cannibalizing the yeast cell from the inside out. Many things are released, obviously, which can be desirable or not.

Now I'm not a microbiologist, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. And the autolysis process does not start happening for several months after the fermentation stops. Otherwise, all those nifty little vials of liquid yeast we buy from White Labs would only contain yeast zombies and toxic waste. As a matter of fact, there are numerous yeasts cultured specifically for bottling (usually higher gravity ales), which are intended to be left in the bottle for cellaring periods of up to or over a year, and which contribute to the flavor profile as they decompose. Yay! I've had many such offerings, and I've found none of them unappealing.

What I'm saying is I think we often forget the difference between yeast going dormant, and yeast actually dying and starting to decompose. Two very different events, on two very different time schedules. I assert you could in reality pitch a yeast, have the ferment finish within two weeks, and choose NOT to rack to secondary for up to six months, without any noticeable issues.

Botanyboy
01-25-2016, 10:51 PM
I really got a chuckle from your holiday express comment.:P I appreciate your comments and found them very informative.

Botanyboy
01-25-2016, 10:53 PM
Would it be wise to top off the carboys with some organic juice that fits the flavor profile after I rack?

Mazer828
01-25-2016, 11:24 PM
I don't know if wise or not is the question. The question is to what end?

brentG
01-25-2016, 11:44 PM
I just topped off a pear cyser with a 32oz. bottle of nectar for that very reason, but that's in a 6 gallon batch. I'll let you know how it turns out in about two years!
Not to digress, but seeing as we're on the subject of dormant yeast in the lees, how is it that re-using the yeast cake works? I mean, I do it with 1388, I just don't know why/how it works.

Mazer828
01-25-2016, 11:54 PM
Ha! Ha ha. Because the yeast isn't dead my friend! Lol. In fact I have taken lees from a Belgian ale that had probably been on the shelf for a year or better, and propagated it to use as a primary pitch yeast in another Belgian ale. How could that happen if it was dead?

Stasis
01-26-2016, 12:02 AM
Mazer828 is mostly right. Sur lie aging is a bit complex so maybe newer mazers would want to rack to be on the safe side. However, it does seem that we fear lees a bit too much. I am not even surprised at this since some recipes even call for racking after just 10 days! I am surprised that there is so litte talk about sur lie aging on these forums though. I have yet to encounter a recipe on these forums which calls for and describes the process in the brew log of sur lie aging

Botanyboy
01-26-2016, 01:26 AM
So after it was racked from the primary, the guy helping me did the part. Now I'm going to do it myself. My understanding is that you hold the cane tip above the lees so you don't get the particulate. This is why I thought I should top it off.... It seems to me that by racking, you are leaving behind some of the good stuff?
BB

brentG
01-26-2016, 04:20 AM
So after it was racked from the primary, the guy helping me did the part. Now I'm going to do it myself. My understanding is that you hold the cane tip above the lees so you don't get the particulate. This is why I thought I should top it off.... It seems to me that by racking, you are leaving behind some of the good stuff?
BB

Yeah, there's going to be loss. I like to start out making a gallon and a half that eventually works its way down to a gallon for the long haul. I also pour the sludge into a jar and stick it in the fridge. Once it settles I pull the good stuff off with a turkey baster and drink it.

brentG
01-26-2016, 04:25 AM
Ha! Ha ha. Because the yeast isn't dead my friend! Lol. In fact I have taken lees from a Belgian ale that had probably been on the shelf for a year or better, and propagated it to use as a primary pitch yeast in another Belgian ale. How could that happen if it was dead?

So am I right in thinking that when the yeast go dormant they still have potential to make more alcohol but there isn't any sugar left, then when you introduce more sugar in the next batch they wake up to finish and start reproducing? Or am I not understanding how this works?
Could you use a cake from a batch that went to its full ABV potential?

Stasis
01-26-2016, 07:15 AM
There are many reasons why a yeast may go dormant: no sugar left, alcohol level, ph, lack of nutrients...
Depending on how much the yeast was stressed it could be a good idea to put them in a new batch or not. If I were to make a high gravity mead and push the yeast until they poop out I don't think I'd use them for another batch. Basically, yeast can be so cheap (especially when compared to honey) that if I have any doubt about sanitation or stress I would pitch a new packet in my next batch

Mazer828
01-26-2016, 09:13 AM
As long as (a) I had no reason to suspect any sanitation issues and (b) the yeast had not been stressed during the previous fermentation to the point where it began throwing off flavors or aromas, I would not hesitate to use it again for a subsequent batch.

But I should mention you get diminishing returns doing so over time. Apparently (I've read) even with spotless sanitation practices and perfect fermentation management, if you keep re-using the same yeast cake or re-propagating yeast from batch to batch, you eventually start to lose the specific qualities of that yeast, and they begin to act a little different than they did from the manufacturer. I've read that most home brewers who ranch their own yeast only use a particular batch through four our five ferments before they purchase a fresh batch for this reason. Personally, three has been my maximum, with no adverse effects, and no loss of character.

Botanyboy
01-26-2016, 09:38 AM
Lots of things to think about. Here is what I'm thinking; I should buy a 4 gallon carboy and a half gallon carboy. I have a feeling that I'll loose somewhere around a half gallon of mead after racking. What do y'all think?
BB

Botanyboy
01-26-2016, 09:58 AM
On a side note, I've only had mead twice. You all make me really want to try your mead.... I bet it's 100x better than anything I've ever gotten from the store based on how much you know :)

Botanyboy
01-26-2016, 10:05 AM
News flash! The guy who is teaching me to brew told me an easy fix. He said to top off with white wine in the metheglin, and some organic juice in my melomel. Thoughts?

Mazer828
01-26-2016, 12:21 PM
All possibilities. Just carefully weigh the pros and cons before adding anything. You can never go back.

Personally I don't top off. Ever, with anything. But I've been known to be a purist.

Stasis
01-26-2016, 12:28 PM
The 4 gallon carboy and 0.5 gallon carboy is how I do it. Although at half a gallon it's almost like a large bottle at that point.
I have carboys in 54, 25, 23, 15, 5 and 4.5 liter sizes so that if I rack a 54l batch it then usually fits in 2x25l carboys with some left over which I either drink or store in the fridge. If I rack again one of those carboys probably becomes a 23l carboy... for smaller batches I ferment in the 15l carboy and that usually gets split in an assortment of 5 liter and 4.5 liter carboys. If the mead fits annoyingly between any of these sizes, I age in bottles until the next racking.
The advantage of this method is that your batches will never get diluted with anything else once you get the hang of this.
If I didn't have this setup (which I inherited) I would probably top up with traditional mead which I'd make sure I always had on hand. Ideally you'd make a small batch of traditional and top up with that, but the simpler way may indeed be what your buddy suggested

Botanyboy
01-26-2016, 12:34 PM
I would guess that my mead is approximately 4 inches from the very top of my carboy, with 2 inches of lees in one, and an inch in the other. So all said and done, it will be 5-6 inches from the tip of carboy. Is this okay?

bmwr75
01-26-2016, 04:20 PM
I've topped off my meads in secondary with all kinds of stuff: a traditional mead, left over must, spring water, more of the same juice used in primary, muscadine wine, commercial meads.

Botanyboy
01-27-2016, 11:48 AM
So yesterday I racked both carboys into sanitized ones. This morning I checked on them, and there looks to be no activity in them. I've used a flashlight, but I can't see and bubbles at all. Is this normal?

Farmboyc
01-27-2016, 12:09 PM
What is your SG at?

In many cases the airlock activity in the secondary is a function of the mead releasing CO2 gas from solution. When you rack you also release this built up gas. So if your SG has stayed stable for a week or 2 before you racked it would be normal to see no activity after racking because your fermentation is truly done and the vast majority of the CO2 is released from solution.

Botanyboy
01-27-2016, 12:35 PM
When I started, I never took an OG. Would it still be worthwhile to check it? My carboy had bubbles coming out of the mead yesterday, after racking, nothing. I'm about 2 months in. I racked it off the lees

Farmboyc
01-27-2016, 01:06 PM
Yes it is worth checking it. It is more to confirm that fermentation is complete. The number isn't important the stability of the number is.

I understand that you racked off of the lees which is mainly yeast. The question is was the bubbles you saw yesterday from an active fermentation or was it CO2 stuck in solution. A SG over a period of time would answer this question.

If your fermentation was still going then racking off the lees would stun, slow, or possibly stop your activity.

I would say take and record SG once a week for a few weeks and see where things are sitting. Relax you have done nothing wrong.

Stasis
01-27-2016, 07:43 PM
Your ferment was possibly still active? If I knew this I would have probably said you should check FG/SG before deciding whether or not to rack. If the mead was still active after 10 days in primary I don't know why you transfered to secondary either. With your description of the steps taken I think most of us assumed airlock activity was finished. You should check sg pronto, hopefully it shouldn't be too high.
I suggest you read the newbee guide which was posted in this thread. Unfortunately the link from the gotmead site itself doesn't seem to be working http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php/22954

Mazer828
01-28-2016, 09:31 AM
Completely agree with farm boy. Also think your first rack may have been early (it's easy to get excited), but your mead will turn out fine. Worst case it's a little on the sweet side, which I think you sort of wanted in the first place, right?