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michael.ross
05-11-2016, 11:51 AM
I am a neww bee to mead making. I used to brew many years ago and have the hankering to try mead. I'm considering trying to go raw ala "Make Mead Like a Viking" A possibility I am considering is buying fermented honey from the folks at ReallyRawHoney and using the natural ferment to get er going. Has anybody done it that way or used the fermented honey to start with? Is this not a good idea? What do you all think about it?

Mazer828
05-11-2016, 12:54 PM
Based on the description on their website, it seems they're adding water to lower the gravity, and allowing any naturally occurring flora to take over. If so, it may be a very interesting wild ferment experiment. As with any fermentation practice that relies on naturally occurring flora, your geography will have a profound influence on the outcome. Hence the reason San Francisco sourdough can only truly be made in San Francisco. So repeating any results you get would rely on you being able to order this product again in the future.

Again I think it would be fun to try, and please post your results, or start a mead log thread so we can follow along. But if you want to be able to repeat this process I might recommend you look into wild/open fermentation techniques, and use that to make a mead relying on YOUR local flora.

Good luck!

Squatchy
05-11-2016, 08:46 PM
I would also add that I would not expect it to get very high ABV. I think wild strains have not had decades of isolation so therefore you will have yeast with almost zero tolorence. I would be surprised if you even get 5 %. Let us know. I would only start with that much, or less honey

Mazer828
05-11-2016, 09:20 PM
I would also add that I would not expect it to get very high ABV. I think wild strains have not had decades of isolation so therefore you will have yeast with almost zero tolorence. I would be surprised if you even get 5 %. Let us know. I would only start with that much, or less honey
So you would dilute the honey down to, say, 1.050, with the hopes of a semi sweet finish?

zpeckler
05-11-2016, 09:41 PM
LoveOfRose, one of the more knowledgeable and prolific writers on the forums, wrote a bit about experimenting with making a starter to capture wild yeast in this thread. (http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php/25610-Gruit-Mead-Question)

It sounds like he hasn't had a lot of luck getting a robust culture going, but then again harvesting wild yeast hasn't been something too many people have put a lot of effort into.

Like Squatchy said, wild yeast tend to have very low alcohol tolerance, so they're not going to do well with in a must above 13-15 brix or so. When you make your must, I woudn't exceed a potential alcohol of about 5-6%. Anything more might be a tough medium to get a robust culture going in. Another thing to take into account is that these yeast will take a looooong time to finish a ferment. They're not bred for speed like commercial yeast.

One last thing to remember about wild ferments is that there's always the potential for organisms like Brettanomyces (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brettanomyces)to get a foothold. Some people seek it out, but most seek to eradicate it. The flavors it imparts are a matter of personal taste. One thing that most people seem to agree on is that it's a very hearty organism. It can be easy for it to spread from one batch to another through colonized equipment. Many brewers who have made batches intentionally using this yeast recommend actually having a second set of "Brett equipment" to use on those batches, keeping their main set of equipment for their clean batches.

Squatchy
05-11-2016, 10:46 PM
So you would dilute the honey down to, say, 1.050, with the hopes of a semi sweet finish?

Yes. I believe so ,, or even less to be quite frank. I think 3-5% ABV is lethal to most everything most here are afraid of from what I have read. I'm all for sanitization but I feel too often people are afraid of stuff we ought not me because of the beer brewers that come here with their beer brewing autions. Certaintly a real concern over in that arena but not as much here in my opinion :) No doubt it better to error on the side of caution.
I came as a virgin straight into the mead world and didn't have any background aboard to cause me to have any biases.

Mazer828
05-12-2016, 12:05 AM
Yeah I cut my teeth as a home brewer. I know the paranoia! But fortunately I've learned to dial it back when making mead, and dial it up to 11 when I'm brewing (to account for mead making over confidence!).

michael.ross
05-12-2016, 09:36 AM
LoveOfRose, one of the more knowledgeable and prolific writers on the forums, wrote a bit about experimenting with making a starter to capture wild yeast in this thread. (http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php/25610-Gruit-Mead-Question)

It sounds like he hasn't had a lot of luck getting a robust culture going, but then again harvesting wild yeast hasn't been something too many people have put a lot of effort into.

Like Squatchy said, wild yeast tend to have very low alcohol tolerance, so they're not going to do well with in a must above 13-15 brix or so. When you make your must, I woudn't exceed a potential alcohol of about 5-6%. Anything more might be a tough medium to get a robust culture going in. Another thing to take into account is that these yeast will take a looooong time to finish a ferment. They're not bred for speed like commercial yeast.

One last thing to remember about wild ferments is that there's always the potential for organisms like Brettanomyces (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brettanomyces)to get a foothold. Some people seek it out, but most seek to eradicate it. The flavors it imparts are a matter of personal taste. One thing that most people seem to agree on is that it's a very hearty organism. It can be easy for it to spread from one batch to another through colonized equipment. Many brewers who have made batches intentionally using this yeast recommend actually having a second set of "Brett equipment" to use on those batches, keeping their main set of equipment for their clean batches.

I can see the long finish. I have several small jars of ReallyRaws fermented honey. I had one for about two years (had it in the pantry and forgot about it) when I bought it it had a mild ferment going, now it has a deep dark amber color and tastes absolutely sublime. So I tried to replicate it. When you get the fermented honey it does not look much different in color then their non-fermented honey. I took some of my dark amber and put it in the new jars. It's been about 4 months now and the dark amber is verrryyy slloowwlyy spreading. But it did give me the idea to make a mead with it. If I dilute the honey with water a bit that should help to speed it up. Thanks for the numbers I should look for in the dilution. I guess if I lose patience I could always finish it with a cultured yeast.

zpeckler
05-12-2016, 09:50 AM
Since you say you're a mead newbie, I'd suggest getting a few conventional batches under your belt before investing a lot of time and money on the wild stuff. Learning to make a solid BOMM will really help you boost the chances of success playing with the wild yeast. I mean, the would ferments are just so unpredictable to begin with that getting your technique consistent will help a lot. The recipes that follow the BOMM protocol can be found at www.denardbrewing.com, and are really reliable.

Do you have any other mead references other than "Mead Like a Viking?" The classic is Ken Schramm's "The Compleat Meadmaker," but some aspects are a little dated by now. A more current reference is Steve Piatz's "The Complete Guide to Making Mead."

And, of course, buy a hydrometer. ;)

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Masbustelo
05-12-2016, 10:32 AM
I think there is some myth going on in this thread regarding naturally occurring yeasts only being capable of producing low alcohol ferments. If they were really so common, given the interest, and apparent demand for low attenuating yeasts, why don't the manufacturers capture and market them? Also until about 40-50 years ago all ferments of wine and probably mead were done "naturally". I think there is some Bro-science going on here. Part of the historic purpose of commercially available yeasts was to meet the demand that commercial producers have for maintaining uniformity of product, not that of reaching an alcohol percentage.

zpeckler
05-12-2016, 10:56 AM
I think there is some myth going on in this thread regarding naturally occurring yeasts only being capable of producing low alcohol ferments. If they were really so common, given the interest, and apparent demand for low attenuating yeasts, why don't the manufacturers capture and market them? Also until about 40-50 years ago all ferments of wine and probably mead were done "naturally". I think there is some Bro-science going on here. Part of the historic purpose of commercially available yeasts was to meet the demand that commercial producers have for maintaining uniformity of product, not that of reaching an alcohol percentage.

You make an excellent point. Searching the forums I haven't found anyone who's really rigorously documented a spontaneous fermentation. I guess in the absence of confirmatory or contradictory tests we--myself included--just continue to propagate the myth.

After all, Brettanomyces species can go up to 15-18% ABV and they're considered a "wild" yeast!

Squatchy
05-12-2016, 12:06 PM
I think there is some myth going on in this thread regarding naturally occurring yeasts only being capable of producing low alcohol ferments. If they were really so common, given the interest, and apparent demand for low attenuating yeasts, why don't the manufacturers capture and market them? Also until about 40-50 years ago all ferments of wine and probably mead were done "naturally". I think there is some Bro-science going on here. Part of the historic purpose of commercially available yeasts was to meet the demand that commercial producers have for maintaining uniformity of product, not that of reaching an alcohol percentage.

I don't mean to be disrespectful but I would like to comment. A quick scroll through Wikipedia will tell one on the first page that most yeast will die between 3-5 % ABV. There has been cultured yeast as far back as the 1860's. There are sourdough starters that come from 150 years old mothers. Specific "gruit rights" were issued to specific cauldrons in Belguim and Germany as far back as 974.

History would suggest that as far back as the Mesopotamians that brewing was not sure of why it worked, but, that good batches were saved and used to start more batches. While bad batches were thrown out. In most of the vineyards in Europe, the old pressings a discarded back into the surrounding areas to continue to maintain the wild yeast biomass. If most of the yeast die at 3-5% ABV then in my mind it's safe to say that either through specificity ( I can't think of the term I'm wanting right now and need to get to an appointment) or natural properties, or maybe then dumb luck, or a combination of both, vinters have been able to modify the yeast strains we now buy as cultured long before this "pure selection" was done in a lab.

I would also say that part of why certain strains were encouraged to stick around was not only because of flavor profiles, color retention, speed of ferment, robustness, temperature constraints, was indeed the higher alcohol production abilities. When higher alcohol abilities walked onto the scene less money was lost to spoilage organisms.

I think 6-8 thousand years is long enough for man to coax the little ones into becoming what we now take for granite.

I would like to spend more time here but life is in the way :)

pokerfacepablo
05-12-2016, 05:44 PM
You make an excellent point. Searching the forums I haven't found anyone who's really rigorously documented a spontaneous fermentation. I guess in the absence of confirmatory or contradictory tests we--myself included--just continue to propagate the myth.

After all, Brettanomyces species can go up to 15-18% ABV and they're considered a "wild" yeast!
I cultured the wild yeast from my Tej right before racking onto some 1388. I say do it with a small batch. Who cares with what someone else thinks. Do a small batch and have fun.

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pokerfacepablo
05-12-2016, 05:47 PM
If you're afraid of infection add a cultured yeast after your wild ferment. Then you get the best of both. Or throw your mead in the fridge like they do with Tej.

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zpeckler
05-12-2016, 07:14 PM
I cultured the wild yeast from my Tej right before racking onto some 1388. I say do it with a small batch. Who cares with what someone else thinks. Do a small batch and have fun.

Oh yeah, a wild yeast batch has definitely been on my Bew-List for a while. Just haven't gotten around to it yet. It'd be super cool to try LOR's "Honey Bug" as a compliment to the commercial mixed cultures I've pitched in my experiments with funky and lambic mead.

bernardsmith
05-13-2016, 02:56 PM
Pokerfacepablo took the wods right out of my mouth: the traditional method of making t'ej (an Ethiopian honey wine) uses a plant called buckthorn (gesho in Amharic) to inoculate the honey. Given the dilution of the honey the expectation is that the t'ej will often reach 12% ABV although it is frequently consumed before it is fully fermented. There is nothing inherently problematic about wild yeast. The one difference is that you are not assured that in any one colony you have only one kind of yeast - a mono-culture. You can be assured of mono-cultures when the yeast cells are cultivated in a lab. Wild yeasts are likely to be far more diverse, more like a city than a tribe or clan