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shoes
09-25-2016, 10:46 PM
Hi all,

So my interest in home brewing has been sparked recently by the blogs and books that I frequent. My attention was turned to mead because it seems like it can be quite minimal in terms of necessary equipment for a small-scale newbee. So, here I am with a gallon jar on my kitchen counter full of water, honey, lemons, and mint. I got it going yesterday afternoon and I'm really excited.

Here's the thing though: this is the first ferment of any kind that I've ever done. Given that, I had no idea what that cloudy sediment was that formed over night until I looked it up a little while ago. Now that my internet surfing is getting me somewhere, I'm finding people talking about clearing the mead before bottling, various chemicals vs. naturally clearing, etc. Needless to say, I'm having trouble getting my bearings.

Can someone please explain what clearing is and what I might need to do with mine? I used raw honey (so no added yeast), in case that makes any difference in your response.

Thanks

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shoes
09-26-2016, 08:57 AM
I should mention that I didn't just throw a bunch of stuff into a jar and hope it turns into something tasty; I am following a recipe. I'm beginning to understand that the method I am using is more unconventional than I realized, which I am not surprised about either. It came out of a book called "The New Wildcrafted Cuisine" by Pascal Baudar (2016). Given that, you can imagine that the aim might be to things a bit differently - like using raw honey with no added yeast.

Anyway, my point in saying this is to avoid confusion about my question and have the answer not be a reprimand not to jump in before I know what I'm doing (although if you want to I'll of course welcome advice in any form). Usually I'm pretty good about that - not so much this time, but I didn't jump in blindfolded.

My main question is just about clearing, although I'm hoping to find that in my reading of the NewBee Guide today (I got through most of it last night).

Thanks



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Gummy
09-26-2016, 09:43 AM
I don't understand the "with no added yeast" part.

Yeast is what converts the sugar into alcohol. Are you hoping that some wild yeast will do this job in place of a package of yeast?

Swordnut
09-26-2016, 10:51 AM
Sounds like a wild ferment to me. It's not as unconventional as you might think it is. In fact wild ferments pre-date what you think is conventional (e.g. adding yeast yourself) by some ten thousand years. So..., putting aside what is conventional and unconventional: clearing a mead can be done with one or three ways:

1) wait for it to clear naturally. Which is almost inescapable. This is what they did in olden times and what they still do today. Let it sit in a carboy for a long time, rack it off the lees that builds up over time periodically.
2) add clarifying agents, like bentonite, to help clear it faster. Still doesn't clear it up as a procedure you do once and then its clear. It only speeds up the process somewhat.
3) cold crash your mead for an extended period of time. Which means you put the entire carboy in the fridge for 2 weeks or longer. In most cases the mead doesn't clear up during the cold crash but will significantly speed up the clearing after it has been removed from the cold crash. I speculate that the vibrations a fridge makes it enough to keep microscopic particles in suspension.

As you might guess, "conventional" methods often combine all three: cold crashing, clearing agents (follow its instructions!!) and waiting for it to clear over time.

Optionally, though rarely, is to use a wine filter to actually clear the mead. Filtering wine is mostly done to make an already clear wine "brilliant". But you can theoretically use the coarse filters to actually clear the mead up. It'll get clogged easily most likely and requires multiple filters to be used.

bernardsmith
09-26-2016, 11:03 AM
Gummy, Raw honey does contain wild yeast. One problem may be to culture that yeast - that is grow enough of it to effectively ferment the must. Another problem may be to culture a wild yeast that is robust enough to survive and thrive in the alcohol rich soup that the mead maker hopes to produce. A third problem may be that the flavors this wild yeast produce or the flavors in the honey that it hides or transforms may not be the flavors that are most desired.

So, to shoes question - and welcome to the forum, shoes - what is clearing? As you will see the process of fermentation likely results in a murky wine. The cloudiness is caused in part by the way that the suspended particles - yeasts and other particulates, fruit particles, pectins, for example, reflect and refract (bend) light. The presence of carbon dioxide (the gas that the yeast burp as they consume the sugars and transform them into alcohol) keeps much of the particulates in suspension but there are also chemical reasons why a great deal of the particles remain in suspension (they are positively or negatively charged ions whose charges are forcing them apart. So that is the background.
The issue is that most folk prefer what is called a bright clear wine. That is a wine that is so clear that you can read small print through a carboy. Many meads and wines will clear over time without any intervention: as the CO2 (carbon dioxide) is removed or is expelled; as you rack every couple of months, and as particles flocculate (gather and drop out of suspension because their mass cannot be supported by the density or buoyancy of the mead). But sometimes the electrical charges of the particles are such that they will remain, stubbornly, in suspension - so if a bright clear mead is your goal you may use what are called "finings" to help clear the mead. These include a clay called Bentonite (vegan friendly), and materials like isinglass or egg whites (animal products) or brand named products like Sparkolloid or Super-Kleer (unceratin whether these are animal based or mineral. I don't use these). Some of these products neutralize the ions keeping the particles apart and so allow those particles to fall. Other products act as a kind of blanket whose weight forces the particles down to the bottom of the carboy.
If you use fruit you may want to help prevent the problem of what is called a pectic haze by mixing some pectic enzyme into the fruit as you express the juice. This enzyme will break up the pectic chains found in the fruit - the chains that jam makers seek - but this should be added about 12 hours or more before you pitch (add) the yeast as this enzyme is far less effective in alcohol.
Hope that this helps explain what clearing or clarification is all about.

WildPhil
09-26-2016, 11:07 AM
Most of my meads are wild fermented. Traditional mead can be a bugger to clear, cold crashing helps. The best way I've ever cleared a mead is by using fruit juice in place of water. Ideally homemade juice filtered through cheesecloth, when the proteins start to sink to the bottom they'll drag everything else with them and then it'll take a week to clear. I usually rack once and they're crystal. I'll post a phot of my watermelon Melomel when I get home, the clarity is amazing.

hendenburg2
09-26-2016, 12:08 PM
These include a clay called Bentonite (vegan friendly), and materials like isinglass or egg whites (animal products) or brand named products like Sparkolloid or Super-Kleer (unceratin whether these are animal based or mineral. I don't use these). Some of these products neutralize the ions keeping the particles apart and so allow those particles to fall. Other products act as a kind of blanket whose weight forces the particles down to the bottom of the carboy.


Sparkolloid is a mix of Diatomaceous earth (basically, silicon-based shells of long-dead algae) and a polysaccharide.
Super-Kleer is a combination of Kieselsol (a different form of silicon dioxide, some sources say that gelatin is involved, others don't mention it), and Chitin (the stuff that shrimp/crab/lobster shells are made of).



Sounds like a wild ferment to me. It's not as unconventional as you might think it is. In fact wild ferments pre-date what you think is conventional (e.g. adding yeast yourself) by some ten thousand years. So..., putting aside what is conventional and unconventional: clearing a mead can be done with one or three ways:

1) wait for it to clear naturally. Which is almost inescapable. This is what they did in olden times and what they still do today. Let it sit in a carboy for a long time, rack it off the lees that builds up over time periodically.
2) add clarifying agents, like bentonite, to help clear it faster. Still doesn't clear it up as a procedure you do once and then its clear. It only speeds up the process somewhat.
3) cold crash your mead for an extended period of time. Which means you put the entire carboy in the fridge for 2 weeks or longer. In most cases the mead doesn't clear up during the cold crash but will significantly speed up the clearing after it has been removed from the cold crash. I speculate that the vibrations a fridge makes it enough to keep microscopic particles in suspension.

As you might guess, "conventional" methods often combine all three: cold crashing, clearing agents (follow its instructions!!) and waiting for it to clear over time.

Optionally, though rarely, is to use a wine filter to actually clear the mead. Filtering wine is mostly done to make an already clear wine "brilliant". But you can theoretically use the coarse filters to actually clear the mead up. It'll get clogged easily most likely and requires multiple filters to be used.


Swordnut -

Here's a quick way to see if your hypothesis about vibrations from the fridge's compressor pump and and heat exchanger are a factor: Start with the whole "one batch split into two identical fermenters" part, and then when cold-crashing, place one on a folded towel (the plusher, the better) and one on the fridge floor and measure clearances.

Personally, I'm not sure if vibrations would be a huge factor, given that the compressor cycles on and off, but more importantly, it wouldn't explain why clarification speeds up after removing from the cold crash. The entire point of cold-crashing is that it slows down the random molecular motion inside a fluid (called Brownian Motion) that keeps solid particles suspended, allowing them to fall. The only possible reason I can think of is if you are using a protein fining agent like Irish Moss (carrageenan) or Isinglass (collagen), which stay liquid at room temperature until you cool them down, at which point they solidify and stay solid at room temp. But again, none of this explains why it doesn't clarify until after returning to room temp.

Foothiller
09-26-2016, 01:49 PM
My meads have generally become clear on their own after a few months, but this has varied some with the yeast strain. So the result with the wild yeast could be difficult to predict. If it helps, I needed to clarify a cider recently that the yeast had left cloudy. In samples from the full batch, I tried Sparkolloid, Polyclar, plain gelatin, and pectic enzyme. Pectic enzyme is not a clarifier itself, but breaks up pectins that can be cloudy, so it might also help with melomels. Pectic enzyme helped somewhat by itself in the cider. Among the clarifiers, Sparkolloid worked the best but not perfectly, Polyclar partly cleared the cider but not as well, and gelatin was slightly less effective. I ended up adding pectic enzyme, then Sparkolloid after 2 days (following the package's instructions), and got the desired clarity -- not brilliant clarity, but good enough. I use Irish Moss regularly in beers, but that's in the last 10 minutes of the boil, and I don't boil meads, so that hasn't seemed like an option.

shoes
09-26-2016, 04:30 PM
Thank you everyone for sharing your knowledge! Ok, so the layer that settles at the bottom is distinct from the particulates that will later need to be cleared? What happens to the sediment? To clarify (pun intended) what this particular recipe is like, it says that fermentation should clearly be active within 3-5 days (it's been 2) and at that point I should strain it into my primary fermenter. It then says that it will be ready to drink in 2-3 weeks.

Now, I keep coming across references to siphoning the finished mead, presumably off of the "layer" (that's the yeast cake?) in order to exclude it from the finished product.

Does that sound about right?

Again, I really appreciate the feedback!

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shoes
09-26-2016, 04:34 PM
By the way, here's what it looks like right now (hopefully this shows up). I should also mention that the recipe says to stir it 3-4 times per day until it's ready to transfer to the primary fermenter.
http://uploads.tapatalk-cdn.com/20160926/97b2d43c64b293823e76d2eb5ec8f755.jpghttp://uploads.tapatalk-cdn.com/20160926/2d1be6674772afc6cf750a1d9eaea6b3.jpg

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bernardsmith
09-26-2016, 04:53 PM
Basically, it sounds right but fermentation is a living natural process. It does not follow a clock or dance to the calendar. Best is always to monitor how far along the in the fermentation process your mead (or wine) is . Take routine and regular hydrometer readings. You want to transfer your mead from the primary fermenter into a narrow mouthed container - a carboy - when the specific gravity is close to 1.005. Transfer is best down at that point in a way that minimizes the amount of air you expose the mead to - so it is typically done by siphoning - not by pouring through a sieve or a funnel.
As for stirring during the time the fruit and mead is in the primary, I don't think that there is anything wrong stirring three or four times a day, but many people simply stir before they leave in the morning and stir again when they get home in the evening... You may need to stir more frequently if you are making 50 barrels of mead at a time as the yeast will tend to congregate at different levels and you want to help ensure that the yeast is well dispersed in such a large volume of liquid but if you are making 1 or 10 gallons of mead that is not, I think, a real concern...

shoes
09-26-2016, 08:27 PM
Ok, everything's aligning in my head a little better now... well, here's to the first batch 🍻

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bernardsmith
09-27-2016, 10:26 AM
:occasion14: To your first batch.

shoes
09-28-2016, 12:26 AM
I've been reading as much as I can in the past few days, and now I have another question. I'd like the opinions of you experienced mazers about this recipe I'm using:

The cliff notes version:
Mix 13 cups of water and 2-3 cups of raw honey in a jar, making sure honey is dissolved

Slice 4 lemons and roughly chop 2-3 large bunches of mint and add to the mixture

Make sure everything is well mixed, then cover with a cloth

Stir 3-4 times a day for 20-30 sec

After 3-5 days, when fermentation is active (indicated by lots of bubbling), pour it through a sieve and funnel into a one gallon carboy and either cover with a cloth or use an airlock

Wait 2-3 weeks and enjoy


Ok, so you can see why I have questions, right? The trouble is, I want to follow the recipe for my first batch, but at the same time, this came out of a book that spends two pages on mead (Yeah I know, I leapt before I looked. But now I'm really interested in continuing this and I want to get this right.).

In your opinions, do you think that I should do anything differently? For instance, I feel like I shouldn't use the sieve and funnel method, but that leaves the issue of separating the lemons and mint from the must.

I should stop writing now. Any thoughts?

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Squatchy
09-28-2016, 12:52 AM
I don't have much experience with "wild fermentation's", the ones I do have are not ones I hope to reproduce. But,,,, as a general rule most of us would agree to not add any acids up front due to pH issues. Normally we suggest to wait to add these things until the process is over so it won't contribute to a stall due to pH issues.

shoes
09-28-2016, 08:46 AM
I don't have much experience with "wild fermentation's", the ones I do have are not ones I hope to reproduce. But,,,, as a general rule most of us would agree to not add any acids up front due to pH issues. Normally we suggest to wait to add these things until the process is over so it won't contribute to a stall due to pH issues.
Interesting, I had wondered about that after the fact. I guess I can't do anything about it now, but definitely good to know moving forward.

Anything else?

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Swordnut
09-28-2016, 10:49 AM
Sparkolloid is a mix of Diatomaceous earth (basically, silicon-based shells of long-dead algae) and a polysaccharide.
Super-Kleer is a combination of Kieselsol (a different form of silicon dioxide, some sources say that gelatin is involved, others don't mention it), and Chitin (the stuff that shrimp/crab/lobster shells are made of).

Swordnut -

Here's a quick way to see if your hypothesis about vibrations from the fridge's compressor pump and and heat exchanger are a factor: Start with the whole "one batch split into two identical fermenters" part, and then when cold-crashing, place one on a folded towel (the plusher, the better) and one on the fridge floor and measure clearances.

Personally, I'm not sure if vibrations would be a huge factor, given that the compressor cycles on and off, but more importantly, it wouldn't explain why clarification speeds up after removing from the cold crash. The entire point of cold-crashing is that it slows down the random molecular motion inside a fluid (called Brownian Motion) that keeps solid particles suspended, allowing them to fall. The only possible reason I can think of is if you are using a protein fining agent like Irish Moss (carrageenan) or Isinglass (collagen), which stay liquid at room temperature until you cool them down, at which point they solidify and stay solid at room temp. But again, none of this explains why it doesn't clarify until after returning to room temp.

Yea that's exactly why I think the vibration from the compressor is what keeps things suspended. The molecules slow down but the vibration from the fridge simulates this motion anyway. This is why I personally see the most clearing happening after the fact in my musts.

hendenburg2
09-28-2016, 01:17 PM
Yea that's exactly why I think the vibration from the compressor is what keeps things suspended. The molecules slow down but the vibration from the fridge simulates this motion anyway. This is why I personally see the most clearing happening after the fact in my musts.

I guess my thought is, if the vibrations from the compressor are enough to keep everything suspended despite the reduction in molecular motion due to lower temperature, and the solids only fall out of suspension once removed from the fridge and the mead warms back up, what effect does the cold crash have that causes it to clear faster?