View Full Version : Here goes nothing!
I've browsed websites, compared techniques, purchased equipment, and gathered my nerve. All that's left is actually making the mead. ;D I've never brewed anything before; I can hardly boil water without incident. I'm hoping to change that, so I guess there's only one thing left to do....
I've got 7 lbs of blackberry blossom honey. Yeast is champagne yeast (Lalvin EC-1118, it seemed popular enough). With only 7 lbs of honey, I know there will be lots of head space in my 5-gallon carboy, but I'm hoping that won't matter too much. On to the questions then.
My first question is how much water to use. I'm shooting for something sweetish and smooth. I'm thinking maybe 2 to 2.5 gallons? That's pretty much a shot in the dark figure.
Second question is about additives. I'll be using some yeast nutrient, but otherwise I wasn't planning on adding anything. Most recipes I've seen call for the addition of a lemon or orange to add acid, but then I've heard that the must should be acidic enough without it. Will I be fine with leaving out the lemon? Even the 17th century recipes use some lemon, so I'm a little worried about that. Many recipes also recommend tannins to give the mead some "bite." I'm not a big fan of bite, my favorite mead I've tasted so far was completely smooth (people can make fun of my unrefined tastes if they like, I'll have a fruity drink in one hand and an obscene gesture in the other 8)). So can I leave the tannins out too?
Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. This is pretty much a practice run in many respects, but I'm hoping to get something drinkable out of it. Next attempt will probably be the Ancient Orange recipe here.
04-04-2005, 03:01 AM
Ya know, Jack . . .or is that you don't know Jack?
Just Kidding! Welcome to the forums.
Well, let's see 7 lbs of honey, 2 gallons of water and EC-1118 yeast. EC-1118 is a really aggressive yeast and your must will ferment to dryness with no residual sugar or sweetness based on the ratio of honey to water from above.
I'd suggest a different yeast. 71B-1122 would be a good choice as it will ferment to a nice light and fruity character while maintaining the honey character and aroma.
Use 1 t of energizer and 1 t of nutrient. You don't need the lemon or the tannis, they can be added at the end before you're ready to bottle.
Keep it simple.
I'm definitely closer to "don't know Jack" when it comes to this stuff.
I'll swing by the local brewshop and see what other yeasts they have tomorrow. If they don't have it, I might have to cut the batch size down to one gallon or something.
04-04-2005, 01:46 PM
A one gallon batch and EC-1118 will give you rocket fuel for your first batch...
But if you must... If you use it make 3 gallons with 6lbs and ferment to dry and then stabilize with Sorbate and Suffite and use the other 1lb to sweeten. It will be a nice semi-sweet to sweet and the best thing is you won't have to wait a year to enjoy it. Or a 2 1/2 gal batch if you want a bit more alcohol.
Hope they have the 71B for you.
I picked up the 71B-1122 today. I sterilized everything, rehydrated the yeast for 20 minutes, dissolved the honey in 1 gallon of water (then added another gallon to the carboy), tossed in the yeast + nutrient and about an ounce of orange juice concentrate, just because I had some on hand but forgot to pick up any yeast energizer. Hopefully oranges contain enough goodies to energize my yeast. Currently my protomead is apple cider colored and opaque, with chunks floating all over. Here's hoping it turns out.
Oh, I filled up my airlock with the same Chlorox solution that I sterilized all my equipment with. Currently I've got the carboy airlocked, just because I don't really have another place to keep the airlock. :) That shouldn't hurt anything too much so long as I give the yeast a little air from time to time during this initial phase, right? Like unplug it when aerating it? I didn't really want to leave the carboy uncovered, because my house is pretty dusty.
04-06-2005, 09:09 AM
Just a quick note since this is your first...
Remember to check any ingredient you add such as the orange juice concenstrate to make sure it has no preservatives such as Sorbate which will affect your fermentation.
Not a good idea to use chlorox solution in airlock. Its better to use Vodka, water with a bit of sulfite or just plain water as accidents happen and the Chlorox solution would be the worst of the 4 to have an accident with.
04-06-2005, 09:25 AM
I'm with Joe on the Clorox. I'd recommend you change it out immediately.
Personally, I use water in the traps on my primaries because the airflow is always out of the trap while fermentation is going on so there is little or no chance of contamination. Then I switch to vodka when I rack after the fermentation has stopped since there is some chance of temp and pressure changes pushing something backwards through the trap and into the must...
I also remove the traps and put stoppers on my carboys when moving them so as not to be jostling liquid (either water or vodka) into the must while transporting...
Also as a word to the wise, never fill the liquid in the trap above the marks (maybe even leave a little margin below the marks). They are there so that the fluid level remains below the curve even if the trap gets drawn through backwards...
I switched out the Chlorox for plain water. Thanks for the save... again. :)
I didn't even think about preservatives in the OJ. It was Minute Maid freezer stuff, which (according to minutemaid.com!) has no sorbate in it. The airlock is pretty active, I'm seeing about 20 bubbles per minute, so I'm hoping that means the yeast are alive and well.
One thing that's confused me is that during the initial phase, oxygen is desirable, but during the fermentation phase, you don't want it. I understand the biochemical reasons for that, my question is how do you know when to make the switch? When do you decide it's a good time to leave the carboy stoppered and not aerate it anymore?
04-06-2005, 05:25 PM
I use vodka during active fermentation and beyond. Mostly because I'm lazy and don't want to change the airlocks out, but also because I live a few blocks away from a fresh oyster source so you never know when one of those vodka laden airlocks will become the vessel for an oyster shooter! :o
04-06-2005, 06:39 PM
(snip)One thing that's confused me is that during the initial phase, oxygen is desirable, but during the fermentation phase, you don't want it. I understand the biochemical reasons for that, my question is how do you know when to make the switch? When do you decide it's a good time to leave the carboy stoppered and not aerate it anymore?
I aerate it and stopper it right from the start whether in a primary pail or glass carboy. These last 2 years I have been skipping the plastic pail primary. To answer your question in general, don't go past 3 days without stoppering and your guaranteed no problem but that is no hard and fast rule since some do go longer without adverse effects.
04-07-2005, 02:56 PM
Another reason I don't use vodka in the trap during the primary fermentation is so that I can better smell how the batch smells (vodka overwhelms other smells for me) without removing the trap to do it.
04-07-2005, 03:36 PM
What kind of vodka do you use. I've always been able to get the fermentation aroma without the vodka interfering in the different smells. That's weird.
04-08-2005, 10:39 AM
I use really, really cheap stuff, something like Hawkeye. And unlike some other alcoholics here who shall remain un-named (cough Oskaar cough) ::) , whose lifelong exposure to extreme amounts of alcohol has desensitized their noses to it's presence ;) , the smell of the alcohol/vodka hits my nose pretty hard and tends to cover other things. Anyway, I get an entirely different whiff of things if I pull the vodka trap and smell into the carboy. Not a biggie, just my reason for the way I do it...
With a grin,
04-08-2005, 10:08 PM
No worries. I'm really persnickety when it comes to aromas and such, and can easily sidestep the alcohol when detecting desired aromas. The trick is how you breathe and how you inhale when there is a lot of alcohol in the mix. Alcohol tends to trap in the upper part of the nose and the upper part of the hard and soft palate in your mouth. It's the areas across the back of your tongue in the back of your throat, and the bottom of the nostrils that will pick up the actual fermentation characters, aromas and textures as you whiff the bouquet from the airlocks.
Also smelling directly over the airlock does not give a true read on the fermentation aromas. You'll need to fan it toward you from the airlock/mouth of the carboy to get a true aroma spectrum.
04-08-2005, 11:27 PM
That's very true about fanning the smells - even in my highschool chemistry class we were to sample the smells of certain reactions in this manner due to air being an important part of the sense of smell.
04-10-2005, 09:58 PM
My .02 cents in regards to airlock solutions. I never know if I'll be home for any length of time so my solution is made up of 1/3 each glycerine, water and everclear (grain alcohol). Works for me :).
Three week update.
The airlock bubbling has slowed considerably, down to 2-3 bubbles per minute, and it's been that way for quite some time. There's about 1/2 inch of sediment at the bottom of the carboy. What worries me a little is that the mead is nowhere close to being clear, in fact it's still pretty much opaque. Should I rack it soon to get it off the sediment, or should I wait until it (hopefully) clears? This being a 2 gallon batch, if I rack it to a new 5 gallon carboy, that's a whole lot of headspace. Maybe I should get two 1-gallon jugs of apple juice and chug them down.
Also, in reviewing my notes... I think I added 2x the amount of nutrient that I wanted. *smacks self* I may be cooking up a batch of "Yeast Nutrient Metheglin." :-\
04-26-2005, 04:02 PM
You could probably rack any time in the next two weeks. Right now would be just as fine a time as any. Then give it another two or three months and rack again. Unless you encounter unusual problems, your mead (and yes, you should pat yourself on the back right now because you have successfully made a batch of mead:D) should be darn near crystal clear after that next racking. Definately get those apple juices and drink 'em down -- three gallons of head space is way too much.
Have you picked-up a hydrometer yet? If not, it should be your next purchase. If you have one right now, take a reading and post it.
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