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View Full Version : Making my first mead. Critique my process!



Fortuna_Wolf
10-23-2004, 11:54 PM
I hate beer, I dislike wine, the only alcoholic beverage I've ever liked was mead, so I decided that it would be much cheaper and much more fun to brew my own mead rather than buying chaucer's mead for 750ml @ 12$.

After much research, this is what I have and what I plan on doing and some extra questions.

4 6.5 gallon glass carboys, with rubber corks with holes. 3 airlocks, 1 tube, 1 racking cane, 1 spring activated bottling cane. 30 (was 32, but I ate a bunch of it) #s of wildflower honey produced by a friend (that tastes like linden flowers, mmm!), 1 gallon rose petals, 250 grams of dried adacayi/faskomilo sage tea (salvia fruticosa), plenty of fresh mint, packets of lavin D 47 and red star cor de blancs, yeast nutrient (urea and diammonium nitrate blend), potassium sorbate, benzonite clay, hydrometer, and a thermometer. Am I missing anything? Also, in the ensuring months I will be collecting ~60 750ml wine bottles from the recycling bins around town on recycling day, as well as getting a bag of corks and a corker.

My friend Kat will make some Rhodomel, and I'm making a sage metheglin. She indicated that she wanted to use the D 47 and I'm leading to using the cor de blancs yeast.

Take 5 gallons of DI water (easily acquired from the university lab I work at), put 4 gallons into the carboy and put 1 gallon into a large stainless steel pot. Heat to 175 F and dissolve 12# of honey (its unfiltered and unpasteurized) into it. Add 1 gallon of the frozen rose petals we collected (and a few grams of loose darjelling tea for tannins) or 200+ grams of dried sage leaves and fresh mint to taste. Leave for 30 mins to pasteurize and then strain the sage and mint leaves out. Will leave the rose petals in. Let it cool naturally, perhaps stirring to introduce more oxygen to the must. Add yeast nutrients. Add to each carboy, should have 6 gallons of must by now. Pitch the yeast, and drop the airlock on it. Now where should I put the mead while it ferments? Will it smell good, and can thus go into my room? Wait until it stops fermenting. Check the taste to see if its dry or not. If it is dry, add extra honey (pasteurized of course), and then add potassium sorbate and benzonite to clear it. Bottle, cork, and age.

Here's the last question I have left; both of the yeasts we got should only get up to ~13% alcohol content, and we both like sweet mead. How much honey should I put into the initial must, and how can I calculate this?

Pewter_of_Deodar
10-24-2004, 01:00 AM
Only comment I would make is to use bottled drinking water or spring water rather than distilled. Some of the minerals in drinking water are good for the yeast...

Like you, I am waiting for one of our equations people to show me exactly how to figure out the amount of honey to add to a batch to get the desired SG...

Finally, go easy on the spices... you can always make a tea and add more later... they are hard/impossible to remove once overdone... I learned this the hard way making cordials...

Oskaar
10-24-2004, 05:56 AM
Here's some links to SG calculations:

http://gotmead.com/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.pl?board=process;action=display;num=109416874 0;start=0#0

http://gotmead.com/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.pl?board=newbees;action=display;num=109148260 0;start=1#1

http://gotmead.com/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.pl?board=ingredients;action=display;num=10982 01582;start=6#6
(See Joe Mattioli's post at the bottom of the page)

http://www.meadmadecomplicated.org/science/specific_gravity.html

Your equipment looks fine but why pasteurize your honey and lose all that flavor and aroma. Try it with no heat. You can warm your water enough to dissolve the honey but not pasteurize it. Any potential infection will be overrun by the rampant reproduction of your yeasties.

I'd hold off on your rose petals until you rack to secondary. Then you can rack your must/mead on top of it to preserve that really delicate and wonderful rose flavor (I have a good rose garden myself) that you will lose a significant measure of when you pasteurize, and in initial fermentation during the venting of CO2.

I've found over my past several batches that the preservation of the honey characteristics, aromas, and tastes, along with the flavors and aromas of the other ingredients I've used is very noticable when using the no-heat method (thanks Joe Mattioli and ScottS).

As an alternative to yeast nutrients you can use raisins, dates, and other dried fruits like currants, blueberries, cherries, cranberries etc. which add plenty of character and have the nutrients to feed your hungry yeasts as they ferment away.

Personally I prefer the D-47 yeast, but I usually pitch 10 g (2 sachets) for each five gallon batch. You'll find that the D-47 will climb to almost 15% (I have an Orange Blossom Show Mead sitting at 14.4% ABV right now made with D-47)

I'd wait with the other chemicals till the end to balance your flavors. I would only use the bentonite if your mead does not clear by itself after several weeks/months.

Just my particular idiom. Joe Mattioli might suggest some grape tannin up front (.6 tsp per gallon) it helps balance your flavor and aids the natural clearing of your mead without having to fine or filter it. Since you have the tea up front you could probably adjust that grape tannin level down. Joe is more knowledgeable in that area than I am.

Hope that helps,

Oskaar

ScottS
10-24-2004, 06:41 PM
I concur on not using pure distilled water. Minerals are good for fermentation. Just use water that tastes good, and minimize the chlorine.

1 lb of honey in a 5 gallon batch is 0.008 to your SG. So 12 lbs of honey (1 gal) will start you off at 1.096. It's only a rule of thumb, it will vary a bit depending on your honey. But I've really only noticed the variation being between 0.008 and 0.009 / lb.

beeboy
10-25-2004, 07:21 AM
Most purified water like DI and reverse osmosis tends to a lower Ph (5.5-6.0). Spring water might be a better choice for you next batch. I'm thinking about using spring water and reusing the cute little 8oz bottles to keep track of how the mead is aging. Beeboy

Fortuna_Wolf
10-25-2004, 07:23 AM
I'm going to go fill up two of my carboys now with the faucet water so that they'll have time to gas the chlorine off. The water here is heavily chlorinated and even with a regular glass of water to drink I either let it sit for a few hours or microwave it to boil.

A few more questions.
-What should I use for the yeast starter? Some honey, a pinch of yeast nutrient? I would rather not use a juice of some so as not to impart any flavors to my mead.
-I have 4 carboys, and I can get an old plastic pail that my god father used to brew some wine in once long ago. Why do people use plastic pails to ferment in first?
-In fact, what's the point of a primary and secondary fermenter? I plan on putting the must into the carboy and letting it sit there undisturbed until it stop bubbling, then checking the flavor and adding any more roses or honey or acid as is necessary, dropping in some potassium sorbate, and then capping it and letting it age in the fermenter until I feel like bottling it.
-I want sparkly fizzy stuff. What pressures of gas are safe for glass wine bottles that are corked? Can I get dry ice, and add a little bit to each bottle before I cork it?

Fortuna_Wolf
10-25-2004, 07:55 AM
I just checked my yeasts again to see what I have.
2 packets of Red Star Cote des Blancs
1 packet of Lalvin EC 1118
1 packet of Lalvin D 47

From observing this board, these seem to be some of the most popular yeasts, what I can expect each one to do in regards to flavor, and alcohol tolerance? The temperature in my house is ~75 F

Also, if I decide I want to use the D-47 for instance for both of the meads, I can make a starter and feed it for a day or two and I should have enough for two batches of 5 gallons, right?

JoeM
10-25-2004, 10:35 AM
haha slow down a bit...one step at a time! ;D

-You may want to consider using bottled spring water if your tap water is that offensive.
-Honey, water, and a pinch of nutrient is an excellent starter.

-people use plastic pails for a few reasons. First of all, sometimes the vigerous fermentation that happens in the first few days can blow the top off a carboy, and second the wide mouth pail allows things like fruits and spices to be added and removed with ease. I personally do not like using plastic but many swear by it.

-Primary fermentation is the initial, vigerous fermentation that produces most of the alcohol that will be in the final product, it also produces A LOT of sediment. The mead/wine/beer is then siphoned off leaving the sediment behind (this is known as racking) and it is put into a clean vessel where the slow phase of the fermentation (secondary fermentation) can finish. The problem with your plan of leaving it in the primary for an extended period of time is two fold. First of all it will be sitting on the sediment (also known as lees) and after a while (exactly how long is debatable) the lees start to break down and produce off flavors in the mead/wine/beer. The other problem is that when you go to bottle some of that sediment will end up in the bottles which can be unattractive, and to some, untasty.

-once sorbate is added a mead/wine cannot be carbonated naturally as the yeast will no longer ferment. Your idea of adding dry ice is interesting, however, the amount of carbonation will vary greatly from bottle to bottle and would be unpredictable. Also corked wine bottles are not suitable for sparkling meads/wines. The glass is not meant to withstand the pressure and nether are the corks. best case scenario the corks pop out...worst case the bottles explode.

For sparlkling mead you will need either champagne bottles (which can either be capped with beer caps or corked with champagne corks), regular beer bottles with beer caps, or grolsch style swing top bottles.

Yes you oculd feed your yeast for a few days to grow more for two batches. However you must be careful that your starter doesnt become infected. If there is a homebrew supply store near you it may be eeasier and safer just to buy a few more packets.

As far as the yeast i only have experience with EC-1118. this has a very high alcohol tolerance (one of the highest) of 18%. it can ferment to complete bone dryness and produces very clean flavors, but in my experience can produce a strong alcohol flavor that sometimes does not age out well. personally i would not suggest it for a first mead unless you are aiming for something very strong or very dry.

David Baldwin
10-25-2004, 04:37 PM
A note of caution on the grolsch style bottles. I've known them to explode - bottle bombs - with carbonated mead. The brand was EZ Cap.

I'm planning to use them for my still mead but the bottles I have are much heavier than the EZ Cap bottles and would probably withstand the pressures of carbonated mead.

Fortuna_Wolf
10-25-2004, 09:23 PM
Joe, thanks, I guess this means that I'll rack at least once.
I'll pass on trying to carbonate the mead this time. But later...

Reading up on the alcohol content of these yeasts...
How does this work, will a yeast with 80 attenuation and 18% alcohol tolerance only convert 80% of the sugar in the must to alcohol? And then, will it only convert up to 18%? So assume I put in enough sugar to be fully converted to 18% alcohol, will the yeast only eat 80% of it and end up at around 14.4% alcohol before it decides to stop?

Or, is attenuation only important when dealing with starches and complex carbohydrates, and will the yeast eat all of the sugar in honey (since its just fructose and glucose) if it hasn't reach its maximum alcohol level?

I'm asking all these questions because 1) I'm a biology major, 2) I'd like to know exactly what I'm doing so I get the best possible mead out of my first batch.

I'm aiming for about 13% alcohol and 2-3#s of residual sugar in 5 gallons of mead.

Oskaar
10-26-2004, 01:23 AM
Hi Fortuna,

If you're aiming for a lower alcohol level then I would recommend a different yeast like D-47 which will put you in that general ball park. D-47 is listed at 12 - 14% alcohol. I've used it several times and it is a great yeast for that alcohol range.

The lees compact well, and it leaves a good residual sweetness with the characteristics of the honey really showing through.

Here's a link to the yeast information chart at Lalvin:

http://consumer.lallemand.com/danstar-lalvin/refchart.html

The EC-1118 is an aggressive yeast and if you are going to top off or backsweeten it will gobble up any additional fermentables you add to your mead during the aging process. It will top out around 20% or above when you "feed" it. It will go to bone dry and be very "hot" on the palate.

I don't make starters for the Lalvin yeasts, I just rehydrate as per the information on their website and have not had a problem. The D-47 takes off in about 6 - 8 hours and bubbles away happily.

Hope that helps,

Oskaar

Fortuna_Wolf
10-27-2004, 03:45 AM
k, I made up the rhodomel and some cyser.
The cyser was 1 gallon of apple juice, some juice was removed and 2 lbs of honey was added along with spices. The readings are 11.5% potential alcohol and 22 brix. Density, 1.090

The rhodomel had 13 lbs of honey in 5 gallons of spring water. The reading for that is 7% potential alcohol and 15 brix.

This is an old hydrometer that my goduncle used many years ago to make wine. What's going on?

I thought that the 13 lbs of honey should give me about 15%alcohol with 5% sugar.

Jmattioli
10-27-2004, 04:07 AM
k, I made up the rhodomel and some cyser.
The cyser was 1 gallon of apple juice, some juice was removed and 2 lbs of honey was added along with spices. The readings are 11.5% potential alcohol and 22 brix. Density, 1.090

The rhodomel had 13 lbs of honey in 5 gallons of spring water. The reading for that is 7% potential alcohol and 15 brix.

This is an old hydrometer that my goduncle used many years ago to make wine. What's going on?

I thought that the 13 lbs of honey should give me about 15%alcohol with 5% sugar.

Fortuna,
Check out the bottom of the page on this link and it will fill you in on amount of honey, hydrometer readings and Potential alcohol. 1 lb of honey is equivalent to 1 lb of sugar by weight. (not by volume)

http://winemaking.jackkeller.net/hydrom.asp

Joe

Fortuna_Wolf
10-27-2004, 05:17 AM
Thanks Joe, But I'm still curious why the reading is that way.
If I added 13 lbs of honey to half a gallon of water, stirred and pasteurized it, then put that into the carboy and filled the carboy up to the 5 gallon mark, then that should be 13 lbs of honey in 5 gallons of water. That should give me a SG of around 1.105, right?
Nowhere near 1.055?

Could this be caused by not mixing the must up very well in the carboy? I turned the carboy on its side and rolled it around several times.

Jmattioli
10-27-2004, 08:06 AM
Sure could be. I'm sure your reading is inaccurate. It is best to dissolve the honey in more than 1/2 galllon of water. (Note from brewlogs many use up to 2 gallons) With only 1/2 gallon water, the shaking will oxygenate it but not really mix the honey well enough for an accurate reading. Use the calculations for your OG and ignore your reading. It is always best to completely dissolve the honey and then mix the honey thoroughly in the entire must by stirring well.
Joe

P.S. Your calculations are right on.