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View Full Version : Another newbee with a first batch looking for comments



johna
02-17-2006, 10:04 PM
After spending over a year talking about trying my hand at mead, I finally bit the bullet and did it. I've read a lot of info on the net and a lot of the postings here. I also bought a copy of "The Complete Meadmaker" at the same time I bought my equipment. While on a recent trip to AZ (I live in MI), I found a store that specializes in honey and bought 2 different types to get me started. Of course, when it came time to start my first batch, I chickened out and grabbed a container of honey that came from Petosky about 10 years ago. I have no idea what it is, but guess that it is a mix of wildflower and clover. I figured that for my first, using something I got for free would be better in case of total loss.

The recipe ended up as follows:
1g + 2.5C Honey - My 1g jar weighed 10lbs, so I added extra to get to 12.5lbs
2 tsp nutrient
1 tsp energizer
1 vial of White Labs WLP720
Distilled water to 5.25g.

The process:
Heated 1g water to 115F, added honey. Cooled to about 80F, added nutrient and energizer. Gravity measured at 1.092 at 80F. The reason I have 5.25g total is because I checked gravity after bringing must to 5g and added extra quart of honey to get to 1.092 (I really was hoping for something closer to 1.120 but didn't want increase batch size any more because secondary carboy is only 5g). I used a degassing whip on it for about 5 minutes. Pitched the yeast and set the bottle in the corner of the kitchen. Fermentation became noticible after about 18 hours with 1 blip in about 10 seconds. About 4 days in, the weather changed and the corner that I had the must in was showing 68F. I moved the carboy into my office (where I keep at least 1 computer running all the time and keep the door shut when I'm not there). The must has been sitting at 73F ever since.

I'm now into day 15 since starting and the cylinder type lock is blipping at just under one every 5 seconds. About 4 days ago, the air space filled up with bubbles. I gave the bottle a little shake and a good deal of them broke down, but they returned by the next day.

What I'm looking for here is your opinions on my current situation. At the current rate, how long should I wait before racking to the secondary, or what should the blip rate be? Should I worry about the bubbles (other posts I've read suggest that I shouldn't)? Is there anything else you think I should do to guarantee a drinkable product?

I'm not looking for anything special out of this batch other than experience. The initial must is what I would describe as dark brown. Over the last 2 weeks, it has lightened up a bit, but has not gotten noticibly clearer. I plan on starting a second batch right after racking so I can use my AZ honey. Another question to answer is which honey do you think I should use first? Catclaw or Fairy Duster?

Thanks for reading my ramblings and for any wisdom you wish to impart on this endeavour. I have already gained a small measure of wisdom from other posts.

John A.

Oskaar
02-18-2006, 02:16 AM
Welcome to the boards!

OK, you've broken the first cardinal rule of meadmaking. Just kidding, there is no cardinal rule . . . except to keep the cardinal out of your mead.

Now, WLP720 is a sweet mead yeast. 15% ABV tolerance, low floccer and 70 - 75 degrees F is it's preferred range.

I'd suggest swirling the fermentation vessel (keep the airlock on) daily until you get to 2 blips per minute then rack. You'll be fine.

Your mead will be dry.

Going forward, always know what your yeast is all about BEFORE you pitch. Otherwise you will never know what you're going to get.

Cheers,

Oskaar

Brewbear
02-18-2006, 02:21 AM
Welcome to the forums Johna ;D
If you expect any wisdom from me.....sadly, I'm still deficient in that chapter :-\
My only concern is the use of distilled water, yeasties do need some trace minerals for a happy life. I believe there is a reference to that hereabouts, or maybe Lostnbronx will chime in, I seem to remember him talking about it not long ago. Most of the time the yeast strains used in mead are the wine strains since they are better suited to higher gravity musts. All in all, you got started and that's the main thing!!!
The resulting mead(it's drinkability) is in the hands of God and the ability oy the yeasties! It sounds like it will work, just be patient - I found that to be by far the hardest part!
I usually rack to secondary when the blips in the airlock slow down to 1 every 30 seconds or so. Check the gravity and see where you are, also taste the brew, you might find that you like it on the sweet side and want to stop the fermentation, it will also give you an idea of how efficient is the yeast.

Cheers,
Brewbear

lostnbronx
02-18-2006, 06:06 AM
Johna,

I don't think that the distilled water will be a problem here. Mostly, if the distilled issue is going to be troublesome, it will show signs that something's wrong from the start, and this sounds like it's going well. Deficient water is actually rare, and I mentioned it recently in a post where distilled was used and the yeast activity was quite sluggish. Perhaps the fact that you used a liquid yeast made the difference, since sterilized local water (local to the lab, that is, in California) may have been the base for it, that might have been enough -- only a trace of minerals is needed. The nutrient solution White Labs uses may have mineral supplements in it too. Either way, the legendary distilled water stuck fermentation is not universal, and is only generally addressed after all other possible causes are looked at.

As for the honey choice, I'd go with Catclaw, but only because I've been curious about it for a while now! Did you buy your honeys at Mountaintop Honey, in Flagstaff, by any chance? I live in AZ, and Mountaintop offers a Catclaw, but I haven't had a chance to try it yet.

-David

johna
02-19-2006, 02:33 PM
Thanks for the greets, all.

Oskaar - I'm taking your suggestion and giving it a swirl. The large bubbles broke down to about a 1/8" foam and when I checked back about 3 hours later, the large bubbles were back. I swirled again today about 2 hours ago and the large bubbles are groing and will fill the air space within the hour. I'm not going to worry too much about it because I'm getting 10-12 blips per minute and the fumes smell pretty good. I agree with your statement about knowing your yeast, but I think a lot of that knowledge comes from experience. Since this is my first attempt at brewing anything, I had no idea what to expect and used WLP720 on the recomendation of the brewshop I bought my equipment at. What I didn't know is the fermentation speed (which I now assume is a little on the slow side), and what it would look like.

Brewbear - I considered the water issue before I started. I have well water here and although it tastes pretty good, it is high in iron and other particulates and has a slight sulfer smell to it. I also figured that since I would be adding energizer and nutrient, I could use purer water (also, you never know what you're going to get with spring water). Now all I have to do is deal with the patience part. So far, I'm doing pretty good. I look at the bottle almost everyday and have resisted the urge to get on with the next step.

Lostnbronx - Since this batch seems to be merrily on its way to completion, I think I will stick to distilled water and liquid yeast. I'm going to try and change as few things as possible for each batch simply for consistency. I'm thinking of useing Wyeat 3021 for the next batch. I think I will also go with your choice and use the catclaw. No, I didn't go to Moutaintop. Next time I'm in AZ, I will check them out. I got my honeys from The Honey Man in Prescott. I'll let you know the next time I plan a trip your way and maybe we can get together for a tasting session.

Just for fun, I thought you guys would like to see a picture or three. The first was taken about 12 hours after pitching on Feb 2. The other 2 were taken yesterday (Feb 18) before and after swirling. Click on them for a larger version.


http://asprecords.net/mead/mead1b.jpg (http://asprecords.net/mead/mead1a.jpg) http://asprecords.net/mead/mead2b.jpg (http://asprecords.net/mead/mead2a.jpg) http://asprecords.net/mead/mead3b.jpg (http://asprecords.net/mead/mead3a.jpg)

John A

Oskaar
02-19-2006, 05:34 PM
OK,

Meadmaking is like the law. Ignorance is no excuse, well . . . OK maybe we can all get away with one slight infraction, I know I did! LOL


Anyhow, for those of you who don't have any idea what your yeasties will do once they hit pay dirt, here is my list of yeast links:

http://www.lallemandwine.us/products/yeast_strains.php (Lallemand Yeast Strains)

http://www.lallemandwine.us/products/yeast_chart.php (Lallemand Yeast Reference Chart)

http://consumer.lallemand.com/danstar-lalvin/lalvin.html (Lalvin Yeast information page, Lallemand division for home winemaking)

http://www.wyeastlab.com/hvino/homewine.htm (Wyeast USA Wine Yeast Information Page)

http://www.wyeastlab.com/winery/winery.htm (Wyeast USA Commercial Wine Yeast information page)

http://www.yeastbank.com/whitelabs/wine.html (WhiteLabs Yeast Bank)

http://www.whitelabs.com/search.asp (WhiteLabs Yeast Search)

http://www.lesaffreyeastcorp.com/wineyeast/selection.html (LeSaffre Wine Yeast Selection Matrix)

http://www.lesaffreyeastcorp.com/wineyeast/products.html (LeSaffre Wine Yeast Strains Information Page)

http://www.laffort.com/produit/prod.htm (Laffort yeast information page)

http://www.laffort.com/produit/levure/levure.htm (Laffort wine strains, starters and other yeast of interest)

http://winemaking.jackkeller.net/strains.asp (Jack Keller's Wine Page Yeast Catch-all page)

http://www.winemakermag.com/referenceguide/yeaststrainschart/ (WineMaker Magazine Yeast Strains Chart)

http://www.scottlaboratories.com/info-center/documents/vD-YeastQuickRefChart.pdf (Downloadable PDF of Lallemand and Laffort yeasts)

http://www.vinquiry.com/pdf/YEASTDCULTURES04.pdf (Downloadable PDF with yeast descriptors)

No more excuses ;D

BTW, Lostnbrnx is right about the distilled water. Go to the store and get some bottled water like Crystal Springs, Arrowhead, etc. They will make better tasting mead than distilled because the distillation process removes the minerals and such that add character and help bind certain elements in your mead.

Cheers,

Oskaar

johna
04-12-2006, 09:59 PM
Well, it's been awhile since my last post. Since then, I have racked the batch twice, added honey, and started a second batch. Just thought I would let you know how things are going.

I racked the batch on Feb. 25 and measured an SG of 1.003. Tasted OK, but I needed a quart of water to wash it down ;D (it was way too dry for my tastes). So, I added 6 cups of raw honey from Trader Joes (most of a 6 pound jug). I whipped the snot out of it with a de-gasser and a power drill. SG was then at 1.032. Lock activity went down to 1 blip in 5 min or so about the end of March. I racked the batch again today and came out with an SG of 1.028. I filled a 16oz bottle to let some friends taste it and so far it's getting good reviews. I think it needs a lot more time to mature. My plan is to leave it in the carboy until next month and check it again. If I don't bottle it the first weekend of May, I'll do it the last weekend (vacation is a good thing). I expect it to taste much better by the end of the summer.

I also started a second batch using the cat claw honey I got in AZ. I only had 1 gallon and didn't want to pay the shipping costs to get more, so I reduced the batch to 4 gallons. I did it on March 2 and added 4tsp nutrient and 2tsp energizer. SG was at 1.113. Set it up in a 5 gallon carboy. After 15-18 hours, it was happilly blipping away. At top speed, it was doing about 1 blip per second. After a few days, the fumes from the lock were smelling mighty good. Today, April 12, I was blipping about 1 every 70 seconds so I racked into a 5 gallon carboy. SG is at 1.017. I plan on letting this batch go until I get back from vacation and then bottle or rack depending on taste.

I'd like to thank Oskaar, Brewbear and Lostnbronx for their comments and Oskaar for the yeast links.

John A.