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Thread: My first (pretty much) mead questions about fermentation temp

  1. #1

    Default My first (pretty much) mead questions about fermentation temp

    Started me a mead a couple weeks ago. Technically it's my second attempt but I moved before the first was drinkable and since the movers wouldn't move it, it went down the drain.

    I suppose even more technically it's a pymel. Recipe below.

    My question is do I care about the fermentation temp? The recipe says to let it ferment for 3 months. It's bubbling along slowly right now which I assume is to be expected but it's in my garage and this is a chilly winder so it's bubbling down around 50f or so. How much is this going to effect my beverage?



    The recipe is literally the very first one I encountered when searching for "mead recipe" on the good old interwebs. Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe the inclusion of grape juice concentrate makes it a pymel.

    Basic Mead

    Source: Scott James (scojam@scojam.Auto-trol.COM)
    Mead Lover's Digest #18, 16 October 1992

    Ingredients:

    10 lbs honey (clover honey, processed. From local super market chain)
    1 can concentrated white grape juice
    (condensed for reisling wine; from homebrew shop)
    5 gal. water
    5 grams dry "Pasteur Champagne yeast"

    Procedure:

    I let it ferment for 3 months in primary (70F), then bottled; priming
    with 1 lb honey disolved in 4 cups boiling water.

  2. #2
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    Welcome to Got Mead?

    Looks like a pretty good recipe for starting.

    A couple of things are notable. This would be a pyment.

    On Pasteur Champagne note the following:

    Temp Range should be: 59-86 F ABV tolerance is about: 13-15% Flocculation is: Medium-Low

    So, yes you do need to be at least 10 degrees higher to be in the recipe's sweet spot. If you are above 80 F with most mead fermentations you'll throw a lot of fusel oil and your mead will come off alcoholic and rocket-fuelish.

    Also, most Champagne yeasts are notorious for needing a good nutrient dosing regimen to avoid production of higher alcohols, off flavors and to keep the yeast from stressing and imparting stress-related flavors (think sulfur-y flavors and autolyzed yeast influences, etc.) A prolonged fermentation (more than 10-20 days) is indicative of an issue with temperature, pH, nutrient, oxygen or some other issue with the composition of the must or the fermentation environment and is not representative of a healthy fermentation for the most part, there are exceptions.

    Is there more to this recipe? Seems like it would have additional components that were left out of what you posted, especially with concentrate. What was your starting gravity? The recipe as it stands will come out bone dry so the priming will give you a nicely sparkling mead. Post up what additional things are included in this batch, and we'll take a look.

    Cheers, Oskaar
    Is it tasty . . . precious?

  3. #3

    Default Thank you.

    Thanks for the great info.

    The recipe doesn't have much else but here it is.

    Comments:
    <qw>
    After six months we (college roomies) couldn't stand the wait and broke
    into the stuff. Due to a bitter taste, we mixed most of it into a wine
    cooler at a party (no flames, please). Just recently I tried one of the
    two remaining 1 year old bottles. It was fantastic! Smooth and
    sparkley! I have one bottle left, I'm saving it to share with that
    special some one...

    postscript: I tried the last 2 1/2 year old bottle -- Absolutely
    pristine and crisp. Lots of bubbles like champagne (less priming honey
    next time) and left a very subtle sweet taste on the lips. (She loved it
    too .
    </qw>

    I just looked at it and realized I didn't use that yeast. I'll have a look at my notes at home tonight and see what I used. Some red star thing in a blue packet. Helpful aren't I? ^_^ Pitched with this at the recomendation of the man behind the counter at my brew shop. To get slightly lower alc and a slightly sweeter mead. The wife is interested in the mead and she won't be into it much if it's too dry.

    Let me see if the wife will balk if I try fermenting this in my closet instead of the garage. That will keep it closer to the 70s and in that sweet spot. I have a nice large closet so that shouldn't be too hard.

    I Assumed that the inclusion of the concentrate was to obviate the need for the nutrient. Am I way off base on this?

    I believe starting gravity was about 1.112. This is the first time I've taken OG and the batch that I started my brewing journal with. I've been doing beers from kits for about 10 years now but I'm looking at moving up to a higher degree of skill. I've also been partial to mead much of my life so I'd like to keep doing that as I brew more.

  4. #4

    Default Corrected recipe

    10 lbs supermarket honey
    1 can Alexanders Sun County Muscat white grape juice.
    1 pkt Red Star Cote Des Blancs yeast

    I poured the honey and grape juice into the bottom of the carboy while I heated some water on the stove. Then I poured the hot but not boiling water on the goo in the bottom, picked up my carboy and swirled the hell out of it until it looked even. Did that again with a second batch of hot water. Then I continued to add water until I got to the shoulder. Keeping temperature in mind most of the water was heated a bit but never boiled. I got it up to about 80f or so and pitched there per the directions on the yeast packet. I took the OG before pitching and corrected it to 1.112 per the directions on the hydrometer. Left it in the kitchen until I saw that it was bubbling a little and then moved it to my garage.

    One thing I did notice right away after I moved it was that it was far darker at the bottom than the top. I assume that my method of disolving the honey wasn't sufficient and I really should do it in a pan next time. After about a week though when I checked on it the color is much lighter at the bottom. It's come down to about the color near the top. A nice golden color. Can't see through it at all. It's been bubbling away very slowly. Lots of bubbles on the surface but not foamy like a beer gets. It all looks very sticky. ^_^

    I'll move it inside over the holidays. I looked up the specs online and they say it ferments between 64 and 86f and that it is 'sensitive' below 55. Does that mean it's likely to stall or likely to create unpleasant flavors? Also says at lower temps it's likely to leave a little bit of residual sugar at lower temperatures and that it would need nutrients for most Chardonay fermentations. Will I need to use nutrients for the mead? If so when do I stick them in? Do I go by how much sugar has been converted or by time? I'm still reading around the site trying to pick that part of it up. I've only yesterday learned I should have been airating it for three days. Instead I locked it away the way I do my beers.

  5. #5
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    omadawn, we'll try to help you, but you've got to check your beer fermenting experience at the door and try to follow the advice that you've already been given. Mead fermentations are much more like wines than like beers. So first of all, YES, you should be introducing oxygen either via vigorous stirring or shaking or using an airstone and forced air or O2 for the first 1/3 of active fermentation (that is, until the 1/3 sugar break).

    Also, stirring is a better alternative than swirling to get the honey dissolved into the main body of your must. If you can get your hands on a lees stirrer, I'd recommend that you use it now (provided you haven't passed that 1/3 break) to both introduce more oxygen into the must and to ensure that all your honey is completely dissolved. Don't rely on an eyeball assessment of the color of the must in the carboy -- you might still have a significant amount of sugar only partially dissolved near the bottom, even though you can't see a difference.

    Now, per Pete's last posting:

    So, yes you do need to be at least 10 degrees higher to be in the recipe's sweet spot.

    That means you'll want to have this one around 70F for the most robust fermentation. "Sensitive" in this case means that it is likely to stall at temps of 55F or below. This is true of Cote des Blancs as well as Pasteur Champagne, although Pasteur Champagne can tolerate slightly lower temperatures. Try to keep this one between 65F and 72F throughout primary fermentation, if possible. Lower temperatures will produce fermentations with fewer "off" flavors produced, but too low and your yeast will stall. Avoid the higher half of the temperature range for any yeast, if you can.

    Also, most Champagne yeasts are notorious for needing a good nutrient dosing regimen to avoid production of higher alcohols, off flavors and to keep the yeast from stressing and imparting stress-related flavors

    Honey has less of the nutrients required for healthy yeast than does grape juice must, so although you added grape juice as part of the recipe, you'll need to augment with additional nutrients. Basic nutrient additions are described in the Newbee Guide, and if you search for other posts using the terms "staggered nutrient additions" you'll see that you can add different nutrients and nutrient amounts at different times throughout fermentation, based on the remaining sugar level. It may not be too late to add a little nutrient to this batch, but we can't say for sure without knowing the current specific gravity, along with your original gravity.


    Good luck, and keep us posted.
    Na zdrowie!

    Wayne B.

  6. #6

    Default

    Thanks wayneb. Fortunately I don't have a huge amount of beer brewing experience yet so that'll be relatively easy to check now that I'm getting past the point where it is my ONLY brewing experience.

    I do plan to be serious about mead and not one of those beer brewers who brews mead on the side once in a while. That's why I'm over here instead of the mead section of homebrewtalk.com (where I go for beer advice. ^_-)

    Just added lees stirrer to my to buy/xmas list. I still need to pick up a wine thief so I can take another SG reading (And replace the broken hydrometer.)

    I'm now starting to contemplate building something in the back yard I can control the temperature in.

    So to summerize.

    1 - I am already planning on moving my mead to my closet where it will stay closer to 70 per the first reply. Going forward target the bottom 1/2 of the temp range specified by the yeast manufacturer?

    2 - I need to read in more detail the staggered nutrient addition I've read the basics but the sugar break is still new to me. The description in the newbee guide will tell me how to calculate if I'm still before the 1/3 sugar break?

    3 - Assuming I am pre 1/3 sugar break I want to introduce more oxigen

    4 - Is my nutrient addition reliant on the sugar break also or do I just want to go ahead and pitch that in there? Either way, for future reference the 1 can of grape juice isn't sufficient.

    Thanks again

  7. #7
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    omadawn,

    I've had some experience with Red Star yeasts and well, I use only Lallemand products now.
    First off, the whole temp variations probably really threw a wrench into their reproductive start. The other hand is, like Oskaar wrote, if it get's over 70*-75* , you're going to end up with a really burnt-plastic tasting mead than won't mellow out. Ever. Remember the story about something like covering up a turd with more bread so you don't have to taste the turd, but you always do? Yeah, well, that's how burnt Red Star is.
    Aeration should start at day on through maybe day 10, when you'll rack it into a secondary. Depending on how thick the cap is, you'll need to punch that down 4-5 times a day as well as aerate.
    Feeding could also be staggered to say, 2g/day until day 6 for a 6 gal batch.

    Cheers!

    DD

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by omadawn View Post

    1 - I am already planning on moving my mead to my closet where it will stay closer to 70 per the first reply. Going forward target the bottom 1/2 of the temp range specified by the yeast manufacturer?

    2 - I need to read in more detail the staggered nutrient addition I've read the basics but the sugar break is still new to me. The description in the newbee guide will tell me how to calculate if I'm still before the 1/3 sugar break?

    3 - Assuming I am pre 1/3 sugar break I want to introduce more oxigen

    4 - Is my nutrient addition reliant on the sugar break also or do I just want to go ahead and pitch that in there? Either way, for future reference the 1 can of grape juice isn't sufficient.

    Thanks again
    1 - Yup; in my experience, the lower half of the recommended temp range is generally "safe" for all wine yeasts, in terms of keeping them from generating off flavors. I try to hit the midpoint, or to stay just under it, most of the time myself.

    2 - The "sugar breaks" that we refer to are the point at which that much fermentable sugar has been used up by the yeast. So the 1/2 sugar break is the gravity at which half the sugar originally in the must is gone. To keep things simple, take your starting gravity and assume a finishing gravity of about 1.000 (it can be lower if you go completely dry, but 1.000 is close enough for an estimate). The difference between them is a measure of the total sugar in the must. So for example, if your starting gravity is 1.100, then .100 SG, or 100 "gravity points," were due to the sugar in the must. When the SG drops half of that range, you're at the 1/2 break. Then the 1/2 sugar break in this example is 1.050 (halfway between 1.100 and 1.000). Also, the 1/3 sugar break is roughly 1.067 (one third of the way down from 1.100 to 1.000).

    Note that this quick calculation only works for a must where all the sugars are fermentable, which is true for all honey-only musts and most fruit juices. Grain sugars are a whole different animal, since some fraction of them will be complex, and not fermentable. In reality, even for a braggot where a significant fraction of the sugars may be from grains, this is still an OK way to calculate your breaks for the purposes of oxygenation or nutrient additions.

    3 - Yup!

    4 - Yes, the nutrient additions are best staggered according to the amount of sugar that has been used up by the yeast, since that is a more reliable way to measure total progress than time is. And yes, nutrients are needed even in a honey must that has been augmented by grape juice.
    Na zdrowie!

    Wayne B.

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    Oh, and I did want to mention -- the guys who advise over in the Mead section of Homebrewtalk.com are good folk. Although I prefer to be active here, in the "center of the mead universe," I know some of those folks, (specifically Hightest) and I know that they are dedicated to supplying mead folk with the most up to date information available.
    Na zdrowie!

    Wayne B.

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    Hi omadawn,

    I hope your batch turns out great, but there is one thing I notice that might prove to be a problem if you are trying to make a sparkling mead. The yeast you are using is Cote des Blancs. This is not a Champagne yeast and has an alcohol tolerance typically up to about 14% (though in a recent melomel, I had it go past that). With your starting gravity of 1.112, you are going to be at or above the yeast's alcohol tolerance.

    This means the yeast won't be able to ferment the priming sugar and create the bubbles. It you are making a still mead, it isn't a problem. If you want it carbonated, you will want to consider adding a Champagne yeast that can do the fermentation of the priming sugar as they so in Champagne making.

    Good luck,
    Medsen
    Lanne pase toujou pi bon
    (Past years are always better)

  11. #11

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    Thanks Medsen

    I was hoping for some bubbles but went with the lower alch yeast for a slightly sweeter mead. I know now I should have just gone with more honey.

    If I go with adding the champaine yeast should I pitch that now or add that closer to bottling? Also that brings up the question about oxygen. Should I oxygenate for this yeast running the risk that the existing little beasts will be converting it into off flavors? Should I do some sort of starter to try and get a higher number so they aren't starved out by the existing established yeasts?

  12. #12
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    Getting bottle-carbonated, sweet, sparkling mead is a challenge (with potential bottle bombs).

    What is the current gravity of your batch?
    Lanne pase toujou pi bon
    (Past years are always better)

  13. #13

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    I've rarely had one so I know it's a challenge. I'm expecting to be working on it for a few years. ^_^ What are your recomendations for this.

    I haven't taken SG in a while. Turns out the hydrometer I bought is cracked so the first reading was fine but then it started to sink. !_! I'm hoping to pick a new one up this weekend and calculate all the info I need to calculate based on all the info below.

    I'm not tooo worried about a bottle bomb. I have these 22ounce fisher d'alcase bottles that are thick enough to take a missle and I figure I'll bottle in that. Though when I start getting better I might want to go a little fancier and start doing wine bottles.

  14. #14

    Default Update

    OK I moved it in to the closet so it's staying pretty regularly around 68f.
    I took SG about 3 days ago it's at 1.080.
    sounds like it's past the 1/3 break so no yeast nutrients correct?

    I'll do the yeast nutrients for the next batch. I have a document on it from hightest, that seems to be a pretty well respected name in the mead community?

    I've also got this spreadsheet he put together, which is really nice. that spreadsheet is saying that my FG should be close to 1.035. Going forward should I be calculating my 1/3 break based on 0 brix or based on the estinamed fg from something like the hightest spreadsheet?

    Oh and Wayneb thanks for the heads up on the mead section of homebrewtalk. Good to know it'll still be a good resource. I've just seen over and over in posts, including this one, where hard core mead makers po po the advice you get from beer brewers who do mead from time to time. ^_^

  15. #15
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    Hi omadawn,

    Usually when estimating the 1/3 sugar break, it is okay to use 1.000 as est. final gravity. If you know you are going to exceed the yeast's alcohol tolerance by a good margin, you can use the estimated final gravity in the calculation. The truth is, as long as the nutrients are spread out in some fashion, you'll get the benefits of staggered nutrients. Things don't have to fall exactly on the 1/3 sugar break.

    In your current batch, I'm not sure where the estimated FG of 1.035 comes from. Cote des Blancs is good for about 14% ABV (My recent Fig batch it went to 15%). Since you started at 1.112, if it reaches its tolerance your final gravity will be closer to 1.012.

    If you want it to reach that tolerance level, you probably should add some nutrients - at least 1-2 grams/gallon of Fermaid K. The grape juice has some, but that has been diluted significantly. If you have not been aerating it, doing so will also help the yeast to reach their tolerance and you may want to give it one more good aeration.

    If you do want it to stop earlier, don't aerate it, don't add nutrients and perhaps the yeast will peter-out sooner. This is a very hit or miss thing and sometimes the yeast will putter along slowly before stopping making it hard to predict your endpoint from batch to batch. You can try cold crashing it if you really want it to stop that high.

    I hope that helps.

    Medsen
    Last edited by Medsen Fey; 01-03-2009 at 11:08 AM.
    Lanne pase toujou pi bon
    (Past years are always better)

  16. #16

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    The estimate comes from hightest's spreadsheet where you enter the ingredients and it takes a well educated stab at how much fermentable sugar you've got in there. Admitedly I trust your FG estimate more than the spreadsheet not because of any defect in the sheet but because it doesn't have an option to say you've added grape juice concentrate. It does have a ton of other things like apples, pears, welches grape juice.

    My estimate on the spreadsheet is definately spotty since I don't for instance know the moisture content of the honey I used (vons brand,) etc, etc.

    What about superfood as a nutrient. From what I've read around the recomendation is on the fermaid-k because superfood is really good as an all around nutrient but not as high in some specific nutrient I can't remember right now and that's the one mead brewers are the most concerned with. I only ask because my local home brew shop carries only the superfood.

    I'll probably just order it online since LHBS doesn't carry a yeast stirrer either.

    About oxyginating. What's the risk of creating off flavors by introducing oxygen after the yeast has started producing alcohol? I thought that was a no-no?

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by omadawn View Post
    What about superfood as a nutrient.

    About oxyginating. What's the risk of creating off flavors by introducing oxygen after the yeast has started producing alcohol? I thought that was a no-no?
    You can use Superfood as a nutrient. It will work.

    As for oxygen, it is essential for yeast to have oxygen in order to develop the strongest cell membranes so they can reach their highest alcohol tolerance. In wine and mead making this is crucial as you are attempting to get the yeast to go anywhere from 12-18% ABV. For detailed info, read THIS and check the link HERE. If done appropriately, no oxidation of the must will occur as the yeast will take up the oxygen.
    Lanne pase toujou pi bon
    (Past years are always better)

  18. #18

    Default

    Sweet, thanks again for all the good info. I'm off to read those posts for more details.

    I'll probably buy the fermaid-k online though the lees stirer is like $30 not sure if I want to spend that much yet.

    As for nutrients on this batch I think I'll leave it. I'll use this as my baseline honey+water+yeast+ignore. Then I will use all the great information given by all of you to plan my next batch in much more detail complete with nutrient schedule, oxygenation and hopefully a really nice recipe.

    the idea of a fig batch is REALLY intriguing. I've never had much intrest in fruit meads but I might have to try that.

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