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Thread: First mead! A few questions...

  1. #1

    Default First mead! A few questions...

    Hey folks,
    I just started my first batch of mead this past saturday, and so far things seem to be going well, but I do have a couple of questions.

    First the recipe:

    This is essentially the basic semi sweet mead recipe given in Schramm's Compleat Meadmaker, I used a little more honey than his recipe(by accident) and left out the yeast energizer and 1 packet of yeast. Here's what I started with.

    5~ gallons of tap water run through a couple of sanitized charcoal filter pitchers

    12lbs of local, raw wildflower honey(dark amber in color, rich with lots of interesting aromas and a bit of a sweet straw sort of flavor in the background)

    3lbs 10oz of a local, non varietal unfiltered honey. This stuff is wild, it is honey gathered in the "old way", comb and all. At room temperature it is a thick paste, almost a peanut butter consistency. The flavor is unreal, very complex and nuanced with a slight spiciness on the back end.

    2tsps of yeast nutrient

    1 packet of Lalvin D.47 rehydrated in 2oz of filtered, 92~% tap water


    The process:
    We sanitized all of our equipment with a light solution of no rinse sanitizer.

    We then warmed 2 1/2 gallons of water to around 140 and allowed it to cool back down to about 110 before stirring in the honey and yeast nutrient.

    After pouring the must in to a 5 gallon food grade bucket, topping it up with room temperature filtered water and allowing it to cool to room temperature we pitched the yeast and then stirred, sloshed and otherwise agitated the mix for about 10 minutes to get it oxygenated.

    We took an O.G reading of 1.108 at room temp. and pulled out enough must to have a little pre fermentation taste test. The must was sweet, rich, and spicy with a flavor that really filled up your mouth and nostrils, very very tasty stuff.

    After capping and placing the filled air lock the primary was moved to my back cellar where it is currently enjoying temps in the mid 60s.

    By the next morning I was noticing slow bubbling in the airlock, and by last night the airlock was seeing a riot of activity. The smell of the must has also permeated the room. It's not immediately obvious, but if you get close to the fermenter there is a smell not unlike a sweet bread with that same spicy character we noted in the must lingering in the background, really delicious.

    All in all I'm very happy with how things are going, but I do have a few concerns/questions:

    1. I used 10oz more honey than my recipe called for, my thinking is that this will just result in a sweeter mead than intended...whats the risk of this winding up 'too' sweet, and if so, what can be done about it?

    2. I tried to avoid using any chemical additives, but caved to fear and used the yeast nutrient after reading about D47's poor performance without the addition of outside nitrogen. More reading lead me to understand that urea is an undesirable ingredient in mead's, and it is listed as the second or third ingredient in my nutrient. Is this going to cause a problem? If so, what kind?

    3. Along the same lines, the unfiltered honey is described as being rich in mineral and micro-nutrient content due to the inclusion of comb bits, bee pollen etc., any way to figure out if this nutrient content is sufficient to keep yeast happy in the future without adding additional nutrient?

    4. And related to that last question, I've been kicking myself for not straining the must into the primary. I'm sure it has lots of 'bits' floating around from the unfiltered honey. I'm hoping that this stuff settles to the bottom or floats on the top, but if it doesn't, is there a good way to strain my mead without risking excess oxidation going in to the secondary?

    Whew, I think that's it....thanks for reading and for any suggestions.

    EDIT for bad math
    Last edited by jasonj; 05-12-2009 at 04:33 PM.

  2. #2
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    Welcome!!

    The extra two ounces of honey shouldn't change much. You may have added a few extra SG points on to the intended OG, but that's fine. You probably won't even notice the difference in the final product. An extra pound would make a much larger difference.

    Yeast will tell you when they are unhappy--by producing stinky sulfur compounds. You'll know if you need more nutrients in there if it starts to stink. To head this off, since prevention is preferable to remediation, you will want to keep an eye on the SG and add 5ish grams of nutrients at about SG 1.065-75. Fermaid K is the nutrient made by the folks who sell D-47; you can get it at some local stores or online in places like MoreWine.

    Don't worry about straining. The bee bits will end up on the bottom, and any wax will probably float. When you rack, just avoid picking up the layer of solids at the top & bottom.

    I'm not familiar with urea, so I'll defer that to someone else.

  3. #3
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    Urea is not per-se problematic, but the concept of using "food grade" urea is seen by many of us as oxymoronic. If you dose just right, then all the urea will be consumed by the yeast for its available nitrogen and you'll have none left to influence the flavor of your mead. However if you severely overdose, then you'll end up with a vaguely funky, vaguely metallic-salty flavor that comes from the urea, and you'll have the knowledge that what your drinking contains a chemical that is a near universal waste product from virtually all animal life on the planet.

    Since yeast are just as happily nourished on bits of other dead yeast (willing and able cannibals that they are), I prefer to add nutrients derived from yeast rather than from things like purified urea. YMMV.

    Oh, and WELCOME to the Gotmead? community!!
    Na zdrowie!

    Wayne B.

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    Welcome to GotMead? jasonj !!!

    Quote Originally Posted by jasonj View Post
    3. Along the same lines, the unfiltered honey is described as being rich in mineral and micro-nutrient content due to the inclusion of comb bits, bee pollen etc., any way to figure out if this nutrient content is sufficient to keep yeast happy in the future without adding additional nutrient?
    You'd have to measure the yeast available nitrogen either by sending it to a lab for analysis (I think it costs about $75 give or take), or be able to set up to do a formol titration. Most of us don't do either one, and just use nutrients as described in recipes or based on experience with various yeast and must. In my case, I just shoot for a little overkill with nutrients and it seems to work okay.

    Your batch sounds good. I hope it goes great!

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

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    Quote Originally Posted by jasonj View Post
    3. Along the same lines, the unfiltered honey is described as being rich in mineral and micro-nutrient content due to the inclusion of comb bits, bee pollen etc., any way to figure out if this nutrient content is sufficient to keep yeast happy in the future without adding additional nutrient?

    EDIT for bad math
    Honey is pretty much several types of sugar and water with minimal amount of other stuff like minerals and ash. To make the yeast happy you pretty much need to add something as a nutrient...

    http://www.solorb.com/mead/danspaper.html
    Bees stole my signature file!

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    Oh, haha 10 oz vs 0.10 lb. Ok, well that makes a bigger difference. It might end up a little stronger than anticipated. At 1.108 it should end up dry or nearly so, so the extra honey won't affect the sweetness much or at all.

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    Other folks can better comment on your process, so I'll just tell you that I made this recipe using local wildflower honey and it turned out great. You'll love it.

  8. #8

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    Thanks for the comments everyone. So I think for my next batch I'll look for a yeast derived nutrient, any recommendations?

    One more question; how accurate is bubbling in the airlock as an indication of fermentation activity? Right now I'm seeing 1-2 bubbles every 2 seconds or so, does that seem appropriate for 4 days in? I know that a hydrometer reading is what I need to get a really accurate indication of how things are going, but I'm a little hesitant to pop the lid on my fermenter in my dusty basement...

    Thanks again

  9. #9

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    Bubbles in the airlock are one of the worst ways to monitor fermentation. Temperature variations, leaks around the seals, etc. lead to too much inconsistency.

    The hydrometer is your best friend. Just be sure to clean the area properly around your fermenter and you should be fine when taking readings.
    Wild In Idaho
    Mead, like life, is a journey and not a destination. So stop and savor the flavors along the way!


    "Gawd, I hate drinking mead and posting in the forums."

    Nothing currently fermenting!

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    There are several sources for yeast nutrients. Most homebrew stores will have a generic version they repackage from someplace. For the best results you want to know exactly what you're putting into the mead, so it is best to go for something like Fermaid K, O, 2133, etc which are made by the folks who package your yeast (Lalvin/Lallemand). These nutrients are designed to be used with their yeast, and you can get factsheets to tell you what is all in there (there are some links on the forum if you feel like searching). Go-Ferm is the other nutrient you'll hear us talk about often; it is used during rehydration.

    I get these products from MoreBeer/MoreWine but you can get them from other places if that is more convenient for you.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by wildaho View Post
    Bubbles in the airlock are one of the worst ways to monitor fermentation. Temperature variations, leaks around the seals, etc. lead to too much inconsistency.

    The hydrometer is your best friend. Just be sure to clean the area properly around your fermenter and you should be fine when taking readings.

    I knew someone was going to tell me that, haha. Nothing ventured, nothing gained I suppose..I think I'll pop the top and take a reading (and tasting) at the one week point this saturday. Thanks!

  12. #12

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    Welcome to GotMead?

    I too just started making mead. I was at the Mazer Cup and got the bug there.

    I started a traditional mead (from the same book you got it from), a pyment and a cyser. All of them three gallons (the cyser was forced from a one gallon batch to a three gallon). My next start will be one gallon of Jalapeno. You can check out my progress on my blogs.

    Let us know how the batch is coming along.
    Meister Jäger
    Apprentice - For now

  13. #13

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    Just a quick update.

    I popped the top on my primary this past saturday(two weeks from the start of this fermentation), checked SG and took a tasting sample.

    SG came in at 1.060(or very close to that), so 9% ABV?

    The sample I took to taste smelled wonderful and tasted very similar to a bottle of Tej' that I had at an Ethiopian restaurant the week before, good sign I'd say. In appearance the mead is much lighter than I expected, and very cloudy, almost a milky white.

    The flavor was pungent, sweet and spicy with a mildly alcoholic bite. The flavor drops off quickly though, very watery on the back end, something I'm hoping will improve with aging.

    Judging by the airlock, fermentation is still active, but I'll check SG again in a few days.

    Temperatures in my cellar have crept up in the past few days to around 71-72, I don't think this is anything to be concerned about, but I'll be keeping an eye on it.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by jasonj View Post
    SG came in at 1.060(or very close to that), so 9% ABV?
    ABV probably closer to 6.5-7 %

    I think your mead should be farther along than it is at this point. It may be stalling. I'd pop the lid and aerate it well. The warmer temp may help (71-72 F is good). If you didn't all any of the yeast energizer, adding it now might still be helpful. You may also have a problem with a pH that is too low - if you can check it, it may be useful.

    If action is not taken you may either end up with a very protracted fermentation (or a stuck one).

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

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Medsen Fey View Post
    ABV probably closer to 6.5-7 %

    I think your mead should be farther along than it is at this point. It may be stalling. I'd pop the lid and aerate it well. The warmer temp may help (71-72 F is good). If you didn't all any of the yeast energizer, adding it now might still be helpful. You may also have a problem with a pH that is too low - if you can check it, it may be useful.

    If action is not taken you may either end up with a very protracted fermentation (or a stuck one).

    Medsen
    Tested SG again this morning and I've got 1.044, so it's definitely moving. What's the risk in a slow fermentation? Spoilage? I'm hoping I can stop by the LHBS today and pick up a pH test kit and the yeast energizer.

  16. #16
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    I'm glad to hear it is moving. It sounds like it is doing okay and that you really don't need to do anything at this point except to keep gently swirling it to keep those yeast up in the suspension.

    If you are able to check a pH, great. If not, as long as it is plugging along things will be fine.
    Lanne pase toujou pi bon
    (Past years are always better)

  17. #17

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    Thanks for the reassurance. This process would be much more daunting without this forum. Is the patrons area very active? I've pretty much read the rest of the forum at this point.

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    It is, and well worth the $25.

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    O yeah. The recipes there will blow your mind.

  20. #20

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    Just tested gravity and took another taste. SG read at 1.026, still moving...slowly.

    Tasting was, um, interesting. The mead has taken on a hint of carbonation that I didn't notice before, and smells pretty strongly of alcohol. The flavor is a sort of like a mildly honeyish, watery vomit. Not exactly appealing stuff at the moment.

    While not pleased with the flavor, I'm not freaking out as it doesn't taste like any of the 'off' characteristics that I've seen people describe, no sulfur, bandaids, medicine etc, so I'm hoping some age will find it drinkable.

    At this point I'm going to keep watching it, as long as it keeps moving it should be close to dried out in uh, another week I'm guessing?

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