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Thread: Started my first batch and have some questions

  1. Default Started my first batch and have some questions

    Hello, Gotmead? !

    I have finally started making my first batch. Fermentation is going great and I'm very excited about it. Nevertheless I still have some questions. First of all here is my log:

    Traditional Mead

    Starting date: Aug. 13
    Size: 6 Gal
    Honey Variety: Wildflower
    O.G.: 1.142
    Expected F.G.: 1.000
    Expected ABV: 18%
    Yeast: 10g EC-1118 (no Go-Ferm used)
    Honey: 23,7Lbs
    Water: 4Gal

    On the mead day I added 5 grams of Fermaid K and of DAP.

    Around 10 hours after my must was ready, I noticed the airlock was bubbling.

    Aug 14th
    S.G. 1.135
    Temp. 74F
    Aerated twice.

    Aug 15th
    S.G. 1.127
    Temp. 73F
    Aerated once. Fed 3 grams of Fermaid K and of DAP.
    And here we are!

    Now, I'd like to know a couple of basic things.

    •How much more should I aerate? First I thought aeration was only on the mead day. Afterward I started reading some responses and saw that people would encourage doing so for the first 3-4 days. When should I stop and leave it be? Which leads me to my next question.

    •Readings and oxidation. When should I start to avoid exposing the must to oxygen? Because by doing readings I am necessarily opening the bucket lid and letting the must in contact with oxygen. So should I only stop doing the readings after the fermentation has ceased?

    •Racking to the secondary. When should it be done? I've read on other threads and on a book lots of different things. Some say two weeks on the primary then rack. Others say they wait for the fermentation to stop and only then rack it to the secondary. So, what should I do? By the way, my primary is a fermentation bucket, not a carboy. I know that this influences the area of contact with oxygen but don't know if this is an essential fact for racking onto secondary earlier or not.

    Hope I didn't sound too confusing. Anyways, it's great to be meadhing and am eager for the answers! More questions will follow, no doubt about it. I already have one about the oak cubes and sparkolloid I bought, but I'll leave that for when I'm closer to needing them. I'll make sure to ask the questions on this same thread since it's regarding this Batch and to avoid polluting the forum. Thank you all for your time, it's appreciated!

  2. #2

    Default

    Hello and welcome to Gotmead!

    I'm sure one of the mead mentors will give more advice shortly, but I will answer a few of your questions and they can make additional comments as needed.

    1. I believe that the generally accepted aeration schedule is 2-3 times per day until the 1/3 sugar break, which in your case would be 1.094.

    2. Traditional meads are less prone to oxidation than other varieties. Taking readings is a necessary evil. There is no way that you could tell if your fermentation is truly complete without them. Which brings us to:

    3. There are opinions abound on when to rack to secondary. I personally wait until my primary is mostly complete and then rack to secondary. I rack once I am within about 10 points of my desired or experience final gravity. Of course, YMMV.

    If you haven't read it yet, the newbee guide (in the upper left hand column) is a wealth of information that can help answer some of these questions.
    Continued fermentation experimentation from The Mead Lab

  3. #3
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    Default

    d.j. has given you some great advice, and I generally share the opinion of when to rack to secondary, since waiting until you are within 10 points of your expected final gravity maximizes the chances that the mead won't stick at a much higher graviy. If you have further questions as your batch progresses, feel free to ask!
    Na zdrowie!

    Wayne B.

  4. Default

    I thought I could edit my posts, so that I could update my Mead Log. Since I couldn't find any edit option, I'm quotng it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Asbjörn View Post
    Traditional Mead

    Starting date: Aug. 13
    Size: 6 Gal
    Honey Variety: Wildflower
    O.G.: 1.142
    Expected F.G.: 1.000
    Expected ABV: 18%
    Yeast: 10g EC-1118 (no Go-Ferm used)
    Honey: 23,7Lbs
    Water: 4Gal

    On the mead day I added 5 grams of Fermaid K and of DAP.

    Around 10 hours after my must was ready, I noticed the airlock was bubbling.

    Aug 14th
    S.G. 1.135
    Temp. 74F
    Aerated twice.

    Aug 15th
    S.G. 1.127
    Temp. 73F
    Aerated once. Fed 3 grams of Fermaid K and of DAP.

    Aug 16th
    S.G. 1.110
    Temp. 72F
    Aerated once.
    First of all, thanks for the responses, it really did clear things up. As you can see, mt S.G. has dropped considerately and I expect it to reach 1.094 (1/3 sugar break) today, on the 17th, so take I shouldn't aerate it anymore.

    About the readings I am still a bit confused, how often should I do it after the 1/3 break? Is there some sort of standard? Should I continue doing it everyday or would that compromise the must, rendering it vulnerable to oxidation?

    About the racking. Since I'm aiming for a high alcohol dry mead, I should let it age quite a while before drinking it. After I rack it onto my secondary, having only 10 points more to reach my expected F.G., would it be ok for me to leave it over there for say 8 months aging? Or would the remaining lees produce too much of an off taste, making it necessary to rack it once more? By the way, once I verify my must has got to the expected F.G., should I put a solid bung in the place of the air-lock or should I continue with it?

    Once again, thank you for your response, d.j., and you too, wayneb, I recall you being very nice and helping me on two private messages I sent some months ago!

  5. Default

    Updated Log
    Day 4 – Aug. 17th
    S.G.: 1.097
    Temp: 71°F

    Day 5 – Aug. 18th
    S.G.: 1.090
    Temp: 70°F

    Day 6 – Aug. 19th
    S.G.: 1.080
    Temp: 71°F

    Day 7 – Aug. 20th
    S.G.: 1.072
    Temp: 71°F
    Fed 0.5 grams of Fermaid K and 0.5g of DAP.

    Hiatus on readings – I was lazy

    Day 19 – Sep. 1st
    S.G.: 1.030
    Temp: 74°F
    Bubbles every 19s.
    •As you can see, my must’s S.G. has decreased very little in a considerable time. Since this is my first batch and I’m inexperienced, I would like to ask if this is considered to be a sluggish fermentation or if its normal to it be this slow at this stage. If it is sluggish, would you recommend me adding some Yeast Energizer, considering I have not added any to the must yet?

    •A side note. One of my honey bottles had some dead ants inside, so there are dead ants in my must. That’s no problem at all, is it? There aren’t many ants. All I have to do is pass it through a filter when bottling? Or am I wrong?

  6. #6
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    Default

    You did start with a rather high initial gravity, which can often cause fermentation to proceed slowly. In order to maximize the chances that it will ferment to completion (i.e. not "stick"), I think adding some yeast hulls (also known as yeast ghosts, and often but not always the only ingredient in yeast energizer) and giving the must a slow stir to mix in the addition while keeping the exposure to air as minimal as possible, would be a good idea at this time.
    Na zdrowie!

    Wayne B.

  7. Default

    wayneb

    It did start with a high gravity but the fermentation kick started in a very hasty manner. Unfortunately I do not have solely yeast hulls, and I live -very- far away from any homebrew supply store. What I do have in hand is LD Carlson's Yeast Energizer, which, according to their site, has the following:

    Diammonium phosphate, yeast hulls, magnesium sulphate, and Vitamin B Complex.

    They do not, however, specify the percentages of each of its ingredients. Also, a doubt that I just now stumbled upon is that at their site (It's at 6365A, bottom of the page) it says to add 1 tsp per gallon, but on the label of my product it says to add 1/2 tsp per gallon. Which would you advise me to stick with? Thanks

  8. #8
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    Default

    You don't want to add products with DAP. At this stage of fermentation, the yeast cannot assimilate the DAP and it will be left for spoilage organisms to feed on. If you don't have yeast hulls, you can create some autolyzed yeast of your own by boiling or microwaving some bread/wine/brewer's yeast in a little water and adding it. 1-2 grams per gallon will sometimes help the wine yeast move along a bit more.
    Lanne pase toujou pi bon
    (Past years are always better)

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Medsen Fey View Post
    You don't want to add products with DAP. At this stage of fermentation, the yeast cannot assimilate the DAP and it will be left for spoilage organisms to feed on. If you don't have yeast hulls, you can create some autolyzed yeast of your own by boiling or microwaving some bread/wine/brewer's yeast in a little water and adding it. 1-2 grams per gallon will sometimes help the wine yeast move along a bit more.
    Medsen beat me to it again! Do what he said....
    Na zdrowie!

    Wayne B.

  10. Default

    Done! I went to the bakery and bought some yeast. Added 10g of the yeast to a small portion of water and put it in the microwave until it boiled. Waited it get to 85F and poured it to my must, stirring it very slowly afterwards with my brewer's paddle.

    Thanks you both for the advice, by coincidence I had seen icedmetal talk about adding boiled yeast as nutrients on this thread .

    I wish everything goes well and that it is able to reach S.G. 1.000. Would be a bummer to have my first batch become a failure, even more considering how many honey would be lost in a 6Gal batch.

    Tomorrow I’m traveling and I’ll return Wednesday. I'm optimistic, hope it has dropped to 1.010 or less so that I can transfer it to the secondary then. Thanks again!

  11. #11
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    Dead ant mead, huh... Well, I used a wine filter to erase the evidence of the fruit fly infestation that got into one of my meads (did you know that if the larvae hatch in red wine, they come out pink?) and nobody EVER knew about it, I'd suggest filtering it when you rack as opposed to bottling with a filter on the end... Although if the corpses are still holding together and either settled out or floating, you might be able to get away with just tying some cheesecloth over the end of the racking cane... I tried racking through a strainer and all it did was break up the insects which kind of grossed me out, that's when I went out and bought the wine filter...

    ... and I always run my honey jars through the dishwasher the week before I go to the apiary to have them filled
    "The main ingredient needed is 'time' followed closely by 'patience'." - The Bishop 2013
    "When you consider that laziness and procrastination are the fundamentals of great mead, it is a miracle that the mazer cup happens." Medsen Fey, 2014
    "Sure it can be done. I've never heard of it, but I do things I've never heard if all the time. That is the beauty of being a brewer!" - Loveofrose, 2014
    "I tend to....um, er, experiment, and go outside the box. Sometimes outside the whole department store." - Ebonhawk, 2014

  12. #12

    Default

    Asbjorn,

    I would think that if you mead stopped fermenting today, it still wouldn't be a failure. You would be sitting somewhere around 13% alcohol and would have a sweet mead which would probably age nicely. Considering that you pitched 1118, there is really no reason it should totally stick and it should keep chugging through the fermentables.

    Blanchy

  13. Default

    Chevette Girl

    Wow, pink larvae must be much cuter than dull white ones!

    I was talking about filtering when bottling because I don’t have the filters, and I’d need time to buy one. Nevertheless I will try to find one for the racking in this trip. I’m going to my hometown that coincidentally is nearby wine-producing regions in my country. You never know, I can very well find a filter! If I don’t, I really liked your ideas, I could try filtering with a cotton napkin perhaps, I promise I won’t try it with strainers!

    One question though, how do the filters work? I was looking at Northern Brewer’s website and they have pressurized pump and filter housing, that’s just fancy not actually needed stuff, right? Could I successfully filter my must by buying a coarse filter and just put it in the end of my racking tube, exempting my must of the luxurious wine filtering equipment?

    Blanchy

    Well, it wouldn’t be a total failure, but it still would be a failure considering if it stopped today, I wouldn’t have reached neither Dry Mead nor the High Alcohol I expected. I do understand however that it is completely my fault. I was warned that traditional meads were very challenging, especially high alcohol meads. I lack the ph measuring equipment as well as the blends to balance it, this could perhaps be one explanation for my fermentation being so sluggish at the moment. Either way you are right, I wouldn’t have achieved my goals but the mead would be drinkable in much less time than dry mead. Thanks for cheering me up, I really do hope you are right and that the yeast will continue fermenting the sugars.

  14. #14

    Default

    Asbjorn,

    At the worst, the yeast will run out of nutrient and some will start to die off and autolyze. This will let the remaining yeast cannibalize them for nutrients and the fermentation should progress. That will change the flavor a bit, but the yeast also tend to consume a lot of the autolyzed yeast flavors as they start to go dormant which will clean it back up.

    As far as pH is concerned, you probably have a suffiently low pH between the acids in the honey, the acids that the yeast excrete, and the carbonic acid resulting from the dissolved carbon dioxide. It is more likely that the pH is too low, than too high and the yeast can tolerate a pretty low pH. You might want to taste it next time you take a hydrometer reading. It shouldn't taste excessively tart.

    As far as pH monitoring equipment goes, you really would only need to invest in some pH paper to get a rough idea (and maybe a little piece of mind) and that won't set you back too far. Just make sure you get the wine pH paper that covers a range of somewhere around 3.0 to 4.5.

    I don't think many people on this site filter their meads. Gravity and time should do the trick once the yeast conks out. Expect it to take a while. If your ants were still floating after the fermentation stops, they make some really fine small strainers that you could use to skim them out of the fermenter. If you aren't using an open top fermenter at this point, you could just wrap a piece of sterilized cheese cloth around the end of your racking cane, hold it in place with a rubber band and that should do the trick.

    Blanchy

  15. #15
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    Actually I never saw the larvae, but I had dead pink fruit flies floating at the top of the carboy! Very weird.

    Regarding wine filters, I have a Buon Vino filter, and I am glad I have it because now and then there's something that needs filtering. Generally when making meads you expect to leave it in the carboy for a long time before bottling which generally makes a filter system redundant. One of my friends always complains about the sediment in some of my wines (his dad used to make wine and I think left a lot of sediment in everything so I suspect it's become a personal pet peeve of his) but I don't mind it myself, so I don't usually bother, my unit is good for about 5 gallons then the filter has to be changed, it's a pain to prime it, and I often work in 1-gal batches so most of the time it's just not worth the setup. I've got to say it's not too bad for losses, though.

    The way my wine filter works is that it forces the wine through a set of plates between which is sandwiched a filter, the filters come in different grades and you have to use the coarse one first or else the fine one will get clogged, and it recommends letting the wine "rest" for a couple days in between filterings but I think the manual indicates that it CAN be used for bottling, you just turn the pump on and off instead of using a valve (or your thumb) on the end of the hose.

    The reason I would recommend against trying to run your wine through a non-pressurized filter is that it will take a long time to pass through the filter and this significantly increases your chances of oxidation. A coarse filter like a sanitized dish towel in a seive/funnel would run through fairly quickly and would be OK for large bits like whole ants and I'd probably want to do this sooner rather than later, but something like a coffee filter will clog up with particulate (especially if you're not that far past primary and it's still cloudy) and will take hours (voice of experience).

    "The main ingredient needed is 'time' followed closely by 'patience'." - The Bishop 2013
    "When you consider that laziness and procrastination are the fundamentals of great mead, it is a miracle that the mazer cup happens." Medsen Fey, 2014
    "Sure it can be done. I've never heard of it, but I do things I've never heard if all the time. That is the beauty of being a brewer!" - Loveofrose, 2014
    "I tend to....um, er, experiment, and go outside the box. Sometimes outside the whole department store." - Ebonhawk, 2014

  16. Default

    Hello! I’ve returned from my trip and to my unpleasant surprise I could not see any bubbling on my airlock. I took S.G. readings yesterday ant it was 1.027. So it dropped .003 since Thursday of the last week. Could it be that the fermentation has ceased completely? I can’t see bubbles in the must. So I think I’m going to rack it to the secondary today. Which brings me to two questions:

    • Should I insert a solid bung to the carboy or should I continue using the airlock?


    • Oaking. I have Hungarian Medium Toast Oak Cubes. I’m kind of lost on the usage.


    • Should I start now or only after I’m almost finished and about to bottle? I’ve read people saying to start at the end of the secondary, but wouldn’t that create new characters that would demand more time to mellow again into my must?

    • Sanitation of the cubes. Once again, so much information and I don’t know what to think. Some people tell to boil it on water. Then I read Oskaar telling that StaVin encourages not to boil, only to rinse in bottled water. Afterwards I saw Oskaar saying how he does it. Furthermore I read of people telling to leave it in a potassium metabisulfite solution for some minutes. What should I do and for how long?

    • I know this is pretty much about personal taste, but I’d like to have a basic orientation of how many oak cubes to use on my 6Gal Batch. I’ve read Medsen telling that higher alcohol meads tend to have a more rapid infusion of the oak into it, so I guess we should take that for granted. I guess what I’m asking is to know how many cubes should I use and for how long, in order that my mead doesn’t stay very lightly oaky neither become a Château Plywood, in Medsen’s terms.



    Thoughts?

  17. #17
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    It is still too early to conclude that fermentation has completely stopped, and it might start up again after the racking, so an airlock in the carboy is still recommended.

    You can put the oak in now, and take samples for tasting every week or so until you believe that you have enough oak in the flavor profile. I would recommend following Oskaar's advice, although if that makes you uncomfortable about potential spoilage organisms then certainly a quick rinse in a metabisulphite solution is also acceptable. I've done it both ways and I've not had problems with spoilage of batches that I've oaked.
    Na zdrowie!

    Wayne B.

  18. Default

    Thanks for the reply, wayneb! Unfortunately I still have doubts, how many of the oak cubes should I put to achieve a mild oak aspect? 60 grams? More? Less? On my search through the forum I found this referential from Medsen:

    Quote Originally Posted by Medsen Fey View Post
    The amount to use is a very personal taste. Some folks (like me) like it very light and in the background. Others like to sip the juice from a wood chipper. If you know what you prefer, it helps target the amount. About 4-5 grams in a gallon will give the light impact that I like. You can add them at any point in the secondary, tertiary or thereafter, but the earlier it is added, the more time it has to integrate. If what you add isn't enough, you can add more later.
    So am I correct to assume that if 4-5 grams per gallon is a very light, then 10grams per gallon would be sort of in the middle?

    One thing that I'm curious about is that I was thinking on the possibility of a small amount of cubes, left for an extensive period of time, reach the same oaking result of a large amount of cubes left for a shorter period. Putting it short: Do the cubes exhaust after a while, ceasing to impart further flavor to the mead?

    I’m sorry for having so many questions

  19. #19
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    The cubes do exhaust after a while, but in my experience that takes more than a month of exposure (and that time is somewhat dependent on the amount of ethanol in your mead - more alcohol seems to accelerate extraction). But the bulk of aromatic and tannic compounds come out relatively quickly (two to 3 weeks) and the nature of the compounds extracted from the cubes changes somewhat over time.

    And I agree with Medsen's assessment. Let me add that I feel that 5 g cubes /gallon is a light dose of oak; 10 g/gallon is "typical," and 15 to 20 g/gallon is pretty heavy - if you ever go with that much oak you had better monitor the mead very carefully, and sample often, or you can end up with Chateau Plywood before you know it!
    Na zdrowie!

    Wayne B.

  20. Default

    Hello, Gotmead!

    It’s been a while since I haven’t posted in this thread, so I am here to update it. And, of course, ask newbee questions!

    Update

    After a couple of days of my last post in this thread, I introduced 58g of oak cubes to my must. And I have to say that I had some issues with the airlock, the water inside would get sucked to my must. This did freak me out quite a bit. Anyhow, I left my batch untouched ever since.. And most recently, in the last week, I decided to put Sparkolloid in it, because I wanted it to clear fast since I was pretending to bottle soon. I used 3g of Sparkolloid and boiled it for 8min in 120ml of water. Unfortunately I had a mishap, the pan I was using was too large, so the evaporation was pretty fast and I turned out having a very dense liquid. When I added the Sparkolloid to the must, some bits of it floated on the surface.. So I’m guessing when I finally bottle it, I will have to use the sanitized napkin that I used to filter the ants. Sadly my carboy was exposed to indirect sunlight for this whole time.

    Ok, this is the update, now onto the questions!

    Bottles

    I am going to reuse some wine bottles I got at an Italian restaurant nearby. How should I sanitize them? Leaving it soaked in One-Step for some minutes and brushing it is enough?

    Corks

    I bought 30 #8 ¾” corks. I had no clue on what size to buy. Ended up that while researching on the internet I obtained the information that the standard wine cork is #9 (although couldn’t find if ½ “ or ¾ “). I have a dual lever corker, I also did read something saying that it works best with #8 corks. So is it ok for me to use #8 corks on standard wine bottles? How should I sanitize them? 30min in one-step is ok? Or using KMeta to sanitize them is more interesting, as wayneb here?

    Sorbate and KMeta

    I haven’t checked S.G. ever since the last time. Do you recommend me using Sorbate and/or KMeta on my must? To prevent oxidation or w/e. If so, how long should I wait to bottle after I have added them to the must? How to I add them, do I mix with water or just throw it alone? After added, should I stir gently? I bought ph test strips, I can try to make a test and inform the ph, if you find this to be relevant. I was planning on using Hightests’ dosage recommendation.

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