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Thread: NewBee saying "Hi!" with a question on making a starter

  1. #1

    Default NewBee saying "Hi!" with a question on making a starter

    Hi all, I was pointed to the forums today by my local brewing supply when I stopped in for a few things to get started making mead. I used to brew cider, but it's been several years and mead is a new challenge for me.

    I'm going to try a small 1 gallon batch to start with. The plan is:

    - 3lbs Buckwheat Honey from The Bee Folks
    - Water to bring to 1 gallon
    - Yeast Nutrient
    - Lalvin D-47

    I'm trying to keep it simple and make sure I get the mechanics and process right before I get fancy.

    At the suggestion of the folks at the brewing supply I plan to make a yeast starter to make sure I've got a good, active colony going before I commit all of my honey to the must. I plan to just make a mini-must for the starter so that the yeast get started with what they'll be eating in the future. I also don't want anything in the starter that might lend any other flavor to the finished product.

    My question on the starter is this. Would there be any problem with just running the starter in the 1 gallon jug I plan to use as the fermentor and then add the must to it once it's going? As I understand it, oxygenation is a good thing when making a starter, but would the excessive headspace of the large jug cause any issues? My thought in this is that less transferring between containers (starter into the fermentor) means less chances for infection of the brew. It also means I'm only cleaning/sterilizing one vessel which is less work and again, less chance to miss something and infect the brew.

    Thanks for any input!

    -d

  2. #2
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    Honestly, unless you feel the yeast has been compromised in some way (such as the packet has been sitting open for half a year in direct sunlight on your window sill) there is no reason to make a starter. The cell count in a 5g packet of dry yeast is more than enough to ferment a gallon must with ease, and dry yeast is very hardy and a lot more resilient than wet yeast.

    The advice I'd give you is to grab some yeast nutrient (or DAP) and/or yeast energizer from your local brew store. Fermaid K is the nutrient of choice for many on here, but such brands as Fermax or Wyeast Nutrient Blend or plain old DAP will work fine too. Honey doesn't have much in the way of yeast assimilable nitrogen (YAN) or vital nutrients for your yeast, so to get a healthy ferment and a tasty mead you'll want to pick this stuff up.

  3. #3
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    Beer people (this is my theory anyways) seem to always suggest a starter because so many of them work more with those liquid yeasts, which have far less living yeast in them than a dried packet. Simply rehydrating the yeast properly 15 minutes before pitch is plently (and that's for a 5 gallon or 6 gallon batch, an entire packet of yeast in a 1 gallon batch is guaranteed 100% to not need a starter, might even be a bad idea frankly (there is such a thing as over-pitching. 5g or 8g in 1 gallon isn't too much, but with a starter it just might be!)).

    One more thing to consider (mccann51's advice is good too): buckwheat honey makes odd mead. I love the stuff, especially before it's fermented, but in all honesty it may not be the best choice for a first batch, it comes out much different than it goes into a fermentation!
    ~AToE (A Thing of Eternity... it's a nerd thing...)

    AKA: Alan H

  4. #4

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    Heavens forbid, but using EC-1118, or K1V-1116, I just sprinkle the 5 gram dry yeast on top of the must. I don't even stir (I've oxygenated the must well previously). It's never failed to start.
    As a matter of opinion, though anecdotally, I think they start faster sprinkled on top, than when mixed in. YMMV.
    Last edited by chams; 05-05-2011 at 12:43 AM.

  5. #5
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    As to your question about O2, forget everything about beer - O2 is good for yeast for the first 1/3 of the fermentation (even up to the 1/2). Up to that point you actually want to aerate the mead as much as possible (within reason if using an aeration stone to pump in pure O2 or somesuch), no danger of oxidizing the mead/wine.

    Check out the newbee guide in the left side menu on this site, it's fantastic.
    ~AToE (A Thing of Eternity... it's a nerd thing...)

    AKA: Alan H

  6. #6
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    Welcome, and your local brewing supply place is awesome for pointing you here rather than giving you bad advice because they don't know any better This place is great!

    Your recipe includes yeast nutrient, if it's the white cryastals, it's DAP, I typically use one or two teaspoons per gallon. If it's crunchy-looking tan powder, it's a yeast energizer, you can safely double the recommended amount for meads.

    For doing a traditional mead (no fruit), as Mccann51 says, you'll probably want both.

    Just hydrating your yeast before you toss them in should do the trick, especially with a full packet on a 1-gal batch, unless I'm making something with a LOT of honey (more than 3.5 lb per gallon) I just sprinkle it on top too, in the early stages yeast needs oxygen so don't be afraid of headspace until after your yeast have eaten at least 1/3 of the sugar you're feeding them.

    "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

  7. #7
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    You crazy sprinklers! If it works it works though. I rehydrate (personally I also use goferm during rehydration, which is a special rehydration nutrient, don't use other stuff, yeast is delicate during rehydration and DAP will hurt it, most other nutrients/energizers/whatevergoofyname will contain some DAP) because the science says just putting dried yeast straight into such a high sugar solution will kill a lot of them off - so why not rehydrate and let more of them survive? With a whole packet of yeast in a one gallon batch though it probably doesn't matter, frankly that's plenty of yeast so you can withstand some casualties.

    Make sure you spend some time with that newbee guide, I read it 5 times or so before my first batches.

    My recommendations for honey would be... wait for it... pretty much anything else beefolks sells. Read the descriptions and see what jumps out at you, then report back here for further advice.

    I know I already said it, but buckwheat honey mead is an aquired taste, and takes much longer to clear than other meads (like much more than a year) and also takes extreme extended aging to really turn into something great (I've got ones that are around 2 years old that are just starting to turn into "real mead" in my opinion).

    Beefolks has lots of killer options that I think will give you a much better first impression with your meadmaking experience (especially if you grab something more medium dark so you get a nice middle ground), and will take less time to age.

    Also, the yeast you've chosen is a good one, but don't let the ferment get much above 70F, that yeast freaks out and does terrible things past about 72F in my experience (and remember that fermentation generates heat, so whatever your ambient temp, keep that a few degrees lower than you want the ferment). If your house is too hot, keep the fermenter in a water bath with ice added once in a while (keep a thermometre in it) or cover it with a wet t-shirt during fermentation.
    ~AToE (A Thing of Eternity... it's a nerd thing...)

    AKA: Alan H

  8. #8

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    Thanks for the input folks! I'll probably just rehydrate and pitch the yeast and see where it goes. The buckwheat honey I have isn't near as dark as many I've seen. Apparently this batch was rather light in comparison to what they usually get, and has none of the "barnyard" flavor/aroma I've read about, so I'm willing to give it a go. My first choice based on flavor (They're about an hour from me, I stopped in and got to taste loads of stuff) was their Killer Bee honey, but for a first batch I didn't want to spend the extra $$ on a premium honey JustInCase(tm)

    AToE: WRT keeping the ferment below 70, I think I can do that, but how cool can it get and still be OK? We're coming into summer so I'll likely be fermenting in the utility room that houses the air handler for the HVAC. It'll be a little cooler than the rest of the house.

    If this first batch has to sit for a while I'm fine with that, I'll probably get some more going while this one works it's magic anyways. After tasting some of the other honey I brought back my wife is voting for their blackberry honey, so that may be next in line. I have concerns about losing the varietal flavors of the honey, so I plan to not boil the must and try to leave all the flavors I can in tact. My plan is to heat the must only enough to get the honey to dissolve and hope for the best in that regard.

    Odds are I'll get everything going tonight when I get home from work. Time to start a new hobby (like I need another!).

    -d
    Last edited by deker; 05-05-2011 at 06:54 AM.

  9. #9

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    Temps vary from yeast to yeast

    In general 60-65Fi is great for most any yeast

    D-47 will do great in this range too, but as cold as 50-55 should be good too. Look at the yeast chart, going to the cold side of each strains' tolerance will slow fermentation but generally result in better taste.

    Something else I learned (wish I had known before) is the more stable you can keep the temp the better. Yeast don't like wild fluctuations and can start giving off bad taste if they do.

    Take each of these with a grain of salt, I'm pretty new too and regurgitating what I've read
    #! /bin/ksh
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    Signature()
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  10. #10
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    I've used the buckwheat honey from Beefolks, and it is not as dark or "barnyard" as other buckwheat I've tasted. Even so, buckwheat honey has a lot of odd phenolic elements in it that you can taste clearly when you remove all the sugar. A pure buckwheat honey mead can take a lot of aging to become pleasant, and even then it may be a taste that some folks just don't appreciate (Heather honey can be like that too).

    Their blackberry honey, will serve you very well, and if you make a mead with that, I expect you'll be enjoying it long before the buckwheat batch.
    Lanne pase toujou pi bon
    (Past years are always better)

  11. #11

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    Personally, I simply rehydrate following the instructions on the packet then pitch. With wines that's about it; with meads I progressively add nutrients during the first half of the ferment.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Medsen Fey View Post
    I've used the buckwheat honey from Beefolks, and it is not as dark or "barnyard" as other buckwheat I've tasted. Even so, buckwheat honey has a lot of odd phenolic elements in it that you can taste clearly when you remove all the sugar. A pure buckwheat honey mead can take a lot of aging to become pleasant, and even then it may be a taste that some folks just don't appreciate (Heather honey can be like that too).
    Well, I'll make a run at it and see what I come up with. It's already here, so I may as well use it!

    Their blackberry honey, will serve you very well, and if you make a mead with that, I expect you'll be enjoying it long before the buckwheat batch.
    I guess batch #2 is all lined up then! I just hope my wife will understand that good things come to those who wait and be patient with me while I learn

    -d

  13. #13
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    Yeah, you might as well use it now that you've got it! I'm sure about a week after it's in secondary you'll be itching for another batch anyways, so you can always grab something different then!
    ~AToE (A Thing of Eternity... it's a nerd thing...)

    AKA: Alan H

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by AToE View Post
    Yeah, you might as well use it now that you've got it! I'm sure about a week after it's in secondary you'll be itching for another batch anyways, so you can always grab something different then!
    Indeed! My only problem is a lack of space for lots of long-term fermentation. At my old place I had a dedicated closet in the unfinished side of a cool basement. Here at the new place there's no real basement, and less storage space. I'll also need to figure something else out for wintertime since we tend to let the downstairs be cold and heat just the upstairs with a woodstove....Well, I've got time to figure that one out!

    Has anybody tried the Bee Folks Pumpkin honey? It's fantastic from the jar and I'm already wondering how much of that flavor would make it through...

    -d

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by deker View Post
    Well, I'll make a run at it and see what I come up with. It's already here, so I may as well use it!
    I have a buckwheat traditional in the secondary right now. It has kind of a malt-like aftertaste, not necessarily bad, just really different. I think buckwheat honey would make a great braggot. It also seems to have dropped a lot more lees then my other traditional meads.

    I'm quite anxious to see how it turns out.
    Age improves with mead, even more than mead improves with age.

  16. #16

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    Well, I got everything together and started to clean and sanitize this afternoon and broke my hydrometer... So, looks like I'll be back at Maryland Homebrew tomorrow for another.

    -d

  17. #17
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    You might want to consider picking up two. As fragile as they are, it is good to have a spare on hand just in case. And one of Murphy's corollaries is that if you have more than you need, you'll never need the spares.
    Na zdrowie!

    Wayne B.

  18. #18
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    Mine is coming up on it's two year birthday (now I've jinxed it I'm sure!), I've only ever owned one. I must be a very careful person!
    ~AToE (A Thing of Eternity... it's a nerd thing...)

    AKA: Alan H

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by wayneb View Post
    You might want to consider picking up two. As fragile as they are, it is good to have a spare on hand just in case. And one of Murphy's corollaries is that if you have more than you need, you'll never need the spares.
    I plan to do just that. The funny thing is, this thing has survived for probably 10 years or more and been through two house moves safely. Luck of the draw I guess

    I'm also reading up on refractometers as a less breakable solution.

    -d

  20. #20

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    I like my refractometer for several reasons, among them that it has a case to keep it in with heaps of padding around it and it takes less must to get a reading. Just a couple of drops which I can get off of my lees stirer. I use distilled water to calibrate it after every 4 uses. The calculations to get SG are no fun, even with the calculators out there, but that's just me.
    "What were you expecting? Thunderbird?" (Bottle Shock)

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