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Thread: Getting ready to start! Recipe calculations help

  1. Default Getting ready to start! Recipe calculations help

    Hello, world!

    The GF and I have decided that we want to try making some mead. We looked through a bunch of less useful websites before I came across this one. The NewBees guide is very detailed and helpful. I have a few questions about our plan.

    We are in Norway so the ingredients we have are a little different to normal. We got the Mangrove Jack M05 mead yeast that from what I can find can go up to 18% ABV. That strength seems pretty fun, so we want to make a normal "show"(?) mead that is 18%, but also fairly nice and sweet at the end.

    As far as I can figure from Chapter 8 of the guide, for our secondary fermentation in the 6 gallon (22.7) PET carboy that we have picked up that would mean:

    18% ABV x 6 gallons x 3 ounces of honey per gallon per %ABV = 252 ounces of honey

    for a sweet, call it 1.015 final gravity, batch we would need the equivalent of 1.9% ABV extra honey, 1.9 * 6 * 3 = 34.2 ounces of extra honey.

    So for the Must in our primary fermenting bucket we should dissolve a total of 286.2 ounces = 8.11kg of honey to the water before pitching the yeast, adding nutrient, and doing all the necessary steps to start the fermentation off properly.

    Does this sound right? Am I missing anything?

    As a bonus question, the local brew store has "Wyeast Beer Nutrient Blend" that suggests 0.5 tsp per 5 gal. Is this specific for beer? Is it the same for mead? The nutrient seems pretty important so I don't wanna mess it up.

    -R

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rhino_Aus View Post
    Hello, world!

    The GF and I have decided that we want to try making some mead. We looked through a bunch of less useful websites before I came across this one. The NewBees guide is very detailed and helpful. I have a few questions about our plan.

    We are in Norway so the ingredients we have are a little different to normal. We got the Mangrove Jack M05 mead yeast that from what I can find can go up to 18% ABV. That strength seems pretty fun, so we want to make a normal "show"(?) mead that is 18%, but also fairly nice and sweet at the end.

    As far as I can figure from Chapter 8 of the guide, for our secondary fermentation in the 6 gallon (22.7) PET carboy that we have picked up that would mean:

    18% ABV x 6 gallons x 3 ounces of honey per gallon per %ABV = 252 ounces of honey

    for a sweet, call it 1.015 final gravity, batch we would need the equivalent of 1.9% ABV extra honey, 1.9 * 6 * 3 = 34.2 ounces of extra honey.

    So for the Must in our primary fermenting bucket we should dissolve a total of 286.2 ounces = 8.11kg of honey to the water before pitching the yeast, adding nutrient, and doing all the necessary steps to start the fermentation off properly.

    Does this sound right? Am I missing anything?

    As a bonus question, the local brew store has "Wyeast Beer Nutrient Blend" that suggests 0.5 tsp per 5 gal. Is this specific for beer? Is it the same for mead? The nutrient seems pretty important so I don't wanna mess it up.

    -R
    it is about 3 pounds not 3 ounces per gallon.
    That is ROUGH approximation
    Use the got mead calculator for a more exact number

  3. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by caduseus View Post
    it is about 3 pounds not 3 ounces per gallon.
    Uhhhhhh..... no?

    Also the calculator seems to not allow for the extra honey left over after fermentation is complete?

  4. #4

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    Woah! Whatever you do, don't start this batch before you have thoroughly discussed and done your research.
    Going up to 18% abv while still ending up with a GOOD quality mead is very challenging for a new mazer.
    Overpitch your yeast.
    You need to be able to check for and adjust acidity. So much honey will quite possibly make it too acidic before you reach 18%abv. Actually, you'd probably be better off adding an acidity buffer prior to the start of your ferment such as potassium carbonate (K2C03)
    You will need to step feed that honey. Start your batch at a normal or even low gravity because too high of a gravity will stress out the yeast and they WILL stall on you. Once the gravity drops add honey again. At the start you would want to add your honey before the gravity is too low but towards the end you'd want to add the honey when your mead is almost dry to avoid an overly, sickly sweet mead.
    You will need proper rehydration and proper nutrients. I'd give you my latest, most successful feeding schedule but this requires GoFerm protect evolution, Fermaid K and Fermaid O.. There should be something simpler for a new mazer although the time, money and effort you get away with now you might have to pay for later when you're waiting for your mead to mellow out those fusels.
    You need a good nutrient feeding schedule. Honey has little to no nutrients so you will need to ensure your yeast always have enough nutrients available. I think you probably need at least 4 steps and towards the later steps (after step 2) you should be eliminating the use of inorganic nitrogen aka dap. fermaid K has dap, fermaid O does not.
    In my experience high gravity dry meads taste sweet enough already. Others would disagree. In any case, I'd suggest fermenting dry and backsweetening only once you have thoroughly aged the mead.

    Sorry for making this seem complicated but it actually really is. So many new mazers fail when they try this that I just have to warn you
    "Shouldn’t we say wine is a mead-like beverage made with grapes substituted for the honey?" - Steve Piatz

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    No..Not 3 lbs. I think that your calculation was close. Caduseus - the equation was 3 oz per gallon per % ABV. If 1 lb of honey has specific gravity of 1.035 and so a potential ABV of about 4.5% ABV (which is what Rhino_Aus was talking about) and if 16 oz are in 1 lb then about 4 oz of honey dissolved to make 1 gallon will have a potential ABV of about 1%.
    But that said, are you really looking for an ABV of 18%? Why not take a shot of whiskey and blend in some honey? For your first mead I think you want an ABV closer to a wine than to distilled spirits. At the very least, meads with an ABV of 12-14% are not going to be as hot as meads made to 18% ABV and won't need to be aged for as many years to help smooth out the flavors to make them drinkable...

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    Not to discourage you, but as others have said -- what you're proposing is extremely ambitious for a first batch. Making a good 18% ABV traditional / show mead isn't easy even for experienced brewers. We don't want to see you fail and give up the hobby before you've really started :-)

    My advice would be twofold: (a) shoot for a lower alcohol level for your first batch; and (b) consider making just 1 gallon, not 5 gallons. If you were to make 5 1-gallon batches, one at a time and maybe stepping up the alcohol level each time, you would learn a *lot* -- really, a *lot*. I absolutely guarantee that after making 5 1-gallon batches, you'll look back and agree that starting with a 5-gallon 18% ABV batch would have been a bad idea.

    But if you insist on this 18% batch, then do what Stasis said -- and also do a bit more research so you understand why that advice is what it is re: pitch rate and acidity and rehydration and nutrients and step feeding. But honestly -- consider taking this in smaller steps -- consider something simpler for your first batch. 1 gallon of good 12% mead will provide you and the GF with the fun that you seek, sooner than 5 gallons of rotgut that has to be aged for 3 years before it's drinkable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pdh View Post
    Not to discourage you, but as others have said -- what you're proposing is extremely ambitious for a first batch. Making a good 18% ABV traditional / show mead isn't easy even for experienced brewers. We don't want to see you fail and give up the hobby before you've really started :-)

    My advice would be twofold: (a) shoot for a lower alcohol level for your first batch; and (b) consider making just 1 gallon, not 5 gallons. If you were to make 5 1-gallon batches, one at a time and maybe stepping up the alcohol level each time, you would learn a *lot* -- really, a *lot*. I absolutely guarantee that after making 5 1-gallon batches, you'll look back and agree that starting with a 5-gallon 18% ABV batch would have been a bad idea.

    But if you insist on this 18% batch, then do what Stasis said -- and also do a bit more research so you understand why that advice is what it is re: pitch rate and acidity and rehydration and nutrients and step feeding. But honestly -- consider taking this in smaller steps -- consider something simpler for your first batch. 1 gallon of good 12% mead will provide you and the GF with the fun that you seek, sooner than 5 gallons of rotgut that has to be aged for 3 years before it's drinkable.
    I agree. Rather than re-invent wheel, why not just follow someone's recipe? Do you have any mead making recipes or books?

  8. #8

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    A show mead means zero nutrients.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Squatchy View Post
    A show mead means zero nutrients.
    Yeah... a "show mead" is rather like preparing your pet dog for the Westminster dog show. You might succeed, but if this is a first mead I am not sure that aiming for such a standard is reasonable or even useful. I think Squatchy's position that making a simple traditional mead, not a show mead (where all you have is honey, water and yeast) - a mead where errors cannot be hidden behind all kinds of spice or fruit additives is really at the heart of developing one's mead making skills and abilities. When you have mastered a traditional mead then the world is your oyster.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Squatchy View Post
    A show mead means zero nutrients.
    Right but we're throwing enough information at them so I decided to leave that alone and use the same term as in the original post :-)

    For Rhino_Aus, if you're still with us... as Squatchy said, "show mead" means mead made from water, honey, yeast, and nothing else -- no nutrients or any other additives or flavorings. You're proposing a "traditional mead" (aka "trad mead"), which is water, honey, yeast, plus additives like nutrients or stabilizers or etc, but no additional flavorings -- that is, no fruit or juice or spices.

    Show mead typically requires extended aging, because the yeast are never very healthy due to lack of nutrients, so they produce off-flavors that need time in order to break down. You can however make a traditional mead that tastes good after a much shorter period of aging, if you do things right. (But if you do it wrong, you'll still get off-flavors in your trad mead, so you'll still need extended aging -- that's what we're trying to warn you away from.)

  11. Default

    Thanks for all the advice guys! We're both pretty new to brewing so there are a lot of thing that I know, but don't place into context appropriately! I knew that honey was acidic, and that yeast doesnt like acidic environments, but it just totally didn't click that those two facts slotted together! Also when I said "show" mead I think I just meant a generic meady mead, not fruity or anything. Traditional mead. Thats I meant (i think)

    So it is pretty damn clear that 18% is a bad idea right now. I came to the conclusion that 18% was a good idea based off the thought that the alcohol kills the yeast at some point, then having leftover sugar at that point means no need to backsweeten thus simple and easy. I think I feel like backsweetening is a bad thing because that just seems to be begging fermentation to start again, meaning a dry and higher ABV...

    Instead, The better approach to shoot for a lower say ~12% ABV mead and backsweeten it to the desired taste. The main thing is I'm not 100% up to scratch on backsweetening. I mean I know the idea of it, we have a batch of ginger beer going right now that we will backsweeten but with non fermenting sweetener (stevia) when we bottle and add the carbonating sugars to prevent the fermentation from eating up all the sweetness (and exploding etc, etc).

    For a yeast that can go up to 18% how exactly do you ensure that you can achieve a non-dry, sweeter mead at a lower percentage? I read that the tablets that you can add will only slow the fermentation process, not stop it completely so I am not sure how to "declare it done" so to speak.

    As for actually going for 18%, were we to want to in the future, would a way to do that be to just continually add more honey to feed the yeast as it eats it up while also adding in more nutrients etc?

    Thanks!

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    > For a yeast that can go up to 18% how exactly do you ensure that you can achieve a non-dry, sweeter mead at a lower percentage? I read that the tablets that you can add will only slow the fermentation process, not stop it completely

    The usual process is to first cold-crash if you can, then rack the must, leaving behind as much yeast as possible. Do both if possible -- you're in Norway so maybe you can cold-crash just by letting it sit outside for a day or so. Then rack it and treat it with potassium sorbate and sulfites (sorbate *and* sulfites -- you need both). Put the sorbate + sulfite in the carboy that you're racking into after the cold-crashing. That is, dissolve the chemicals in a small amount of water, then put the dissolved chemicals into the destination carboy and finally rack your must into it.

    The chemicals won't kill the yeast but they do prevent the yeast from reproducing, and presumably you have very little yeast left in suspension anyway, because of the racking / cold-crashing and because you're doing this after very active fermentation has ended. Now you can add your sweetener. Measure the gravity, and wait a day or two and measure the gravity again, just to be sure it's not still fermenting (or fermenting so slowly that it doesn't matter). Then bottle it.

    > As for actually going for 18%, were we to want to in the future, would a way to do that be to just continually add more honey to feed the yeast as it eats it up while also adding in more nutrients etc?

    Yes -- this is "step feeding". I've never done it myself (I like my meads around 12 - 13% ABV) but I'm sure others on this forum can offer more detailed advice.

    One more comment -- do you have a hydrometer (the tool that's used to measure specific gravity)? If not, then get one before you start -- you can't follow the progress of your mead without measuring the gravity as you go.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rhino_Aus View Post
    Thanks for all the advice guys! We're both pretty new to brewing so there are a lot of thing that I know, but don't place into context appropriately! I knew that honey was acidic, and that yeast doesnt like acidic environments, but it just totally didn't click that those two facts slotted together! Also when I said "show" mead I think I just meant a generic meady mead, not fruity or anything. Traditional mead. Thats I meant (i think)

    So it is pretty damn clear that 18% is a bad idea right now. I came to the conclusion that 18% was a good idea based off the thought that the alcohol kills the yeast at some point, then having leftover sugar at that point means no need to backsweeten thus simple and easy. I think I feel like backsweetening is a bad thing because that just seems to be begging fermentation to start again, meaning a dry and higher ABV...

    Instead, The better approach to shoot for a lower say ~12% ABV mead and backsweeten it to the desired taste. The main thing is I'm not 100% up to scratch on backsweetening. I mean I know the idea of it, we have a batch of ginger beer going right now that we will backsweeten but with non fermenting sweetener (stevia) when we bottle and add the carbonating sugars to prevent the fermentation from eating up all the sweetness (and exploding etc, etc).

    For a yeast that can go up to 18% how exactly do you ensure that you can achieve a non-dry, sweeter mead at a lower percentage? I read that the tablets that you can add will only slow the fermentation process, not stop it completely so I am not sure how to "declare it done" so to speak.

    As for actually going for 18%, were we to want to in the future, would a way to do that be to just continually add more honey to feed the yeast as it eats it up while also adding in more nutrients etc?

    Thanks!
    I would start by recommending a yeast that does NOT go to 18% ABV. Most wine yeasts go 13-15%. Most ale/lagger yeasts are 9-14%. I would recommend a wine yeast personally and either cold crash or add k-meta with k-sorbate to stop when you reach the desired ABV.
    Then back sweeten to desired specific gravity/taste.


    DO NOT DO NOT start until you have a hydrometer. I cant emphasize this enough.
    Also don't start until you get a yeast nutrient/DAP with an organic form of yeast nutrient (yeast energizer but fermaid-K and fermaid-O are preferred).

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    Just to piggy-back on pdh, the idea is that you remove virtually every yeast cell, then stabilize and then add whatever sugars you want. Adding K-meta and K-sorbate (the two stabilizers you add in tandem) prevents any lurking yeast cells from attacking the added sugar, but stabilizing without first eliminating or removing most (or all) of the yeast is likely going to result in refermentation down the road. So you are right to be concerned.
    You can remove almost all the yeast if you first "cold crash" (much as brewers do) to force most of the yeast out of suspension. They cold - and you may need to really chill your mead for a few weeks - not just a day or two - will force the yeast cells to drop to the floor of your carboy. You then rack the mead off those cells. This you may need to do several times (crashing and racking).
    ALternatively, you can allow the mead to age normally and simply rack the mead off the lees every 2 months or so. After three or four such rackings you will find that there will be very few virile yeast cells in the mead.
    A third option - and for this you need a very bright (clear) mead you can pass the mead through sterile filters. These are filters that are so made that they will hold back every yeast cell - because the yeast is larger than the spaces between the fibers of the filter. A set up for this can be bought for home wine making but unless the wine or mead is really free of fruit and other particles you will find that the filters get blocked very easily ..
    There is a fourth option and that is to pasteurize the mead - and that will kill all the yeast, but heat will also destroy all the volatile aroma and flavor molecules.

    Your idea, Rhino-Aus of overfeeding the yeast sugar so that they die leaving you a sweet wine is a technique that is used... (I have yet to try this) but I would look for a yeast that has a far lower tolerance than a wine yeast. What about an ale yeast whose tolerance is listed for a maximum ABV of say, 10% (+/-). You could reasonably expect such a yeast to handle a few percentage points more ABV but give up the ghost at 14 or 15%. If you step feed the mead by adding say 4 oz (per gallon) at a time once it has hit its published tolerance limit (a gravity reading of less than 1.000 after an initial concentration of honey must that targeted the tolerance of the strain of yeast you chose) then you know the maximum sweetness that that feeding might result in should it kill the yeast immediately (approximately a scant 10 points of sugar per gallon) - This is the "step feeding" that pdh talks about above. If the yeast is able to handle those 4 oz then you add another 4 oz and check the gravity again... and repeat until there is sugar left and the specific gravity is not showing any signs of falling over three readings taken (say) a week apart.

  15. Default

    Aaaand I'm back from travels!

    Thank you all so much for the help and advice. Just a few hours spent lurking around has shown me how awesomely scientific this stuff is (the engineer in us loves it!).

    The plan now is to mix up a batch to get to 14%, let that brew in the bucket until the hydro readings stabilize (a month or so?), rack into a carboy to age it (4-6 months? How long exactly? Rack every month or so in the meantime?), then cold crash in the (unheated) basement, add extra sugar and the preservatives into the bottling bucket, rack in mead, wait a week or so, then bottle it.

    Sound about right?

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    You want the temperature at which you "cold crash" to be really cold... so close to the freeing point of water is about what you want. Will your basement be that cold? If you have a safe place to leave the mead outside then that might be closer to the temps you need (as long as "outside" is not frigid.)

  17. Default

    Ahh okay gotcha. Is there a specific temperature when yeast comes out of solution? Or is it just "as close to freezing as possible without actually freezing"

  18. #18

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    Not quite! Here is where you will get different answers. I like to say "ask 5 different mazers and you'll get 8 different answers" That used to bother me when I first started. Trust me ,,, it's just the way it is. Some people only know what they have read. And others have landed on their own approach and it works for them. One thing you will learn as you move along is that mead is really very resilient. Some things are more important than others. (Those more important things are the science portion whuile you manage your ferment). The lesser things are more flexible as they are less science specific.

    1) Adding the stabilizing agents wont freeze things in time. It only stops the ability for yeast cells to bud, thus, your gravity will continue to drop as no yeast are killed off at this point, only neutered so to speak. They don't die from alcohol as soon as you hit their tolerance level. It just stops them from further metabolizing anything in that state.
    2) You could wait until your sugar runs out. Then add your stabilizers, wait a few days, and then cold crash. Don't let it freeze. But with drops temps for a handful of days, along with the stabilizing agents a good bit of your lees will drop out and you will be much closer to "clear" than if you racked in between these two steps. Plus you won't loose as much mead to racking losses. You could then actually wait for several months without racking if you wanted to. I wouldn't rack every month. You don't need to and you will lose volume.
    3) You can add your extra honey after you rack off the rough lees.
    4) Now, the longer you age the better your stuff will taste and the clearer it will become. At some point you might want to fine it with some sort of finning agent. I would strongly suggest this. It sucks to have dirty bottled mead with sediment in the bottom. It may even seem more or less clear, but if you bottle with a haze it will continue in the bottle and drop out. The dust on the bottom of your bottle will stir evey time you move your bottle. It adds to a muddled flavor and for some (me for sure) distracts from the pleasure of a crystal clear finished product.
    5) If you have the patience, age it for 8-12 months before you bottle. Bottle a clear product. And you will will be proud of your finished product. I see all the time pics of peoples stuff they just bottled. You can't even see through it sometimes. I cringe at that and wish they would have either been more patient, or had a mentor to guide them along.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rhino_Aus View Post
    Ahh okay gotcha. Is there a specific temperature when yeast comes out of solution? Or is it just "as close to freezing as possible without actually freezing"
    The colder the faster you see results. So close to freezing is faster. But temps a little warmer still works.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

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    The forum won't let me add to Squatchy's reputation but it cannot stop me saying that his last two posts on this thread are 'spot on". And it is crucial to understand, Rhino_Aus, that you are dealing with a living process, so tolerances and chemical reactions are statistically relevant not hard and fast mechanical laws (like F = m*a). Yeast strains with known tolerances may include a significant number of cells that fail to reach those tolerances and may include many cells that exceed them.

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