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Thread: Peach Melomel -- Remove Fruit?

  1. #1

    Default Peach Melomel -- Remove Fruit?

    Hello there! I have a few years' experience making beer, but this is my first time making mead. I have two questions -- one about a very fast fermentation, the other about how long to keep the fruit in the primary.

    Recipe:
    15.43 lbs wildflower honey
    5 gallons water
    25 lbs peaches
    1 tsp. Fermaid K
    2 tsp. Yeast Energizer (mixture of DAP and yeast hulls/vitamins)
    2.5 tsp. pectic enzyme
    Wyeast Sweet Mead 4184

    The peaches were frozen, then thawed and squished by hand in 2.5 gallons water + pectic enzyme in a large nylon mesh bag. I cracked the pits and included the pieces and kernels to add flavour, aroma, and hopefully some tannins. Then added the honey, remainder of water, and the first quantity of nutrients, and pitched the yeast. Everything was the temperature of my basement, which stays around 18C/65F. I have been punching down the fruit and aerating 2 or 3 times a day since doing this on Sunday afternoon. OG was around 1.095, unfortunately I forgot to write it down so I don't remember exactly, just that it read 12% potential alcohol.

    I combined the Fermaid K and energizer and planned to follow the nutrient schedule from this article, which is
    • 1/4 with the yeast
    • 1/4 24 hours after lag phase
    • 1/4 48 hours after lag phase
    • 1/4 at the one-third sugar break.


    This morning was the third nutrient addition. I took a gravity reading afterwards, and it has plummeted to 1.053 already, which is well past the 1/3 sugar break. This was the first time I tested it since pitching, never expecting it would ferment so swiftly. My first question is, should I now forego the fourth nutrient addition?

    I've read some posts here about the flavour and sugar content of lighter fruits like peaches being fully extracted after about two weeks. My second question is, is it a good idea to remove the fruit bag around that time, or rather will it harm anything to leave them in until racking to a secondary?

    Thanks for reading. It smells intensely peachy and delicious so far.
    Last edited by budgies; 08-30-2017 at 02:52 PM. Reason: added in temperature

  2. #2

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    Hey Budgies and welcome!

    I've skipped the last nutrient addition before when a ferment goes that fast. You should be fine at these levels.

    You can leave the fruit in primary and it should be fine as long as you rack with in a few weeks after fermentation ends. I typically aim for 4 weeks, no more than 6.

    I do have to say though, I've never heard of adding the pits to the must. I would be afraid to do that considering they contain that compound that breaks down into cyanide. Can anyone who knows better chime in? I've never made a peach mead and for all I know maybe its negligible or breaks down during fermentation.

  3. #3

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    That isn't that fast of a gravity movement in my opinion. You just missed it.

    So I would also say you could more likely than not be ok adding the last feeding. The reason why the lab coats all say to add before (or at) the 1/3rd break, is because it has been determined that yeast will no longer assimilate DAP past the 9% ABV level. I have actually started seeing/hearing that perhaps the yeast cannot/will not, assimilate any food source past 9% ABV. You may, or may not, realize that most "generic" food sources are a mixture and do indeed contain DAP. If the yeast don't eat it, it gets left behind in the flavor profile. On the other hand. I believe that Fermaid O can actually drop out of suspension, and thus, out of the flavor profile if too much is feed to the yeast.

    I personally have on hand at all times "yeast hulls/ghost" to add if I need to, at the end of a sluggish ferment. It (hasn't happened ever once since I moved to Goferm/ straight Fermaid-O), or if I get a reductive (smelly/sulferish batch). Again, not since I have switched to Goferm/fermaid-o.

    Lastly. I would say that if you have temp control, or lowish ambient temps you will be alright to leave the fruit goop in the vessel for a while. If not I would hesitate to leave it more than 2-3 weeks as it can/will turn vegetal, or, move towards "cooked fruit nuances" if left for too long in a warmer temped batch.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  4. #4

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    Thank you both for your wisdom.

    dingurth -- Regarding the cyanide, that was definitely a concern when thinking about this recipe. I used scientific literature to establish the approximate cyanide content in the amount of peach seeds I had. The content can vary, so I assumed the maximum amount in the range, and weighed it against the minimum fatal dose. Even with these numbers, I found that the total amount of cyanide in the whole batch will be far less than enough to kill an adult even if they drink all five gallons at once. Per bottle, it's completely negligible. I also found that saccharomyces cerevisiae fermentation can denature the majority of cyanide compounds found in other cyanogenic food crops, such as cassava. There is no documentation of its use on peach kernels or other stone fruits, but it seems reasonable to me that it would work the same way. All the same, I plan to drink one bottle before serving it to anybody to be 100% assured of its safety.

    What I will do differently next time is treat the kernels as a sort of spice and put them in secondary, rather than including them during fermentation. The second day after fermentation began, the must gave off a stunning benzaldehyde perfume, which is my favourite smell in the world (that bitter almond/Amaretto fragrance). Unfortunately it dissipated quite rapidly and is now completely gone. That aroma was the reason I wanted to include the kernels in the first place.

    Squatchy -- The stuff I'm using does contain DAP and Fermaid K -- which may behave differently than Fermaid O? I think I will play it safe and skip the last nutrients.

    My basement stays very steady at 18C/65F and and perhaps even a degree or two cooler now that the nights here are getting chillier. Is that lowish enough? I don't have access to any temperature-controlled space beyond that.

  5. #5

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    Thank you both for your wisdom. I typed up a reply that disappeared for some reason, so here is attempt 2.

    dingurth -- The cyanide was definitely a concern when thinking about this recipe. I reviewed a breadth of scientific literature to determine the approximate cyanide content in the amount of kernels I used. It can vary, so I calculated with the maximum amount in the range to be safe. I weighed that against the minimum toxic dose. Even going by these exaggerated numbers, in the whole batch there is not enough cyanide to kill an adult even if they drank it all at once. In each bottle, the content is quite negligible, way below the threshhold that the human body can safely metabolize. Even so, I plan to drink a bottle before serving it to anybody to be completely assured of its safety. It is also established that fermentation with saccharomyces cerevisiae can remove the majority of cyanide from other cyanogenic food crops, such as cassava -- while its use on stone fruit kernels is not documented, I think it's reasonable to think that it might have the same effect. So, in my research, what I have done is completely safe.

    The main reason I wanted to include the kernels is for that Amaretto/bitter almond smell from the benzaldehyde. It's my favourite aroma in the world. Next time I will treat the kernels more like a spice and add them to the secondary. The second day after fermentation began, the must gave off a thick and intoxicating benzaldehyde perfume, but unfortunately it dissipated very rapidly. Hopefully a trace will remain in the final product.


    Squatchy -- Since the nutrient mix I am using does contain DAP and Fermaid K (which may behave differently than Fermaid O?), I think I will play it safe and skip the last nutrient addition in order to avoid any risk of residual flavour. When you saw low ambient temperature, how low do you mean? My basement remains steady at 18C/65F, and may even get a degree or two cooler now that the nights here are growing chilly. I don't have access to any temperature-controlling technology beyond that.


    Thanks again! The fermentation is still going strong: my reading was 1.040 this morning. It's not remarkably fast compared to beer, but I expected mead to go more slowly.
    Last edited by budgies; 08-31-2017 at 11:02 AM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by budgies View Post
    Squatchy -- Since the nutrient mix I am using does contain DAP and Fermaid K (which may behave differently than Fermaid O?), I think I will play it safe and skip the last nutrient addition in order to avoid any risk of residual flavour.
    I think that's why Squatchy was recommending using some years hulls. Yeast are cannibalistic, so kill some (not sure of qty) by boiling it and use it for your last nutrient addition.

  7. #7

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    My first reply has resurfaced -- that's a bit embarrassing...


    Quote Originally Posted by darigoni View Post
    I think that's why Squatchy was recommending using some years hulls. Yeast are cannibalistic, so kill some (not sure of qty) by boiling it and use it for your last nutrient addition.
    Ah I see, thank you. I will wait and see how much the fermentation slows down, since it is still chugging along. Down to 1.029 this morning.

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    I assume you left the skins on the peaches? Peach skins IME are craaazy tannic. Keep an eye on that with frequent taste tests. My general peach recommendation is to skin 1/2 to 2/3 of the peaches to get a good balance.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by curgoth View Post
    I assume you left the skins on the peaches? Peach skins IME are craaazy tannic. Keep an eye on that with frequent taste tests. My general peach recommendation is to skin 1/2 to 2/3 of the peaches to get a good balance.
    Not at all disagreeing with you. But I have friend who scored a perfect 50 not long ago at mead free or die and he kept all the skins intact. So, in my opinion, and I try to teach this it's how you twerk it once the ferment is done. So that all the components are in balance/concert with the counter balance. When I speak of balance. I'm not talking about everything being equal. But that each fraction works in concert with each other. Obviously, one can do great with no skins or all of the skin. Just depending on how you play things one to the other.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  10. #10

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    Thanks for the advice about the skins, both of you. I have been tasting regularly as it goes along (began on August 26th), and so far I haven't noticed the flavour getting unpleasant or bitter. Right now the taste is hard to describe, but it gives me the impression of biting into a big, juicy peach, even though it is not particularly sweet. The gravity read 1.000 this morning so I think the time is fast coming to rack off the fruit.

    In my research when thinking about this recipe, I came across many people (almost everybody using peaches, really) writing that their peach melomel wasn't peachy enough. That was why I dialed it up to 5 lbs/gallon of fruit and kept the skins on -- to see just how much of a peachy punch I could get. My hope now is that removing the fruit bulk soon will avoid getting too much of a tanniny skin element that will be difficult to balance in the end.

    Thanks again for chiming in, all of you, this has been a really valuable forum both in the replies on my particular question and just the breadth of knowledge available in its many threads. Squatchy, I can't seem to dig up a topic here that doesn't have a helpful contribution from you.

  11. #11

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    I wrote a reply about the skins the other day, but it hasn't appeared yet. I won't retype it in the hopes that it does surface eventually.


    Yesterday morning, the gravity of the must had dropped to 0.996. I wasn't interested in this mead going to full dryness, and I guess the unreliability rumours about Wyeast Sweet Mead 4184 are true. I had calculated my original gravity to leave a few points of sweetness using its published alcohol tolerance of 11% but it has overshot that. Indeed, tasting it at that point, I realized that the peach skin flavour was a bit loud without some sweetness to balance it.

    Yesterday afternoon I added a pound of honey, which brought it up to 1.003 into the semi-sweet realm that I wanted it. This morning it was back down to 0.999. My tactic now will be to feed it small quantities each day, by half pounds or so, until the yeast have had enough and leave behind the few points of residual sweetness that I want.

  12. #12
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    budgies, Your technique is certainly "do-able" but just because it is doable, I am not sure that you want to do it. Here's why: You really have no control over how far this yeast will take you. And it does not care how many pounds of fruit you are fermenting such that you would be looking for a pleasant balance between ABV and richness of fruit flavor. It's very possible that this yeast will take your mead right over the edge of a cliff. IMO, you want to determine precisely how alcoholic you want this batch to be and aim for that level. That means that you don't add another ounce of sugar beyond that until you have stabilized the mead and so completely inhibit the yeast from fermenting any more sugar. You can then sweeten the mead to your preferred sweetness given the ABV + the acidity + the tanninity (is that a word? It is now) + the richness of fruit flavor.

    Don't get me wrong: aiming for the maximum ABV your yeast can tolerate and then adding more sugar to create sweetness as if the mead is fois gras (and I write as a strict vegetarian!) is fine and will likely - when planned - produce a very fine mead, but that planning has to include - surely - aiming for the right amount of flavor and nose. Your plan seems (seems ) to ignore this. And , when ignored, what often happens is that all you obtain is fire water, a mead that tastes as if it should be used to fuel rockets..

  13. #13

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    Thanks very much, bernardsmith. You're right, my plan was definitely ignoring the point you raise, but only because I assumed the yeast is very close to its alcohol tolerance, i.e. not more than a percent or two. The percentage should already be just about 12% or a few decimal points higher, and its published tolerance is 11%. I imagined this would take maybe another pound of honey at the most, still a far way from bringing it into firewater or jet fuel territory.

    Two questions I have to think about, then:

    I have no experience with mead yeasts. There isn't much experience shared about Wyeast Sweet Mead 4184 that I could find even with deep googleship -- only that people have had trouble with stuck fermentations. How much more alcohol could it possibly tolerate?

    And, is this foie gras-like fattening tactic more likely to push the yeast's alcohol tolerance higher than if all the sugars were present up front?


    If I could feel comfortable that I am very close to surfeiting the yeast, I figure it is safe to proceed with this tactic.

  14. #14

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    Yesterday evening, after removing the sack of well-digested peach goo, I added another 1.5 lbs of honey and brought the gravity up to 1.005. This morning, the gravity hasn't changed. I'll still give it a few days before assuming the yeast are full, but I am certain that I won't need to add too much more if any. It should be sitting at about 12.5% alcohol which is perfect.

    Honestly, the must right now is drinkable... almost tasty. My hopes for the final product are high.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by budgies View Post
    Thanks very much, bernardsmith. You're right, my plan was definitely ignoring the point you raise, but only because I assumed the yeast is very close to its alcohol tolerance, i.e. not more than a percent or two. The percentage should already be just about 12% or a few decimal points higher, and its published tolerance is 11%. I imagined this would take maybe another pound of honey at the most, still a far way from bringing it into firewater or jet fuel territory.

    Two questions I have to think about, then:

    I have no experience with mead yeasts. There isn't much experience shared about Wyeast Sweet Mead 4184 that I could find even with deep googleship -- only that people have had trouble with stuck fermentations. How much more alcohol could it possibly tolerate?

    And, is this foie gras-like fattening tactic more likely to push the yeast's alcohol tolerance higher than if all the sugars were present up front?


    If I could feel comfortable that I am very close to surfeiting the yeast, I figure it is safe to proceed with this tactic.
    If you treat your mead right, it's fairly common to go 1-2% above the stated tolerance. I've heard some people are able to push it to go as high as 4% over or even higher.

    There are pros and cons to each method. You don't want to always put all the honey up front as osmotic pressure that negatively effects the yeast begins around an OG of 1.11. That said, its fairly normal to get away with OGs of 1.14 or 1.15. A better approach is to step feed, adding 1/2-1lbs of honey a couple days in, doing this until all your honey is added. This makes sure you're feeding the must when your yeast is at its peak population and health.

    Feeding your yeast at the end by letting it go dry and then adding honey has the potential to stress your yeast a bit, creating some off flavors (that will eventually age out). The upside to this is that you're putting more selective pressure on the yeast, so its possible to encourage a higher abv by getting those few yeast who are more adept at the high alcohol environment to feed and reproduce.
    That's my understanding of it anyways, but sounds like things are going well for you.

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