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Thread: What roll do Oranges play in mead making?

  1. #1

    Default What roll do Oranges play in mead making?

    I'm using Joe's Ancient Orange Mead recipe. I was wondering how important the oranges are to the recipe. I bought an orange, and before I could get everything together and started, my wife noticed the orange had a white spot and threw it away. I went ahead and started my batch without it, hoping it was just for flavor. I've seen plenty of other recipes that don't use orange, so figured maybe it's mainly for flavoring. Anyhow, the batch has been brewing for 3 days, and still going pretty strong. Should I be worried, just add some Oranges now that it's already started?


    Best Regards,
    Ed

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Saratoga Springs , NY
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    Hiya ed.bragg - and welcome. Have never tried to make a JAOM but the oranges in the way they are cut up seem to suggest that they are used in part as an indicator when the mead is ready to bottle. That's because according to the recipe those are pretty large pieces of orange and you need to wait until they drop to the bottom of the fermenter. As long as yeast are producing CO2 (carbon dioxide) the oranges will be forced towards the top of the jug. After the yeast have fermented all the sugar and so are no longer producing CO2, there is still an enormous amount of the gas dissolved in the liquid - enough gas to keep the oranges floating. Half (HALF) the weight of the sugar in the solution becomes CO2 gas - so if you are fermenting 3.5 lbs of honey almost 1.75 lbs of gas will be produced. That ain't chump change.

    Now, JAOM uses bread yeast and with the fairly large amount of sugar in the must (the solution of honey and water) that strain of yeast is unlikely to finish the mead bone dry (brut). There will be some residual sweetness. But even if the yeast ceases to ferment sugars today it could still (for all kinds of reasons) pick up again after a while and so continue to produce CO2. So again, observing those pieces of orange sitting at the bottom of your fermenter is a pretty good indication that the yeast has done everything it is going to do and you are free to bottle.

    As an aside, bottling a wine or mead which is still saturated with gas has two consequences - the first is that the mead will taste more tart than it would without the CO2 (CO2 itself produces carbonic acid and the perception of the sparkle the CO2 in your mouth is one of sharpness and acidity). The second consequence is more potential but nevertheless a concern - CO2 dissolved in solution today can be released anytime in the future (changes in air pressure, particles dropping out of solution creating points of nucleation, changes in temperature etc) and that gas can produce enough pressure to pop corks - and create volcanoes of mead. So the oranges are a flag to tell you when the yeast are done working and that enough CO2 has been expelled from the fermenter to allow you to freely bottle without any concern or need to degas your mead.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
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    Brookline, NH
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    Isn't the bitterness of the rind and pith needed to balance out some of the sweetness?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by darigoni View Post
    Isn't the bitterness of the rind and pith needed to balance out some of the sweetness?
    I imagine that you are correct (otherwise why include the pith) BUT if you simply remove the orange and use, say, water used to boil hops for 60 minutes to dilute the honey then you might still balance the sweetness but you won't have the indicator that the chunks of orange provide. But that's the thing with JAOM - every single detail is integral to the outcome. You remove the orange , you better have an hydrometer.

  5. #5

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    Thanks for the reply. Interesting idea, but I get it. Since I didn't have any oranges on-hand, I decided to toss in some raisins (which are currently floating). I also used Lalvin ICV-D47 yeast, and had 10lbs of Honey for 3 Gallon carboy. I also kicked in a single stick of cinnamon, for giggles. So, not following the recipe, but heck, what fun is that... Wish me luck. I'll be lurking around the forums more. I made some Mead in the early 90's (Mainly BOMMs), so I have to relearn everything I didn't know, then. Lol

  6. #6

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    I expect you're going to have a real shit show on your hands. JOAM has to be made to speck for it to work. It only says that several times a second. I'm almost certain BOMM hadn't been developed back then either. Hope your batch works for you
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Squatchy View Post
    I expect you're going to have a real shit show on your hands. JOAM has to be made to speck for it to work. It only says that several times a second. I'm almost certain BOMM hadn't been developed back then either. Hope your batch works for you
    Yeah, the current BOMM recipe wasn't around, but what I did was a one month recipe (tho recommended aging). I mis-spoke, thinking it was the same. I had some success. One came out like whiskey with carbonation .. wife liked it, but I didn't. I know for sure back then, I didn't use any fancy brewing ingredients like nutrients, or clearing agents. It was all just honey, water, yeast, and maybe some fruit/spices, and time.

    6-days in, and the fermentation has slowed to about 1 bubble ever 3 seconds or so. Smell is still good and heavy honey at bottom has all integrated.

  8. #8

    Default

    You really would benefit from owning a hydrometer. Bubbles really don't tell you anything you can count on other that gas is moving throught the airlock. This can happen for weeks or more after the ferment is finished
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  9. #9

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    I have one ordered, but have no idea what my starting reading was. But, I started with about 10 gallons honey, and filled up to about 4 inches on 3gal carboy.

  10. #10
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    Let's call the volume 3 gallons and so you used 3.3 lbs of honey per gallon. One lb of honey in solution to make 1 gallon raises the gravity of the water from 1.000 to 1.035 so 3.3 lbs will raise the gravity to 1.1155 and that has a potential ABV of about 15%. Hard to believe that bread yeast could finish at that level of alcohol so the recipe as given would finish sweet. You say you pitched D47. I don't think that 15% alcohol by volume is a big stretch for that strain so I would expect this to finish quite dry...

  11. #11

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    Cool. Thanks Bernard. Hydrometer arrived .. My plan for this batch is as soon as it's near/done fermenting, is to rack it and let it sit until spring. At what point do I test the SG with the hydrometer in the coming weeks, and know it's done fermenting? I'm 9 days in, and it's still going pretty good. Lots of tiny bubble action and movement visible.

    Or .. should I wait until it clear's up naturally before racking? I have no problem waiting a couple months. I'd rather get the dead yeast out sooner than later to keep any chance of affecting the flavor. I only wish I had the oranges, like the recipe called for, but oh well .. part of the adventure is to live and learn. Shit show or not, I'll be plenty pleased with myself, no matter the outcome.

    Ed

  12. #12

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    It's not too late to add the oranges. If you don't want the juice just add the peels. You will probably need the bitter from the pith. Then again maybe not as your yeast , if treated right, will chew that dry. Unless you have had problems with your batch I would suggest to leave the lees in for a few weeks after the ferment is over. But to do this you need to rouse the yeast every other day or two. This keeps them up in suspension so they won't become reductive.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  13. #13

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    Thanks Squatchy. Yea, I've been keeping an eye on things and given it a few shakes here and there. So far, I'm quite pleased. Now that you got me to buy a hydrometer, might you impart some knowledge? I' played around in the kitchen testing it in water, and mixing salt/water, to see how to reads differently. So I know that Water is 1.0, and my starting level should have been close to 1155. Is fermentation basically done once it reaches 1.0 again? Can it go less than 1.0? (ie. what does alcohol do to the SG?)

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by ed.bragg View Post
    Thanks Squatchy. Yea, I've been keeping an eye on things and given it a few shakes here and there. So far, I'm quite pleased. Now that you got me to buy a hydrometer, might you impart some knowledge? I' played around in the kitchen testing it in water, and mixing salt/water, to see how to reads differently. So I know that Water is 1.0, and my starting level should have been close to 1155. Is fermentation basically done once it reaches 1.0 again? Can it go less than 1.0? (ie. what does alcohol do to the SG?)
    Because it does have alcohol in it it will be able to go below 1000. At 1000 no more sugar is left.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  15. #15

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    16 days in. Tested with hydrometer and came in at 1020 reading. Taste is a bit fizzy and tart (expected). The fermentation has definitely slowed and coming near a close, but probably got another week or so.

  16. #16
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    The fizz is due to carbon dioxide being suspended in the liquid. It may surprise you to know (or it may not) that only half the weight of the sugar is converted into alcohol the other half is converted into CO2 (carbon dioxide) so although some/much of the CO2 will have bubbled up and through your airlock a significant amount of CO2 is still very likely suspended in the liquid and that CO2 helps produce carbonic acid which also adds to the acidity of the mead - which is why many mead makers work to remove the CO2 (by agitation or stirring etc ) a couple of times a day as the yeast actively produces the gas. Bottom line: Your yeast has produced almost 1.75 POUNDS of CO2.

  17. #17

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    27 Days in, and I believe the fermentation is complete. Will test the SG tomorrow, if it's close to 1.0, I plan to rack it into a new carboy to rest and age. I want to get it off the lees. I gave it a quick taste and the fuzziness has significantly decreased, and it's definitely running a bit hot. I like the flavor as it is so-far, so can only imagine what it will become with some aging.

    Questions are:

    I plan to use Bentonite to clarify it.

    Would it be better to use the Bentonite now, or wait until it's fully aged after racking?

    Ed

  18. #18

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    The sooner a mead becomes clear through what ever method you wish to employ. The sooner it starts to age in earnest.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  19. #19

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    Thanks Squatchy, I went ahead with the Bentonite treatment and will check it next weekend. After 24 hours already, it's significantly cleared already.

    Question: I used raisins in my batch and they all ended up floating to the top. Do they ever drop or am I stuck with them at the top until I rack it into a new carboy?

  20. #20

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    Update on bentonite clearing:

    Before: 11-18-2017

    Day 1: 11-19-2017

    Day 2: 11-20-2017


    So Far so good.

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