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Thread: Back to Basics Mead in a Foreign Country

  1. Default Back to Basics Mead in a Foreign Country

    Hi,
    Apologies in advance for the very long post. I live in a sanctioned, dry, overseas country. The back-alley local arak tastes like itís been made in an oil drum and I need something I can make myself at home.

    For storage and personal security reasons I donít want to make more than a 2 gallon batch at one time and there are limitations on what I can buy. Clarity and colour are not an issue, neither is carbonation as I wont be bottling it. Given where I am even taste, unfortunately, is not a primary concern, itís the time, alcohol content and making sure I donít go blind drinking it.

    What I donít have access to: brewers shops, specialised yeast, yeast starters/nutrients, carboys, airlocks, hydrometers, sulfates, sorbates, cheesecloths, airstones, small-top juice and milk jugs we get in the West (and vessels of similar design)

    What I do have access to: copious amounts of ridiculously cheap, organic unprocessed honey/buckets and bottles of various shapes, material, volume (though Iím favouring a 3 gallon food-grade thick-walled plastic water bucket with lid and exit tap an inch from the base for the primary fermenter)/baking yeast (manufacturer unknown as its in Arabic)/non-organic raisins/plastic stirrers, whisks, etc/balloons, rubber bands, etc

    So these are the ingredients for a 2 gallon batch Iím going to try
    ē 2 gallons (7.5 litres) of bottled water
    ē 4 pounds of honey
    ē 2 grams of dry, instant, baking yeast
    ē 15 to 20 raisins

    And this is the process:
    ē Sterilise equipment. Place honey in warm water. Add bottled water and warmed honey into a plastic mixing bucket, stir until mixed thoroughly. Hydrate yeast with a pinch of water, add yeast and raisons, stir briefly.
    ē Pour into 3 gallon bucket mentioned above and stir vigorously 3 to 5 times a day for 2 minutes each time, cover with sarong and leave in dark cupboard.
    ē After 3 to 5 days, it should bubble, foam and fizz.
    ē After 3 to 5 days, stir gently just once a day, until reaction slows down around the 7 to 10 day mark.
    ē Around 7 to 10 days, decant via the exit tap to 8 1-litre glass/plastic bottles, attach balloon with pin hole to the mouths, leave in fridge another 7 days.
    ē Drink

    I know making it this way and drinking it this quickly is going to produce a terrible mead, but such is my life at the moment.

    So I guess my two questions are:
    Will the above recipe and process produce an alcoholic mead in the time Iíve allowed myself?
    Given the lack of sensitive equipment, what physical signs should I be looking for to know when the fermentation has started, finished (e.g foam, bubbling, density, colour, etc)?

    Many thanks for any ideas

  2. #2
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    Have you looked at a JAOM?

    https://www.homebrewtalk.com/forum/t...ge-mead.49106/

    Very similar, but with a few spices. It recommends approx. 2 months and, at that point, it could still use some aging. I would think you could expect the same with your "recipe".

  3. #3

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    Here are my recommendations, although it does not come from the most experienced person on this forum by far. I presume, in your implied environs, that you also have access to copious amounts of ridiculously cheap local fruit as well. Using the fruit as well as honey will go a long way to making the final product more potable, when the process and materials are not ideal. The fruitiness will not only mask off-flavours but also make up a little bit for your lack of nutrients. And secondly, to boil some of your bread yeast and use it as a nutrient -- the exact amount of which I do not know, but it has been discussed on this forum before.

    It is possible, through sight, smell, sound, and taste, to get a general idea of when the fermentation is over, but not precisely. Even after fermentation is over, however, the mead will continue to release suspended carbon dioxide, so be careful about bottling too soon. You aren't working with a lot of honey in your recipe, so I would presume the fermentation could well finish in a week, yes, particularly if I assume correctly that it's warm there.

  4. Default

    OK, well, I've lurked enough to try to give you a quick answer ... a rudimentary answer for the circumstances indicated. I use a 1-to-3 mixture of honey-to-water to get me about 1.100 gravity, but that is very subjective (you can expect 1.080 to 1.120 with that mixture). with a successfull full ferment, a 12% ABV might be expected.

    Your timing may be off, because of the bread yeast and I suspect the temperature. warmer temps is a faster ferment up to ceasing a ferment all together. so you'll need to balance in some temperature control and feed/help the yeast. consider evaporation cooling, wrapping a wet towel around ferment vessel and cool with wind, keep wet.

    hydrating and boiling yeast separately (to kill them) will give you something you can use as nutrients that can be added periodically to the must. and of course best effort oxygenation is helpfull. otherwise follow the process of hyrdrate yeast, mix water-honey, pitch must and confirm fermenting (small but contunuos bubbling in the liquid, pressure on a balloon is so so indicator).

    kill off a boatload of yeast (boil em), say a cups worth, and use some (my call would be a teaspoon per addition) to add to the must every 24 hours from pitch, for at least 2 days (maybe 3). you could maybe even add some after the lag phase (time between pitch and confirmed fermenting). and of course keep on top of degassing and oxygenating (stir and shake vessel) twice daily to keep the yeast off the bottom.

    if you get a ferment going, and can keep witness to, support it, you should see the behavior change so that you understand the ferment is done. this is the very subjective part ... you need to judge when, not exactly a wall clock conclusion. then, as you suggest cold crash, I dare say make it almost freezing for that time (7days), if ya can. after that, I suspect you'll have an effective liquid, maybe even with a yeasty, heavy drinking kinda lockeroom flavor.

    Good Luck and GodSpeed.
    Last edited by Trenchie; 12-07-2017 at 06:35 PM.

  5. #5
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    Hi FarFarAway- and welcome. The first thing I would say is be safe. Alcohol has a smell and people for whom alcohol is a taboo are likely to be quite sensitive to smells they don't recognize everyday.

    If you have access to raw honey you might try to cultivate indigenous yeast. The honey must be raw but to grow the yeast all I would do is mix a small amount of honey (less than 1/2 kilo) in 4 liters of water. That will give you a starting gravity of about 1.035 (+/-) and that gravity would not put a lot of stress on the native yeast. I agree with Trenchie. Take some bread yeast , allow it to proof and then boil it. That will provide the yeast with just about all the nutrients they will need.
    Now, growing indigenous yeast is a bit of a hit and a miss. You may have no success with one or two samples, you may have good success with one or two but the flavors they highlight or impart may be less than desirable and you may have a great success with one or two batches. The point is 1. You may need to experiment with several batches and 2. When you have a winner you want to grow that winner so treat the success as the basis for making a starter...

  6. #6

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    Most any fresh fruit you have access will provide yeast as well. Eventually you should find a source that is better. I would start out with a lower gravity. Once it has had a chance to get going nicely then add more honey. A low ABV will give opportunities for infection. More so than a higher ABV. make sure it's stopped working before you cold crash it. Raisins aren't nutrients, but they will add mouthfeel so use more than you listed. They won't flavor much so be generous with them.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  7. Default

    It's occured to me that you can determine the end of the ferment by using a hydrometer ... or something similar !

    use one of the vessels you have, one that is shaped like a collins glass or a highball glass (tall and thin). you'll have to experiment to get the balance, but float that glass upright in a sample of your must, use something for ballast, like a rock at the bottom (to keep glass upright) and float that in a slightly larger vessel to get measurements.

    this will not show you a number, will not show you ABV, will not show you much more than a consistency in the "depth" the glass floats. and it's that change in consistency that is the clue ... when it stops changing you may have achieved a full ferment.
    Last edited by Trenchie; 12-08-2017 at 10:19 AM.

  8. #8
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    In many of the historical recipes for mead they used an egg to determine whether the fermentation was finished. Not very consistent and not accurate but eggs were available and their buoyancy depends on the density of the liquid they float in.

  9. Default

    Thanks for the quick replies, mine might not be as quick as i only have internet for a few hours at night.

    First of all thanks for the warnings on the smells, it should be possible to contain it (no immediate neighbours). It is very hot here too, 43/44 centigrade, so will definitely try the wet towel idea. I am wary of using fruits as it is very hit and miss as to which fruits i can get on a weekly basis, reckon i need a consistent recipe at the beginning.

    Seems like adding boiled yeast as nutrient is needed, not wanting to sound too stupid but how would i do that? (like boiling rice? Add yeast to a pan of boiling water, simmer until water has evaporated then skim out the yeast thats left?) I assume i still need to add the original yeast into the must?

    I'm liking the egg idea, would you know what the egg does when fermentation is complete? (sink or swim?)

    Again, thanks for the responses

  10. #10

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    Just boil a cup of water. Place it in a coffee cup or such and place the yeast in it. Let it cool and add to your must
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  11. #11
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    Regarding the egg, if you take a bowl of water and see where the egg floats (or more likely sinks) and you take bowls of measured water (say 1 quart) into which you have dissolved say 3.5 oz, 7 oz, 10.5 oz, of sugar (the equivalent of dissolving 14 oz, 28, and 42 oz of sugar in a gallon) then the height at which the egg will float in each bowl will be the equivalent of the height it would float if the gravity was 1.035, 1.070, 1.105 which is the gravity that 1pound of honey mixed with water to make 1 gallon, 2 lbs and 3 lbs will typically have .

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by bernardsmith View Post
    Regarding the egg, if you take a bowl of water and see where the egg floats (or more likely sinks) and you take bowls of measured water (say 1 quart) into which you have dissolved say 3.5 oz, 7 oz, 10.5 oz, of sugar (the equivalent of dissolving 14 oz, 28, and 42 oz of sugar in a gallon) then the height at which the egg will float in each bowl will be the equivalent of the height it would float if the gravity was 1.035, 1.070, 1.105 which is the gravity that 1pound of honey mixed with water to make 1 gallon, 2 lbs and 3 lbs will typically have .
    That's a great way to do this without a hydrom. Good job bernard
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  13. Default

    Wow, thanks so much Bernard, Squatchy and everyone else. I'll take everything on board and start having a crack at it tomorrow. Will come back and update.

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