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Thread: Newbee setup recommendations

  1. Default Newbee setup recommendations

    Meadmaking looks fascinating, and I've tried to read up a bit. Before I buy equipment I'd like your take on what's fun to experiment with, as I guess interests evolve, as with most hobbies. Some relevant info is I'm a beekeeper and can produce some honey varietals, and obtain other varietals from people I know, all minimally processed.

    1 I'm thinking 2 HDPE buckets for starting two different batches, and racking over to PET carboys, which are supposed to permeate less oxygen than through microoxygenation. I hope this is a sound way ahead.

    2 The size of my PET vessels is giving me more of a headache. Should I aim for PET-vessels of 11 liters, so I can make different additions in the "secondary", or should I aim for 2 PET-vessels of 24 liters that will hold all the must from my primaries? Do you prefer bigger or smaller batches when it comes to drinking/giving away? How much do you experiment in the secondary?

    3 I'm also considering the Fermentasaurus as a secondary vessel, with the benefits of easily removing lees, avoiding some oxidation when racking/siphoning and possibly get a slightly fizzy mead. The downside is large batches of 35 liters with less room to experiment. Would this be better suited as an addition later, when I already have some good recipes?

    4 Not really related to equipment, but I'll have to ferment in my bathroom or living room, and temperatures would be around 68 F, but not super stable. Must temperature increase would have to be regulated by wet towels and fan. I hope some temperature fluctuation won't be a no-go for obtaining quality mead.

  2. #2
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    Hi Need for Mead - I'll offer a quick thought or two but others may have very different opinions. Many brewers and wine makers argue that it is just as easy to make 5 gallons as it is to make 1. And it is, but my argument is always to counter that by saying that it is far more difficult to swallow 5 gallons of meh mead (or beer or wine) than it is to swallow 1 and it is MUCH MUCH more difficult to swallow 5 gallons of poor mead than it is to swallow 1 (of course others say but if you make a good mead then you will kick yourself if you only made a single gallon - but I say a hole in one does not mean that you are a good golf player) so I tend to recommend that beginners start small (1 gallon) and that means the amount of money you need to sink into mead making at the start is not great (2 gallon food grade buckets, a couple of gallon carboys) and when you can make a really good mead with your eyes closed and when you can make good sense of problems as they arise AND deal with them effectively then is the time to sink $$$ into this activity. My added thought is if you begin by making 1 gallon batches then you can make dozens and dozens of batches to gain skills, to get to better understand different processes, different yeasts, the effects of different temperatures, the flavors of different honeys and fruits and spices and herbs and..But if you focus on 24 L batches then my guess is that you might make one or two batches a year. I say that as someone who tends to start a batch every week and that means I can "experiment" with meads anywhere from about 5% ABV to about 15% (I think I have about 10 or 12 different meads fermenting on my fermenting table in my basement as I write this).
    Last edited by bernardsmith; 01-11-2018 at 10:48 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bernardsmith View Post
    so I tend to recommend that beginners start small (1 gallon) and that means the amount of money you need to sink into mead making at the start is not great (2 gallon food grade buckets, a couple of gallon carboys) and when you can make a really good mead with your eyes closed and when you can make good sense of problems as they arise AND deal with them effectively then is the time to sink $$$ into this activity. My added thought is if you begin by making 1 gallon batches then you can make dozens and dozens of batches to gain skills, to get to better understand different processes, different yeasts, the effects of different temperatures, the flavors of different honeys and fruits and spices and herbs and..But if you focus on 24 L batches then my guess is that you might make one or two batches a year. I say that as someone who tends to start a batch every week and that means I can "experiment" with meads anywhere from about 5% ABV to about 15% (I think I have about 10 or 12 different meads fermenting on my fermenting table in my basement as I write this).
    Seconded. I'd third and fourth if I had siblings.

    I find it fairly easy to scale up a "knock it out of the park" mead, and really difficult to swallow 25 bottles of "meh" mead. And you can only make so much vinegar from that "meh" mead.

    As a beekeeper, you can also use the cappings wash to make mead, leaving your honey for sale (if you do sell). If you want to do this, definitely invest in a hydrometer -- it doesn't work well without.
    Mead Magic
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  4. Default

    Thanks both of you for your tips! It's always nice when advice don't conflict too much I guess the only problem will be allowing enough time for my mead to mature

    After quite some searching I was able to track down a 1,5 gal PET spring water bottle and a 1,5 gal glass carboy. A 3 gal fermenting bucket is the smallest I've found, which seems a bit big. Not such an active mead or wine making community in Norway, you could say Lots of beer brewing, though. Anyways, with this setup it seems I have two main possibilities to deal with possible oxidation due to excessive headspace (marbles just seems like a waste of space) - correct me if I'm wrong:

    1 Ferment in the 1,5 gal carboy, store some extra must in the fridge to add after most vigorous fermentation is over. Rack after 1 month/after fermentation has stopped.

    2 Ferment 1,5 gal batch in the 3 gal bucket, transfer whole batch with lees to 1,5 gal carboy for instance last time aeration is called upon. Rack after 1 month/after fermentation has stopped.


    Shelley, I'll definitely try cappings, I might even try rinsing frames of heather honey which is really hard to extract fully. I think there's easily 200 grams of honey left in each frame. At some point I'll probably try a batch with added pollen as well, but won't start there

  5. Default

    Thanks to both of you for your tips! It's always nice when advice converge

    In Norway we have a lot of home brewers, but little wine making and next to nothing mead making (sorry to any viking diehards out there). So, eventually I was able to track down a 3 gal fermentation bucket, a 1,5 gal glass carboy and a 1,5 gal PET spring water bottle (for JAOM, aging etc). That's as small as I get it. If I use this set up, it seems like I have two options to avoid oxidation due to excessive headspace (not counting marbles):

    1 Ferment in 1,5 gal carboy, save excess must in fridge and add when most vigorous fermentation is over. Rack when appropriate.
    2 Ferment 1,5 gal in 3 gal bucket, transfer content with lees to carboy, for example when last aeration is due. Rack when appropriate.

    Shelley, I'm sure I'll try cappings. I'm also thinking of trying extracted frames of heather honey, as there's easily 200 grams of honey left after extracting. There could be several issues, but if sulfiting, I would say it's worth a try. Not much point in feeding the bees with last year's honey during the best flow At some point I'll try adding pollen to the must, but I won't start there

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    I would also add to write down the entire process you plan to employ as well as all the ingredients before you actually do make your first batch. So many recipes are junk that you will find on the web. We can steer you away from mistakes if you check with us first
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

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    Need for Mead - Squatchy's point is so right on all counts. Feel free to share your proposed "recipe" and method or protocol with the forum. Much of what is self published is plain wrong and much of the rest is a D minus.

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    Thank you all for your good advice and generosity! It's always nice when advice doesn't diverge I'll post the starting recipes, Squatchy, although I guess a BOMM and JAOM are nice starting points with tried and tested recipes online.

    I'll go forward with smaller size equipment. It was hard to find here, but I found a fermentation bucket of 3 gal, a glass carboy of 1,5 gal and 1,5 gal spring water PET bottle. Would you rather ferment in the carboy - and save some extra must to add after most vigorous fermentation - or would you ferment in the bucket and transfer content with lees to the carboy the last time aeration is called upon to avoid excessive headspace?

    Shelley, I'm sure I'll try cappings. I've read about squeezing wax to a ball after some time to remove it from the must. Do you also filter the wax out of the must or just deal with it by racking? At a later point I might try to rinse frames of heather honey after extraction, as 200 grams are easily left in each frame. Not much point in feeding that back to the bees during the best honey flow of the year Sulfiting would probably be a necessary step, then. At some point I'll also try adding pollen, but first I'll try to just generally make good mead

    Btw, tried two of the very few craft meads you can buy in Norway yesterday, and I would say they were high in fusels, not particularly aromatic and unbalanced. I'm sure they would improve on aging, but that doesn't help people who try that as their first mead...

  9. Default

    Thanks for your feedback and generous attitude! Iíve tried to reply a few times, but it hasnít worked, so I try once more from my phone.

    Since you all agree, Iíll go for smaller size equipment, and Iíll post recipes to get help 🙂 Iíll start with tried and tested JAOM and BOMM recipes, though.

    The smallest Iíve found in Norway is fermenting bucket of 3 gal, carboy of 1,5 gal and spring water bottle of 1,5 gal. To avoid excessive headspace later in the process, would you rather ferment in the carboy and add reserve must after most vigorous foaming or ferment in 3 gal bucket and transfer the whole content with lees to the carboy the last day aeration is called upon?

    Shelley, Iím sure Iíll try cappings. How and when do you remove the wax? Iíll probably also try to rinse extracted frames of heather honey, as thereís probably 200 grams left after extraction. No point in feeding it back to the bees during the best honey flow 🙂 Sulfiting would probably be necessary then.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Need for Mead View Post
    Thanks for your feedback and generous attitude! I’ve tried to reply a few times, but it hasn’t worked, so I try once more from my phone.

    Since you all agree, I’ll go for smaller size equipment, and I’ll post recipes to get help �� I’ll start with tried and tested JAOM and BOMM recipes, though.

    The smallest I’ve found in Norway is fermenting bucket of 3 gal, carboy of 1,5 gal and spring water bottle of 1,5 gal. To avoid excessive headspace later in the process, would you rather ferment in the carboy and add reserve must after most vigorous foaming or ferment in 3 gal bucket and transfer the whole content with lees to the carboy the last day aeration is called upon?

    Shelley, I’m sure I’ll try cappings. How and when do you remove the wax? I’ll probably also try to rinse extracted frames of heather honey, as there’s probably 200 grams left after extraction. No point in feeding it back to the bees during the best honey flow �� Sulfiting would probably be necessary then.
    Make sure if you are going to make a JOAM to follow the advice EXACTLY or it won't turn out so well. That is a very special case where everything is there for an exact reason and every piece works synergistically. Mess up one fraction and it will upset the whole thing. Both of those types of meads were made to "supposedly" drink in short order. With modern science that we promote using now days. You can drink most things right out of the fermenter. So usually new methods are faster than these two styles. The JOAM is surely a novelty. I don't know many who make this more than once. You don't learn a thing that carries over to normal mead making except maybe sanitation and paitence. BOMMs are ok but are really not a one moth mead. And a no faster than modern methods now day. Slower in my personal opinion. Or at least not any faster. So I suppose one could say equall.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  11. Default

    I see I have to read up on BOMM vs other modern recipes to decipher the difference. Btw, I saw your blood orange clip on youtube, and itís nice to see how you do things, not just read about it, so thanks for sharing 🙂

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    I think you are confusing Squatchy with the Canadian Sasquatch. Not the same...........

    If you watched the blood orange series (6 episodes?), then you should also watch the BOMM video and the 9 episode Meadology series.
    Last edited by darigoni; 01-14-2018 at 08:51 PM.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Need for Mead View Post
    I see I have to read up on BOMM vs other modern recipes to decipher the difference. Btw, I saw your blood orange clip on youtube, and it’s nice to see how you do things, not just read about it, so thanks for sharing ��
    As was said above I'm a different Sasquatch. But. If you start listening to the podcast I did here on Gotmead life you will learn the most modern science and how to use it step by step. I think it started on 9/5/17
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  14. Default

    Sorry for the mix-up, Squatchy 🙂 Iíll check out the podcast. So much good information in here!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Need for Mead View Post
    Shelley, I'm sure I'll try cappings. I've read about squeezing wax to a ball after some time to remove it from the must. Do you also filter the wax out of the must or just deal with it by racking? At a later point I might try to rinse frames of heather honey after extraction, as 200 grams are easily left in each frame. Not much point in feeding that back to the bees during the best honey flow of the year Sulfiting would probably be a necessary step, then. At some point I'll also try adding pollen, but first I'll try to just generally make good mead
    Heather honey makes the BEST mead as far as I'm concerned!

    When I extract my honey I have cappings left in a tank. I rinse those cappings in a 5 gallon bucket, then strain out the honey water from the wax. (The wax I then process, or dry out to process later.) Then I measure the gravity and go from there. I do use campden tabs right away -- if you don't it'll start a wild ferment immediately.

    With leftover honey in the frames, I'd try dipping the frames in a bucket of water and let the honey dissolve. I always let the bees clean out the frames, since my honey flow is followed by winter. Hives that I haven't extracted from sometimes can use that boost.
    Mead Magic
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shelley View Post
    Heather honey makes the BEST mead as far as I'm concerned!
    You don't have heather up there, do you? It's an amazing honey (though I'm aware it's an acquired taste to some degree), and I'm sure it can produce amazing mead.

    Thanks for the beekeeper-related tips. We have a really long winter here, so we have to minimize honey in the hives for winter to keep dysentery down. Heather is one of the worst for the bees to winter on during a long winter, but the best for a spring boost.

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    Just to check oxidation issues before I buy equipment, since it's hard to find good information on it. I'm planning to finish fermentation of 2 gal batches in 3 gal HDPE buckets, then racking to glass carboy (which will be filled properly). I'll start with traditionals - going for dry 14 ABV - but will eventually do melomels as well. Will I be ok using only two thirds of the fermentation bucket to complete the fermentation? Do I have to limit opening the bucket to check progress, stir lees etc after some sugar break to avoid oxidation?

  18. #18
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    Greetings, NeedforMead and welcome to the mead-making community!

    Based upon your questions and decisions, and the advice you've gotten so far, you're off to a good start. I wanted to address your concerns about head-space.

    The problem with head-space, of course, is that it it presents the risk of exposing your mead to oxygen. This is really not a concern during the first 1/2 of the fermentation process; the yeast actually want all the oxygen they can get during this period. After this period, however, oxygen becomes inimical to the taste of your mead, introducing sherry-like flavours and other off-notes. The yeast generates CO2 as fermentation proceeds and CO2, being heavier than air, tends to form a protective layer over the mead, shielding it from exposure to any oxygen in the head-space.

    I use the word 'tends' advisedly; in my experience, it is not adequate protection. I have had more than one batch ruined by exposure to oxygen in the head space, even though it should, in theory, have been protected by the CO2 in the vessel. Two batches of the best mead I've made (a strawberry and a blueberry) were ruined by O2 in the fermenter while it was aging and I can tell you it's a terrible experience to taste the ambrosia you made three months ago and find that it has become a sherry-like, unappealing brew. So here is what I do and what I advise you to do:

    Get a tank of CO2, a CO2 regulator and a Ball Lock Cornelius Keg Beer Line Assembly, which you can buy for about $15.00 online. Unscrew the hose from the ball-lock fitting and screw the hose onto the fitting on your regulator. Adjust the regulator to about 10psi (48kg/m2). Now you have a perfect supply of pure CO2 that you can dispense by simply opening the fermenter (as little an opening as possible), pointing the picnic-faucet on the end of the hose into your vessel and pulling the trigger.

    10psi (48kg/m2) will deliver 1 gallon (3.8 liters) of CO2 in 3 seconds. So, in theory, if you have 2 gallons of head-space in your fermenter, you can pull the trigger for 6 seconds to fill the head-space with CO2. In practice, however, turbulence sucks some of the outside air in, as well, and dilutes the amount actually delivered. Therefore, I double the dose, delivering CO2 for 6 seconds per gallon of head-space. The CO2 costs a fraction of a cent per dose and is cheap insurance against oxydization.

    This may seem like a lot of trouble to go through but it's actually very beneficial, especially later on. During the course of racking, aging and adjusting your meads, you'll find it necessary to remove the cover of your fermenter a number of times; each time presents a risk of oxygen exposure. Being able to predictably fill your fermenters' head-spaces with CO2 will ensure that this risk is minimized or eliminated. When I rack a mead, I fill the receiving fermenter with CO2 beforehand, so I know that, even if there is some splashing, I have nothing to fear. The amount of head-space in the fermenter is no longer a concern, as it is filled with CO2, so you don't have to rack into a smaller vessel. And I routinely administer CO2 after opening the fermenter to test and sample meads, make adjustments, etc.

    The tank cost me about $70; a used regulator cost about $30 on eBay and the Beer Line Assembly was about $15, so I my initial investment was about $115. The charge for filling the tank is $12.00 and I have only had refill it once in the three years (8 batches) since I put this rig together. And I have not had one problem with oxidization since then. Here is a photo of my rig; click it for a larger version:

    IMG_2076.JPG

    For an excellent introduction to mead-making techniques as we understand them now, I would follow Squatchy's advice; listen to the "Making Modern Mead" series of podcasts on GotMead Live. You can find and listen to them HERE. They start with the 9/5/2017 show and go, on and off, through January (so far). They are not only an excellent introduction to mead-making, using the latest knowledge and techniques we know of, but are a comprehensive treatise on mead-making. You won't be sorry you did.

    One other note; this one about temperature. You mentioned that you will be brewing in an environment with temperature swings. Yeast does NOT like temperature swings. Period. You can see, in the photo above, how I deal with that problem. I do my fermenting in the most temperature-stable space I can arrange. Then, I wrap each fermentation vessel in a heavy sweatshirt or a beach towel, which insulates the vessel to some degree and slows and evens out any temperature variations. I keep a thermometer in the room and one of those stick-on thermometers on each fermenter, so I can track the temperatures; when they're blanketed like this, the variations are minimal. I would NOT use wet towels; the temperature swings are too unpredictable; instead, just use the yeast strains that are comfortable in your room's temperature range. Covering your fermenters in this way will also protect your vessels from exposure to light, which yeasts do not like and which is not good for your fermentations.

    ≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

    Ešrendil
    Miruvor Maker and Eternal NewBee
    Mithlond Meadery, Grey Havens, Eriador
    Last edited by Earendil; 01-19-2018 at 02:52 PM.

  19. Default

    Thank you Earendil, and thanks for chiming in 🙂

    It seems you have a really thorough system to avoid oxydation. Have you done a side by side to compare how much you gain in flavor by doing it?

    I might go with your system later, but until I know this hobby will stick, Iíll keep it cheaper. Iím now thinking of transferring everything from the bucket to a carboy after 1/2 or 2/3 sugar break.

    Iíll cover my fermenters to avoid light and reduce some temp swings.

    Iíve listened to most of the episodes with Squatchy/Ryan Carlson and the others, and itís really good info! So nice that people share experiences and knowledge here! I think itíd be good if there were links to these episodes from the newbee guide as well.

  20. #20
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    My friend, you need only lose one batch to oxydation to know that you don't want to do it. That one batch acts as a side-by-side to all your other meads. You don't gain anything in flavour by the use of CO2; you DO avoid LOSING the flavour you wanted in your mead in the first place.

    That said, I will say that I had a pineapple mead oxydize and, although it was basically a sherry, I used that batch as cooking sherry for years after that. And I must say that chicken or other fowl, baked in pineapple sherry, is a very appetizing dish.

    Personally, I always ferment in carboys unless I'm making a melomel or other style that has large fruit additions and I see no reason not to do so. You would avoid at least one racking, that way. The only time I use open-top fermenters is when I am making a melomel. Trying to get the fruit out a narrow-necked carboy is an experience that you only need undergo once to recognize the wisdom of avoiding it in the future.

    I respect your desire to avoid plunging in too far, too fast. I started eleven years ago and used only the most basic equipment for the first three years or so. By that time I knew I was hooked. When I found out about oxygen additions, I got my oxygen tank and it was not until I lost a batch or two to oxydation that I got the CO2 tank. It has stood me in good stead.

    By all means, DO cover your vessels to minimize temperature fluctuations and use yeast strains that are happy in your temperature range. You don't want to struggle with fusels, sulpher compounds and the other nasty problems that occur when yeast is not within its temperature range. I would use a room thermometer to observe both the average temperature of the room you're working in and also the maximum swings each way from that average. Then pick yeasts that are comfortable within that entire range. Yeasts do not like temperature variations but swings that take them out of their range will be particularly problematic.

    You're right; it would be neat if all of the information we are learning could be incorporated in the NewBee Guide, and eventually I expect that it will, but that will take time, more research and experimentation and a lot of effort. When I first read the NewBee Guide, ten years or so ago, it contained a good deal of information that we now know to be antiquated. I have saved all the text in the NewBee Guide as a word processing file and for the last few years, I've gone through it, adding all that I learn and all the research I can find to that document. So far, I have added about 14 pages of text, as well as excerpts and citations to almost 50 books, articles and research papers, to it.

    ≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

    Ešrendil
    Miruvor Maker and Eternal NewBee
    Mithlond Meadery, Grey Havens, Eriador

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