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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2018
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    Virginia
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    9

    Default First mead, done or not?

    First mead, 1 gallon Meadowfoam traditional. It started life as Meadowfoam BOMM but it isn't headed in that direction any more. I have a spreadsheet with all the details and graphs, but apparently I can't post attachments.

    The original plan - Recipe is for one gallon. 3.5# Meadowfoam. 0.4tsp Fermaid K. 0.25tsp K2CO3. 0.8tsp Fermaid O at start, and added again at 1.110 and 1.070. Add water to 1/2 cup short of a gallon. Add smack pack Wyeast 1388. Target OG 1.140, FG 1.020, ABV 15.7%. Cold crash and bottle. Should take about 5 wks. Meadowfoam BOMM, basically.

    Reality -

    Bobbled between adding water and adding honey to hit OG. Based on the data, honey was probably not quite sufficiently mixed. I pulled samples from nearer the bottom of the bucket. OG was likely really about 1.125 to 1.13 and not the target 1.14 (based on back projecting the SG data in the spreadsheet that I can't post). Honey is about 11.85oz/cup, so counting the smack pack, held off 5 1/4 cups water from the gallon to start. But added more honey and water while trying to hit OG.

    Used Deer Park spring water, and honey from two sources - MoreBeer and Ashville Bee Charmers. Used 2 gallon bucket for primary. Targeted low ferment temp for 1388. This slowed the ferment a lot apparently. Only used about two hours between smacking the 1388 and pitching. Inflation of the pack was low; it could have used a couple more hours. Note, tended to give the primary a good shaking when passing by, between degassing sessions. Degassed using wire whisk while in primary. Used OneStep for initial cleaning and sanitation, but afterwards just used water from the faucet until racking. pH test strips used ad-hoc, and Tilt Hydrometer used for monitoring temperature and SG via Raspberry Pi in the primary. The Tilt Hydrometer worked very well.

    Siphoned to secondary. Siphon clip slipped off the edge of the bucket of course, so lost a little in transfer. Got nearly all the liquid out of the primary. Still wasnít enough. Added spring water and honey in stages later, along with a little bit of Fermaid O. That got the ferment going strongly again, but not for very long. Used Foodsaver and universal cork to degas and this worked very well. Unfortunately the Tilt Hydrometer wouldnít quite fit through the opening in this particular one gallon carboy. So I used Fluke IR thermometer and FG Hydrometer to make readings. pH meter and test strips giving different results by about 0.4 or 0.5. Thatís quite significant. I think Iíll stick with test strips for the time being until I can verify meter calibration.

    In the summary I'm leaving off lots of entries. Essentially degassed and aerated three times a day and recorded measurements for much of the time in primary.

    Log summary -

    11/17 20:00 1.140 72F Pitch. SG via hydrometer. Smells like frying pancakes, quite strongly. OG suspect? Mixed enough? Probably not quite, given how the data (following) looks over the first few days.

    11/18 04:51 1.120 67F Measurements now via Tilt Hydrometer. Tilt SG limit supposedly around 1.12 so not completely trusting.

    11/18 21:30 1.115 68F Degas + aerate. Dark amber.

    11/19 08:54 1.111 69F Now smells like sweet beer

    11/19 15:16 1.109 68F Degas. 3/4tsp Fermaid O. 60 seconds O2 via stone.

    11/20 00:10 1.103 68F 3.8pH via test strip.

    11/21 10:03 1.088 68F Medium amber. Low odor. Honey and beer smell balancing.

    11/23 17:17 1.071 67F Vigorous degas. pH test strip. Smells more cidery.

    11/23 20:20 1.070 67F 3/4tsp Fermaid O, Aerate. Temp reading taken late as aeration cooled to 66F.

    11/26 14:12 1.046 68F 3.5pH via test strip. Degas. Taste is a little hot, delayed bitter aftertaste.

    11/27 21:40 1.038 68F 3.6pH via test strip. Degas more vigorously. Increased temp. Ferment slowing.

    11/28 20:50 1.033 69F Degas. Low foaming now during degassing.

    11/29 23:50 1.028 69F 3.6pH. Heavy degassing under its foam blanket.

    12/01 01:30 1.025 69F 3.6pH. Airlock activity nearly stopped so vigorous degassed. pH test strip. Taste improving. Still no hint of marshmallow. A touch too sweet. Decreased bitter aftertaste. Hinting it may end up tasting good.

    12/01 23:53 1.022 69F About a minute between bubbles in airlock.

    12/02 21:00 1.020 70F

    12/04 21:00 1.017 69F

    12/06 09:15 1.016 69F Put primary bucket in sink, tilted, in prep for racking this evening. Donít want CO2 output completely stopped before racking. A few minutes per bubble now.

    12/06 20:50 1.015 70F Racked about an hour later. A little less than 1/8Ē sediment on bottom. Got about all the liquid out. Medium brown, very cloudy. Canít see through it at all. There wasnít enough liquid to fill the one gallon carboy. Bubbling about once per two minutes now so should be fine. Debating adding some more water and honey. Didnít take any readings after racking.

    12/07 07:30 Added spring water to raise level about an inch. Will add some honey later. Figured to let the yeast have an easier time dropping SG for a bit with reduced ABV. Tilt Hydrometer wonít quite fit in this bottle.

    12/07 13:50 1.012 Degassed by shaking a few times. Added 1/16tsp Fermaid O. SG by FG Hydrometer. Smell is slightly cleaner after racking, but smells like beer.

    12/07 20:00 Added about an ounce of honey but it basically sank to the bottom and resisted mixing. Thats enough for about 2.5 points. Used the foodsaver vacuum for degassing with a universal cork. That worked very well. I pulled out much more CO2 than I expected. Water level ok now as I added a tiny bit more. Expect to have to add more honey in a few days.

    12/08 21:15 It was bubbling about once every 15 seconds this morning. Down to about once per minute now.

    12/08 22:05 1.013 71F 3.5pH pH test strip, IR temp, FG hydrometer reading, all after vacuum degassing. Taste test - relatively balanced sweet and bitter. Less bitter than before. Meadowfoam taste characteristics coming through better. Still needs mellowing, but would be drinkable. Still smells like a beer. Dropped room temp a little. Note, SG rise expected due to previous honey addition. I think it is now mixed and about half fermented.

    12/10 22:00 1.013 69F Going to turn temperature up slightly. Mead has been bubbling slowly, but obviously the SG isnít dropping much. It is a bit too sweet. Bitterness fading. Improving overall, but seemed less complex flavor this time. If gravity hasnít dropped next check, I may add a little bit of spring water as there is room. That will drop the ABV and SG very slightly, and might help the yeast to go a little farther afterwards. Temp by IR, pH by electronic probe at 4.0. Large difference from test strip. Leaving data out of the graph due to differences, until probe is calibrated or I have independent check of pH. Vacuum degassed after temp reading but before the rest. Swirled when done to stir up lees. Note, weather temperature swings lately (and I suspect neighborís thermostat settings) making room temp hard to control.

    12/11 12:30 69F Added a little spring water to top it up. It might have been as much as an inch in the neck of the carboy.

    12/11 22:20 1.013 69.6F 3.6pH Milder vacuum degassing. pH test strip, IR thermometer.

    I put some of the mead in a glass to get a better idea of how it is coming along. In a glass, one can smell some vanilla, a bit of honey, and perhaps a slight touch of beer. It smells fine. Taste, even less bitter than last time. The bitter is not objectionable. Some honey flavor, some alcohol but not at all hot. Smoothing out nicely. One would think it has much less alcohol than it does (about 15%).

    Iíd drink this in preference to any beer I ever tasted and in preference to some wines. The flavor is not complex and it may still be on the sweet side but not too bad.

    So that's basically where it stands now. If one graphs the SG over time, the curve is flatter the last half of the elapsed time and essentially flat the last week. I guess it is either stalled or done.

    It isn't quite where I think it should be, but it is already pleasant. So I don't want to hit the sewer while shooting for the moon if that makes sense... To my taste it should be slightly drier and a little more complex. Note, not a hint of marshmallow in the flavor. When I saw it was going in a different direction I quit paying attention to the rest of the Meadowfoam BOMM directions (cold crashing, etc).

    It seems I have a few options on where to go from here:

    A) Do nothing; call it done. Don't mess it up!

    B) Hit it with something like K1-V1116 to try to dry it out, then stabilize and backsweeten. However I have no idea what that will do to the nose and taste, or how much that might extend the aging time.

    C) Assume the remaining bitterness will decrease as it clears. Oak it to balance the semi-sweetness.

    D) No idea what to do otherwise.

    It has a LONG way to go to clear, and by age of course it is quite young. By flavor it doesn't seem all that young to me.

    Those with experience at this sort of thing, what would you do?

    Thanks, and sorry about the overly long post.

    Gerald

  2. #2

    Default First mead, done or not?

    Whether you meant to or not, your mead is pretty much how I make my meadowfoam mead: https://denardbrewing.com/blog/post/Sweet-meadowfoam/

    If meadowfoam goes dry, a weedlike, bitter character becomes apparent. I would say itís perfect as is with sweetness. If you only want a traditional, cold crash to clear and you are done. At this point, Wyeast 1388 has tapped out.

    Other options? Medium toast American oak and vanilla beans are a good choice. Aging always helps integration as well.



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  3. #3

    Default

    Just ading some oak will dry it out some perception wise No mead is finished just because the fermentation us over. You will need to learn how to do acid adjustments now as well. That will also help. Generally, it will make a flabby mead taste much better. You might still enjoy a drier mead. But if you get the balance correct. It won't present as sweet as it is now.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2018
    Location
    Virginia
    Posts
    9

    Default

    Thank you both!

    I figured I'd have to play with acid, stabilize, SO2 level... I've not done any of them before, but been reading up on it and probably have what I need on hand to do it. For that matter, I have some vanilla beans in the fridge and some oak on hand.

    It turns out cold crashing isn't an option, at least not at the moment. I thought I could, but, no dice. I'm in an apartment, and where they put the fridge, I can't get the shelves moved. The fridge would have to come completely out and turned near 90 degrees to allow the door to open enough. Even that might be problematic as the fridge is hooked into a water line.

    The freezer portion doesn't have temp control, and is sitting at 1.0F. Would a very quick cold crash while watching the temp like a hawk have much benefit? If it would drop stuff out of suspension that fast, I'd vacuum degas, give it a shot and rack to a fresh carboy.

    There is perhaps an eighth inch of compact lees in the bottom of the secondary, a spidery white film slowly building on the surface, and very cloudy liquid in between. I still see some little micro-bubble action if I look carefully. Every few minutes the airlock will launch a bubble, but SG has been frozen. There seems to be just enough action going on to keep a lot of fine stuff in suspension, but not enough to move the SG? There is certainly enough sugar still present at 1.013 to support plenty of fermentation.

    If I understand correctly, Wyeast 1388 doesn't tend to clear without persuasion?

    I have bentonite on hand. Should I dose the mead with that, let it do its thing for a few days, then try a very careful freezer crash (stop it when it basically hits the freezing point, before it actually freezes) and rack? I'd like to get it clearing, and do minimum damage to nose and flavor in the process.

    Gerald

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2018
    Location
    Virginia
    Posts
    9

    Default

    PS - Never mind. The yeast seems to have decided to go back into action. It is now bubbling every 15-18 seconds.

    Gerald

  6. #6

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by G_T View Post
    PS - Never mind. The yeast seems to have decided to go back into action. It is now bubbling every 15-18 seconds.

    Gerald
    Get a hydrometer. Bubbles don't mead a damn thing. It will bubble for a long time after it's finished. Mead makers speak in gravity not bubbles.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  7. #7

    Default

    Bubbles mean nothing. As fermentation occurs, CO2 is dissolved into solution. Iíve seen meads at terminal gravity in 2 weeks, but continue to bubble for 2 years. This is also part of the reason why your mead is not clearing. If you swirl it daily to release the CO2, it will help speed clearing.


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    Better brewing through science!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2018
    Location
    Virginia
    Posts
    9

    Default

    RGR on hydrometer. Reading was consistent for about a week at 1.013 using a final gravity hydrometer, with bubbling reduced to once every few minutes and slowing. This afternoon the bubbling sped up to more like a 10 second interval vs a few minutes which was the previous normal this long from the previous degassing. Now at SG 1.012, same temp as previous readings (69F). In secondary I have been degassing using vacuum. I will monitor, and see if gravity continues to drop.

    Gerald

  9. #9

    Default

    It can stop moving for a year and two and then one start back up for no reason. That's why it's important to stabilize
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2018
    Location
    Virginia
    Posts
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    Default

    I decided to clear it up and rack it again. Bentonite, plus Caseine at half normal recommended for a gallon (from the original brownish color I figured I oxidized it a bit being too vigorous degassing too many times). It is now looking sort of like a cloudy form of apple juice. I can see through it at least, somewhat.

    There is now about 3/4" of yellow sediment on the bottom! It is amazing how much volume Bentonite acquires when it hydrates and starts absorbing things!

    I'll take measurements and smell/taste test after racking.

    Admins, this thread probably should be moved to the mead logs rather this section.

    Merry Christmas and happy New Year everyone!

    Gerald
    Last edited by G_T; 12-28-2018 at 05:51 PM. Reason: spelling, and clearing up what I wrote

  11. #11

    Default

    Using half of the suggested amount would probably correlate with half of the intended results.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

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