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  1. #1
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    Jan 2018
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    Red face Results of first batches

    Hello folks!
    Last year I promised to write about my first experiences making mead. My intent here is not to get into the details of every step, etc., but rather to state what I made, how it turned out, what my challenges were/are and any general recommendations. I'm too verbose to start so I'll try to keep it short. I won't claim that any of this is "right", but I'm hoping this encourages folks to try and do things right by learning from others and truly making the time (and some $'s) investment.

    First and foremost. If you are new to mead, read the newbee guide on this site at least once. I read it at least twice, and several chapters 3+ times. Also check out the podcasts here on Gotmead starting on 9/5/2017 through 9/26/17 (at least). Ask questions on this forum if you're not sure what equipment to get, or need clarification on a topic (if you can't find it by searching for it). Study, research, and study. When you think you've got it, study it some more. Investing the time up front pays dividends on making it easier later.

    Most folks have time, money, and space considerations - at least I do - so I had to really think through this... Space for equipment, a place for the actual mead containers, bottles, etc. I also don't have space for a separate temperature controlled unit to ferment/age my mead. Temperature control is my biggest stress.

    Beekeeping is a side business for me, so I use my own honey.

    I decided to go with 7, 1 gallon, batches to get the repetition of doing things the same way while experiencing different results. I chose K1V yeast for 3 meads, DV10 yeast for 3, and I figured why not try a JAO/JAOM. The JAO is an OK experience for just getting to ferment something, but mine must have had really strong orange pith because that's pretty much what it tasted like.

    I chose K1V and DV10 because they seemed nearly idiot-proof - large temp range, low nutrient requirement, and just workhorse yeasts. I at least wanted to get my mead through fermentation.

    I do agree with Squatchy that learning to make a good traditional is important, so I made one trad with each yeast (DV10 and K1V). I also wanted to experiment (and experience) adding different ingredients.

    Besides the 2 trads... I made a chamomile vanilla (15% ABV); a blackberry vanilla that I put 1 xoaker of American oak Med+ in (13%ABV); a raspberry, blueberry, blackberry (13.5% ABV); and a dark cherry, acai berry, vanilla, cacoa mead (15% ABV). All turned out pretty good, but I know they could be better. I left all of them on some fine lees and sort of roused them every once in awhile. I waited 10 months before bottling.

    I tried fermenting with some ingredients, and using ingredients afterwards. Besides this, I tried to do everything the same: from mixing the must, rehydrating yeast, adding nutrients, and racking. I ended up miscalculating on nutrients so I wasn't able to fully follow the TOSNA protocol when I ran short.

    One thing I think I heard Squatchy say on the podcast is the first nutrient feeding is likely better near the end of the lag phase. This is usually a few hours. I think this makes sense, so I strayed from TOSNA just a bit. I pitched my yeast before I go to bed, then get the first nutrients added as soon as I can the next day (usually 10-12 hours instead of 24), then go every 24 hours for the next 2 feedings, and 1/3 sugar break (or 7 days) for the last.

    I'd also recommend getting primary vessels that are more than a gallon (e.g. 2 gallon or 1.4 gallon little bubbler, etc.) if you're doing small batches. This allows you to make just a bit more than a gallon in a carboy so you don't have to worry about topping up/off when you rack to a carboy for secondary, and you may even have a bit more left over to top it off if/when you rack again.

    Once you think you're ready to start your first mead batch, document all the steps, go through them in your head while looking at each tool or piece of equipment. I did this at least 3 times before actually starting, but you all might be smarter than me.

    I keep my steps, #'s (PH, Temps, SG), actions, and notes all documented in a spreadsheet. This really helps, so it's worth the effort.

    I'll post my next/current batches on the recipe forum, but I'm trying many of the same ones again. This time, with different yeasts that I think will help.

    Ultimately, making mead isn't that tough if you put the investment in up front, and are willing to learn from others.

    I hope this encourages folks to jump in. I'm happy to answer questions if you have any.

    Many Blessings!

  2. #2

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    It always warms my heart when someone is smart enough to recognize the importance I put on making trads when starting out. ANd then follows along that idea. You will be much farther ahead of the game by doing so. And I would also encourage everyone to do several sides by side comparisons of yeast strains too before they move on to something else. Most people don't have the self-control to do this and suffer for years, or maybe their entire life. Because they are not willing to do the hard part or the unglamorous part it takes to get good at our craft.

    Mead is easy to make. But to make a good mead all the time is not. And you only get good by testing all the time. Many of my good friends are all some of the best mead makers in the world. And almost all of them just love a traditional. And most of us would instead make and drink, a good trad over anything else. And we all respect the skill it takes to pull that off more than any other style as well.

    If you need any help let me know. I'mm happy to hear of your success. You are on the right path.

    I forgot to mention one thing. All to often people make things with too much ABV and the alcohol can never be balanced correctly because it's just to high to work with. I would suggest making most everything at 12% or less. And if you are making a traditional. You will do even better if you stay at 10 or 11 %. More than that and it's hard to let the honey aroma and flavor compete against the ethanol.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  3. #3

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    Coming from the bev industry (non-alc), but as a totally new mead maker, I firmly believe that there is (almost) no point to making a spiced, fruity, blah blah blah until you've nailed a traditional mead. In my mind, a traditional mead is your base; 95% of your drink. If 95% of your drink sucks, the other 5% will to.

    But, if 95% of your drink kicks ass, anything you add to that, in a balanced way, will be dynamite and getting better will be exponentially easier. For any product we make, we always make a base product first, then put out variations on that product by adding all sorts of other flavourings. Insures whatever we put out, will be good.

    As I get into the world of mead making, I think focusing on traditional meads for the first 6 months will grow my skill set miles more than hopping between a dozen styles.

    Obviously, though, that means once I nail a trad mead, I'm going to have way more traditionals on my hands then I could ever want to drink in a reasonable time period (considering I don't plan on doing less than 5 gal. batches - it’s the same amount of work as 1 gal., but you get more booze out of it!-). I figure that having a surplus of various traditionals around will be great to have on hand for blending with all sorts of other experiments in the coming years.

    I would argue though, that before I really figure out how to do a traditional first, to satisfy my curiosity, I may very well pull a gallon off a trad batch and throw some fruit in there!

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by sietch View Post
    Coming from the bev industry (non-alc), but as a totally new mead maker, I firmly believe that there is (almost) no point to making a spiced, fruity, blah blah blah until you've nailed a traditional mead. In my mind, a traditional mead is your base; 95% of your drink. If 95% of your drink sucks, the other 5% will to.

    But, if 95% of your drink kicks ass, anything you add to that, in a balanced way, will be dynamite and getting better will be exponentially easier. For any product we make, we always make a base product first, then put out variations on that product by adding all sorts of other flavourings. Insures whatever we put out, will be good.

    As I get into the world of mead making, I think focusing on traditional meads for the first 6 months will grow my skill set miles more than hopping between a dozen styles.

    Obviously, though, that means once I nail a trad mead, I'm going to have way more traditionals on my hands then I could ever want to drink in a reasonable time period (considering I don't plan on doing less than 5 gal. batches - it’s the same amount of work as 1 gal., but you get more booze out of it!-). I figure that having a surplus of various traditionals around will be great to have on hand for blending with all sorts of other experiments in the coming years.

    I would argue though, that before I really figure out how to do a traditional first, to satisfy my curiosity, I may very well pull a gallon off a trad batch and throw some fruit in there!
    I have barrels of mead sitting around as well as kegs and tons of cases. More than I could drink in a lifetime. My grandkids will be drinking grandpa's mead when they are old enough. I don't have a drinking problem. I have a fermentation problem.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  5. #5
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    I forgot to mention that I did not use any fining agents or filtration. My DV10 trad cleared quite nicely, and the K1V trad cleared OK - just barely cloudy. The ABV on the trads also came out to about 14%. I enjoy both though, so I call that a success for my first trads.

    Besides the JAOM, all my batches fermented to below 1.000. While I may not lean towards the lower ABV for my next batches, what you're saying about the ethanol is an very good point Squatchy, and I can tell that from the two 15% meads I have. I may end up back-sweetening a bit, or stabilizing at a good SG/FG with my next batches.

    I agree about putting in the effort on comparisons. If we tweak one thing at a time, it's easier to learn about the impact of that 1 tweak vs. making multiple changes and likely not being able to pinpoint the true cause and effect. This takes time, but I'm doing this for fun. I also don't drink that much, and my wife and I are finding there's something different about mead than other alcoholic beverages. Just a few ounces seem to 'hit' us pretty hard and fast - I guess we're light-weights - LOL.

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