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Thread: New to mead making

  1. Default New to mead making

    Hi all,

    I am brand new to mead making, and only been brewing my own beer/wine for about a year, and I have a few questions I'm hoping to get answered.

    The end of September I started 2 batches of mead, recipes as follows:

    First batch
    1 gallon (12 lbs) fresh buckwheat honey
    1 package of Lalvin 71b-1122 yeast (started in 1 quart of apple juice)

    Racked to secondary with gravity of 1.01 on 11/15. I added 3 fresh madigascar vanilla beans (split) and 5 cinnimon sticks to it at this time.
    __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ ______
    2nd batch
    1 gallon (12lbs) Thistle honey
    1 package of Lalvin D-47 yeast (started in 1 quart of apple juice)

    Racked to secondary with a gravity of 1.01 on 11/15. I added aprox 3oz of williams sonoma mulling spice (cinnamon, orange zest, clove and allspice) at this time.

    Unfortunatly, I forgot to get a SG on both of these, so I'm unsure of expected alcohol content (guessing 10-12%)

    My questions are
    1. Did I add enough ingredients to give some of the flavor without if becoming too overwhelming?
    2. Should I add more or take some out?
    3. How long should I leave them in the secondary?
    4. It was a little dry for what I wanted, can I add honey to the secondary and how much should I add for a semi-sweet mead?


    I tasted both of them when I racked them over, and I have to say, I was surprised at how good the buckwheat was already tasting. The thistle was not nearly as flavorful, I'm hoping the mulling spice will help that out. Any information would be helpful on this, and I can add information if I left some out.

    Thanks,

    Damchi

  2. #2

    Default Re: New to mead making

    Hello and welcome to the forums!

    Are these five gallon batches? You can make a rough guesstimate of the starting gravity by working out how many gravity points the honey contributed to the must.

    Some time ago I worked out a figure of 35 gravity points per pound honey, when diluted to one gallon of must. What I had done was take the average specific gravity of honey at 18% water, according to the National Honey Board figures (it's 1.4171) and from there worked out the calculations.

    After posting this to the Mead Lovers Digest, Ken Schramm replied and said it was more like 38 gravity points per pound honey. I never followed up with this, which I should have. My figure of 35 points per pound is a pure mathematical abstraction, whereas I'm assuming Ken had worked his figure of 38 points per pound from his observations in the field. In other words, my figure may have been more mathematically correct, but Ken's figure was more accurate.

    Anyway, give it a try and let us know what you think your starting gravity was.

    <><><><><><><><><><>
    <><><><><><><><>
    Dan McFeeley

    "Meon an phobail a thogail trid an chultur"
    (The people's spirit is raised through culture)

  3. #3

    Default Re: New to mead making

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan McFeeley
    ...Some time ago I worked out a figure of 35 gravity points per pound honey, when diluted to one gallon of must. What I had done was take the average specific gravity of honey at 18% water, according to the National Honey Board figures (it's 1.4171) and from there worked out the calculations.
    Dan,
    My calculations agree with yours [I actually got 35.34 pppg]. I guess I'd also like to see the math behind that 38 point value.

  4. #4

    Default Re: New to mead making

    A while back there was a thread regarding the sugar content of various honeys, which it seems can vary. Could there be enough of a difference from type to type (or even from flow to flow) to account for something like this?

    -David

  5. #5

    Default Re: New to mead making

    I would believe that's the case David. In my experiance (little there is), different honey's has given different O.G.'s.

    Anthony

  6. Default Re: New to mead making

    Sorry for the delay in response, Holiday and all and me trying to figure out this formula, which I still have not been able to do.

    There were both 5 gallon batches.

    at 35 gravity points per pound of honey (I'm going to assume that is 35 * 12) it looks like a total of 420 gravity points. But I used 4 gallons of water, so I'm unsure of how that affects it. (divide 420 by 4?) I dunno there is something I'm missing to throw this off. I figure the OG was around 1.1 but could be wrong. Perhaps you could explain what I'm doing wrong?

    I had a few other questions that seemed to get over looked in the thread, if anyone has any answers to those as well, it would be appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Cory

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    Posts
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    Default Re: New to mead making

    Damnchi,

    Welcome! You're questions are good ones, but very subjective. IMHO, the spice amounts certainly seem reasonable. However, we all have different tastes, whether we prefer sweet or dry, strong or subtle on the fruit or spice, etc. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what I like, but I tend have a very specific goal in mind when designing a must. I encourage you to sample as many meads as possible (try commercial meads, join a local homebrewing club, attend homebrew competitions, experiment in your own mazing, etc) to help you determine your personal tastes.

    To answer your questions:
    1) That's a personal judgement call. I tend to start sweet and dry meads with about 3 lbs honey /gallon. Spices are very subjective.
    2) Its hard to take things out. See below.
    3) To taste. I encourage you to get a pipette you can sterilize and take small samples with on a weekly basis. This way, you can rack off the spices when they are at your desired level.
    4) You can always add honey. I prefer to start my musts with a target gravity in mind so that the yeast can ferment to completion and leave the desired amount of residual sweetness. The brews will almost certainly restart fermentation upon addition of the honey (unless you add sorbate and sulphites or have already bulk aged for about a year). Both of those yeasts should be able to metabolize at least a couple more pounds of honey (assuming it was a 5 gallon batch). However, maybe its safer to add a lesser amount of honey at first (as it appears you did not use any yeast nutrient).

  8. #8

    Default Re: New to mead making

    Quote Originally Posted by HighTest
    Quote Originally Posted by Dan McFeeley
    ...Some time ago I worked out a figure of 35 gravity points per pound honey, when diluted to one gallon of must. What I had done was take the average specific gravity of honey at 18% water, according to the National Honey Board figures (it's 1.4171) and from there worked out the calculations.
    Dan,
    My calculations agree with yours [I actually got 35.34 pppg]. I guess I'd also like to see the math behind that 38 point value.
    I don't think there was any math, although I never asked Ken myself. It's only an assumption on my part. I really need to get with him and ask, although it's been some time since we'd discussed the subject on the mead lovers digest.

    My thought is still that Ken's figure is more accurate than mine, primarily because it's empirical (I'm assuming), based on multiple calculations taken from measuring the honeys/honey musts he has worked with, while mine is an abstract calculation based on the average gravity of 1.4171 calculated by the National Honey Board. Actually there were two average gravities, one at 15% water and the other at 18% water. I chose to work with the 18% figure.

    35.34 ppg? I should try and find my old calculations -- I rounded off my figure, be interesting to see how close mine is to yours.

    Honey doesn't have set values for the ingredients that make up its composition. Instead, you're going to find a range of figures. Water content should be fairly consistent because of the fermentation problems that can happen when water gets over 18%, but even there you're going to get some variances.

    That's why I'm saying empirical observation can sometimes have more value and accuracy than an abstract calculation, like mine. With a natural product like honey, where you can get a fair amount of variances, working out figures based directly on what you see can often work better. I've known other people who use different figures for points per gallon, and they all say it gives them accurate results.

    I like to use 35 points per gallon as a ballpark figure, i.e., something to give a general idea of where I'm at.
    I'm personally comfortable with it, assuming that beekeepers and honey producers will try and keep the honey close to that 18% water value to keep spontaneous fermentation from occuring. I mix up the must based on initial calculations of the gravity, then take a hydrometer reading and calculate what points per gallon really is and make adjustments if needed. Sometimes I've found that the honey I was using was contributing 30 points per gallon. Sometimes it comes close to my abstract 35 points per gallon. All depends on the honey.

    Hope this is a bit more clarifying!

    <><><><><><><><><><>
    <><><><><><><><>
    Dan McFeeley

    "Meon an phobail a thogail trid an chultur"
    (The people's spirit is raised through culture)

  9. #9

    Default Re: New to mead making

    Quote Originally Posted by Damchi
    Sorry for the delay in response, Holiday and all and me trying to figure out this formula, which I still have not been able to do.

    There were both 5 gallon batches.

    at 35 gravity points per pound of honey (I'm going to assume that is 35 * 12) it looks like a total of 420 gravity points. But I used 4 gallons of water, so I'm unsure of how that affects it. (divide 420 by 4?) I dunno there is something I'm missing to throw this off. I figure the OG was around 1.1 but could be wrong. Perhaps you could explain what I'm doing wrong?
    Hello Cory --

    I'd worked out that, in a gallon of honey must, the honey will be contributing 35 gravity points for every pound. This an important distinction to make, because honey not only contributes weight but also volume.

    In other words, in a one gallon must with a gravity of 1.035, there is one pound of honey in it. In another one gallon batch of honey with a gravity of 1.070, there are two pounds of honey in it.

    So, if you have a five gallon batch, you'll be working out how much gravity the honey is contributing to five gallons.

    Don't tie yourself too closely to these figures -- honey is a natural product which will vary somewhat. See my post just above this one.


    <><><><><><><><><><>
    <><><><><><><><>
    Dan McFeeley

    "Meon an phobail a thogail trid an chultur"
    (The people's spirit is raised through culture)

  10. Default Re: New to mead making

    Thanks for the replies.

    I know that my questions are subjective, but I just wanted to make sure that my additives were not outragious in quantity for two 5 gallon batches. This being my first attempt at it, I'm excited at the prospect yet nervous I'll screw it up somehow. I've tried most of the comercial meads that I can find here in Oregon (Liquid Solutions) but there are still a few I have not tried.

    Mountain Medows Spiced Nectar so far has been my favorite. (though a friend of mine and my wife can't stand it) I'm hoping to end up with two semi-sweet meads in the end, so I guess I'll be doing some back-sweetening before I bottle.

    Anyway, again, thanks for the replies, I've learned quite a bit here so far.

    Cory

  11. #11

    Default Re: New to mead making

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan McFeeley
    ...while mine is an abstract calculation based on the average gravity of 1.4171 calculated by the National Honey Board. Actually there were two average gravities, one at 15% water and the other at 18% water. I chose to work with the 18% figure.
    As was my calculation.

    With 18% moisture honey, the result is 35.33 [1000*(1.4171-1) / 11.8058
    With 15% moisture honey, the result is 36.39 [1000*(1.4351-1) / 11.9549

    There's a big difference between those numbers and 38...

  12. #12

    Default Re: New to mead making

    You got me!

    That's what I get for trying to draw an illustration from an MLD conversation in the past, something which I'd freely admitted to not following up on in order to make sure I'd had the full scoop.
    <><><><><><><><><><>
    <><><><><><><><>
    Dan McFeeley

    "Meon an phobail a thogail trid an chultur"
    (The people's spirit is raised through culture)

  13. Default Re: New to mead making

    So is it safe to assume that if 1 pound of honey adds 35 gravity points to 1 gallon of must, then 1 pound of honey would only add 7 gravity points to 5 gallons of must? (35 points / 5 gallons) If this is true, then I would think based upon that calculation that my OG was probably somewhere around 1.084. (7 points * 12 pounds) Does that sound even remotely in the right ballpark?


    Cory

  14. #14

    Default Re: New to mead making

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan McFeeley
    You got me!
    That's what I get for trying to draw an illustration from an MLD conversation in the past, something which I'd freely admitted to not following up on in order to make sure I'd had the full scoop.
    That was not my intention... I love mathematics, science, homebrewing, et. al. I take very little at face value without understanding how (or why) a certain thing is (or appears to be) the way it is.

    I've found there are very few universal truths that do not have some form of limit, boundary, or assumtion that dictates the validity of the "thumb rule:, axiom, etc. As such I always like to ask to see the basis for many of our hombrewing "truths". Doing that has helped me learn, and reveal some "interesting" findings...

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