Advice for Newbees
There are a lot of variables in making mead... but there is one thing every new brewer needs - A hydrometer!!!
They are relatively cheap, usually under $10. A Hydrometer will save you, and us, a lot of headaches and guess work about the state of your mead. One with a gravity reading of 1.16 to .99 is sufficient. The next most important item is a good high temp thermometer, one that goes to 220 (f) is sufficient. This will help make sure you are rehydrating your yeast at the correct temperature, and not killing/shocking them by pitching them in must that is too hot or too cold.
Keep a detailed log of every aspect of your batch.
If you are unsure of just exactly what you should be keeping track of - download my custom brewlog
(you must be a Registered Member).
The best way for us to help you with your batch is for you to document your recipe and procedures by starting your own 'new topic' in the Brewlog section of the forum. When you have questions about your batch just add them as new posts to your brewlog thread. This serves you... as well as us! You'll have a complete history of your batch, tips and advice from us, and we will know at a glance the areas that might be causing your troubles.
To Answer Your specific batch related Questions we need the following...
What was the Original Recipe?
What type of yeast did you use?
On what Date did you pitch the yeast?
How did you rehydrate the yeast?
What was the Temperature of the must when you pitched the yeast?
Exactly what steps did you take while making the batch?
Did you aerate/oxygenate the must during the first 3 days?
Did you use any nutrients?
What was your airlock activity like?
What is the temperature of the room you ferment in?
Did you sanitize ALL of your equipment just before making the batch?
What do you need to get started?
There are many Winemaking Kits out there, here is an example of some good beginner kits. I'd personally suggest the Brewing Intermediate Kit with Glass Carboys.
Some other Items that will make your brewing easier...
A lees stirrer
- this attaches to your hand drill to aid in stirring/aerating your batch
A High Temperature Thermometer
A Carboy Drainer
- makes drying carboys painless.
A Fermtech WineThief
- for monitoring progress with your hydrometer
Wrathwilde's Quick and Easy Mead Brewing Tips
How to figure out how much honey you need.
For a 5 gallon batch one pound of honey equates to approximately 1% of alcohol potential. So know your yeasts potential. If your yeast can go to 16% then for a dry mead anything under 16 pounds of honey should take you to dry. Note that the less honey you use the thinner (less full bodied) your mead will be.
If you want a mead that is just a little off dry then 16 to 17 pounds of Honey should do. If your looking for your mead to finish semisweet then 17 to 18 pounds of honey will be required. If you want a sweet or dessert style mead then 18 to 20 pounds of Honey will be required. Basically what it comes down to is your yeast’s alcohol tolerance = the number of pounds of honey you should use to end up with a dry mead. Plus 1 pound for off dry, 2 pounds for semisweet, 3 to 4 pounds for sweet or dessert style meads. Remember these are ball park figures, always check against your hydrometer for actual alcohol potential.
Sanitize everything that will come in contact with your Mead
just before starting your brew session. I use 1 cup of bleach and fill my plastic primary with water, I let all my smaller equipment soak for about 15 minutes then I triple rinse them and set them aside in a clean drying rack.
To rehydrate my Yeast
I use 1/4 tsp of Goferm added to 75 ml of 110 (f) bottled spring water and stir well. When the temperature drops to 104 (f) I add the yeast and stir well. I then let the yeast hydrate for the recommended 15 minutes. I use a Pyrex measuring cup that has been sanitized & triple rinsed to rehydrate my yeast in.
First Steps in the Plastic Primary
Mixing the Honey
There are no compelling reasons to boil your must when using honey from commercial sources... unless you are following a period recipe for an SCA brew competition.
DAP and Fermaid K
are additional nutrient sources that I highly recommend you use. They will benefit your yeasts greatly and help protect against stuck fermentations. I recommend 1/4 tsp of each for every gallon of must. To keep things simple... add 1/4 tsp of each when initially mixing your batch and a 1/4 tsp of each (until you reach a total of 1 1/4 tsp each) each time you stir/aerate your batch during the first three days. For those of you who are more advanced, additions are best made at the tail end of the yeast lag phase, the 1/3rd sugar break and 2/3 sugar break.
Aerating / Oxygenating your must
Your yeast need plenty of Oxygen to reproduce... but only during the first three days
. This can be accomplished by stirring the heck out of your must twice a day. This is where a Lees stirrer comes in very handy, a good 5 minute high speed stir using a power drill, forward & reverse directions, should be sufficient.
Keep your plastic primary covered and airlocked the first three days, open it only to stir/aerate.
At the end of three days transfer your must to a 6 gallon Glass Primary.
Using a freshly sanitized and rinsed funnel and Carboy, pour your must from your Plastic Primary to your 6 gallon glass primary. Place a drilled stopper and airlock on the carboy and let ferment. You will notice that your airlock activity will be going like gangbusters for several days (as long as your room temperature is in the 65 to 75 (f) range. You will also notice a layer of sediment (lees) form on the bottom of your carboy, this is basically yeast that has fallen from suspension and nothing to be concerned about. When you rack the mead to your 5 gallon Carboy you want to try and leave as much of the sediment/lees behind as possible. When your airlock activity drops to 1 blip every 15 seconds then it is time to rack to a 5 gallon glass carboy. Remember when you syphon/rack you want to minimize exposure to air so always fill from the bottom with your transfer line submerged.
After Transferring to your 5 gallon Glass Carboy
Your airlock activity will slow considerably for a couple of days after you rack, don't worry... it's perfectly normal. When your airlock activity seems to have stopped completely take a hydrometer reading, take another the following week. If there has been no change your fermentation phase should be done. I recommend keeping your airlock on for an extra month and then replacing it with a solid stopper. With your fermentation complete now comes the hard part... waiting for your mead to bulk age. I recommend a minimum of 6 months before bottling, drinking.
References you might find helpful...
Angus has done a terrific job compiling brewing information for the NewBee, see his contributions here.
Lalvin (Lallemand) yeasts are very popular with the GotMead crowd two good sources of information on their yeast strains can be found here...
Good descriptions of Lalvin yeast strains here.
Cross reference chart of Lalvin Yeast Strains here.
The best place to find Lalvin Yeast is morebeer.com
For a compilation of Oskaar's Mead Advice see my Oskaar in a Nutshell
How to read the gravity scale on your hydrometer...
A lot of hydrometer scales show the reading in thousands but most written brewer notations are decimalized, they are equivalent.
990 = (.990)
1,000 = (1.000) (distilled water @ 60 (f) (also
10 = (1.010)
20 = (1.020)
30 = (1.030)
40 = (1.040)
50 = (1.050)
60 = (1.060)
70 = (1.070)
80 = (1.080)
90 = (1.090)
1,100 = (1.100)
10 = (1.110)
20 = (1.120)
30 = (1.130)
40 = (1.140)
50 = (1.150)
60 = (1.160)
If you have further questions email me - email@example.com
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