View Full Version : Starting fermentation

08-02-2008, 01:55 AM
Hello all. Thanks to my recent trip to Poland I discovered the joys of mead (as the Finnish drink going by the same name, sima, are generally no- to low-alcohol and yeasty) and wanted to try making some myself. I made two batches yesterday. Joe's Ancient Orange Cinnamon Clove Mead (with some conversion fiddling, more spices, and substituting orange with lemon) started building pressure almost right away and is now bubbling happily in the kitchen cupboard, so I'm home and dry with that one. Used cheap Argentinian honey for this since GF did the shopping and chose by price...

But I also made a batch of this (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_rapidrecipe&page=viewrecipe&recipe_id=66&Itemid=6) historical mead without the lemon. I didn't have a large enough kettle (used a 5 liter carboy rather than 3 liter, which would be slightly less than a wet gallon) so I could only dissolve the honey (unsieved, soft clover) to maybe 1/3 of the final amount of water. I did add the rest of the water warm, although not hot, and shook the carboy well. The must is layered. Is it supposed to do that? There's also no pressure building in the waterlock. Is there something I can do to rescue this batch? Add some raisins and shake vigorously? I'd prefer not to use non-historical yeast nutrients.

If things go well I'm planning to try some different meads when the rowan berries are ripe and I can get hops from a friend.

Edit: Tried further aeriation this morning. Small bubbles and hissing as I changed the waterlock top to a closed one, and lots of foamy bubbles after shaking. Looks like it's just very slow to start.

Medsen Fey
08-02-2008, 09:54 AM
Welcome to the forums Rakka!

Congratulations on getting your batches going!

I think if you are making such a mead with no nutrient additions, you may get a very long, slow (and possibly incomplete) fermentation. This also tends to stress the yeast and may lead them to produce flavors that are "off" and could in part account for the statement in the recipe
Mead unlike many other drinks, does not improve with really long aging, so it should be consumed within a year of the time it was made.
by Euell Gibbons ***

I disagree with that statement quite strongly. Good meads can age for a very long time. Even my mediocre products are much better after 12 to 18 months of age, and I suspect that they will continue to improve for a while.

Also, to get a good start, you want to make sure to rehydrate your yeast properly, and many here would recommend using GoFerm in the rehydration. If you haven't read over the Mead NewBee Guide (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=108&Itemid=14) it is full of good information.

Welcome to the obsess..... er, hobby! :D


08-02-2008, 01:00 PM
Let me add my welcome to "GotMead?" to you as well, Rakka!

I concur with everything that Medsen has suggested -- and I especially caution you to make any of the recipes quoted anywhere, even here on this site, that date from any time prior to the past 10 years, "at your own risk." We have learned much about meadmaking in the past decade to improve the process, which allows the meads we make these days to ferment more quickly and more completely, with far fewer off-flavors produced in the process. This generally results in meads that can be consumed sooner after fermentation -- the need for aging to mitigate the effect of off-flavors has been reduced substantially.

Additionally, proper handling to reduce the exposure to oxygen during aging, bottling and storage have allowed us to produce meads that can be stored for years, even decades, before they pass their peak. In fact most meads do benefit from extended periods of aging, despite what Mr. Gibbons thought back in the 1960s. ::)

Also, your must should never be "layered" during primary fermentation. It is a good idea to keep all the ingredients in the must suspended in solution as much as possible, so a little stirring or shaking of the carboy once or twice a day is a good idea, at least until you reach the 1/3 sugar break. (To find out what a "sugar break" is, try searching for that term in the forum search tool! ;)

If you really want to be "all natural" in your meadmaking and do not want to use commercial yeast nutrient preparations at all, let me suggest that you consider using a combination of some raisins (hydrated in warm water for 4 to 8 hrs, then macerated in a food processor or chopped finely by hand with a sharp knife) along with killed dry yeast (it can either be brewers or vintners yeast, or baking yeast). To make the killed yeast for natural nutrient, take some yeast that you wish to use as nutrient and add it to a small amount (150-200ml) of boiling water. Stir while boiling, cover tightly and remove from heat. Allow to cool to room temperature and add that in place of the yeast nutrient to your must, as suggested in the recipe you want to use. The quantity of dry yeast to use should be similar to the amount of nutrient called for in the recipe. For example, if a recipe says to use 1 g of "yeast nutrient" per 4 liters of must, then use 1 g of dry yeast in the boiling water per gallon of must, instead. You will find that this simple trick will significantly improve the fermentation kinetics of your must, and will result in better, more drinkable, meads.

08-03-2008, 08:46 AM
Thank for the tips, I'll go and kill some yeast to make nutrient and make a quick run to the store to get the raisins.
I checked both meads now that I got home and the historical one was bubbling, but no pressure was building in the waterlock so I assume the top has been leaking, sealed the probable culprit and after aeriation the waterlock seems to be working. The buildup is slower than in the other mead but that is likely to be expected. Is it likely that the initial leak has affected the fermentation badly?

I don't think any mead I make will stay undrunk even for a year unless I put it aside intentionally, but thanks for pointing out the outdated preservation time. :)

Medsen Fey
08-03-2008, 10:58 AM
A little leaking around the airlock stopper during fermentation should cause no harm, but it does highlight why following bubbling is not an accurate way to monitor progress of a fermentation and why folks here advise measuring the gravity with a hydrometer.

08-04-2008, 02:15 AM
Yeah. I hope I have time to buy a hydrometer today now that I'm going to the town during the week for chance. The batches seem to be both going nicely now, thanks for your help. :)