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  1. #1

    Default Looking For Advice

    Hello all, new to the forums, so first of all saying "HI!"

    Anyway, I'm looking to get back into mead-making and was needing some help. I've played around with a few recipes in the past, including existing ones as well as trying to develop my own. The others turned out fine, but there was a particular one I really want to do that I ran into a serious problem:

    The goal was both a sweet, but very strong (18-20% ABV target), mead using Heather honey. Because getting Heather honey in St. Louis is very pricey (I haven't been able to find anyone domestic who produces it, so I had to order from Europe. That shipping is painful) I'm only making a 1-gallon batch to get my recipe and process right. When I did my calculations for my target sweetness and alcohol content I came up with 7lbs of honey for a 1gal batch. Which is awesome, because that's the amount the honey I ordered came by. I went with the pasteurization method for this, rather than boiling, got it all going in my carboy, and for the first two weeks everything seemed to be working just fine.

    Then after two weeks I racked it into a secondary fermenter.

    At which point EVERYTHING stopped. No sign of fermentation whatsoever. I gave it a couple weeks, and after no further sign that the mead was doing anything I tried to pitch some fresh yeast, but no joy. I ended up with very expensive honey water.

    Anyway, I've been looking to trying this again, so figured I'd see if anyone had some suggestions for what I can do on the second try so this time it DOESN'T die on me.

  2. #2

    Default

    So your leaving a good bit of left out info for us to help you much. If you started with all the honey in your 1 gallon batch your osmotic pressure was more than the yeast would be able to bare. You should start around 1120 and let the yeast eat it down pretty far and then add more of the honey. Let them eat it down again and repeat until you have added all the honey in incremental steps.

    You will need to feed your yeast along the way so they stay strong and healthy. And lastly you will need to start your yeast off following a certain rehydration protocol using goferm.

    Go to Scott labs website and learn of the "restarting a stuck fermentation" protocol. Do that until you have a healthy batch going at a lower gravity and then you can start adding your higher gravity must.

    Not sure why you felt the need to rack so soon. You would be best served to keep the yeast in suspension for a few weeks after your fermentation is completely over. To often people here rack as soon as the ferment slows. They do this because they are in a hurry. If you keep your yeast in for longer they will clean up the mess so to speak. They will eat higher alcohols, diacetyl and such. In essence they will help so that the batch will taste cleaner, it will clear faster and age better sooner by leaving the yeast in the batch for a month or so. SO without them understanding whats going on, by being in a hurry they slow down the long term process.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  3. #3

    Default

    Yeah, I added it all at once. It's the first time I tried to make a mead aiming for that high ABV and sweetness. I assume that by start around 1120, you mean the gravity?

    I racked it at two weeks because that's what most of the previous recommendations and advice I'd read suggested.

  4. #4

    Default

    There are only a few yeast that could take you that far too!
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  5. #5

    Default

    I was using EC-1118, which I read can handle 20%.

  6. #6

    Default

    Honey adds around 38 gravity points per gallon, so your original gravity must have been way over 1.250. Incredible that you got fermentation to start at all! But EC-1118 is a brute; anything else would have probably quit before getting started.

    And although EC-1118 can go past it's listed alcohol tolerance of 18%, it takes flawless fermentation management, including (like squatchy described) proper yeast hydration, careful step feeding, nutrition management, pH monitoring and buffering, regular degassing stirring and aeration, temperature control, etc. It becomes a real full time job to get more out of the yeast than advertised.

    As said above, this is definitely worth trying again, but with a well laid out plan before you even start hydrating your yeast. So let us help! Lay out your plan and let some of the more experienced mazers here help you fine tune it!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    "Then glory in battle to Hrothgar was given, waxing of war-fame, that willingly kinsmen obeyed his bidding, till the boys grew to manhood, a numerous band. It burned in his spirit to urge his folk to found a great building, a mead-hall grander than men of the era ever had heard of, and in it to share with young and old all of the blessings the Lord had allowed him, save life and retainers." - Beowulf

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Location
    Birmingham, AL
    Posts
    587

    Default

    Then after two weeks I racked it into a secondary fermenter.

    At which point EVERYTHING stopped. No sign of fermentation whatsoever. I gave it a couple weeks, and after no further sign that the mead was doing anything I tried to pitch some fresh yeast, but no joy. I ended up with very expensive honey water.
    Do you still have that batch in the fermenter? I would pour about a gallon of it off into another vessel, and replace that portion with pure spring water. Even when yeast shuts down like that, it doesn't really die -- it just goes to sleep. Thinning out the must may wake the yeast up again. Take the gallon of must you removed, add some more water, and put it in another carboy to ferment like the main batch.

    If that doesn't work and your yeast is truly dead, add some sulfites (1 crushed campden tablet per gallon dissolved in cold water) and leave the carboy(s) open and covered with only a paper towel. The sulfites are to kill any unwanted microorganisms that may have gotten into the must since the yeast quit so you won't have a tainted batch. Wait 24-48 hours for the sulfite to do its work and dissipate, and then re-pitch new yeast.
    Last edited by pwizard; 01-10-2016 at 01:21 PM.

  8. #8

    Default

    Unfortunately, no, I don't have it any longer, as it's been a while since I did this. I'm bringing it up now as I'd really like to try this again.

    Anyway going through my notes, the process I'd written down was:

    1) Bring the water to a boil
    2) Add the honey
    3) Return to boil, then cover and simmer 15mins
    4) Add Yeast nutrient and spices
    5) Cover and simmer another 15mins
    6) Add Irish Moss
    7) Simmer covered a 15mins more
    Cool and strain into primary fermenter
    9) Let stand 24hrs
    10) Add yeast per instructions
    11) Rack in primary
    12) After 2 weeks rack again, check gravity. Repeat until fermentation finished
    13) Rack into secondary and add oak
    14) Check after 2 weeks, and rack off oak if acceptable.

    #12 is as far as I got, because that's where it died. Some of the information I was working with suggested to rack every couple weeks, which is why I did it. For a number of reasons I don't want to go too detailed on my actual recipe, ESPECIALLY before I can actually get the process down and have a good batch.

  9. #9

    Default

    I'm seeing many members mention adding nutrients at the 1/3 and 2/3 sugar breaks. I'm honestly curious where this information is written. I only ever saw mention until the 1/2 sugar break, and even then in very specific circumstances
    "Shouldn’t we say wine is a mead-like beverage made with grapes substituted for the honey?" - Steve Piatz

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Location
    Birmingham, AL
    Posts
    587

    Default

    Not sure where you got your instructions, but that process will produce a harsh mead that will take a long, long time to age out into something drinkable. Here's how I do it:

    Don't heat the must at all. The end result will be much better (and require less aging) if you put this together at room temperature and feed appropriately. Keep your starting gravity <= 1.125 since you can always add honey later.
    Rehydrate your yeast with an appropriate amount of Go-Ferm (I use 1 tbsp per yeast packet) and nothing else but chlorine-free spring water. Pitch it when there is less than 10 degrees temp difference between the starter and the must. Wait until the lag phase to finish (anywhere from 1-24 hours, depending on yeast and environment variables) and it begins to bubble. As soon as you notice activity, add 1 tsp Fermaid K and 1-2 tsp DAP. Since it is necessary to watch for the end of lag phase and since timing is important, I prefer to start batches on the weekend so I can check it hourly if need be. Every day during the first week, check your must and stir it up vigorously to remove CO2 and get oxygen to the yeast. During primary, try to keep your must under 70 degrees. Some yeast strains are more forgiving of high temperature than others.

    You need to step-feed too. Check your gravity at least once per day during the first week and add more nutrients during the sugar breaks. The sugar breaks are the 2/3 and 1/3 milestones from your SG. The sugar breaks may happen within 24 hours of each other, so keep a close eye on it during this time. Generally, I check mine before work and after work each day while I have a batch in primary.

    1. At the first break (2/3 OG), give another tsp of Fermaid K and 1 tsp of DAP. At this point, you can add a lot more honey if you want, since the yeast will eat it up real quick.
    2. At the last break (1/3 OG) , add another tsp of Fermaid K or 1-2 tsp dead yeast hulls (boil some bread yeast or old brewing yeast that is past its prime. After it cools down, dump it in). Do not add any more DAP to this batch from now on.

    After the last sugar break, keep checking the mead and stir/degas it regularly. It's time to rack into secondary when your gravity remains unchanged for a few days and activity has slowed down drastically. If you do your primary this way, you can breeze through it in 4-5 days instead of 2 weeks and the end result is much better than the old way.
    Last edited by pwizard; 01-10-2016 at 04:00 PM.

  11. #11

    Default

    Seems these directions are outdated so I would create a plan from scratch the next time around. Wrong steps, steps are in wrong order, doubtful ingredients, missing steps..... Since you need to start from scratch I suggest you should start by reading the newbee guide
    Http://www.gotmead.com/forum/attachm...9&d=1395107076
    Don't be disheartened though, if you read that guide and ask when in doubt you should have a successful ferment next time around
    "Shouldn’t we say wine is a mead-like beverage made with grapes substituted for the honey?" - Steve Piatz

  12. #12

    Default

    I do intend to use the boil method. Maybe it's not the BEST way, but it IS the historical way, and I'd like to make use of as much of the traditional practices (in reason. I can't at the moment afford or have room for an ACTUAL oak barrel to age in) as I can.

    Regarding the sugar breaks, if I'm adding more honey at the 2/3 mark how do I measure for the second break?

    Say let's take my 7lbs of honey, and I add half to 1 gal at the start to create the must. That puts me right about the 1.125 starting point. The first break would be at 1.081, and the second at 1.039, if I'm calculating it right. However if I'm adding the rest of the honey at the first break that's going to bump the gravity back up again. Will the second break still be based on the original gravity, or will I instead use the NEW gravity after adding the additional honey for determining the second break?

  13. #13

    Default

    [QUOTE=Ambaryerno;251832]I do intend to use the boil method. Maybe it's not the BEST way, but it IS the historical way, and I'd like to make use of as much of the traditional practices


    So if you needed surgery, would you take a slug of whiskey and bite on a bulliet to cut off your leg just because that was tradition? Seems just as silly to adhere to ancient science for traditions sake. I would think if your making something to drink you would want it to taste as good as it could. Maybe it's just me. I wouldn't do anything if it made my stuff taste worse. Just sayin!
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  14. #14

    Default

    [QUOTE=Ambaryerno;251832]I do intend to use the boil method. Maybe it's not the BEST way, but it IS the historical way, and I'd like to make use of as much of the traditional practices
    Make sure to use ferrel yeast, skip the feeding and temp control too while your at it
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Location
    Birmingham, AL
    Posts
    587

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Ambaryerno View Post
    I do intend to use the boil method. Maybe it's not the BEST way, but it IS the historical way, and I'd like to make use of as much of the traditional practices (in reason. I can't at the moment afford or have room for an ACTUAL oak barrel to age in) as I can.
    It's your mead, so have it your way. I know if I were going to sink at least $50-75 into a batch, I would try to get the best possible results with modern practices. There are other ways to add oak influence besides a barrel (spirals, cubes, even infusions/tinctures).

    Regarding the sugar breaks, if I'm adding more honey at the 2/3 mark how do I measure for the second break?

    Say let's take my 7lbs of honey, and I add half to 1 gal at the start to create the must. That puts me right about the 1.125 starting point. The first break would be at 1.081, and the second at 1.039, if I'm calculating it right. However if I'm adding the rest of the honey at the first break that's going to bump the gravity back up again. Will the second break still be based on the original gravity, or will I instead use the NEW gravity after adding the additional honey for determining the second break?
    I've always calculated the second break based on the OG I started with, even with step feedings. See, when you add honey at the first break and blend it in, all you're doing is delaying your second sugar break. You're giving the yeast more work to do to get there but that's ok since you should be feeding the yeast at this point too (and they should already be at maximum effectiveness). When the yeast eat through the extra sugar, it will be time to give them the last feeding boost anyway so they can finish strong. Step-feeding also keeps the yeast from taking your mead dry by eating every last bit of sugar.

    Also, don't forget that adding honey adds volume too, so plan accordingly. It sounds like you're trying to make a super-strong 1-gallon batch when you're actually adding enough honey for 2 gallons (that may finish medium-dry, depending on yeast). Any particular reason for that? Even gradually step-feeding so much honey in such a small batch can overwhelm your yeast and make you stall out. Remember, the more alcohol you add, the longer it is going to take to smooth out, if it ever does.

  16. #16

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by pwizard View Post
    It's your mead, so have it your way. I know if I were going to sink at least $50-75 into a batch, I would try to get the best possible results with modern practices. There are other ways to add oak influence besides a barrel (spirals, cubes, even infusions/tinctures).
    As for boil vs. not, there's this:

    http://www.washingtonwinemaker.com/b...-over-boiling/

    Old experiment, but interesting results, especially since they use the same type of honey (heather) I'm looking at using.

    I've always calculated the second break based on the OG I started with, even with step feedings. See, when you add honey at the first break and blend it in, all you're doing is delaying your second sugar break. You're giving the yeast more work to do to get there but that's ok since you should be feeding the yeast at this point too (and they should already be at maximum effectiveness). When the yeast eat through the extra sugar, it will be time to give them the last feeding boost anyway so they can finish strong. Step-feeding also keeps the yeast from taking your mead dry by eating every last bit of sugar.

    Also, don't forget that adding honey adds volume too, so plan accordingly. It sounds like you're trying to make a super-strong 1-gallon batch when you're actually adding enough honey for 2 gallons (that may finish medium-dry, depending on yeast). Any particular reason for that? Even gradually step-feeding so much honey in such a small batch can overwhelm your yeast and make you stall out. Remember, the more alcohol you add, the longer it is going to take to smooth out, if it ever does.
    So regardless of whether I add additional honey, I still do the second sugar break at 1.039 (based on my starting gravity).

  17. #17

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Ambaryerno View Post
    I do intend to use the boil method. Maybe it's not the BEST way, but it IS the historical way, and I'd like to make use of as much of the traditional practices (in reason. I can't at the moment afford or have room for an ACTUAL oak barrel to age in) as I can.
    Historical recipes also use raisins in lieu of yeast nutrients, and add the honey up front, not at sugar breaks. Digby used an egg for a hydrometer, and hair-sacks to filter, not Irish Moss.

    If you're going to boil, then consider using cheap honey. Heather honey is just too expensive, and too full of beautiful aromas, to boil. I know medieval recipes called for boiling the must and skimming off the foam, but that method does lose a lot of honey characteristics. As a beekeeper it makes me wince any more to see someone boiling their must.

    Don't forget, too, that beekeeping pre-1850s was a very different process. They had to take whole comb from the hives, not the nice extraction methods we have today. Boiling the honey then may have been necessary to produce a good mead, if only to kill any native yeast and bacteria in the honey they had.
    Mead Magic
    Turn Honey Into Wine
    With our complete one-gallon kit!

  18. #18

    Default

    My method would be:
    - Start out like you're making a normal mead, except you add more nutrients (around 50% more). The amount of nutrients I would use would be at least half what pwizard suggested
    - After 1/3 sugar break add final nutrients, then just wait for fermentation to slow down. Some threads here suggest aerating until 1/2 sugar break. If fermentation seems strong and you are confident yeast will not poop out I would add honey to take this mead to say... 16% abv
    - Add honey each time fermentation slows down because mead is nearing dryness and add honey until not too much higher than your desired sweetness so that if the yeast poop out on you you don't end up with something too sweet you do not want to drink.
    "Shouldn’t we say wine is a mead-like beverage made with grapes substituted for the honey?" - Steve Piatz

  19. #19

    Default

    What about this:

    1) Add 1/2 honey to the water. Boil 10mins if desired.
    1A) If boiled cool.
    2) Pour it into the carboy.
    3) Let stand 24hrs.
    4) Add nutrients.
    5) Hydrate yeast per instructions.
    6) Pitch yeast and aerate.
    7) At the first sugar break, add 1/2 the remaining honey along with final nutrients.
    At the second sugar break add 1/2 the remaining honey.
    9) Monitor fermentation. Continue adding 1/2 the remaining honey whenever fermentation slows until desired ABV reached or fermentation stops.
    10) Rack to secondary fermenter.
    11) Prepare spices by infusing in warm water as a tea.
    12) Add tea to fermenter.
    13) Add honey to desired sweetness.
    14) Add oak.
    15) Age on oak for two weeks.
    16) Test flavor, and if acceptable rack off oak. Otherwise continue aging, checking flavor every two weeks.
    17) Bulk age two years total (including time on oak).
    1 Bottle and enjoy.

  20. Default

    You will want to hydrate and pitch yeast and wait for fermentation to become active before you add the nutrients.
    By doing this you will minimize the amount of nutrients that you feed wild yeasts that may be present and help to insure that your selected yeast is the dominant yeast.

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