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Thread: Getting Started

  1. #1

    Default Getting Started

    I have slowly been drawing closer to trying my hand at making mead. Iíve been brewing beer for nearly 8 years. I bought my wife what she needed to make fruit wines years back but after 2 wines simultaneously she gave up so Iíve adopted the gear, which included three 3 gal Better Bottles.

    I order my brewing needs from MoreBeer and they sell mead kits as well so Iíll be purchasing from them. As Iím using a smaller volume vessels I figured the hydromel kit which comes with 6 lbs of honey would be a good starting point, though Iím not sure I want it to be a lower ABV. According to the calculator here it would produce roughly a 9.6% mead. Adding an additional 1.5 lb bottle would boost it to about 11.9%, and 3 lbs to about 14%. For a wine-like mead I figured I wanted in the neighborhood of 13-14%, but Iím wondering if I should start lower with just the 6 lbs for my first attempt.

    One thing that confuses me it that the calculator doesnít determine the ABV based on the yeast used. Looking over the options at MoreBeer most donít give an attenuation figure, though one does (75-100%). Does wine yeast not work in the same manner as beer yeast?

    I figured Iíd start with their hydromel kit as it comes with instructions and the nutrients needed. All I need to do is choose the yeast. What Iím wanting is a very dry mead that has the honey flavor intact. Iím not sure Iíd want any yeast flavor influences. I think Iíd prefer to start with Redstar dry yeast based solely on the price. It appears to my novice mind that the Cuvťe packet would be ideal for what I want. Opinions?

    I keep my beer yeasts on hand making yeast starters. I generally make a 1.5 qt starter using the quart for the beer and the pint as whatís to be stored giving it another ~3 months of life. Does mead yeast work in the same manner? Does anyone keep their yeast going like this?

    Iím also curious how temperature impacts the process. Does it influence the attenuation? Like beer does it influence flavor contributions? I assume it also influences the speed at which the yeast works. My fermentation chamber is set to 65* and the thermostat is set to 75*. Using the Cuvee yeast (assuming its optimal) which would you ferment it at to achieve a well attenuated mead with little yeast flavor impact?

    I had bought a Mr Beer kit from a garage sale solely for the little fermentor and the plastic bottles so as to give me the ability to take mead to the lake, pool, or camping. Iíve contemplated using the little fermentors instead of the Better Bottles because they have the little spigot that would make transferring without aerating a bit more simple, but it has a fairly large opening at the top that I assume gives too much headspace for this purpose, right? Essentially Iíd be aerating it more than whatís desired, and why carboys and such have the small neck?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Saratoga Springs , NY


    Hi rodwha - and welcome. While brewing beer and making wine have an enormous number of similarities there are I think several important differences. Brewers , for example, are concerned about their "efficiency" and the attenuation of their selected yeast. Wine makes know that when all is said and done any yeast they select will ferment 100% of the fermentables so unless their protocol is poor OR they work to deliberately prevent their yeast from fully fermenting the available sugars any wine or mead they make will end brut dry.

    As with brewing yeast will enhance flavors or mask them; will enhance colors or wash them out; will add complexity or will blow off flavors and aromas. The secret is to read the lab specs for different yeasts and select the yeast based on what criteria you are seeking given the conditions you will be fermenting in. Brewers tend to use liquid yeasts and tend to make starters. Wine makers tend to use dry yeasts and the number of viable yeast cells in a pack of yeast tends to be sufficient for any single batch of mead at normal SGs and normal volumes although I know many folk who will use several packs if the starting gravity is above 1.100. Beer yeast costs money. Wine yeast is relatively far less expensive and opening a fresh pack tends to ensure a less problematic process.

    Grains tend to be very sensitive to lactic bacteria and lactic bacteria love grains. Fruit and honey tends not to have such a love affair with those bacteria. Wine (and mead makers) tend to use K-meta as their santizer of choice and that's a three-fer since it not only is used for sanitizing but is used to kill wild yeast and is used to inhibit oxidation.

    Given the relatively longer time most meads need to age in the fermenter and given the large surface area that wide mouth fermenters provide I am not sure that they make a great choice for a wine or mead maker. My primary is a bucket but my secondary is a demijohn with a narrow neck.
    Good luck.

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