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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
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    Pretoria, South Africa
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    Default ~10% ABV dry mead for a friend

    Hi guys, so the other day a friend read a comment about me having made some mead before, and asked me if I'll do a batch for him. He'll supply honey, so I said "sure". I asked all the questions and he responded in kind. What I know he wants is:

    1. About 20l of mead.
    2. Around 10% ABV.
    3. Drier finish, nothing sweet.
    4. Uncarbonated.
    5. The honey he will supply is natural, wildflower honey from his own hives.
    6. He will supply bottles with screw-caps, reusable, so I'm good with that.

    Now I know how a dry mead tastes, specially at the lower end of the ABV range (less honey means less flavour) and I think he might be in for a bit of a shock. I know some people like it, but to me it's just a tad harsh, so I'm going to play with the yeast to give him some flavour in the mead. I warned him 4 times and asked him if he's sure about the "dry", and he said "yes". I explained that it tastes a lot like a brut champagne, and he agreed that's what he wants. So here we go...

    My recipe is as follows:

    5.5kg wildflower honey
    Fermaid-O according to TOSNA 2.0
    Lalvin 71B as yeast, reasoning below
    RO Water to 22l (for a 1.075 starting gravity)

    My reason to use 71B is because it apparently imparts a fruity flavour, has low H2S and SO2 production and produces a bit more glycerol for increased mouthfeel. To boot, it's currently winter in South Africa and I discovered the other day that there's a specific room in my house that sits at a perfect 16°C if I keep the door closed. It's the absolute perfect fermentation chamber, and I actually have a lager in there right now. That temperature is perfectly in the 71B range, so I'm happy with that. 71B is also recommended for neutral white wines and early release wines, so it kinda ticks all my boxes.

    I plan on rehydrating the 71B according to all specifications and all that. I haven't made mead in a long time, but I've done a few batches of great beer since last posting here (honey is damn expensive here), so I'm confident in my skills at this stage. It's just my recipe I'm in two minds about, hence my questioning here.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
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    Västra Götaland, Sweden
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    631

    Default

    I would aim for BM4x4 if you want more mouthfeel in a dry mead. Since 71B is a non-competitive yeast you can co-inoculate with BM4X4 starting with 71B and add the BM after 48h.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
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    Västra Götaland, Sweden
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    Default

    MT Vitiluevre is a nice yeast also.

  4. #4

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    I have no idea if you can buy it. But I would use full dosage strength add with booster blanc, opti-white and optimum white. And you can still add a little bit of honey and it will still taste dry. Dry meads need to age a lot longer than do other mead to become good. It takes a very long time ( 1 year) but around that time the honey flavor and bouquet come forward. Most people don't know this.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Saratoga Springs , NY
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    1,484

    Default

    Thanks for that piece of information Squatchy. I was unaware that dry meads need longer to age for the flavors and aromas to come to the front. This is really good to know.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by bernardsmith View Post
    Thanks for that piece of information Squatchy. I was unaware that dry meads need longer to age for the flavors and aromas to come to the front. This is really good to know.
    Sometimes it takes a year for the honey to step forward friend
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  7. #7

    Default

    Hi Toxxyc - I have very limited experience, but one thing I don't see mentioned in your post is oak. I know it can help a semi-sweet seem drier, and I guess that's where I'm going. If your friend is for a mead being dry per the hydrometer instead of dry based on the taste, then this is a mute point.

    What if you end up with an FG very close to semi-sweet, or just barely there (like 1.007). The oak could add mouthfeel, and other characteristics (including fruit or vanilla), and make it seem drier. This allows for you to back-sweeten just a bit.

    I haven't experimented with many yeasts yet, and haven't used 71B, but I did just do a Trad with QA23 that came out true to the description. Even at 4 months old, there was a slight passion fruit character. My own honey is basically a wildflower honey, med-dark amber, with some orchard foraging (apples, peaches, etc.).

    Maybe I'm way off here, but those are my thoughts.

    Best of luck.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    Pretoria, South Africa
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    312

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Squatchy View Post
    I have no idea if you can buy it. But I would use full dosage strength add with booster blanc, opti-white and optimum white. And you can still add a little bit of honey and it will still taste dry. Dry meads need to age a lot longer than do other mead to become good. It takes a very long time ( 1 year) but around that time the honey flavor and bouquet come forward. Most people don't know this.
    I have no idea what those booster blanc, opti-white and optimum white terms are or what they mean, to be honest. I Googled and it seems like a yeast nutrient. I then did some more searching and found that living in South Africa has more downfalls than corruption and crime. None of those products, including the abovementioned BM4x4 yeast is available here. We just don't get it.

    So what I have in mind is still a dry mead, but I will stabilize and SLIGHLTY backsweeten to just-just break the extreme dryness of the bone dry meads. I tasted a mead over the weekend that I started in Feb or Mar 2018, and it turned out fantastic, but I want to aim for something drinkable a little bit sooner. I'll post pics in the thread I created for that mead.

    EDIT: Oh yes, and I have thought about oaking. I have some ideas about it as I've researched it before, but I'll float the idea past the buddy.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    Pretoria, South Africa
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    Default

    OK, on this, I have a question. Since I pulled closer my previous batch's last legs and found it pretty nice, I also found it slightly carbonated. I didn't like the slight carbonation. Without wanting to post a new thread about this now, what's the easiest, quickest and safest way to completely degas a mead? What I did now with a bottle was simply pour into a bottle, shake it and then burp off the CO2. I shook and burped a swing-top bottle for more than a day, but it still burped CO2 every time I released the cap. How can I ensure the mead is completely flat come bottling day? Does stabilizing help?

  10. #10

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    Yes. You have to stabilize it to ensure it doesn't ferment more.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  11. #11
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    Dec 2017
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    Pretoria, South Africa
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Squatchy View Post
    Yes. You have to stabilize it to ensure it doesn't ferment more.
    If there are sugars left, I understand, but what's the easiest/quickest way to safely degas a mead that's been fermented to completion?

  12. #12

    Default

    [QUOTE=Toxxyc;276868]If there are sugars left, I understand, but what's the easiest/quickest way to safely degas a mead that's been fermented to completion?[/QUOT

    I use a tank of nitrogen and sparge with that. But I don't think that's what you want to hear. You can slowly stir it. You can create a vacuum somehow and that will work. Or you can just wait it out.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
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    Pretoria, South Africa
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    I think I'll just shake the fermenter without opening it. Remove airlock, thumb on hole, shake. I'll stabilize through the little hole/grommet as well, and then shake to dissolve. I don't mind spending a week or two waiting for everything to settle down again.

    On the upside, I'm getting a fridge this weekend. I also have an STC-1000 controller ready, so I'll be converting the fridge into a fermentation chamber, meaning perfectly consistent fermentation temperatures.

    On the mead I'm planning for this batch will also not be bone dry. I spoke to the guy and he liked my semi-sweet offering I gave him to taste. So that's what I'll be aiming for. Degas, stabilize, backsweeten slightly with the same honey. If I'm not mistaken, this should result in a more drinkable mead sooner, correct? I'm really hoping this batch will come to fruitition sooner rather than later. He's VERY serious about the meadery, and already placed an order for 300kg of the same honey when his buddy harvests. The honest is wildflower and lavender, as he has a relatively large lavender field near his hives. I've got high hopes for this.

    Squatchy if you don't mind me wasting more of your time, I have the following products available to me. If you had a mead to make from these products, which ones would you choose, and why, for a semi-sweet mead around 10% ABV?

    1. 9kg of abovementioned honey, for a ~25l batch, around 10% ABV. Want to use as needed to get to gravity and use the rest for backsweetening.
    2. Yeasts, I have a choice between:
    71B
    EC-1118
    D-47
    W 34/70
    S-189
    Various lager, ale and Belgian style yeasts, which I'm not really considering anymore because of the other options. My last batch I made with an Abbaye Belgian Ale yeast, but it came out slightly alcoholic (it's an ester the yeast is known for).
    3. Yeast nutrient I have Fermaid-O, and that's about it. We don't get GoFerm and those types of yeast helping agents.
    4. Pot Meta and Pot Sorbate for stabilizing.
    5. Water, I have a choice between tap water or RO water which is profiled with minerals to make it a good, clean drinking water. We don't have a large selection of water additions and buffers and stuff to get to a specific water profile yet, unfortunately.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    Pretoria, South Africa
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    Default

    OK, I've done made my decision. This weekend is "brew day" as us beermakers call it. I've cleaned the fermenter and it's sitting in sanitising liquid as we speak. On to my process and recipe:

    1. I'll be using 6.5kg of the honey I have (lavender and wildflower) into a total volume of 25l of must, for an aimed gravity of 1.08.

    2. I've decided on 71B. It's a tried-and-trusted yeast and it's flavour profile and so on seems to be what I'm looking for.

    3. Using RO water fortified with basic minerals for "healthy drinking".

    4. I'll be feeding with Fermaid-O according to TOSNA 2.0. Worked well for me in the past. I'll also be properly rehydrating the yeast and acclimating it to the must, even though the gravity isn't very high. I'm still in two minds about making a weak-ish starter, because the packet of 71B is suitable for "up to 23l", but I'll be pitching into 25l. I don't think it'll make much of a difference because the gravity is low, but we'll see.

    5. I'll be fermenting in my fermentation chamber. I hope to have to set up this weekend already, because I'm only picking it up on Saturday. It's a big upright fridge, and I still have to wire up the temperature controller. I don't expect it'll have to work too hard, because we're in winter here, and my fermentation temperature will be set at 20°C (68°F). It seems to be well in the 71B range. I can adjust this, so advice here would be helpful (please) :P

    Fermentation will be left to completion (done dry). Cold crash down to around 2°C (depending on how cold the fridge will go), fine with gelatin and let it sit for a week or two to get nice and clear. Rack off, stabilize, and put back into sanitized fermenter. Here I'll backsweeten to semi-sweet (aiming for around 1.012, but I'll see when I get there) and keep an eye on it, in the fridge, to make sure fermentation doesn't continue. I'll also let it sit here until completely flat and then bottle.

    Any faults/flaws/hints/tips I should look out for?

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    Pretoria, South Africa
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    Oh yes, and I made a mistake on the honey. It's not lavender and sunflower, it's macadamia and sunflower. Think it'll come out pretty well - I can't wait!

  16. #16

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    Starters are not needed if you pitch the correct cell count. 10 grams of yeast will do just fine, as long as you rehydrate it correctly and don't cause temperature shock.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    Pretoria, South Africa
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    Yeah I used the mead calculator and it said I need just over 5 grams of yeast. One packet is 5 grams, so I figured I'll take the risk, since I only have one packet of yeast. Anyway, I got this mead under way. Everything seems to have gone absolutely perfect. Storytime:

    Yesterday morning I took the little buckets of honey and placed them in a big pot on the stove, and poured boiling water in around them to get the honey more liquid, so it can be poured. We currently have a terrible cold front in South Africa, and my RO water temps in the fermenter sat at 14°C. Way too cold. So I sanitized a big container, tapped off a lot of the water (8l), and started heating the fermenter up a bit. At 16°C I felt comfortable to add the now-warm honey, and added 6.3kg of the honey.

    Once the honey was added, I closed up the fermenter and shook the living daylights out of it. I took a hydrometer reading and it stuck at 1.1 dead. Perfect. I closed up the fermenter again and shook it again. Another reading - 1.1 again. Good. That means the honey was properly dissolved and I don't have some honey lying at the bottom, undissolved. The fermenter was not at the level it should have been and where I calculated at, so I topped it up with warm water bit by bit. I stirred and checked temps. The fermenter temperature was at 26°C, so I added some more cold water to the 25l mark and hit the 24°C mark. Perfect.

    The honey seems to have been slightly sweeter or more dehydrated than the GotMead calculator's norm, and I slightly overshot my gravity. I aimed for 1.075 with my caluclated volume and weight, and measured 1.08 perfectly. Temperature correction at 24°C gives me 1.081, which is slightly over, but I'm still happy with it. If I ferment it to completely dry, I'll come in at just-just under 11% ABV, which is fine.

    During the time of mixing the honey and water and all that, I rehydrated my yeast. Got a clean glass with 60ml of warm water at 40°C. The packet says 35°C-40°C but it felt just too hot for me, so I let it sit until I got around 36°C. Added the yeast. Let it sit for a bit and stirred it in. The yeast rehydrated beautifully (best I've managed to date, maybe it helps to follow instructions) and the slurry came down in temp slooooowly. Because I don't have Go-Ferm and I was worried about the yeast's lifetime in the water, I dissolved the first dose of Fermaid O in some warm water and added it to the yeast at 15 minutes. I also introduced a small amount of must at 20 minutes to give the yeast something to chew on in the meantime. This sent the yeast into overdrive and in 2 minutes the slurry in the glass was visibly moving around. First time I've seen yeast THIS active.

    By the time I've added the must, the yeast slurry was at 25°C. Must was at 24°C, so I pitched at around 28 minutes. The fermenter's lid was still a bit wet with honey water and to avoid ants I decided to wash it first. Washed it, sanitized it and when I got back to the fermenter, there was already visible fermentation in the mead. I've never ever seen a fermentation start this fast. From now on, I'll ALWAYS rehydrate. Always. The yeast looks just so incredibly happy, it's not even funny. I placed the lid on the fermenter, slipped in the airlock and it took just half an hour before the first bubbles started pushing through.

    I stood the fermenter in our bedroom last night (because the rest of the house is just too cold right now), and by bedtime the mead was at the perfect aimed for 20°C. Bubbles are slow, but strong and constant, as I expected from fermenting in the lower end of the yeast's temperature range. Very happy with the ferment so far. Second nutrient addition is due for this afternoon. Can't wait!

  18. #18

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    Look up "Scott's laboratory handbook" and you can download it. In it, it tells you the best way to do everything. Including how to rehydrate and how to start a stuck fermentation.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
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    Pretoria, South Africa
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    Quote Originally Posted by Squatchy View Post
    Look up "Scott's laboratory handbook" and you can download it. In it, it tells you the best way to do everything. Including how to rehydrate and how to start a stuck fermentation.
    Downloaded. Thanks Sir, will give it a read! I just REALLY wish we got some better products in SA, like Go-Ferm. I think once we get the bigger batches going I'll have to invest in a shipment from the US perhaps. Do a big import. I see it goes quite a distance. If I buy a few pounds I can make a few thousand litres at least.

    On this mead - I fed the second addition of Fermaid O yesterday afternoon. Didn't want to sprinkle the powder into the must (been there, made that mistake) so I dissolved it into some boiling water in a sterile container, let it sit for a while to dissolve properly (keeping the container sealer) and waited until it cooled down. Added to the fermenter. This mead is purring like a kitten. The smells coming from the fermenter is amazing. I'm planned on keeping it at 20°C and while the cold front is fighting my every move, I got home yesterday and found the fermenter at just-just over 19°C. So whatever I'm doing - it's working. Today will be cooler in the house so I moved the fermenter to a cooler box with a bottle of warm water in there to keep the temperature up. This morning it was at 20°C dead again, so that's perfect.

    This is one of the most steady ferments I've ever seen. There was no initial "explosion" like I sometimes see when I pitch the yeast dry. There is no "rushing" and the airlock's bubbling (while I know it's no indicator) is super, super steady. Sounds like a timer ticking, every second or two a bubble goes "plop". Loving this. Going to be taking a hydrometer sample this afternoon to see how far from the 1/3rd sugar break I am, but I suspect I might have already reached that. If I'm there, I'll feed a last time and let it sit.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Toxxyc View Post
    On this mead - I fed the second addition of Fermaid O yesterday afternoon. Didn't want to sprinkle the powder into the must (been there, made that mistake) so I dissolved it into some boiling water in a sterile container, let it sit for a while to dissolve properly (keeping the container sealer) and waited until it cooled down.
    Squatchy has previously advised me to extract some must (measure the SG while you're at it), dissolve the nutrient into that portion, and then return that portion back into the fermenter. Much less mead explosion that way and a lot less trouble than boiling. Also, boiling Fermaid-O will have an impact on the product itself so I'd avoid getting it that hot; it will dissolve relatively easily at room temperature.

    Talk to a nearby winery about what they use to rehydrate their yeast. You may not have North American products available but it would not surprise me if you had some from Europe that are similar in nature. Maybe not though... you're kinda far from everywhere!
    Last edited by EricHartman; 07-23-2019 at 07:06 AM.

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