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  1. Default Racking confusion! Too much information!

    I've finished one mead already and it came a bit bitter aftertaste, I know it's a young mead it might taste great in 12 months I will wait. In the meantime it motivated me to read more and I've made two other setups Joe's Ancient orange and now this pyment:
    Ingredients per galon:
    555 g of home-made honey from a friend
    695 g of Namibia imported sweet grapes
    1 large pomegranate
    2 kiwi fruit
    Juice of 0.5 orange
    2 tsp. acid blend
    0.3 tsp. tannin
    2 tsp. pectic enzyme
    Yeast Coobra for mead with nutrient (got it from a friend couldn't find any information on it)
    SG: 1062
    Setup done on: 19.01.20
    It calmed down a lot and bubbling slow down as well as layer of yeast started appearing at the bottom. I did not take gravity measures yet to not disturb it I mix it 2-4 times a day with first 5 days I was opening it to give it some oxygen now just shaking it. It is done in demijhon with about 3 inches of head space because my wife said no to plastic buckets.

    What confuses me the most is racking, since there is some grapes and in general mead is racked later than sooner, but apparently grapes can create some off tastes. I found following conflicting information on first racking:
    1. Rack after 1 week
    2. Rack when bubbles go down to one every 30 seconds (this one is from NewBee guide. I don't want to give all sources since I am unsure is that ok and I have no affiliation whatsoever)
    3. Rack when there is layer of yeast at the bottom.
    4. Rack after 21 days
    5. Rack after 8 weeks minimum.
    6. Rack at 1030-1050 gravity
    7. Rack at 1000 Gravity
    8. Rack at 1010 gravity
    9. Rack depending on your recepie/experience/yeast used (First one says at dryness so they suggest 1000, second I don't have enough , third I couldn't find any information on)
    10. Rack when it clears

    Can someone please enlighten me because I know it's only one week and I probably should leave it alone, that's why I didn't check gravity even (except for starting one a week ago), but it looks like it's settling at the bottom a lot, and I am unsure what to do. Should I take gravity? Should I rack? Should I wait longer and it's not worth taking gravity at this point? Should I just RDWHAHB? Well that last one answer is obviously yes but still when do I rack for the first time with this recipe and yeast? I will be grateful for some clarification.

  2. #2

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    Rack only once it's gone to zero on a hydrometer. All the other things listen in your numbers list are dead wrong. If you rack before your fermentation you're taking away all your workers from the must before it's finished
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  3. #3

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    Hi leyus - there is a lot of misinformation out there... I think Squatchy is guiding you to the easiest answer, and he's right for doing so. At a minimum, racking when your ferment is done (hopefully a SG of 1.000 or less), is a good consideration.

    Racking doesn't have to happen right away after ferment, and some use various techniques for various reasons. Keep in mind that racking can technically be different than transferring. For example, I view racking as something I do to help the mead clear and get off of rough lees, vegetative matter, etc. I might want to transfer the entire biomass (rough lees, etc.) from a bucket to a carboy towards the end of fermentation, and let it finish fermenting in the carboy because it can be protected better in the carboy than the bucket.

    Keep studying, but I'd highly recommend the podcasts here on GotMead starting on 9-5-2017 (September 5, 2017). Investing the time is well worth it.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    Pretoria, South Africa
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    You're going to end up with absolutely nothing to drink at all if you want to rack as much as you said in the OP. I rack just once usually. Twice, if I really want to. I rack once the fermentation is complete, I have cold crashed the mead and let it sit for a few weeks (still on the same yeast cake). If the mead is still very cloudy, I might rack it into an airtight container, stabilize it, and let it sit for a few more weeks, and rack once more before bottling.

  5. Default

    Thanks guys this clarifies it. I used hydrometer and it was below a 1000 after 8 days! Since there was some grapes in it, which are famous for producing off flavours in wine, I decided to rack. After racking i topped it up with 250g of honey and water to full gallon. I figure out that if those yeasts were strong enough to work through all that in 8 days they should easily go through a little of extra honey for more alcohol especially that starting gravity was low for a mead. After adding water and honey I have 1020 SG. Seems like yeast are working on it since airlock is more active now and there is a bit of foam forming. I hope I didn't mess it up. I probably could add that honey without racking and give it another week or two, I am unsure would that be a better idea, taste was actually rather good compared to my last mead which was 7 weeks before racking. What do you think?

    Would honey addition be better before racking?
    Is it ok the way I've done it ?
    Was adding honey or water bad idea completely?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Saratoga Springs , NY
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    1,527

    Default

    Hi leyus and welcome. As usual, Squatchy is right on the money. He suggests that the best time to rack is when your hydrometer tells you that the yeast have just about completed their work fermenting all the sugars that they can ferment. Let me take his point for a little walk.

    The thing about mead making is exactly the same thing as with cooking. Sure, if you can read you can follow a recipe and sure for every dish there is a hundred recipes but there is a very good reason that very few home cooks can replicate any dish that professional cooks and chefs make every day in their restaurants and that is because chefs know the underlying reasons for each action called out in the recipe and they understand what that piece of action is there to do. (so if you want to caramelize onions it is going to take perhaps an hour and not three minutes sauteing over low heat... ) That said, why are you racking? I can think of two reasons. One is to remove your mead or wine from what are called gross lees. Gross lees are a mixture of dead yeast cells and other particles that have dropped out of solution during the fermentation. Over time those dead yeast cells will rupture and spill their guts and the contents can produce off flavors so we remove the mead /wine from the lees. But it will be a while before their insides become their outsides.
    Another reason to rack after active fermentation has ended is because many wine makers do not ferment in a carboy filled to the top and sealed with a bung and airlock. There is absolutely no good reason to do so and many good reasons not to. During active fermentation the yeast has been pumping out CO2 and that CO2 has acted as a very thick blanket preventing air and other non-desireables from contaminating your mead/wines. Moreover, there is no good reason to have no headroom above the surface of the wine or mead. In fact there are many very good reasons for there to be a great deal of headroom during this period of active fermentation which can be very vigorous. BUT when active fermentation ceases the production of CO2 ceases and now this blanket of gas will become very thin an threadbare very quickly as the gas will start to leave the surface of the mead/wine. The way to protect your mead or wine from oxidation is to transfer it from the primary (the first) fermenter to a secondary one, one that you fill right up into the neck and seal with a bung and airlock to allow the yeast to clean up after themselves and allow the mead or wine to age on the fine lees that will drop out of solution.
    In short, then, racking is not simply a ritual that mead and wine makers perform but is designed to remove the wine or mead from gross lees at the optimal time and to transfer your mead to a container where you can prevent contact with oxygen now that active fermentation has ceased. The best time do do this once 9and so not leave behind more mead (or wine) than you need is when the gravity drops to about 1.000 (a little earlier is not a problem and a little later (.998 or .996) is not a problem but you want to rack as the fermentation moves from being active to being ended.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by leyus View Post
    Would honey addition be better before racking?
    Is it ok the way I've done it ?
    Was adding honey or water bad idea completely?
    It doesn't sound like you aren stabilizing yet, so the yeast will likely produce more alcohol at this point. Will the mead be OK? That's really up to you. I typically don't add more honey unless I've stabilized and I feel the mead would benefit from back-sweetening. This is a judgment call based on what you're trying to accomplish.

    As bernardsmith pointed to with his food analogy, you should work towards understanding why you're doing what you're doing.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2018
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    NW Florida
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    Quote Originally Posted by bernardsmith View Post
    As usual, Squatchy is right on the money... Let me take his point for a little walk.
    An Excellent perspective, bernardsmith...

    neal

  9. Default

    Thanks for all the answers guys and all the help.

    According to my calculations I would end up with 8% mead with this SG. So I assume adding this honey will bump it to about 10%. I probably should do it before racking to let yeasts and fruit work a bit longer there, I simply felt like those poor yeast didn't have enough food, what kind of life is it if you're done after 8 days? But jokes aside I should probably not modify recipe with my level of experience, but who knows maybe it's for the best. I just wasn't sure is 8% enough for a mead to stay good for a long time, sounds like not enough alcohol to preserve it.

    I will keep it for another 4-8 weeks till fermentation is completely over. I will add potassium sorbate and campden tablet, back sweeten and bulk age for another 4-6 weeks after that and bottle.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by leyus View Post
    Thanks for all the answers guys and all the help.

    According to my calculations I would end up with 8% mead with this SG. So I assume adding this honey will bump it to about 10%. I probably should do it before racking to let yeasts and fruit work a bit longer there, I simply felt like those poor yeast didn't have enough food, what kind of life is it if you're done after 8 days? But jokes aside I should probably not modify recipe with my level of experience, but who knows maybe it's for the best. I just wasn't sure is 8% enough for a mead to stay good for a long time, sounds like not enough alcohol to preserve it.

    I will keep it for another 4-8 weeks till fermentation is completely over. I will add potassium sorbate and campden tablet, back sweeten and bulk age for another 4-6 weeks after that and bottle.
    Interesting point: is 8% abv enough alcohol to provide a reasonable shelf life for a mead. Let me ignore the problems associated with oxidation (and that is quite independent of the amount of alcohol in the wine) and the use of free SO2 to inhibit such spoilage, and the fact that lower pH wines and meads tend to inhibit spoilage. But beer has a higher pH than mead or wine and beer tends to have an ABV of anywhere from about 3 or 4% abv to about 5 or 6 % and while "fresh beer" does tend to taste better than beers aged a year or longer it is the action of UV light on the beer (because of the presence of hops) that does most of the spoilage. In short, I think that at 8% abv your mead is going to be fine even if you age this a year or more but you do need to be sure that your protocols all work to inhibit oxidation especially when you are using fruit and fruit juices. Adding some K-meta when you rack provides that free SO2.

  11. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by bernardsmith View Post
    Interesting point: is 8% abv enough alcohol to provide a reasonable shelf life for a mead. Let me ignore the problems associated with oxidation (and that is quite independent of the amount of alcohol in the wine) and the use of free SO2 to inhibit such spoilage, and the fact that lower pH wines and meads tend to inhibit spoilage. But beer has a higher pH than mead or wine and beer tends to have an ABV of anywhere from about 3 or 4% abv to about 5 or 6 % and while "fresh beer" does tend to taste better than beers aged a year or longer it is the action of UV light on the beer (because of the presence of hops) that does most of the spoilage. In short, I think that at 8% abv your mead is going to be fine even if you age this a year or more but you do need to be sure that your protocols all work to inhibit oxidation especially when you are using fruit and fruit juices. Adding some K-meta when you rack provides that free SO2.
    Good to know. Well you live and learn next time I will stick to recipe and not mess with it for higher abv if it's not necessary.

  12. #12

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    It's probably more a scientific guess from lots of experienced people. But I think lots of people think 10% is where it should be pretty stable. Like Bernard has said. You really want to practice good stabilization management with any mead you make if you want to protect your investment. I realize that's not a very pricey investment. I make some meads that cost me $1000 dollars for a 40-gallon batch. But you never want to have a batch get ruined because you have neglected it
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  13. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Squatchy View Post
    It's probably more a scientific guess from lots of experienced people. But I think lots of people think 10% is where it should be pretty stable. Like Bernard has said. You really want to practice good stabilization management with any mead you make if you want to protect your investment. I realize that's not a very pricey investment. I make some meads that cost me $1000 dollars for a 40-gallon batch. But you never want to have a batch get ruined because you have neglected it
    True I prefer to avoid being wasteful if I can. I added K-meta (campden tablet) and potassium sorbate to last batch of mead I've made and I will add it to this one too. It's good to know that 8% wouldn't be a problem I might make some weaker meads in the future. I assume the weaker they are the better they should taste.

  14. #14

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    No. 10% is a great place to do traditionals with. 12-14% for most everything else
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
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    Yeah if you're going under 10%, in my opinion, you start losing too much flavour and your mead starts tasting watery, simply because you're using not enough honey in the solution. Remember, apart from the sweetness, honey is a VERY gentle flavour.

    IF you want to make something with a lower ABV, consider a braggot. The added grains will give you a ton of flavour to play with. Pilsner and Vienna malts pair very well with most honeys, in my experience. They provide sweet, bready and nutty flavours and good mouthfeel even in low amounts. The benefit of a braggot is that you can drink it and it can be very nice as quickly as 2 weeks after start of fermentation.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Toxxyc View Post
    Yeah if you're going under 10%, in my opinion, you start losing too much flavour and your mead starts tasting watery, simply because you're using not enough honey in the solution. Remember, apart from the sweetness, honey is a VERY gentle flavour.

    IF you want to make something with a lower ABV, consider a braggot. The added grains will give you a ton of flavour to play with. Pilsner and Vienna malts pair very well with most honeys, in my experience. They provide sweet, bready and nutty flavours and good mouthfeel even in low amounts. The benefit of a braggot is that you can drink it and it can be very nice as quickly as 2 weeks after start of fermentation.
    There's lots of tricks to make session mead present bigger
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  17. Default

    So maybe, after all, this honey addition is for the best. Maybe I just should do it before racking but well you live and learn right?

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