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  1. Default First Run (Not so good?)

    Book Ahead, enjoy.

    Ok, this wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. I guess I should start with the recipe I used (ended up with rather):

    9 lbs of Clover Honey
    2.5 Gal of Apple Juice (pure not sweetened by concentrate)
    1 tsp Whole Cloves
    1/4 tsp of Cinnamon powder
    4 tsp of Yeast Nutrients
    2 Ginger roots (both just knobs smaller than a golf ball)
    2.8 Gal of Tap water
    1 pack of Pasteur Champagne Yeast

    Now on with the newbie story:

    First, I had a hard time getting my equipment. I was going to order some stuff online for cheap (in retrospect, I SHOULD have) but I opted to instead Drive 2 hours to Dallas and visit a brew store. I figured since I haven't brewed anything in a long time (Helped my uncles brew some beer when I was younger) I'd like to talk to someone about what I want to do.

    Well I arrived at the brew store on Saturday afternoon and the place was packed. I tried waiting around forever, but even getting some quick help wasn't very encouraging. The helper guy knew NOTHING about brewing ANYTHING. I went ahead and bought a simple 2-stage kit, some champagne yeast, some bottles, and a few other things. I did get the Compleat Meadmaker too, which is probably the only GOOD thing I was able to obtain. I get home and my airlock isn't in the box. ACK!! I ordered one on Monday and they were nice enough to send me the one they didn't have in the box as well. Still I spent twice as much on the equipment I got that I should have. I also received no insight to brewing (or meadmaking at that).

    The honey I had already ordered some "Amber Honey;" why spend more money if I don't know what I'm doing. I have 2 local beekeepers but NEIGHTER seem to answer their phone. I had everything laid out and ready for the honey to arrive yesterday. I get home and they delivered a HALF full 5-gallon pale of honey. I was confused. I opened it up and it STANK like hell for one (probably just from getting hot traveling) but I was confused why I only got 37 of my 65 lb pale. I call and she says they don't even ship the honey in just the pale, that it's put in a box and they tape the lid on the pale. There was no tape (EVER) on this pale and there wasn't a box, but the label was taped on the pale from being cut off a box. So I guess UPS dumped it in another pale and dropped it at my door (didn't even wait for a signature; bastards). So they're going to pay to have another 5 gal pale sent to me, but I'M ALREADY READY!!!

    I didn't want to use the nasty honey (who knows where the pale even came from) so I gave my local keeper another try and SOMEONE ANSWERED. Need to shorten this, so I was able to obtain a 1 Gal bottle of Clover (and something else that's even lighter) honey for $20.50. He even told me next time if I bring back the same jar it would be a little cheaper. He wouldn't however sell me the raw honey ($1.25/lb) in less than a drum full (I don't have a forklift). The honey is very light but tasty nonetheless. I wish I was able to get a hold of him sooner. Now I'll have a 60 lb and (maybe) a 37 lb tub of honey to either use or offload onto someone.

    Ok, ok, I have my recipe (not what I listed above) that I came up with from just looking here and there. Trying to make it simple, but not plain. I was aiming for a very dry mead with a little apple bite to it, not a heavily apple cyser. I have all my equipment (I thought) and I have my ingredients. So I get started with sanitizing and heating up the water to single the honey a little (seemed like a compromise from the MANY different methods used). Well first off I notice my thermometer is missing!!! Looked EVERYWHERE and I cannot find it.. But it's too late; I'm already too far into this. I assume my daughter though she'd play with it; if only she knew what I was talking about she would have taken me straight to it.

    Sanitize (everyone has been there, I think I did ok)

    Heat up water to boiling for 15 min (was busy rinsing). I used about 1.8 Gal here.

    Add Ginger (sliced). Mix in honey on low (from the looks of it I'd say around 8 lbs) and simmer about 5 min while making sure it's mixed.

    I poor 1 Gal of Apple juice into the primary fermenter (plastic pale), this stuff was left at room temp. I then add the 2.5(ish) gal of honeywater (I didn't remove Ginger slices). I then add 1.5 Gal of chilled apple juice. The smell is WONDERFUL. It's sweet and cidery.. But wait.. crap it smells like a sweet cider, not something like a dry (thinking green apple) flavor. So last minute, I decide to spice it up some and throw in the cloves and cinnamon. Now this smells GREAT. I mean perfect.

    Something's not right. There's WAY too much room in the fermenter. I've never heard anything about there being room at the top of the fermentor. I've only seen recipes say "enough water to top off fermentor). That can't be right either. How does my 5 gal not even go close to the top? Did I boil off too much water CRAP CRAP CRAP. Well I sprayed some more tap water directly into the fermentor, thinking the entire time that this has got to be something stupid (gotta love the fresh chlorine smell anyways, but maybe that's from my sanitizing). Well I top it off leaving a little over 2 inches at the top. The stuff is looking WATERED down as hell. It doesn't smell delightful anymore. It looks pretty pale. Oh well..

    Well at this point I'm ready to throw in yeast. Not sure when I should take gravity reading, so I do it first. The gravity reading is about 1.065 (wtf that seems too low).

    I better add more honey.. Can't hurt, the yeast can handle it. So I dump in about another pound (I need a kitchen scale). I'm thinking the whole time, ANOTHER stupid move.. Moron, you can't just jump un-sanitized honey in there and try to stir it in. Oh well, what's done is done. Another gravity reading; wait I doesn't really even look to be at 1.065.. But oh well I'll use my original reading. I take a taste.. It tastes VERY watered down. Oh well.

    So I go ahead and pitch a package of yeast directly into the pale. I stir some more (hoping to aerate the yeast for their aerobic starting cycle). I let this sit about an hour and close it up nice and tight. I look at where the water is in the airlock so I can see if ANY CO2 could have been created.

    Take my daughter to a movie and return. The airlock as obviously had a bunch of air through it. I was able to catch a glimpse at one bubble.

    Sleepy time. Take a look at the airlock. I only caught 1 more bubble (I didn't stay long) but it's definitely not CHEWING along. Maybe after they run completely out of air (when I get home tonight) they'll be moving along.

    Ok.. didn't list all my bad little experiences but it's definitely not an easy process. I just don't have the experience with it. Would be nice to have a brew buddy or something where we could visit the other's house and help start brews (and maybe finish them, but I'm not there yet).

    Well this is in the newbie section and I wanted to post so I could ask questions here (As a brewlog would have been more appropriate).

    1a: The extra 1.4 gal of head space in the fermentor. What did I do wrong here? Is it supposed to be empty or COULD I leave it that way and be perfectly okay?? I assume it could be fine, but I got confused at the last moment.

    1b: when I rack to a secondary do I need to top it off?

    2a: The gravity seems low. I would like a nice 10% or so dry mead with a hint of apple (and now some spice)?

    2b: Should I rack it on top of my 3lbs of leftover honey??

    3: Would the flavor have been a nice tart apple if I didn't spice it up?

    4: Comments on my recipe or any newbie tips??

  2. #2

    Default Re: First Run (Not so good?)

    Quote Originally Posted by intothefray
    1a: The extra 1.4 gal of head space in the fermentor. What did I do wrong here? Is it supposed to be empty or COULD I leave it that way and be perfectly okay?? I assume it could be fine, but I got confused at the last moment.

    1b: when I rack to a secondary do I need to top it off?

    2a: The gravity seems low. I would like a nice 10% or so dry mead with a hint of apple (and now some spice)?

    2b: Should I rack it on top of my 3lbs of leftover honey??

    3: Would the flavor have been a nice tart apple if I didn't spice it up?

    4: Comments on my recipe or any newbie tips??

    First off, welcome to the Forums! Congratulations on jumping in to the world of mead and fermenting.

    As to your procedure, well, we've all been there. Some of us return repeatedly, in fact.

    1a -- Are you sure you have a five gallon carboy? They make make many different sizes, and you may have brought home a six or six-and-a-half gallon instead. The extra head space is really not important in primary, since the air gets driven out by the CO2 produced by the yeast. You need to take up that space when you rack, however -- if active fermentation is over. Oxygen is vital in the early stages of the process, since the yeast need it to multiply effectively. Oxygen is a bad thing later on, though, so you really want to limit must exposure at that point (a square inch or so in the neck space, as opposed to a square foot or so in the body of the carboy).

    1b -- This is still early on, right? I'd say you could either leave it alone right now, and make up the diff in the secondary, or do so now. I think I'd wait, since you'd have lost some volume from the sediment (also called lees) that you'd leave behind anyway, requiring a top-off. This way you wouldn't have to do it twice. Either way, add more apple juice when you add the honey (mix 'em together). Things seem slow right now because of all that internal head space, most likely. Give it time. You'll probably see good action in a day or so.

    2a -- Use the mead calculator, here, to get an estimate of what you've put in already, and what you may want to add later on:

    2b -- Again, I'd rack over onto the honey in secondary, but that's just me. You could probably do it now, if you wanted, without any problem.

    3 -- If you didn't have a nice tart apple juice to begin with, you won't have a flavor like that at the end without help. You can tart things up to your taste, by adding acid when it's all done. Wait and taste it, then adjust the flavor accordingly.

    4 -- Comments...? Keep at it! Unless things go way wrong, which this doesn't seem to have at all, it's hard not to make something drinkable with mead. If all else fails, you just let it age longer.

    Again, welcome, and keep us updated.


  3. Default Re: First Run (Not so good?)

    6.8 Gal. It all makes sense now...

    Anyone want some watermead?

  4. #4

    Default Re: First Run (Not so good?)

    Just some quick points:

    "5 gallon" fermenting buckets have 1-1.5 gallons of head space at the top. Even a “5 gallon” glass carboy if filled completely to the neck will contain significantly more than 5 gallons. “Topping up” a fermenter means adding water to bring the total volume to the desired final level, in your case 5 gallons. It does not mean filling the vessel to the top.

    There is no problem with adding “unsanitized” honey to a must. I never heat any of my musts anymore and have never had a problem. I just add honey, water, and yeast to my carboy and stir to dissolve.

    Cloves are very strong; a tsp in 5 gallons may be a lot. Of course this is a matter of personal preference.

    Tart apple flavor can be established two ways, either with the use of tart cider, or by the addition of malic acid, which is the chemical in tart apples that makes them so. Adding spices isn’t a bad thing, its just a different thing.

    Relax, keep it simple at first, maybe try some small batches with simple ingredients. Mead can be as easy or as hard as you want it to be.

  5. Default Re: First Run (Not so good?)

    Using the calculator my Gravity should have been 1.063 (which is what I measured). That's what 8-9% if it dries out nicely.

    I was aiming for the dry tart, but went with the dry spicey apple (?) after I figured my first thought wasn't going to work. In any case it smelled great before I ignorantly added the extra water.

    The replies are much nicer than I imagined. I guess I should have started posting before my first run.

  6. Default Re: First Run (Not so good?)

    Well just got home a bit ago. This puppy is bubbling pretty nicely. I counted 10 bubbles in 11 seconds on my stopwatch. That seems a bit fast to me, but what do I know. They're nice big pops too, not fizz. The smell coming from the airlock is dominated by clove (crap JoeM was right) then honey, then cinnimon, and finally apple. Not overpowering so could still be okay.

  7. #7

    Default Re: First Run (Not so good?)

    That does seem like a lot of spices, but if you rack early, you can minimize their effects.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Boulder County, CO

    Default Re: First Run (Not so good?)

    Quote Originally Posted by intothefray
    The replies are much nicer than I imagined. I guess I should have started posting before my first run.
    We usually play nice.


  9. Default Re: First Run (Not so good?)

    I am way too new to answer any of your honey / mead questions.
    But your shipping fiasco needs to be addressed.
    First of all I am really supprised that your honey supplier did not offer to address the shipping trouble for you. Point of origin is usually point of responsibility. Also if your supplier ships with UPS regularly they probably have some amount of liability insurance written into their contract with UPS. It can be a pain but filing a claim with UPS will usually result in the shippers (not the agent - ups) favor. That is to say UPS will usually refund at least shipping cost and often cover the cost of the damaged goods.
    But the caveat here is that the claim must be made through the point of origin (your supplier). Your supplier must call UPS and request an insurance claim.
    You can help the process along by:
    * Dont accept any package that does not appear to have been shipped in its original container.
    * If the package is dropped off - note the date and time of delivery if known and call UPS. Inform them that you were present at time of delivery but you are refusing the package and why. Be specific about the damages.
    * If this fails - it should not, call your supplier and request that they send a RMA - return merchandise authorization. UPS will pick up and you will not be responsible for shipping.

    Document everything you can about the condition of the package when it was recieved. Was the packaging damaged? How? When was it delivered? Was the shipment complete?
    Report these in writing to your supplier and to UPS. Keep a copy for yourself.

    NOTE: All of this must be done within 24 hours of delivery. It is far better to refuse any suspicious package at the time of delivery. Also call yoru supplier within 24 hours of delivery.

    Also - if your supplier did not offer to investigate the shipment and resend or reimburse you for the shipment - DO NOT USE THEM AGAIN!!! EVER!

    Any reliable supplier will know the proceedure for making a claim with UPS. After several years in the shipping business (paper goods) I can say with all confidence that UPS has a high damage record.
    Shipments get dropped - lost - stolen and none of it is the fault of the shipper or reciever. But UPS has been doing this a long time. They DO investigate - and rarely declare a damaged shipment the fault of the shipping party unless inferior shipping marterials were used. UPS will contact the shipping party and litterally look at samples of the type of packaging used - they will collect the damaged shipment and note its route of delivery.
    They have a good process so the sipping party should have no fear that their claim will be denied.
    Even if UPS declares the shipment damages are the fault of the shipping party - YOU should not have to pay for that mistake.

    Sorry that was long winded. But there is no reason for anyone to have to worry about bad shipments.

  10. Default Re: First Run (Not so good?)

    I wasn't clear on that:

    So they're going to pay to have another 5 gal pale sent to me, but I'M ALREADY READY!!!

    Now I'll have a 60 lb and (maybe) a 37 lb tub of honey to either use or offload onto someone.
    Logistics is part of my day job so I know UPS is responsible for the honey. They should be ashamed with not calling the shipper and doing the ring and run at my house. I did call immediately after opening the honey, but being my first time ordering it I didn't know what to expect.

    I'm not sure what I should do with the half bucket of honey if UPS doesn't pick it up. It seems like a waste to toss it. My new 60 lb tub was shipped yesterday so I should have plenty for my next few batches (although I do think the local stuff is better).

    Just a bad start to my first batch. I've been sitting here today wanting to order some more supplies to make more mead. I REALLY want at least 1 of the plastic conical fermenters because I see so many people racking 6+ times to clear out their mead. That seems crazy. I'll probably just rack this batch once and drink some clouds. Dunno, might pickup at least another 5 gal glass carboy and some puree for some fruity mead to go with the cheap honey.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    The OC

    Default Re: First Run (Not so good?)

    Oskaar <------ Sprints to keyboard upstairs and jumps on soapbox.

    I am an ardent UPS basher. Speaking from a very subjective, biased and totally anti-UPS viewpoint, I have nothing good to say about UPS. In both my professional and home dealings with UPS I have found them sorely lacking in customer service, especially when it comes to home delivery. Frequently after 4 o'clock PM I have been on the phone with UPS customer service (after tracking down the package tracking number on the website) and seen the UPS truck pull up in front of my house, stop, fill-out a signature form for my door and literally run up and stick it on the mailbox, and split in a cloud of dust.

    I've also waited all day for honey and supplies after burning some extra cash for next business morning delivery on more than one occaision with the door open and a UPS sign out that I'm here and waiting for them. Turn around for a second and hear the truck pull up, and by the time I hit the driveway the delivery guy is putting the pedal to the metal and pulling off. What really frosts me is that he looked right at me waving him down with the UPS sign and just kinda sneered at me and pulled off. UPS customer service flat out refused to move on the issue so I escalated to management. They dragged their feet and said they would check with the driver, bottom line, I still had to wait until the next day to get my honey.

    My business dealings with them have been no better, especially when you're waiting for equipment and replacement drives, servers, etc.

    Now whenever I order honey or supplies I specify that I want it delivered by FedEX and I have never had a problem with them. If they miss me because I'm out, they always leave the package where I specify, no problems. I order wine, champagne etc, so I don't want it riding around in the trucks all day.

    Bottom line, if I had a wish it would be to take over delivery operations in the Orange County area and make some high impact changes in the way UPS treats it's customers here.

    Oskaar <------ Steps down off soapbox

    OK, I feel better now.


    Is it tasty . . . precious?

  12. Default Re: First Run (Not so good?)

    Whoa Oskaar! You need my guy. I was once waiting on a late shipment and found he had been to my house when I was off at the store. I thought I would have to wait until the next day.
    But as I pulled in to a local hanburger joint - there he was. He recognized me and handed over the package. He did ask for ID though
    Having said that - I actually like good ole US postal service.
    I have not used them for perishibles but I have never had a glitch yet and standard shipping usually arrives before UPS.
    Cheaper too. But again I live in a small town.
    So small that when an aquaintance sent me a package addressed to my first name only and my city (no address or zip) I still recieved the package just fine.
    hmm...Oskaar maybe you just need to live in a smaller town?

  13. Default Re: First Run (Not so good?)

    Hey Oscaar,

    Hey I've worked for UPS! Just kidding! But I have been a delivery guy.

    There is no excuse for the negativity you are experiencing from your deliverers. But hopefully I can help you begin to understand why they arn't happy.

    Speed in delivery is a huge issue. If a driver takes longer to deliver, he is getting home later. And when a driver is behind schedule, he always feels stressed and imagines himself getting home at midnight. As far as they are concerned, there are good days and really bad days. They think they are going to either get home early or get home extremely late. What's worse is that management is always judging them by their speed, and they will get bad routes if they are too slow. Bad routes mean less pay, longer drives, and getting home later. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but it is if you face these factors every day.

    Is your house really really out of the way? Sometimes the routes are givin where every delivery is fast and close together, and then one delivery will be far off by itself. We once had a delivery like this where all our deliveries were in the Napa, Sonoma areas, and then 1 single delivery way up north, half way to Oregon, over a large mountain, and up a bunch of winding dirt roads. One delivery! But once we got there we still treated the guy with respect. It took us 4 hours for one delivery (2 hours each way)! That really hurt our record and we got home real late.

    Sometimes it's not where you live, it can also be where you live in relation to the way the routes are given. Sometimes the router gets 1 order far away from every other order the company is recieving, and an unlucky delivery guy has to deliver to it. (usually someone with a bad record)

    Having said all that, there is no reason a driver should treat you with such negativity. Maybe he kept ending up with bad routes? But rest assured, he probably got his ass chewed out from his managers when you called. The drivers get chewed out from customer complaints and the "how am i driving" numbers as soon as they happen.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    The OC

    Default Re: First Run (Not so good?)

    Thanks Norsk,

    I totally understand about the delivery "on-time" pressure, one of my friends used to be a district manager for Airborne and I've listened to his rantings on more than one occaision.

    Like you said, bottom line is there's no excuse for shoddy behavior, and to me, if the individual is not happy with his job he should seek out something that makes him happier whenever possible.

    Anyhow, I just needed a good rant. Oh, my location is very easy to get to, and in a freeway close section of Anaheim, CA.

    The driver is just a weasel, as were the customer service reps. I did call my UPS account rep while at work one day and bent his ear pretty good about the whole situation. I felt better.


    Is it tasty . . . precious?

  15. Default Re: First Run (Not so good?)

    The company I worked for was hiring people right out of prison. I left because it was a very negative environment.

    There were some good guys there though. They were warning me about the negativity constantly the first month I worked there...I wonder if UPS is anything like that.

    Then again this was based in the most ghetto part of Oakland. Once while I was pulling in to work a hooker tried to flag me down!

    Odly enough, I later found out that Enat Winery, which makes some truly wonderful T'ej, is situated right across the street!

  16. Default Re: First Run (Not so good?)

    This stuff is bubbling 3+ times faster today.

  17. Default It's FINISHED!!

    Too lazy to copy and paste my log over here, so you'll have to visit link.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    The OC

    Default Re: First Run (Not so good?)

    Awesome, totally awesome!


    Is it tasty . . . precious?

  19. Default Re: First Run (Not so good?)

    Awesome! Love the labels! What kind of paper did you use? Were they store bought labels or did you cut them?

  20. Default Re: First Run (Not so good?)

    They were store bought labels. I used Name Badges so they would stick (but not TOO good). Avery 15395

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