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General Category => Other Fermentables => Topic started by: cmuzz on February 10, 2011, 02:55:14 pm

Title: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: cmuzz on February 10, 2011, 02:55:14 pm
Hello all. First post here. I started brewing mead in the late 80’s and have always been partial to a very dry finish with lots of honey nose. Got my first recipe from “Making Mead: A Complete Guide to the Making of Sweet and Dry Mead, Melomel, Metheglin, Hippocras, Pyment and Cyser by Acton. I made three 5 gallon batches and got very satisfactory results with the following cobbled together recipe:

1.75oz Tartaric
3.25oz Malic
.9oz Tannin
6 pinches Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salt)
15 milligrams B1
6 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Potassium Phosphate / Ammonium Phosphate)
Campden Tabs

15lbs Unfiltered Honey
Champaign Yeast
Water to 5.5 gallons

Mix honey with warm water & acids, tannin & nutrient. Add 2 campden tablets per gallon of must & wait 24-36 hours.
Pitch yeast & ferment for 30-45 days until dry. Temp range 70-75 degrees F.
Rack to 5 gallon carboy. Add 1 campden tablet per gallon. Top off and fit with airlock.
Rack again when heavy deposit forms or 3 months. Add 1 campden tablet per gallon.
Age 3-4 months, then Bottle & mature 1-3 years.

Of course I always had slow and unsteady fermentations, hence the 45 days in the primary. The 6-8 month tasting tasted like rocket fuel, but by the 1-2 year mark I consistently had a spectacular end product. But by the mid 90’s I switched solely to brewing beer because of the instant gratification.

Now I’m missing the taste of my old mead homebrew and have decided to jump back in. WOW! Has the world of mead making changed. It looks like I can rework my old recipe for a much more efficient product. So I need your help.

I picked up some Go-Ferm to help in yeast rehydration. I got Fermaid-K & DAP to take the place of the mag sulfate, B1 & Nutrient. I have studied the Staggered Nutrient Addition and am ready to rock.

Questions:
1) Some sources recommend adding the acids & tannin in the secondary or later. Good advice?
2) I have an air wand & oxygen tank that I use in aerating beer must before pitching yeast. Is that good practice here? Some sources say to do that with every addition of nutrients. Good Advice or just shake or stir each SNA?

Any other advice would be helpful.
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: morticaixavier on February 10, 2011, 04:26:31 pm
The last mead I made fermented out in just a couple of weeks from 1.110 down below 1.000 I added yeast nutrient (About 1 tsp), bee pollen, royal jelly, and propolis (Decontructed 'whole hive' mead). worked great dropped crystal clear after fermentation done. Racked and aged on oak spirals for a couiple of weeks and it is now in the bottle. Havn't tasted it yet. IN march it will be one year and then I can tell you how it actually came out.
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: cmuzz on February 10, 2011, 04:53:57 pm
I buy completely raw honey from a local bee keeper. Has what he call "unavoidable bee parts" in it. I thought of putting a bit of bee pollen in to suppliment the B vitamins. Roayal jelly sounds cool too.

Do you think all that is overkill?
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: morticaixavier on February 10, 2011, 05:46:44 pm
I buy completely raw honey from a local bee keeper. Has what he call "unavoidable bee parts" in it. I thought of putting a bit of bee pollen in to suppliment the B vitamins. Roayal jelly sounds cool too.

Do you think all that is overkill?

perhaps. It was at least in part a ceremony kind of thing. But as you said the pollen can add some nutrients and propolis is a mild antiseptic so it might help prevent unwanted organisms. Who knows what if anything the royal jelly adds. I got the idea from the Buhner book.

I like "unavoidable bee parts" I want to see that on the label of some raw honey!
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: cmuzz on February 10, 2011, 05:53:55 pm
http://store.swarmbustinhoney.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=SH&Category_Code=RAW (http://store.swarmbustinhoney.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=SH&Category_Code=RAW)

It is not on the label but on the top of the cap it says "Warning: Contains UBPs (Unavoidable Bee Parts)

Fun folks and I'm glad to have them within driving distance.
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: tschmidlin on February 10, 2011, 06:06:34 pm
Great prices too, but not with shipping.  I might have to try to get some raw honey from my local apiary, I sometimes get bee parts but I think it's still filtered to some extent.
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: cmuzz on February 10, 2011, 06:31:21 pm
Yeah, I pass this place whenever we go to visit the inlaws. Found a bee nose in the latest gallon I bought.

Now that I'm re-reading the site, I think there is enough stuff in there that I won't need to add pollen or Royal Jelly.

What is the common wisdom on using campden tablets these days?
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: tschmidlin on February 10, 2011, 07:03:14 pm
I don't use campden tablets and don't think they're needed, but feel free. :)
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: cmuzz on February 10, 2011, 07:20:42 pm
In the old days it was either boil and loose all that nose or sulfite. It is hard to let go of old paranoia's.

The more I read these days, the more I hear..."Trust the Force"! ;)

Any reason to think that because I'm using such a raw product that there are more chances of wee beasties that could take hold? I'd love not to have to wait that extra day before putting the yeasts in.
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: tschmidlin on February 10, 2011, 07:28:06 pm
Well, I suppose when they heat it to filter it that could kill some critters, but I don't remember how warm it gets or where I read it.  I haven't used really raw honey like that either, but a strong pitch of yeast should be able to overcome most competing bugs.  Either way, you could try a small test ferment first
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: cmuzz on February 10, 2011, 07:54:29 pm
Tom,

Since we seem to be on a roll. What is your thoughts on the acids & tannins. Wait until secondary or add later?

What I'm reading indicates that it should not go in primary or it can overcompensate for acid balance and freak out the yeasts. But doesn't fermentation lower the acid in the must? Maybe at the last feeding of the SNA?

I'm starting to miss the old days when we just threw it all in at the start and left it up to the Gods of brewing.
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: tschmidlin on February 10, 2011, 07:57:45 pm
I would make the adjustments in secondary (or later) and adjust to taste.  But that's me.
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: zorch on February 10, 2011, 08:06:12 pm
1) Some sources recommend adding the acids & tannin in the secondary or later. Good advice?

That's the approach I've taken.   For one, it seems a good idea to not drop the pH of the must too far before your yeast have had a chance to get established.  The pH is going to drop considerably during fermentation anyway, but that's after things are chugging along.

But mostly, since these are essentially 'seasoning' ingredients, I like to wait until the last minute.   I don't add any tannin or acids until I'm getting ready to bottle the batch.  I then will draw a small sample (like 100 ml), and mix in very small amounts of acid until it seems right to me, then scale it up.   It helps to have a scale with at least a  +- 0.1g accuracy for this.   


2) I have an air wand & oxygen tank that I use in aerating beer must before pitching yeast. Is that good practice here? Some sources say to do that with every addition of nutrients. Good Advice or just shake or stir each SNA?

My last batch, I aerated with O2 after every nutrient addition, and had good results.  The bigger issue is avoiding a huge foam-out when you drop in your nutrients - All that powdery stuff creates a ton of nucleation sites for the dissolved CO2 to come out of solution.    I used my Mix-Stir at low speed to de-gas before I added the nutrients, and it seemed to work good.    I suppose you could skip the O2 step and just run the Mix-Stir for a minute or two to drive off CO2 and aerate in one step ( it only takes about 20 seconds to de-gas otherwise).  I haven't tired that... I know using pure O2 worked well the last time, so that's probably what I will do the next time.
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: cmuzz on February 10, 2011, 08:13:39 pm
Thanks guys. Lots of food for thought here. I'm thinking now that after secondary, I'll go into five 1 gallon jugs and experiment in each.

This sure has been worth the price of admission. :)
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: morticaixavier on February 10, 2011, 08:50:34 pm
In the old days it was either boil and loose all that nose or sulfite. It is hard to let go of old paranoia's.

The more I read these days, the more I hear..."Trust the Force"! ;)

Any reason to think that because I'm using such a raw product that there are more chances of wee beasties that could take hold? I'd love not to have to wait that extra day before putting the yeasts in.

I'm not sure if raw vs filtered makes a difference in risk of infection but I do know that honey is really unhospitable to all microorganisms until it is diluted. There is a small percentage of hydrogen peroxide (HO? H2O2?) in honey produced by the bees to help prevent infection. I think alot of folks these days don't boil or sufite. just warm the honey enough to poor.
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: kenschramm on February 12, 2011, 12:46:04 pm
That's my take on it - I don't heat at all.  Two other things strike me as big improvements over practice in the "olden days."

1) Not acidifying until fermentation is complete.  Having your pH fall below 3.1 or so can really stress out your yeast.  Actually, cmuzz, there is so little buffer in honey that it is very possible to have your pH crash when the yeast population absorbs its nutrients.  Fermentation will also add CO2, which will yield carbonic acid. And acidifying to taste after fermentation is a lot more precise than adding arbitrary amounts before fermentation.

2) Use of nutrients. Very few honeys can deliver more than 20 ppm of available nitrogen, and a 12% fermentation will go off most smoothly with about 300 ppm.  Not enough N stresses they yeast too, and is responsible for the development of higher alcohols, which can give you a nasty hangover, even if you do not over-imbibe.  I use a staggered nutrient addition (http://www.gotmead.com/forum/blog.php?b=41) program.

Ken
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: cmuzz on February 14, 2011, 02:46:42 pm
I am totally sold on all the advances that have been developed over the last years. And, thank you all for your help getting this old timer up to speed.

Saturday evening, I rehydrated my yeast in Go-Ferm (25 minutes). I dissolved 15 lbs of honey in warm water, no sulfites. Pitched the yeast, aerated the 5 gallons and made sure all was fully mixed.

By next AM there was some slight bubbling. I added DAP & Fermaid-K and oxygenated the must. Within a few hours, I have been getting the most vigorous fermentation, I have ever seen in a mead. In fact, it rivals the most vigorous fermentations I have seen in many of my batches of beer. I will continue with another nutrient addition and another oxygen blast when I see that 30% drop in the SG.

When I think back to the week or so that it took to get a slow and steady fermentation going with my original recipe, I am amazed that I had the patience to do that 3 times. No wonder we relied so much on the sulfites. Who knows what could have taken hold in that must without them.

Ken, I’m sure that holding back on the acids is also a big contributing factor to how much these little buggers are partying in that carboy. Rock on little yeasties!
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: kenschramm on February 16, 2011, 12:35:27 am
Keep us posted on how things go.  I'm curious to know how the batch come out.

KDS
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: cmuzz on February 28, 2011, 05:21:13 pm
I’m amazed at how this is progressing. I started the fermentation on 2/12. Yesterday 2/27 I took the final of 3 gravity readings and fermentation has ceased. Original Gravity 1.11 & Final at 1.00. So, I racked to the secondary and put it away in a dark corner to sit for a bit. It is still a hazy golden color. I’ll look at it in a month or so to monitor how it is clearing.

It's quite interesting that the flavor is no way near the old rocket fuel taste of years gone by, just thinly winey and very much in need of adjustments with some tannins and acid. I’ll hold off on that until bottling time in maybe 6-9 months.

Meanwhile, I’m going to follow the old procedure of racking every 2 months or so, unless common wisdom has changed. What do you think?
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: morticaixavier on February 28, 2011, 07:34:37 pm
I’m amazed at how this is progressing. I started the fermentation on 2/12. Yesterday 2/27 I took the final of 3 gravity readings and fermentation has ceased. Original Gravity 1.11 & Final at 1.00. So, I racked to the secondary and put it away in a dark corner to sit for a bit. It is still a hazy golden color. I’ll look at it in a month or so to monitor how it is clearing.

It's quite interesting that the flavor is no way near the old rocket fuel taste of years gone by, just thinly winey and very much in need of adjustments with some tannins and acid. I’ll hold off on that until bottling time in maybe 6-9 months.

Meanwhile, I’m going to follow the old procedure of racking every 2 months or so, unless common wisdom has changed. What do you think?


sounds good! I am not sure about multiple racking. The thinking behind that is to avoid yeast eating yeast flavours. however, at least with beer, the current wisdom is that is not too much of a problem for a month or two. but I would imagine if you are going to bulk age for a year you would want to rack at least once to get it off any lees that settle in secondary.
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: cmuzz on April 25, 2011, 08:11:07 pm
Wower! Racked again after 2 months. There was quite a bit of sediment and we are clearing nicely. Still a bit of a golden haze.

But the flavor is lovely. Not as full and round as I am used to, but I have not added the acids and tannins yet. However, I am very satisfied with the flavor and aroma.

I'll be patient and wait another month or so before splitting the batch and trying the additions. I feel the urge to get another batch going. I don't want to be without a bottle of this in my cellar. And I'm not good at laying down bottles for too long.

Thanks again for your input. To be continued...
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: punatic on April 25, 2011, 09:47:25 pm
I suspect the "rocket fuel" flavors were acid additions related. 

A finished gravity of 1.000 is pretty dry.  Try back-sweetening a bottle or so of the mead with honey and see if that doesn't bump up the honey aromas and flavors a bit.  Keep track of the proportions you use when back-sweetening, so if you like it, you can scale it up to larger volumes.
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: cmuzz on April 26, 2011, 04:34:09 pm
Quote
I suspect the "rocket fuel" flavors were acid additions related. 
I never thought of that. After a year or so of aging, that was totally gone and the flavors & aroma had no hint of it.

I do prefer a very dry mead, hence the low FG. But since I'm dividing this batch into gallons to test the additions, I might as well try the back sweetning on one.

Thanks.
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: cmuzz on June 14, 2011, 09:53:17 pm
OK, decided that my old additions were what I wanted for final flavor. It just gave the roundness and mouthfeel that I remembered. Just toned it down a notch for the 5 gallon batch:
1.5 oz Tartaric
3.0 oz Malic
.8 oz Tannin

It is in the bottles, corked and resting.
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: Pawtucket Patriot on August 15, 2011, 04:46:54 pm
OK, decided that my old additions were what I wanted for final flavor. It just gave the roundness and mouthfeel that I remembered. Just toned it down a notch for the 5 gallon batch:
1.5 oz Tartaric
3.0 oz Malic
.8 oz Tannin

It is in the bottles, corked and resting.


Adding these acids and the tannin is interesting to me. I've only made one mead, but I'm curious as to whether this is a common practice these days. I imagine you have a pretty well-tuned palate to be able to know what to add and how much.

After a year of aging, the dry mead I bottled yesterday still tastes like rocket fuel. I'm really hoping it mellows with age.
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: cmuzz on August 15, 2011, 08:34:00 pm
I have spent a lot of time drinking and just know what pleases me. This batch was made with a whole different type of honey than what I was used to and fine tuning these flavors has been a challenge. But that just means that I need to make more. ;D

Pawtucket Patriot, Post your recipe and maybe we can add some insight on your experience.

Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: Pawtucket Patriot on August 16, 2011, 02:10:15 am
My 5 gallon recipe was as follows:

O.G. 1.104, F.G. 1.000, ABV 13.9%
14 lbs clover honey
2 x 5g sachets of Lavlin D-47 (I now realize that this was probably overkill on the yeast)

I heated 2 gallons of water to 115F and added it to my bucket fermentor.  Then, I added the honey and two more gallons of water and mixed in 4.5g each of Fermaid-K and DAP.  I rehydrated the yeast in 104F water, along with 10g Go-Ferm.  After proofing for 1.5 hours (I realize I should have only let it proof for 15-30 minutes), I pitched the yeast to 80 degree must.

24 hours after pitching, fermentation temp was 75.  At this point, I added 2.8g each Fermaid-K and DAP.

48 hours after pitching, fermentation temp was 75.  I added 1.8g each Fermaid-K and DAP.

14 days after pitching, the mead hit terminal gravity.

I know I fermented this strain too high.  If I use it again, I'll ferment closer to 65.  I think I'll probably experiment with backsweetening meads that finish this dry. 

What's interesting about this mead is that the aroma is not solvent-like.  There is no acetone aroma or anything.  It's got a slight apple aroma with a light honey note.  But it tastes really hot.  I'm thinking this will decrease with age, but it may take several years.

Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: gordonstrong on August 16, 2011, 03:10:48 am
In a bone-dry mead, there's not much to balance the alcohol.  It does need to age out.  It takes a deft hand with the acidity as well, since alcohol + acidity will give it a real bite.

2 packets of yeast is not too much.  Fermenting cooler would help.  Try 71B sometime and see if you like it better than D-47.

Give the backsweetening a try on a small scale and see how it improves the drinkability.  But start cellaring what you've got.  How old is it now?  I don't normally even taste them until 6 months.  Of course, Curt's meads are gone by the time they're 6 months old, so there are a lot of differences in approach.
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: Pawtucket Patriot on August 16, 2011, 12:02:10 pm
In a bone-dry mead, there's not much to balance the alcohol.  It does need to age out.  It takes a deft hand with the acidity as well, since alcohol + acidity will give it a real bite.

2 packets of yeast is not too much.  Fermenting cooler would help.  Try 71B sometime and see if you like it better than D-47.

Give the backsweetening a try on a small scale and see how it improves the drinkability.  But start cellaring what you've got.  How old is it now?  I don't normally even taste them until 6 months.  Of course, Curt's meads are gone by the time they're 6 months old, so there are a lot of differences in approach.

Gordon, thanks for the reply.  The mead is just a little over a year old now.  It was brewed in July 2010.

I read (somewhere -- I thought it was a reputable source) that the dry yeast pitching rate for mead is 1g/gal, which is why I thought pitching 10g to 5 gallons was overkill.  Is there a more preferable pitching rate out there?

I'm going to use 71B for my next mead, which will be a semi-sweet mead made from orange blossom honey.  I'll basically be following the same no-heat procedure as is outlined in the BJCP mead study guide.  Is this Curt's method?
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: gordonstrong on August 17, 2011, 01:06:20 am
Curt's method, my method, Steve Fletty's method, Thomas Eibner's method, ...  Probably a dozen or so NHC mead medals there. But we all got it from Ken Schramm. It's all his research.
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: Pawtucket Patriot on August 17, 2011, 01:33:20 am
Curt's method, my method, Steve Fletty's method, Thomas Eibner's method, ...  Probably a dozen or so NHC mead medals there. But we all got it from Ken Schramm. It's all his research.

I don't know...that's not enough collective wisdom to convince me that it's a good method. ;) ;D

As I'm sitting here sipping some of the mead in question, I think I may have been a bit hypercritical initially.  Both my wife (whose palate is superior to mine) and I agree that what we're tasting is not solvent-like acetone flavors, but rather just an abundance of ethanol that will likely become more subdued with further aging.  Actually, she seems to be enjoying it in its current state quite a bit.  I imagine that in another 6-12 months, this will taste much smoother.

I did try backsweetening some of the mead and, honestly, we both preferred the straight dry product.

Gordon, out of curiosity, how do you feel about post-fermentation acid/tannin additions?  Is this a common practice among guys like you, Ken, Curt, etc.?  I'm not looking to weigh in on the practice, just curious.  I'm always looking for ways to improve my product.
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: punatic on August 17, 2011, 01:34:05 am
Curt's method, my method, Steve Fletty's method, Thomas Eibner's method, ...  Probably a dozen or so NHC mead medals there. But we all got it from Ken Schramm. It's all his research.

Yeah, but Ken got it from...

Chuck Norris!   ;D


(just kidding)
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: Pawtucket Patriot on August 17, 2011, 01:35:05 am
Curt's method, my method, Steve Fletty's method, Thomas Eibner's method, ...  Probably a dozen or so NHC mead medals there. But we all got it from Ken Schramm. It's all his research.

Yeah, but Ken got it from...

Chuck Norris!   ;D


(just kidding)

Ok, now I'm sold.  :P
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: gordonstrong on August 17, 2011, 02:13:16 am
Post fermentation acid or tannin fixes are rare for me. Basically if they need it. Much more common to back sweeten. We all do that.
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: psuskp on August 17, 2011, 02:17:41 pm
Post fermentation acid or tannin fixes are rare for me. Basically if they need it. Much more common to back sweeten. We all do that.

Before backsweetening, is it necessary to add chemicals to prevent further fermentation?
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: punatic on August 17, 2011, 03:30:08 pm
If the mead has aged long enough, no.  The yeast will no longer be viable.  However,  if you back-sweeten a fairly young mead you may get some secondary fermentation.  Racking the mead off of the settled yeast a month or three before back-sweetening will reduce the possibility of there being viable yeast in the mead.

I've back-sweetened many many meads.  I never use yeast inhibitors and I've never had one that started fermenting again.  I force-carbonate my sparkling meads.

Meadmaking is a pastime that benefits from patience.
Title: Re: Making first Mead Batch in 15 years
Post by: psuskp on August 17, 2011, 11:01:23 pm
If the mead has aged long enough, no.  The yeast will no longer be viable.  However,  if you back-sweeten a fairly young mead you may get some secondary fermentation.  Racking the mead off of the settled yeast a month or three before back-sweetening will reduce the possibility of there being viable yeast in the mead.

I've back-sweetened many many meads.  I never use yeast inhibitors and I've never had one that started fermenting again.  I force-carbonate my sparkling meads.

Meadmaking is a pastime that benefits from patience.

I am sure that is true. Wish I had more of it.

Thanks for the reply.

I just began fermenting my first mead just over a week ago. I decided to make 4 3-gallon batches to experiment with different honey, yeasts, fruits, and spices. The lightest of these batches has 5 pounds of honey and 2 pounds of raspberries. (Beer strength I think.) I have no idea how to predict the fermentables in the berries, and I broke my hydrometer. I tasted them all when I added nutrients today. The other four were still very sweet, but the raspberry mead was quite dry already (and a beautiful color).
 
I was planning to make this a sparkling mead, but I'd like it to be sweeter. I suppose there is no way to sweeten it if I want to bottle condition? Maybe I could force carbonate and bottle from the corny keg somehow.

I boiled the raspberries as per the Papazian book (same with some prickly pear cactus fruit for another of his recipes), but I think the modern method is to add these to the primary once fermentation has gotten underway?

Thanks,
Steve