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Old 01-22-2013, 02:29 AM   #1
tims5377
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Default 1st brew, clarification before I begin

Hi all, so I recently got into brewing beer and mead has suddenly caught my interest. I am planing on making Charlie Papazian's Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit Mead. Now I don't wanna invest a year or so in this to not have it turn out well, so I have a few questions.

1. Where is the best place to get 20lbs of honey? I was thinking a restaurant supply store. Is there a difference between what I would get there vs. what I would get from a home brew store?

2. The recipe says to boil the honey and 2gal water for 15 mins first. I have read in the FAQ that this is not ideal. What is the best way to prepare the honey?

3. The recipe says to transfer to a carboy for initial fermentation and does not indicate any further actions until fermentation is almost complete. He also states that the fermentation can take from 3 months to a year. Is a nutrient addition schedule beneficial to this?

4. When fermentation is nearly complete, he indicates to transfer to a secondary carboy and purge the oxygen using co2. Is this necessary?

5. When the mead is transferred to the second carboy, he says that it will clear over time, I read that racking it to different carboys is how to make it clear. Which is correct?

6. What is the best method for bottling?

Thanks for your help!
Keep in mind that this is my first time so I don't know what I don't know. Feel free to add any additional comments!

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Old 01-22-2013, 02:42 AM   #2
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Welcome to the addiction

I made this exact mead this summer. It was my first one so I'm sure I'm not the best one to get advice from but mine did turn out pretty good. My only issue was that the prickly pears were a little under ripe so I didn't get much flavor from them.

I purchased my honey in 5 gal batches from my local grocery store, it was pretty inexpensive. (Only did this because I was looking for mesquite honey and my lhbs was out at the time)

I did boil the honey in 2 gal of water, no adverse reaction from what I can tell.

Added a nutrient to the mead when I put it all in primary.

Racked to secondary after fermentation was complete. Left it in secondary until it cleared (my case was about a month and a half).

I bottled in 22oz clear swing top bottles.

It's been about 7 months since I bottled and it tastes really good. A bit dry but real smooth.

Hope that helps

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Old 01-22-2013, 07:04 PM   #3
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So you only added nutrients once? I think that is what the recipe recommends.

How long did it take for fermentation to complete for you?

And how does one know when a prickly pear is ripe? lol

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Old 01-23-2013, 01:27 AM   #4
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I only added the nutrient once.

It took about three weeks for airlock activity to stop. I didn't take a hydro reading (mine was broken at the time) so I don't know 100% if it was finished but I racked it anyway.

I harvested the prickly pears from neighbors, living in AZ they are all over. I noticed as I cut into them that some were darker red than others. Also some were a bit more firm. Should have waited a few more weeks before harvesting them

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Old 01-23-2013, 01:33 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tims5377
So you only added nutrients once? I think that is what the recipe recommends.

How long did it take for fermentation to complete for you?

And how does one know when a prickly pear is ripe? lol
I only added the nutrient once.

Airlock activity stopped after about three weeks. I didn't take a hydro reading since my hydro was broken at the time. I went ahead and racked it when the activity stopped.

I harvested the prickly pear from neighbors, they are all over out here in AZ. I noticed that some of the fruit was lighter in color and more firm than others as I cut into them. I think they could have benefited from a few more weeks on the plant.
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Old 01-23-2013, 12:43 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xfevv View Post

I only added the nutrient once.

Airlock activity stopped after about three weeks. I didn't take a hydro reading since my hydro was broken at the time. I went ahead and racked it when the activity stopped.

I harvested the prickly pear from neighbors, they are all over out here in AZ. I noticed that some of the fruit was lighter in color and more firm than others as I cut into them. I think they could have benefited from a few more weeks on the plant.
Alright great! Thanks for the help. I cant wait to get started on it. I am just going to go by the airlock activity as well b/c i dont currently know where my hydro is. I just need to figure out where to get the prickly pears
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Old 01-23-2013, 12:57 PM   #7
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Well, I've not made this reciepe, but I've made some mead, and have a few suggestions.

1. Boiling honey will drive of the honey flavor volitals, it isn't recomended and soem tests with mead have shown that it isn't a sanitation issue either. Remember that receipe was written like 20 years ago. Using hot water to help soften/mix honey is helpful, but not necessarily needed.

2. Doing a stepped nuetrient add has been found to improve fermentation rate and quality. Basically you take all the neutrient and then add 1/4 at the start (take OG) add 1/4 at 12 hours, 1/4 at 24 hours and then the last 1/4 when the sugars are at 50% to 30% of the start. Stir each time. Aerating a bit on the 2nd and 3rd additions, and just to degass on the 4th. While O2 is bad for alcohol (it alows the yeast to convert the alcohol to food) if you aren't finished fermenting, then the yeast will use it up and still make more alcohol. Ok, that is a first order approximation.
Sugars at 50% to 30% means if you start with an OG of 1.080, then you should put in the last of the nuetrient at 1.040 (50%) and then 1.024(30%) Ideally it should be closer to the 50% - ie doesn't have to be perfect. Degasing helps take stress of the yeast by decreasing partial preasure.

As your hydro is MIA, I'd be careful about aerating, and just degas. Also I might fold the last neutrient add into the 3rd. (so 1/4, 1/4 and 1/2)

Good luck

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Old 01-23-2013, 01:34 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ACbrewer View Post
As your hydro is MIA, I'd be careful about aerating, and just degas. Also I might fold the last neutrient add into the 3rd. (so 1/4, 1/4 and 1/2)

Good luck
Can you clarify what you men by degas or point me to a good description of how to do it? Sorry if it is a remedial question but im new!
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Old 01-23-2013, 01:41 PM   #9
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I've never made mead before, but it interests me. I know that with honey, you don't want to boil off the aromatics. Keep any water that hits the honey below 100 F.

I use prickly pears a lot as a chef. I would also avoid heating the prickly pear juice past 100 F. How did you cut the fruit and prepare the juice? I cut off both ends, then using tongs I make a slit down the length of the skin, pry the skin back, then roll it off the fruit like you're unraveling a cigar. Repeat this process for all of the fruits and then juice them, or blend them on low speed. Strain with a wide mesh on top and fine mesh sieve on the bottom. Then you sort of sparge the pulp and remaining seeds with a bit of water to get the most out of it.

Here are some artisan honey links:

http://www.savannahbee.com
http://www.beefolks.com/

And here are a few instructionals:

http://byo.com/component/resource/ar...ing-with-honey

http://www.gotmead.com

http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2012/0...ith-honey.html

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Old 01-23-2013, 02:57 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobbrews View Post
I use prickly pears a lot as a chef.
Do you know where I can get the fruit possibly online (and not for ridiculous amounts of money)? Im in upstate NY and we dont have many cacti up here lol
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