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Old 07-24-2011, 05:58 AM   #1
sweaterman
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Default Another "first mead" post, requesting assistance

I just brought home my first mead kit from Midwest Supplies. Customer appreciation day so I got that, a pumpkin ale kit, and two 16oz EZCaps for like $50. Not bad. Bottles were "free," one per purchased kit.

Anyway, I am reading many threads and trying to piece together what I am going to do with this kit.

I want to make a classic sweet mead with half of it and a rose-hip/lavender mead with the other half. Knowing I wanted to experiment I also picked up two 3-gal better bottles, bungs, and airlocks while at Midwest.

For the actual brew, my thoughts were to make everything according to the recipe and pitch the yeast into a full primary pale. I would let this ferment out and when it was ready to move to secondary - the recipe says approximately 1 month - I would split the batch into the two better bottles, racking one of these onto the rose-hips and lavender. I have added lavender to a honey wheat beer I made in the past at secondary and had great results.

How does the vox populi respond to this plan? Also, I have read a bit about degassing mead. From what I understand this should be done when transferring to the secondary. How have other people done this, and do they recommend it? Any other hints I should take into consideration before walking this path?

Mead details:

12 lbs Clove Honey
5 tsps Yeast Nutrient
Priming sugar-optional
WLP-720 Sweet Mead Yeast

Anticipated OG 1.082-1.086
Anticipated FG 1.006-1.010

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Last edited by sweaterman; 07-24-2011 at 06:03 AM.
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Old 07-24-2011, 09:17 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sweaterman View Post
I just brought home my first mead kit from Midwest Supplies. Customer appreciation day so I got that, a pumpkin ale kit, and two 16oz EZCaps for like $50. Not bad. Bottles were "free," one per purchased kit.

Anyway, I am reading many threads and trying to piece together what I am going to do with this kit.

I want to make a classic sweet mead with half of it and a rose-hip/lavender mead with the other half. Knowing I wanted to experiment I also picked up two 3-gal better bottles, bungs, and airlocks while at Midwest.

For the actual brew, my thoughts were to make everything according to the recipe and pitch the yeast into a full primary pale. I would let this ferment out and when it was ready to move to secondary - the recipe says approximately 1 month - I would split the batch into the two better bottles, racking one of these onto the rose-hips and lavender. I have added lavender to a honey wheat beer I made in the past at secondary and had great results.

How does the vox populi respond to this plan? Also, I have read a bit about degassing mead. From what I understand this should be done when transferring to the secondary. How have other people done this, and do they recommend it? Any other hints I should take into consideration before walking this path?

Mead details:

12 lbs Clove Honey
5 tsps Yeast Nutrient
Priming sugar-optional
WLP-720 Sweet Mead Yeast

Anticipated OG 1.082-1.086
Anticipated FG 1.006-1.010
Ok, 2 x 3 gallon batches if I read rightly ? Well that's not anywhere near enough honey, given that White labs say that the sweet mead yeast has a tolerance of 15%, yet starting at the 1.082-86 range suggests a finish of 11.14 to 11.68% ABV and properly nourished, that yeast will drop more than the 82 to 86 points (presuming dry/finished as 1.000), it's very likely going to be as dry as a buzzards arse!

Priming sugar is a "beer thing", though you could equally use it for carbonation in sparkling wine/champagne type bottles (meads aren't best kept in plastic as the extended ageing that is usually done is best in glass and none of the "ageing sized glass" is pressure tolerant).

Hence you need to work out a little more on what you're actually aiming for. Plus the actual method/technique you're going to use.

De-gassing ? Well, it depends on what you actually mean by that. Do you mean aeration/oxygenation/stirring to benefit the yeast during primary fermentation or do you mean removing the gas at the end of the ferment to allow for better (and quicker ?) clearing. With the former, it's often done in conjunction with staggered nutrient addition during primary, some do this once a day, other twice - and definitely before you add any further nutrient etc, as it's best to aerate, take a little must, stir in the additional nutrient and then add it back to the ferment, just adding it in dry and stirring is asking for a "mead eruption".

As for flavouring ? again, presumption.... adding flavouring oils, or dry flower petals and de-stemmed, de-seeded rosehips ? Well, some like to add from the get go, but it seems that the more vigorous yeasts just blow some of the flavour/aroma elements straight out the airlock during the primary ferment phase, so some will add stuff that's aimed at flavour and/or aroma during secondary or they'll even add them to tertiary i.e. after the ferment has completed allowing the flavour/aroma extraction by the alcohol content (but how well that goes depends on how the flavour/aroma are "normally" extracted anyway i.e. some spices extract to tincture with alcohol, while some are extracted with water, or steam, or just heat. There's other methods as some flavours/aroma type substances can be damaged or broken down by processing etc).

So I'd suggest that you think more about how you intend this to proceed.

There's no problem with making a combined primary and then splitting it for secondary to process it as 2 batches though, but don't be hypnotised by advertising on yeasts as "mead" yeasts. The liquid mead yeasts (especially the "sweet" mead yeasts) are notoriously finicky to use (especially the Wyeast sweet mead yeast - which also has a lower tolerance i.e. about 11% ABV).

I'm gonna suggest that you ferment dry and then back sweeten, because that way, you have a greater control over how sweet it ends up - not forgetting that it's also notoriously difficult to start a ferment at X and then stopping it at Y, just because you thing that's how "strong" you want it.

Meads aren't like beers. With beers I understand that a lot of the residual, post ferment sweetness, is likely to be non-fermentable sugars. Honey isn't like that, the sugars are all fermentable.

Finally, here's a link to the Gotmead "New Bee" guide. It's well worth the effort of reading. Surely, it won't answer all your questions, but there's a hell of a lot of good advice/guidance there.

regards

fatbloke

p.s. Oh, and your sig suggests you're a "beer man". Which is fine, as long as you remember that meads are made in a similar way to wines, and not usually quite like you would make a beer...
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Old 07-24-2011, 10:51 AM   #3
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Just to cover the other angle, if its a 5 gallon kit and you split into two 3 gallon bottles you will have a fairly large headspace at a point where it's better to be reducing it.

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Old 07-30-2011, 06:05 PM   #4
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Here's how it went down:

I had made a yeast starter with the WLP720 Sweet Mead Yeast. I would have used another, but I had already purchased this when I posted the thread.

I heated approximately 1.5 gallons of water to 170F and added just under 18lbs of honey: 12lbs Clove Honey from the kit, 6lbs Ames Wildflower Honey from the local coop. Once all was properly dissolved, I poured into a 7 gal pale and topped off with cold water to 5.5 gallons. Aerated the Must by pouring back and forth from kettle to pale 5 times. At this point the Must was still 100F so I had to wait a while before adding nutrient and pitching yeast. I let it sit for 2 hours covered in the A/C. Once cooled to 85F I added 6tsps yeast nutrient, stirred to dissolve and pitched the yeast started and stirred.

Since the brew date (7/28} I have degassed it twice until very little foam is forming and taken about a cup of must off to add another Tbsp of nutriet, dissolve, and add it back in. I have read that degassing isn't well researched and may not be as effective as is claimed, but that it is more about the Staggered Nutrient Additions. Anyway, I thought it best to go with the latest methods, I want this to turn out well.

7/28 OG: 1.118
7/30 SG: 1.096
7/31 SG: 1.090
8/01 SG: 1.078 - Hit the one-third break. Will stop adding nutrient and degassing now.

The plan is to stop the degassing and nutrient additions at 1.079, the one-third sugar break.

If necessary I will use a packet of EC-1118 I have here, but the White Labs website says with proper care the WLP720 can take up to 15% ABV, which should put the FG at about 1.015, meaning a fairly sweet but not saccharine mead.

I know there are more interesting meads to read about on this forum, but I'll try to remember to come back in several months and tell you all how it tastes.

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Last edited by sweaterman; 08-01-2011 at 06:45 PM. Reason: Updating continued gravity readings
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Old 07-31-2011, 09:07 AM   #5
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sounds like it's progressing nicely

even with a starter, there's no guarantee of a reduced lag phase, so I'd have thought that 12 points in 2 days isn't bad at all

and yes, there's plenty of reason why the current methods are worth following. after all, they do seem to work well (the aeration as well as the staggered nutrients), so why not mirror them eh ?

How's it doing now ??

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Old 07-31-2011, 06:14 PM   #6
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Little worried, it looks like it only dropped about 6 points in the last 24 hours.

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Old 07-31-2011, 06:23 PM   #7
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sorry if my comment is wrong, i usually make beer not mead but,...

i'd say don't worry about that. why are you taking a reading one day after you just took one? the only reason i've ever taken readings two days in a row is to make sure it has reached FG. (again i usually make beer so maybe you know something i don't) i wouldn't worry about it. fermentation (for my beers) usually takes off quickly and then slows down after a couple of days

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Old 07-31-2011, 06:28 PM   #8
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I usually make beer as well. What I understand is the deal with mead is that you want to continue adding yeast nutrient and stirring the mead (degassing) for the first few days until you reach a point where the yeast have fermented about 1/3 of the sugars in the mead. Obviously, the only way to tell that is if you take continuous readings. Though, the mead guys around here could correct me if I am wrong. . .

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Old 08-14-2011, 10:42 PM   #9
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Hey all, I have a quandary requiring expert advice.

I used the white labs sweet mead yeast in my mead with a 1.118 OG. I did the SNA and degassing for 3 days and made a yeast starter so I knew this yeast should tolerate a little higher ETOH level than predicted, but my gravity right now is literally 1.000!! Infection? I hope to god not.

Anyway, asking expert opinions.

I am planning to split this 6 gallon batch into two 3 gallon batches, one a melomel and one a hibiscus/lavender back-sweetened mead. Just hoping this doesn't continue to ferment when I back sweeten it. But I will continue to rack until clear and add the sorbate/camden before I back sweeten to reduce that risk.

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Old 08-15-2011, 09:05 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sweaterman View Post
Hey all, I have a quandary requiring expert advice.

I used the white labs sweet mead yeast in my mead with a 1.118 OG. I did the SNA and degassing for 3 days and made a yeast starter so I knew this yeast should tolerate a little higher ETOH level than predicted, but my gravity right now is literally 1.000!! Infection? I hope to god not.

Anyway, asking expert opinions.

I am planning to split this 6 gallon batch into two 3 gallon batches, one a melomel and one a hibiscus/lavender back-sweetened mead. Just hoping this doesn't continue to ferment when I back sweeten it. But I will continue to rack until clear and add the sorbate/camden before I back sweeten to reduce that risk.
Well, I've just checked the numbers and a drop of 118 points, is 16.03% ABV, so why you might think of infections is anyones guess - well Ok, that might sometimes be the case if you're normally a beer person, but then again, I don't know how accurate the published tolerances are.

Lets face it, if the maker/producer of the yeast says 15%, then it's also quite feasible that it will go to 16%, though there's also room for inaccurate hydrometer reading i.e. what temp was the sample you tested ? and what temp is your hydrometer calibrated at ? etc etc.

It seems like you're doing a pretty good job of the ferment. I'd say that it should be left alone to finish dry, then back sweeten. Either way, there's no way of knowing whether that will give you something drinkable relatively quickly or whether it'll display the "alcohol hot" taste, and thereby need a good length of time ageing.

I'd just take it one step at a time i.e. let it finish, before you decide on the next step.

regards

fatbloke
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