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Old 05-26-2010, 02:37 PM   #1
mindghost
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Default Blackberry melomel: Story and question on clearing...

Hi,

I’m new to mead making and home brewing in general, so let me say right off the bat that this forum has been extremely helpful. You guys rock.

Let me preface my story/question about clearing by stating that I’m not a numbers guys so I don’t take gravity readings. I’m much more of an experimenter. Also, when cooking (or brewing) I usually find a first recipe to “get my feet wet” then do things as they make sense to me.

I’ve now done 3 batches of mead, 1 gal each. The first was a JAOM, which worked exactly as the recipe described it. It cleared in about 2 months. The second was basically a JAOM but with apples instead of oranges, and I used D-47 (there's that experimenter tendency). That’s clearing slowly. It’s on it’s second racking and about 4 months in.

My third batch is the one that I have the question about. It is a blackberry melomel. Below is the recipe and steps used to create/manage it. I made it up off the top of my head, but it is simple and I’m sure there’s a million recipes it looks just like. My question will be at the bottom.

1 gal Poland Spring
3 lbs of honey
3 small packages of fresh blackberries
Lalvin K1-1116 yeast
½ tsp yeast energizer
½ tsp yeast nutrient (initially)
25-30 gogi berries (I wanted to try these instead of raisins because gogi berries are supposed to be a “super food” packed with vitamins, amino acids, etc)

*all equipment sterilized with One Step

1 – Heat the water, but not to boiling
2 – Stir in the honey to dissolve
3 – Move the must back and forth several times from pot to 1 gal glass jug to aerate
4 – Rinse and put blackberries (for lack of a better way to describe it) in a cheesecloth sock. I wanted an easy way to get the blackberries in and out of the jug. Boy, was this not it! Most of the berries got at lest somewhat crushed putting the sock in. Added the gogi berries.
5 – Realize that my bread yeast (left over from the JAOM) was not re-hydrating properly. Don’t know if it “went bad” but it didn’t look good, so I covered the mouth of the jug and ran to the wine supply store. 45 minutes round trip. When I got home with the K1-1116, I noticed foam on the top of my must. Not knowing if that was bad or not (wild yeast?) I decided to push ahead.
6 – I decide to take the cheesecloth sock out and just mash the berries and put the juice in. What a nightmare! Blackberry pieces all over me and my kitchen, hehe. In the end the juice and some berry pieces and seeds went into the must and the majority of the pulp and cheesecloth sock were discarded.
7 – Re-hydrated the yeast and pitched.
8 – Added the energizer and nutrient.
9 – Topped with water to 3 inches from the top.
10 – Inserted bung and airlock and stuck it in a kitchen cabinet.

I get excited when the little yeasties start to do their thing, and was very pleased to see that in a few hours they were humming along quite well. Had a bubble in the airlock about every 10 seconds when I went to bed, 6 hours after pitching.

Woke up at 2am to “use the facilities” and checked on the mead. WOAH! Krausen to the airlock and the vodka in there was pink. Bubble every 5-6 seconds! Took off the airlock, cleaned and sanitized it. Dumped some of the must out (about ½ inch) then replace the airlock and went back to bed.

Got up again at 6am to get ready for work and again checked the mead. Again the airlock vodka was pink, but this time when I removed it to sanitize it made a noticeable *POP* sound. A piece of blackberry was clogging it. No way I was gonna risk it popping so I removed the bung, sanitized some cheesecloth and placed that over the mouth of the jug, strapped down by some rubber bands.

3 or 4 days later I noticed reduced krausen and a huge yeast colony in the neck of the jug. Also, the nice purple color of the mead had been transformed into more of a foggy red-pink color. I figured that the yeast were eating all of the blackberry juice. I took off the cheesecloth and replaced it with the bung and airlock. About a week later the activity dropped to 1 bubble every 2 minutes. I racked onto another small package of fresh blackberries at 14 days. Added ¼ teaspoon of nutrient. It smells AMAZING and tastes hot but not overly so, and fruity.

It’s been in the secondary for 9 days with no real fermentation activity, and is definitely clearing. It still needs another racking because there are lees at the bottom, some sucked over from the first racking I’m sure.

The thing that’s strange to me is that it’s only around 3 weeks old! Is something clearing that fast bad, or did I stumble upon some mystical combination of ingredients and/or series of steps? I’ve read about things taking months and months to clear, and as mentioned above my apple mead is still not totally clear at 4 months. At this pace the blackberry will be mostly done clearing around 1 month from the start.

Thanks for reading, and for any replies.

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Old 05-26-2010, 05:03 PM   #2
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Just put it someplace where you can't worry about it and let it ride. Many a mead has been ruined by paying too much attention to what happens early on. I'm sure it
will be great in the end.

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Old 05-26-2010, 06:23 PM   #3
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well you should certainly pay attention to what's going on, but I agree - you're going through a lot of unneeded fuss & stress. And with all the fiddling, you're introducing more & more opportunities for contamination.

Our blueberry melomel was similar in clarity at just a few weeks old. The cyser, which was made on the same day, is still hazy after 2 months. I suspect it has something to do with the fruit and how some compounds in the fruit get attracted maybe to the yeast or other particles in the mead, then fall out. Similar to how finings work, maybe... I don't know, but it does seem that the addition of SOME fruits speed clarification.

By the way, be careful with the cheesecloth thing, especially in summer (even if your mead is far from a window or door). Fruit flies are creative little buggers that figure out how to get into even the smallest holes/gaps (voice of experience). In the future, I'd use a tight-fitting blowoff assembly (or larger carboy with a tight universal bung & airlock) if you're getting that much activity.

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Old 05-26-2010, 08:08 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KCWortHog View Post
Our blueberry melomel was similar in clarity at just a few weeks old...I suspect it has something to do with the fruit and how some compounds in the fruit get attracted maybe to the yeast or other particles in the mead, then fall out...
Quite correct. Tannins from the berries bind protein matter and yeast cells and speed the clearing. Dark berry batches are some of the faster clearing meads you can make. Sometimes the tannins from oak can also speed the clearing. Adding some enologic tannin to batches is another way to speed the clearing (while providing a flavor component).

Mindghost, without having to become a "numbers guy" I would suggest using a hydrometer. That way when the bubbling stops you can be certain it is done, and not just stuck with a strong possibility of reawakening later.
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Old 05-27-2010, 01:04 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MedsenFey View Post
Quite correct. Tannins from the berries bind protein matter and yeast cells and speed the clearing. Dark berry batches are some of the faster clearing meads you can make. Sometimes the tannins from oak can also speed the clearing. Adding some enologic tannin to batches is another way to speed the clearing (while providing a flavor component).


Thanks for that. I've got some Beaujolais juice I'm going to turn into a pyment this weekend; it'll be interesting to compare the clearing speed to the Sauv Blanc pyment goin right now.
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Old 05-28-2010, 08:52 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MedsenFey View Post
Quite correct. Tannins from the berries bind protein matter and yeast cells and speed the clearing. Dark berry batches are some of the faster clearing meads you can make. Sometimes the tannins from oak can also speed the clearing. Adding some enologic tannin to batches is another way to speed the clearing (while providing a flavor component).

Mindghost, without having to become a "numbers guy" I would suggest using a hydrometer. That way when the bubbling stops you can be certain it is done, and not just stuck with a strong possibility of reawakening later.
Thank you very much. The chemistry of brewing is both interesting and daunting to me, but your reply makes a lot of sense
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