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Home Brew Forums > Wine, Mead, Cider, Sake & Soda > Mead Forum > Do I add 5 gallons of water, or prepare 5 gallons of must, and one other thing
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Old 06-18-2010, 03:07 PM   #1
ddahcmai
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Default First question answered, now help me with attenuation!

Hey everyone, I've got a hopefully simply question for you all. I'm making my first batch of mead, and I formulated a recipe for strawberry mead using the mead calculator at http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?opt...=745&Itemid=16

I wanted a highly alcoholic mead, 18%, with about 2.6% extra potential to make it a very sweet mead, so I calculated using the link there that a 5 gallon batch with 20 lbs of honey and 15 lbs of strawberries at 15% sugar content would give me my desired results. By using an 18% yeast (Lalvin EC-1118) I figured I could ferment to the yeast's full capability and still have some sugar left over to put me in the 1.020 gravity range for sweetness. I was expecting an OG of about 1.165 and a final gravity around 1.020.

Now the problem begins. When I had all this mixed up and ready to go, in the primary I had all the strawberries (whole, frozen then thawed), all the honey, and 5 gallons of water, which brought the total volume of the must up to almost 7 gallons. Would the proper thing to have done have been to add water only to 5 gallons? I don't know if a 5 gallon batch (on that calculator or in general) means 5 gallons of water or 5 gallons of total must. I worry I may have diluted the must and therefore reduced the alcohol potential.
What is the correct procedure for batch size, and was my math correct for my desired results or am I just all wrong here?

Another thing: I sterilized with campden so I had to wait a day to pitch the yeast. The day I sterilized my specific gravity was 1.130, and the next day before I pitched, the reading was 1.122. I've heard that adding whole fruit can throw off your hydrometer readings due to the solids that are not sugars in them changing the gravity, so I assumed this drop was due to the strawberries having a little time to donate their innards to the must overnight. If the problem with my hydrometer readings is not the 5/7 gallon batch conundrum, then does it have something to do with the fruit? And in that case is a hydrometer pretty much completely inaccurate in this application?

It's been fermenting for 6 days, and due to my readings I'm already at 10% alcohol, so it's going all right, I'll be drinking something, but not necessarily what I expected. Could you help me out?

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Old 06-18-2010, 03:25 PM   #2
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You should have made 5 gallons total. You can always add honey during fermentation to bump up your gravity. The strawberres should dilute your gravity a bit as they give more water (juice) than sugar. You should still have a pretty dang great mead even though it may not be what you anticipated.

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Old 06-18-2010, 03:53 PM   #3
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The GotMead calculator volume assumes the total volume of the must. What is throwing you off is the strawberries. 15 pounds of strawberries will give you about 1 gallon of strawberry juice so your total volume is going to be about 6-gallons. As mentioned above, since the gravity is strawberry juice is much lower than the gravity of your must, it will tend to lower the gravity as it is released into the must during the ferment.

Don't worry, you can add honey later to push the yeast to their maximal alcohol tolerance if it goes dry, and you can add even more honey to achieve the level of sweetness you want.

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Old 06-18-2010, 04:03 PM   #4
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Default I think you got it.

You got it 5 gallons total must. But to off quote an old Saturday night live skit, "Hear me now, and see me later".

Mead is very dynamic. If you put 1 away for 6 months and drink it, and put another 1 away for a year, and drink it, youll think you marked the jugs wrong because they wont taste anything alike.

Longer aging is better.

Heres a suggestion for anyone who wants quicker/good gratification.

Make a 5 gallon batch of strawberry wine at about 13%abv and sweeten back with honey

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Old 06-18-2010, 04:35 PM   #5
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Alright, thanks for the help guys. I think what I'll do is calculate the total ABV of my 7 gallons once fermentation is complete, then while racking, add the required amount of honey into the 5 gallon carboy to reach my desired 20.6 and ferment just a little more.

What I'm hearing though is that even though strawberries will change your gravity, a hydrometer is still accurate for measuring potential alcohol?

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Old 06-21-2010, 01:47 AM   #6
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Alright, I'm back with another question. The yeast I used has an average 75% attenuation rate. Does this mean that likely only 75% of the sugars in my must will ferment and I'll end up with an excessively high FG and super sweet mead? When I use a calculator like that, does it factor attenuation?

And in that case, how am I possibly supposed to reach 18 percent alcohol and not have a ridiculous amount of sweetness in my mead?

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Old 06-21-2010, 02:02 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ddahcmai View Post
Alright, I'm back with another question. The yeast I used has an average 75% attenuation rate. Does this mean that likely only 75% of the sugars in my must will ferment and I'll end up with an excessively high FG and super sweet mead? When I use a calculator like that, does it factor attenuation?

And in that case, how am I possibly supposed to reach 18 percent alcohol and not have a ridiculous amount of sweetness in my mead?
Attenuation ratings generally do not apply to mead, where you're essentially fermenting all simple sugars...you can generally expect that the yeast will ferment to completion, and to their alcohol tolerance.
However, be aware that ABV ratings are an average...you can go higher if you incrementally feed, and you can get far lower if you don't use nutrients properly (I assume you used yeast nutrient...if you haven't, you might even want to check out the concept of staggered nutrient addition for such a big mead)
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Old 06-21-2010, 02:18 PM   #8
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Fantastic, thanks. And yes I have been doing staggered nutrient additions.

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