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Old 04-08-2010, 12:23 PM   #1
smn
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Default First experimental meads

Greetings everyone,

I've started four meads approximately half-way through February. Having not found this forum yet back then, I was relying on way more generic instructions. As a consequence, I did quite a few amusing mistakes during the process. The guiding idea were the Polish mead definitions of dwojniak, trojniak and czworniak. The czworniak stands for quadruple (1 part honey three parts water), trojniak for triple (1 part of water, two parts of honey) and dwojniak, double, half water half honey.

The Czworniaks received white wine yeast and fruit additions whereas the stronger ones got champagne yeast and no fruit. I used some yeast nutrients at pitch time, however I didn't realise to use additional nutrition at 1/3 sugar depletion. The batch size is about 5 litres which I guess will translate to approximately 1.25 US gallons. The honey was a hungarian wildflower brand common for supermarkets.

A few mistakes common for all the batches:
1) No proper rehydration of the yeast. Just blended into a cup of slightly warmed must.
2) Way too much headspace, at least half a litre of air in each carboy.
3) No OG. I later calculated the approximate OGs to be around 1.1 for the czworniaks, 1.14 for the trojniak and around 1.2 for the dwojniak.

Batch #1: Citrus czworniak
This batch received the zest of a lemon and a blood orange, also a few cinnamon sticks. It started fermentation very slowly. I topped it up after a few weeks with some must when the gravity was around 1.04. Currently the gravity is around 1.032 and has stayed that way for a week or two. Thinking about racking this to secondary and topping with water.

Batch #2: Clove czworniak
A hilariously overspiced one. I tossed a fistful of juniper berries and cloves in this, also a bit of orange zest. This one fermented initially very quickly. Topped up with must when around 1.036. When it started to turn interestingly greenish I removed most of the cloves, about two weeks ago I racked it into secondary and removed all the spices, then topped up with water. In total I think I removed 30 cloves from this one. It tastes extremly clovy but still sort of interesting. Currently it sits around 1.034 and doesn't seem to develop in any way. I'll probably leave it now until it clears and then bottle it. If it's undrinkably clovy, it'll probably end up as a spicy topping for other meads.

Batch #3: Trojniak
This has been a slow and painful ferment which has dropped from around 1.14 to 1.06 and pretty much stalled there. There is quite some headspace still as I haven't topped this up properly. I'm not sure what to do with this, it has developed a very dark colour and looks like its starting to clear. I've tried adding a little bit of baking soda in it to raise pH, no effect save for a short bubbly period. I read the clearing as a sign that the fermentation activity has stopped, correct? I haven't racked it yet. Maybe I should just rack it, top up with water and forget for 6 months? Or would it still be safe to try to oxygenate it? Or re-pitch, I got plenty of champagne yeast available?

Batch #4: Dwojniak
This is probably the most interesting of them all. OG must have been totally off scale, it took a few days for it to start at all and now after six or so weeks of bubbling, the gravity is still not accurately measurable with my hydrometer. I reckon it is somewhere between 1.14 and 1.15 at the moment. The good in this is that I've been able to do the staggered nutrition addition thing as it takes so long to ferment. I'm looking forward to rack this to secondary in the autumn and let it mature for a couple of years.

I would probably be happy to consume the czworniaks at 1.03, so I'm not looking into restarting those. However I am curious, is it common for meads in a sluggish state like these actually go dry in secondary? The trojniak I'm actually worried about, I would like to avoid honey vinegar if possible but honestly I'm quite clueless about what to do.

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Old 04-08-2010, 01:25 PM   #2
MedsenFey
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Well, it is possible for meads to continue plugging along almost imperceptibly except for a slow drop in gravity, and you could see that occur in the trojniak, but my guess is it is stuck and will stay stuck. You have an alcohol level that's near 11% and a large sugar load that will make restarting it an exercise in frustration. If you want to try restarting it rack it off the old yeast, use Uvaferm 43 (Lallemand's best non-encapsulated yeast for restarts) and acclimating a starter per hightest's instructions, and add 1 gram per gallon of yeast hulls to the must. I'm doubtful that you'll see any vigorous activity, but you might be able to drop it a few more points.

For future reference, starting at extremely high gravity 1.130 or above, is not easy. The yeast are put under a huge osmotic stress and will produce more acetic acid as a result. They will also tend to stall early. You have to baby them by pitching larger amounts, aerating more, using higher nutrient amounts, and carefully managing the temperature and pH. It is almost surprising that your dwojniak is even fermenting. When you get the gravity up to 1.200 the osmotic stress is so high that many yeast may not even start to ferment.

The dwojniak is going to stick and leave you with a low alcohol syrup and you will not be able to restart it. You choices are enjoy it as a syrup or plan to blend it (or mix it in gradually with a fermenting batch).

You may wonder, how do they accomplish making these in Poland? The answer is that they don't add all the honey at the beginning. They start with a manageable gravity and add more honey during the fermentation ("step feeding") or after the fermentation is complete.

Endeavor to persevere!

Medsen

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Old 04-08-2010, 05:32 PM   #3
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Thanks for your reply, much appreciated

Quote:
Originally Posted by MedsenFey View Post
If you want to try restarting it rack it off the old yeast, use Uvaferm 43 (Lallemand's best non-encapsulated yeast for restarts) and acclimating a starter per hightest's instructions, and add 1 gram per gallon of yeast hulls to the must. I'm doubtful that you'll see any vigorous activity, but you might be able to drop it a few more points
I think I'll attempt a restart with this one. Unfortunately I don't have the said yeast available, I'll have the choice of using a Cotes de Blanc and Champagne, the champagne one should be more powerful so I'll go for that. Fortunately after racking I have the space to top up with almost 20% of water so I'm quite positive in regards of getting this going again.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MedsenFey View Post
It is almost surprising that your dwojniak is even fermenting. When you get the gravity up to 1.200 the osmotic stress is so high that many yeast may not even start to ferment.
I figured this out quite quickly after a week of inactivity. My original plan was to split it in two carboys, fill half of the empty space with water and later after the fermenting would be done, to top both up with the rest of the honey. However while waiting for the new carboy to arrive it started fermenting.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MedsenFey View Post
The dwojniak is going to stick and leave you with a low alcohol syrup and you will not be able to restart it. You choices are enjoy it as a syrup or plan to blend it (or mix it in gradually with a fermenting batch).
I guess I'll treat it as stuck if it stops before reaching ~14% alcohol. At that point or afterwards it'll be in acceptable territory for what I'm going for, which is a sweet dessert wine in the family of cream/pedro ximenez sherry, moscatel or port. Anyway I'm in no hurry with it and will wait to see how far it goes. Will be an interesting experiment if nothing else
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Old 04-16-2010, 05:42 AM   #4
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Surprising development on the dwojniak - it seems to have accelerated its fermentation process and is now at 1.126, bubbling every now and then. At this point I guess additional nutrition wouldn't work and I'll be better off just letting it be?

I've got some acid test strips and de-acidifier (blend of calcium carbonate, potassium carbonate and potassium tartrate) coming in via mail order, any opinions on the usage of those? Currently I'm thinking that if it's below 4, I'd bring it up a little.

I'm building a starter for the trojniak with champagne yeast. Currently acclimation is at 2/3 of stuck mead, 1/3 of new solution. There is fermentation going on albeit rather slowly. I guess I should give it some more nutrients and DAP as the mix is not yet at 10%, wait a couple of days and add the rest of the stuck mead.

Also started a couple of new meads:
6 litres (~1.5 gallons) of blood orange mead, OG 1.094, orange blossom honey and the juice + zest of two blood oranges. Cotes de Blanc yeast.

22 litres (~5.5 gallons) of generic orange mead, OG 1.104, wildflower honey, juice & zest of 3 Jaffa oranges. Cotes des Blancs yeast, 3 cloves, 3 sticks of cinnamon.

Rehydrated the yeast properly this time, as well as added both yeast nutrients and DAP according to the SNA schedule. Aerated as well as mechanically possible, first the must with a kitchen mixer and after pitching with a massive fork. Both seem to be happily fermenting in their primary buckets, way better start than the experimental batches.

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Old 04-16-2010, 01:26 PM   #5
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The dwojniak has done better than I would have expected. The yeast never cease to amaze me.

Test strips for pH are hard to use reliably. It is really a good investment to buy a pH meter if you plan to make meads and wines. The ideal pH for fermentation is between about 3.6-4.0, and unless you are somewhere below 3.2 you probably don't need to make any adjustments.

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Old 04-19-2010, 01:14 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MedsenFey View Post
The dwojniak has done better than I would have expected. The yeast never cease to amaze me.
I've stumbled upon a couple of reports in the net where such very high original gravities have eventually produced reports, so it shouldn't be entirely impossible. We'll see how it goes, I'll post an update when it stops.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MedsenFey View Post
Test strips for pH are hard to use reliably. It is really a good investment to buy a pH meter if you plan to make meads and wines. The ideal pH for fermentation is between about 3.6-4.0, and unless you are somewhere below 3.2 you probably don't need to make any adjustments.
I see. The test strip indicated that the dwojniak is currently above four pH so no actions there.
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