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Old 03-18-2012, 09:27 AM   #1
alptraum
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Default First mead batch - any flaws in my plan?

Hello - long time reader, first time poster. This will probably be a long post.
Last week I decided to make mead (and get into homebrewing). I bought a fermentation bucket, champagne yeast (this, specifically, also an airlock, honey, tea leaves, and oranges).

I'd like someone to point out the flaws on what I plan on doing.

I'll be using:
4kg honey
15l water
30g tealeaves
2-4 oranges (not sure yet?)
the champagne yeast i mentioned
perhaps some strawberries for taste/nutrients.

I'd like to stay clear for now of any preprocessed component (yeast nutrients, tannins, yeast starters). the 2-3 part water/1 part honey recipe seems to be accepted by
a) The Complete Joy of Brewing
b) Making Wild Wines & Meads

1) I'll be cleaning everything thoroughly - got chlorine table and medical grade sanitizing wipes. After that, I will boil water and use it to wipe the cleaner off everything.

2) Drop the preheated honey in twice its amount of hot water (<100 deg C), keep heating, skim the top layer until it will stop forming.

3) Kickstart the yeast. Using a bit of honey (and perhaps an orange slice as nutrient, chopped to increase surface area) in warm water (<40 deg C), I'll add 4g of yeast, let it grow for a few hours.

4) In the meantime, I'll add the honey-water mixture to the fermentation bucket, and complete with more clean water. Stir it for 20-30 minutes to aerate. This forms the must

5) When the yeast has grown (whitening of the mixture, foaming, bubbling, generally any sort of "activity"), I'll be adding it to the must, which should be under 40 deg C. Right now I'll also add the powdered tea leaves, slices of orange and strawberries.

6) Put the lid with the airlock on, it should start bubbling in 1-3 days, and fermentation should be complete (1 bubble/30 sec) in a few weeks.

7) Move it to a carboy, rack it from the sediment/dead yeast.

8) Play the waiting game, leave it out to clear (or cheat and add a flocculent), bottle, enjoy.

I'm not sure if the champagne yeast is the best choice (several websites suggest champagne yeast as being better suited, and also it can tolerate higher alcohol).
I'd also like to kickstart the yeast first - winemaking is quite a tradition here, even if you live in a block of flats, but not once I've tasted vinegary wine - people still use grape skin growth, and not buy an actual yeast. Technically, a small amount of honey and orange should do the trick (since that's what I'd be using in the fermentation bucket too). Maybe some sugar or agar growth medium too?



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Old 03-18-2012, 11:10 PM   #2
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Your plann seems pretty solid, but a few points I've learned on here as a fellow new guy. I wouldn't put your honey in water that hot, i usually bring my water only to about 160 (ferenhiet) before a add honey and many people say that's even too high. Its a new school vs'old school fued on whether or not to use any heat at all.another thing is how long your starting your yeast. It should only take twenty minutes for it to start partying in the water, especially if you use a lil suger or honey. Other than that seems like a good first mead try, good luck.



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Old 03-19-2012, 11:19 AM   #3
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Yesterday I have proceeded according to plan, with the exceptions that:
a) I didn't kickstart the yeast, since pasteurizing honey took quite some time. When I later went to aerate the honey (which i totally forgot about in the post, but remembered along the way), much more "skim" surfaced. I'm tempted to do the next batch without pasteurizing honey.
b) Forgot to add strawberries. Should I add them after primary fermentation is complete? Or can I add them now?
c) When I add the rest of the water, I brought it to a boil, but I also dropped in it the green tea and orange peels. It seemed the sane thing to do, after all the precautions I took on sanitizing everything.

The yeast was slow (albeit, I used 2-3g out of the 7g package).
I kept watching the airlock last night, but nothing was happening.
This morning, there was a lot of pressure buildup in the first chamber, pushing almost all the liquid into the second chamber. I let it out manually (gently pushed on the bucket's lid), and it smells great.

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Old 03-19-2012, 12:08 PM   #4
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You can add the fruit whenever you feel like it . Either works, it's really a matter of taste preference.
Fruit in the primary will give the yeast a bit more food to chow down on, but it imparts less of a fruit flavor to the end product. Oh, and you have to be careful to give it enough headspace or a blowoff tube, since fruit in the primary can lead to a very energetic fermentation, which can result in bits of fruit forcing their way through the airlock and making a huge mess.
From what I understand adding fruit after primary fermentation is done will impart more of a fruit flavor to the mead.

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Old 03-19-2012, 01:36 PM   #5
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Oh dear. More old recipes and techniques......

Ok. So its not new Vs old with the heating thing and why would you pasteurise a substance that is already natures most anti-fungal, anti-bacterial product ?

It harks back to when it wasn't the honey that was a problem, it was the water. If you looked up the history of "small beer" you will follow why it was successful.......150 years ago.

The whole point of using yeast nutrient of some type, isn't to make some sort of industrial poison, its because honey naturally lacks the nitrogen and other micro nutrients that it requires to grow/multiply. Beer Worts and wine musts generally have those already, honey musts don't.

Bleach based sanitising works, but should be thoroughly rinsed away, and bleach based products can take a lot of rinsing. Hence other more up to date materials are recommended.

Also, champagne yeasts are often the choice or suggestion of home brew shops who don't really understand meads. They have their place, but often blow a lot of the aromatics and some of the more subtle flavours straight out the airlock. So a different wine yeast is usually better.

Romania ? Well if home brew shops are few, or even non-existent, then mail order is an option. Though the one that comes to mind for its stock levels and choice is Brouwland, in Belgium. They do a mail order service. Or if you have connections in the UK where you could get stuff sent too ?

If you Google for Gotmead forums, there is a link to their "NewBee guide" (linked in the left side yellow box on the forums home page). It has some of the more up to date guidance and instruction for the new mead maker, rather than the more general stuff in the 2 books you mention.......including the legendary JAO recipe (chapter 6) which is pretty much the easiest/most straight forward recipe out there for the new mead maker.

For nutrient for the batch you mention, 5 grammes of bread yeast in 150mls of boiling water, then simmer that for 5 minutes, cool to room temp before adding it. You can also use crushed vitamin B1 tablets from the nearest pharmacy. Both will provide greater nutrition for the yeast than some fruit.

Can't think of any further points right now, but I'll check again when I get home as its a PITA typing on my phone.

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Old 03-20-2012, 01:21 AM   #6
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Thank you for the reply.
I have used an isopropyl solution to sanitize everything (1:3 ratio), dropping the chlorine tablets altogether, and then wiping with boiled water.
I understand the purpose of pasteurization, however, I chose that path because stealing is common, thus, I'm not sure the honey would be 100% honey (at least boiling could separate any starch syrup) and secondly, well, I'm a clean freak, and since I haven't produced the honey, it's contaminated by something which can survive in honey by default
I'm likely going to do the next batch using only a mixer to force and no pasteurization.

Secondly, although champagne yeasts were my choice, I now regret it. My purpose was to get a higher alcohol content, however, I didn't knew about aroma wastage. The room with the bucket smells epic - a sweet honey/oranges/spices mixture with a sickening fermentation smell (a -sweet- sickening smell, not the rhino kind). I guess those are out of the final product

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Old 03-20-2012, 01:23 AM   #7
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Thank you for the reply.
I have used an isopropyl solution to sanitize everything (1:3 ratio), dropping the chlorine tablets altogether, and then wiping with boiled water.
I understand the purpose of pasteurization, however, I chose that path because stealing is common, thus, I'm not sure the honey would be 100% honey (at least boiling could separate any starch syrup) and secondly, well, I'm a clean freak, and since I haven't produced the honey, it's contaminated by something which can survive in honey by default
I'm likely going to do the next batch using only a mixer to skim out residues and no pasteurization.

Secondly, although champagne yeasts were my choice, I now regret it. My purpose was to get a higher alcohol content, however, I didn't knew about aroma wastage. The room with the bucket smells epic - a sweet honey/oranges/spices mixture with a sickening fermentation smell (a -sweet- sickening smell, not the rhino kind). I guess those are out of the final product

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Old 03-20-2012, 06:42 AM   #8
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don't worry to much about the champagne yeast. they do not all blow of the aroma.
which one did you use?
for a first mead a champagne yeast is a good choice. simply because they are all fairly robust and will ferment just about anything.

your big problem is lack of nutrient. a small about of fruit gives a very small about of nutrient.

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Old 03-21-2012, 10:07 AM   #9
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tweake, I have used this yeast.

I'm running into a problem. The fermentation is either stopping or hasn't fully started yet.
It bubbles slowly - very slowly - one big burp every 30-60 seconds. My guess is that either
(a) the biggest part of it already is done, and now it's slowly down, but since I have the must + yeast come in at 10 liters, out of the total of 30 liters, there's enough headroom. the lid has a visible belly. if this is the case, it means that removing the lid/airlock will make the airlock bubble even less (thus, it's not a problem, only a bad conclusion)
(b) it's slowing to a halt. the final recipe included: 3 oranges, 2 cloves, 30 g tealeaves, 3 g cinnamon. maybe 3 oranges aren't enough, or the growth medium is too acidic?

maybe i should take fatbloke's suggestion, and add some crushed B1 vitamin or dead baking yeast.

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Old 03-21-2012, 11:13 AM   #10
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Mead is a curious beast and sometimes looks dead or almost dead when it is not. I have had ferments be super erruptive and one I was sure it was going to be a stuck ferment after six days but a gravity reading from my hydrometer showed that the ferment was actually done and the mead was very dry. Get a hydrometer and check readings with that to see how your ferment is doing.



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