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Old 05-25-2012, 02:44 PM   #1
steelc1ty
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Default First Mead, Feedback Appreciated

So as stated, this was my first attempt and I was hoping for some feedback on technique and insight on how long I should let this sit.

First off, the recipe:

Strawberry Lemon Mead, ~2.5 gallon batch

4 lbs Strawberries
9 lbs Honey (went with generic clover figuring the additives would drown out honey flavors)
12 Lemons, quartered
8 Lemons, Zested
Dalwin D47 wine yeast.
Yeast Nutrients / Energizer

Brought honey / water to ~150 degrees while pureeing strawberries and quartering / zesting lemons (Of note, used the zest of the lemons I quartered and placed in mead instead of additional lemons...would this expose more of the pith to the mead process and cause bitterness?) Dropped all in 5 gallon bucket & let temperature settle to room (~75) before adding yeast, stirring then sealing / air-locking. Let sit for 2-4 weeks when the bubbles come every 30 seconds (however there was never a real "vigorous" bubble action...always a bubble every 7-10 seconds, then 15-20, then I pulled it at ~30).

Taste at this point was strongly lemon and acidic. Almost no sweetness from strawberries or honey. Alcohol very prevalent. Was an idiot and forgot to hydrometer so I can only estimate the ABV is ~15% (was shooting for 15-17% per recipe). That being said, I drink whiskey regularly and the couple shots of the mead I got during siphoning had me spinning in a way 80 proof simply doesn't.

Siphoned from bucket to 3 gallon glass carbuoy. Let sit another 3 months then added ~4 tablespoons Bentonite slurry, shook vigorously, & let sit for another 3 days. Siphoned into 1 liter Grolsch bottles (pictured below, apologies for the crappy cell phone pic):


http://postimage.org/image/3vk91dh9d/

Ok, so first thing, the taste is still strongly lemony and acidic. Almost no sweetness from strawberries / honey came through. I have no problem with lemon, but it is sort of like drinking alcoholic lemonade without the sweetness. I think it can work great as a mixer, but its a little harsh for straight drinking (my intended purpose).

If I wanted to up the sweetness would it have worked to add more honey in the beginning phase (say to 12-15 lbs of honey) or would the yeast have simply converted most of that to alcohol (I'm thinking this).

Strawberry was supposed to be the primary flavoring with a lemon citrus "tartness" back finish, but instead the lemon totally took over. Should I just expect citrus fruits to behave in this fashion and severely reduce the amount used in future batches (to achieve that tart back finish) or is it more berries have a subtler flavor that needs heavier amounts to bring out in the mead?

Speaking to adding sweetness...anything wrong (as in problems arising with taste/consistency/etc) with popping the tops on the Grolsch bottles and pouring some honey in while they age out? Any suggestions on amount (of honey to the 1 liter bottle) would be appreciated, but I have a feeling I'll have to be "taste testing" to get a real feel for it due to the acid content.

Would it be better to get the added honey in now or to see how the mead settles out with age?

Speaking of aging...will doing so appreciably reduce the acidity of the mead, especially considering the high acid content? Any chance that the strawberry flavor is "hiding" and aging will bring it out?

As evident by the picture, the mead didn't come out very clear despite my use of clarifying agent and letting sit for some time. Is this a product of the pureed strawberries and if so can I expect this behavior with other fruit sources incorporated in this way? If not, any suggestions to help "clean" it out?

Anywho...I have another 5 gallons of pure mead (15 lbs orange blossom honey, water, nutrients, and time) going now that has been going for the same amount of time (due to no additives, I put everything straight into a carboy and let it ferment / age in one process) so hopefully that will come out a bit more drinkable, but until then I really appreciate any feedback on this batch.

Many thanks and cheers!



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Old 05-26-2012, 01:30 AM   #2
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Lemons are best in secondary, a little at a time. Did you check the ph? Also, d47 takes a long time to age. Any strawberry flavor will be overcome by the lemons, and you have to add tons of strawberries to get a good strawberry flavor



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Old 05-26-2012, 08:13 AM   #3
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Ok, so a few things come to mind......

Strawberry is nowhere near as sweet/sugary, as we think.

Very high strawberry to lemon ratio in favour of lemon, a quick search of fruit acids would tell you whether they're compatible or not (I don't use civic acid in any of my brews as it tends to over power the other regularly found ones).

Heating of honey or honey musts is completely unnecessary, as is blitzing the fruit (cracked seed/pips/stones can impart bitterness.....freeze/thaw is the better method.

D47 has a published tolerance of 14%, so unless you did the early stage aeration and SNA thing, 15% is unlikely.

Oh, and D47 ferments should be done with temp control if its likely to exceed 70F as its a known producer of fusels when fermented above that.

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Old 05-26-2012, 11:56 AM   #4
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A few suggestions that may help get you closer to what it sounds like you are looking for.

First save the fruit for the secondary, start with a traditional, like you have going with your second batch now. This helps with pH issues which could account for the slow ferment, the acid from the lemons dropping the pH lower than the yeast like. It also helps get the most flavor from the fruit, in primary alot of the volatile compounds that make up flavor/aroma components bubble out the air lock.

Second, cut way back on the lemons and increase the strawberries, for 5 gallons you'll probably want closer to at least 8-10 pounds of strawberries, frozen and thawed a couple times maybe cut in half or quarters and maybe 2-3 lemons.

During primary, for the first 1/3 or few days, aerate/oxygenate by giving a good stir or shake. and split your nutrients up, add half when initially mixing the must then 1/4 the next day and the last 1/4 the third day (very basic version of step feeding).

To help with the clarity issue, it's probably pectin haze, for most fruits it's beneficial to get some pectic enzyme, its real cheap at home brew store or online.

As far as heating the honey water, there is really no benefit as honey is naturally extremely antimicrobial, however the hotter you get the honey the more of the aroma and flavor that cooks off.

For back sweetening you probably would be safer if you gently put the mead all back into one fermenter add small amounts of honey and let it sit to clear and see if ferment restarts due to the additional sugars, you can also take the opportunity to try another fining agent like k&c to clear it up.

Your first batch was pretty light on honey your second looks a little more like the "standard" for a medium sweet of around 3 pounds of honey per gallon of must.

As mentioned above D47 is good for up to 14% abv, if real close attention is paid, like oxygen, nutrient and honey additions as well as pH and temp management (keep it between 60*-69*F) and it's babied you could probably get it to go 15-16% and prevent fusel alcohol (the less pleasant rocket fuel kind) production which doesn't always age out.

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Old 05-29-2012, 06:15 PM   #5
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Thanks for the feedback. Really appreciate it (questions to follow), but first a "taste test" story.

Took my left over bottle (about 750 ml worth of the lemon mead) and added about 1 oz of agave syrup (only liquid sweetener I had in the place) to attempt to back sweeten it. The sweetness obviously wasn't the same as honey, but it did balance the "lemon water" "feel" (I'll use orange blossom honey in the future to try and match the lemon citrus flavor with a hint of orange). Anyway, took it to my sister's for a party and long story short the ladies crushed it. They preferred it with a couple ice cubes to chill, but I take heart in the fact the stuff isn't as "not good" as I feared.

OK...

Quote:
Heating of honey or honey musts is completely unnecessary,
Understand from a microbial stand point, but I liked to use a liquid with heat to make the honey easier to mix and turn into a supersaturated (with sugar) solution. I read 150 F you'll be fine from a taste standpoint, but is that too high? Is trying to create a supersaturated solution not necessary (even a "pile of honey" mixed in will be sufficient)?

Quote:
Oh, and D47 ferments should be done with temp control if its likely to exceed 70F as its a known producer of fusels when fermented above that.
When I first read up on D47 I didn't see that anywhere...now I see it everywhere...good news is I'm not likely to forget that one again, right?

Quote:
.....freeze/thaw is the better method.
Excellent, will do that next time as it also reduces the amount of stuff I have to clean post process!

Quote:
During primary, for the first 1/3 or few days, aerate/oxygenate by giving a good stir or shake. and split your nutrients up, add half when initially mixing the must then 1/4 the next day and the last 1/4 the third day (very basic version of step feeding).
Just want to make sure I understand the terminology...by "primary" you mean fermenter bucket with water + honey...you then add half your yeast nutrients / energizer (white powders if going that route or whatever fruit / tea / other ingrediants used in the recipe for nutrients) on day 1 and aerate. Day 2 add a quarter of your ingredients. Day 3 add the rest. Continue to shake for 1-2 weeks later (I'm assuming you purposefully remove air lock / lid to introduce more air to the system for aeration), but then let sit until bubbles stop flowing ...aka, you're "done".

Point being, at no time do you add in the "flavoring components". In my case, I should have left the strawberries / lemons out, since I wanted both those flavors to come through (and since I used powdered nutrients / energizer I didn't need them for the yeast).

Quote:
save the fruit for the secondary, start with a traditional, like you have going with your second batch now
So in effect I'm making mead first, then adding fruit / spices afterwards and allowing the alcohol to draw the flavor compounds into the mead. Just like when I make my home made flavored vodkas by infusing them with fresh fruit / spices. Does repeated openings of the container for tasting to determine "done point" for flavoring effect the mead or is this more of a "put in and wait X" type process?

Quote:
For back sweetening you probably would be safer if you gently put the mead all back into one fermenter add small amounts of honey and let it sit to clear and see if ferment restarts due to the additional sugars,
Understood. Not trying to "bottle bomb", but I did get Grolsch bottles with the intent carbonating some of them to make a "champagne" style mead. Thought if they are good enough for beer they should be good enough for a carbonated mead. Am I mistaken in this? Anyway, for the same reason I figured the bottles would be solid enough to handle any residual yeast munching on additional sugar.

Again, thanks for the answers. Can't wait to try the other batch and get started on my next.
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Old 05-30-2012, 06:43 AM   #6
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Quote:
Understand from a microbial stand point, but I liked to use a liquid with heat to make the honey easier to mix and turn into a supersaturated (with sugar) solution. I read 150 F you'll be fine from a taste standpoint, but is that too high? Is trying to create a supersaturated solution not necessary (even a "pile of honey" mixed in will be sufficient)?
Old/ancient recipes suggested heating as it appears they thought it needed sterilising. Plus the water would have been of questionable provenance and cleanliness.

These days we know that our water tends to be perfectly clean and that honey is actually natures most anti-septic, anti-fungal substance and as the water doesn't need sterilising, it's nothing more than a waste of energy. Additionally, heating the honey/honey must will remove some of the aromatics and the more subtle flavouring elements.

Hence any unnecessary heating is best avoided.

Of course, there's always a caveat......

If the honey is crystalised, then it may need to be stood in a sink of hand hot water to gently re-liquify, yet if you can scoop it out the container, it can be blitzed in a food processor or liquidiser which not only mixes it up but also aerates the must nicely at the same time.

Some would try and draw parallels with the mashing of beer worts, but that would also be incorrect, as the heating/mashing process is done for entirely different reasons i.e. it's to do with preparing the ingredients for the conversion of starches into fermentable sugars......
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Old 05-30-2012, 02:28 PM   #7
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Quote:
Just want to make sure I understand the terminology...by "primary" you mean fermenter bucket with water + honey
Yes "Primary" is the term for the first vessel your Must (Honey/Water Mix) goes into and where most if not all of the fermentation occurs.

Quote:
you then add half your yeast nutrients / energizer (white powders if going that route or whatever fruit / tea / other ingrediants used in the recipe for nutrients) on day 1 and aerate. Day 2 add a quarter of your ingredients. Day 3 add the rest.
This is a real basic version of step nutrient additions. To keep the numbers simple for this example lets say the package instructions for the nutrients say use 4 grams per 5 gallons of must. when you mix the Honey and Water also mix in 2 grams of the nutrients.
The next day open your fermentation container, give your must a good shake or stir (start slowly as it will foam up) add 1 gram of nutrients (mixing with a few drops of water to make a thin paste can be helpful) give it all another good stir. Do the same the next day.

After that you will still open and stir shake your must until the "1/3 break", this is where you will want to use your hydrometer. figuring out what the gravity reading (based on your original reading and assuming a final gravity of 1.00) will be when 1/3 of the sugar has been fermented. Once that is reached you let it chill and finish fermenting.

If you are using tea/fruit as your sole nutrient source you will still open and "aerate" your must daily or even twice daily until the 1/3 break is reached.

The only exception really is if you make a JAOM. that recipe should be followed to the letter, thrown together, set on a shelf and forgotten for a couple of months.

Quote:
So in effect I'm making mead first, then adding fruit / spices afterwards and allowing the alcohol to draw the flavor compounds into the mead. Just like when I make my home made flavored vodkas by infusing them with fresh fruit / spices. Does repeated openings of the container for tasting to determine "done point" for flavoring effect the mead or is this more of a "put in and wait X" type process?
Yes, basically what you are making is what is considered a "Traditional" style mead, letting the Must (honey, water, nutrients) finish fermenting, then adding your flavor components. It's not carved in stone that you HAVE to do it this way, everyone has their own techniques, some like adding all up front like in a JAOM, some in steps throughout and others like myself rack onto the additions when transfering it into a "secondary" vessel.

With each batch you make you will find things that work best for you. In the end all that really matters is that YOU like your end product.
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Old 05-30-2012, 04:47 PM   #8
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Wow, sounds like you have some pretty solid advice here. To recap and possibly confirm:

Heating up honey that much is not neccessary. I only heat up the water a bit and mix my honey and water in that state, then let cool down to around 80 or so. I never heat it up more than 100 degrees. This keeps a lot of the flavor.

Fruit:

When: Definitely in the secondary fermentation. No you are not making a regular mead and then flavoring it, unless you are actually stabalizing the mead prior to adding. The primary fermentation is when it is bubbling vigerously and then slows down and drops a lot of sediment, called Lees. Then you rack it, that is transfer it to another container. There is still yeast working in that, the process is slower and it eats up less of the sugar but the strawberry sugars do get used as well as from the honey. If it truely bothers you then add some fruit to both sides, but way too much lemon, you only need zest of 2 lemons and maybe the juice of the lemons in the primary. I'd cut the lemon volume in 1/2 unless you are going for a strait strawberry lemonade mead. Also in a 5 gallon batch 10-12 pounds of strawberries is a good medium strawberry flavor.

Processing of Strawberries: I like freezing, thaw, blenderize with some pectic enzyme, then let sit for 1/2 hr for the pectic enzyme to work. Then I put it in the brew bucket inside a mesh bag. That is my preferred method. Some like just to slice it up a bit but it is also way easier to put in a mesh bag for ease of removal.

How long: I like leaving the strawberries in for 1 to 1 1/2 months. Even 2 months wouldn't hurt it. Then remove the strawberries and wait 2 months or so for it to settle, then rack off the sediment again.

Also, Consider oaking it with 1 oz of lightly toasted oak chips or cubes. For about a month is what I do. I like putting the oak in a muslin mesh hops bag for ease of removal. A touch of vanilla can also round out the flavors much.

Personally, I am lazy so I don't do step nutrients, I just put it all in. Step nutrients can make it better but I haven't yet did a test as to how much better. I have always had great meads, according to my friends. Also, D47 as mentioned previously, don't go over 70 degrees while fermenting. If you will go over consider Lavin 71B, has a higher temp tollerance, up to about 82, I think. But 71B should not be kept on the lees for a long time.

Hope this helps.

Matrix

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Old 05-30-2012, 08:26 PM   #9
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Wow. Great stuff and thanks a ton. Already made notes to refine my process and am planning the next batch (thinking since its early summer going for a "wild berry" mead).

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Old 06-12-2012, 01:57 PM   #10
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Hey, just figured I'd give an update.

Took the advice to pour the bottled Lemon Mead (gave up referring to strawberry at that point) back into the fermenter and dumped another pound of orange blossom honey into it along with 1 lb of strawberries, 1 lb of blueberries, and 1 pint each of raspberries and blackberries...trying to get it to a "Lemon Berry Mead".

One week in and the flavor is still strongly lemon, but the honey is very noticeable and does balance the lemon tartness a bit. There's a subtle berry flavor, but I'm hoping another week (or more) will bring that out a bit more.



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