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Old 08-02-2009, 02:06 PM   #1
TysonWD
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Default First Shot at Mead

Hey everyone,

I am beginning to assemble the stuff to start my first 5 gallon batch of mead. I have 2 questions that I can't seem to find an answer to. I plan on making a basic mead (no fruit, just honey.) I'm getting married in September, and plan on imbibing a bottle on our anniversaries. To date, I've only brewed beer so am pretty excited since I love mead.

My first question is, I've found a local beekeeper to use as a honey supply. I asked what type of honey he produces, and he said that there's no one specific thing close by. No apple, clover, or wildflower fields. Just the normal things a bee in Southeast Ohio would find. Are there any considerations to using a "wild" honey? Or just go with it and wish for the best? I've tried the honey, its good stuff -- I just hope it makes good mead too .

My second question is -- fermenter size. I had plan on buying a few carboys for wine. That way I can watch it ferment. I was looking at winemaking kits, to see what size fermenters they use. I was going to just buy 2 5 gallon carboys. Should I go for a bigger primary? If so, what size? Also, should I stick with a 5 gallon secondary?


Thanks in advance,

Tyson

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Old 08-02-2009, 03:28 PM   #2
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Wildflower honey is fine for mead. There's no "perfect" honey and any honey that tastes good will make good mead.

Though you didn't really say that you plan to drink the mead you make now on your honeymoon in September, it sounded that way. You'll never make a mead and have it ready in six weeks. Six months is pushing it. Plan on 8 months to a year before your mead will taste half-way decent.

Though I always use plastic pails and garbage containers for my mead primaries, glass carboys will do the trick. Size doesn't matter (at least I've always tried to tell that to my ex-wives) but fill the primary about 2/3 full to allow for an active fermentation. After the active stage of fermentation is complete (under 1.020 or so), then rack to a smaller carboy and fill it to the neck to eliminate headspace. So, if you want to go the carboy route, I'd get a 5-gallon for the primary and a three-gallon for the secondary.

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Old 08-02-2009, 03:41 PM   #3
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If you plan on making any wine kits in the future, buy 6 gallon carboys. Most every wine kit makes 6 gallons. I tried to secondary once in a 5 gallon carboy and it just doesn't work. I ended up having to use a 1 gallon carboy for the overflow, which worked, but was a PITA.

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Old 08-02-2009, 04:04 PM   #4
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Yeah, I had planned on drinking the first bottle on the first anniversary .

So if I buy a 5 gallon and then a 3 gallon, do you really lose that much mead when you rack? Or do you rack it into 2 smaller carboys? Or is there just a relatively small amount that you just waste. I guess the same would apply if I bought a 6 and 5 gallon.

Or another scenario . Say I bought 2 5 gallon carboys. Is it ok to add more water when you rack to eliminate any added headspace caused by racking?

I guess the confusing part is when I bottle beer, I have a relatively small amount of waste that I can't siphon. I wouldn't want to waste a gallon of mead. That's a gallon less to drink .


Thanks for your responses .


Tyson

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Old 08-02-2009, 07:23 PM   #5
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For mead, 5 gallon carboys are not a problem. You mentioned wine kits and that is a problem if you only have 5 gallon carboys.

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Old 08-03-2009, 12:41 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TysonWD View Post
Yeah, I had planned on drinking the first bottle on the first anniversary .

So if I buy a 5 gallon and then a 3 gallon, do you really lose that much mead when you rack? Or do you rack it into 2 smaller carboys? Or is there just a relatively small amount that you just waste. I guess the same would apply if I bought a 6 and 5 gallon.

Or another scenario . Say I bought 2 5 gallon carboys. Is it ok to add more water when you rack to eliminate any added headspace caused by racking?

I guess the confusing part is when I bottle beer, I have a relatively small amount of waste that I can't siphon. I wouldn't want to waste a gallon of mead. That's a gallon less to drink .


Thanks for your responses .


Tyson
I think the problem we're encountering here is your intention to use a carboy for the primary. I always make my meads about a half gallon larger than the secondary (the loss from primary to secondary is usually 1-2 quarts). When I rack I can completely fill my carboy. You're going to have to allow plenty of room for an active fermentation and if you step-feed your nutrients early in your primary fermentation as you should, you're likely going to have additional foaming in your primary. This is why I prefer plastic pails or trash containers to allow plenty of headspace. That way I can use any size carboy I want.

You can top with water but all you're doing is watering down your mead. No different than pouring 2/3 glass of mead and filling with water.
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Old 08-03-2009, 01:48 PM   #7
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Ah! It all falls into place now . So likely the best thing to do, if I also plan on doing wine is get a wine bucket (7 gallons) and then carboy secondary. Or get a 6 gallon carboy primary and 5 gallon secondary.


Thanks for the clarification .


Tyson

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Old 08-03-2009, 02:27 PM   #8
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Where are you getting your honey from? Don Popp?

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Old 08-03-2009, 02:51 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TysonWD View Post
Ah! It all falls into place now . So likely the best thing to do, if I also plan on doing wine is get a wine bucket (7 gallons) and then carboy secondary. Or get a 6 gallon carboy primary and 5 gallon secondary.


Thanks for the clarification .


Tyson

I too make a lot of wine, as well as mead. I've found on a number of occasions where a 7-gallon primary bucket just wasn't large enough for six gallons of wine or mead due to the extremely active fermentation or the addition of a grape pack in a straining bag. I use a trash container that's about 8 gallons and that does the trick. The 7-gallon primaries are large enough for most 5-gallon batches.



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Old 08-03-2009, 06:30 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by will_cbe View Post
Where are you getting your honey from? Don Popp?
I have a co-worker whose family keeps bees. They're going to give me honey at a good price in exchange for a bottle .


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