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Old 09-04-2011, 02:25 AM   #1
Rasputyne
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Default First-timer has a few questions

Hello there!

I've been lurking here for several weeks while I was waiting for the rest of my equipment and such to arrive, just looking over recipes and reading various threads, trying to learn what I can. Seems as though the first real thing to learn was RDWHAHB, and to let the yeast just do their thing, since they've been at it a long time.

I just started my first batch this past Wednesday, and while I was at first worried that it didn't seem to be doing anything, reading over various threads here have assuaged my fears that I screwed up this first attempt. I used the basic recipe from The Compleat Meadmaker to start, with a couple minor modifications, due to space and ingredient restrictions. The recipe I ended up with is as follows:

3-4 pounds wildflower honey (had to estimate by pouring from a 5 pound container, put as close to 4/5ths as I could)
1 gallon water
.5 tsp yeast nutrient
.25 tsp yeast energizer
1 packet Lalvin EC-1118

I was initially nervous that I screwed something up, as the only thing my airlock's done is shift the vodka in it slightly to the left (away from the bucket). Reading here has convinced me I likely just have a leak around the lid somewhere, so the CO2's getting out elsewhere. I'm assuming the airlock being uneven still means there's a positive pressure inside the fermenter. Please feel free to let me know if I'm making any false assumptions.

As for the questions I have, they've been brought to mind from reading around on the forums.

1. What exactly is yeast starter, and what's it used for? I did a quick search on the site I ordered my equipment and yeast from, but didn't see anything called a starter.

2. What is "back sweetening?" I assume it means adding some additional sugar (in the form of more honey?) after a certain point in the process, but I could be completely wrong.

3. Given that my airlock hasn't got much movement, is there any other easy way to tell if the yeast's doing what it should be? I'd rather not wait several weeks only to open it up and find out it didn't ferment properly. Assuming I followed the recipe as listed above, should it be working ok?

I think that's it for now. I've been enjoying looking over various recipes and such, and have quite a list of them to try out. Already very excited about this hobby!

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Old 09-04-2011, 08:59 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Rasputyne View Post
Hello there!

I've been lurking here for several weeks while I was waiting for the rest of my equipment and such to arrive, just looking over recipes and reading various threads, trying to learn what I can. Seems as though the first real thing to learn was RDWHAHB, and to let the yeast just do their thing, since they've been at it a long time.

I just started my first batch this past Wednesday, and while I was at first worried that it didn't seem to be doing anything, reading over various threads here have assuaged my fears that I screwed up this first attempt. I used the basic recipe from The Compleat Meadmaker to start, with a couple minor modifications, due to space and ingredient restrictions. The recipe I ended up with is as follows:

3-4 pounds wildflower honey (had to estimate by pouring from a 5 pound container, put as close to 4/5ths as I could)
1 gallon water
.5 tsp yeast nutrient
.25 tsp yeast energizer
1 packet Lalvin EC-1118

I was initially nervous that I screwed something up, as the only thing my airlock's done is shift the vodka in it slightly to the left (away from the bucket). Reading here has convinced me I likely just have a leak around the lid somewhere, so the CO2's getting out elsewhere. I'm assuming the airlock being uneven still means there's a positive pressure inside the fermenter. Please feel free to let me know if I'm making any false assumptions.
Well it's either leaking somewhere or it's still, possibly, in the "lag phase" where the yeast is still multiplying into it's viable colony for the actual ferment.

Quote:
As for the questions I have, they've been brought to mind from reading around on the forums.

1. What exactly is yeast starter, and what's it used for? I did a quick search on the site I ordered my equipment and yeast from, but didn't see anything called a starter.

2. What is "back sweetening?" I assume it means adding some additional sugar (in the form of more honey?) after a certain point in the process, but I could be completely wrong.

3. Given that my airlock hasn't got much movement, is there any other easy way to tell if the yeast's doing what it should be? I'd rather not wait several weeks only to open it up and find out it didn't ferment properly. Assuming I followed the recipe as listed above, should it be working ok?

I think that's it for now. I've been enjoying looking over various recipes and such, and have quite a list of them to try out. Already very excited about this hobby!
A yeast starter, is where you use some of the materials used in the actual ferment to make a larger quantity of the yeast colony i.e. something like the 200mls of water, plus a tablespoon of honey and some GoFerm (GoFerm has less DAP in it than FermaidK, DAP can be injurous to the fragile newly rehydrated yeast cells), then mix in the yeast and let it rehydrate/start to ferment.

While the yeast packs of about 5grammes say that they're enough for 5 gallons, if you make a starter of a litre or so, it's quite feasible to use 3/4's of the starter to use in a ferment, and then to increase the size of what's left of the starter again to be able to use some more in a different ferment, etc etc.

Back sweetening, is the method used when you ferment a batch dry i.e. 1.000 or less, then use some form of sweetener to add the sweetness back into the brew. It depends on what you want from the brew as to what sweetener you use, but if it's a fermentable form of sugar, i.e. honey, table sugar/sucrose etc, then unless you want to naturally carbonate the brew, you'd need to stabilise it with sulphite/sorbate first (they're used to stun any yeast cells, and then to prevent them from multiplying again).

Back sweetening can be done when the mead has finished it's ferment. If you're using honey, this is often the best time, as honey can cause a protein haze. Though that will normally clear with any other sediment as the clearing process progresses. So it's a reasonable idea to do this at this stage/time as it's a PITA to have to clear a brew, back sweeten with honey and then to have to clear it down again.

If you use table sugar/sucrose, you'd still need to stabilise it, but then you can clear it first and then add the sweetener to taste.

If you intend to carbonate the brew, you'd need to back sweeten with a non-fermentable sweetener (lactose, aspartame, saccharin, etc etc). Then not stabilise. As you want the brew sweeter, but still have some scope available so when you add the small amount of fermentable sugar to the bottle it still has enough yeast cells to ferment the sugar and produce the CO2 for carbonation. This can cause the brew to have a small amount of sediment appear in the bottle, which is the yeast cells that have done their thing. For "proper" carbonation method/technique, google for "methode champenoise".

I usually back sweeten my meads with honey, but I use a hydrometer to keep a check on the levels - I like my meads at about 1.010

Finally, if the fermenter/airlock might be leaking or not showing any sign of fermenting, from a visual point of view, you should see some small bubbles appearing on top of the brew (once any foam has died back down).

The only sure fire way of knowing what's going on, is hydrometer testing. Either take a sample into a test jar, or if there's enough room and you can get it back out, you can just drop the hydrometer directly into the ferment. A test jar is better as it's easier to de-gas the sample so that there's no bubbles sticking to the hydrometer causing an incorrect reading. Either way, a hydrometer is a necessity, as that's how you know what's happening, as well as start/finish gravity numbers to be able to calculate the % ABV of the brew.

regards

fatbloke
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Old 09-05-2011, 01:10 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by fatbloke View Post
A yeast starter, is where you use some of the materials used in the actual ferment to make a larger quantity of the yeast colony i.e. something like the 200mls of water, plus a tablespoon of honey and some GoFerm (GoFerm has less DAP in it than FermaidK, DAP can be injurous to the fragile newly rehydrated yeast cells), then mix in the yeast and let it rehydrate/start to ferment.

While the yeast packs of about 5grammes say that they're enough for 5 gallons, if you make a starter of a litre or so, it's quite feasible to use 3/4's of the starter to use in a ferment, and then to increase the size of what's left of the starter again to be able to use some more in a different ferment, etc etc.
I have a slightly different take on starters, and again, it seems as if there's maybe a terminology difference...what fatbloke is describing sounds to me as if it's rehydration.
I think of a starter as a miniature batch of beer/mead that you use simply to increase your cell counts...Oh, and if you're using dry yeast, you don't need one! If you think you need a higher yeast count than a single packet gives you, use more packets! Hydrate the dry yeast properly, and pitch it. Perhaps it's overkill, but I have been using three 5 gram packets of dry yeast for a 6 gallon batch. I get very short lag times...last batch with 71B was actively going in 3 hrs!

when I use a liquid yeast, I generally make a starter to increase the cell counts...I use a 2 quart (half gallon) volume starter with between 1/2 and 3/4 lb honey (gives a gravity around 1.050). This is obviously a lot bigger than the 200 ml that fatbloke is referring to, and is one of the reasons why it seems to me as what he's referring to is rehydration rather than a starter. I let this fermentation run to completion then drop...when you make your new mead, you decant most of the spent starter, then resuspend the yeast and pitch into your must.

Interesting that fatbloke mentions the effect of DAP on starters/rehydration...I've not read that before. I actually don't use any nutrient for rehydration, just water (heated to the temp recommended by the yeast manufacturer...Lalvin recommends 104-109*F and Lallemand/Danstar recommends 87-95*F for their yeasts.

For my actual starters, I do use yeast nutrients, and indeed a staggered nutririent protocol. I've never noted any issues with adding regular nutrients (Fermaid/DAP) to liquid yeast starters.
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Old 09-05-2011, 10:53 PM   #4
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Thanks for the good info guys... this is useful info as I too am brand new to mead. I hope you can help me with my problems too (sulfur smell)!

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Old 09-05-2011, 11:30 PM   #5
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Thanks for the good info guys... this is useful info as I too am brand new to mead. I hope you can help me with my problems too (sulfur smell)!
Some yeasts just do this during primary and it clears up as time goes on...but if you have a specific question you might want to just start a new thread...

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Packaged: Dark Munich Citra SMaSH, Mayan Stout, Caramel Quad, Basic Spiced Cider, Spur of the Moment Graff
Recent Meads: Mead Day '11 Ginger Metheglin, Mead Day '12 Traditional (orange blossom) Mead, Fresh Simple Cyser '12, Cherry Melomel, Belgeglin, Bochet
Primary: Nada!
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Old 09-05-2011, 11:58 PM   #6
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Some yeasts just do this during primary and it clears up as time goes on...but if you have a specific question you might want to just start a new thread...

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Sorry ... I see you have...

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Packaged: Dark Munich Citra SMaSH, Mayan Stout, Caramel Quad, Basic Spiced Cider, Spur of the Moment Graff
Recent Meads: Mead Day '11 Ginger Metheglin, Mead Day '12 Traditional (orange blossom) Mead, Fresh Simple Cyser '12, Cherry Melomel, Belgeglin, Bochet
Primary: Nada!
Secondary: Why do I keep this line here...?
Bulk Aging: Cocobochet
Planned: Hop Metheglin #3 (NZ hops), Trad. Gesho T'ej
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