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Old 12-14-2009, 02:13 AM   #1
Sitgarath
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Default Getting back to brewing

Hi All,

Been a long time since I brewed anything (10+ years!) so I thought I would come get some expert advice before jumping back in.

My wife's family has a farm in Wyoming and has given me 10# of honey from their hive with the hopes that I can transform it into something tasty to drink come the July family reunion.

I have always been an all or nothing kinda guy, so I poached the web for what appeared to be good mead recipes and cobbled together the beast below using all the honey. This is mainly the Mead-pagne recipe with a few mods.

Any thoughts, recommendations, or "What the heck are you thinking!" posts would be welcome. I am looking at t getting started next weekend:

  • 3.5 gal fresh pressed apple juice (I will press this from organic apples)
  • 10 lbs Honey from the farm
  • 1 tsp acid blend
  • 1 Tbsp yeast nutrient
  • Wyeast 4184: Sweet mead yeast
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • Irish moss (or other clarifier)
  • 2 tsp Pectic Enzyme
  • 4 campden tables (sodium metabisulfite)

Methods/steps
Pour the cider to a sterilized 5 gal carboy. Allow it to splash to aerate. Treat overnight with campden tablets. Crush and predissolve.

Next day heat the honey in < 1 gallon of water (160 degree for 1 hr).
Add all other ingredients to the syrup.

Add to the fermenter. Use some of the treated juice to hydrate the yeast, and pitch the starter after it bubbles.

After a few weeks, rack to a secondary.

Top up with juice, and ferment for an additional 4 months

Bottling with 3/4 cup corn sugar in champagne bottles
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Old 12-14-2009, 03:07 AM   #2
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A few quick suggestions, based on my experiences....

1) Don't add any acid blend until fermentation has finished, and then only add it if you feel the taste is "flabby," or deficient in acidic bite. Adding acid to a mead or cyser (this is a cyser, as it is being made with a combo of honey and apple juice/fresh cider) can cause the pH of the must to dip down to the point where the yeast will be too stressed to complete fermentation.

2) Consider staggering the additions of your yeast nutrient. For more information on staggered nutrient additions, see Hightest's FAQ (sticky at the top of this forum).

3) Consider a different yeast. This is probably the strongest suggestion that I'll make concerning this batch. Sweet Mead yeast just won't cut it - even in still meads, it has a habit of stopping well before all the fermentables are consumed, and you'll be left with a still, very sweet, mead. For a combo of honey and apple juice, and for one that you want to bottle condition similar to a champagne, I'd personally use Lalvin K1V-1116. While it is a vigorous fermenter, it won't scrub away all those wonderful apple aromatics during the ferment, and it will still have enough viability to complete a bottle carbonation if you dose the finished mead with a little more juice/honey/sugar.

4) Don't bother with irish moss, since it will taint the flavor of your finished mead, and since its principal action is to bind to proteins that are then pulled out of suspension in a beer. You don't have any grain-based proteins in this recipe.

5) Definitely use the pectic enzyme, and add it to your apple juice after the campden dose has had 24 hrs to dissipate, and before you add anything else. It works best before any alcohol is in the mix, so it is best added before you pitch yeast.

6) It is not necessary to pasteurize your honey. Honey is naturally hygroscopic - so much so that the osmotic pressure that it puts on any spoilage microbes that have the unfortunate luck to land on it, cause them to be sucked dry and killed in short order. You can immediately dissolve the honey in your cider -- or you can use a little warm water to help get the honey into solution first, but the less you heat your honey the more volatile aromatics will remain to enhance your final mead.

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Old 12-14-2009, 04:44 AM   #3
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Wayne hit all the points I would have made - well done!

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Old 12-14-2009, 06:33 AM   #4
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Wow! This is a huge help.

As for item #3, my fear is that I end up with something too dry for the average Wyoming resident to enjoy. They tend to like the Bud/Coors type malt beverages despite my best efforts. Do you think the Lalvin K1V-1116 will leave me with enough sugar to get a widely popular flavor? My meads with champagne yeast in the past have been too dry for some folks (although great for me)

#6) I would prefer not to heat at all for the very reason you pointed out. In my experience (again, very long ago) more heat=less flavor when it comes to meads and fruit recipes. However, I don't want to risk any contaminants getting in there and adding off flavors. Do you think the apple juice will be OK without heat as well, or might it be worth it to get the honey and cider all mixed and briefly up to 140 ish to be on the safe side?

Any recommendations on the apples? I was thinking about red delicious or fuji.

Thanks a lot for the tips! It makes me feel much more confident to have a second set of eyes and brains mulling this thing over with me.

Especially someone from just up the road!

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Old 12-14-2009, 08:50 AM   #5
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IMO, most sweet (eating) apples make rubbish juice for mead making. They tend to be high in the sweet sugary bit, but low in other areas i.e. tannins, acids etc.

You can sort of help that a little, by adding tannin and malic acid (I'd probably use 2/3 malic and 1/3 tartaric.

Yes, K1-V1116 will take it way low (we have the capability), but that's not the issue. As it can be back sweetened later.

As for heat ? No, not unless the honey has crystalised. Even then, I'd just warm it gently in a bath of hot water so it slowly uncrystalised, or just scrape it out the pot (or cut the pot... depends on the container) put it in a bucket with the apple juice and if you have a hand whisk (electrical) beat the hell out of it, or you could also use a blender, a little honey/AJ at a time. when all the honey is mixed, just get it all into the bucket. Then sulphite it according to the directions on the pack. Cover and leave for 24 to 48 hours before proceeding further.....

regards

fatbloke

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Old 12-14-2009, 06:55 PM   #6
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Regarding your concerns about #3, if you are planning on bottle conditioning (i.e. carbonating) the result to make it like a champagne but you still want it to taste somewhat sweet, then you'll want some non-fermentable sugar such as lactose in the recipe (or an artificial or natural non-nutritive sweetener such as aspartame or stevia) in order to provide the sweetness in taste. The reason is that any yeast capable of providing that bottle carbonation, will likely eat all the residual sugars from the honey and the juice, and still be up to the task of consuming your conditioning charge of corn sugar. Even if the yeasts poop out before all that residual is consumed, the exact point at which they give up is not predictable in advance. Thus, in an attempt to get a sweet (or semi-sweet) carbonated mead, you might end up either with bottle bombs, or with super sweet still mead, instead.

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Old 12-16-2009, 04:54 AM   #7
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Thanks guys.

So any other thoughts on a type of apple? Maybe a granny smith?

Sounds like the lactose will be the way to go to add some sweetness to the mead as I tend to shy away from artificial sweetners.

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Old 12-17-2009, 08:26 PM   #8
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Truly good cider/cyser apples are hard to find, since they're not cultivated in most orchards - there's far too much money in "eating" apples. Even the granny smith variety has little in the way of taste, other than a bit more malic acid than most eating varieties. Still, if you have to work with store bought apples, using combinations of all the "tart" or "pie" or "baking" apples that you can find would be far better than going with a single variety of eating apple.

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Old 12-17-2009, 09:49 PM   #9
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I suggest you mix the apples. Do a variety of them. This should round out a bit. Also for a great taste, add 1/2 a vanilla bean or 2 tblspn of vanilla extract. It may not be imediately evident in the mix but Vanilla helps bolster most flavors. When I make my hot spiced cider I through some vanilla in, ever since I did I got complements.

How to treat the actual vanilla bean. Split lenght wise and open up the pod. Then just put in the carboy. Best in the secondary. You will be supprised at what it will do. It may also spruce up the flavor a bit especially in a semi-sweet batch.

Oh, one other suggestion. In primary or secondary, best in the secondary, put 1/2 oz of oak chips, medium toast would be best but light toast is fine. I have found that it ages quicker. I wouldn't put it in more than 3 weeks and not less than 1 week.

Don't forget the power of cold crashing for clearing it quicker too. When fermentation is done.

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Old 01-01-2010, 05:36 PM   #10
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I started the juicing last night, so wish me luck. perhaps I will start a different thread to track the progress.

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