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Old 01-26-2009, 05:28 PM   #1
Zymurgrafi
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Default I am going to try making a mead again. Advice guidance sought so I get it "right"

I have not had the best luck with mead. I do not want to rehash my past attempts and try and diagnose in this thread. I just want a clean start over. So, I will post my plan and I ask for all you experienced mead makers to give your input. I promise I will take your advice!

Unless of course I get 20 different conflicting views!

Then I will try and find the middle ground. I just want this to turn out well as it will also be my first 5 gallon batch. My previous experiments have all been 1 gallon. So this will be a lot pricier if it is bad.

Okay, I would like to brew fairly simple mead (metheglin actually) using heather and honey. Here are the proposed ingredients:

12 lbs. of local clover honey. I can get that for about $44 at my local food co-op. I realize it is not the best price but it is the best I can do locally. I figure paying for shipping will put me in that range anyway. Plus I try and buy local.

Homegrown dried heather. I would use fresh but it is winter now so... I have a mix of 3 varieties but it is mainly Barnet Anley as that was the most productive plant. The others are spring torch and, um, can't recall at the moment. I have not decided on the amount yet. My notes from my first attempt are a little sketchy and I am not sure they are correct. It would seem I used 4 oz. in a one gallon batch but I do not think that is actual. I may base it on my heather ale recipe to decide the amount. In that I use 120 g (or about 4 oz.) for the whole 5 gallon batch. Of course that is a 1.049 OG beer. This would be quite a bit higher gravity wise.

Local fresh spring water. Yes, I am including that as an ingredient. I suspect some of my issues with my past attempts had to do with the water I used. My town water is chlorinated and despite the fact I use an under the sink filter system I suspect some still gets through. I change my filters but I suspect that is not enough. Yes, I have verified that they do not use chloromines. Lately they have been dosing it even stronger as it smells like a wickedly over chlorinated swimming pool coming out of the regular tap!

Anyway, I found a natural spring nearby where I can get water free. It is on the side of a road over in NH. I have been using it for all my brewing the last few months and have noticed a definite improvement in my beer so I am hopeful it will help my mead.

Yeast. Not sure yet but I would like to use what I can get at my LHBS. That means I am limited to Red star montrachet, or Pasteur champagne, and occasionally the one in the blue packet (can't remember its name). Or a dry ale yeast like SafAle (they have most of that brand). If it is deemed ABSOLUTELY imperative by you folks that I get another yeast I will try.

As for nutrients and additions, again I am pretty inexperienced. I use what I can get at my LHBS. I have used Fermax Yeast nutrient from my LHBS following the directions (1 tsp per gallon I believe?) and to seems to work well enough. That is pretty much all they stock for yeast nutrient... I think. I have not had problems using just that getting attenuation. No stuck ferments thus far, just some off flavor issues. Again, if it is deemed imperative by consensus to get some other nutrients I will order them if I must.

I will leave it at just my ingredients for now as this is getting a bit long winded. I will post my proposed procedure in a little while. Let's just make sure I have all the ingredients square first. Anything I am missing, should change adjust?

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Old 01-26-2009, 05:42 PM   #2
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12 lbs is good for 5 gallons of mead. I suggest you taste it first, though. If you don't like the honey, you won't get good mead.
Montrachet yeast should be fine.
If the spring water tastes better than your tap water, then use it.
I don't see any problem with fermax.
No opinion about the heather. If you enjoyed its flavor in your beer, then go for it.

Just be prepared to wait. Decent mead can be made quickly. Good mead takes longer.

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Old 01-26-2009, 06:50 PM   #3
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I agree with will_cbe. My only other advice would be sure to cut your heather amount in half unless you are positive on the quantity. You can always add more, but can't take any out - so add a little, taste, add some more if you want more heather flavor.

Only other thought is temperature control and yeast starter. Stressed out yeasts can add off-flavors, which may be part of why your last batch was bad.

I age my meads for a year at least, then bottle and enjoy (and/or continue aging). So patience, patience, patience, patience, and wait some more... Should be a great mead! (and that's actually a pretty good price for that much honey, great that it's local, too!)

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Old 01-26-2009, 07:08 PM   #4
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As you noted you'll be getting several opinions/suggestions on this issue, and what follows is no different.

If you want to follow a recipe, and process, that has a 100% success rate over the past 10 years [both for me, and many others who have used it in online group brews], then I would recommend you follow the "Making a Basic Mead" FAQ...

If you want to make a yeast substitute, I'd suggest the Pasteur Champagne. However, with the historic problems you noted, I'd make every attempt to get what you need (Fermaid-K, DAP, yeast, Go-Ferm, etc.) from a place other than your LHBS.

Lastly, make sure the spring water you'll be using does not filter (or ion exchange, or otherwise treat) the water to the point that it removes the essential micro-nutrients needed for yeast reproduction.

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Old 01-26-2009, 08:15 PM   #5
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I'll have to go along with the gen. sentiment that starting with superior quality ingredients will give you superior quality mead. So far everyone else's advice makes sense to me. I think I would wait on adding the heather until secondary. If you want the heather in primary you could delay until you can harvest the heather when it's the freshest. Or use it dry, it's all up to you. Mead isn't difficult, it just takes a lot of time & a little care. That's my 2 cents worth, GF.

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Old 01-26-2009, 08:30 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hightest View Post
Lastly, make sure the spring water you'll be using does not filter (or ion exchange, or otherwise treat) the water to the point that it removes the essential micro-nutrients needed for yeast reproduction.
This is my spring water source.



No filters, no processing other than natural ones.

Delicious cold and free!

I will check out your basic mead faq.
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Old 01-26-2009, 08:42 PM   #7
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Quote:
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This is my spring water source..No filters, no processing other than natural ones... Delicious cold and free!
Looks like an excellent water source - lots of minerals in a bedrock water vein.
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Old 01-26-2009, 08:56 PM   #8
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My plan for process now.

I will boil the water for a bit first as it is unfiltered and unprocessed straight from the spring. Just in case there are any microbes. Though I have drank straight out of that spring before without any problems. When the water has cooled to about 155-160 F I will stir in the honey to pasteurize. Once it is dissolved thoroughly I will add the heather and nutrients while still at that temp. The reason for this is that one batch of heather ale I made once I tried "dry-hopping" with the heather. I ended up with a sour beer. It was actually quite nice and drinkable but unintended and therefore possibly just luck that it did not end up funky foul. So I think it would be a good idea to at least apply a little heat to the heather.

Or, the other thought is to boil the heather with the water making a tea and possibly strain it out. Not sure. When I first made this I used a 6L plastic bucket for primary and I threw whole sprigs of heather tips, flowers some leaves and stems. I boiled them IIRC then dumped it all in the bucket. I then racked off about a few weeks later. It tasted incredible at that point btw, which is why I want to make it again. It was really very good at one point. It is a bit off now that it is bottled though it is a bit young. Anyway, I digress.

What it comes down to is I am not sure exactly yet the best approach to when, where, and how to add the heather.

I will be using a 5 gallon glass carboy. I am still unclear about the correct times to rack the mead.

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Old 01-26-2009, 09:08 PM   #9
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My plan for process now. I will boil the water for a bit first as it is unfiltered and unprocessed straight from the spring
Absolutely no need to do this - regardless of natural microbes, unless you have an e-coli problem - but then you wouldn't be drinking the water...
Quote:
...When the water has cooled to about 155-160 F I will stir in the honey to pasteurize
Again, no need. If you wish to make it easier to mix the honey, heat the raw water to ~115°F, remove from the heat, and mix in the honey.
Quote:
.. I am still unclear about the correct times to rack the mead.
That can be adressed once your mead is fermenting - there'll be ample time.
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Old 01-26-2009, 10:23 PM   #10
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wow, i would kill for a water source like that! I end up having to use filtered tap, which usually turns out fine.

I would boil the water for sure, but i'm overly cautious with that stuff. It'll help put the honey in solution too.

12# is a bit light imo, but it depends on the mead desired. I usually dont do less than 15# for 5 gallons, but that's really a matter of taste.

I use red star champaign almost exclusively. White labs sweet mead yeast has produced good results for me too though. You should be fine with what you mentioned.

I concur on using 1/2 the proposed heather and then working from there. you can always add more and that's an expensive project.

I use Superferment, but any standard yeast nutrient should work. I've been told and my experience has taught me that straight meads need extra nutrient. I usually use 2 tbs/gallon even though standard directions usually say 1 tbs.

Depending on the profile of the honey you may also consider some Acid blend as well, but that can always be added after the batch is finished to taste. That's usually how i do it these days. As with all other adjuncts add a little and taste. It's hard to take some out. easy to put more in

On another note, i've found that meads in particular are sensitive to temperatures. I try to keep mine right about 70 or just above. I have a friend who's been trying to brew for a while and had gotten some pretty random results with the same recipes I use and even the same honey batches, but his place fluctuates in temp wildly from day to day because of a roommate jacking with the thermostat. I usually cold-stabalize by freezing after fermentation too, but that's just me.

Some optional bentonite to clear and aging and you should have some awesome bee juice.

*note: you're probably aware of this already but clearing your wine/mead makes a night/day difference. Often a batch will clear on its own if you let it sit for a while but some don't clear well on their own. In those cases i would consider using a clarifier. I've had wonderful results with bentonite so long as the water added is hot. Sparkloid isn't bad, but bentonite gets me better results. I've had folks give me sample of what they called horrible stuff and after one clearing treatment I give it back and they dont even believe it's the same stuff. My general rule is if i can't read the marks on a ruler through a clear 750ml bottle it ain't done yet.

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