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Old 07-21-2013, 07:18 AM   #1
iamherehopingforhelp
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Default I somehow brewed non-alcoholic mead, would appreciate troubleshooting help

I have lurked for a while and this is my first time posting. I messed up and I don't know what happened, so I will just tell the long story of what I did, hoping a red flag will come up somewhere.

I set out to make a half-gallon of honeysuckle/honey brew. I picked a whole bunch of flowers and set them in water (filtered from my fridge) for a day and a half. I then strained out the flowers and boiled the mixture (it was a dark brown and smelled of pollen) to kill the natural yeasts and molds. I let the mixture sit in the fridge for a while and some of brown powder settled. I siphoned the liquid from the top and let it sit another day. More of the brown powder appeared, so I siphoned it again. This repeated two more times.

Eventually, I decided to just add the honey. I did not use special honey or anything, I used normal store-bought stuff that comes from a plastic bottle (I did not notice any preservatives listed on the ingredients). I then heated up the mixture to almost a boil and added a cup (estimation) of honey. I bottled that up and let it sit the night.

The next morning, the bottom two inches of the bottle was a very dark brown (from the honeysuckle) and the rest was a golden honey color, there was some sort of separation. I siphoned off the golden honey part and poured out the dark brown sludge.

I then set up for brewing. I put a five gram packet of Red Star Montrachet in a mason jar with some warm water and some sugar to start the yeast up. I put two teaspoons of the mixture into the bottle with the honey water, put my s-shaped air lock on the top of the bottle, and shook it all up to mix in the yeast. The air lock was bubbling steadily by the next morning.

For the next couple days, I would shake the bottle gently twice a day to mix everything up again. I then went out of town. In my absence the
mixture had cleared up beautifully, and the yeast had settled on the bottom, and was still visibly creating gas (as in I saw bubbles rise, the airlock was still bubbling, as well). Seeing that the mixture cleared, I stopped shaking it.

I let the bottle sit for a total of 15 days. In the last day or two, the air lock was not bubbling as often (once every 30-45 seconds). So I siphoned out everything but the yeast that had settled to the bottom and tried a sip.

It was carbonated, with a slight yeast taste (it still kept the honey flavor). It did not feel very alcoholic.

Before I tested my brew with a hydrometer, I tested a commercial beer with a known alcohol by volume percentage, so I could make sure I was doing it right (I have never used a hydrometer before). I pulled a beer out of the fridge, and with some experimenting, I got the right percentage.

I then tested my brew (room temperature). It read at just above 0% abv.

There are a couple things my mind went to when I looked for reasons why this failed:
1. I used the wrong honey, some preservative prevented alcohol creation
2. The hydrometer was just being weird/temperature affected the reading
3. I used the wrong yeast for the job

I think it should be noted that there was more yeast at the end of brewing than what I put in, so I know the yeast multiplied, which has to mean they did some eating, which should mean I end up with alcohol.

Anything that comes to mind as to why this failed would be greatly appreciated. I would like to learn from my mistakes, I just don't know where I made one this time around.

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Old 07-21-2013, 07:29 AM   #2
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What was your OG? What is your FG? With those 2 measurements you can calculate your ABV....

If it fermented for 15 to 20 days..... You have alcohol!

ANY Honey will ferment and make alcohol
Temp on hydro sample can absolutely cause you to get bad readings
Even bread yeast will ferment and create alcohol so this is not an issue. If it fermented and it sounds like it did, you have alcohol.

Ohhh Welcome to the forum!

Cheers
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Old 07-21-2013, 07:47 AM   #3
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I have no idea how to test for OG or FG. Also, what are those things?


Thanks for the quick reply!

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Old 07-21-2013, 07:53 AM   #4
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I should note that I have never made mead, but from reading you situation it sounds like you should do some more research on using a hydrometer. With out an original gravity your final gravity (which you say is around 0%) means nothing. To get your ABV you need to subtract your OG (original gravity) from your final gravity (FG). If you had steady bubbling I would say you did make alcohol. You know the best way to test, sit back have a few and see how you feel. Cheers

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Old 07-21-2013, 07:55 AM   #5
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You said you have a hydrometer, correct? When we make mead, wine, beer etc. Before we pitch (add) the yeast we take a hydrometer reading. What we are looking for is the Original Gravity (OG) reading. You should be reading "Gravity"... Then we add yeast and let it eat sugar. When its done we take another hydrometer reading this is our Finished Gravity (FG). There are several calculators on the net like this one you can use..

http://www.rooftopbrew.net/abv.php

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Old 07-21-2013, 07:56 AM   #6
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You make the mistake of reading the hydrometer incorrectly.

Those ones with alcohol percentage marks are misleading.

0% means it probably dropped very low (physically) in the liquid. If you checked the other markings it would have likely been IRO 1.000

The zero reading you got just tells you that theres no sugars left to convert. Just because you didn't experience the "alcohol hot" taste, doesn't mean its not there.

Jaybird is entirely correct. I'd also encourage you to go over to the front page of gotmead forums and read their "NewBee guide" (linked in the left side yellow links/dialogue box).

Most likely it'll be drinkable but you probably won't have any flower flavour or aroma. You'd need to read up on aroma and flavour extraction for that, and most likely wouldn't use any heat, but thats plant dependant. Many spices extract best in alcohol, some flowers need just water or alcohol, some need boiling then distillation (lavender being a good example of that).

Once you've got your extract for flavour/aroma, you wouldn't boil/heat the flavour/honey/water mix as that'd just drive off the volatile aromatics and flavour compounds.

Hence you've got a result, just not the one you were probably hoping for.

Oh and with flowers, stick to the ones that have been used for food prep before. There are more that are edible than we regularly use but equally some are very toxic/hazardous (foxglove flavoured mead - yum yum........NOT!)

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Old 07-21-2013, 09:16 AM   #7
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Bloke, honeysuckle is ok, we pull the flowers apart to get a microscopic taste of nectar and its really good, probably picked thousands of them since we were kids. Iamhere was just winging it on the fly but a tiny bit of homework would have saved you a lot of issues and work. You might be better off starting with a simple welches grape wine to learn the steps first and then jump into the harder stuff like flower wines.

Your hydrometer should have a little piece of paper with instructions on it, if not look up how to read a hydrometer on the net.

Good luck, WVMJ

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Old 07-21-2013, 10:31 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WVMJ View Post
Bloke, honeysuckle is ok, we pull the flowers apart to get a microscopic taste of nectar and its really good, probably picked thousands of them since we were kids. Iamhere was just winging it on the fly but a tiny bit of homework would have saved you a lot of issues and work. You might be better off starting with a simple welches grape wine to learn the steps first and then jump into the harder stuff like flower wines.

Your hydrometer should have a little piece of paper with instructions on it, if not look up how to read a hydrometer on the net.

Good luck, WVMJ
Oh I'm sure honeysuckle is fine Jack, just that the principle of making sure.

After all, we are both well aware that pretty much all parts of the elderberry are toxic, EXCEPT the berries (and flower petals). Sure, likely only toxic enough to give you bad guts, but as I say, the principle of understanding the ingredient.

I doubt whether the OP would have got much of the flower flavour, as it seems that part of the recipe had been boiled once and then reheated etc.

Flowers are bloody strange, and while I don't enjoy flower flavoured stuff (with the exception of "Turkish Delight"), it'd probably need, almost perfumier techniques, to extract the flavour/aroma.

I know it's done as a heating method with elderflower to make the cordial and "elderflower champagne", but from memory it's a basic heat the water to whatever, steep the flower petals for X amount of time, strain and ferment. Which keeps enough of the volatile aromatics to pass on to the finished product. Or with lavender, where it's boiled, then the oil removed by distillation, etc etc etc......

And of course, my example of pretty flowers that are highly toxic i.e. foxglove/digitalis was just throw away facetiousness......
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Old 07-21-2013, 03:53 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaybird View Post
There are several calculators on the net like this one you can use..
Thank you for that! This isn't my first mead/homebrew, but it's the first one I tried a hydrometer on, so I did not think to take any gravity readings.

@fatbloke and WVMJ, the whole honeysuckle part was just an experiment anyway. When the dark honeysuckle liquid separated from the honey liquid is when I lost all chances of maintaining a honeysuckle flavor. It ended up working out, though because the final product has a very good taste, while the honeysuckle had a very bitter taste, like super unsweet tea. I think the bitter taste had to do with how long I let the flowers sit in hot water (a day and a half). I am thinking that if I had shortened the steeping time I might have been more likely to extract nectar than to make that bitter flower tea. Thanks for the advice, though!

@alker "You know the best way to test, sit back have a few and see how you feel. Cheers"


Thanks for the advice, man. And if all else fails, I might as well do just that.
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