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Old 09-04-2013, 11:46 PM   #1
WaxPoetic
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Default Introduction and questions

Hello all!
First, let me start by introducing myself. My name is Storm, and I'm from New York. I've always wanted to try my hand at brewing, and just started recently (like within the past month I've been getting together all my equipment).
I recently put up four batches of mead (my first ever). On August 27th I started a pumpkin spice mead and an orange spice mead. The pumpkin spice I started in a 2 gallon bucket and the orange I started in a 1 gallon carboy. First thing I noticed was that the airlock on the pumpkin was not bubbling at all, while the airlock on the orange started within hours. So I let it sit a day and the pumpkin started, but very very slow. On August 31st I put up another two batches, another pumpkin that I prepared slightly differently, and apple cinnamon. This time both new meads started bubbling within hours.
Yesterday I noticed that the bubbling in the apple stopped completely. So I got out my refractometer and tested all the meads.
The 8/27 pumpkin had a Brix of 8
The 8/27 orange had a Brix of 11
The 8/31 pumpkin had a Brix of 13
And the 8/31 apple had a Brix of 14
These all seem off, no?
To top it off, I took a reading tonight on the apple, and it seems to have dropped to 12. Is this even possible?
One thing I didn't prepare for was checking the pH. Tonight I ordered pH test strips and potassium carbonate from Amazon with rush shipping, so it should be here by Friday. I also added another teaspoon full of yeast nutrient to the 8/27 pumpkin on September 2nd, and tonight I added nutrient to the apple.
So, here are my questions.
How bad did I screw these batches up?
Are they salvageable or did I waste 15lbs of honey?
What are the readings that I should be getting from the refractometer? I also have a hydrometer if that would be better.
How can I correct these readings now? Should I pitch more yeast? Add more nutrient?
I would really appreciate any help you can offer. Thanks in advance everyone!

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Old 09-05-2013, 01:06 AM   #2
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If you have a hydrometer use that as that is what most of us use and will keep everything clearer. I just started brewing too and let me tell you every one of my mead batches has fermented differently. I've had batches that fermented to dry in 4 days, I've had batches that kept fermenting for 7 weeks, I had one that stopped fermenting for a month and a half and mysteriously started up again so relax, nothing is lost, in fact it all sounds normal.

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Old 09-05-2013, 01:13 AM   #3
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Remember that a refractometer is only useful preferment as alcohol skews the readings (as it reads the light refracted through the instrument).

Mead is easy, but sometimes it's helpful to use nutrients to keep a fermentation going along with degassing. Please see our "sticky" threads in this forum that explain staggered nutrient additions and degassing, as well as when to transfer the mead to a carboy to prevent oxidation. That should help you out alot!

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Old 09-09-2013, 08:19 AM   #4
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Thanks for your replies. I purchased some Wyeast nutrient and I am going to add it to the batches tomorrow, hopefully that will kick start some of the fermenting again. I also should be getting my pH test strips tomorrow, so I'll take readings on all of them and see what the levels are. Hopefully my potassium carbonate will arrive tomorrow also.
I racked the mead from the plastic bucket into another glass carboy, so I'm hoping that this will also help a little as well.

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Old 09-09-2013, 01:49 PM   #5
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The brix of your apple mead is lowering as expected. This means that it is fermenting. Brix measure the amount of sugar in a solution. As the yeast turn the sugar to alcohol, the brix will lower.

You can use a refractometer to see how your meads are doing but using a hydrometer is much easier and readings your mead's standard gravity is easier than brix. If you'd like to convert brix to sg, you can use this link http://onebeer.net/refractometer.shtml. As Yooper pointed out, alcohol skews the readings on a refractometer; but, this link accounts for the disparity caused by alcohol (I don't know how accurate this is as I have not tested it myself).

What are the recipes for your batches? This will help give us a better idea on how to help you out.

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Old 09-09-2013, 04:29 PM   #6
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OK, here are the recipes:

Apple spice 1 gallon:
1/4 gallon unfiltered not from concentrate apple juice
3/4 gallon filtered water
3.5 lbs. honey
Cinnamon
Sprinkle of whole cloves
pinch of allspice
pinch of nutmeg
Lalvin EC 1118 yeast
Pectic enzyme in the apple juice
Yeast nutrient
25 raisins
Sprinkle of dried Valencia orange peel

Pumpkin spice 1 gallon
15 oz. pumpkin mash
1 gallon filtered water
3.5 lbs. honey
Cinnamon
sprinkle of whole cloves
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of allspice
1/5 orange peel
25 raisins
Lalvin 1118
Yeast nutrient
Sprinkle of dried Valencia orange peel
One batch I boiled the water and stirred in the honey, then added everything else as the water cooled, once it reached room temperature I pitched the yeast, stirred and put in the 2.5 gallon bucket. The other batch I boiled the water, added the honey and then while on a low roll added all the ingredients, allowed to cool and pitched the yeast.

Orange
2 whole oranges including peels
1 gallon filtered water
3.5 lbs. honey
Sprinkle of dried Valencia orange peel
25 raisins
Lalvin EC 1118
Yeast nutrient

With all the batches I boiled the water to a light roll, stirred in the honey and cooled to room temperature (about 80^F) before pitching the yeast. I made sure to activate the yeast first by adding the yeast to 2 oz. of water at around 100^F and letting sit while I prepared the must, which was on average about an hour as per the directions on the Lalvin packaging.

Thanks

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Old 09-09-2013, 05:37 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WaxPoetic View Post
OK, here are the recipes:

Apple spice 1 gallon:
1/4 gallon unfiltered not from concentrate apple juice
3/4 gallon filtered water
3.5 lbs. honey
Cinnamon
Sprinkle of whole cloves
pinch of allspice
pinch of nutmeg
Lalvin EC 1118 yeast
Pectic enzyme in the apple juice
Yeast nutrient
25 raisins
Sprinkle of dried Valencia orange peel

Pumpkin spice 1 gallon
15 oz. pumpkin mash
1 gallon filtered water
3.5 lbs. honey
Cinnamon
sprinkle of whole cloves
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of allspice
1/5 orange peel
25 raisins
Lalvin 1118
Yeast nutrient
Sprinkle of dried Valencia orange peel
One batch I boiled the water and stirred in the honey, then added everything else as the water cooled, once it reached room temperature I pitched the yeast, stirred and put in the 2.5 gallon bucket. The other batch I boiled the water, added the honey and then while on a low roll added all the ingredients, allowed to cool and pitched the yeast.

Orange
2 whole oranges including peels
1 gallon filtered water
3.5 lbs. honey
Sprinkle of dried Valencia orange peel
25 raisins
Lalvin EC 1118
Yeast nutrient

With all the batches I boiled the water to a light roll, stirred in the honey and cooled to room temperature (about 80^F) before pitching the yeast. I made sure to activate the yeast first by adding the yeast to 2 oz. of water at around 100^F and letting sit while I prepared the must, which was on average about an hour as per the directions on the Lalvin packaging.

Thanks
Well, without having the time to analyse all the recipe details, 2 things just out at me.....

Firstly, EC-1118. Now it does seem that a lot of home brew places recommend that, presumably thinking that as soon as you mention mead they suggest such a monster yeast, because they presume massive amounts of fermentables.

It's a good yeast, it has it's place, but unless you need to restart stuck brews or are making dry, somewhat bland traditionals so you can make sparkling meads, that give a nod toward champagne, then its better not using it.

I find that it blows a lot of the aromatics and some of the more volatile flavourings straight out the airlock. So when you've spent hard earned money on a nice tasting, quality varietal honey, using EC1118 on it is like boiling the hell out of it, or just getting cheap and nasty store bought honey.

There are many better yeasts. For ease of use, low sulphur producing, low nitrogen requirement, wide temperature range, and many other good points, K1-V1116 is a better choice IMO, and that of others......

The other point that jumped out at me.....

"Sprinkle of Whole Cloves"..... How much is a sprinkle ?

The recipe that is often suggested to new mead makers is the Joes Ancient Orange/JAO recipe - for no other reason than it's easy to get all the ingredients from a grocery type store, its easily mixed and very difficult to mess up if you just stick to the recipe.

Now what Joe does point out in the recipe, is that Cloves are surprisingly powerful little beasts. His recipe says 1 or 2 and no more, otherwise you risk ending up with something so strongly flavoured with Clove, as to make it almost undrinkable......
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Old 09-09-2013, 06:06 PM   #8
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I didn't add more than 3 or 4 cloves to each batch.
Well, I still have a few packets of 1118, but yeast is pretty inexpensive, and I found a bunch of places on Amazon and eBay that sell lots of 10 packets of K1-V1116. I guess I can try that the next time I attempt to brew some mead.

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Old 09-10-2013, 12:55 AM   #9
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OK, I just took hydrometer readings from all the batches and something is wrong.
Either I screwed up the readings (all of them), or all four batches are bad. Each of them read 1.0, so I am at a complete loss here.
Any ideas? Suggestions? Or is my mead dead and do I need to just start over now?
Help please!

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Old 09-10-2013, 01:03 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WaxPoetic View Post
OK, I just took hydrometer readings from all the batches and something is wrong.
Either I screwed up the readings (all of them), or all four batches are bad. Each of them read 1.0, so I am at a complete loss here.
Any ideas? Suggestions? Or is my mead dead and do I need to just start over now?
Help please!
It should go lower than 1.000. Are you certain that they are all precisely at 1.000? That's weird, if they are. Or could it be that they are lower? Which is what I'd expect.
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