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Old 12-16-2009, 03:49 PM   #1
R4mmR0d
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Default Mead Noob in need of the infinite wisdom of the internet

I'm a university student in Scotland and I've just purchased the equipment necessary to brew 5 gal of... well, SOMETHING. I decided to give mead a shot after i tried a bottle of Lindisfarne mead, which, i understand, isn't precisely traditional mead but is pretty good. I have a few general questions about mead production, and this forum is far and away the best resource i've found so i've decided to abase myself before the brew-gods and ask for guidance.
I've purchased two yeasts, Gervin No 3 Yellow Label Wine Yeast(A champagne yeast) and Gervin B Wine Yeast. I've also bought wine finings, Tronozymol, tartaric acid, and campden tablets. hightest's guide (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f30/sticky-mead-making-faqs-83030/) makes use of the finings and tartaric acid, which i haven't seen in any other recipes. I'm unsure as to what yeast i should use (the gervin B advertises a "fruity bouquet" and i've seen the no.3 yellow label in a few mead recipes) and if any of you experienced brewers make use of wine finings and tartaric acid. Also, when preparing the yeast, do you guys, as a rule use some sort of nutrient/yeast enhancer pre-must?
For cleaning/sterilizing, I'm planning on using Bru-clean and the campden tablets. I've heard some bad stuff about campden as a sterilizer, are these naysayers correct? Would you recommend campden as a post-fermentation additive?
My understanding of the brewing process is as of yet incomplete, so i've probably made some glaring errors in the above text and my first batch is liable to be an alcoholic abortion, but i'm very excited about this project. Any help you you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

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Old 12-17-2009, 09:59 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by R4mmR0d View Post
I'm a university student in Scotland and I've just purchased the equipment necessary to brew 5 gal of... well, SOMETHING. I decided to give mead a shot after i tried a bottle of Lindisfarne mead, which, i understand, isn't precisely traditional mead but is pretty good. I have a few general questions about mead production, and this forum is far and away the best resource i've found so i've decided to abase myself before the brew-gods and ask for guidance.
I've purchased two yeasts, Gervin No 3 Yellow Label Wine Yeast(A champagne yeast) and Gervin B Wine Yeast. I've also bought wine finings, Tronozymol, tartaric acid, and campden tablets. hightest's guide (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f30/sticky-mead-making-faqs-83030/) makes use of the finings and tartaric acid, which i haven't seen in any other recipes. I'm unsure as to what yeast i should use (the gervin B advertises a "fruity bouquet" and i've seen the no.3 yellow label in a few mead recipes) and if any of you experienced brewers make use of wine finings and tartaric acid. Also, when preparing the yeast, do you guys, as a rule use some sort of nutrient/yeast enhancer pre-must?
For cleaning/sterilizing, I'm planning on using Bru-clean and the campden tablets. I've heard some bad stuff about campden as a sterilizer, are these naysayers correct? Would you recommend campden as a post-fermentation additive?
My understanding of the brewing process is as of yet incomplete, so i've probably made some glaring errors in the above text and my first batch is liable to be an alcoholic abortion, but i'm very excited about this project. Any help you you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
For a better guide of gervin yeasts, there's a better guide at Muntons (they own the gervin brand now). Personally, I prefer the Lalvin brand yeasts, I have to get them mail order as the local HBS down here doesn't stock them, but they're useful because there's a hell of a lot more info about them floating around (more later)

Campden tablets ? nothing wrong with them...... I use Ritchies sanitiser, which is bleach based, for DJ's and buckets, but for day to day "working sanitisation" I use 6 campden tablets crushed and 1 teaspoon of citric acid made up to a pint. Oh and when you're in the process of racking and clearing, it's normal to add 1 campden tablet every other racking. That's too prevent oxidation and kill off any possible spoilage mechanisms...

With mead, you're gonna have, probably, 2 issues. First, is access to decent quality honey. This is because us lot in the UK don't have real access to a market like the chaps and chapesses in the US do, unless you can afford some serious shipping/postage costs. Supermarket cheapo **** is Ok if you're making a flavoured mead i.e. pyment, cyser, melomel, etc as the flavour of the fruit/spices/herbs/whatever will over ride the honey flavour.

Have you still got the bottle from Lindisfarne ? look at the ingredients and you'll see what I mean. I seem to recall from my unscientific mead test/review last year, that Lindisfarne has apple juice or something like that in it.

You need to have a hydrometer and a cheap plastic testing jar/tube is also handy. Oh yes, and I notice you mention enough kit to make 5 gallons of something...... a bucket, I take it..... well that'll be fine for conducting the actual fermenting, but you're really gonna need glass as well, to age the mead (watch the ebay listings for demi-johns as that's usually where you'll find them the cheapest - most of the auctions are "collection only" due to the cost of shipping glass i.e. very bulky and usually expensive - the transport would help as you can often find reasonably priced stuff but you might have to drive to collect).

The second thing(s) to consider are time and money. 5 gallons of mead ? well you'd be thinking between 3 and 3 1/2 lb of honey per gallon, hence the money thing - if you can find somewhere that sells honey in bulk it's usually cheaper (you'd have to search to see if there's a bulk supplier locally) and the time reference, well yes you can make mead reasonably quickly, but to be drinkable, you're looking at, at least 6 months ageing, if not longer.

If you have transport (I understand what it's like as a student i.e. shortage or readies etc) then if you could locate a bee keeper locally who still has honey in stock from this year, ideally for a "traditional" mead you're best suited using "Raw" honey, because it's untreated/unprocessed etc. You give your location as Scotland, so you might even find some "Scottish Heather Honey", but it's often quite expensive.

Right, yeasts again. Now there's a lot of info about yeast around, but it's either not available locally, or it's not available in home brew sized packs.

For instance, over at Gotmead, not so long back, we were looking to find out what yeast was used by the late Brother Adam, down at Buckfast Abbey (where they make the tonic wine). We found out that he used, originally, "Maury yeast". Now, I couldn't find out who made it, but it's only now available as Lalvin D21 in 500 gramme packs (so probably out of the question). Laterly, it seems that he'd used Gervin Varietal E, and while it's listed on the Muntons site, you'd either have to locate somewhere that sells it or sells Lalvin K1-V1116, which is the same yeast - and is probably easier to locate - it's one of the yeasts I use, it's very good stuff).

There's a lot of info about making meads out there, though a lot of the best guidance is in "out of print" books - for instance, in Ashton & Duncans "Making Mead", they mention that the best results for acid during the making of mead is a mix of 2 parts Malic, to 1 part Tartaric. Plus they, as well as others, say that you should really be using the strongest flavoured, darkest coloured honey you can get. As far as I can find, that'd be Buckwheat honey, but it's a bugger to get hold of, or quite expensive.

If you do use cheap supermarket honey, you can achieve acceptable results but you'll still need to age it. My first attempt about 3 years ago, was with cheapo tesco's honey and I used Youngs high alcohol/Dessert wine yeast. It produced acceptable mead after about 12 months of ageing it in bulk.

A few handy links ? Well you know about here, I've already linked Gotmead for you. There's good general advice for wine making (including mead) at WinesatHome, which is based in Yorkshire, so could provide info about some of the more general supplies available in the UK (at least a couple of members in Scotland, so even more local advice is possible). Plus there's a **** load of links at my blog.

That lot should give you some info to look into and be getting on with. Hope it helps.

regards

fatbloke
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Old 12-17-2009, 10:44 PM   #3
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see if you can get the book The Compleat Meadmaker by Ken Schramm...its THE resource on mead making.

champagne yeast will give you a bone dry mead, which if you like dry stuff, then you might like it. i prefer sweet meads though and go with a lower attenuating yeast, including a beefy ale yeast that can hit almost 14% ABV.

I don't fine my meads, nor do I use acids UNLESS the mead needs it (you can always add acid post fermentation). And I have no clue what Tronozymol is...

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Old 12-18-2009, 12:14 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by malkore View Post
see if you can get the book The Compleat Meadmaker by Ken Schramm...its THE resource on mead making.

champagne yeast will give you a bone dry mead, which if you like dry stuff, then you might like it. i prefer sweet meads though and go with a lower attenuating yeast, including a beefy ale yeast that can hit almost 14% ABV.

I don't fine my meads, nor do I use acids UNLESS the mead needs it (you can always add acid post fermentation). And I have no clue what Tronozymol is...
Problem seems to me, that Ken Schramms book is brilliant, but all the resources are aimed at the US market.

There's a hell of a lot of stuff, equipment/supplies wise, that you either can't get or it's got to be mail ordered from the US (if the shipping doesn't make it prohibitive)

Hence, as he appears to be this side of the pond, I'm trying to give him some guidance about the makings, but also to point him toward more local places to look for kit and supplies...
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Old 12-18-2009, 05:41 PM   #5
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shouldn't need a kit. just carboys and rackign equipment, and some sanitzer (campden works as a sulfite based sanitizer, no-rinse)

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Old 12-18-2009, 09:03 PM   #6
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When fatbloke uses "kit" in this case, he means it generically, as the collection of supplies necessary to do a job. He's not referring to a commercially packaged assembly of parts. It is as in "mess kit," the stuff you eat off of, or as in "whole kit and caboodle" meaning "the entire lot of parts." On this side of the pond, the generic use of "kit" has fallen into disuse.

In other words, he's being British.

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Old 12-18-2009, 10:34 PM   #7
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I'm planning on using Bru-clean and the campden tablets. I've heard some bad stuff about campden as a sterilizer, are these naysayers correct? Would you recommend campden as a post-fermentation additive?
Personally, I don't add to my must campden or any sulfites, not for any sort of health reason, just that they are, outside of a sanitizer for equipment, unnecessary in my opinion. I've had plenty of unsulfited homemade wine that was well-aged and not at all oxidized. I just use a very strong sulfite solution and leave the residue in the equipment. Apparently some people are sensitive to all sulfites, and sodium metabisulfite is not allowed as an additive in commercial wine (in Canada), because it increases the sodium content of wine, which is bad for people with heart problems. Potassium metabisulfite is allowed, however. Really, I'm fairly neutral on the use of sulfites, but myself I use them minimally, because I try not to use things I don't have to use. If I get a big amount of spoilage or oxidation, I might start sulfiting, but it hasn't happened yet. Honestly, I think they're handy, but overused. But I also think that a lot of the paranoia over their use is completely unfounded.
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Old 12-20-2009, 01:27 AM   #8
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Problem seems to me, that Ken Schramms book is brilliant, but all the resources are aimed at the US market.

There's a hell of a lot of stuff, equipment/supplies wise, that you either can't get or it's got to be mail ordered from the US (if the shipping doesn't make it prohibitive)

Hence, as he appears to be this side of the pond, I'm trying to give him some guidance about the makings, but also to point him toward more local places to look for kit and supplies...
True, the suppliers and honey varieties are skewed toward the states, but I would hope that there might be a little more use for the book than simply as a list of resources.

I'd be honored to have a book in the hands of a Scot. My wife's family are from St. Ninians and Bannockburn, and we'll be over for a visit in March, if all goes according to plan.
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Old 12-21-2009, 11:30 AM   #9
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I've been traveling for the past few days and I was both delighted and astonished when i logged on to the forums. Thank you all for the wealth of information, I have even more questions now, but i'll try to edit out the dumb ones with a few days of epic google-ing.
To answer a few of fatblokes comments: I have two 5 gallon better bottles with rubber stoppers, one with a drilled stopper to accommodate a bubble airlock. I have the hydrometer, and i'm "in" with some of the chem students so i imagine i can get a test tube with relatively little effort. (free things are good.) I still have the lindisfarne, but it's currently an ocean and a continent away. I'm pretty sure you are correct: i saw a thing a while ago about lindisfarne having to call itself "mede" on US imports because it isn't legally mead in the USA as it isn't pure honey+water+yeast. I actually laughed out loud when i read the Buckfast part of your post; my N.E.D. friends have "bucky nights" in which a few bottles are consumed per head and rampant destruction is consistently the result. On a recent adventure a fire extinguisher was set off, a window kicked in, and a microwave defiled. In the words of the girl who owned the appliance in question "We scrubbed and scrubbed... But the smell won't come out."

I'm attending the University of St Andrews, so a trip to my local HBS entails a roadtrip to that jewel of souther fife, Kirkcaldy. I'll make sure to bring my stab-proof vest along, as well as some mates of great physical strength and violent inclination. I'll check out the honey situation as well... I must confess that my initial impulse was to use tesco honey but it would be a shame to engage in a brewing process this long and compromise upon materials. Thanks again for the help, i'm off to google!

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Old 12-21-2009, 02:03 PM   #10
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True, the suppliers and honey varieties are skewed toward the states, but I would hope that there might be a little more use for the book than simply as a list of resources.

I'd be honored to have a book in the hands of a Scot. My wife's family are from St. Ninians and Bannockburn, and we'll be over for a visit in March, if all goes according to plan.
Nah! it's a brilliant book, but is enough to make me very envious of the range of ingredients available to US mead makers (even the relatively modest 70$ shipping (USPS, any of the other "commercial" carriers are even more) for a gallon of "Killer Bee" honey from the Bee Folks makes it too expensive - shame really!).

If you make it over in March, if possible, it'd be great to have a rough idea of your itinerary. I'm sure that any of us who make meads would be very pleased to be able to shake the hand of a bloke who produced a book like yours (I know I would).....
Quote:
Originally Posted by R4mmR0d View Post
I've been travelling for the past few days and I was both delighted and astonished when i logged on to the forums. Thank you all for the wealth of information, I have even more questions now, but i'll try to edit out the dumb ones with a few days of epic google-ing.
To answer a few of fatblokes comments: I have two 5 gallon better bottles with rubber stoppers, one with a drilled stopper to accommodate a bubble airlock. I have the hydrometer, and i'm "in" with some of the chem students so i imagine i can get a test tube with relatively little effort. (free things are good.) I still have the lindisfarne, but it's currently an ocean and a continent away. I'm pretty sure you are correct: i saw a thing a while ago about lindisfarne having to call itself "mede" on US imports because it isn't legally mead in the USA as it isn't pure honey+water+yeast. I actually laughed out loud when i read the Buckfast part of your post; my N.E.D. friends have "bucky nights" in which a few bottles are consumed per head and rampant destruction is consistently the result. On a recent adventure a fire extinguisher was set off, a window kicked in, and a microwave defiled. In the words of the girl who owned the appliance in question "We scrubbed and scrubbed... But the smell won't come out."

I'm attending the University of St Andrews, so a trip to my local HBS entails a roadtrip to that jewel of souther fife, Kirkcaldy. I'll make sure to bring my stab-proof vest along, as well as some mates of great physical strength and violent inclination. I'll check out the honey situation as well... I must confess that my initial impulse was to use tesco honey but it would be a shame to engage in a brewing process this long and compromise upon materials. Thanks again for the help, i'm off to google!
Ha ha! yes, I'm familiar with the reputation of bottles of "Bucky", though I'm only vaguely familiar with a couple of area's of Scotland (being ex-RN...).

As for the labelling thing, well it wouldn't surprise me to learn that - don't forget, you're studying within the EU. Europe is a "passed master" at coming up with such semantics!

You'll find that you can make "average" tasting meads with cheapo blended honey's like those available at the usual suspects (Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, etc etc) and while you can sometimes find varietal honeys there as well, they're often gonna cost a fair bit extra in the £££'s department. Hence my suggestion of knowing where you might obtain raw honey.

Better bottles are great for the fermenting, but I much prefer to move my meads into glass once it's ready for the ageing period (I like the 1 gallon jars/demi-john's/carboys).

good luck with your efforts (and studies) and happy christmas.

regards

fatbloke
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