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Old 03-01-2010, 03:05 AM   #1
dummkauf
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Default Planning out my first mead...advice please?

Ok, I picked up a melomel kit from Midwest during my last brew day, but the kit has been sitting downstairs in the box ever since.

I did have them swap out the champagne yeast for Red Star's "Cotes des Blancs"(Active Dry Wine Yeast), and I purchased a 2nd packet of yeast as well. I also picked up 5 pounds of frozen peaches from the Grocery store to make a peach melomel with.

So my plan of attack for one of the coming weekends is:
1.) Heat 1 gallon of water to a 190-195.
2.) Remove from heat and mix in honey
3.) Return pot to heat and bring up to 190-195 for 20 min to pasteurize.
4.) Cool in an ice bath.
5.) Add peaches to my 6 gallon carboy.
6.) add cooled must to carboy
7.) top off carboy with water to bring volume up to 5 gallons.
8.) Soak hand in star-san, put sanitized hand over the top of the carboy. Shake carboy as violently as possible to mix top off water with the must and to aerate the must so the yeasties have plenty of oxygen to do their thing.
9.) Pitch the yeast.
10.) Insert airlock, or maybe blowoff tube??, and stick in the closet for about a month.
11.) Once my hydrometer readings are steady, rack to secondary(5 gallon carboy) and top off with water so there is only about an inch or 2 of head space between the mead and the airlock.
12.) Back in the closet for 4-6 months.
13.) Bottle!!!!
14.) Drink

Questions:
- Does anyone see any problems with my plan?
- I'm a beer brewer, and usually when using dry yeast for beer, rather than making a starter I just pitch 2 packets of yeast since dry yeast is so cheap. Would this be a good idea for mead or should I just pitch the 1 packet?
- Can I use carbonation tablets for making sparkling mead? I want to bottle half my batch in wine bottles and I want to bottle the other half in beer bottles to make sparkling mead.
- Guessing I can just use my normal hydrometer I use for me beer for mead as well?
- Blowoff tube or airlock for primary? And if a blowoff tube is needed, should I leave it on for the whole month of primary, or replace it with an airlock after the initial vigorous fermentation is over?
- What is degaussing? I've seen references to it but am not sure what exactly it is, and if it's something I need to worry about for my first mead?

Thank you for any tips or advice in advance!

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Old 03-01-2010, 10:47 AM   #2
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Honey really does not need to be pasteurized ..... there are 2 very strong schools of thought on this. Also, when you cook the honey you reduce the flavor potential of the mead.
Also ... if you add the honey to 1 gallon of water ... the result plus the 5 gallons you will have in the carboy will exceed the 6 gallon capacity of the carboy .... I mention this with all the authority of one who has had this happen to them self. :-)
Degassing continues even after your hydrometer readings are stable ... when you watch the carboy, you will see a fine layer of tiny bubbles steadily rolling up the inside of the carboy. You can usually speed this along by periodic agitation of the mead or by application of a slight vacuum to the carboy. Myself ... I just let let the mead "bulk age" in the carboy until it stopped. There are some vets in this forum who will leave the mead in the carboy for a year or two - it will not harm it. The most they might do is switch the airlock for a solid bung.
As far as the hydrometer goes .... I think a hydrometer is a hydrometer - I use mine for both wine and beer.

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Old 03-01-2010, 02:50 PM   #3
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Question - why the change of yeast?

I'm with Androshen in that I see no reason to pasteurize honey. There is really nothing that can survive in honey except a few spores, and the yeast you pitch will quickly dominate the must. Not heating saves more of the aromatics of the honey, and saves time and energy too.

5 pounds of peaches isn't much for a 5 gallon batch, and a lot of the aroma may get blown off during primary. If I were only going to use 5 pounds, I'd add them late in the primary (or in the secondary). Also when it comes to having fruit in the primary, I like to use a plastic bucket. It makes it much easier to aerate and manage the fruit cap.

I never argue with using a blow-off tube. Antifoam drops are also a marvelous thing.

Whether you can use carbonation tablets depends on the ABV of your mead and the alcohol tolerance of the yeast. What is the expected starting gravity of your batch? The Cote des Blancs typically has a tolerance of about 14% ABV. If you are sure you want to carbonate, you may want to use the Champagne yeast.

Using 1 packet of yeast will usually be plenty unless you have a high gravity batch. Pitching extra won't harm anything, but why waste $1 (they're kinda hard to come by these days). It is best to rehydrate them properly rather than pitching them in dry so you get the maximum number of viable yeast - but you don't need a starter. However, to insure maximal alcohol tolerance (esp if you want to carbonate) and complete fermentation, you should continue to periodically open the primary fermenter and aerate the must during the first few days (up to the 1/3 fermentation point).

Yes, I know this reeks of heresy for people experienced with beer brewing, but the oxygen exposure (especially during the first 48 hours) is critical for developing the adequate biomass of yeast and maximizing the consumption of sugar for complete fermentation. The higher starting gravities of meads and wines makes this necessary, and fortunately, meads are not easy to oxidize so it will not harm your batch. It is after this point that you want to insure that it is protected from oxygen.

I hope you get a great result.

Medsen

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Old 03-01-2010, 03:08 PM   #4
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I'll split with Medsen and say good choice on the yeast. I use this for every mead I make and has never been bad.

Don't heat your honey. I will use warm water (~140) to aid in mixing the honey into the must, but even then I'm thinking it's a bad idea. I know others who use cold water and a wine whip on a drill to mix the honey up and I know it makes good mead that way. I'd cool down the initial water you're talking about and skip the 20 minute heat rest you were planning.

I'll also agree that 5# of peach is not much, and might be better done in secondary in a bucket for a month then transferred back to a final carboy for bulk aging.

As for sparkling mead - you have limited choices:
Sparkling Dry mead, bottle carbed (if you try to carb sweeter mead, chances are the yeast will dry it out and blow your bottles into tiny shards of glass death)
Sweet Still mead - easiest when you sulfite/sorbate and backsweeten
Sparkling any mead, keg carbed: as long as you're sure fermentation is done either by fermenting it until the yeast have no more capacity, or by fermenting it dry and sulfiting/sorbating - you should be able to carb a sweeter mead in the keg and bottle from there (or just drink it on tap, which is something I plan on trying)

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Old 03-01-2010, 08:41 PM   #5
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I didn't see this when I skimmed the responses, so if this is redundant, I apologize. As for your peaches, you'll want to make sure that they don't have preservatives such as sulfites or sorbates in them. If sorbates/sulfites are present, they can keep your yeast from reproducing and actively fermenting your must, especially if you add them to primary. If you ferment to completion in primary, then add the fruit to secondary, it shouldn't be a big problem, as the yeast has already done its job.

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Old 03-01-2010, 10:49 PM   #6
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I heat 1 gal of water to 120. Add the honey and using a sanitized ladle add water to the containers and shake to remove the last of the honey add nutrients and energizer. Mix with a sanitized spoon until all the honey is dissolved then add to my bottling bucket with 3 gal of water, stir and set on the kitchen table top off to desired level. Place fermenter bucket under bottling bucket and open the spigot to aerate. base mead then add fruit. with the midwest kit you may want to use a little more water.

I agree 5 lbs of peaches isn't enough.

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Old 03-03-2010, 04:08 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MedsenFey View Post
Question - why the change of yeast?
2 reasons:
1.) I had read that champagne yeast makes for a very dry mead. I'm not a fan of super dry wines so I figured that I wouldn't like a super dry mead either. Note that I'm also not a fan of the kool-aid like wines either(boones farm, arbor mist, etc...) so I am trying to find that happy median between dry and sweet.
2.) I had this same dry vs. sweet discussion at the brew shop and they recommended the yeast based on my previously mentioned tastes.
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Old 03-03-2010, 04:16 AM   #8
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Thanks for all the replies!!

So to recap, if I don't pasteurize, can I just mix up the honey and water, take a gravity reading, and then put in the carboy and pitch the yeast? I know I've heard people say mead is easy to make, but this just seems too simple(though that may just be the brewer in me coming out too ).

So what is the recommended amount of peaches for a 5 gallon batch?

As far as sulfates/sorbates I don't see any, the ingredients list says
- Peaches(obviously)
- Trace of absorbic acid
- Malic Acid
- Citric acid to prevent oxidation

Though I guess I'm not sure if sulfates/sorbates are just types of preservatives and the 3 acids listed may fall into that category?

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Old 03-03-2010, 04:26 AM   #9
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Oh, and I almost forgot about the carbonation.

The recipes SG is 1.082-1.086

It lists a Dry and a Sweet FG...not sure that that's all about???
Dry FG: 0.990-1.002
Sweet FG 1.006-1.010

So would I be OK with trying to carb some of these, or does this recipe sound like it will result in bottle bombs? I'm really more just curious about sparkling mead as I have never head it sparkling or still so I was really more curious to try it both ways. However if I can't safely carb up sweet meads I would have no objections to just bottling it all in wine bottles and enjoying it still either.

I really need to see if I can locate a bottle or 2 of mead at the local liquor store just to give myself something to compare to. I've never seen mead for sale before so I'm guessing this may be hard to locate as well.

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Old 03-03-2010, 11:12 AM   #10
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Our personal favorite is Chaucers mead ..... available at 2 out of 3 of our local liquor stores. The 3rd store only offers ones that we have tried and do not care for ....

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