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Old 09-26-2012, 11:26 PM   #1
galexior
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Default Still New to Mead, More Semi-Random Questions

Hi again! =D

So, ive been browsing around the forum and the interwebz, just trying to learn as much as i can, and ive been seeing things about various yeasts and honey amounts and SG and OG and im feeling slightly overwhelmed, because im fairly certain there is a whole "Science" thing with this that im missing.

so, im here again, with many questions i cant seem to find answers to.

1. I noticed alot of talk about SG. Im assuming this means specific gravity? From a homebrew wine kit, i have a hydrometer, but im quite confused on how to use it, what it means, or how to even read it. i understand the specific gravity provides information on the Alcohol content, but there are so many numbers im horribly confused as to what it all means. Various places ive looked have said to aim for a specific gravity of X.XXXX, all are wildly different and its been giving me a headache trying to riddle it out.

2. Fermentation. obviously, its a very important step. i understand that this is where it starts, and the yeast feed on the sugars and other nutrients to produce CO2 and alcohol. but ive read that there are two fermentation steps. i understand and accept this fact, but i dont know what im looking for in the second fermentation. i know the first you let it go until the bubbles mostly stop, what what about the second? what does it do and why? which brings me to the next question, for how long, and how will i know when its done?

3. Honey. very important. but ive seen different amounts for everything and i was wondering why? why do some recipes call for 2 pounds of honey and others call for 3.5? what does the difference do? if i understand correctly, the yeast only survive to a certian alcohol %, at which point their own waste kills them. is the only reason for more honey simply sweetening?

Sorry for the long winded post. Im sure if i dig hard enough ill eventually be able to answer these, but my curiosity is nagging in my head and the internet is a scary place to explore too deep.

Thank you everyone! I truly enjoy that people are so willing to help!

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Old 09-27-2012, 12:16 AM   #2
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1. Yes, it's specific gravity, and if you see OG, that is your starting or original gravity. Your starting gravity gives you a potential amount of alcohol that can be fermented. If you google for ABV calculator, it can tell you the alcohol by volume based on your starting and ending gravities. Your aim of starting gravity varies by a few things, see below.

2. When you see primary and secondary fermentation, can be a little misleading. Generally, your secondary fermentation is the time period after your primary (obvious) fermentation and you have racked to your secondary container for clearing, aging, further additions, etc. It can also be called bulk aging. It's also not uncommon for a recipe or preference to lead to a 2nd or third racking. There are important tasty things happening, but you aren't normally trying to kick off a second fermentation. How long it's there is hard to tell, and I wish I knew a perfect way to tell when it's done too. I shoot for 6 months min as a general rule, then adjust as needed. Many people will say longer, and some recipes can manage less.

3. The yeast you use will have different limits to the alcohol content it can ferment to. A yeast that peters out at 8% will need far less honey to reach its alcohol potential than one that will eat its way to 16%. How sweet you want your final mead will also determine how much honey above the yeasts limit will be added. Yeast selection and final sweetness work together to determine the amount of honey or other sugars. Other factors can cause the yeast to die off early, leaving more sugar left than you hoped for.

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Old 09-27-2012, 12:50 AM   #3
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Great answers Rat!

1. To take an Original Gravity reading. The hydrometer floats in your prefermented mixture. It measures the density of the water. The more honey you add the higher it will float.
To take a Final Gravity reading. The hydrometer floats in your fermented mead. It measures the density of the mead. The more honey that has been turned into alcohol the lower it will float.
Water by itself should read 1.000. Prefermentation can be anywhere between 1.04 and 1.1 (those are not hard numbers). Mead can be anywhere from 1.2 to 9.9 (again, not hard numbers)

2. Secondary fermentation really only occurs if you add fermentables into your secondary vessel...
If you add fruit in your secondary it will ferment the fruit, but give you MUCH more fruit flavor than if you added the fruit during primary fermentation.
If you add nothing to the secondary vessel, there will be no more fermentation and it just allows your mead to age away from the yeast. (Much more reading needed to know when and why to have your drink on or off yeast. But I think one month on the yeast is a good starting point until you learn more)

3. There are only about five-thousand things that will affect how much alcohol your yeast will produce
A yeast that says it will produce 16% alcohol really means it will produce between 13 and 16% alcohol before it gets stressed and start producing off flavors. It can often be pushed to 18 or 19% with foul results.
Choose a yeast and recipe that sounds good to you and run with it. Mead is EASY!!! Good mead is pretty darn easy too. After a few batches you'll understand everything we're saying and more.

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Old 09-27-2012, 01:13 AM   #4
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so, the higher the specific gravity, the more honey there is, the lower, the more alcohol. alright, makes sense.

secondary fermentation, when there is no fermentable fruits in there, is simply to allow the yeast to finish what they are doing and die. im assuming those little white things at th ebottom of my first batch (still in primary) are the corpses of dead yeast?

now, im guessing the reason youg et more fruit flavor when you add fruit to secondary is because the yeast will be more active and much more plentiful in primary, able to eat up more of the sugars and nutrients in the fruit, where as secondary they are just kinda fizzling out, and the addition of the fruit is a quick little burst of food for them, but not enough to eat as much goodies. am i correct (or close enough?)

and ill attempt to understand yeast later. haha

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Old 09-27-2012, 04:34 PM   #5
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Brewers use specific gravity mostly to represent the sugar content in water, be it honey, granulated sugar, or sugars from things like fruit. Everything else in the mix may mildly affect the specific gravity without being fermentable. Ocean saltwater for example averages 1.026 sg without having fermentable sugars. Even with other things affecting the sg slightly, the difference in your original and final gravities is the important part.

Temperature will affect your sg measurement somewhat too. Your hydrometer should say if it is calibrated to 60 or 68 degrees. If you measure og after heating honey to 120 degrees F, and your final gravity at 68, you will be off by .008. Again, a quick google search will give you a hydrometer temperature correction.

Learning about what is sg and how it's used ends up being a lot simpler than it sounds once you've done it a couple times. It becomes second nature to consider things like temp, and where you want your sg to be for your style of mead. If you have a smart phone, you can get a brew calculator that has all the ABV calculations and hydrometer adjustments in one place.

Have fun with brewing, make the process work for you, and drink well my friend.

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Old 09-29-2012, 10:48 PM   #6
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Also the terms primary and secondary can also refer to containers used. For most, the primary is a food grade bucket that is larger by at least one to two gallons of the actual volume, and usually allows access to oxygen, so no airlock is applied while in primary. The secondary is the carboy with airlock applied.
Do not rely on bubble activity to determine when to transfer to secondary...use your hydromter. I always transfer and apply airlock when the O.G. has dropped by 2/3.
Not be confused with a secondary ferment in winemaking called malolactic fermentation.
But usually, they are referring to containers.

Have fun!!

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