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Old 03-12-2013, 02:06 AM   #1
Chromebrew
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Default Vanilla Mead, first one

After tasting many of the meads being made at my LHBS, i tried my hand at a 1 gallon test batch. I was hoping someone might look over it and tell me if it sounds palatable or if i jacked it all up.

First the gal at the LHBS only had local wildflower honey left. She was pretty insistant that i should use some other honey for a mead but this local wild honey was dark and tastey so i went for it.

4# Local Wildflower honey
Fill water to just over 1 gallon
Lavalin 71B
.5 oz yeast nutrient
1 capsule of what i think is Bru Vigor, someone handed it to me a while back
Madagascar vanilla beans for later in secondary

I basically mixed it all up un a gallon pitcher and funneled it into my 1 gallon glass carboy. Pitched the dry yeast as is, capped it with a blow off tube and stuck it in the fermentation chamber at about 60 degrees (with some ales in doing). I planned on letting it primary for a good while then drop some beans in. People i talked to made it sound real easy but the more i read the more i think i am going to need to help it out to make it good.

Should i degas it at some point? should i feed my yeast again later or will it be ok with what i gave it? I read it needs some O2 part way though primary, is that accurate?

This is a bit more complicated that i first thought Any suggestions?

THanks in advance!

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Old 03-12-2013, 02:33 AM   #2
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Do you have a hydrometer by chance? If so then did you take an original gravity reading? I ask because I estimate you would have an OG of about 1.144 with 4lb of honey. That has a potential ABV of about 18.47% if fermented dry to 0.998. But your yeast selection will only go to 14% - 15% tops. If the yeast really does well then that will get your gravity as low as 1.028 which is really sweet for mead and would be considered a desert wine. There are many ways to deal with this to get the end product you want but I was just curious as to if you had an OG reading before I elaborated.

De-gassing always helps to lower the ammount of dissolved CO2 in the mead (Carbonic Acid) which keeps PH in check to allow for a less stressfull enviroment for your yeast. Since this is in a glass carboy it is harder to degass rather than in a bucket but you can slowly use a wine whip to de-gas or slowly rock the carboy clockwise & counterclockwise on the rim of the bottom of the carboy to slowly slosh and stir around the mead twice daily for the first week. That will disturb it enough to degass it a bit.

.5oz yeast nutrients seems like a lot. Now I measure in tsp and I usually use 1tsp yeast nutrient and 1/2 tsp energizer per gallon. If my conversions are correct then .5oz nutrient should be 3.5tsp ish ?!? If so then that is a lot. Not really bad but still a lot. I would probably say you are fine on the amount of nutrient and don't need more but next time split up the nutrient additions and follow SNA (Staggard nutrient additions) There is a great sticky thread on that here on the mead forum.

Adding oxygen is good but only for up to about the first 1/3 of the ferment.It helps the yeast stay happy. If you have an O2 tank and air stone that is awsome but I dont normally do that. So don't worry if you don't do that.

Really mead is a simple thing to make. Compaired to beer I think mead is very simple so don't over think it. Paitience is the biggest key to mead. Other than the amount of honey up front I think you have a sound recipe and all the right ideas like adding the vanilla in secondary and not primary. Let us know your OG or at least what you are expecting for a final product and we can help if there is anything else you need to do.

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Old 03-12-2013, 02:55 AM   #3
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That was great info, thank you. As far as the OG goes, i have to admit i carelessly went about this first mead. I didn't check it. I should have known that the added pound would result in a really sweet mead (3 pounds being the standard from what i hear). I wonder if it would be acceptable at this point to move it all to a 2 gallon pail and add some fill water? I was hoping for a mead on the sweeter side, but i didn't really want a super sweet desert wine. It has just started fermenting. It also sounds like this will allow me to let the gas out of the mead after a while.

Does that sound like a reasonable plan? Moving fermenters? Or should i just let it ride...

Thanks again!

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Old 03-12-2013, 03:14 AM   #4
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If it has already started fermenting it is hard to predect the OG and what it would be with some water added. Personally I would let it ride. The when fermentation completes use a finishing yeast. Basically let this run and here in 30 days or so when fermentation is done throw the Jar in the fridge to cold crash the yeast and let it settle to the bottom. About 2 weeks later should be pretty clear but may take longer since it should have a higher gravity. So once clear siphon off the old yeast into a new Carboy. Now make a starter for your finishing yeast as follows:

1 cup water
1/4 cup honey
1/4 tsp yeast nutrient
Yeast (Lalvin K1V-1116)

Wait about 2 hours and when it looks like fermentation is picked up in the starter add in 1/4 cup of the mead in the carboy to the starter. Wait two hours. If fermentation still looks good then add another 1/4 cup of the mead to the starter. If fermentation looks like it dies down then whip up the starter with a fork and wait some more. Repeat the proccess untill you have 2 1/4 cups of liquid. Then pitch the starter into the mead and it should start fermenting again within 24 hours. It is hard for most any yeast to take off in a 14+% ABV mead so doing this gradually acclimates the yeast to the enviroment so it will actually ferment the rest of the sugars. K1V is a great yeast for this and will ferment as high as about 18% ABV. In this situation if my OG estimate is correct it should take you to about 1.002 - 1.006. Once you age that it should be nice. If you want it sweeter then you are already at your yeast's ABV limit so feel free to let this clear and then once racked off of settled yeast add honey to desired gravity.

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Old 03-12-2013, 03:29 AM   #5
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Wow! Thanks for taking the time to break I down for me I will follow your starter directions and hopefully I can turn this batch around. It will be enjoyed either way. I've learned a lot from this first attempt, and that's the important part. When it gets nice and clear ill post an update.
Again - thank you!

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Old 03-13-2013, 04:59 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chromebrew View Post
After tasting many of the meads being made at my LHBS, i tried my hand at a 1 gallon test batch. I was hoping someone might look over it and tell me if it sounds palatable or if i jacked it all up.
Which LHBS had a bunch of meads to taste? Was it a special event?
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Old 03-13-2013, 02:32 PM   #7
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Hi Purple - i live out in Katy and this shop is right near the house.

http://www.texashomebrewers.com/

John is the proprietor and he makes a lot of mead's and they usually have some out on the counter to sample. They have everything i need and order the crazy stuff i ask for. Great shop. I'm really excited about mead after he showed me some. So glad to not have to drive an hour to DeFalcos anymore

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Old 03-13-2013, 04:27 PM   #8
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On the honey front, I really enjoy using wildflower honey. I am using some now from an apiary in NY and the raw honey is absolutely divine. People use all kinds of honey to make mead and with time and experimentation you will learn what works for you. Getting ready to start a mead using orange flower honey, clover honey and wildflower honey.

If you will be doing a finishing ferment I would hold off on adding the vanilla beans because you will lose them in fermentation--at least I always have. I now add split vanilla bean(s) either after the mead is dry or in the form of my homemade vanilla extract. The extract allows you to actually control the amount of vanilla you bring on board and you can literally add it at bottling (tasting trial recommended). Since mead takes a while to age you could start your extract making now and it will be ready in 3 short months and awesome at 12! You will never buy vanilla extract again. (6-8 6" split Madagascar vanilla beans added to fifth of vodka, rum, pure grain or my fav Evan Williams Honey Reserve; try to remember to agitate weekly for first month, then monthly for the next three; mine is kept at eye level in pantry so I remember to shake it...good stuff)

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Old 03-13-2013, 04:50 PM   #9
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Great advice on the extract. That will be much better to be able to fine tune the vanilla flavor. Also, about that orange blossom honey, i have some tangerine bushes in my yard and the smell of citrus blossoms is just intoxicating. I need to find some orange blossom honey and do a show mead.

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