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Old 03-26-2011, 02:30 AM   #1
gdbrewer
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Default My first mead. Need advice.

So I'm making my first mead. AHS sweet traditional. Since i have about 15 or so batches of beer under my belt i said what the hell, can't be any different. Well it might be! I started with about 5.5 gallons of water at 155 degrees. Then I added 15 lbs. Of honey. I'm almost overflowing in my 7 gallon pot. I have a 6.5 gallon Carboy I was planning on fermenting in. Am I just going to have to dump the excess? Any help/advice is appreciated!


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Old 03-26-2011, 02:45 AM   #2
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15 lbs of honey is about 1.25 gallons, so you did start with too much water. Mead ferments are not as foamy as ales, so you can probably put 6 gal. in your fermenter. Do you not have a smaller fermenter or bucket?


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Old 03-26-2011, 03:23 AM   #3
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If you have extra after filling your fermenter, i'd put it in a glass jug. It'll be usefull for topping up after racking, depending on your secondary.
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Old 03-26-2011, 05:02 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by pkeeler View Post
15 lbs of honey is about 1.25 gallons, so you did start with too much water. Mead ferments are not as foamy as ales, so you can probably put 6 gal. in your fermenter. Do you not have a smaller fermenter or bucket?
I put 6 gallons in my 6.5 carboy but had quite a bit left over. Probably a gallon or so. I didn't know what to do so I dumped the extra. My intention was to make 5 gallons total (why I started with 5.5 gallons IDK ) and ferment in my 6.5 gl. carboy, then after a 1 month transfer to my 5 gl. carboy for 2 months then bottle.

FWIW my OG, was 1.085. It was supposed to be 1.100. I'm guessing it will be very dry?
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Old 03-26-2011, 09:30 AM   #5
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I put 6 gallons in my 6.5 carboy but had quite a bit left over. Probably a gallon or so. I didn't know what to do so I dumped the extra. My intention was to make 5 gallons total (why I started with 5.5 gallons IDK ) and ferment in my 6.5 gl. carboy, then after a 1 month transfer to my 5 gl. carboy for 2 months then bottle.

FWIW my OG, was 1.085. It was supposed to be 1.100. I'm guessing it will be very dry?
Well how dry it's likely to be depends on the yeast and fermentation management doesn't it.

I never dump extra must either, as it can go into a container and into the fridge as it's handy for back sweetening and retaining the flavour of the original honey.

Personally I don't appreciate dry meads anyway, so I like to back sweeten to retain some of the honey characteristics, but not so that it's like those hideously sweet "dessert" meads.......

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Old 03-26-2011, 05:22 PM   #6
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Mead is not typically ready to bottle at 3 months. It likes to take it's time finishing and is often bottled at the 1 yr mark. It doesn't ferment in quite the same way as wine, which can finish in a matter of days!
What was your beginning SG??

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Old 03-26-2011, 05:56 PM   #7
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Next time, remember... 12# of honey takes up 1 gallon of volume.

I would highly recommend using this calculator to figure out how much honey you'll use in a batch size. BTW, take note that the TARGET VOLUME is total batch size, not how much water you'll add...

I would also suggest reading up about adding nutrients to the must to help it along. Honey, while high in sugar content, is rather low in the other nutrients yeast really needs in order to thrive.

I do hope you oxygenated the hell out of the must before you pitched the yeast in... What yeast did you use?

Keep in mind, if you used a yeast that has a tolerance of more than 12% you'll ferment dry. Such as to .998 or even .990... You can back sweeten the batch, which would have been easier/better with the original honey/must that you threw away. OR simply let it age. Of course, it can take years to mellow to the point where it's not that dry anymore.

IF you do end up back sweetening the batch, you have a few options. You can simply add more honey to the batch, letting it ferment until you've exceeded the tolerance of the yeast. Or you can stabilize the batch, and then add honey to sweeten it. The easiest route is to simply get it to ferment to the yeast tolerance, and then add a bit more honey until it's closer to where you want it. I would advise back-sweetening in tiny steps, and to NOT actually hit your target, Undershoot it by a decent margin. Otherwise, by the time you get into the batch, it will be too sweet.

I also completely agree with deb_rn about most mead needing at least a year from when yeast is pitched. With LOW OG/ABV batches, that can be moved up, but rarely shorter than 6-9 months. You'll want to let it stay in single vessel form for as long as possible (in the carboy, not bottled). There are several advantages to this. Not the least of which being able to adjust the batch easily.

I have four batches of mead in process right now. Two traditional batches (used 4# per gallon of must there) a blackberry melomel (3 gallon batch, 8# honey and about 7.5# of blackberries total) and a one gallon mocha madness batch (more for a recipe formulation than anything else). I started these back in November of 2010. They are all in bulk form still (carboys for the larger batches, gallon jug for the other). I racked the larger three batches yesterday and plan to rack the 1 gallon batch this weekend (to get if off of the vanilla bean I dropped in on 2/18). I used Lalvin EC-1118 in the two traditional and mocha madness batches. For the melomel, I used D47. The melomel needs time to age, before bottling, even though it's the lowest ABV of the bunch. The traditional batches will stay in bulk form at least for a few more months before I even think about bottling. Most likely, I'll pick up some 3 gallon corny kegs, transfer all three batches into those, and age them until at least October/November.

BTW, you really didn't NEED to heat the honey up... There are plenty of people (on the Got Mead? site) that don't heat their honey at all and are making award winning batches.

I do agree with fatbloke about not throwing out must... If you're not careful, the bees will go all jihad on you over that.

For reference, I formulated my own recipe for my mead batches. It's not like brewing beer where it makes sense to use a published/sold recipe and ingredient kit. You can really just use the calculation tool to figure out how much honey will get you to your target OG (or close enough to it), pick a yeast you like (I prefer Lalvin strains myself) and just mix it all up and let it ride. Just be prepared to tend to it a bit in the start (for the first week or two), then let it ride for months. Some people rack more often, others less, to get off of the lees. But, you can go months between racking times. I racked about 6 weeks ago last... Give your mead enough time and it will become VERY clear. It might surprise you as to how clear it will actually become. Look at it now, it won't look anything like that when it's done. Depending on which type of honey you used, will really determine how it looks. Of course, the dilution plays a factor too. So with yours with the water to honey ratio you used, expect for a very light colored mead.

As I'm sure you'll find out, making mead is not like brewing beer... It does share one element though... Just because it's done fermenting, doesn't mean it's ready for bottles.

Are you planning on having this carbonated, or still?
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Old 03-27-2011, 12:40 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deb_rn View Post
Mead is not typically ready to bottle at 3 months. It likes to take it's time finishing and is often bottled at the 1 yr mark. It doesn't ferment in quite the same way as wine, which can finish in a matter of days!
What was your beginning SG??

Debbie

I don't have a problem with the 1 year mark, I was expecting that. I just didn't know what intervals the transfers should be at. I'll be honest and say I didn't do my homework like I should have (like I did with beer.) I regret that now, but too late! My SG was 1.085.


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Next time, remember... 12# of honey takes up 1 gallon of volume.
Note taken!

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I do hope you oxygenated the hell out of the must before you pitched the yeast in... What yeast did you use?

Yes I did oxygenate it pretty well I think. I shook the sh*t out of it before I pitched. I used 2 vials of WLP720.



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BTW, you really didn't NEED to heat the honey up... There are plenty of people (on the Got Mead? site) that don't heat their honey at all and are making award winning batches.
I was thinking that but wasn't sure. Again my fault for not doing homework.

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Originally Posted by Golddiggie View Post
As I'm sure you'll find out, making mead is not like brewing beer... It does share one element though... Just because it's done fermenting, doesn't mean it's ready for bottles.

Are you planning on having this carbonated, or still?
Yep, I found out it is nothing like brewing beer. I was planning on still.
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Old 03-27-2011, 12:58 AM   #9
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A still mead will be easier... Means that you can still add more honey to it and get up to the limit of the yeast.

Personally, I wouldn't have spent the money on WL yeast... I know more than a few mazers that use Lalvin yeast in their batches with great results. About $2-$3 for a single packet, which is all you need.

I would let it ride where it is until it's fermented fully, before racking. Then it's just a matter of racking every couple of months (or longer intervals) to get it to clear up. For my traditional batches started in November, I've only racked twice (one of them being yesterday)...

I just looked up the yeast you used... Wow, not one I would have even considered. Too tight of a temperature range (optimum listed as 7075F)... 15% ABV is not that high either... At least not compared with Lalvin strains. Looks like D47 would be a reasonable comparison, for characteristics given to the mead. RC 212 would be another good choice... Hell, pretty much any of the Lalvin strains are a good choice... The ones that call out 'neutral' just mean they let the natural character of the honey come through in the mead. Since the yeast caps out at 15% ABV, I'd plan on adding more honey once it gets to about 1.002 or .998... Add about a pound at a time initially, Once you get a couple into the batch, start adding a less at a time (1/2#) to make sure you don't add too much once it's done fermenting.

Just think, next batch you make what you'll do differently... Only question is when will that be? If you want to go easier on the budget, make a 3 gallon batch... I'd go with 9-10# of honey initially there. You can always add more if it ferments dry before hitting the max level of the yeast...

Done right, you can get it up to the limits of the yeast, before bottling... Then it's just a matter of giving it the time it needs to become great... Similar to beer, just the time frame is greatly extended. If you play your cards right, it might be ready for bottles around the end of the year... I would just make sure the SG doesn't drop for at least a month before bottling it. Two months if you can.
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Old 03-27-2011, 02:41 AM   #10
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I don't think there is anything wrong with starting at 1.085. Let the yeast ferment it out. Wait awhile, then add sorbate and sulfite (maybe even chill it if possible). Wait a few days, then add honey to bring the FG up to where you want it. Much more reliable than trying to predict what alcohol level will kill your yeast and putting in enough honey to stay over that precisely.

I wouldn't rack until the SG is done dropping. Then anytime after that really. You don't have to rack a third time, just bottle when you want. I think Schramm says mead conditions better than wine in bottles and extended bulk aging (past 3 months) is not necessary. But, I'd double check that. ;-)


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