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Old 05-30-2011, 06:06 PM   #1
TheChadd
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Nov 2007
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No, I'm not showing a body part here ...

I've been making beer for years now. My wife decided that she wanted to make some mead, and I let her own the process. When it came to sanitation, she did some things that made me cringe a little, but for the most part I think it was okay.

We racked into secondary 2 days ago, and now we see this.

Some notes which may or may not help figure this out:
  • She did not pasteurize the honey, which we have read on the interwebs and Schramm's book is not a big deal.
  • She had dried elderflowers in the must.
  • Yeast: WLP720. Fermaid, DAP, at the appropriate times; and some KCO3 to keep pH from getting too low.
  • Primary fermentation at 68F for 20 days
  • OG: 1.105, FG: 1.003, 13.4% ABV. Actual attenutaion: 77.8% (slightly higher than expected for WLP720)
  • pH: 4.1
Taste at racking into secondary: simply wonderful, sweet, elderflower flavor and aroma rocked. There was some bitterness that I would compare it to a 20-something IBU beer. I did not detect any infection characteristics that I look for in beer.

So, what cha think?

Cheers!
Chadd


Reason: shrink the picture

 
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Old 05-30-2011, 07:23 PM   #2
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Looks fine to me. A lot of batches display rather odd looking surfaces when the ferment is going on, or when clearing.

If it smells OK then it's probably fine.

The only thing that made me ? is the use of the sweet mead yeast. They're finnicky and IMO a total PITA to use. People often grab them as it says "mead" in the title/name. There's plenty of yeasts that will do good things to a honey must, but......
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Old 05-30-2011, 07:34 PM   #3
ExoticMeadMaker
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About 80-90% of my meads develop that surface scum. just be patient and it looks like your going to have a good mead in a year+.

 
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Old 05-30-2011, 07:35 PM   #4
TheChadd
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fatbloke View Post
The only thing that made me ? is the use of the sweet mead yeast. They're finnicky and IMO a total PITA to use. People often grab them as it says "mead" in the title/name. There's plenty of yeasts that will do good things to a honey must, but......
The yeast worked great! We did some researching on forums and sites, and people seemed to have good luck with WLP720. We didn't use a starter, but did a good job oxygenating it (O2 tank and carb stone).
Actually, I did the "double oxygenation" process that I normally do with big beers (O2, wait 12 hours, O2 again before fermentation starts). We held the must at 68F throughout primary. For the most part, we followed the Morebeer Meadmaking Manual, using appropriate Fermaid and DAP additions, ensuring pH didn't get too low, etc...

Fermentation kicked off after a little over a day, and finished in about 2 weeks. We let it set another week before racking to secondary.

We'll leave it alone, and not try to kill anything off with campden to "save" it. Thanks for your input!

Reason: Oxygenation details.

 
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Old 05-30-2011, 11:37 PM   #5
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Make sure the mead is topped off! I can't tell in that picture but you do NOT want any headspace at all. If you've got headspace, you could easily allow some mold or something to take hold. You want to top up to within an inch of the bung in secondary.

I've never had "scum" on my meads in secondary, but it doesn't sound good to me at all.
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Old 05-30-2011, 11:39 PM   #6
TheChadd
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yooper View Post
Make sure the mead is topped off! I can't tell in that picture but you do NOT want any headspace at all. If you've got headspace, you could easily allow some mold or something to take hold. You want to top up to within an inch of the bung in secondary.

I've never had "scum" on my meads in secondary, but it doesn't sound good to me at all.
I purged the carboy with CO2 before racking. That, along with the lock full of iodaphor should prevent mold from taking hold.
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Old 05-30-2011, 11:43 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheChadd View Post
I purged the carboy with CO2 before racking. That, along with the lock full of iodaphor should prevent mold from taking hold.
Unless you have some headspace..............................

Co2 does protect to a degree. But it's not like it stays in there forever. Gasses will seek equilibrium. Co2 will bubble out of the airlock.

You can do whatever you want with your mead. If it was mine, I'd top up to minimize the headspace and protect it.
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Old 05-30-2011, 11:50 PM   #8
TheChadd
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yooper View Post
Unless you have some headspace..............................

Co2 does protect to a degree. But it's not like it stays in there forever. Gasses will seek equilibrium. Co2 will bubble out of the airlock.
I guess I don't follow. First, the mead in the carboy is a positive pressure system, slowly generating CO2 while the yeast finished up whatever consumables are left for a few weeks or so after racking into secondary. Second, the lock only allows gas to leave, not enter (except under extreme pressure differentials). I've aged barley wines in secondary carboys for a year without mold issues.

Thanks for the advice, though.

Cheers!
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Old 05-31-2011, 12:54 AM   #9
biochemedic
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I agree with TheChadd. When in primary and you're actively producing CO2, headspace is not only NOT a problem, it's sometimes very nice to have (as in when you're adding SNA's and you need that extra space to prevent the addition from creating a MEA!)

When you transfer to secondary, I agree it's nice to have no headspace. This is one of the reasons I do 6 gal batches -- so if I do need to transfer to secondary, I can go from 6 gal to 5 gal (with a little left over in a couple of bombers for topping off later transfers...) Regardless, even if you can't fully top off, if you can transfer then degas to purge the air from the space in question with CO2, then I think you're still fine.

Regarding the original question: you can get some funny looking stuff on top of mead at times (as fatbloke said...), so if it tastes fine, don't worry....
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Old 06-06-2011, 09:09 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheChadd View Post
I guess I don't follow. First, the mead in the carboy is a positive pressure system, slowly generating CO2 while the yeast finished up whatever consumables are left for a few weeks or so after racking into secondary. Second, the lock only allows gas to leave, not enter (except under extreme pressure differentials). I've aged barley wines in secondary carboys for a year without mold issues.

Thanks for the advice, though.

Cheers!
Quote:
Originally Posted by biochemedic View Post
I agree with TheChadd. When in primary and you're actively producing CO2, headspace is not only NOT a problem, it's sometimes very nice to have (as in when you're adding SNA's and you need that extra space to prevent the addition from creating a MEA!)

When you transfer to secondary, I agree it's nice to have no headspace. This is one of the reasons I do 6 gal batches -- so if I do need to transfer to secondary, I can go from 6 gal to 5 gal (with a little left over in a couple of bombers for topping off later transfers...) Regardless, even if you can't fully top off, if you can transfer then degas to purge the air from the space in question with CO2, then I think you're still fine.

Regarding the original question: you can get some funny looking stuff on top of mead at times (as fatbloke said...), so if it tastes fine, don't worry....
Well, it's your mead. Oxidation is very real, as is a chance of infection. Headspace in the fermenter is a HUGE risk. If you chose to ignore that risk, it's up to you. But no one will tell you that it's good practice. This mead is in secondary, and needs to be topped up. Acetero bacter, in particular, can take hold if there is headspace.

In primary, absolutely! You need the headspace. After primary, though, the headspace should be kept to an absolute minimum.
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