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Xenemorph

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I've been looking to make my own mead, and I've read guides and recipes all over the internet, but I have no clue how to do it best as there's a lot of variety on what people suggest.


What I'm looking for:
  • Most cost-effective way to do it
  • Make about 20-50 gallons
  • Sweet, dry is fine if it's not too dry
  • Very light fruity flavor, doesn't have to be juice
  • Ferment in a month or less


I've been looking for honey and from what I've read clover honey will work best, and a good brand is Dutch Gold. I'm probably going to buy a 60 Lb pail. The other option is Sue Bee from Sam's club. Some recipes call for 5 lbs, some up to 15 lbs per 5 gallons, so I think at least 60 Lbs will work best since I want a minimum of 20 gallons. I've seen some recipes call for less honey, and added sugar, so I don't mind doing that if it means I can make more at a cheaper cost.

Since I will be doing more than just 5 gallons, I was wondering where to purchase carboys, or if I could possibly do it in something larger. Also need to know what other tools would be required, and possibly a place to purchase a keg or something to store it in, as well as what yeast to purchase.




Thanks!

By the way I'm open to making pretty much anything else that will get me and my friends drunk as cost-effectively as mead.
 

Fennis

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I haven't done a mead yet myself, but I have researched it as well because I want to make a batch--though I am thinking right now on a much smaller scale of a 5 gallon batch. I know for the honey itself, just make sure its pure, natural honey and not mixed with stuff like corn syrup. I have a friend who has his own bee hives and collects his own honey. He lives near an apple orchard, a vegetable farm, and has a decent amount of land of his own and it seems his honey has a light, fruity flavor to it. If you can find a local producer, you can be sure its 100% natural honey, but again anything that is only honey will be fine.

20+ gallons seems like a large amount at once, and you seem like you want to experiment somewhat. So why not get a few different containers to ferment in, and try different types of honey--do a batch with clover, a batch with orange, and so on and see which one you like the best.

If cost effectiveness if your true goal though, I would think brewing all-grain beer would be your best bet. You can buy bulk grain and make a lot more beer with less money than buying 60lbs of honey, plus many types of beer can go from grain to glass in under a month, especially if you have a keg setup.

If it was me, and I was looking for a cheap way for me and my friends to get drink, I would get a few vessels to ferment in, brew some mead, but while that sits for months, brew up batches of beer in the meantime and look forward to the day the mead is ready.
 
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Xenemorph

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20+ gallons seems like a large amount at once, and you seem like you want to experiment somewhat. So why not get a few different containers to ferment in, and try different types of honey--do a batch with clover, a batch with orange, and so on and see which one you like the best.
Yes, I was going to purchase multiple carboys and try different batches, however, I will most likely use all the same honey as it will come out cheaper with a 60 lb pail than purchasing it in 5 lb portions.

If cost effectiveness if your true goal though, I would think brewing all-grain beer would be your best bet. You can buy bulk grain and make a lot more beer with less money than buying 60lbs of honey, plus many types of beer can go from grain to glass in under a month, especially if you have a keg setup.
Would it end up still being cheaper though if you factor in the ABV? I read in several places that it will usually end up costing about the same as purchasing 3-5% beer at the store.

If it was me, and I was looking for a cheap way for me and my friends to get drink, I would get a few vessels to ferment in, brew some mead, but while that sits for months, brew up batches of beer in the meantime and look forward to the day the mead is ready.
This recipe I found for mead ferments pretty quickly and is quite cheap, as 60 lbs of honey will make 60 gallons, and sugar/lemon concentrate is pretty cheap. Do you have a link to an equivalent recipe for beer?
 

Fennis

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Would it end up still being cheaper though if you factor in the ABV? I read in several places that it will usually end up costing about the same as purchasing 3-5% beer at the store.
Is your only concern alcohol content? To me anyway, brewing beer, mead, or wine has less to do with the alcohol content and getting drunk and more with brewing something that tastes great and is something I created. If getting drunk is your only concern, its going to be cheaper and less time consuming to go pick up a 30 pack of your choice of beer in the store. I am not trying to belittle you or be rude, but ABV shouldn't be a cost factor in brewing, if it is, I think you are brewing for the wrong reasons.
 

Photopilot

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Is your only concern alcohol content? To me anyway, brewing beer, mead, or wine has less to do with the alcohol content and getting drunk and more with brewing something that tastes great and is something I created. If getting drunk is your only concern, its going to be cheaper and less time consuming to go pick up a 30 pack of your choice of beer in the store. I am not trying to belittle you or be rude, but ABV shouldn't be a cost factor in brewing, if it is, I think you are brewing for the wrong reasons.
Agreed, the effort it takes to brew or ferment anything is not worth it off the only goal is to get drunk for cheap. I doubt anyone starting to brew to save money sticks with it. The savings are not that significant and the effort to brew adds up.

The startup costs add up. For the cost of 6 ferment ers and other basic stuff needed to brew even just Mead will run you over $400. That could buy you a lot of cheap beer.

You may put a lot of money and effort into being Mead and not like it, especially if you are looking for a quick turn high alcohol product, generally the higher the alcohol content the longer the brew or Mead should stay in secondary and bottle. Were talking months and years.

If you ignore the value of my time I can now brew beer at a significant cost savings from purchasing but have invested $10,000s over the years to get here. Not sure if I have broken even yet over just buying good beer.

Sent from my Nexus 7 using Home Brew mobile app
 
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Xenemorph

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Let me go ahead and give you guys a little look into my situation.

I'm a college student, and we throw a lot of parties. I do like mead, so it's not just to save money, but I do believe that's an added bonus since I don't have a lot of money. I also do prefer mead over beer, and I prefer getting drunk while drinking less volume. That's why I asked if the beer would still be cheaper, because I would be willing to do beer, a lower preference for me, if it meant it was a better value. The value of my time isn't that much, and I do think it's cool to drink my own creations, so again, it's not just to save money.

Anyway, update:

I bought 60 lbs of Dutch Gold honey for around $200 including shipping. I'm currently looking for around 6 glass carboys, or an alternative, preferably from a place that accepts PayPal. I have a local shop I can pick up 6 gallon carboys for $42 each, so anything cheaper would be great, or again, somewhere that accepts PayPal. I also still need advice on what other equipment I need to purchase. I know I also need stoppers and airlocks. Any recommendations for cleaning equipment and bleach? I also heard Lalvin ICV D-47 Wine Yeast would be optimal for what I'm looking to do, however I'll take suggestions in case it will take over a month for this particular yeast to ferment. Lower alcohol level is fine as long as it's about a minimum of 8 or so. I also need a recommendation for yeast nutrient.


Now here's something I'm unsure of: is the temperature of the boiling water very important or does it just have to be about 170 Fahrenheit? Once I mix everything up, do I just put on a stopper/airlock and wait a month? What do I measure the gravity with? Is this important? Best way to siphon it? How does moving it from one carboy to another for a second fermentation work? And most importantly, what should I try to avoid so I don't mess up the batch?


Thanks again for your help.
 

Photopilot

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Buy a few of the glass carboys to get you started. Because mead takes aging you want glass or stainless for secondary fermenting. You could use a bucket for primary, but want something oxygen impervious for secondary.

  1. You need to clean and sanitize, bleach or "oxyclean Free" for cleaning star san for sanitizing.
  2. Hydrometer for measuring gravity.
  3. Autosiphon or stainless steel racking cane for siphoning.
  4. Something high in alcohol needs time to age in bulk, not sure why but it just does. You don't want to leave a brew on top of yeast for months. So after 4 weeks you rack to secondary. I would say 30 days in primary 30 in secondary as a minimum.
  5. carboy brush stoppers and airlocks, then get started.

Check out the Mead forum for more details on specific techniques. I have not made mead in 20 years, but it is starting to age very nicely now. I look forward to hearing how this turns out. Are you providing all the mead for the parties or are others contributing to the cause?
 

Fennis

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I was wondering in the back of my mind if you were a college student. If your goal here is to produce a large amount of some sort of alcohol to consume, mead is not going to be your answer. Mead takes much more time to mature and be drinkable, and as Photopilot stated, the higher the alcohol content, the longer its going to need to mature. You could end up brewing mead now and not being able to drink it to the start of the next school year--seriously. Plus, mead, like beer is an acquired taste. Not everyone is going to jump on in and drink it just because it has alcohol in it--granted I understand the college drinking atmosphere, but still, you may go through all this and have only a few people that actually like drinking it. I am only restating all this because it looks like you are going to make a significant investment, but I don't know if your return on that investment is really what you are looking for.

But, that being said, I think your best bet would be to brew beer. Brewing mead like you want will mean a party or two a year. Brewing beer can result in ready to drink beer every few weeks--especially if you invest in a kegging setup.

This may be the adult in me speaking out, but when you start offering people 10%+ abv alcohol and they consume it in mass quantities, you are risking people getting alcohol poisoning. Granted, the same thing can come from beer, but people are more than likely to end the night after too many 4-5% abv beers and get sick from consuming too much liquid than they would get alcohol poisoning.

Finally, drinking to get drunk is not the motive of the vast majority of home brewers. You really need to step back and look at the process it takes to make beer and/or mead. The time you are going to invest is going to be significant and the sanitation you need to absolutely ensure is extremely important--as in no way half-ass it or you will end up throwing away a lot of money. If you are just looking for a cheap way to get drunk at parties, just go buy a keg at the local beer store. Its going to be more cost effective in the end. Yes, beer and mead making can be easy, but I think what you are looking to get out of it isn't going to be what you experience in reality when you attempt to brew. I am just throwing out my thoughts as you stated you do not have a lot of money to invest into this. You are going from never brewing to going on a large scale for a homebrewer immediately. There is a lot to learn and understand about the brewing process before you take that leap. This is not to discourage you from brewing. I absolutely love making beer. And I've made some amazing beers that my friends and I greatly enjoy and drink heavily. I've also made some junk, that I want to throw out because it tastes awful...but given some time and allowing it to age (we are talking months here) it turns into some of the best beer I ever consumed.
 

Paradigm

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College student here as well. Home brewing is a hobby, it's not a way to get cheaper beer. One thing that needs to be said flat out is this: You're not going to find any way to make something that you'll want to drink in less than 2 months if you're going for a mead. In under a month you might be able to get away with a low gravity pale ale, but certainly not mead. You'll just end up with honey water at that point.
 

Fennis

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Now here's something I'm unsure of: is the temperature of the boiling water very important or does it just have to be about 170 Fahrenheit? Once I mix everything up, do I just put on a stopper/airlock and wait a month? What do I measure the gravity with? Is this important? Best way to siphon it? How does moving it from one carboy to another for a second fermentation work? And most importantly, what should I try to avoid so I don't mess up the batch?
Thanks again for your help.
To answer your questions though:
Yes, boiling is very important. It kills off bacteria and removes impurities from the water. Once you mix everything, yes you would put it into a fermenter, with an airlock, and once the fermentation process is done, you need to either put it in a secondary vessel to age or bottle it. With mead, the aging process can take time. Some meads may be drinkable after a month or so, but the longer you wait, the better it will be.

You measure gravity with a hydrometer. Its not extremely important, though it is the only way you are truly going to know your ABV--take a reading before you add the yeast to get an original gravity reading and then take a reading after the fermentation has taken place to get your final gravity. There are gravity calculators found on the web that take all the math out of it for you, plug in the OG, the FG and you get your ABV.

Best way to siphon it is using an auto siphon. They are found at any brewing store or online at home brew sites. Basically your goal of transferring to a secondary is to allow the mead to clear up. You are going to have yeast suspended in your primary, if you allow it to stay in the primary long enough, the majority of that yeast does settle out, but transferring to a secondary allows even more to fall out and the mead to turn out clearer. It also allows aging, with will take some of the harshness out of the alcohol burn of a high ABV mead. This takes time though. Potentially months.

The two biggest things you are going to have to ensure are sanitation and temperature control. You need to store your primary (and secondary if you choose to do so) in a dark place that is also stable in temperature. If you have large temperature fluctuations where it gets warm during the day and cool at night, you are not going to be impressed with the results. You need stable temperatures, and you need to stay within the temperature range your yeast calls for. If its too warm, you are going to get off flavors. If its too cool, your yeast many never take off, your ABV will be off, or it will take significantly longer for it to ferment properly. The other factor is sanitation. You need to have sanitizers, you need a clean enough environment to work in where all the tools, containers, and anything you use that touches the mead is sanitized. You need to clean everything extremely well after using it, and you should have a place to store it that stays clean and dry. Bacteria will destroy a batch, and all that investment will be gone.

Also, don't forget you need something to store the mead in once its ready to drink. You need to bottle. You can do this in normal beer bottles, but then you need to invest in pop-top beer bottles, you need caps, and a capper. You will need around 4 dozen 12oz bottles per 5 gallons of mead. You can get bigger bottles, but the cost increases and I would bet its easier to get a bunch of 12oz bottles to reuse--but they should be pop top, not screw top. You will need a place to clean and sanitize those bottles, a place to store them, and you are talking about 20+ gallons...you are going to need a lot of bottles! You can keg it, but if cost is a concern, getting enough kegs for a 20+ gallon batch isn't going to be cheap.
 
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