Cherry mead concerns (newbie here!)

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Jan 31, 2022
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Hi everyone! Pretty new to brewing as a whole, but opted to start a cider and a mead! They both seem fairly forgiving to newbies like myself or so I've read. Found this absolute gem of a site and instantly getting hooked on knowledge.

I just started a 1 gallon batch regular apple juice based cider, using Safale S-04 yeast. That's pretty much it, some organic apple juice sole ingredient stating juice of apples. That one seems pretty active and kicking, looking good as far as I can tell. New to using a hydrometer but from what I could tell starting gravity read 1.060. Again nothing seems wrong but any input would be appreciated!

My concern is with the mead though (or I guess it's called a melomel, from what I learned here!) See the recipe below, but the starting gravity seems suuuuper high and I'm concerned. Per the recipe it recommended additional nutrients and energizer so I picked some up at a local homebrew shop. No brand names on the items it's just in clear zip baggies with a printed label of the chemical names. Starting gravity read what I think 1.168, my hydrometer stops at 1.160 so kind of estimating here but could very well be 1.170 or near there. After getting it all mixed up aerated and yeast pitched I was super excited, then went down a rabbit hole of additional googling to find that number being reallllly high.

-3 lb florida orange blossom honey (raw and unfiltered)
-1 qt sour cherry juice (organic)
-1 qt black cherry juice (organic)
-Spring water to top off to the shoulder of the carboy
-1/2 tsp energizer (written on package per gallon)
-1/2 tsp (written on package per gallon)
- Lalvin EC-1118 yeast, roughly 1/3rd the packet (this was a workhorse from what I read and was newbie friendly since it's a hungry boy)

Within the first 48 hours the airlock has activity, but seems sluggish compared to the cider. The must was vigorously shaken to oxygenate before pitching the yeast. Is there something I should look out for, or be doing or plan for? I *really* want this to turn out and hope I didn't already screw something up.
Your cider OG of 1.060 is in the range what apple juice typically is. (1.050 to 1.060)

Your mead if near 1.170 is way above what i would attempt. The reason its sluggish is your yeast are struggling in that high a sugar environment. EC1118 is a pretty aggresive yeast and does have some potential to chew through a god bit of that. Without some pretty advanced techniques on your part will be tough if not impossible. .170 if fermented to 1.000 would give you about 22% alcohol and stressed yeast throw some pretty unpleasant flavors.

I would add good quality spring water and get the SG somewhere in the range of 1.100. With nutrients and a Staggered Nutrient Addition you should be in a spot for your first mead to have a reasonably succesful run.

Good luck, let us know how it turns out.
Thank you so much! This helps my brain quite a bit! Will remove some of the must as is and slowly swap it with some nice spring water.

Would it be a good idea to add more nutrients or energizer out of the gate after or give it a couple days to see how it progresses first?
Just wanted to toss an update, because excitement!

Just racked that cherry monster yesterday, and it tasted alright! I know it'll need some time, ended up sweeter than anticipated but 2 weeks with .002 gravity movement I decided to rack it. There's definitely some boozy notes but excited to see what happens after it settles in secondary for a while before bottling. Going to let it sit around for another couple of weeks and see!

The cider turned out pretty ok. I've heard apple ciders can notoriously need some hefty time depending on the juice/apple type used. Kind of got the vibe here too, wasn't all that pleasant at first so I hope that too mellows out. Want to thank you again @CKuhns for the advice, first runs of things were a bit rough but learned a lot! About to start a couple more batches of things! Hell of a bug to get bit by, homebrew 😄