First large batch of mead- Strawberry melomel

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jdach27

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So, about a month ago I stumbled upon a website that gave instructions on how to make a cheap, 1 gallon batch of mead. It sounded interesting, and being the bored and impulsive person I am, I went out that day and got the ingredients. Since then, I have been researching the process extensively and buying all the equipment I need to make a five gallon batch of strawberry melomel. I found a recipe that sounded good, and adjusted the ingredients. I'm shooting for a moderately sweet darker dessert wine, around 12-14% alcohol. I would appreciate any suggestions on my choice of ingredients, or anything else you may think of.

-5 lbs buckwheat honey
-4 lbs clover honey
-3 lbs raspberry honey blend
-15 lbs frozen strawberries
-Red Star Montrachet yeast (I read that it tends to bring out more color from the fruit).
-yeast energizer
-Irish moss- I'm not sure about this. I've heard it makes the mead extremely clear, but I also read some stuff about it stripping the flavor from the mead.

Clean and sterilize everything. Boil 3 gallons of water, remove from heat, immediately pour in honey and irish moss. Stir, and let cool. Add 15 lbs frozen strawberries to 6.5 gallon plastic pail. Pour must in plastic pail, and add enough water to reach 5 gallon mark. I was also thinking about trying to find strawberry juice to top it off with, but I'm not sure. Cool to pitching temperature, and add yeast starter and energizer. Airlock in plastic pail until strawberries are pale, pushing them down into the must every couple days. Remove strawberries and rack into glass carboy and add yeast energizer and put the airlock on.

Sorry for the long post, but I'm not a very patient person, and I would hate to make a bad batch. I want to make sure I get it right the first time.

Thanks for your help!:mug:
 

Poobah58

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Just a couple of things.
1. No need to boil the water. Just heat it up enough to make it easy to stir in the honey.
2. With 15 lbs of strawberries you want at least 5-1/2 gallons if you intend to have 5 gallons in your secondaty.
3. Lose the irish moss. The juice will clear after time. If not then use some finings.
4. Push berries down 2-3 times a day until the 1/2 sugar break, then once per day after that. You need to get the trapped gases out of there.
5. Do not rack until primary is almost done and DO NOT add energizer to secondary. Energizer and nutrients are not desirable after the 1/2 sugar break or the 2/3 break at the latest!
6. If you want a dessert wine you might need more honey or backsweeten at a later date.
7. You MUST be a patient person to make a good mead. The process will take months and months and months...
8. Look at the Sticky FAQ's and read the Staggard Nutrient Addition schedule and Making A Basic Mead articles.
9. Welcome aboard.
 
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jdach27

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Thanks, that clears a lot up. I was wondering how much space that many strawberries was going to take up. I'm assuming this is in the FAQ's, which I will definitely read, but what exactly is the 1/2 sugar break? And I'm assuming you wait until the bubbling stops almost completely, and then when you rack it, it starts back up again? And perhaps I didn't use the term dessert wine correctly..I just want a moderately sweet wine between 12-14%.

And just to clarify, I do know that it'll take months and months before it'll be drinkable. I'm just impatient in the fact that I'll be pretty angry if I wait all those months and it turns out poorly. Thanks for the help!
 

Poobah58

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Your welcome. The 1/2 sugar break is the half way point of your fermentation. If your original gravity is 1.100 and your target gravity is 1.000, the 1/2 sugar break is 1.050. (OG+TG)/2
 
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jdach27

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Cool. So are there any physical signs at this point? Or do you just know by gravity readings?
 

flyweed

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And as Poobah pointed out, make sure you punch the cap at least 3 times a day to help aerate your must and keep the fruit hydrated, until the 1/2 sugar break.
 

Kauai_Kahuna

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Poobah58 Wow, great response.
jdach27 Reading through the FAQ in the sticky above will really help calm your nerves and understand what is going on in the months and months that this will take. Patience is not really my strong point, I just make sure I have a full pipeline I'm forced to wait.
All I can add is please post pictures!
 
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jdach27

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Man, I'm glad I found this forum. It's exceptionally useful.

I think I'm going to kick it up to 14 lbs of honey. I'm going to add a pound each of the clover and raspberry honey. Also, I've read that adding the fruit to the primary fermentation can take away some of the fruit flavors, so I'm considering adding some more to the secondary, just for that extra strawberry flavor and maybe a little more color. How much should I add? Or should I just split the original 15 lbs between the primary and secondary? And how long should I let the fruit sit in the secondary before I rack it for aging?

And I will definitely post pictures. I already have all my equipment, all that's left to buy is the honey and fruit. I'm going to start this in 2-3 weeks when I go home for spring break. I don't exactly trust my college apartment to be a safe place to keep 5 gallons of alcohol.
 

viking

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Another thing that you might want consider adding some pectin enzyme to your strawberry melomel. It helps ensure that pectin haze is not a problem.
 
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jdach27

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So, I'm going to be brewing this mead in the next few days, and I've changed the recipe around a bit. The new recipe is as follows..

-6 lbs clover honey
-4 lbs raw organic honey
-4 lbs whipped wild raspberry honey
-20 lbs strawberries (10 in primary, 10 in secondary)
-Lavin RC212 yeast

I assume I can just get the frozen strawberries at wal-mart or a similar superstore. Are there any ingredients or additives in frozen strawberries that I should avoid buying? I also got some pectic enzyme to just make sure it's clear. When is the proper time to add this? I'm really excited to brew this mead! I'll be sure to take pictures and keep an accurate log. Cheers!
 

Tusch

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I'd be hesitant to use whipped honey, just odd to me, but otherwise sounds great. That is a ton of strawberries, but the only thing to be concerned about for strawberries is preservatives. Not sure how often they add any to frozen fruits, but anything ending in -ate or -ite is probably bad.
 
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jdach27

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I actually researched the whipped honey because I was worried it might not work, but apparently it's fine in mead. I finally brewed this on 3-22-09. I checked my hydrometer yesterday and got a reading of about 1.100. I checked it again today, and it's still around the same mark. I've been stirring and aerating a few times a day. about an hour after I aerate, a reddish foamy layer forms on the top of the mead. I assume this is the fruit cap. After I break it apart and stir it around, my airlock starts bubbling like crazy. I get a bubble almost every second. However, when the fruit cap forms again, I get absolutely no airlock activity.

So, my question is this. Is my mead fermenting? I'm just worried because I know a bubble every second is usually a sign of pretty vigorous fermentation, but unless I'm somehow reading the hydrometer wrong, the SG hasn't dropped at all. Is there any other possible cause for all that airlock activity? Thanks everyone!
 
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