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First meads report.

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elephant

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Hello...

I've never brewed anything before. I stumbled across a YouTube video on how to make mead (linked below) and thought I'd give it a shot. I will update this thread with my progress.

I've made two gallon jugs, the first one I did pretty much to the recipe that used. I made a mistake in not being super precise with the honey measurement, I didn't think it mattered that much. I think I put about 1.4kg (2.8lbs) in the first one anyway. I put a 1kg bag and then a bit less than 1/2 of another 1kg bag. So I was kind of winging it, but after reading a bit more about it later, I guess I should have been more precise.

The second gallon jug I wanted to experiment a bit, so I only put about 1.1kg (2.4lbs) of honey, and also added some smokey tea, some chilli, orange zest and cinnamon powder. I have no idea what I'm doing I just like experimenting.

The original gravity for the first one (after the bubbles settled down) ended up being 1.100 and the original gravity for the second one is 1.084. So from what I can gather from my reading, a bit low on the first one and quite a bit low on the second one, but I prefer it a little drier and not as strong anyway, and it's all for experimentation so I will stick with that.

I plan to make another two gallon jugs as well. In one of them I'm just going to use 1.5kg of honey and nothing else, just to use as a "control" so I can see how my other experiments are changing it. And in the fourth one, I'm not sure yet. I'll think of something interesting.

 
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elephant

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What yeast did you use?

1.100 gets you about 13% (easily achievable)
1.080 gets you about 10%
It's funny you replied, I just logged on now to ask if there is a reliable way one can predict end-alcohol content from either original gravity or amount of honey used. Obviously it would also depend on the yeast's alcohol tolerance.

In my case I used bread yeast I bought at the supermarket. Why? Because that's what the guy on the video told me to do--he had quite a rant about it actually--and he seemed to know what he is talking about it. Whether the yeast is any good or not, I have no idea, but I do have other specific mead, larger and wine yeasts that I will experiment with also...

... which brings me back around to the original question ... how do I approximate final ABV based on OG (or honey weight), assuming the yeast is tolerant to that level?
 
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elephant

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Thanks guys ... but how do I know what the final gravity is going to be?
 

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Thanks guys ... but how do I know what the final gravity is going to be?
So if you are unsure if your yeast will ferment to completion, you can estimate based on the yeasts alcohol tolerance and attenuation %. Most wine yeasts are assumed 100% attenuation where beer yeasts average around 75%. That doesn't mean that you won't overshoot your attenuation, but it gives you a ballpark to play in. generally assume that any wine yeast will ferment dry (FG 0.995) anything lower or close to its alcohol tolerance. So if you plug in 1.090 as your OG, you can assume that 0.995 will be your FG with a wine yeast. Whereas a beer yeast may finish closer to 1.000 - 1.005 based on its attenuation. (it gets a little funky with meads because honey is 100% fermentable sugars.)

I don't know what the alcohol tolerance of bread yeast is, but I would assume it is fairly low (8-10%?) and I would assume that it's going to have an attenuation of 75% or so. This means that your 1.090 may finish sweet (~1.010?) but my assumptions on both attenuation and tolerance may be wrong.
 
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So if you are unsure if your yeast will ferment to completion, you can estimate based on the yeasts alcohol tolerance and attenuation %. Most wine yeasts are assumed 100% attenuation where beer yeasts average around 75%. That doesn't mean that you won't overshoot your attenuation, but it gives you a ballpark to play in. generally assume that any wine yeast will ferment dry (FG 0.995) anything lower or close to its alcohol tolerance. So if you plug in 1.090 as your OG, you can assume that 0.995 will be your FG with a wine yeast. Whereas a beer yeast may finish closer to 1.000 - 1.005 based on its attenuation. (it gets a little funky with meads because honey is 100% fermentable sugars.)

I don't know what the alcohol tolerance of bread yeast is, but I would assume it is fairly low (8-10%?) and I would assume that it's going to have an attenuation of 75% or so. This means that your 1.090 may finish sweet (~1.010?) but my assumptions on both attenuation and tolerance may be wrong.
Thanks ... so it's guesswork really then? Well, I gues a ballpark idea is better than nothing. Cheers!
 
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It's guess work until you measure your mead with a hydrometer.
... well yeah ... but what I'm getting it, "how do you calculate how much honey to add ahead of time in order to hit a certain desired alcohol content"? Once you brew the mead and measure it with your hydrometer it's kinda too late. lol. ;)
 

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... well yeah ... but what I'm getting it, "how do you calculate how much honey to add ahead of time in order to hit a certain desired alcohol content"? Once you brew the mead and measure it with your hydrometer it's kinda too late. lol. ;)
I think the question you are really asking is "how much honey do I add to hit a desired alcohol content AND have residual sugar left over?"

You control your alcohol content by the amount of sugar you add and to a lesser degree what yeast you choose. If you want to make an 8% mead, Your starting gravity should be around 1.060 and you can pretty much use your choice of yeasts. If you are trying to make an 8% mead that has a lot of residual sugar, then you need to kill or neuter the yeast in your mead after it has finished turning your sugar (honey) into alcohol, and then backsweeten the mead to your desired sweetness.

The alternative is to keep adding honey until you hit your yeast alcohol tolerance and then add more to sweeten to your taste. but your going to wind up with an 18%+ ABV mead.
 
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elephant

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I think the question you are really asking is "how much honey do I add to hit a desired alcohol content AND have residual sugar left over?"

You control your alcohol content by the amount of sugar you add and to a lesser degree what yeast you choose. If you want to make an 8% mead, Your starting gravity should be around 1.060 and you can pretty much use your choice of yeasts. If you are trying to make an 8% mead that has a lot of residual sugar, then you need to kill or neuter the yeast in your mead after it has finished turning your sugar (honey) into alcohol, and then backsweeten the mead to your desired sweetness.

The alternative is to keep adding honey until you hit your yeast alcohol tolerance and then add more to sweeten to your taste. but your going to wind up with an 18%+ ABV mead.
That's great info thanks!
 
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Well ... it doesn't get any more fermented than this, right? It seems to be a 0 on the gravity reading... Initial Gravity ... only 19 days ago ... was 1.084....

I had a taste of it and I was dissapointed. It didn't give me gag reflexes or anything, it just didn't taste very nice. Slightly carbonated and a sour. It tastes a bit like a plastic bottle of fruit juice that you left lying in the sun for a week.

Is this just crappy mead or is it ruined, or is supposed to taste like that at this stage?

Obviously this is my first time making mead. I have a few other gallon containers brewing too, I tried a few different recipes, some I followed to the letter, others I experimented. This was one of my own experiments. I wanted to make a not-very-strong mead, but maybe I just messed it up. There's not much in there, 1kg of honey, some sultanas (raisins) and some fruit peels. I used bread yeast in this one (that was part of the experiments - I've used proper mead yeast in some of the others and larger yeast in one of them).

 
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P.S ... on second tasting, the flavours aren't actually even that horrible. It's just got a weird super-zesty fizz to it, like orange juice left out in the sun.
 

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Congratulations, you have a green mead. (And yes, because alcohol has a lower SG than water, you can get a FG lower than 1.000)

So, here's your next step. Rack your mead into another sanitized vessel that will minimize your headspace (amount of air). Usually in your case another 1 gallon jug. You want to avoid transferring, as much as possible, any of the raisins, fruits, and whatever 'sludge is at the bottom of the jug. (Hold on to that 'sludge for a minute, we'll come back to that). You also want to do it so as to avoid splashing your mead as much as possible. Make your siphon long enough to go to the bottom of the new jug, and let it fill from the bottom.

If your volume leaves a lot of headspace, you should top it off. If you wanted to add a fruit flavor, you could add say apple juice (make sure it's 100% juice, no preservatives or 'sulfates added to preserve freshness') the alternative is to mix a small amount of honey and water, and use that. You will get a bit of secondary fermentation, but that's ok. The important part is getting as much clean mead from primary as possible.

Stick an airlock on the bottle, and put it somewhere where you'll remember to check your airlock, but will let it sit undisturbed for several months. (The top of a refrigerator is a good place, and the vibration helps with clarity) the important thing is to minimize your exposure to oxygen.

Ok. That sludge in the bottom is yeast. Specifically at this point, mead yeast. If you separate it from the raisins and other stuff, you can use it to make more mead. Look at some videos on yeast washing to see how it works.
 
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P.S ... on second tasting, the flavours aren't actually even that horrible. It's just got a weird super-zesty fizz to it, like orange juice left out in the sun.
With experience and the right kind of equipment, you take samples throughout the process and get used to what a mead should taste like throughout the process and what constitutes off flavors. Also letting the sample sit out for a few minutes to 'breathe' can dramatically change your impression of the raw mead, usually in a good way.

That 'fizzy' you're describing is the dissolved C02 from fermentation, when you rack most of it will come out of suspension. That gas is also what is suspending most of your yeast particles in the mead leading to that cloudy yellow color. There are several way to clear some of that, including bentonite Bentonite | MoreBeer and isinglass Cristalline Plus | MoreBeer Time also works as the particulate will eventually fall out of suspension over the months of aging.

That 'sour' you are describing are esters thrown by the yeast, combined with 'raw' alcohol. With proper nutrition (look up TOSNA protocols) you can limit the ester production to the desirable ones that you want. In general most of the meads I am making are drinkable at almost any stage during fermentation. There is usually one brief period when yeast outgas a ton of sulfur and that is unpalatable, but that usually only lasts a few days and is usually during the period when I am vacuum degassing anyway so I don't worry about it too much.
 
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With experience and the right kind of equipment, you take samples throughout the process and get used to what a mead should taste like throughout the process and what constitutes off flavors. Also letting the sample sit out for a few minutes to 'breathe' can dramatically change your impression of the raw mead, usually in a good way.

That 'fizzy' you're describing is the dissolved C02 from fermentation, when you rack most of it will come out of suspension. That gas is also what is suspending most of your yeast particles in the mead leading to that cloudy yellow color. There are several way to clear some of that, including bentonite Bentonite | MoreBeer and isinglass Cristalline Plus | MoreBeer Time also works as the particulate will eventually fall out of suspension over the months of aging.

That 'sour' you are describing are esters thrown by the yeast, combined with 'raw' alcohol. With proper nutrition (look up TOSNA protocols) you can limit the ester production to the desirable ones that you want. In general most of the meads I am making are drinkable at almost any stage during fermentation. There is usually one brief period when yeast outgas a ton of sulfur and that is unpalatable, but that usually only lasts a few days and is usually during the period when I am vacuum degassing anyway so I don't worry about it too much.
Thanks for all your help and detailed replies, I really appreciate that. Very interesting stuff.

So that gunk at the bottom is now actually "yeast mead" huh? From bread mead? Interesting. I guess I'll have to look up how that works.

One other question ... even if it tastes a bit like fruit juice left in the back seat of the car ... it's not dangerous to drink is it? Because I dunno if I'm kidding myself or not, but the second taste it didn't even really seem that bad. I think the first just wasn't what I was expecting. If I can get the fizz out of it, it would be much better.

Anyway, I will take your advice, although I'll have to find an appropriately sized container which might be hard. The ones I'm using now are gallon jugs filled up just past the neck. So I guess I need something like a ~3.25 liter container to eliminate as much headspace as possible...

P.S. one last question ... what is a "green mead"? I tried googling it, but everything I got seemed to be intentional recipes for actual green-coloured mead.
 

videojunkie1208

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Thanks for all your help and detailed replies, I really appreciate that. Very interesting stuff.

So that gunk at the bottom is now actually "yeast mead" huh? From bread mead? Interesting. I guess I'll have to look up how that works.

One other question ... even if it tastes a bit like fruit juice left in the back seat of the car ... it's not dangerous to drink is it? Because I dunno if I'm kidding myself or not, but the second taste it didn't even really seem that bad. I think the first just wasn't what I was expecting. If I can get the fizz out of it, it would be much better.

Anyway, I will take your advice, although I'll have to find an appropriately sized container which might be hard. The ones I'm using now are gallon jugs filled up just past the neck. So I guess I need something like a ~3.25 liter container to eliminate as much headspace as possible...

P.S. one last question ... what is a "green mead"? I tried googling it, but everything I got seemed to be intentional recipes for actual green-coloured mead.
I had a mentor when I started with making mead who helped me through my initial batches and got me started on making meads. That was over 20 years ago, and I still call him when I get stuck, or need advise on which of many ways I can go on a mead.

The reason you now have mead yeast is that the specific culture in the bottom of your jug are the ones that survived the hostile environment of mead. If you wash that yeast, and propagate it through a few generations of mead, it will be a strain specific to your mead. (This is how breweries and wineries wind up with 'house' yeast strains.)

Unless you have done something crazy (which it doesn't sound like) you should have a clean alcoholic beverage. This isn't like distillation where you have to worry about ethanol's vs methanol's.

Like I said, you can use a gallon container, just try to top it up to minimize the headspace.

Green Mead is my term (may not be universal, but I picked it up somewhere) for a young un-aged mead. Generally they are recognizable through what I describe as a 'hot' alcohol flavor (age will mellow this), and unblended flavors (again requires aging).

One of my favorite aspects of mead is that it is an incredibly forgiving beverage. Forget about a beer for a month in primary? you've probably ruined it. Forget about a mead for a month? meh, generally not an issue (although I left my blueberry mead on the fruit too long, and it's now a completely different style than I was aiming for, but that's a different story.) Secondary 6 months? 9 Months? more is better right?
 
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I had a mentor when I started with making mead who helped me through my initial batches and got me started on making meads. That was over 20 years ago, and I still call him when I get stuck, or need advise on which of many ways I can go on a mead.

The reason you now have mead yeast is that the specific culture in the bottom of your jug are the ones that survived the hostile environment of mead. If you wash that yeast, and propagate it through a few generations of mead, it will be a strain specific to your mead. (This is how breweries and wineries wind up with 'house' yeast strains.)

Unless you have done something crazy (which it doesn't sound like) you should have a clean alcoholic beverage. This isn't like distillation where you have to worry about ethanol's vs methanol's.

Like I said, you can use a gallon container, just try to top it up to minimize the headspace.

Green Mead is my term (may not be universal, but I picked it up somewhere) for a young un-aged mead. Generally they are recognizable through what I describe as a 'hot' alcohol flavor (age will mellow this), and unblended flavors (again requires aging).

One of my favorite aspects of mead is that it is an incredibly forgiving beverage. Forget about a beer for a month in primary? you've probably ruined it. Forget about a mead for a month? meh, generally not an issue (although I left my blueberry mead on the fruit too long, and it's now a completely different style than I was aiming for, but that's a different story.) Secondary 6 months? 9 Months? more is better right?
Really great info, thanks for sharing it.

I don't mean to hammer you with questions, but what do you mean, "wash the yeast"? You mean like literally wash it off with water? It just looks like cloudy sediment at the bottom of the jug, it doesn't look like the yeast that came out of the dry packets.

Also, when you say, "top it up" ... you mean like with water or...?

I didn't do anything crazy, no. I probably was not as sterile and super-sanitary as some people are (although I was sensible, washing my equipment, etc., but I wasn't wearing a fask mask and rubber gloves or anything and disinfecting the kitchen before I did anything, etc.)
 

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If your volume leaves a lot of headspace, you should top it off. If you wanted to add a fruit flavor, you could add say apple juice (make sure it's 100% juice, no preservatives or 'sulfates added to preserve freshness') the alternative is to mix a small amount of honey and water, and use that. You will get a bit of secondary fermentation, but that's ok. The important part is getting as much clean mead from primary as possible.
 
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That was a very interesting video. It leads to one more quesiton ... I've watched a few of these videos now where guys are "santisting" things and then seemingly not worried about rinsing any of the sanitizer off. They just pour stuff into jugs full of bubbles and use equipment still covered in bubbles and foam, etc. ... obviously that's not going to hurt the actual product then ... it's just weird as it would seem like the stuff either santisizes stuff (kills everything) or it doesn't, not pick and choose ....
 

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Star San is a surface disinfectant. it kills things on the surfaces that the fluid contacts. It is also relatively safe to in small amounts for human consumption. The small amounts in the foam you see aren't enough to cause issues with the yeasts and such that we use. Remember that you're trying to kill or weaken competing microbes so that the ones you want can propagate.

This is what I use: https://www.amazon.com/One-Step-Cleanser-5-lbs/dp/B0064O7WCU/ref=sr_1_5?crid=1L78GQAJM80K0&dchild=1&keywords=one+step+sanitizer&qid=1605893202&sprefix=one+step+,aps,186&sr=8-5

I also use Oxyclean (fragrance free) for heavy cleaning but I make sure that I thoroughly rinse it several times, and then sanitize with the above. https://www.amazon.com/OxiClean-Versatile-Stain-Remover-Free/dp/B00MOJUJ92?ref_=ast_sto_dp
 
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Thanks!

Anyway ... that mead is actually coming along surprisingly well. I did exactly as you suggested, I racked it, being careful not to suck up the sludge, then topped it up leaving only a tiny bit of head space, with a mixture of water and honey (250g). I left it outside overnight (approaching freezing these days) and noticed that it had cleared up even further and there was more sludge at the bottom, so I racked it again and I will repeat that process tonight too. It's taking a nice golden colour now as opposed to a milky cloudy one.

I tasted it and the taste is much improved! Dare I say it even tastes nice now. Entirely drinkable for sure. FWIW, my girlfriend tasted it yesterday before the rack and said she liked it (she likes dry wines) and that was before the big improvement.

The one thing is that it's still got a touch of that "fermented zest" about it. I guess that can't really be helped, but I have been trying to degas it by stirring it slowly. If I put my ear to it, I can hear it fizzing quietly, but I've done that about 10 times now and it doesn't seem to be getting any less gassy.

I'd like to bottle it soon (maybe tomorrow?) so I can reuse the jug to start another mead. Do you reckon it's safe and won't explode? My plan was just to put it in old screw-cap wine bottles (have been through the dishwasher) and let it sit until Christmas when I'll open one.

P.S. the reason I left it outside is because I read somewhere (or maybe I just imagined it?) that the colder temperatures help the sediment settle to the bottom.
 

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If it was at 1.0, and you added more sugar, it's just finishing up the new sugars. Don't worry about it. Let it rest for 6 weeks, at least.

Unless you want sparkling mead, I would not bottle this.
 
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If it was at 1.0, and you added more sugar, it's just finishing up the new sugars. Don't worry about it. Let it rest for 6 weeks, at least.

Unless you want sparkling mead, I would not bottle this.
Just out of curiosity for future reference, if I did bottle it now while it's very quietly fizzing after I stir it (I have to have my ear right up to the opening), would I risk blowing stuff up? Or would it just become "sparkling".

I ask as I have a few mead-beers (kind of braggots) on the go, and I will want them to have some fizz. Preferably not an intense fizz, but at least like an English ale.

For the record, I actually like wine-type drinks with a subtle "spritzy" bubble to it too, but not a crazy amout like champagne, especially the weaker ones like this. I worked out it's probably about ~8-9% alcohol after I added the water + honey mix to top it up. I have some other stronger meads on the boil and those I would like to be still.
 
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videojunkie1208

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Short answer, you need to be careful when doing carbonation.

Typically to make a fizzy mead, ferment to completion, and then add just enough sugar to carbonate. (Use a beer priming sugar calculator to figure out how much sugar to use.)

Without that step, you run a significant risk of what are delightfully called bottle bombs. Because the glass will give way before the cork will.
 

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Read joe's recipe for ancient orange mead JOAM. It is designed for bread yeast
Except only use the zest juice and orange pulp. Leave out the white part of the Orange. This will allow it to age and mellow faster. Let your mead sit on a shelf for a month until it is clear. Then it should be finished fermenting. Bottle in beer bottles and age for 3 months.
Bread yeast gives a lot of bubbles (that's why you use it for bread) and the bubbles remove some of the flavour. Wine/beer/mead yeasts give fewer bubbles but better flavour.
You can't nessisarily just substitute one yeas for another in every recipe. The amount of sugar is balanced with how much sugar (and resulting alcohol) a particular yeast can deal with. But you can always try
Green mead (great name!) =rocket fuel. Aged mead =tasty!!
Once you have a couple of JOAMs under your belt, try a BOMM mead
 
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