Getting started, Mead!

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spiffystump76

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Hello everyone! This is my very first post here, a member from home distiller forum recommended me here when I made a post about getting started with Mead. I have made many mashes before and a couple of wines and beers but never a mead. I am familiar with how to use a beer and wine or sugar hydrometer but I still have very much to learn.

Some of my questions would be, what temperature is it good to keep Mead for fermentation and racking? Is it okay to rack a mead into a used whiskey barrel? I watched a video where a fella simmered his Mead and water and continue to do so for about 30 minutes, I have had some people say that is a bad idea and a few say it's good to do that to sterilize the honey, but most people say to not do that. Do I need to use nutrients? The water I will be using will be well water and has a hint of sulfur in it, should I use a charcoal filter to filter some of the sulfur out or will that take too much nutrients/minerals out of the water? I will not be buying water as I plan on making a lot of Mead and it will not be worth all the hassle and money to spend on water, so I will no doubt be using my well water even if it does have a slight fart smell from the sulfur. What is a good beginner's recipe? What things do I need to look out for with honey? I was told you want raw, unfiltered, unpasteurized honey is this correct? Is there anything else I need to watch out for or know? What is a good ABV you want to aim for for me? I know with distilling you want to aim for about 6% to 10% ABV as that makes the best quality and tasting spirits so would there be a range for Mead for best quality?

That is about all I can think of right now, looking forward to answers and becoming a part of this forum.
 

madscientist451

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I have had some people say that is a bad idea and a few say it's good to do that to sterilize the honey, but most people say to not do that. Do I need to use nutrients? The water I will be using will be well water and has a hint of sulfur in it, should I use a charcoal filter to filter some of the sulfur out or will that take too much nutrients/minerals out of the water? I will not be buying water as I plan on making a lot of Mead and it will not be worth all the hassle and money to spend on water, so I will no doubt be using my well water even if it does have a slight fart smell from the sulfur.
Boiling your honey will drive off aromatics and is not necessary.
Look up the TONSA method and use nutrients/Go Ferm as recommended.
Honey is expensive, spring water from the store is pretty cheap, you will regret using water that smells like farts.
Make 1 gallon batches until you figure out what methods work for you so if you have to dump any batches, you won't lose very much $.
 

pdhirsch

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Boiling your honey will drive off aromatics and is not necessary.
Look up the TONSA method and use nutrients/Go Ferm as recommended.
Honey is expensive, spring water from the store is pretty cheap, you will regret using water that smells like farts.
Make 1 gallon batches until you figure out what methods work for you so if you have to dump any batches, you won't lose very much $.
Let me second all of that: use good water (please!), don't boil the honey, rehydrate the yeast properly, use staggered nutrient addition (TOSNA or similar), and stir / de-gas it a few times every day for the first week. Brew 1-gallon batches until you're confident that you're producing something that you like to drink. Expect to age it for a few months after bottling -- don't be disappointed if it's not to your liking immediately.

Also the honey doesn't have to be raw / unfiltered -- that's fine if it happens to be easily available, but store-bought honey works too. I use about 3 pounds of honey per gallon of mead, which yields about 13% ABV (you may want to start a bit lower), K1V yeast, and yeast nutrient + yeast energizer (usually 1/2 tsp per gallon of each, staggered into 4 daily 1/4 tsp hits each of the first few days).

Ambient temperature matters -- it can matter a *lot* depending on what kind of yeast you're using. I try to brew when my basement is between about 62 and 66 Fahrenheit; if it's above 68 then I use a very basic swamp cooler to keep the temperature down.

This will yield a dry, still mead; there are techniques for backsweetening and carbonation if you prefer. There are also more "natural" alternatives for nutrients; you don't have to use chemicals but honey alone isn't enough to properly feed the yeast, so you have to add something extra one way or the other.

There are a lot of details, and some matter more than others under different circumstances. Probably no two of us do things exactly the same way, and you will come up with your own individual system over time. The above is my standard procedure based on a couple decades of making mead, and a lot of trial and error. Hence the recommendation to brew small batches as a start. I've never had to pour a batch down the drain, but I've brewed stuff that was pretty marginal -- it usually improves after a few years of aging, but it's nice to be able to brew something that you can drink the same year that you brew it.
 
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spiffystump76

spiffystump76

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Let me second all of that: use good water (please!), don't boil the honey, rehydrate the yeast properly, use staggered nutrient addition (TOSNA or similar), and stir / de-gas it a few times every day for the first week. Brew 1-gallon batches until you're confident that you're producing something that you like to drink. Expect to age it for a few months after bottling -- don't be disappointed if it's not to your liking immediately.

Also the honey doesn't have to be raw / unfiltered -- that's fine if it happens to be easily available, but store-bought honey works too. I use about 3 pounds of honey per gallon of mead, which yields about 13% ABV (you may want to start a bit lower), K1V yeast, and yeast nutrient + yeast energizer (usually 1/2 tsp per gallon of each, staggered into 4 daily 1/4 tsp hits each of the first few days).
is TOSNA the nutrient or energizer? what is the best natural energizer and nutrient for mead?
 

pdhirsch

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is TOSNA the nutrient or energizer? what is the best natural energizer and nutrient for mead?
TOSNA is a protocol / system / set of rules for adding specific kinds of nutrients at specific points in the fermentation process. Years ago, we added all nutrients at the beginning, which turns out to be sub-optimal -- it's much better to stagger the nutrient additions over the first several days rather than adding them all at once. TOSNA is a specific well-known system for doing that. I don't use TOSNA myself but I do stagger my nutrient additions.

That said, if you're going to try using natural nutrients, then you won't be using TOSNA because TOSNA relies on specific commercial products with chemical ingredients. The most common natural nutrient that I know of is chopped raisins; another possibility is dead yeast (obtained by rehydrating bread yeast until it starts to reproduce, then you boil it to kill the yeast and you use use the dead yeast as a nutrient after letting it cool). I've also heard of people using orange peels.

I used raisins a few times early in my mead-making career, but I found that I get better results using yeast energizer and yeast nutrient from my local homebrew shop (LD Carlson brand which is very commonly available).
 

Dan O

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I have never ever used energizer in any ferment I've done. I don't even know what it's for.
I believe energizer has DAP in it, or @ least all that I've seen do, which from my understanding serves as an extra nitrogen source for the yeast. (Not organic, I believe)
I got away from anything that has DAP in it shortly after I started making mead & threw away all that had DAP in it. I get it all from either ingredients or Fermaid O (organic nutrients).
If I'm wrong, someone, please, correct me.
 

pdhirsch

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I have never ever used energizer in any ferment I've done. I don't even know what it's for.
I don't use energizer when I make cyser, but I do use it when making traditional mead (honey, water, yeast, and nutrients, with no fruit at all). Different brands are probably different from each other, but I think of nutrient as being mainly DAP or other nitrogen source, and energizer as nutrient plus a few more trace minerals.

I know from experience that nutrient + energizer works much better than chopped raisins, but I've never done comparisons to see if my trad mead really needs energizer. Maybe nutrient alone would be sufficient; my reason for using energizer in traditional mead is that honey is so nurient-poor, I figure the yeast needs all the help it can get. And I get good results using nutrient + energizer, so that's what I always do.
 

Maylar

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I think it's bernardsmith who uses the analogy that energizer is like a cup of coffee and nutrient is like a steak dinner. Since I rehydrate in go-ferm there's no point in using energizer.
 
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spiffystump76

spiffystump76

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Read somewhere that raisins doesn't offer much nutrient, so I am trying to figure out natural ingredient's that do. I can only find raisins and orange peels for nutrient use online but not sure how much to add to 1 gallon of musk.
 
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