Hi Im new and Im very confused please help me

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Guateshooter

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Hi, Im doing my first batch of mead, I start doing 4 recipes but I read some books in my kindle and one talk about a secondary fermentation the other books dont. Its necesary doit or its for some recipes or what? please explain this to me!!
thanks in advance
 

bernardsmith

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Hi Guateshooter- and welcome. I agree that there can be a great deal of confusion out in the interweb around the use of terms. There is a concept known as "secondary fermentation" but technically that applies ONLY to bacterial fermentation of malic acids which transforms these acids into a more smooth less sharp lactic acid. This process is far more typically associated with wines and ciders and not honey.
There is however, something called a secondary FERMENTER (or FERMENTOR) and that refers to a container. Let me explain:
When you pitch (add) your yeast to the must (the sweet liquor you are going to ferment) typically you want to use a bucket that has plenty of room and is loosely covered with a lid or cloth. You need the room and the loose cover because you want to stir the must a couple of times a day and you want to feed the yeast nutrient (honey does not have very many of the nutrients that the yeast need to remain healthy and unstressed - and stressed yeast produce all kinds of chemical byproducts including hydrogen sulfide - a gas that smells like rotten eggs - Stirring incorporates air and yeast like air; stirring removes the CO2 that the yeast expel and CO2 increases the acidity of the liquid and can physically damage the yeast. If you use as your PRIMARY FERMENTER a narrow mouthed carboy with a bung and an airlock you are less likely to stir the liquid AND when you add the nutrient the narrow neck of a carboy encourages the effects of what is called nucleation (a process whereby the gases (CO2) in the liquid gather around the particles of the nutrient and form large bubbles which eject columns of liquid above the bubbles) to rifle through the neck - and so paint your ceiling with mead! Ok. So you learn to use a bucket or wide mouthed container as your primary fermenter.
Any worry that the mead might be spoiled because of contact with oxygen (oxidation) can be allayed because during the active stage when the yeast is fermenting the sugar in the honey the yeast expel so much CO2 (carbon dioxide that the CO2 acts as a blanket over the top of the mead.
When active fermentation slows down - that is to say when almost all the sugar has been converted into CO2 and alcohol you want to rack (transfer by tube or siphon) the mead from your PRIMARY into your SECONDARY fermenter. This time you want to exclude all air and so the secondary should be a narrow mouthed carboy fitted with a bung and an airlock and filled right up into the neck of the vessel so that there is hardly any headroom (space between the top of the liquid and the bottom of then bung).
So, to sum up there is primary fermentation and there is a secondary fermentation but it is unlikely that this has very much to do with your meads unless your recipe/s talk about malo-lactic fermentation (known as MLF). BUT there is a primary fermenter and a secondary fermenter and the primary fermenter is used when you pitch the yeast until the gravity drops to around 1.005 when you transfer the mead into a secondary fermenter - a fermenter that you can fill up to the tippy top and prevent any exposure to the air. Air (or more accurately oxygen) at this point can oxidize the mead (and make it taste like wet cardboard) or it can be used by bacteria to transform your alcohol into vinegar. Hope this helps to remove some of your confusion.
 

bernardsmith

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Yup... Home brewers, today, generally don't transfer their ales and lagers into a secondary fermenter because typically, a beer begins with a very much lower specific gravity (far less sugar to ferment) and is not usually aged: fresh beer is best. Wine makers (and that includes those who make wines from honey and any kind of fruit not just grapes) tend to make wines with 2 or 3 times the quantity of fermentable sugars - thus requiring the yeast to work for significantly longer to clean up and metabolize all kinds of byproducts the yeast produce AND wines and meads generally require significantly longer times to age so that all the flavors are fully integrated so mead makers and vintners tend to use secondary fermenters and indeed, may rack (transfer) their wines three , four, six times or more (leaving 2-3 months between rackings) before they consider them ready for bottling
 

Maylar

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Hi Guateshooter- and welcome. I agree that there can be a great deal of confusion out in the interweb around the use of terms. There is a concept known as "secondary fermentation" but technically that applies ONLY to bacterial fermentation of malic acids which transforms these acids into a more smooth less sharp lactic acid. This process is far more typically associated with wines and ciders and not honey.
Says you. There are 3 phases of fermentation - the Adaptation or Lag phase, the Primary or Attenuative phase and a Secondary or Conditioning phase. When we refer to "secondary" around here, we're talking about racking to a clean vessel to allow the secondary phase to complete and the brew/mead/whatever to drop the yeast out and clear.

IMO, telling people that secondary only applies to MLF only adds more confusion for a noob. Yes, it's a secondary fermentor but the term is used here and all over the internet.
 
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