Looking for a critique and guidance on my first round of meads (4 batches - testing 2 different yeasts at different ABVs)

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Nov 21, 2022
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New Hampshire
Greetings! I'm new here and just started my mead-making journey. I'm a beekeeper and sometimes I have more honey than I know what to do with so I have decided to start making mead. I did a lot of reading here on this forum and elsewhere before starting and I think my 4 batches have had a good start. The primary fermentations are winding down and I am looking for guidance on what to do next and maybe some critique on what I have done so far.

After doing a lot of reading I decided I wanted to use Mangrove Jack's M05 as my primary yeast, however the meads I have tried so far and enjoyed were made with 71b so I am also using that in 1 batch to compare with.

For these meads I am using honey from my latest harvest in September. The primary nectar source is Goldenrod, along with Aster and Purple Loosestrife. It's a medium-dark honey with heavy caramel and butterscotch flavors. The funny thing is during fermentation I am getting very fruity/tangy aromas from the mead - smells divine! No sulfur smells or off smells at all so far.

My goal is to create two 14% ABVs using 71b and M05, and then one 17%ABV M05 and one 9%ABV M05 - just so that I can compare the 2 yeasts side by side, along with the various levels of ABV, so that I can see what I like best, and continue from there (I have a bag of frozen tart crabapples I picked last month for my next round).

All batches are just slightly above 1 gallon, so that I could fill up in to the neck of the carboys. Fermentation has been in my basement at a constant 63 degrees F. I actually started the fermentation in my kitchen for the first 24 hours, at about 68 degrees, then moved down to the basement. I pitched 3 grams of yeast for each batch after rehydrating with Go-Ferm.

My plan is to ferment each batch dry, and then back-sweeten as necessary. From the meads I have tried so far, my preference is on the drier side and with some tart/acid to it.

I am using Fermaid O as the nutrient and I believe it is the TOSNA method to feed. I did not have a scale that could measure fractions of a gram, only whole grams, so I had to guesstimate on the feedings (I have a better scale now for future batches). Water is from my well which tastes great on it's own.

Batch 1 - 71b OG=1.1045. I fed .9g Ferm-O at 24, 48, and 72 hours and 1g the following day, which was already past 1/3 sugar break and closer to 1/2. All of the batches have been fermenting faster than I thought they would.

Batch 2 - M05 OG=1.1045 with same exact feeding as batch 1, with final feeding closer to 1/2 sugar than 1/3

Batch 3 - M05 OG=1.12 although my target was 1.127. Fed 1.2g Ferm-O at each feeding, again the final feeding was closer to 1/2 sugar break

Batch 4 - M05 OG=1.07 with .7g Ferm-O at each feeding, again the final feeding was closer to 1/2 sugar break

For the first 5 days I would pour out 2/3 of the carboys in to a wide-mouthed glass jug and used an immersion blender with a whisk attachment to add nutrients and aerate the heck out of the mead. I spent about 5 minutes on each batch which was probably more than needed but I have read that there's no such thing as too much oxygen early on and I wanted happy yeast.

The next few days I stirred the mead in the carboy with the racking cane to degass, and have not been aerating any more.

So today is day 9 from pitching and when I put the hydrometer in the carboys it hits the bottom...so all meads are somewhere below 1.03 but they are all still bubbling in the airlock. Batch 1 & 2 bubble once every 4 seconds, Batch 3 bubbles once every 11 seconds and Batch 4 is bubbling once every 40 seconds.

Please critique anything I have done so far that may be wrong or incomplete. I have been taking detailed notes if more detail is needed. Now on to the questions:

I dont currently have one of those cylinder thingies that I can use with the hydrometer, however I could use an empty wine bottle, but do I need to be monitoring the exact SG if I am wanting all batches to ferment dry? If I do use the wine bottle, do I use a tube to rack in to the bottle or can I use a funnel and pour? Do I have to worry about oxygen at this point?

I am not sure what to do next to be honest. Just let primary keep going another couple weeks until there is no more bubbling in the air-locks?

Should I be stirring to degass any longer?

I need to start thinking about stabilizing. Do I have to stabilize if I am going to back sweeten? I am assuming that if I am going to back-sweeten at all, that I will need to stabilize, although if there is a way to do it without additives I'd prefer that, ie cold crash only?

My currently plan when I rack each batch, is to rack in to a sanitized bucket, clean and sanitize the carboy, and then rack back in to the carboy for the secondary stage. Is this the time when I would taste, stabilize, and then back-sweeten?

I have other questions but this is probably enough for now. Thank you for reading and any feedback!
Sounds like you made 4 solid batches of basic mead!

Since it looks like you have some similar meads with regards to starting gravity and yeast maybe you should experiment with some flavors in secondary. I always stabilize, on top of killing yeast production, it helps fight oxygenation. I always also back sweeten to at least 1.005. This especially important when using fruit because it helps make the fruit taste like fruit.

1. Oak chips - 1oz per gallon, 2-4 weeks (check flavor at least once a week!

2. Very the amount of back sweetening (1.005 - 1.015 max for me)

2. Vanilla beans cut in half, 2-4 beans per gallon

4. Fruit! Easy starts are berries or cherries.
Stabilize first, add pectin enzymes with the fruit. The added sugars from fruit might negate the need for any more back sweetening.

5. Kegging! If you have one, why not. I have a 1 gallon keg, that way I don’t need to commit a whole batch.
Who doesn’t love bubbles!
It sounds like you did a lot of things the right way, so good job.

Temperature control is a huge item. Your starting at a warmer temperature to get fermentation going and then moving to the cellar is making great use of the environment to manage that heat for you.

You have rehydrated the yeast, which is much better than just pitching it into the must dry. You are also using the TOSNA schedule which is a good overall nutrient schedule that works well. At lower than 9% targeted ABV, I tend to pitch all nutrients up front (5-8% target) or break them into two (8-9% target) feedings. At lower targets the fermentation happens too fast for the typical TOSNA schedule. Yeast health and nutrient is huge for making good mead. Check out my post on Yeast Notes.

I'd get a cylinder that will hold your hydrometer. I would avoid a funnel and pouring when possible, I use a dedicated turkey baster to pull out what I need and I do my best to avoid splashing into the cylinder so that I am not oxygenating the mead. I do the same when returning the mead back to the carboy. I haven't used a refractometer though I do like the idea of only having to use drop of mead to check the sugar level. I haven't used them as I know there are some added calculations that need to be done once alcohol is present.

Degassing is good. I typically degas 2x a day until the 1/3 sugar break and then 1x a day until the 2/3 break. I don't degas after that.

Actually stabilizing requires using Potassium Matabisulfite (food stabilizing and anti-oxidation) as well as Potassium Sorbate (preventing the yeast from bugging and eating your added sweetener). You can use the K-Meta alone, but if you use K-Sorbate, you should always be using K-Meta with it. The amounts you use are based on the actual pH of your fermented mead. If you use K-Sorbate alone, you are potentially providing food to organisms that can give off a flavor or Germanium into you rmead.

You would typically stabilize when you rack into secondary, though there may be reasons that you don't want to.

Oaking can usually help with the overall structure of mead. While oak chips will work, cubes, spirals or xoakers will usually provide a more complete oak profile as there is more depth of the toasting. Chips can give you the Chateu de Plywood profile if left in too long, With oak cubes I will usually use ~ 1 gram per liter. I add them right up front in primary and transfer them into the secondary.
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