Looking for some advice before starting first attempt

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P4Kman

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So my fiance and I just got everything we need to start our first attempts at mead making, and I've always found the advice from people on forums like this to be invaluable.

For my batch, I'm going to try a peach mead. For a 5 gallon batch, I'm using 18 lbs of clover honey, 15 lbs of peaches, some cinnamon sticks, some vanilla extract, and I'm using 71B-1122 yeast. I've seen some recipes that say you should also include raisins or lemons but I don't really get why, if anyone has any insight as to what they bring to the table I'd appreciate it. Also any idea how much vanilla extract and cinnamon should be used for a 5 gallon batch?

My fiance is trying a different approach. She is only making a 1 gallon batch, so she is using 6 pounds of honey, 5 lbs of prickly pears, and a couple lemons. She is trying a different yeast, EC-1118 which is a champaign yeast.

So there it is, once we finally get it all started I'll update and let y'all know how it goes, in the meantime would love to hear any feedback/critiques about the recipes.
 

Maylar

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Yeast need nutrients to thrive, and honey doesn't have much. People put raisins in mead because they provide a bit of nutrients, but it's not really enough. Please consider getting some Fermaid K or Fermaid O to use as nutrients, your yeast will thank you.

6 lb of honey in 1 gallon is a bad idea. That's way too much sugar for any yeast to handle, even EC-1118. Cut that down to 3.5 lb max.
 
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P4Kman

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Thanks for the advice! This is exactly why I love forums like this. I forgot to mention the fermaid k, so if I'm using that are the raisins unnecessary?

And so 6 lbs of honey is too much for the ec1118? She definitely wants it to be nice and sweet. Is the 5 lbs of prickly pears too much?
 

Maylar

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Raisins also add some body and a bit of flavor I think, using them is your choice.

Sugar puts pressure, called osmotic pressure, on the walls of the yeast cells. There is a maximum level of pressure that yeast can handle at the beginning of a fermentation, and above that level they go into osmotic shock. The ferment will either stall or never start at all.

It's much better to start the batch with a reasonable amount of honey then as the sugar gets consumed you can add more in small amounts over time and finally the yeast give up at their alcohol limit. Be aware that that would be 18-20% ABV for EC-1118.

I've never used pears, I dunno what a good amount is.
 

bernardsmith

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Hi P4Kman - and welcome. One way of dealing with high ABV meads is to step feed the yeast. That means you feed the yeast a relatively small amount of honey (say 3 lbs) to begin with and then feed the yeast say, 1/2 lb each time until they die of alcohol poisoning. This means that all other things being equal, you will not be creating a mead that finishes so sweet that it will peel the enamel off your teeth. Feeding the yeast 1/2 lb of honey will give you a maximum sweetness of about 17 points of sugar which you can then increase by adding more honey knowing exactly the gravity of the mead at which the yeast has died off and so how much additional sweetness you are providing.

Five pounds of fruit in a gallon of mead will highlight the fruit flavor rather than the honey. That may not be a problem if the honey is not one which your fiance really wants to highlight. What she might do though, is add the fruit to the secondary. That will highlight more the fruit flavors.

Recipes that call for the addition of lemons or lemon juice, as do recipes that call for the addition of raisins (oxidized grapes?) suggest to me the ignorance of the one who created the recipe. Here's why:
Honey has no chemical buffers that control the pH of the must and so the pH can often drop precipitously below 3.0. Adding lemon juice will help the pH drop... but a pH below 3 can stall the fermentation and yeast does not need the addition of acid to aid in fermenting (think beer wort which can be as high as 5.4 or higher). The only reason to add lemon juice is to increase the TA of the mead but TA is not the same as pH and TA affects flavor - so you need to add lemon juice for example IF the mead tastes flabby... Adding lemon juice to the primary is silly.
Adding raisins will provide some more body and a fraction of the nutrients the yeast need(see Maylar's post above).

Last point. Honey is expensive and mead ain't beer. Brewers love to make enough beer in a batch to compete with a local micro-brewery. Good for them. But if this is your first mead why risk 5 gallons of something that a) may take years to age adequately and b) may never be drinkable because of poor protocol? Your fiance, IMO, has it right - one gallon batches are a good way to learn to make mead. and remember - you drink beer by the pint. You drink mead by the glass unless you make a very high ABV drink , in which case you sip mead as if it's a scotch. Rather than imagine that you are making a vodka or a gin without distillation you might rather focus on making "hydromels" or session meads - meads that have an ABV of 5 or 6% and which can be made and drunk at six weeks rather than after 12 or 24 months or longer. Your call, of course. Good luck!
 

Drewed

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Agreed! 6 lbs won't even start to ferment! I would drop that back to 3-3.5 lbs and let it ferment. Once it was done, then I add more honey at the end after I killed off the yeast so it won't keep fermenting. Look up the BOMM (Brays One Month Mead) and follow that. When done fermenting, and after it's been racked at least once, stabilize it and then add more honey to up the sweetness. Unless you are trying to make a "sack mead" ( uber high gravity ) with a bonzo ABV, but don't do that for a first mead. A lot of people get hung up on wanting to make it super strong, but it will taste like crap for at least a year (most likely longer) and nobody will be able to or want to drink it. Keep it more at wine levels ( or strong beer levels ) and enjoy it.
 
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P4Kman

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Oh cool, throughout all my research this is the first I've heard of osmotic shock, that's good to know!

Is adding more honey like you mentioned later be considered back sweetining or is that different?

Love all the advice yall are awesome.

The main reason I'm doing a 5 gallon batch is because I was given a large carboy so figured I'd give it a try, one less carboy to buy :p
 

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I don't know that I would buy 50 gallons of milk just because I had a fridge large enough to hold that volume. I would buy (make) as much as I think I might drink. Making five 1 gallon batches sequentially will teach me far more about making mead than making one 5 gallon batch.
Back sweetening occurs (normally) when your yeast has eaten up all the sugar in the must and you then remove the yeast and prevent any residual yeast from refermenting any sugar that you then add. So all the added sugar is simply sweetner. Your proposed method (in effect) removes the yeast by killing them and so you will have created a very high alcohol concentration. Most yeast are comfortable with an ABV of about 10 -12 % (alcohol by volume). That's a wine . Beers and ciders are around 4- 6 %. Your recipe is for a mead of about 16.5% alcohol. Most yeast won't go beyond about 14% and to remove fusels and other imperfections this might need to age about 24 months... The higher the ABV, the longer the mead needs to age.
 
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P4Kman

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Just finished getting it all together, my fiances mead looks absolutely delicious I can't wait to see the final products.




 

Drewed

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I think would put a blow off tube on each of those for at least 3 days. They both look like they might try to repaint the ceiling.
 

bernardsmith

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I think would put a blow off tube on each of those for at least 3 days. They both look like they might try to repaint the ceiling.
Or alternatively, when fermenting with fruit it is always easier to ferment in a bucket loosely covered with a towel. No need for an airlock during the active period (until gravity drops to about 1.005 when you can then rack to a carboy fitted with bung and airlock). During the active period you want to make sure that the fruit is always kept saturated and does not form a mass or cap on top which can lead to real problems if the CO2 cannot escape.
 
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P4Kman

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So they have both settled down to where we don't need a blowout bucket anymore, but o was wondering when we should add the fermaid k, because they are both still fermenting away no problem.
 

bernardsmith

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There is a nutrient feeding regimen known as TOSNA which can be translated* to mean that you feed the yeast 1/3 of its nutritional requirement when it starts to ferment, 1/3 when the gravity drops by 1/3 (say from 1.090 to 1.060, and 1/3 when it drops by 2/3 (to 1.030 in this example). The idea is that you provide the required nutrition BEFORE the yeast shows stress and other problems because it has insufficient organic material to rebuild cell walls or to metabolize the sugars.

* I say "translated" because the regimen is given in terms of length of time between feedings rather than in terms of the work the yeast has done. Personally, I feed my yeast more than 100% of their nutritional need when they enter the active phase..
 
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P4Kman

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Update:

So first off thank you all for your advice and answers to my questions; we've definitely learned a lot about the meas making process.

My fiance's prickly pear/dragon fruit mead finished first and looks/tastes fantastic. We were a little disappointed it lost that beautiful pink color from the fruit, but we're still happy with it. (We didn't have a hydrometer at first so we don't know the exact ABV, but if I had to guess, I'd say it's around 17℅.)





My peach mead is almost ready to bottle, so I'll be doing that any day now. I'm thinking of adding some vanilla extract prior to bottling, it should really mix well with the peach and cinnamon flavors already in it.




My fiance has already started another 1gallon batch using dark wildflower honey and chai tea, the initial taste test was absolutely delicious, I personally can't wait for this one to finish.

 

cpham574

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Pear and dragonfruit sounds like a delicious combo! Did the mead retain those flavors since you had them in with primary fermentation?
 

Dr_Floyd

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My preferred method of fruit additions is checking gravity every day until I have around 1% or less ABV to go and only then adding my prepared fruit. It lets the yeast eat some of the simple fruit sugars before crapping out yet still leaves enough fruit flavor behind to tell it’s there without tasting like straight up fruit juice. This is especially true of delicate flavors like peach and dragon fruit, those I’d likely add with only half a percent left. Otherwise most of that fruit smell with get carried out by all the CO2 leaving solution.
 
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