My Attempt at a Mixed Berry Mead

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Todd Peterson

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Good morning folks.

I took the plunge and put together my first must in some time. I have been away from the hobby for a while and recently got the bug to get back into mead making (I was not a very good maze when I was previously making mead).

I took my inspiration from the following thread : Super Berry Melomel

Apparently, they no longer make black currants. I improvised with blueberry and raspberry juice.

I documented my process and wanted to share with the group to get some feedback on where I might improve.

I look forward to your feedback if you feel so inclined.

  • Quarts of Honey were placed in warm/hot water to reduce viscosity. Honey is a wildflower varietal, primarily clover, which was extracted from my beehives several years ago. Honey had to be decrystalized. Age and heat resulted in darker coloration.
  • Sanitized the fermenting bucket, lid, utensils, etc. – Using 6.5 gallon plastic bucket for primary.
  • Emptied (1) gallon of spring water (Misty Mountain Brand) into fermenter.
  • Emptied two 32 ounce Knudsen Just Blueberry Juice Bottles and one 32 ounce Knudsen Just Cranberry Juice Bottles into fermenter.
  • Added 14 pounds of honey (honey was extremely thin due to the jars taking a hot water bath).
  • Topped to 3.75 gallons with spring water.
  • Hydrometer read 1.15 at 3.75 gallons.
  • Topped to 4 gallons with spring water.
  • Mixed must with drill/attachment
  • Hydrometer read 1.14 at 4 gallons total volume (1.14 was my target SG prior to adding fruit)
  • Boiled 300 ml of spring water to hydrate yeast. At 120 F, added 12.5 grams of Goferm.
  • Bagged 8 pounds of previously frozen mixed berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries) in sanitized bag. Added bag to fermenter increasing the total volume to approximately 5 gallons.
  • At 96F, sprinkled two (2) 5-gram packets of 71B to the Goferm water. Note that the 71B has been in my refrigerator since 2020 with an expiration date of 11/2021.
  • Added ½ teaspoon of pectic enzyme.
  • Added small amounts of must to yeast slurry in an attempt to reduce the temp closer to my must.
  • At the 20-minute mark from adding yeast to the Goferm water, I pitched into the fermenter. Temp of the yeast solution was 86F with the must at 72F. I know that this is not within the suggested 10 degree F window. I felt like my time was running out after rehydrating the yeast.
  • Added 4 grams of Fermaid O – Added the nutrient dry. Was unable to get the dry nutrient to dissolve in the must.
  • Added 2 teaspoons of bentonite to ½ cup warm water. Poured into must.
  • Sealed fermenter, added airlock, placed in cool fermenting bag with frozen bottles. Placed in fermentation chamber/bag at 10:30 AM (pitched yeast at 9:30 AM).
  • Thermometer attached to bucket shows temp of 72F at 11:30AM.
  • I would like to ferment the must in the mid 60s if possible. Will replace frozen bottles as needed to maintain the temp.

Thanks in advance for your feedback!

Todd Peterson
 

Dan O

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Wow! Big recipe. 😲 They may not make the Vinters black currant puree any more, but, they do make black currant juice, usually in the refrigerated section, close to produce. I use it in several of my meads & it's great.
 
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Todd Peterson

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Thanks for the heads up Dan O. I’ll look for it next time. I’ve been unable to locate anything “black currant “ purée or juice, in my home brew store or grocery stores.

The must smells pretty incredible pre fermentation.

I’m hoping I have some signs of yeast life when I look in on it this evening.
 
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Dan O

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Thanks for the heads up Dani O. I’ll look for it next time. I’ve been unable to locate anything “black currant “ purée or juice, in my home brew store or grocery stores.

The must smells pretty incredible pre fermentation.

I’m hoping I have some signs of yeast life when I look in on it this evening.
Here's another you should definitely try.... I made 5 gallons of this back on 8/8/21. It ages like a red wine. It was awesome when I bottled it, & is was absolutely delectable when I cracked a bottle 1 month ago.
👇👇👇👇
 
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Todd Peterson

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Got home to be pleasantly surprised by active fermentation.

I was a little worried due to 1) the yeast past the expiration date, 2) the temp difference between the yeast slurry and the must when I pitched, and 3) the high starting gravity.

Punched down the cap and stirred the must to release, what I though, was a lot of CO2.

The smell coming from the fermenter reminds me of cobbler.

I am using the Cool Brewing fermentation bag. It is doing a bang up job of keeping the temperature of my fermentation vessel in the low 60s. The temp is currently 62F vs the 71F ambient temp of the room. I will need to figure out the right combination of frozen bottles and how often to rotate/replace to maintain the low to mid 60s temp.

Todd Peterson
 
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Todd Peterson

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Hydrometer reads 1.125 this morning. Not sure how it’s going to taste but it smells great and is visually appealing.

Todd Peterson
 

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Todd Peterson

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Great question SimPilot.

I’m guessing 1.020 to 1.025 based on the alcohol tolerance of 71b.

Does that sound reasonable based on the ingredients and directions above?

Would put the mead at 15 to 16% Abv if my SG was right. I know that it is not correct because I’m not really sure what the addition of the fruit does to the gravity - I’m guessing the sugar concentration of the juice coming out of the berries is lower than the 1.14 starting gravity.

Anyone care to educate me for n the impact of the fruit on the SG? Sorry for the rookie question.

Just added 2nd round of fermaid o. She is chugging away.

Todd Peterson
 
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Todd Peterson

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Good morning group.

Made my 3rd Fermaid O Nutrient Addition last night (4.5 grams per the calculator).

The CO2 coming out of suspension no longer smells like cobbler. It now smells like cardboard with a hint of sulphur. Im not going to get too jammed up about it as I think thats part of the process.

Here is my question for the group:

The gravity of the must measured 1.096 this morning. If I am doing my math correctly, I have already passed the 1/3 sugar break if my starting gravity was 1.14 and my projected gravity at the end of fermentation is 1.020.

Am I good to add the final addition of Fermaid O past the 1/3 break? If the pace of the fermentation stays constant, I could see the gravity of the must measuring 1.086 this evening when I am able to do the addition.

Would you add the last addition of Fermaid O or skip it?

I have maintained the temp of the must in the low 60s so far.

I am grateful for the feedback.

Todd Peterson
 

Ren06

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I’ve made 3 successful meads, 1 traditional, 1 cherry melomel and 1 brochet buckwheat honey mead and have added yeast nutrients 1-2x. After adding they reach FG in a few days with heavy airlock activity and I let it sit for 2-3 weeks before transferring to a secondary. My point is 1-2x yeast nutrient addition should be good enough but it’s up to you.

(P.S. in no way am I an expert, just giving my opinion and experience if it helps 😁🤷🏿‍♂️)

Good luck 🍻
 
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Todd Peterson

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The 71b yeast continues to chew through the sugar at a rate faster than I anticipated. Hydrometer read 1.070 this morning.

I have maintained the temp of the fermentation chamber in the low 60s since pitching the yeast. The actual temperature of the must when I punched the cap down this morning was 63F.

I do not have the best palate and have been struggling to describe the smell of the CO2 when off gassing. It hit me this morning what I am smelling. It smells like a wet dog. I know that seems weirdly specific, but it is what I am smelling.

I do not smell it from across the room or even when I open the fermentation chamber, just when I open the fermenting bucket and when I off gas the CO2.

Is this smell a byproduct of fermentation or do I have something to be concerned about?

I have kept the temp low and step fed Fermaid O consistent with the calculator. My sanitization practices have been the best that I am able to carry out. The only thing that I have not monitored was the PH of this must.

Any feedback would be welcome.

Thanks

Todd Peterson
 

Dan O

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The 71b yeast continues to chew through the sugar at a rate faster than I anticipated. Hydrometer read 1.070 this morning.

I have maintained the temp of the fermentation chamber in the low 60s since pitching the yeast. The actual temperature of the must when I punched the cap down this morning was 63F.

I do not have the best palate and have been struggling to describe the smell of the CO2 when off gassing. It hit me this morning what I am smelling. It smells like a wet dog. I know that seems weirdly specific, but it is what I am smelling.

I do not smell it from across the room or even when I open the fermentation chamber, just when I open the fermenting bucket and when I off gas the CO2.

Is this smell a byproduct of fermentation or do I have something to be concerned about?

I have kept the temp low and step fed Fermaid O consistent with the calculator. My sanitization practices have been the best that I am able to carry out. The only thing that I have not monitored was the PH of this must.

Any feedback would be welcome.

Thanks

Todd Peterson
Fermentations can create some pleasant smells & some horrible smells. From the sound of it, yours is doing just fine. I've had 71B throw some weird smells, too, but, I wouldn't concern yourself about it much. Low & slow is a safer bet than fast & furious.
Have you noticed whether there is a cake building @ the bottom yet
If your gravity is still @ 1.070, I would GENTLY stir the lees back into suspension. Sometimes this will help the yeast feast a little quicker without racing through the fermentation, also helps them clean up after themselves a little better. overall, it sounds like it's doing fine.
 
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Todd Peterson

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Thanks Dan O.

I can’t tell if I am getting a yeast cake on the bottom of the bucket. I do stir the must when I degas.

I appreciate the feedback.

I am thinking I will pull the bag of fruit out of the bucket at day 10.

Do you squeeze the juice out of the fruit? At this point, I’m guessing the addition of oxygen may not be great. Do you collect the juice from the fruit in a bowl and gently pour it back into the fermenter?

Todd Peterson
 
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Miraculix

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Thanks Dan O.

I can’t tell if I am getting a yeast cake on the bottom of the bucket. I do stir the mist when I degas.

I appreciate the feedback.

I am thinking I will pull the bag of fruit out of the bucket at day 10.

Do you squeeze the juice out of the fruit? At this point, I’m guessing the addition of oxygen may not be great. Do you collect the juice from the fruit in a bowl and gently pour it back into the fermenter?

Todd Peterson
As long as there is active fermentation, oxygen will be scavanged bz the yeast relatively quickly. I would probably just squeeze the bag till nothing comes out any more, directly into fermenting mead, as long as it is still fermenting.
 
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Todd Peterson

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Good evening folks.

My hydrometer showed the must has fermented down to 1.054 as of this morning (down from starting gravity of 1.14 without taking into account the addition of the 8 pounds of mixed berries). With the exception of the wet dog smell that I am getting when I degas, things are going according to plan. I continue to maintain the fermentation temp in the low 60s and degas/punch down the fruit 2x daily.

I would like feedback on a couple of issues:

1) I am planning on pulling the fruit filled mesh bag from the must tonight. How do you go about extracting the residual juice from the fruit you are removing from the must? is is as simple as squeezing the bag by hand or do you have a more eloquent and possibly sanitary method?

2) Once I have removed the fruit, I do not think there is a reason to open the fermenter again until primary is complete as my gravity should be below 1.050 tomorrow.

3) I used 71B yeast. Am I good to let this sit in primary for another month? I hear tales of 71B giving off flavors to autolysis. I plan on racking to secondary once primary fermentation has halted - I am estimating final gravity at 1.020 - 1.025. I know the yeast will do what they please with fermentation ending too soon or the must going dry. I am only estimating the final gravity based on the tolerance of the strain.

I look forward to your feedback.

Thanks!

Todd Peterson
 

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I have not finished a mead yet so take this for what it is worth...
I have been/still am an all grain BIAB brewer and a lot of what I am heading toward with the fermentation of mead must is very counter intuitive for me, but hey...i guess I will roll with it. when it comes to draining/extracting wort from my BIAB, I just grab the " neck" of the bag and twist to wring it out, after that, while I am preparing other things for the boil I set it in a clean and sanitized bucket. When I am finished with my other task, I pull the bag out and dump what collected in the bucket into the boil....maybe something like that would work for your fruit?

T
 

SimPilot

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1) I am planning on pulling the fruit filled mesh bag from the must tonight. How do you go about extracting the residual juice from the fruit you are removing from the must? is is as simple as squeezing the bag by hand or do you have a more eloquent and possibly sanitary method?

2) Once I have removed the fruit, I do not think there is a reason to open the fermenter again until primary is complete as my gravity should be below 1.050 tomorrow.

3) I used 71B yeast. Am I good to let this sit in primary for another month? I hear tales of 71B giving off flavors to autolysis. I plan on racking to secondary once primary fermentation has halted - I am estimating final gravity at 1.020 - 1.025. I know the yeast will do what they please with fermentation ending too soon or the must going dry. I am only estimating the final gravity based on the tolerance of the strain.
1. Why pull it now? Did you reach desired taste of fruits? My 2c, wait until fermentation completes.
2. I still like to test/log gravity change. Less frequent, but still enough for data point.
3. Another option, if you have ability, is to cold crash your brew when reached your desired gravity. Around 0 C temp, it will help clear it in about 1-2 weeks.
 

Miraculix

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1. Why pull it now? Did you reach desired taste of fruits? My 2c, wait until fermentation completes.
2. I still like to test/log gravity change. Less frequent, but still enough for data point.
3. Another option, if you have ability, is to cold crash your brew when reached your desired gravity. Around 0 C temp, it will help clear it in about 1-2 weeks.
If he pulls it when fermentation is complete, there won't be active yeast to scavenge the oxygen. That's a real problem.

Regarding the squeezing, use sanitised rubber gloves, squeeze the bag, collect the liquid, add it to the mead. Really simple :).

We don't need to take as much care about sanitation with mead as we need to do with beer. Keeping stuff clean is obviously a must, but there's no need to start crying when something unsanitised touches the mead. The alcohol level is so high, acidity low, oxygen not present, nothing really wants to live under these circumstances. Even the yeast that was developed for this one purpose doesn't want to continue.
 

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Good evening folks.

My hydrometer showed the must has fermented down to 1.054 as of this morning (down from starting gravity of 1.14 without taking into account the addition of the 8 pounds of mixed berries). With the exception of the wet dog smell that I am getting when I degas, things are going according to plan. I continue to maintain the fermentation temp in the low 60s and degas/punch down the fruit 2x daily.

I would like feedback on a couple of issues:

1) I am planning on pulling the fruit filled mesh bag from the must tonight. How do you go about extracting the residual juice from the fruit you are removing from the must? is is as simple as squeezing the bag by hand or do you have a more eloquent and possibly sanitary method?

2) Once I have removed the fruit, I do not think there is a reason to open the fermenter again until primary is complete as my gravity should be below 1.050 tomorrow.

3) I used 71B yeast. Am I good to let this sit in primary for another month? I hear tales of 71B giving off flavors to autolysis. I plan on racking to secondary once primary fermentation has halted - I am estimating final gravity at 1.020 - 1.025. I know the yeast will do what they please with fermentation ending too soon or the must going dry. I am only estimating the final gravity based on the tolerance of the strain.

I look forward to your feedback.

Thanks!

Todd Peterson
1: you do NOT want it to sit on the berries for any kind of extended time. my experience is that you will get some unwelcome bitter tannins if you do. Once it reaches the flavor profile you are looking for, pull the berries. That said, you will want to press as much of the juice out of the berries as you can otherwise you'll lose a ton of volume and flavor.

2: correct.

3: The yeast will do what they do... remember that the 14% alcohol tolerance is a MINIMUM value. I would not be surprised if it ferments to completion (0.995). good nutrition and temperature management will assist this. This is a feature, not a bug. but you might have to back sweeten, preferably with juice concentrates or honey.

Good luck!
 
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Todd Peterson

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Why? Did you try it?

Miraculix, fair question. I have not tried the must yet. I was going to pull the berries by Thursday at the latest for the following reasons:

1) Hydrometer reads 1.040 this morning. At the rate the yeast is consuming the sugar, I believe the fermentation will be nearing completion by the end of the week. In the event I introduce oxygen in the removal of the berries and the squeezing of the bag, I want to make sure that I still have some active fermentation left in the hope that the oxygen can be used by the yeast or driven off by the CO2 off gassing.

2) The recipe and procedure that I am following had the original mazer pulling the fruit at 7 days.

Todd Peterson
 

Miraculix

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Miraculix, fair question. I have not tried the must yet. I was going to pull the berries by Thursday at the latest for the following reasons:

1) Hydrometer reads 1.040 this morning. At the rate the yeast is consuming the sugar, I believe the fermentation will be nearing completion by the end of the week. In the event I introduce oxygen in the removal of the berries and the squeezing of the bag, I want to make sure that I still have some active fermentation left in the hope that the oxygen can be used by the yeast or driven off by the CO2 off gassing.

2) The recipe and procedure that I am following had the original mazer pulling the fruit at 7 days.

Todd Peterson
Good Points!

Next time, just try to pull a sample from time to time to see if you are in the sweet spot regarding taste. I never used berries myself in a mead, always just the juice, but as said before, there is the possibility of unwanted harshness coming from the berries after too long time in the must.
 

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Miraculix, fair question. I have not tried the must yet. I was going to pull the berries by Thursday at the latest for the following reasons:

1) Hydrometer reads 1.040 this morning. At the rate the yeast is consuming the sugar, I believe the fermentation will be nearing completion by the end of the week. In the event I introduce oxygen in the removal of the berries and the squeezing of the bag, I want to make sure that I still have some active fermentation left in the hope that the oxygen can be used by the yeast or driven off by the CO2 off gassing.

2) The recipe and procedure that I am following had the original mazer pulling the fruit at 7 days.

Todd Peterson
My 2 cents....I generally pull the fruit anywhere from 7-10 days in. There's a lot of small seeds in the fruit you use, small, but, mighty. There's a big enough quantity of fruit that your tannic level will creep up fast. I would start taking a sip daily to see your desired level so as you don't leave the fruit in too long. Basically, when the fruit has lost most or all of its color, it has given up all the flavor it's going to put out & you're essentially just extracting tannins from that point on....usually around the 7-10 day mark.
I hope this helps you.
Happy meading 😎
 

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I would simply wash your hands in some K-meta and squeeze the bag GENTLY, You want to extract the juice that is now mixed with the fruit. I'd call that first runnings. You might also hang the bag and allow any juice that can to drip for about 15 minutes. In a separate bucket you might squeeze the bag harder. This will expel more of the tannins, which you may or may not want. I'd collect this juice and perhaps freeze it for later - if you think that the mead might benefit from additional tannin. There will be some unfermented sugars in this juice , so treat it as you would if you were back sweetening.
 

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Thank you all for the great input! I’ll follow back up with the group post fruit extraction.

I’m grateful for everyone’s help!

Todd Peterson
You're very welcome.
We're all newbies @ some point. Nobody starts out an expert. I help when I can & hope I don't steer anybody in the wrong direction or give bad advice. People were very kind to me, (& still are), when I first started making mead. I wouldn't have 1/4 the knowledge I have today if it wasn't for other more experienced people answering my questions & doing the reading that I do.
That said, doing research & due diligence for your own process is just as important.
I suggest doing some micro batches. Experiment with the micro batches, that way, if it turns out to be something you wouldn't do again, the loss is minimal & you've gain the knowledge and experience.
On the other side, if it turns out to be great, because you took good notes, (see below👇👇), you can just do the math to make a batch as big as you want.....1, 3, 5, 10, 25 gallons, whatever size you want.

Take fantastic notes, ( your memory isn't as good as you think it is😉)...WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING YOU DO!!

Get your process down...taking readings, nutrient additions, sanitization practices, temperature regulation (if you're able to), then the bigger batches get a lot easier to manage.
I hope this helps you.
Happy meading 😎
 
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Dan O

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@Todd Peterson
@Dan O has super open and helpful, along with so many others. So many things about mead go against my brewing intuition, and I tend to over think some aspects, and not think enough about others....
Mead is usually a lot more forgiving than say beer, mostly due to the higher alcohol content. Brewing intuition aside, just like you learned the steps to make your own beer, you have to learn the way to make mead. It has a lot of similarities, but, differences, too. It's the differences you have to concentrate on getting incorporated into your practices. 😉
 
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Todd Peterson

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At the urging of some of you fine folks, I tried the must from my mixed berry project for the first time this evening.

Being fully honest here. It’s not great. Definitely pick up the alcohol along with cherry or fruit flavored cough drop that lingers a long time after the drink.

The mead has only been fermenting for a little over a week. Hopefully, it’s just the young age of this fermentation that is giving the off putting taste. Not going to get jammed up about it at this point.

Hydrometer reads 1.038 tonight. Fermentation seems to be slowing.

Todd Peterson
 

Dan O

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At the urging of some of you fine folks, I tried the must from my mixed berry project for the first time this evening.

Being fully honest here. It’s not great. Definitely pick up the alcohol along with cherry or fruit flavored cough drop that lingers a long time after the drink.

The mead has only been fermenting for a little over a week. Hopefully, it’s just the young age of this fermentation that is giving the off putting taste. Not going to get jammed up about it at this point.

Hydrometer reads 1.038 tonight. Fermentation seems to be slowing.

Todd Peterson
I've heard a lot of people say the same about cherry leaving that cough drop flavor in their mead & most of them also said it aged out. Bummer that your first batch in a long time will have to age out before it's really enjoyable. All part of the learning curve, I guess. Every day's a school day. 😉
 
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Todd Peterson

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Thanks for the feedback Dan O! We will see how it progresses as the fermentation finishes and the must is moved to secondary fermentation for a while.

I am hoping that it drops anther 10 to 15 points in gravity prior to finishing.

I will keep you posted. I am not opposed to waiting on this one to age prior to consumption. I know thats part of the process given the high ABV of this mead.

Again, I appreciate everyone's feedback and input. I hope to be able to pay it forward one day.

Todd Peterson
 

Ren06

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At the urging of some of you fine folks, I tried the must from my mixed berry project for the first time this evening.

Being fully honest here. It’s not great. Definitely pick up the alcohol along with cherry or fruit flavored cough drop that lingers a long time after the drink.

The mead has only been fermenting for a little over a week. Hopefully, it’s just the young age of this fermentation that is giving the off putting taste. Not going to get jammed up about it at this point.

Hydrometer reads 1.038 tonight. Fermentation seems to be slowing.

Todd Peterson
Cherry definitely does that but it will mellow out. I currently have a cherry melomel in the secondary and it’s been fermenting over a month now but it tastes ready; no alcohol burn or cough drop taste. It is young but it’s very good, I can’t wait to see how it is in a year.
 

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Cherry definitely does that but it will mellow out. I currently have a cherry melomel in the secondary and it’s been fermenting over a month now but it tastes ready; no alcohol burn or cough drop taste. It is young but it’s very good, I can’t wait to see how it is in a year.

Took the plunge and bottled up the gallon of cherry-vanilla melomel made last year after 14 months or so bulk-ageing. It's been a problem-case from start to finish - got caught in a 90-degree heatwave just after pitching a D47 yeast last year and had nowhere cool to move it to. Finished fermenting to about 14.5% ABV and 0.997 in 3 days in the bucket and was foul when it cleared. I didn't rack it more than once and chucked in a vanilla pod so it sat on that plus too much yeast fallout - and headroom. Thank goodness I didn't add more vanilla - it's very evident, but it didn't oxidize Nearly chucked it out - had a hot, almost chilli burn after all that time ageing. In moving and trying it, I'd whacked a bung on the demijohn instead of replacing the airlock and at some point it blew its bung (no doubt from degassing). But still wasn't showing any detectable signs of oxidation or vinegar-contamination.

Decided with nothing to lose to throw in a really good few slugs of smooth barrel-aged French brandy to make a feature of the hot taste, and added 2 caps of brewer's glycerine to try to help with the mouthfeel. Then slipped and managed to shake up the yeast again ... cue the 2-part liquid finings as I just wanted it bottled or down the drain by then ! Next day it was clear and ready to bottle but by this time I'd managed to flood the garage floor after overnight watering the garden above it a bit too hard and accidentally leaving the hose connector (which had burst open) near the wall behind the garage which pooled enough water to breach the damp-proof course.

Feeling cursed and sweeping out floodwater, I tried it - mouth-puckeringly dry, but silky-smooth and the 'hot' taste (and semblence of battery acid) had both entirely gone overnight. Hopefully they stay away ! I racked it onto Campden tablet and wine stabilizer with a generous swig of honeysuckle syrup made last year which brought the FG up to 1.000. It was still dry but at last actually drinkable (before you keel over from the hidden strength - I think you really need a mead-horn for this one). Leaving it on the D47 residue for so long had, however, left something of a 'yeasty' back-note I'm not keen on. It was into the half-bottles again and I'm going to forget about it for a couple of years plus I think. Hoping that yeasty background taste ages out and the vanilla subdues a bit so it's less 'adolescent', or it's going to end up making some local teenagers very merry indeed (our drinking age is 18 over here). On the plus it looks OK. There's always one batch which gives you a load of grief 😅

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