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specialkayme

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So I'm new to mead. I mean new new. Greener than green. Lost, and very overwhelmed. And I realize mead shouldn't be like this. And yet here I am. Looking for some help.

Intro:
First go at homebrew was a strawberry wine when I was 20 (30 now, for what it's worth). It turned to vinegar, and was gross. I decided to try beer. Made about a dozen brews over 5 years. Some were ok, others not so much. My wife (then girlfriend) was not a fan, and dissuaded me from homebrew again until we bought our first home. June of 2014 year we closed on our first home. So I'm back in the game.

I'm a beekeeper, which means I usually have ~300 lbs of honey lying around. Decided to try mead. Bought a book (http://www.amazon.com/Making-Mead-Ho...5D88R77N0CDQ7P) that was sold in the local homebrew shop when I was in college, by the beekeeping master Roger Morse. I got a recipe from it (per gallon):
1. 3.5 lbs honey
2. 1 gallon water
3. 4 grams ammonium phosphate
4. 4 grams urea
5. 4 grams cream of tarter
6. 4 grams of a mixture of tartaric and citric acid

Took the recipe to a local home brew shop (moved since college). Had the carboys, honey, and what not. Needed the rest. Homebrew owner was away on vacation, and his cousin was working the shop. Had no idea about mead, or any of the ingredients I was asking for. Left, went to a new homebrew shop further away. 2nd homebrew worker had no idea what items 3 through 5 were, and didn't sell them. Did a google search, and suggested that it was probably used for yeast nutrient. Gave me yeast nutrient instead. I showed him the recipe, he told me it was probably from the 70's and not to use it. I asked for a new recipe, he told me he didn't do mead . . . sorry.

So now it appears the whole book was worthless. I scroll through a few homebrew books I had, and came accross this one (http://www.amazon.com/More-Homebrew-...JSFXZ6XHN4XJ1K). It has a recipe for a basic mead on page 297 (but not much in the way of instructions). So I take the recipe from the second book, and use the method in the first book.

The mead:
The recipe I used was:
1. 17 lbs 8.5 oz honey
2. 2 tsp energizer yeast nutrient
3. 1 tsp citric acid blend
4. 1 tsp tartic acid
5. Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast
6. Fill to 5 gallons

The process started on 9/5/14. I boiled 1.5 gal of water, added honey, brought to "pre-boil", added other ingredients (not yeast and energizer), added to carboy (after sanitation, obviously), topped off with boiled water, let cool (approx 3 hours). Pitched yeast, added to carboy.

The recipe said starting gravity should be 1.100. My test showed 1.040. Don't know why, as 17.5 lbs of honey should have pushed it much higher, but probably too new to work it right. Acid test showed between .1 and .15%. Original ph was just below 4.6.

On 10/5/14 I racked it, added water to top, added a campden tablet. SG read at 1.055 (confirming inital reading was off).

On 1/3/15 I racked it again, added water to top, added a campden tablet. SG read at 1.039.

On 4/2/15 I racked it again, added water to top, added a campden tablet (no SG reading).

On 7/3/15 SG read at 1.039. I assume fermentation has been completed. Went back to local homebrew shop. Told current employee I needed equipment to bottle mead. He asked how long it was in the carboy, I said 10 months (all per the meadmaking instructions in 1st book). He looked at me like I was from mars. He said it probably went bad already. My heart dropped. I asked how long a mead should have fermented. He told me 6-8 weeks usually, or usually until it clears. Mine had been going for 10 months, and it hadn't cleared.

Forlorn, I figured the extra time period couldn't have hurt, and now I should probably just bottle what I had. So on 7/3/15 I bottled the mead. Glass bottles, real cork. Nothing added to bottles (other than sanitized first). I put the bottles back in the box, and laid it down on it's side.

The problem:
I wake up yesterday morning, and the pantry (where the mead is stored) smells like mead. See a puddle on the ground. Open up the box, and one bottle blew it's cork. I clean it all up, and pull the bottles out of the box, laying them on their side. At 6 pm last night, one cork had pushed it self halfway out. I pull it out, and recork. 10 am this morning, I hear a pop, and a third (different) bottle blew it's cork. Mead everywhere.

I check the SG of the mead that blew. It's carbonated more than some champagnes I've had. How the heck did that happen? Checked the SG (which isn't easy to do with a highly carbonated product) and it read at 1.039. Really, really confused. Some sedimentation in the bottom of the bottles. Weird.

So clearly, I did something wrong. I don't know what I did wrong, and I don't know how to fix it. Do I pull all the corks out? Is it a continued fermentation issue? How can it still be fermenting a year later? Why is the SG not dropping?

The real problem:
I had a carboy full of mead sitting in my kitchen for a year. My wife was not a fan. But she let it go, because soon there would be sweet mead (and it made me happy). Now, I've got mead leaking all over the place, making the pantry sticky. She's really not a fan. I would very much not like to have my bottles continue to explode, causing more "marital issues." I'd also like to learn what the hell I need to do, and make a successful batch of mead.

So much conflicting info out there. I'm lost, confused, overwhelmed.

Can someone:
1. help me fix my first batch, and
2. Point me in the direction of a basic, no nonsense, sweet mead recipe (and method) that I can follow and not waste my time?

I tried going to gotmead.com. Posted the same question. Got one response that was "great question . . . I'll cover the recipe issues in a podcast in 10 days." Then the thread got closed. Before I could get any help. Which made me more lost, more confused, and more overwhelmed.

Please . . . any help?!?!
 

stella_tigre

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First batch, sounds like you should uncork and put back into a fermenter!
They apparently were not done, sometimes fermentation gets stuck but can restart. Ask me how I know (cellar smells of cyser from two bottles blowing corks!)
Take gravity reading. Initially your reading was probably off because the honey was not mixed completely and settled. Action depends on the reading.
Good basic recipe - see recipes for Mead on this forum! Bray (loveofrose) has a wonderful article, and hightest a basic sticky at the top of this forum also.
Basically you can't bottle a sweet Mead without special consideration. Stabilize, via chemicals or alcohol poisoning of the yeast.
 
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specialkayme

specialkayme

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Thank you for the reply stella.

Would I be ok putting it back into a 5 gallon carboy? Now I'm down to about 4.4 gallons of mead. Will the extra air/head space hurt the mead?

If it didn't finish in 10 months, how long will it take to finish?

The basics of mead making make sense, is simple, and is what draws my attention to it. But it's SO easy to get lost in the middle between all the different recipes and methods. Do you boil or not? Do you add acids or not? Do you add yeast nutrients and energizers all at once or at three different times? Do you airate or not? Do you add something to clarify the mead or not? That's where I'm getting lost . . .

I tried to follow a recipe from the '70's, and that didn't work. I tried to follow a different recipe, and I'm in this mess. Was it the recipe that messed me up, was it me, or was it just a freak chance?

Thanks again for the help.
 

stella_tigre

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Well I'm pretty newbie myself. I'd say that getting the stuff back out of the bottles before more is lost is the first step, and for now the 5 gal carboy is better than nothing. Try to get it in by siphoning, I should think - you don't want to aerate too much, but at the same time you'd be degassing it. Get the gravity reading. Get an airlock on it. If it's not dry (close to 1.0) you might need to wait to see if the yeast is still working. Red Star Pasteur Champagne can make it up to 15% ABV or so if it's really happy, but not knowing your real starting gravity makes that difficult to gauge.
EDIT - reading your comments again, you may have stalled out the fermentation by racking too soon (should not rack until below 1.010 or so,) which I did with the above mentioned cyser. There is little yeast, but given enough time, it might get itself going again....
I might suggest one of our more experienced mazers would know more here.

The head space is NOT good if it's not fermenting anymore, and the solution there is varied (from sanitized glass balls to topping off with more water/honeywater if it's dry, but then you get into backsweeting and stabilizing.)

The new methods of mead making involve keeping the yeasties happy with staggered feedings, so that they work more quickly and don't throw off lots of odd side products. The mead will still need aging, but not as much as if it was struggling to ferment. At least that's my take on it....Suggest you stick to the more modern recipes, here at HBT and at Gotmead and stormthecastle.com, and check out loveofrose's site at https://denardbrewing.com/

EDIT: and PS a lot of people bulk age in the carboy before bottling, often for months or a year or two, as long as you have very minimal headspace, it won't go bad!!

PPS: Don't lay corked bottles on their side for a week or so after bottling
 

IRonMc

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Mead can be good! Stay calm don't get overwhelmed.

Unfortunately I have to agree you better uncork and put those bottles back in the fermenter unless you want more bombs going off, carefully!! With a funnel and towels near by. I've seen shards of glass before, you don't want to get that far! I'd repitch a fresh batch of champagne yeast on top after you get it in the fermenter as well to be sure. Might of had a bad batch of yeast to start or maybeb àpitched the yeast while it was still too warma?? Was it down to 65-75 F (18-25C)? Or itmight have gotten contaminated? If that's the case it might be lost sorry.

I've never had one stop higher than 1.010, but that one started at 1.145 and ended up about 18% abv. But not tasty in the least! Had a few finish as low as 0.900. So aim between there for a finish and repitch if its not getting there.

To make it sweet you need either a non fermentable sugar like lactose smells like stale milk in a mead or pasteurization (inconsistent results for me), or wine additives
To kill the yeast and add sweetness ( pottasium sorbate, pottasium metabisulfate) but I've never really used these cause I prefer dry mead anyways.

As a tip My wife preferred the fruit meads and or the spiced meads that I made. plain mead is a bit of an acquired taste at the best of times.

Keep trying the first one never works.
 

IRonMc

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Also, the site I started with was www.stormthecastle.com don't know if its an authority or anything but I didn't get any bad advice from there and the basic recipes all worked. Simpler is always better with mead in my experience. Mix boiled water with honey cool to room temp add yeast and leave it in the primary in a dark room for 3 months and it will take care of itself. Good luck.
 

Paul_F

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Over on GotMead, take Oskaar up on his offer to message him directly so he can help... He's a pro!
I'm too much a noob myself to answer much, but one thing I noticed is your addition of a camden tablet at every racking... That is like hitting your mead in the head with a hammer, killing some, and stunning the survivors... That is probably one reason why the ferment is taking so long.

Also, please do go read loveofrose's site. He too is a wealth of knowledge!
 

gratus fermentatio

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Can someone:
1. help me fix my first batch, and
2. Point me in the direction of a basic, no nonsense, sweet mead recipe (and method) that I can follow and not waste my time?



Please . . . any help?!?!
Sounds like you bottled too early. The mead continued to ferment, building up pressure from generated CO2 & blowing the corks. I think I'd try to get that mead back into a carbouy & be certain to add a campden tab per gallon (dissolved) to guard against oxidation. You run the risk of reintroducing oxygen during the process of emptying bottles.

If you can avoid oxidation, your mead will likely be tasty in a year or two. Believe me, it's worth the wait. In the meantime, you can always make something that doesn't take so long, like a cider or graff (malt cider).

1st, you need to take a SG reading on your mead. Hopefully you have a hydrometer, if not, you need to get one. They're between $5 & $15 at any HBS. When you get the reading, if it's any higher than 1.010, you need to let that mead continue fermenting. You can learn how to read your hydrometer here:
http://www.grapestompers.com/articles/hydrometer_use.htm

For most mead, you need to think in years, not months. That being said, there are a couple of mead recipes that are supposed to be ready sooner, like Joe's Ancient Orange Mead (JAOM for short). You can find that recipe & many others here:
https://www.homebrewtalk.com/forumdisplay.php?f=80

The book that really helped me when I was just starting was this:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0937381802/?tag=skimlinks_replacement-20
I'd suggest you read it before starting another batch, it will answer many questions, some of which you haven't thought to ask yet.

Mead is pretty simple. Figure 2 or 3 lbs honey per gallon of container size, yeast nutrient/energizer, DAP (diammonium phosphate), and water to fill the fermentation container, your choice of yeast & time. There are endless variations too. If you have a closet where a full carbouy of mead would be safe, and the temp is fairly stable & within acceptable parameters, you might be better off keeping it there. It'll be dark, out of the way & the wife will be happier.

For a basic sweet mead recipe, I'd say go with 3 - 3.5lbs honey per gallon, yeast nutrient/energizer (follow the pkg instructions), DAP (follow pkg instructions), campden tabs (1 per gallon, crushed & dissolved), and water to fill the fermentation vessel to the appropriate level. Don't boil, just warm the water to make mixing it with the honey easier & mix well. Be sure you take a SG reading (Specific Gravity) with your hydrometer, the starting gravity is often referred to as OG (Original Gravity). Wait at 12 - 24 hrs after sulfiting (campden tabs) to pitch your yeast. If you're using dry yeast, rehydrate according to the instructions on the packet. Be sure you aerate the must very well. You actually want to introduce oxygen at this point. Sometimes I'll mix part of the must in a sanitized blender till it's frothy & then stir that back into the rest of the must. You can also just stir the must vigorously.

You might want to use a yeast like Montrachet or Lalvin 71-B as those yeasts will peter out right about 14% ABV. You'll want your OG to be right about 1.100 (roughly) if you use either of those yeasts. This should give you a mead that's just on the sweet side. You can always backsweeten later if you want it sweeter. Just remember it's going to taste terrible for about a year, then it'll start to get better & better.

Keep it in the dark, in a closet or if you must keep it in the light, at least cover it with a towel or a blanket. It's not like it's film, but it'll do better if you keep it in the dark & you'll avoid it becoming "lightstruck." Yes, too much light can give you off flavors.

Now it's just time & periodic checking & racking (siphoning) when the lees (sediment) get too thick. The goal with racking is to rack off the lees to a new container, making the mead clearer & clearer each time you rack. Then I'd suggest bulk aging as it's easy & makes for a uniform product. Just be sure to keep the airlock filled. Bottle after a year or two & be sure to tuck a couple of bottles away for a few more years so you can see how good it is after 4 or 5 more years, you'll be amazed. You might want it sweeter, if that's the case, you could backsweeten & stabilize, which is a normal thing to do; I don't, because I don't like sorbate. I actually calculate (roughly) how much honey to reach that point at the beginning of fermentation.

I didn't mean to write a novel with this post, just trying to be helpful.
Regards, GF. :mug:
 
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madscientist451

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Why were you adding campden tablets when the gravity was 1.039?
The Campden tabletgs won't exterminate your yeast, but it will make them stop eating sugar and reproducing for a while.
1.039 isn't anywhere near done.
I would get a 3 gallon carboy and a 1 gallon glass jug and put all your mead in them and keep an airlock on it until its done.
Since you are a beekeeper and have honey, perhaps you would like
to try cyser, which is hard cider made with apple juice and honey or
pyment, which is a wine made with grape juice and honey.
There's all kinds of articles and recipes available, just google it.
There are some good podcasts where meadmaking is explained, just search for that, too.
Good Luck!
 

loveofrose

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Lots of newbee mistakes here as well as an old recipe that we now know has many bad practices. Since you are a beekeeper, you have good honey. If you have good honey, then you can make good mead.

Start by reading this article to give yourself some current understanding:
Current Mead Making Techniques article here:
https://www.homebrewtalk.com/current-mead-making-techniques.html

After that, try making a JAOM or a BOMM for something fast drinking and confidence building. Keep it simple at first to get the basics down, then expand. Anyone here will help you along the way.
 
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specialkayme

specialkayme

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For the time being, I put all the bottles in the refrigerator. Hopefully that slows/halts any fermentation that's going on until I figure something else out.

EDIT - reading your comments again, you may have stalled out the fermentation by racking too soon (should not rack until below 1.010 or so,)
It's frustrating how widely varying the information is out there on meadmaking.

The '70's book made it sound very important to rerack every 3 months. The guy at the homebrew shop told me 3 months is way too long, as the sedimentation in the bottom will give the mead a horrible flavor. I waited till there was a good amount of sedimentation in the bottom (maybe a half an inch to three quarters of an inch) before racking.

PPS: Don't lay corked bottles on their side for a week or so after bottling
Noted, Thanks!

Might of had a bad batch of yeast to start or maybeb àpitched the yeast while it was still too warma?? Was it down to 65-75 F (18-25C)?
I waited until it was 80 deg F to add the yeast . . . I thought that was what I was supposed to do?

Over on GotMead, take Oskaar up on his offer to message him directly so he can help... He's a pro!
I did, and we went back and forth for a few min. Very nice guy. Ultimately he told me to get 3 different 1 gallon glass bottles and re-ferment it over a few weeks or months. It really sounds like this is turning into a pure cluster. I was mainly looking for a second opinion (not that I didn't trust Oskaar).

I'm too much a noob myself to answer much, but one thing I noticed is your addition of a camden tablet at every racking..
Why were you adding campden tablets when the gravity was 1.039?
The '70's book told me it was VERY IMPORTANT to add a camden tablet at every racking. Otherwise the "bad yeasts" would overpower the "good yeasts." The guy at the homebrew shop told me the camden tablets weren't required, but were certainly a good idea at every re-rack.

So . . . I shouldn't have used them?

I think I'd try to get that mead back into a carbouy & be certain to add a campden tab per gallon (dissolved) to guard against oxidation. You run the risk of reintroducing oxygen during the process of emptying bottles.
So . . . yes or no to the camden tablet? I'm confused.

In the meantime, you can always make something that doesn't take so long, like a cider or graff (malt cider).
I already decided to make a cyser (sp?) while I read a new book on meadmaking that I ordered (actually this one http://www.amazon.com/dp/0937381802/?tag=skimlinks_replacement-20). Thanks for the suggestion.

1st, you need to take a SG reading on your mead.
I did, it's all above. My OG was probably off. I don't know why. Poor mixing perhaps.

For a basic sweet mead recipe, I'd say go with 3 - 3.5lbs honey per gallon, yeast nutrient/energizer (follow the pkg instructions), DAP (follow pkg instructions), campden tabs (1 per gallon, crushed & dissolved), and water to fill the fermentation vessel to the appropriate level. Don't boil, just warm the water to make mixing it with the honey easier & mix well. Be sure you take a SG reading (Specific Gravity) with your hydrometer, the starting gravity is often referred to as OG (Original Gravity). Wait at 12 - 24 hrs after sulfiting (campden tabs) to pitch your yeast. If you're using dry yeast, rehydrate according to the instructions on the packet. Be sure you aerate the must very well. You actually want to introduce oxygen at this point. Sometimes I'll mix part of the must in a sanitized blender till it's frothy & then stir that back into the rest of the must. You can also just stir the must vigorously.
Very helpful. Thanks!

Thanks for all the help so far everyone.

I'm still a little confused on how to re-ferment it though . . . . should I go buy a bunch of 1 gal bottles, or buy a bag of marbles and go with a 5 gal carboy (that I already have)?
 
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Homercidal

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Mead, like wine, can be tricky due to the way it's packaged and the amount of alcohol.

I highly recommend The Compleat Meadmaker by Ken Schramm. Very good book, if a bit small. But making mead isn't that technically challenging.

I think knowing what nutrients and additives to add at the right time is the only difficulty. I think people today prefer to spread the nutrients out across 2-3 feedings.

There is a method to get the gravity down further, but I can't recall what it's called. MF something. You can find it on a wine forum. You might read up on that, but I've read that stirring up the must and adding a bit of energizer can restart a stalled fermentation.
 

bernardsmith

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The reason to add k-meta (or campden tabs) at each racking has nothing to do with fermentation and everything to do with the use of the SO2 that the k-meta produces to inhibit oxidation. Technically, there is a relationship between the acidity of a wine and the value of adding free SO2. The more acid the wine (or mead) the less SO2 is needed to inhibit oxidation but a rule of thumb is simply to add the equivalent of 1 campden tablet (crushed ) every time you rack and you rack about every two to three months.
IMO, the only real difference between the meads made today and those made 40 years ago is that today most mead makers don't heat (still less boil) the honey - mead ain't beer and heating honey only evaporates off all the volatile aromatics and flavor molecules leaving you with a duller mead than the honey might have produced.
2.25 lbs of honey diluted with water to make a gallon of must (the liquor prior to the addition of yeast) will produce a mead with a potential alcohol content of about 12% alcohol by volume. You need an hydrometer to confirm this and check the fermentation process to know when you can bottle.
Of course, since yeast produces CO2 (and alcohol) and if that CO2 is still absorbed in the liquid then any change in air pressure or temperature can expand that gas and force it out of the liquid - so you don't want to bottle while there is CO2 in the mead. Time will allow the gas to be expelled or if you are in a hurry to bottle there are techniques for "degassing" - including , whipping the CO2 out of the liquid (gently) or using a vacuum pump (about 22 inches of vacuum) to pull the CO2 from the mead.
When honey is fermented the pH can drop a great deal - to a level that will stall further fermentation - so you don't want to add any acids to the mead while the yeast is still doing its job. The yeast does not need any help in increasing the acidity... If you think the mead does not taste sharp enough when it comes time to bottle you can add tartaric acid (or acid blend).
Honey also has no good nutrients for the yeast and yeast like you and I need nutrients (in the case of yeast minerals and nitrogen) - and that is what the nutrients in the recipe were designed to provide. Many (most) folk add about half the amount of nutrients as soon as the yeast has started to ferment (after the lag time) and half of the remaining nutrient when the gravity has dropped by about half (if the starting gravity was 1.090 then you add half at 1.090, a quarter at 1.045 and the last quarter at about 1.025)
Yeast also need oxygen so it is better to ferment mead (and wine) in a bucket covered perhaps with a clean towel and to only add an airlock (bubbler) when the density of the mead (the specific gravity) drops to about 1.010 or 1.005. At that point you want to rack the mead to a carboy (the so-called "secondary" fermenter (it is still the primary fermentation) with no headroom... and then rack every couple or three months - topping up with some similar mead or mix of honey and water to keep the container full to inside the neck
 

Matrix4b

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Wow, I am so sorry for you troubles.

Mead is the simplest of beverages to brew. I can see a number of things that have changed over from the books. So here is some basics for, if you haven't gotten them yet.

1. Mead will not go bad in the fermenter. The guy that you were talking to at the brew store was probably thinking about beer.

2. Do not boil your honey. You only need enough to melt it and mix it with the water.

3. It has been discovered that you do not need cream of tartar, acid blend and a host of other things that were previously thought. Mead is simply, water, honey, yeast, and yeast nutrient (DAP, GoFerm, ect, lots of brands out ther). Some people put in a yeast energizer too. On the primary fermentation, that is really all that is needed in a "Basic" mead recipie.

4. Don't panic, I can tell that your bottle bomb incident is due to yeast still being active. Many people like to put in Potasium Sorbate and Sulfides to kill the yeast when they feel it is done.

5. It is ready to bottle when you can read newsprint through it, this is for a "Basic Mead". You get the idea. But for some meads you may have adjuncts (fruit, spices, ect) that may darken it.

6. Once you can read through it, I would oak it. 1 oz of lightly toasted oak chips or oak cubes for 3 weeks is enough for a 1 to 5 gal batch. It will vastly improve the flavor.

7. Relax. Mead is generally very forgiving.

8. Make a habit of cleaning up after every session, it makes the spouse happy to have a clean kitchen when done.

9. I like to rack about once every other month or so. Basically a good rule of thumb is that if there is a bit of lees at the bottom (1/8th to 1/4 inch or so) at the 2 month mark from the last racking, do so again to take it off of the lees. Experience has taught me that it makes the process of settling and clearing out easier.

10. After Postasium Sorbate and/or sulfating it you may wish to run a clarifying agent. I like Superclear or some others out there. On the cheap, egg whites have been used but I am not sure how much.

11. Many people infuse the fruits and spices that they wish after the primary fermentation (after first racking) and brew buckets and mesh bags will be your savior in clean up time among others. I like putting the oaking chips into a hops bag for ease of removal. And with spices: Less is more. It is very easy to overspice.

12. As you gain in confidence you will realize that you don't have enough honey and carboys. Yes, being a beekeeper is optimal here. Mead is easy. Don't over complicate it and have fun. A good rule of thumb is 3-5 pounds of honey per gallon. I do 12 pounds in a 5 gallon, let it go dry (eat up all the honey) and the Stablize (stop the yeast with the Potassium Sorbate and/or Sulfates) then Backsweeten (add more honey in water) with a 50/50 mix of honey water going 1/2 gal and 6 pounds of honey. This makes me end up with a sweet mead at about 14-16% ABV. Most yeasts will eat up the sweetness up to their rated alcohol tolerance (from 22% for most champaign yeasts to 18 for most wine yeasts) and that is approximately 1 pound per % in a 5 gal batch) but occasionally you will have some yeasts go "Above and Beyond" this is why you stabilize.

I hope that this helps you, feel free to ask any questions.

Matrix4b
(Great resource is gotmead.com)
 

stella_tigre

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Soo as I understand campden (potassium or sodium metabisulfite) you use it:
24 hours before pitching yeast, IF you are using unpasteurized juice or fruit in your primary. Honey is antiseptic, so if you used water boiled and then cooled, there should be no need for campden at that point unless you use the fruit or unpast. juice.

Since first racking is normally when the majority, but not all, fermentation is done, you don't normally use it then unless you suspect something bad happened - contamination or lots of oxygen.
I know that the winos :) on the forum often use campden every other racking, to forstall those two issues.
EDIT wow two big answers while I was typing! lol
 

Matrix4b

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Soo as I understand campden (potassium or sodium metabisulfite) you use it:
24 hours before pitching yeast, IF you are using unpasteurized juice or fruit in your primary. Honey is antiseptic, so if you used water boiled and then cooled, there should be no need for campden at that point unless you use the fruit or unpast. juice.

Since first racking is normally when the majority, but not all, fermentation is done, you don't normally use it then unless you suspect something bad happened - contamination or lots of oxygen.
I know that the winos :) on the forum often use campden every other racking, to forstall those two issues.
EDIT wow two big answers while I was typing! lol

I have rarely found the need for Campden. If you are going to the secondary, keep in mine that in the secondary it is near or over 10% alcohol. So you don't really need it. Some people like to campden their juice prior to use but as I said, I have rarely found it necessary. The primary rule of all fermentation is that your equipment be sanitized before use. If you do that your chances of having a batch go bad from some bug or other are very slim.
 

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The idea of adding the campden tablets when racking assumes that you have allowed the fermentation to finish before the first racking.
I agree with Marix4b, above that you really don't need to use the campden tablets at all.
In recent years, I have stopped using chemicals in my wine and cider. The alcohol is a pretty good preservative, and my low alcohol items usually don't get stored long enough to spoil, I drink them or keep them cold.
 
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specialkayme

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So, it sounds like the combo of the added acid and the camden tablets were the two main issues that prevented the mead from finishing. Sound about right?

Alot of really good info for me here. Thanks to everyone so much. I'm learning so much for the next round.
 

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The addition of Campden tabs during racking is primarily to prevent oxidation. The SO2 released into the must binds with oxygen molecules & prevents them from binding with alcohol molecules, thus preventing oxidation. If you are transferring the must, you are risking the introduction of oxygen. Racking (siphoning), is the least risky, that's why we do it that way; but if you're pouring out bottles of mead back into the fermenter, the risk of oxidation is much higher. You can siphon from each bottle to the fermenter & that will lower the risk, but the risk is still more than a single rack from 1 vessel to another & it's a lot more work. Not trying to complicate things, just explaining the sulfite (campden) addition.

As for acid blend, I find that I rarely have a use for it when it comes to straight mead. I mainly use it (sparingly) with melomels that are a bit bland. I wait though, till fermentation is complete. You can add acid blend or tannins at any time. I like to wait until I have a better idea as to exactly what the flavor is going to be before adding acid or tannin. The idea being you can always add more, but once added, you cannot remove it.

You know, depending on how many bottles you have, you might consider just removing the corks & replacing them with bungs (rubber stoppers) & airlocks. virtually zero risk of oxidation or contamination (after sanitizing the bungs & airlocks), no need to rebottle, just let that mead continue to ferment in the same bottles. You'll need to sacrifice 1, maybe 2 bottles for hydrometer readings, but once it reaches 1.002 or so, you'd be OK to recork, though you'll get a bit more sediment in the bottles this way. Like I said, depends on how many bottles you have & how much you're willing to spend to save this batch. You can always save $ & do it another, riskier way. It's your mead & your choice, I'm just tossing ideas out there.
Regards, GF.
 
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specialkayme

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I appreciate the thought, but with 22 bottles as we currently stand, that might be a little more difficult.

I have a gallon jug already, and about six 1/2 gallon growlers. I may just use some of those. At least refermenting part of it at a time.

I like the idea of going with a 5 gallon carboy, but with only 4.3 gallons left of mead, I think it's going to be a pain to add 7/10s of a gallon of marbles.

So, clearly I had an issue with getting the mead to ferment the first time, after letting it sit for 10 months and re-racking it about 4 times. What's to say I don't have the same problem this time? How do I ensure that when I put it back in the gallon jugs that it'll ferment all the way this time?
 

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Don't rack it so much. Just let the yeast do their thing & wait. Leave it in primary for 3 weeks, then rack to secondary, NO CAMPDEN at this racking. Again, wait & let the yeast work for you. Let that cyser/mead sit in secondary for a month or two; you might need to rack sooner if you have a lot of lees. After you second racking, let that mead sit. Unless you get a lot of lees, over an inch or so, just let it be. You can sulfite on your 3rd racking if you feel the need. Think of mead in years, not months. I've bulk aged mead & melomel in carbouys over 4 years & they turned out great. About 1/3 of mead making is patience.
Read & RDWHAHB. :)
Regards, GF.
 

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Don't rack it so much. Just let the yeast do their thing & wait. Leave it in primary for 3 weeks, then rack to secondary, NO CAMPDEN at this racking. Again, wait & let the yeast work for you. Let that cyser/mead sit in secondary for a month or two; you might need to rack sooner if you have a lot of lees. After you second racking, let that mead sit. Unless you get a lot of lees, over an inch or so, just let it be. You can sulfite on your 3rd racking if you feel the need. Think of mead in years, not months. I've bulk aged mead & melomel in carbouys over 4 years & they turned out great. About 1/3 of mead making is patience.
Read & RDWHAHB. :)
Regards, GF.
I must agree with this. Also, when starting out. Don't worry about oxidation. That's some more advanced tinkering. Mead has much less chance of oxidizing than wine. Just don't sweat it. If it takes you 3-6 months to rack, so be it. Mostly, it's about the level of the lees than timing.
 

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If you have a gallon jug and extra honey maybe make a starter and repitch. Works sometimes to restart a stuck ferment.
Put some clean water in the jug with 1/2 lb of honey at room temp and a fresh pack of yeast. Pop an air lock on it overnight. If it looks happy the next day use it to top up your 5 gal fermenter. Might dilute you're batch a little but better than throwing it away?
If you'really concerned about the pH you can sometimes get pH test strips from home brew shops to give it a check.
 

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"I waited until it was 80 deg F to add the yeast . . . I thought that was what I was supposed to do?"

Yeah 80 F should have been fine. I ushaully like the cooler temp to start but 80s not too high.
 
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specialkayme

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Also, when starting out. Don't worry about oxidation.
Can do. Sure makes things easier :)

If you have a gallon jug and extra honey maybe make a starter and repitch. Works sometimes to restart a stuck ferment.
Very interesting . . . I like this idea.

I have plenty of honey. About 400 lbs lying around at the current moment (I harvested about a month ago, so it has to last me [both personally and honey sales] for a year, but still). I could probably easily get another packet of yeast, make a starter, repitch, and at the same time add some DAP to help with fermentation, then go from there. All in a 5 gal carboy.

But I shouldn't add a campden tablet when I empty the wine bottles into the carboy, correct?

I suspect, however, it will likely be another year or so from here if I did it that way, right?
 

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Holy crap, I would like 400 pounds of honey "Lying around". Honey is the most costly part of mead making, second to glass. But Glass can be manageable if you recycle your bottles.

For me the amount of honey you are talking would make about 45-48 cases work of 12 oz bottles.

"But I shouldn't add a campden tablet when I empty the wine bottles into the carboy, correct?"

Correct. If it were me, I would empty the wine bottles into a brew bucket, top up with some 1/2 honey and 1/2 water, add your starter and DAP in the bucket. Then let it go. Rack to the secondary when the bubbling slows way down to about one bubble a minute on your air-lock. Then rack to a glass 5 gal carboy and let it go, rack only when the lees gets too high, say about every 3 months, conservatively. When you rack the second time put in some potassium sorbate to be sure and let it go. Then when clear, rack one more time put in some oak for 3 weeks, and then bulk age or bottle age for 6 months at least.

"I suspect, however, it will likely be another year or so from here if I did it that way, right? "

Yes, or nearly so. Each mead comes into it's own in time. It is forgiving so it's easy to just bottle, put in the cellar and forget about till you harvest honey again. Then make a new batch, crack open the old one and boom, mead cycle complete.

Hope it goes well. What type of honey do you have and sell?

Matrix4b
 

gratus fermentatio

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But I shouldn't add a campden tablet when I empty the wine bottles into the carboy, correct?
Yes you should add Campden if you're emptying bottles into a carbouy. This will help prevent oxidation. I know this sounds like a contradiction, but it's not. The yeast need oxygen early in the fermentation, this is why we aerate the must prior to yeast pitch.

When racking, you usually only sulfite every other racking, this is to help guard against oxidation. Now if you're pouring out the mead you've already bottled into a carbouy to continue fermentation, you risk oxidation & sulfites will help prevent this. Crush the tablets & dissolve into a bit of boiled & cooled water, about 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of water will do. Add this to the sanitized carbouy before you transfer the mead. It's up to you if you sulfite or not, I'm just offering advice.
Regards, GF.
 
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specialkayme

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I don't want to sound argumentative (I really appreciate all of the help), but I simply don't understand.

For some reason, the fermentation got stuck last time, to the point that the SG was left at 1.039 (I thought this was because of the extra honey I put in there, but I didn't really know what I was talking about, obviously). The fermentation was either stuck (from what I can tell) because (1) I added too much acid to the batch, (2) I didn't add enough yeast to the batch, or (3) I added too much campden tablets to the batch after each racking (and subsequently racked too often, but I think the two worked hand in hand, that the fermentation was stuck AND I was adding campden tablets, which only made things worse). Did I get that about right?

As far as (1) goes, after the acid the Ph was 4.6. From what I've read, that isn't so low it's likely to prevent fermentation.

As far as (2) goes, I would suspect that was possible, but I pitched the yeast per the packages instructions. I can't remember if I used one packet or two of champagne yeast. I think it was one, but I remember the brewshop worker telling me it was only $0.50, so screw it get two. I wish I wrote that part down (as my memory from 1 year ago is less than ideal). In any event, I doubt it was a yeast issue. But possible.

As far as (3) goes, I don't fully understand that issue. I get that campden tablets prevent oxidation. I get that oxygen is mead's best friend for the first few weeks, then mead's worst enemy for the rest of it's life, and that the addition of the campden tablets after the fermentation is mostly finished helps with that.

What I don't understand is why some don't add the campden tablets, while others do. I get the points I just wrote, but others say that once the fermentation is almost done, the high alcohol content reduces the risk of oxidation anyway. I don't see how the two match up though (alcohol and oxygen).

In any event, with a SG of 1.039, when I move the mead from bottles to carboy, is the fermentation done enough that I need to add campden tablets?

Such conflicting info out there.
 

gratus fermentatio

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As far as (3) goes, I don't fully understand that issue. I get that campden tablets prevent oxidation. I get that oxygen is mead's best friend for the first few weeks, then mead's worst enemy for the rest of it's life, and that the addition of the campden tablets after the fermentation is mostly finished helps with that.

What I don't understand is why some don't add the campden tablets, while others do. I get the points I just wrote, but others say that once the fermentation is almost done, the high alcohol content reduces the risk of oxidation anyway. I don't see how the two match up though (alcohol and oxygen).

In any event, with a SG of 1.039, when I move the mead from bottles to carboy, is the fermentation done enough that I need to add campden tablets?

Such conflicting info out there.
Some add Campden, some don't; it's really an individual choice. When I 1st started out in this hobby, I wanted to keep all my fermentations as pure & natural as possible (still do), so I never used Campden or any other chemicals, except for sanitizing equipment. Everything went just fine for a few batches, then I had a melomel that was infected with lactic bacteria. I dealt with that & managed to save the batch, but continued on with my chemical free fermenting.

Then I had a couple batches of mead that got oxidized during racking. Once a mead is oxidized, nothing can save it, fix it, or cover it up; it's not even fit to cook with. It has a nasty taste like a combination of wet cardboard & soggy wheaties. I had to dump those batches; all the money I spent on honey, all the time & effort I put into them went down the drain. Lesson learned. I used Campden from that point on.

High alcohol content does NOT protect against oxidation. It will protect against infection of many organisms, but oxidation is the alcohol molecules bonding with oxygen molecules. All the alcohol in the mead is susceptible to oxidation under the right conditions. Now, that being said, it is certainly possible to produce a great mead without using Campden (sulfites). It's common for people to use sulfites at one point & not another. Unless there is a problem, I only sulfite to sterilize the must prior to yeast pitch & then only at every other racking after secondary, and then I only use a 1/2 dose. It works well for me, that's why I continue to do it that way; I haven't lost a batch or had an infection since I started doing it that way.

You don't have to sulfite when you pour out those bottles, I just think it's a good idea to do so. How do you plan on getting the mead from the bottles to the carbouy? I'm guessing you'll pour them into a funnel placed in the neck of the carbouy, thus introducing oxygen into the mead. It may or may not oxidize. There may be enough CO2 in solution to protect it, there may be enough CO2 produced by the restarted fermentation to drive off the O2 & protect the mead; then again, maybe not. Sulfites protect against oxidation.

You can reduce the risk by siphoning each bottle into the carbouy, a bit of a pain & still risks oxidation, but less risk than pouring it thru a funnel. I'm not trying to harp on the oxidation issue, just trying to explain it. Maybe I'm not explaining it very well.

Now as to your yeast concerns, I think you started out just fine. 1 sachet of dry yeast is good for batches 1 gallon to 5 gallon according to the manufacturer, but many of us, myself included, use it routinely on 6 gallon batches without any problems. I think what happened with the stalled fermentation was that you racked too early AND sulfited. I've racked & had a fermentation slow down to almost zero, but with some gentle stirring & maybe a slight temp increase, you can usually get it to restart. Basically you lowered the yeast population by racking, then slowed it down even further by sulfiting; it takes a while for it to repopulate sometimes.

You should be fine on your PH, but you might want to dose it with some yeast nutrient if you haven't done so already. You could also repitch yeast. You might need to grow a starter & acclimate it to the must by adding must to the starter incrementally, then when it's acclimated, pitch the starter. This should help to restart & finish quickly, though it will take a bit longer to clear & you'll get more sediment, but might be worth it in the long run; it's an option.

Whatever you do, it's your mead, it's your choice. I'm not trying to tell you "you must do this," I'm just giving you some options on how to save the batch based on my own knowledge & experience, but you need to do (or not do) what you think will work best for you.
Regards, GF. :mug:
 

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I got a small batch of BOMM going. Probably 4 days on at this point. I degassed last night.

On the subject of oxygenating, I plan to rack using CO2 and the carboy cap. I haven't had all the stuff to do it like this before, but I do now (if I plumb that extension to my CO2 lines to allow for charging kegs and bottles and whatnot without having to pull hoses out of the kegerator.

In this way a person can maintain the CO2 in the headspace of the primary and directly start a siphon to push the mead (or beer or wine) through a dip tube and into a secondary already filled with CO2. You *can* do this with your mouth, but I've been holding off on it until I had my CO2 rig set for it instead. I don't like the thought of breathing into my mead.
 
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specialkayme

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How do you plan on getting the mead from the bottles to the carbouy?
Ideally, I'd like to siphon it. I say that only because I suspect I may have an issue using the siphon I have in reverse (as the large end won't fit in the wine bottle . . . but we'll see). But you are right, if I can't then I'll end up using a funnel. If I use a funnel, I'll probably try and tilt it to the side, hopefully to let the mead run down the side of the carbouy rather than splash around. But this is probably just wishful thinking.

I'm not trying to harp on the oxidation issue, just trying to explain it. Maybe I'm not explaining it very well.
I think you are doing a good job explaining it to me. I'm understanding significantly better than I was before.

I think what happened with the stalled fermentation was that you racked too early AND sulfited.
You're probably right. I didn't worry about it because I figured there was no way that I could have had this problem if I only added one campden tablet, and racked every 3 months. But I guess I was wrong.

Either today, or more likely tomorrow, I'm going to get started on fixing the mead. I at least know enough to start on that. I decided that I'm going to take 3.5 lbs of honey and put it in a gallon jug with some DAP and yest energizer and pitch the yeast into it. At the same time, take the wine and siphon it into the 5 gal carboy, and add 1 crushed campden tablet. After the 1 gallon jug has started going off, I'll add some more DAP and entergizer to the 5 gal batch, and top it off with the new pitched yeast.

I also decided that I think I'm going to have to start ordering my supplies online. I went to the local brew shop with a list of supplies, and they basically didn't have any of them (Fermaid-k, Go-Ferm, SuperKleer). Everytime I would ask for something, they would say "Um . . . I'm not familiar with that, what does it do?" And then would just point me to the bottle of yeast energizer and say that's probably the same thing.

Which is fine, but if I'm trying to learn, I want to replicate the recipe as darn close to the original as I can before I start trying to make some changes.
 
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specialkayme

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I don't know about wine, but they said they've done mead before. One guy was telling me about all the different types he's made. Who knows though.
 
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specialkayme

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So I figured I'd give an update:

I uncorked all of the bottles last Sunday and put it back in the 5 gallon carboy (while adding a campden tablet, crushed). It was my goal to siphon the liquid, but that didn't work. So I ended up using a funnel. It splashed around a bit, so it may end up being lost. But I'm learning, so there's that. The bottles ended up filling the carboy to about the 4 gallon mark, if not a little bit more.

I took another gallon jug, added 3.5 lbs of honey, filled with boiling water, and added some yeast nutrient and DAP. Let cool to 80 deg. and pitched the yeast. The goal is to get the 1 gallon jug down to the ~ 1.040 SG mark, then add it to the 5 gallon carboy. As of today, SG in the 1 Gallon jug was at 1.090 (when it started at 1.133). So we are moving. I'm going to add a little more nutrient and DAP to the 1 Gallon once it hits below 1.080 mark, then add some more when I introduce the 1 Gallon to the carboy.

In the meantime:
I started a cyser last Sunday as well. At least this way I should have some end product to drink while I wait. Should take between 6 and 8 weeks, according to the recipe I had.

I also ordered and am halfway done reading The Complete Meadmaker.

Next Batch:
Next, I think I'm going to do a 1 Gallon JAOM batch, followed by a BOMM batch (I hope my abbreviations are right). If those work out halfway decent, I'll have a second go at a basic mead (maybe 1 gallon, maybe 5, not sure yet), followed by some type of spiced mead, or melomel, or something else. Not sure yet.

So, do you think I'm on the right track?
 

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Best of luck with the old batch, and the new one! I like that idea of filling the headspace using a starter, make sure it has the best chance to get going.

Remember I mentioned the cyser I bottled too soon? Another one was pushing out the cork, so I chilled them, uncorked, let them sit overnight to warm back to room temp and get rid of SOME of the carbonation, and recorked this morning. Those (as well as the beer bottles that I actually added freaking priming sugar to) are in my cool storage room inside of a plastic tub (with latching cover!) in case of bottle bombs or further issues. The cyser was bottled over 2 1/2 months ago, so hopefully they're all right now...the beer bottles fizz over when you open them, even after chilling, so I am crossing my fingers they make it...

Lessons learned, eh?
 
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