Starting my First Mead

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FrodeM

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After trying some small batches of ginger brew last month, I've decided it's time for a bigger batch of Mead! It will totally not be done till Christmas, but perhaps I'll have a try next Christmas.

Went for a flower-honney, as this kind can be bought in 1kilo buckets over here. This particular kind seems to be imported from Etiopia, it's liquid type but it's texture is opaque, and it has a very intense, almost sharp flowery flavour. This flavour was one of the main reasons why I decided to try this for mead, but unless it dampens a bit I might have to find something to balance it with. Was considering adding Juniper berries to the primary (about 1/3 oz per gallon) for a bit of an aftertaste.

The package claims the sugar content to be around 80%, and I got 5 Kilos of the stuff. Will be aiming for 1.100 OG, but might be a tiny bit more depending on how it goes.

I've decided on the 71b yeast, and everyone agree this is a yeast that'll make you rack often. "Often" seems to vary a whole lot; from once a week to once every 2 months, but I guess I'll rack at least once a month the first few months and see how it goes from there.

I'm a bit split on if I will heat-treat the honey or if I should just dump it straight into the must. Any thoughts on this?

That was all for now. I'll report back when things get going!
 

loveofrose

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For 71B, rack when the gravity hits ~1.000. After that, rack every time you accumulate 1/4 inch of sediment. That tends to keep off flavors at bay.

Never heat treat honey unless it's crystallized. When crystallized, only hear it until it becomes liquid. Heat drives off aromatics that improve your mead!

Definitely not ready for Christmas. You would need to make a BOMM for that.
 
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FrodeM

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Went to the local brewing shop to buy yeast, but they did not have 71b. They only had EC-1118, lots of beer yeasts and a couple of non-beer liquid yeasts from White Labs. I went home empty handed, and after reading a bit I decided to rather go for the D-47. Ordered a few packs off Ebay. Winter time is usually pretty cold over here, so high temperature should not be a problem.

Waiting for the yeast to arrive now!
 

CKuhns

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The honey sounds amazing.

D47 Works, I have made a few batches with it, consider staggered nutrient addition. D47 definitely takes a while to age out.

Rack per LOR's recommendation and plan to have a good to very good mead Christmas 2016.:rolleyes:
 
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FrodeM

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Started the mead just now! Sterilized equipment, Boiled water (with the juniper), added honey (the water took ages to cool, so it might have been a bit warm when honey was added. Around 50 degrees C. I hoped the honey would cool it enough to not affect the taste much), let it cool to 27C, and correcrly pitched the yeast (as opposed to the first brew I made one and a half month ago).

Realized I had miscalculated the honey a bit. At 15L water, 5Kg honey turned out at around 1.083 OG. Looks like I'll have to buy another Kg tomorrow to get it to 1.100 then!
 
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FrodeM

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Mixed in another box of honey two days ago, and gravity went up to about 1.095.

A low-reasure weather system hit, and outside temperature rose from -5C to +10C. I had to turn off the mild floor heating, as the room temperature was climbing towards 20C. It's back at around 17C now :)

And of course, a picture!

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FrodeM

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It's down to 1.020, but I got a small logistic problem. I'm soon leaving for the holidays and won't be returning till well into January.

Should I rack it on Tuesday (before I leave), or should I wait till I return (that's about 2-3 weeks extra in primary)? While it might be pretty critical to rack often with 71b, I don't know how the D47 would fare if it was left a few weeks too long on the lees.
 

CKuhns

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Your call, either rack or wait would be OK and not hurt the mead. If you rack you could leave a little residual sweetness as your ferment will likely slow.

D47 typically goes pretty dry. Your ferment is probably pretty slow and racking will slow it further. With that said i do't think it would hurt to keep it on the lee's another few weeks if at 1.020 you still may have a bit to go and unlike some other yeasts D47 does impart some flowery notes.
 

DungMonster

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Dependant on what you do lalvin D47 is not as bad as other yeasts but if sitting on the mud too long it can still impart a bad taste that will increase age time to mellow it out, has happened to me a few times when I would go tdy for a week and it actually ended up being 3 or 4 weeks to get back. It would be smart to rack it first as you never know what can happen. You may get stuck or crash and stay in a hospital an extra 2 weeks. Le PooPoo happens, not saying it will but just incase rack it the day prior to leaving. Then it will keep a slight fermentation going on while your gone but you will not have to worry about anything while you are gone. Since you will not be around to check it I strongly recommend you put the bucket in something that can contain leaks like a plastic bin, just incase something goes crazy while you are gone. Also top off the air lock with whatever you use. When you get home check the mud if it is too much rack again but you should be good for another few weeks. Good luck.

Editt** since you have a white plastic bucket if yiu want to check mud (leese) levels then get an empty bucket to compare, only need to do this once, fill it will a few gallons of water. Take a strong white (led) flash light and hold on side. You do this to compare as buckets have a lip ridge on the bottom that can show a false shadow. Then repeat on the other bucket holding flashlight firm to the bucket, you may have to try a few positions but once you find one that works keep using that position. Now subtract the tester bucket shadow from the fermenter and you get a rough estimate of how much mud is on the bottom of the white bucket. I ated opening buckets nd started doing this, eventually I got tired of using buckets altogether.
 
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FrodeM

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Thanks for the replies!

I've decided to rack, so I've been getting everything ready for tomorrow. I'm going to rack into 5L glass carboys, as these are a bit more practical to handle than the buckets with regards to excess airspace, you cannot get any bigger of the glass ones in this area and simply because it's way easier to check their level of lees.

I've been pretty impressed with how stable I've been able to keep the temperature of this. I have floor heating with an ajustable theremostat on the wall, but the room is in a cellar otherwise cooled by the bedrock. By putting the bucket on a thicker book to give it some isolation from the floor, I was able to keep it pretty stable at 62F.

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FrodeM

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Small update, racking is now complete! It went pretty well, only briefely hit the top of a carboy with the bottle-filler once but otherwise no spilling. Sometimes I wish I had three arms though!

Unsurprisingly the last carboy of the racking was the first to pick up steam afterwards, but now they're all showing signs of life. It never really foamed up too much in the bucket, so I took the chance of asuming that won't change, filling the carboys up quite a bit. All the carboys and equipment was of course sterilized just prior to racking.

The gravity was at below 1.020 now, but not too much below. There was not a huge amount of lees, but that was kinda expected as fermentation is still going on. It did cover the bottom of the bucket, but not more than a few millimeters thick.

I did not transfer the juniper berries. From experience with the ginger brew, the juniper taste seems to be in the form of oil and doesn't really mix too well with the brew. I assume it evaporates away, because the ginger brew doesn't taste even a bit juniper anymore! Juniper is problably best added directly to the bottles when doing the final botteling.

This time of year is pretty neat for brewing in these areas. The sun is only up for around 2-3 hours a day, and on the other side of the hill. Otherwise I would have put these in the shelf to keep them out of direct sunlight.

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DungMonster

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The activity is from th release of the co2 that may have been trapped in the liquid. The transfer helped it break free. Of course there may be a bit more fermentation going on. I still strongly suggest putting it in a plastic tub as a just incase measure, though I am sure yiu have already left so cross your fingers.
 
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FrodeM

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Cleared the floor and put blankets around before I left, so no stress if anything should happen.
 
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FrodeM

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Okay, I'm back now and it seems like fermentation is approaching done, or my room might have been too cold while I was away. More lees have dropped and minimal airlock-activity. Just checked gravity and it's around 1.007-8.

I also had a small sample. Ofcourse it's young and has a bit of a burn, but much less than what I expected (having read some other threads over here)! It's a bit like a semi-dry white, but also a bit like sour apple. Hints of nectar, but the acidity is dominating at the moment.

*Update*
Activity back up to normal after I moved it to somewhere slightly warmer (washing room). Just now, it's unusually cold outside and my bedroom window has terrible isolation. I've having a hard time getting the average air temp in there above 10 Celsius!
 

DungMonster

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Sleep in your washing room! Lol. Nah normally you can get a cheapo shrink plastic to cover your windows for winter. Just attach it and hit it with a hair dryer and it clears up and shrinks for fixing the wrinkles. It works decent for the cheap price. Anyways if you keep the yeast in the room that was 50° F as you stated then it would have went dorment and waited for warmer days. If you can try to keep it at 20° C. Which is 68° F. I find the d47 in my area seems to ferment quite well about there, which is about middle tolerance range for it. As long as it did not stay there too long don't fret and let it keep doing it's work. I have found fermentation to randomly start again after racking but normally it was just co2 release from agitation of the liquid. Let it keep going, after a few week rack it again. After that rack let it sit for a a bit and just keep an eye on it, as this is just aging now. During aging if mud builds up keep an eye out and even mark it on the side where the top is. I like to rack every month that there is mud build up. It can take 3 extra racks or so until mud stops. I have found this mud can leave odd tastes that take too long to age out for my drinking habits and the loss of about 1/2 max is acceptable as the last rack leads to the entire jug being usable for bottles/jugs or just pouring the fi al bit into a cup for drinking lol. Anyways hope any of this helps.
 
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FrodeM

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I took that big piece of foam you can see in one of the pictures and jammed it into the window frame (with some blankets and stuff filling the smaller gaps). With the floor heating on medium strength, I'm able to keep it pretty fine at 17C now. If it drops, it'll go straight back into the washing room.

The floor itself is now constantly at about 25C, while the air is back at around 10C at 1.5m over ground.

Do you think daily degassing will help it along in proccessing the last few gravity points faster? I want to rack this a second time before starting the Heather mead I have been talking about.
 
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FrodeM

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Update: Racked a second time as there was a few centimeters of lees.

A few things I'm a bit uncertain on. Every time I rack there is always a millimeter or two (1/16 inch) lees left after racking. Am I overdoing the racking, and will this have a negative effect?

Also, one of the carboys will have a bit of way too much headspace now, as I don't have a 4 Liter carboy or CO2 to fill it up. I assume this might be a problem...
 

fossilcat

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I think you're right to be concerned with that increased headspace possibly causing oxidation issues. In the absence of another traditional mead "on the side" to top it off, I personally don't like to top off with water or honey mixture or other liquid concoction as some have suggested. Instead, I buy these flat marbles from the pet store that you see used in aquariums. Wash and sanitize and drop them in. They "waffle" on their way down so don't slam into the glass bottom of your carboy like round marbles do. One thing, beware the colored marbles. Some of those are painted. You don't want peeled paint pieces floating around in your mead.
 
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FrodeM

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It has cleared up pretty nicely, and I have started to collect bottles.

So I'm curious about different oppinions on when to bottle. Should I wait at least 6 months, or is it okay to bottle as soon you can read through it? In any case, I have started to collect 0.5cl and 0.75cl bottles.

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JJack887

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That's your call. I bottle when clear, which is usually at the two or four-month mark. I always wait in full 60-day increments, too.
 
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FrodeM

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Roger that!

On closer inspection, I'm a bit worried if I can get out much of the remaining particles. A lot of them are very fine, with almost neutral buoyancy, to a point where it even sticks to tiny bumps in the glass wall. There is also a tiny layer of white particles at the top, with faint traces of similar particles just floating along the glass walls where the carboy tapers. fogs up easily with the slightest movement.

A brewing friend of mine suggested filtering through a sterile coffee-filter, but I don't know if that will have negative consequences as well.

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BeeDeeEff

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When was the last time you degassed the mead? Perhaps there are some trapped bubbles?

Also, have you tried putting it in a refrigerator? maybe you're causing some convective currents in the mead by a temp difference between the surface its resting on vs the top of the bottle in the surroundings.
 
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FrodeM

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I'm pretty worried about the particles at the top. In the carboys with a slow tapering most of it floats to the top, while in the carboy with sharp tapering it collects before the top. When moved it fogs up, but it always returns to this kind of structure when left alone for a day or so.

My biggest fear is that this is due to some kind of contamination... Wild yeast?

Other than that, I've not really degassed this at all since fermentation was mostly complete back in late January. It's been racked twice, but that's all.

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