What do I need to start brewing Mead? (and good recipes)

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Will_white

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I have:
Yeast Nutrient
Bourgovin RC 212 Yeast
Acid blend
Pectic Enzyme
Camden Tablets

I'm planning on getting a couple one gallon carboys from amazon. Will that yeast work, do I need anything else, and what's a good recipe to start off with, and what SG should I go to to get the full 16% from the Yeast?

I'm wanting to do one gallon of a traditional mead, and one gallon of a melomol (?) with blackberries.
 
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bernardsmith

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Hi Will white and welcome . Why 16% ABV? What honey are you planning to use whose flavor will nicely balance that amount of alcohol? With that amount of alcohol are you planning to make a dry mead, a semi- sweet mead, a sweet mead or a dessert mead? Regarding your proposed melomel: are you planning to add the fruit to the primary with the honey, to the primary but after some or most of the sugars have been fermented so that the alcohol will help extract the flavor, or is your plan to add the fruit to the secondary so while the yeast will still ferment the sugars in the fruit it is the alcohol that is doing all the heavy lifting flavor-wise?
 

gunhaus

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Hey Will,
My pal Bernard is a wealth of information on mead, and will give you very good advice. He and I agree on many things and disagree on a few small others. I think the same approach is good with mead as it is with beer, when just starting out. Don't worry, don't over think it, and dive in and try. Some of it will go good, some you will want to change. I say do not worry too much about hitting an ABV. And don;t worry too much about fancy tricks. Use some of those ingredients you have. I am sure i will be called out as wrong at some point here - but i say make two 1 gallon batches. use about 2 pounds of decent honey per gallon. add some nutrient. Don't worry much about the other stuff right off. Dissolve the honey, nutrient and water together. add the yeast. Let it go. If bubbles get going your all right. After 2-3 weeks, rack into a secondary. On one batch just leave it alone after racking. Let it go for 3-4 months, then give her a taste. It should be getting clear and will give you some ideas on flavor, body etc. On the other, add some frozen blackberries (Thawed of course) to the secondary when you rack over. And forget it for a couple months too. After a couple months rack it to another jug and let it clear for a while - another month or so. Then start tasting and see. I know this is simplistic, but it will work, and it gets your feet wet, it will also give you some ideas . ( I have not included things about taking OG, and FG, etc - there is a wealth of info on this site about that, as well as the basic sterilize/assemble/rack etc techniques. They are worth knowing and doing from the get go) . I think the key is to have some patience and keep it simple at first. Time is your friend. Start now, and by mid June you will have a couple of meads to try, and then you can build your bag of tricks and techniques. In the mean time you can read up on the numerous posts here. You can pick the brains of folks like Bernard who can help you dial in your techniques and tastes to a T! Just my .02 cents
 
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Will_white

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Hi Will white and welcome . Why 16% ABV? What honey are you planning to use whose flavor will nicely balance that amount of alcohol? With that amount of alcohol are you planning to make a dry mead, a semi- sweet mead, a sweet mead or a dessert mead? Regarding your proposed melomel: are you planning to add the fruit to the primary with the honey, to the primary but after some or most of the sugars have been fermented so that the alcohol will help extract the flavor, or is your plan to add the fruit to the secondary so while the yeast will still ferment the sugars in the fruit it is the alcohol that is doing all the heavy lifting flavor-wise?
For the ABV that's what the yeast will ferment to and I prefer strong wines. I'm not sure of the specific variety of honey but I have a friend that is a beekeeper so I'll probably just get some from him, it's just "wild flower" so mostly blackberry blossom and clover. I'm thinking I'll shoot for a semi-sweet to dry. Regarding when I'm planning on adding the blackberries, I bought the yeast to make blackberry wine this summer so i'm thinking I'll add it in the primary with the honey, and maybe some in the secondary.
 

bernardsmith

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So this is my take - and believe me there will be dozens of folk on this forum who will laugh at this thought - fruit wines (grape and other country wines) are generally made at about 10-12 % ABV (a starting gravity of about 1.090). And wine is all about balance - the level of alcohol, richness of flavor, acidity, tanninity (is that a word?) and sweetness. I might also add mouthfeel.

Now, with a traditional mead (no other fruit or herbs or spices etc, just the honey) all the flavor comes from the honey as does the alcohol so while it is certainly possible to make a mead that is 16% alcohol it is not always easy to ensure that the flavor profile counter-balances that amount of alcohol. Ditto the other four elements. Just because a yeast CAN hit 16% does not mean that YOU must aim for it too. IMO, you should aim for an ABV that makes sense given the balance of those 6 elements. It's like a mortgage, just because the bank says that it views you good for a loan of $400,000 does not mean that that is the loan you want to take out. Perhaps a loan of $200,000 better suits your needs and your goals...
 

bernardsmith

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Don't know that everyone thinks my approach is good or that might advice is good or that I am such a stickler about yeast... but while many "brewers" on this forum opt for EC-1118 I tend to read the various labs' spec sheets on the yeast that they cultivate. There are good reasons why there are dozens of varieties of yeasts that labs spend $$$$ on cultivating. To ignore the specs is like choosing only a hammer to fill your tool chest. Chisels, screw drivers, saws, drills all have purposes. Can you get by with just a hammer... I imagine you can... but why would you want to?
 
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Will_white

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So this is my take - and believe me there will be dozens of folk on this forum who will laugh at this thought - fruit wines (grape and other country wines) are generally made at about 10-12 % ABV (a starting gravity of about 1.090). And wine is all about balance - the level of alcohol, richness of flavor, acidity, tanninity (is that a word?) and sweetness. I might also add mouthfeel.

Now, with a traditional mead (no other fruit or herbs or spices etc, just the honey) all the flavor comes from the honey as does the alcohol so while it is certainly possible to make a mead that is 16% alcohol it is not always easy to ensure that the flavor profile counter-balances that amount of alcohol. Ditto the other four elements. Just because a yeast CAN hit 16% does not mean that YOU must aim for it too. IMO, you should aim for an ABV that makes sense given the balance of those 6 elements. It's like a mortgage, just because the bank says that it views you good for a loan of $400,000 does not mean that that is the loan you want to take out. Perhaps a loan of $200,000 better suits your needs and your goals...
Good points, I think I can probably get a good balance with the melomel at 14-16%, that's the same range as the berry wines I've liked. Would you recommend something in the 12-14% range fermented to dry and back sweetened for the traditional? Do you have a link to the SG and FG chart for ABV, Sweetness etc? I've found it a couple times but I can't seem to find it now.
 

zonkman

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Like so many before me, I started off with the classics: Bray's One Month Mead (BOMM), and Joe's Ancient Orange Mead (JOAM). Recommended. Mead gets better with time. I carbonated the BOMM. Recommended.

I'm very interested in bochets (caramelizing the honey) and have a couple of batches going. Some great step-by-step articles out there on that too.

The best mead resource: Modern Mead Makers group on Facebook. GotMead has a great "newbie guide" covering the basics.
 

Kent88

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You pretty much have everything you need, just get some good quality honey.

You may want 16%, but I'd advise you to make that your goal for an upcoming batch.

I'd suggest you use your friend's honey in your melomel, and get some nice orange blossom honey for the traditional/"plain" mead. I've made a couple meads just using local wildflower honey and they aren't the greatest.

3lbs honey per gallon of mead is a good place to start for a traditional/"plain" mead. Do some research into staggered yeast nutrient additions. With a one-gallon batch you might not need to do staggered nutrient additions, but it is worth considering.
 

zonkman

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Also, I got all my 1 gallon fermenters from Whole Foods. Works great. Check out their glass 1 gallon apple juice ($7.99) - excellent for making cider / graff, too. :ban:
 
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Will_white

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Like so many before me, I started off with the classics: Bray's One Month Mead (BOMM), and Joe's Ancient Orange Mead (JOAM). Recommended. Mead gets better with time. I carbonated the BOMM. Recommended.

I'm very interested in bochets (caramelizing the honey) and have a couple of batches going. Some great step-by-step articles out there on that too.

The best mead resource: Modern Mead Makers group on Facebook. GotMead has a great "newbie guide" covering the basics.
Reading through the GotMead newbie guide kits lots of information.
You pretty much have everything you need, just get some good quality honey.

You may want 16%, but I'd advise you to make that your goal for an upcoming batch.

I'd suggest you use your friend's honey in your melomel, and get some nice orange blossom honey for the traditional/"plain" mead. I've made a couple meads just using local wildflower honey and they aren't the greatest.

3lbs honey per gallon of mead is a good place to start for a traditional/"plain" mead. Do some research into staggered yeast nutrient additions. With a one-gallon batch you might not need to do staggered nutrient additions, but it is worth considering.
I'd prefer to keep it local, so orange blossom is pretty much out, not many orange trees in Oregon. What other options would are available that are local to the Northwest? Most of what I see is blackberry.
 

Kent88

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I'm not familiar with what is available in the northwest. Go ahead and try out what you can get locally.

I was just going by my lack of enthusiasm over wildflower. It can make decent mead, I've just been reading that when it comes to a traditional/"plain" mead that has no fruit or spices to show off that you really want to invest in some good honey.

I don't know if what you have is good. It might be fantastic, or it might not be. I've had locally produced honey at farmers markets and some are great, and some as disappointing.
 

RD52

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Also, I got all my 1 gallon fermenters from Whole Foods. Works great. Check out their glass 1 gallon apple juice ($7.99) - excellent for making cider / graff, too. :ban:
Yep, that's what I just did as a "returning" mead maker, after a 20 year layoff.

Drank most of the apple juice, but saved 40ozs to mix with the honey and water, mostly as a yeast nutrient. The only equipment I bought before the start was an airlock and bung, although I should have gotten a hydrometer too. (Have since bought one).

3 weeks in now, still bubbling although it's slowed quite a bit.
 
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Will_white

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So reading through the Newbee Guide I think I'll use this yeast with a berry melomel, and get a different yeast for a traditional once I bottle the melomel. What's the usual amount of berries per gallon? I was thinking 2 or 3 lbs in the primary.
 

Shine0n

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Depends on the flavors you're after, more berry, more honey?

I did a 5 gal raspberry melomel that I used 10 lbs in primary and it turned out Fantastic, you can really taste the berries but can still taste the honey as well.

Play with some ratios for what you think you may like. 3 lbs is a good start then next batch you'll know to add more or less.

Good luck
 
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