Mead questions!

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Mead questions!

Postby cascade » Sun Sep 07, 2003 12:26 pm

I've been interested in making my own mead for several years now, & today I've been browsing the internet looking for mead making instructions. I've come up with quite a bit of information, recipes, & instruction - all varying greatly in the complexity of the process.

I think I'm just about ready to give this a try, but have couple of questions that I can't seem to find difinitive answers for. Maybe I will find them here?

My first question is temperature, or more specifically temeratures during each stage of the process. I'm going to be doing this in my apartment, & I have a temperature range of about 65F - 80F throughout the year. Is this an exceptable range?

Next question is the time the process would take. If I start now, will have I have "Christmas mead" to share with family & friends. It seems from what I've read, that I "will" have Christmas mead. Just Christmas of 2007...

I guess my third question would be about moving the setup once it is started. Like I said, I live in an apartment, but if a house I like & can afford comes my way, I'm there. Will moving the containers during the fermenting process affect the mead? Or should I put this project on the backburner?

Thaks ahead of time for any responses!

-Sam

http://www.coinmonger.com
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Watch out for moving

Postby jayhawk » Sun Sep 07, 2003 2:29 pm

Moving the fermenters will almost certainly lead to oxidation of the mead, which leads to a faster deterioration of the drink, as well as off flavours. But do not let that stop you. If you do a batch and let it ferment for 30 days, you should be able to bottle it and let it continue to age in the bottle. Moving the bottles will not have a deleterious effect on the mead. Mead is notorious for taking a long time to ferment, so add yeast nutrient to the batch and allow for at least 30 days of fermentation prior to bottling.
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Thanks for the reply!

Postby cascade » Sun Sep 07, 2003 5:02 pm

Thanks for the reply!

Some of the kits & recipes I see say it can take upwards of 12 months to ferment, & others (along with your reply) give a minimum of 30 days. I don't mind waiting at all, but is there a certain rule of thumb as far as how long to let it ferment with a basic recipe for a beginner?

This is going to be so much fun....
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not an expert

Postby jayhawk » Sun Sep 07, 2003 6:23 pm

I have been making beer for a few years, but I have only had the chance to make mead once. I didn't have much success, as I was just winging it. I tried to make a lemon ginger mead, but had no idea of proportions for the lemon juice and ginger so it came out a little out of balance. Anyways, there are a few things about fermentation I can pass along that may help you figure out what is going on.

With mead, your fermentable sugar comes from honey. With beer, the sugar is from malted barley. I have read the reason that mead can take so long to finish fermenting is because honey lacks the same nutritional elements that come from malted barley. Therefore, the yeast are not quite as vital and it takes longer to do there job. Also, a lot of recipes I have seen request the use of wine or champagne yeast. Intuitively one can assume that wine yeast is predisposed to longer fermentation times relative to ale yeast. Therefore, this contributes to the 12 month fermenting period you have read about. The solution to this is to add yeast nutrient, and, if desired, use an ale yeast. When I made my mead, i used wine yeast with the addition of nutrient and the mead was ready to bottle after 30 days. Realistically, do not get to hung up on yeast type seeing as this is fundamentally a learning process.

The 12 month time frame could also refer to the fact that the mead should get better with age. Beer and wine act simillary, and generally taste better after a prolonged conditioning.

The way to tell if your mead is totally finished fermenting is to buy a hydrometer. This device will tell you the amount of sugar that is left in solution in your batch. At the start of fermentation, the reading will be high. As the yeast convert the sugar to alcohol, density of the liquid is reduced and thus the hydrometer readings reduce as well. The carbohydrates (sugar) found in mead are 100% fermentable, and therefore the final reading of the mead should be close to 1.00, which is the density of water. Beers have final readings higher than one because ale yeasts are not able to convert all of the types of carbs that are derived from mashing malted barley.

Post more questions if you got them.
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Alot to learn

Postby cascade » Sun Sep 07, 2003 7:01 pm

Thanks again for the reply! Both very helpful.

I guess I'm going to try to come up with a recipe that goes about 30 days for my first try.

Along the lines of the hydrometer, I'm reading that sanitation helps keep the vinegar producing yeasts out of the mix. If I'm going to be opening the container up to use these tools, or in some cases I've read that you can add honey in intervals to keep the yeast happier, isn't this opening my brew up for contamination?

Also, is it exceptable to leave a certain extra amount of sugar if one is looking for a sweeter brew?

Thanks again for the replies! I have alot more reading to do, but hopefully I'll start this project this weekend. I just need to find a recipe thats smaller than 5 gallons. That seems a bit much for my first trial run.

-Sam
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A couple of notes

Postby fitz » Mon Sep 08, 2003 4:07 am

First, honey takes so long to ferment, because it is a complex sugar. Since mead is a wine(honey wine) you should take many steps that you use for making wine(yeast nutrient, etc)
If you would want to make a sweet mead, select a honey with good residual flavor, like a clover honey. Berry honey is good for mead, but it tends to ferment out dry, and to leave a bit of a "tang" in the finish. Allow yourself time if making mead. Don't rush to bottle in a month. Chances are, you will still have some yeast suspended by then, and in some cases still fermenting. Choose your yeast by how much Alc. you want your mead to have. If residual sweetness is what you desire, go for a yeast with a lower alc. tolerance, and then put enough honey in the mix to go beyond that. You want to make sure your yeast is dead, and out of their before you try to bottle a sweetmead. At best, you would have sparkling mead, at worst, you would have to move, because your apartment would be full of broken glass and mead stains.
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Yikes

Postby cascade » Mon Sep 08, 2003 10:45 am

Ok, so no hurrying for sweet mead. Next question. Let say my mead is complete. Fermetning is done, yeast is dead, & its ready to go. I'm out of town, & won't be home for another 4 or 5 days. Is this going to mess things up as well? Do you have to bottle imediatly when its done, or might I have a week or so window?
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Bottle at leisure

Postby jayhawk » Mon Sep 08, 2003 3:29 pm

Your fermenter is really just a big bottle that has a pressure relief valve. The mead will not go bad if you leave it in there. However, you will not want to leave it on the yeast cake indefinitely because eventually the "dead" yeast will contribute off flavours. So, yes, there is a decent window of bottling opportunity.
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I think I'm ready for a trail run.

Postby cascade » Mon Sep 08, 2003 5:31 pm

Thanks for all the help & suggestions!

I'm going to visit the local brewer supply store tommorrow or Wednsday & hopefully find what I need. Then its off to find some really good honey!

Any last tips? :-)

Thanks again!

-Sam
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A couple

Postby fitz » Tue Sep 09, 2003 5:35 am

ECH 1118(I believe) This is a good yeast, that will produce a 18% alc. wine. For a sweet wine, add enough to make it 19%. One thing with wine, you'll be doing a secondary, and a third and fourth vessel to make sure it is clear. Make sure to avoid oxidation. Have fun with it, and don't forget the yeast nutrient.
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Rack for clarity

Postby Push Eject » Tue Sep 09, 2003 1:27 pm

Sam,

My wife makes mead and after primary (about a month) she has me rack it to a smaller carboy and off the sediment, topping up the level if needed so there is no air in it.

She then has me rack it about every 4-5 weeks for about 4 months before she'll bottle it (always making sure to keep the air space to a minimum - I actually push the mead between carboys with c02 to minimize exposure to oxygen even further).

The last week or so before bottling I throw it in a 40 degree fridge.

It all seems to make for a much clearer mead by giving the proteins & remaining yeast a chance fall out of suspension.

Hope that helps!

Cheers,
Charlie
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Top it off?

Postby cascade » Tue Sep 09, 2003 1:57 pm

When you top up the level after racking it, are you actually mixing up more honey water to top it off with? or are you saving extra from the original mix to top off with later?

I'm also curious about the the co2 deal too. Is this something you buy? Or is this a setup you cam up with yourself?

Thanks!

-Sam
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Topping up and c02-ing

Postby Push Eject » Tue Sep 09, 2003 2:51 pm

Top up with whatever your "brewing water" is... in our case boiled distilled water cooled to the temperature of the mead.

The c02 thing I cobbled together myself: out of the c02 tank into one hole in one of those soft rubber carboy hoods, out of the other hole with a syphon cane and into the second carboy through another rubber carboy hood.

I hope that made sense, if not I'll take a picture of it.

www.morebeer.com has all pieces if your local homebrew store doesn't.

Cheers,
Charlie
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You'd be surprised

Postby fitz » Wed Sep 10, 2003 3:34 am

You'd be surprised what a falling barometer does for clarifying too. The $#!+ just falls out of there. more noticeable with Wine than with Mead(less solids than the fruit)
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More mead questions please!

Postby cascade » Wed Sep 10, 2003 12:46 pm

I've just purchased some equipment to get started this weekend, but I'm getting more confused.

1.) I have my 7 gallon bucket (primary fermentor?)
2.) My airlock
3.) sanitizing products
4.) Thermometer & thing that measures the sg
5.) Yeast. I acutally found mead yeast, that comes in a refrigerated pack that I have to break & let sit in room tempurature & wait until it expands

6.) yeast nutrient
7.)
A combo of the tannins & malic acid stuff. Its an all in one product.

Now most of the recipes I read tell me to heat or boil, & mix the water, honey, & acid, skim & let cool. Now some say to transfer to primary fermenter to cool, then next day rack into "another" fermenter. I only have one right now, my "bucket". Can I just transfer into this & do my first 30 day or so cycle? If I can, do I need to "rack" or can I just dump. Some say to dump to get some air for the fermenting to begin.

Now supposedly around 30 days its time to rack into my "carboy". From what I read, it says to check for sediment build up to tell if its time to rack. Well I have a white plastic primary fermenter bucket. I won't be able to "see" anything. Do I need to go back to the store & get glass for my primary fermentor? Or can I do the first racking in 30 days no matter what?

I'm finding so many contradicting things out there my head is spinning.

Thanks again for all the help in my previous thread!

-Sam
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