Mead questions!

Brewing processes and methods. How to brew using extract, partial or all-grain. Tips and tricks.

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You're doing fine... don't worry too much

Postby Push Eject » Wed Sep 10, 2003 2:25 pm

There was a great article a while ago in Zymurgy about the relationship of gleaned knowledge : worry : quality.

There IS a lot to learn, but fortunately it's not all critical on day one of our homebrewing careers. Try, if possible, to go with what you've learned, take notes as you go and write down questions as they come up, and take it as easy as you can.

As far as your specific questions: you are definately going to want another 5 gallon container. Plastic or glass, whatever, as long as you can transfer your wort (must in this case, I think) off of the sediment and into secondary / tertiary / etc...

Glass is a little nicer than plastic as it doesn't scratch and harbor bacteria, but then again if you drop a glass carboy you can sever a limb, so up to you. You can pour your must into the fermentor letting it splash into primary... after that oxygen is a no-no.

Don't worry too much about racking at the perfect time. 21 - 30 days will be right if your temperature isn't fluctuating wildly too off the mark. You can always take a sample and check gravity with your hydrometer... in three weeks it will probably have attenuated 65 - 70%. It's time to rack within a few days of that. If, however, you just let it sit (at a respectable temperature for your yeast strain) for 30 days and then rack it, I'm certain you will be fine.

Don't let the contradictions bother you, instead it's kind of like a dozen different ways to make a delicious cake... all are different, but all can produce lovely results. Try them all, if you want, but mainly just dive in. In time you will have your own bag of tricks and tips.

Hope that helps.

Cheers,
Charlie
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Some things aren't importtant

Postby fitz » Thu Sep 11, 2003 5:40 am

Some of the things they are getting you to worry about isn't critical. Some things are important though. The first transfer(from pot to primary, can be poured. The oxygen will help the yeast to procreate. The next successive transfers need to be done with a transfer tube without splashing into a GLASS secondary. The reason for glass, is that wines are secondaried for long periods of time, and plastic doesn't do good over time. Oxygen permeating into the wine, loss of acohol content trough plastic, etc.
Is your yeast a sweet mead or for a dry mead?
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It will be sweet mead.

Postby cascade » Thu Sep 11, 2003 6:51 am

Thanks again for the replies. I'm thinking straight again.. lol.

This is going to be a sweet mead. I have a specific sweet mead yeast. It comes in a silver package that you have to "break the bulge", kneed it a bit, & let it sit out. It was produced in late June, so The guy at the store told me to let it sit for 48 hours, & the package should expand when ready.

After reading through all kinds of recipies, I'm going with one that asks for 20lbs honey for a sweet mead. It also doesn't require acid blend, or malic acid or tannin, but DOES ask for I think it was Irish moss? to help with clarity.

Any suggestions on the malic acid, tannin, or acid blend? I've read that acid blend leaves a bad taste in mead, & I want to go as organic as possible, unless I can cut a little time off the process to have it ready for Christmas. These recipes all have very different things in the acid/tannin department, & I'm still don't understand 100% what they do, & if I even need them.

Another thing I wanted to do was rack it into two 2 1/2 gallon carboys (or 2.8, whatever I can get), instead of one 5 gallon. Bad idea/good idea?

Oh, one more thing. All these 5 gallon recipies, say to use 5 gallons of water. Won't I have "way more" than five gallons after adding the honey? How much water with 20lbs honey?

I'm going to setup a web log with pictures to document as I go through this process. Maybe it will be helpful and/or of interest to some. I'll post the url when it get there.

Thanks again for all the replies. It has been really helpful to me!

-Sam

http://www.coinmonger.com
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wine and acid

Postby fitz » Thu Sep 11, 2003 7:10 am

acid is in wine for the flavor profile. If you use grapes to make wine they normally have an acid and tannin mixture in the grapes themselves. Some wines(like that made with concoed grapes) have so much acid and tannins that you have to cut the grapes with water(instead of using all juice, you add a couple gallons of grapes with water and table sugar or honey and ferment) With honey, you don't always have as much acid, and they want their mead to have a good flavor and mouthfeel(You also add acid/tannin blends to other fruit pears, and others with little or no acid)Some try this naturally with additions of lemon juice/ etc.
You will start off with more than 5 gallons in your primary. remember, Charlie told you to "top up" your secondary to avoid oxygen. If you use 6 gallons in your primary(with a 7.5 primary) you will have the 5 gallon in your secondary without topping up the first time. There is always some wine left behind with the dregs. siphon this remaining off, and put it into another container to settle the dregs and you can sample the progress(some try to save this for topping up, but I don't or don't recomend it) I would keep it all in one secondary if you can(chemistry of aging)The purer your honey is, the quicker it will finish.
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Racking..

Postby cascade » Thu Sep 11, 2003 7:37 am

Are there any special techniques I need to use when racking to avoid contamination form the air? I understand sanitizing my equipment, but what about the chances of getting that one bad yeast or bacteria in there when I do my first racking? Should I build a sterile tent structure when I rack?.. lol :-)

I was just now talking to someone that ruined they're beer (turned into a vinegar taste), & I certainly don't want to do that.

Sorry for so many questions, but my start date is Friday night, so I want to have all the info I can get.

:-)
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Don't worry too much

Postby fitz » Thu Sep 11, 2003 11:44 am

The person you spoke to either didn't have clean equip or a extremely dirty house. Becareful, but I don't know of any breweries in a bubble. There are a bunch of people whon still ferment in open casks. be as careful as you can, but don't get too freaked out with it. No splashing in your secondary, and don't start the siphon with your mouth. Keep everything clean, and enjoy.
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Huge pot!

Postby cascade » Thu Sep 11, 2003 7:06 pm

I can't seem to find a pot big enough to start the (must is it?) without spending less than $100. So.. I want to get 2 smaller pots that I can afford (maybe cheap enamel coated pots), & start it like 2 seperate batches, then mix it all into the primary.

Of course, alumminum is cheap.. :-\

Please tell me this is ok..

Ok, I have to edit this post---

I already have my 7 or so gallon primary, can I use it to make a half batch? Like 2 1/2 gallons? I'm not sure I have the capacity in my kitchen to get the must going.
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you don't have to boil everything

Postby fitz » Fri Sep 12, 2003 3:36 am

Not at one time anyhow.
boil your extra water and place it in sealed jugs(Or buy some water in jugs)
Only boil a couple gallons with the honey, to get rid of the impurities and to add whatever flavorings you may want(lemon, herb, spices) Then put the must into your primary, and top up with the jugs of water. You may even want to throw a can of concentrated white grape juice into the primary DON'T BOIL it. This sometime helps in making wine "without" grapes. Make sure it is 100% juice though.
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It has begun!

Postby cascade » Sat Sep 13, 2003 6:12 am

Thanks for all the replies, & thanks Fitz for that last one. You saved me some money!

I guess I want to post my notes (or mistakes)to see how much trouble I'm in so far.

I ended up using about 17.5lbs honey, & at the time I added the yeast, the gravity was 1.095 ( at probably 75 degrees). Now from what I've read it suppost to be higher, but oh well I guess. I was hoping for something a bit punchier though.

I kinda modified from several recipies and added to the must:

10 tsp malic asic
5 tsp tartaric acid
1 teaspoon tannin
3 1/2 tsp yeast energizer
5 tsp yeast nutrient
(I thought it best to add both nutrient & energizer after reading that alot of honey might give the yeast a hard time)

..about half way into my 20 minutes at 170-180

& 1 package wyeast (sweet mead) after an overnight cool down.

I also filled the primary to about 5 1/2 gallons so I'd have a bit extra for multiple rackings.

After I poured the must into my primary, I opened the lid later to drop in the thermometer dripping a drop of the meta bisulfite water into the must, & after adding the yeast this morning & placing the airlock, I accidently poured a bit of fresh water down the tube that goes right into the primary. Other than that, I was pretty fanatical with keeping things sanitary (anything not in use went right back into the meta bisulfile water for a soak).

& I over filled the airlock just a bit.

I also airated the must (by shaking closed primary for 2-3 minutes), THEN added the yeast, which after the fact I've read that I'm suppost to add yeast, THEN airate.

Are those couple of oop's going to ruin everything?

Also, at the time of this post (about an hour after adding yeast), there is no bubbling yet. I don't know if there should be or not.

Oh, and another thing while I'm here. The guy at my local brew supply store was pretty adamant about racking into the secondary after only 7-10 days. I was planning on going a month, but I'm not sure now.

Thanks again!

-Sam
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Darn it..

Postby cascade » Sat Sep 13, 2003 7:30 am

After looking at my bucket again, I realize that I actually filled to 6 gallons instead of the almost 5 1/2 that I originaly thought I had. This is kinda disappointing, since this is the reason my gravity is so low, & my brew will be weaker. :-(

Might I be able to fix this now that its already started? I really didn't want this to be a dry mead at all.

***Edit to this post***

I talked with the guys at the local brew store, & they agreed that my mead is going to be super dry. Soe they suggested that I remove some of the must to make room for more honey once fermenting gets rolling. They agreed that I could take a large measuring cup (sanatized), & scoop some out. I romved about a half gallon & have plenty of room for more honey later on. I hope I didn't ruin it, but if its going to be so weak that it doesn't taste good, I suppose there is no point in just leaving it as is either.
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don't get dicouraged yet

Postby fitz » Sun Sep 14, 2003 6:34 am

I think you said you had a 7.5 gallon fermentor.
You still have plenty of room to add some honey after it has fermented a bit. You could also trickle feed it later, butthis is a long process of trickling a little sugar into your secondary each time the action slows. either way, all is not lost.
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Thanks Fitz.

Postby cascade » Mon Sep 15, 2003 8:01 am

After I opened it up to remove some must, I found I wasn't quite at 6 gallons, but almost. I have about 2 1/2 gallons of honey left, & I was thinking of adding that maybe this weekend or so, once the action slows a bit. Good idea? This was recommended by the brew store guys. They say just pour it right in (slowly of course).

I also bought a bottle of mead from a local store this weekend, & boy did that taste horrible!! it was 14.7% alchohol. Maybe I will be better off with a lighter mead if a sweet mead is going to taste like that!
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Don't put all of it

Postby fitz » Tue Sep 16, 2003 4:55 am

Don't put all of it in at the same time. put some in and see what happens first. The yeast can really come to life when you start feeding them. If you are short on room, it could spill over the sides. Big mess. The fact that you are still in the primary is a good thing. More surface space means less mess. What type of honey did you choose? What flavoring did you go with?
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hmm..

Postby cascade » Tue Sep 16, 2003 5:51 am

I chose a wildflower honey from a local honey farm, so its not processed like the store bought honeys. Thats about it, no extra flavors, I just wanted to do it basic for the first time. I hope this won't make it taste like the lousey stuff I bought.

I'm wondering about the trickle method you mentioned in your last post. Like I was saying in a previous post, the brew store guy said to rack at 7-10 days, but if I add more honey (especially little by little), this will leave it on the dead yeast to long?

I'm also wondering if I should just leave it. Will it still taste fo honey with such a low starting gravity?
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trickle or not

Postby fitz » Tue Sep 16, 2003 8:58 am

The trickle method is done in a secondary, and you have to trickle it because of the narrow neck of the carboy. Unless you like the idea of a wine volcano. Do you have access to an extra primary tank? You may want to transfer it to a second primary with the extra honey? How far were you away from the starting gravity in your recipe? I wouldn't go too sweet. Mad dog, will get you a buzz, but it isn't fine wine, and it will give you a headache: )
Semi sweet is a good all around wine. That is my personal preference in the Vino category. Although My heart belongs to good beer.
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