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Blow-off tubes and yeast activity

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Angus

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I have a question concerning the need for a blow-off tube and the activity of the yeast. My first batch is sitting quietly, bubbling about every 2-3 seconds. I know this is good. I started the batch at 78 degrees, reduced it to 68 degrees and will keep it there until fermentation is almost complete. The recipe I followed is the one in the Complete Joy of Home Brewing, and is as follows (as close as I can remember here at work):

15 lbs Honey
1 tsp Yeast nutrient
1 Tbs Acid Blend
1 tsp Irish Moss
0.5 tsp Gypsum
Water to 5 Gallons
Pasteur Champagne Yeast

I have read on your site that people have such violent fermentations that the air-lock gets blown off the pale. What is different between their preparation and mine such that mine is so passive and theirs requires a blow-off tube for the first couple of days? Is it the type of yeast I used?

Also, if anyone else has made this particular recipe, will it be a sweet, semi-sweet or dry brew? Any suggestions for aging or adding more honey? I am looking for a semi-sweet batch.

Thanks.
 

Oskaar

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Welcome to the forums Angus,

Looks like you have a beer brewers version of a basic mead recipe. First let's look at your yeast in relation to the violence of the fermentation. Red Star Champagne will tolerate alcohol to 17%, and is a fast, clean fermenter. While it's a fast fermenter I personally haven't ever had it go nuts on me and blow off a lock or foul a blow off tube. So I wouldn't be surprised that you have a good fermentation going on.

Next let's look at the gypsum and irish moss which are clearing agents that are not necessary as up front addtions when making mead. I've used them with great results in beer brewing, but they're really not necessary in making mead. The acid blend is also unnecesary as an up front addition to ensure a good vigorous fermentation. I generally do not add acid at all to my meads unless they are really lacking structure and are unbalanced in sweet/tart character. If I do add acid, it's at the end prior to bottling.

Next your mead will be bone dry. Your original must of 15 lbs of honey to a 5 gallon batch will net you about 15% ABV, your yeast will tolerate up to 17% which means it will ferment to dryness with no residual sugar if it follows it's advertised fermentation kinetics.

Hope that helps,

Oskaar
 

Angus

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Oskaar,

Thank you for having me and for the invaluable input.

I ran with this recipe after tasting some Noth Winter Winery Mead (a most excellent Mead) at the local State Fair. The Complete Joy of Home Brewing is like the Bible for beer brewing, and I confess I did not take much time to research other literature before jumping feet first into the brew. I have ordered "The Compleat Meadmaker", which will be here shortly, so my future attempts will be far better educated. I have also started a batch of Ancient Orange from the recipe here.

You say my brew will be bone dry. Unfortunate, considering my goal. Should I therefore rack and chill the brew to stop fermentation at some point, say at about 12% ABV, and add honey to taste? If I do this, would the bulk aging time be reduced to produce a mellow semi-sweet Mead?
 

byathread

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Chilling alone will not stop the yeast. Those that stabilize their meads normally use a combination of sorbate and campden. This will be most effective after chilling the mead and racking it onto the chemicals. I don't have much exerience backsweetening, but I believe about 6 oz/gallon will yield a semi-sweet mead. However, I would suggest you stop the yeasties once the mead is at your desired sweetness/FG thus eliminating the need to backsweeten.

Cheers,
Kirk
 

lostnbronx

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Alternatively, you can add more honey right now, while fermentation is ongoing. This will yield a high ABV mead, with a sweetness level to your taste. Keep in mind that higher ABV meads tend to need a bit more aging for the flavors to integrate, and the alcohol "heat" fade. You can check the Mead Batch Calculator, to get a general idea of the amount of honey you might want to add:

http://www.gotmead.com/making-mead/mead-calculator.shtml


-David
 

Oskaar

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Hey Angus,

I'd recommend chilling and stabilizing at about 1.015 - 1.020 to give you a semi-sweet mead. Lostnbronx is right about the ABV being cranked up when you feed your mead more honey, and the mead tends to start tasting like rocket fuel as the ABV climbs when fed. That champagne yeast will definately fall into that category, and will go over 18%. I know this to be true from personal experience.

Chill it, stabilize it, bottle it and enjoy it!

Cheers,

Oskaar
 

Dmntd

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Angusl,

I don't use chemicals to stablize the mead I make.

The method I've used on a couple of meads that's worked well, is to chill the mead for a couple of days, rack off the lees to a sanitized secondary, chill and repeat. I stopped a batchs very close to the one you have at 13% abv with 2 repetitions.

Anthony
 

Angus

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Interesting method if you want to reduce the sulfites in the final product. My mother gets terrible migranes when she drinks wines with high sulfites. This could allow her to actually drink my Mead. Thanks.

What temperature do you have to chill to in order to make the yeast go dormant? Will the average temperature of a fridge work?
 

Dmntd

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My fridge stays around 38° F. When racking off the less, I do my best not to take any of the sediment.

Something I've been thining about for stopping fermentation but haven't tried yet, is chilling the carboy in the fridge, then moving it to a slurry of rock salt and ice to freeze the lees prior to racking. The idea being, frozen lees would be easier to rack off of, and a rapid tempature drop say from 40° to 28° F might be enough to kill the yeast by rupturing the cell walls with ice.

Anthony
 

Angus

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Anthony,

The freezing of the lees makes perfect sense for racking without the fear of disturbing the sediment. Let us know how it works if you do it.

Thanks,

Angus
 
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