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Brewing vs. Making Mead

danr

Got Mead? Patron
GotMead Patron
Aug 2, 2012
432
2
0
San Diego, CA
I have a question for the beer brewers on GotMead.Com:

What common mistakes should I avoid when applying my mead making experience to brewing?

I am planning to brew my first batch of beer while I wait for my mead to age and I am concerned that I will mistakenly apply a mead making technique to brewing. For example, I know that oxidation is a much bigger concern with beer than it is with mead and want to make sure that I do not make any mistakes with aeration or racking.

Any tips for a successful first brew would be appreciated. I will likely start with an "extract kit with specialty grains."

-Dan
 

fatbloke

good egg/snappy dresser.....
GotMead Patron
Don't make any mistakes......simple

Follow any kit instructions to the letter. Be anal about hygiene matters.

Draw your own conclusions about similarities as you learn about beers etc.

Meads are more closely related to wines, than beers, but there are gonna be those similarities across all types of fermented beverages and their making.......
 

kuri

NewBee
Registered Member
May 5, 2013
364
1
0
Japan
Unless you're aiming for something in the 10% range, I'd say give the beer a very good aeration at the very beginning and then leave it be. (30 seconds of pure oxygen or 5 minutes of good shaking. Best shaking technique for me: rest the carboy/bucket on top of a pile of laundry and rock back and forth.) Also, malted barley has a lot more nutrients than honey, and in particular has all of the nitrogen you will need. There are nutrients that work well in beer -- Servomyces is my nutrient of choice, though I've used fermaid K as well to good effect. Add it to the boil for the last 10-15 minutes and you should be set. No need to add nutrients after fermentation has started for your typical range of beers. (Again, your >10% beers may differ.)

Also, follow the temperature suggestions of the yeast. I guess this is no different from making mead, but the temperature ranges can be very different and often very narrow. US-05 is nice in that it's widely available, cheap, and has a wide temperature range (12C-25C, with an ideal of 15C-22C IIRC). Great for hop-oriented beers. London Ale yeast, in contrast, prefers the much narrower range of 19C-22C, is more expensive and less widely available, but is great for English ales, browns, porters and stouts.

And like Fatbloke says, be anal about sanitization. Most of the brewers I know will soak not only their yeast packet but also the scissors they use to open it in sanitizer before cutting the yeast open. ANYTHING that touches the wort after it is cooled also needs to be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.

For racking the norm is to run the racking tube to the bottom of the vessel you're racking into to minimize oxidation. Some people flush with CO2 first, and a very few will go so far as to set up all racking in such a way that the beer is never exposed to anything but CO2, racking from one sealed container into another. A bit overkill from my perspective, but those people do make some awesome beers so I can't really say anything bad about the practice.

Also, take notes. Again this is no different from what you would do with mead, but it is essential if you want to eventually figure out how to get a particular flavor profile, or how to reproduce something that worked. You'll find it's very easy to get different results with the exact same recipe, perhaps because the evaporation rate changes or because the fermentation temperature was different by 1 degree. The challenge is getting the same results when you want them, and requires doing things in nearly the exact same way twice. Which is impossible without either a perfect memory or good notes.
 

danr

Got Mead? Patron
GotMead Patron
Aug 2, 2012
432
2
0
San Diego, CA
Thanks for the great tips. I look forward to getting started. As fatbloke suggests, for my first brew I will carefully follow the instructions for the kit. I do have one more question though:

In brewing is it common to start in a bucket for primary fermentation and then to rack to a carboy for secondary fermentation/aging before bottling, or do you normally just have a single fermentation phase before bottling? If there is not a secondary fermentation phase, do you recommend starting in a carboy?
 

kuri

NewBee
Registered Member
May 5, 2013
364
1
0
Japan
I generally do primary fermentation in a bucket and then after 2 weeks rack to a better bottle. By this time the fermentation is essentially finished, but this gets the beer off the yeast cake and prevents off flavors from autolysis. Depending on the beer, yeast, temps, etc. I may let the beer stay warm for another week, though more commonly I'll cool it to drop the yeast before kegging/bottling. (Mostly kegging these days -- I'm getting too lazy to deal with bottles.) One week is usually more than enough to get the beer clear enough to keg and carbonate, though if I have the time I'll leave it at a cold temp for up to 4 weeks. If you're bottling, the biggest difference you'll see between bottling straight from primary and bottling after cooling is in the amount of yeast that you'll get at the bottom of the bottle. If you cooled for a week or more you'll only have a thin film of yeast. If you bottled directly from primary you can easily have several millimeters of yeast.
 

Midnight Sun

NewBee
Registered Member
Jul 13, 2010
436
5
0
Anchorage, Alaska
Good advice so far. Here is mine:

Start with ales. The temp control required for lager yeasts can be challenging and will lead to much frustration for new homebrewers.

Try lots of commercial brews and discover what styles you like (if you have not done so already). :drunken_smilie:

Kuri's advice on taking notes is good, but I would recommend taking it one step further: use a recipe calculator. I like QBrew because it is free. It will calculate the IBU, SG, estimated FG, and has a number of pre-loaded beer styles. Keep track of the fermentation temp and other important items in the "notes" section. You and also compare your hops' actual AA content and make adjustments in QBrew to match.

Go to the library or bookstore and grab "How to Brew" by John Palmer. Nice overview of techniques and options. There are other resources, I'm sure, but this my favorite brewing book.

In brewing is it common to start in a bucket for primary fermentation and then to rack to a carboy for secondary fermentation/aging before bottling, or do you normally just have a single fermentation phase before bottling? If there is not a secondary fermentation phase, do you recommend starting in a carboy?
Beer can be done using a secondary fermenter or can be primary only. A lot of brewers want to get the beer off the trub as soon as possible, which means using a secondary. The yeast also appears to get something of a restart when you rack to secondary, although that may only be perception. I prefer using a secondary, but have tried primary only method and had no bad experiences.

As for using a bucket primary, I have heard of it being done but am frankly too scared of infection to try it myself. I simply divide my brew between two primary fermenters so that I have sufficient headspace, then rack into a properly sized fermenter for the secondary. You could also use a sinlge over-sized carboy for primary if you have one; I don't, so two carboys it is.

BTW, fermenting beer leaves a nasty ring around the inside of carboys. Methods for cleaning carboys can be found on this site, but I just use a large bottle brush for mine.
 

WVMJack

NewBee
Registered Member
Feb 12, 2013
1,219
10
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Karnage, WV
www.wvmjack.com
Winemakers have KM to add to their must to keep it clean and can add more of it at anytime they want. When you brew beer you only get 1 step to clean the must during boiling, after that as everyone before has said its the wild west for contamination. When beer brewers make mead they want to boil everything, that is their SOP, when they start to make mead without cooking everything their habits of keeping everything clean are carried over and they typically do very well. Winemakers on the other hand starting to brew beer have to up their cleanliness a little bit. There is nothing wrong with using KM to clean your hydrometers tubing etc before dipping it into you wort.

You could start in the middle and make a honey beer:) Or a low alcohol carbed mead with an Ale yeast.

WVMJ
 

kuri

NewBee
Registered Member
May 5, 2013
364
1
0
Japan
What Midnight Sun said. Except that if you're using kits you don't need to worry so much about recipe formulation at first, which makes it a lot easier to think of getting started.

Palmer's How to Brew is indeed an excellent book, but part of what makes it triply excellent is that it's available online. In its entirety. And is very user friendly. You can find it here:

http://www.howtobrew.com/intro.html
 

SilentJimbo

Got Mead? Patron
GotMead Patron
Registered Member
Oct 9, 2012
152
1
18
Hampshire, UK
Winemakers have KM to add to their must to keep it clean and can add more of it at anytime they want. When you brew beer you only get 1 step to clean the must during boiling, after that as everyone before has said its the wild west for contamination.
Is there any reason why KM can't be used when making beer?
 

Bob1016

NewBee
Registered Member
Jun 24, 2012
662
3
0
Coral Springs, FL
Yes and no.
If you look at a lot of historic brewing texts they actually advocate using "sulfur" (in meta bisulfite form) as well as sulfates (CaSO4, MgSO4), but both were always added in the hot liquor boil, usually preceding the brewing by about a day.
I you force carb, then adding SO2 might be beneficial for long term aging stability and will help drop all the yeast out, but I have no experience with that.
Usually beer is ready to be bottled within 6 weeks (2-4 for ales 4-6 for lagers), and there is not a huge concern over the unprotected (by SO2) product because of the short time frame and the close attention to the amount of air exposure.
Hope that gives an idea :)
P.S. the SO2 will also off gas a lot of CO2 and will make bottle priming an issue if added after ferment.
 

SilentJimbo

Got Mead? Patron
GotMead Patron
Registered Member
Oct 9, 2012
152
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Hampshire, UK
Hmm. So in terms of hygiene, would I be right then in thinking that there are no more requirements for beer than for bottle carbonated hydromels?
 

Chevette Girl

All around BAD EXAMPLE
Moderator
Lifetime GotMead Patron
Apr 27, 2010
8,398
18
38
Ottawa, ON
I suspect you want to be a bit more neurotic about hygiene, since beers often contain unfermentable sugars. Just because the yeast can't eat it doesn't mean something else can't.

Edit: qualifier: I haven't made beer yet but I've done a few experiments that have gotten me close (one of which was a lemon tea beer and an opened bottle grew all kinds of interesting stuff whereas a hyrdomel probably wouldn't have, it would have just oxidized once the CO2 dissippated, and I've read through Papazian's Complete Joy of Home Brewing once.
 

Viking Brew Vessels - Authentic Drinking Horns