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Did I do everything wrong?

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Nazgul07

NewBee
Registered Member
Jul 29, 2013
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Hello all,

I just recently started my first batch of mead (2 gallons), and I fear I did everything wrong. It seems like there's a lot of information that varies slightly, and everything I did I did because I was able to find a relating piece of info regarding my situation... but I think I may have overreacted on everything. I don't have an hydrometer so I don't know my SG.... here's my steps and my recipe... basically my journal entry.

I mixed almost 6 lbs of raw clover honey from Sam's (a local variety) with a little over 1.5 gallons of tap water. I pitch the yeast (Montrachet Red Star) immediately and then aerated the must with a slotted kitchen spoon. I then threw in a single campden tablet, worrying that the water wouldn't be sanitary (probably a bad idea).

A couple times over the next week, I aerated the must by shaking the bucket, but I fear I only degassed it.

At 6 days of primary fermentation, it had slowed down to almost a halt (one bubble every 25 seconds, which is what I expected after 2 weeks). I tried to restart the fermentation by adding a little more honey and water (getting it up to 2 gallons because I was a little short). I aerated and added nutrient. After 24 hours the fermentation was even slower so I decided it was time to go to secondary another 12 hours later.

I racked into two 1 gallon glass jugs. In one I added (prior to racking) 2 pounds of pureed mixed berries (berry medley from Wal-Mart). In the other pureed peach, pear, and mango (came to about a pound or just over), 1/2 tsp brown sugar, a tiny amount of allspice. I added half a cinnamon stick to each in emptied tea bags. The mixed berry melomel fermented wildly for a few hours and I had to scrap some fruit out so it wouldn't keep flowing into the air lock.

After 4 days of fermentation with fruit puree, the fruit started looking whitish and I didn't want to risk mold, so I figured I'd rack. Being that I racked early in the primary, and the fermentation was vigorous at first with the fruit, I kinda thought that maybe it was a compromise between having fruit in primary vs secondary.

I tried racking with nylon mesh bags over the auto siphon, which started out fine for the first one but slowed to a crawl due to clogging, I could not get it started up again, so I had to resort to pouring and straining with a funnel and mesh bag. I did this for both melomels, and it was a mess. I will never do fruit puree again. The guy at the home brewery shop must have wanted to teach me a lesson when he suggested pureeing the fruit.

I topped off both melomels with vodka to remove headspace. Hopefully the hotness will wear off while it ages. And hopefully I didn't bring the avb up too high to kill further fermentation.

Here's a pic after first racking:

And here's another after second racking:
 
Last edited:

Chevette Girl

All around BAD EXAMPLE
Moderator
Lifetime GotMead Patron
Apr 27, 2010
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Welcome to the forum!

Well, first thing I see is adding a campden tablet after pitching... you want to do that 24 hours before you pitch if you're going to bother. But since it was only one for two gallons it doesn't seem to have hurt your yeast too badly.

Second, you don't want to be adding nutrients that late in a fermentation, the nutrients are only good for the first few days while the yeast are breeding. After they've reached their critical mass where they start eating the honey, they can't really use the nutrients, so you risk something else eating it instead.

Third, as long as you keep your fruit stirred around, turning white isn't a bad thing, fermentation does tend to leach the colour right out of fruits. White isn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as it's not white and fuzzy!

Fourth, if you do your fruit fermentation in a bucket you can put it all in a mesh bag to keep all the particles out of the siphon.

Fifth, you want to get a hydrometer. Then you will know for sure if your fermentation is really done or not.

Sixth, yeast can be very forgiving, so no matter how many mistakes you make, you can still often end up with something quite tasty!

:)


 

mannye

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Oct 10, 2012
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Yep... just let it sit and give a it a degassing once in a while. if my math and reading comprehension are right, we are looking at 10ish days here maybe two weeks? I say leave it be for a while and see how it goes. Yeast will do what it will do and many times will just slowly bubble away for weeks and you will get something awesome. Fast and furious fermentation can leave you with off flavors, so don't rush the mead.
 

fatbloke

good egg/snappy dresser.....
GotMead Patron
And while you're waiting, the NewBee guide linked in the left hand yellow box is definitely worth a read (its quite long but worth the effort).

It explains good practice for a lot of stuff without being too confusing for the new mead maker....
 

Nazgul07

NewBee
Registered Member
Jul 29, 2013
11
0
0
I knew my patience was too thin :(

I looked at it this morning and it seems to be bubbling again. So I didn't kill it. And I'm hoping I didn't oxidize too much since it's probably still fermenting.

I don't plan on touching it again for another couple months when I'll rack off the sediment. I'll get the hydrometer for future batches. Hopefully this one turns out ok with age.

I had already started out my second batch (a cyser), and I won't be using fruit this time, so I'll get the hydrometer and take readings before i rack to secondary. I guess I'll have to calculate the SG from my ingredients?

Oh, and I'll be sure to read the NewBee guide. I read every other guide on the net, but somehow missed this one :)
 

Nazgul07

NewBee
Registered Member
Jul 29, 2013
11
0
0
Try the JAOM. It's super easy and I am amazed at how good it tastes.
I think JAOM will be the next one I do after the cyser. I would love something easy and tasty :)

I'll keep this thread updated on the progress of these two melomels, and hopefully it will serve as a word of warning to other newbee's.
 

fatbloke

good egg/snappy dresser.....
GotMead Patron
I wouldn't sweat it......

New mead makers often try and estimate the fermentation from bubble speed/rate, not realising that just because the yeast isnt making lots of gas that it isn't fermenting......

A hydrometer is the best method of testing, for both start and final but also progress. Samples taken can be returned to the main body of the ferment. Many of us do that as routine (I certainly do, with an eye on costs......)
 

mannye

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Oct 10, 2012
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Miami Beach, FL
I wouldn't sweat it......

New mead makers often try and estimate the fermentation from bubble speed/rate, not realising that just because the yeast isnt making lots of gas that it isn't fermenting......

A hydrometer is the best method of testing, for both start and final but also progress. Samples taken can be returned to the main body of the ferment. Many of us do that as routine (I certainly do, with an eye on costs......)
Ahem... some of us even get yelled at for not putting it back... I drank it! :)
 

mannye

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Oct 10, 2012
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Which is fine, unless you get yelled at......

Then you have to drink it on tbe QT and make up some bull about what you're getting from the test and smell alone.....

Or does she check the liquid level with a laser theodolite ;)
This is why I made sure to have at least three batches bubbling away at the same time... it's harder for them to keep tabs. :)
 

Nazgul07

NewBee
Registered Member
Jul 29, 2013
11
0
0
Now, almost a week after racking the fruit out of secondary, I took SG readings.

I calculated with the mead calculator, that my starting SG was 1.108.

Now, the Peach, Pear Mango Melomel has a SG of 0.992 and the Mixed Berry Melomel has an SG of 0.990.

They taste really dry, and I'll want to backsweeten them after I age them, but for now I'm pretty happy. They have a strong wine flavor to them.

On a side note, the cyser that I've had in primary now for 11 days has an SG of 0.994. It's taste was pretty good as well... I think I'm more excited for this one than my melomels.

I got an extra gallon jug the yesterday so I'll be doing a JAOM soon...
 

Nazgul07

NewBee
Registered Member
Jul 29, 2013
11
0
0
Now, almost a week after racking the fruit out of secondary, I took SG readings.

I calculated with the mead calculator, that my starting SG was 1.108.

Now, the Peach, Pear Mango Melomel has a SG of 0.992 and the Mixed Berry Melomel has an SG of 0.990.

They taste really dry, and I'll want to backsweeten them after I age them, but for now I'm pretty happy. They have a strong wine flavor to them.

On a side note, the cyser that I've had in primary now for 11 days has an SG of 0.994. It's taste was pretty good as well... I think I'm more excited for this one than my melomels.

I got an extra gallon jug yesterday so I'll be doing a JAOM soon...
 

Nazgul07

NewBee
Registered Member
Jul 29, 2013
11
0
0
Oh goodie, another addict ;D
Oh I think I'm an addict alright. After finishing college I've needed a hobby and I think this is perfect.

After tasting these, I think I'd like something with a little less alcohol content. I searched around and found that a hydromel is what I'm looking for.

I may have to skip the JAOM and do a spiced hydromel... or perhaps I'll do both.... lol.
 

Chevette Girl

All around BAD EXAMPLE
Moderator
Lifetime GotMead Patron
Apr 27, 2010
8,398
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Ottawa, ON
Hydromels are great, they ferment quick and clean and are often drinkable pretty early too!
 

Nazgul07

NewBee
Registered Member
Jul 29, 2013
11
0
0
I started thinking about the aging process for these melomels... I know I'll want to backsweeten... should I do that before they clear or after, or should I wait until right before I bottle (4 to 6 months out)?

I saw some info that seemed to suggest I could stabilize/clear my mead with cold crashing and chemicals, and then backsweeten followed by aging. Is this the normal process? If I do this, do I want to age with an air lock the whole time?

I plan on giving them several more weeks to clear on their own, but I just want to be prepared.
 

Chevette Girl

All around BAD EXAMPLE
Moderator
Lifetime GotMead Patron
Apr 27, 2010
8,398
18
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Ottawa, ON
Meads often regain a perception of sweetness when they've had some time to age (6 months to a year), so if you backsweeten early you might overdo it if you don't like it TOO sweet.

On the other hand, if you wait till it's aged before you backsweeten, you run the risk of your mead developing a haze from the newly-added honey that will take time to settle out.

I tend to do it at the end of aging, Fatbloke tends to do it at the beginning of aging, there is no one way, just what works for each individual.
 

Nazgul07

NewBee
Registered Member
Jul 29, 2013
11
0
0
I'm not too afraid of it being too sweet (is it even possible? ;) )

I think I'll sweeten before aging for the long haul... but then I still have the question. If I kill the yeast by stabilizing, and then sweeten, will I need to use an air lock while aging? I'm not sure what I'm worried about... just don't wanna do it wrong
 
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