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Introduction and questions

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SMinNY

NewBee
Registered Member
Sep 16, 2013
7
0
0
Hi all! I'm rather new to mead making (I'm waiting on my first four batches as I type) and I have some questions that hopefully I can get some help with.
First, let me start by introducing myself. My name is Storm, and I am from New York. I've always wanted to get into brewing, and in August finally picked up some of the equipment I needed and got underway.
I also brewed a gallon of beer, which, if I might say so myself, came out pretty darn well (it's a honey orange ale, nice orange hint with a slightly bitter finish).
So, I have four batches of mead in primary ferment now. Here's what I have going:

An orange mead:
two whole oranges including peels
sprinkle of dried Valencia Orange peel
3.5# clover honey
1 gallon filtered water
2 whole cloves
25 raisins
Yeast nutrient
Lalvin 1118

An apple cyser mead:
.5 gallons of unfiltered not from concentrate apple juice
.5 gallons of filtered water
3.5# clover honey
Cinnamon
2 cloves
all spice
nutmeg
25 raisins
yeast nutrient
Lalvin 1118
1/2 orange peel

and two different gallons of pumpkin spice:
15oz pumpkin filling
1 gallon filtered water
3/5# honey
2 cloves
all spice
nutmeg
cinnamon
25 raisins
yeast nutrient
Lalvin 1118

Here's what happened, all except of one gallon batch of pumpkin started in glass carboys, and bubbled nicely for about a week. The other gallon I started in a 2 gallon pail. This one didn't bubble at all.
I started one pumpkin and the orange on August 27th, the other two on August 31st.
The orange is clear now, I can see through the bottle to the other side, and it is till in the original carboy.
The pumpkin I moved is still cloudy and has been racked to a carboy, the other pumpkin is in the original carboy and very cloudy still. Same with the apple. There is no activity in the air lock.
I checked the pH, and adjusted so that they're all between 4 and 5. I also added additional Wyeast nutrient after the fact, hoping that would kickstart some fermentation.
I also took a gravity reading, and surprisingly enough they all hovered almost exactly around 1.00.
Anyone know what I should do next? Should I give up on these batches? Add additional yeast? Rack the meads into another carboy?
Any advice would be greatly appreciated. So please, feel free to give me any suggestions so that I didn't waste 15# of honey and almost a month of time.
Thanks everyone!
 

Jim H

NewBee
Registered Member
Jun 8, 2013
434
2
0
NYC
Hi Storm, welcome to the forum. I'm pretty much a newbee to mead making as well. But, I can tell you to not give up on these batches, not by a long shot. SG 1.000 is a good target for these meads, and the ones that aren't clear can be cleared fairly easily. Let them sit in a spot that is dark at around 65 F, if you can. The pH may be a tad high... but let one of the more experienced members chime in.

Some questions that might help:
It would really help if you posted your exact, measured starting and finishing gravities for each of these meads.
Also, what are you using for pH measurements? (A cheap pH meter helps!)
What do the meads smell like? Have you tasted them?
 

rmccask

NewBee
Registered Member
May 3, 2013
96
1
0
VA
I didn't try to guess an OG for each of your batches but I suspect they are all pretty much done fermenting. The one in the bucket probably bubbled but buckets quite often do not have great seals so you probably didn't see it. Lalvin 1118 can go to 18% and probably fermented them all dry. You probably need to wait a couple of days and check the SG again and see if it is still going down any to make sure it is done.

The question now is what do you want out of these? They are probably not sweet at all now. Is that what you want or do you want them to be sweet? Either way you are probably going to need to stabilize them with some chemicals (potassium metabisulfite and potassium sorbate). Then you can backsweeten them if you want them sweeter. Then after they are clear, you can bottle them. You can read the forums to get more details about all of this and ask questions if you get stuck.

Welcome to the addiction. :)
 

SMinNY

NewBee
Registered Member
Sep 16, 2013
7
0
0
OK, let's see:
I tested them again, and the SG was identical to the last reading, about a week ago. The hydrometer was floating right above the 1.00 mark.
Now, I did taste all four batches. Picture the worst bottom shelf whiskey you have ever tried. That tastes about right.
I mean awful. Maybe it is because they are very, very dry. I will have to back sweeten them, if they're not ruined.
I was told after the fact that 1118 is a little strong, so I will have to try something else next time.
Thanks for the answers, and for the welcome!
 

rmccask

NewBee
Registered Member
May 3, 2013
96
1
0
VA
I don't think your meads are ruined. I usually ferment mine dry and at that point I don't like them. After stabilization and backsweetening, they are much better. Try taking a sample of the mead and adding some honey to it and stirring. You can add more until you find the sweetness you like. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. It isn't stabilized so you can't bottle it this way yet but it lets you experiment some.

I am not sure I would use the word "strong" to describe 1118, maybe "brutal". :) It is very good at what it does which is more for champagne. It is known to blow the flavors through the airlock and ferment pretty high. Your meads are probably around 16 to 17% ABV due to the amount of honey you added. it will take some time for that to age out of them if you like them dry. The higher you take the alcohol, the longer it probably needs to sit to get rid of that taste. Making it sweeter will help lessen the effect though. If you like them sweet, then do the stabilization and backsweetening and they should be closer to what you are looking for. You can still age them and they will improve, or so I am told.

My stockpile isn't that big yet so I keep drinking them before they age that long. I think my meads are improving, either that or my taste buds are just developing a taste for what I make. Either way I am happy.
 

joemirando

Got Mead? Patron
GotMead Patron
OK, let's see:
I tested them again, and the SG was identical to the last reading, about a week ago. The hydrometer was floating right above the 1.00 mark.
Now, I did taste all four batches. Picture the worst bottom shelf whiskey you have ever tried. That tastes about right.
I mean awful. Maybe it is because they are very, very dry. I will have to back sweeten them, if they're not ruined.
I was told after the fact that 1118 is a little strong, so I will have to try something else next time.
Thanks for the answers, and for the welcome!
Rule Number 1: Patience.
Rule Number 2: Don't Throw Nuthin' Out.
Rule Number 3: Patience.

RMCCASK is right: Adding honey a bit at a time to a small glass of it is a good way to see where you like the sweetness. Once you taste it and say "Hmm... that IS better!", then you can check the gravity of your sample and adjust the rest of the batch accordingly after racking and stabilizing.

1118 yeast is a terror. It blows thru sugar like nobody's business and also tends to destroy the subtle flavors that the honey and whatever else you've added have to offer. Some of these aren't completely gone, but muted by the harsher stuff created along with the ethanol. As they break down or dissipate, some of those flavors may come back a bit. I made on batch in particular that I referred to as rocket fuel. Its been a year and its finally starting to mellow out a bit. I doubt it'll ever make me go "oooooh", but it'll get better and be drinkable at the very least.

Its frightening, in a way, to have no choice but to sit and watch a mead like watching paint dry. So, my friend, there's only one thing to do: Make Another Batch! <grin>


Joe
 
Last edited:

Chevette Girl

All around BAD EXAMPLE
Moderator
Lifetime GotMead Patron
Apr 27, 2010
8,398
18
0
Ottawa, ON
Rule Number 1: Patience.
Rule Number 2: Don't Throw Nuthin' Out.
Rule Number 3: Patience.
Seconded!

And I third rmccask's suggestion about trying it with honey to see where you should backsweeten it to.

But do be patient, young meads and mels, especially dry ones, ARE pretty gross.
 

SMinNY

NewBee
Registered Member
Sep 16, 2013
7
0
0
Thanks everyone!
OK, I won't give up hope yet. As a matter of fact, I just ordered another 15# of honey, four more one gallon carboys (and a 5 gallon to make my pumpkin spice porter for Halloween).
This time I ordered Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast, and I'm going to try a few different methods of fermenting. I'm going to try and add the fruits and other ingredients on the second ferment instead of initial.
This time I will make sure to get an accurate pH reading and SG at the start.
 

SMinNY

NewBee
Registered Member
Sep 16, 2013
7
0
0
One more thing:
I'm obsessed with pomegranate. I was thinking about trying my hand at a pomegranate mead in the upcoming batches. Should I use unfiltered not from concentrate juice, or attempt to use the raw fruit?
I'm not brave enough to make more than a gallon batch of each at a time, so anyone know how much to add to make it fruity and delicious (and sweet)?
 

Chevette Girl

All around BAD EXAMPLE
Moderator
Lifetime GotMead Patron
Apr 27, 2010
8,398
18
0
Ottawa, ON
I think you'd do better with the juice, unless you know a secret method to make playing with the fruit less of a pain in the arse. I used a bottled pomegranate (and other fruits) juice and turned it into a mel and it was one of the better things I ever made.
 

joemirando

Got Mead? Patron
GotMead Patron
Thanks everyone!
OK, I won't give up hope yet. As a matter of fact, I just ordered another 15# of honey, four more one gallon carboys (and a 5 gallon to make my pumpkin spice porter for Halloween).
This time I ordered Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast, and I'm going to try a few different methods of fermenting. I'm going to try and add the fruits and other ingredients on the second ferment instead of initial.
This time I will make sure to get an accurate pH reading and SG at the start.
Is there a reason for using Pasteur Champagne? It's an unholy terror on taste and aroma. Sure, it'll probably get you to 18% ABV, but at the cost of all the things about mead that make you go "mmmmmmm".

Unless you need >14% ABV, consider something like D47, 71B, (Lalvin) or Cote Des Blancs or Pasteur Red (Red Star). Each one has its own pluses and minuses. D47 gives off flavors if fermenting above 68 degrees, 71B gives off flavors if it rests on its lees for more than a couple of months, Cote Des Blancs ferments somewhat slowly, etc.

Champagne yeasts' downside is that they tend to, as several people here put it, "blow all the taste right out the airlock".

I used RS Pasteur Champagne on my first traditional mead and I was supremely unimpressed with the flavor and aroma. If you're making something with a flavor you want to come through, I would highly recommend opening the floor to suggestions.

Just my $0.02,

Joe
 

SMinNY

NewBee
Registered Member
Sep 16, 2013
7
0
0
The only reason I chose that yeast was because I saw that mead was specified in the yeast table. I've already requested that I be sent D47 instead.
Same price, so worst case scenario I'll just return the Red Star and replace it.
I actually want a sweeter mead, I'm less interested in ABV than taste.
 

joemirando

Got Mead? Patron
GotMead Patron
The only reason I chose that yeast was because I saw that mead was specified in the yeast table. I've already requested that I be sent D47 instead.
Same price, so worst case scenario I'll just return the Red Star and replace it.
I actually want a sweeter mead, I'm less interested in ABV than taste.
Yeah, most local home brew stores, being more familiar with beer and grape wine, tend to think "oh, honey, huh? Lots of sugar. Gonna need a monster yeast for that, I guess", but it just ain't so. Yeah, champagne yeasts have their place, even in mead making. So if they do send the Pasteur Champagne, hang on to it. I did it by accident, but you could do it on purpose: Make a batch and let it go bone dry and use it for blending. I made a cherry mel that was so black that light from a strong flashlight would not penetrate it... even thru the neck of a gallon jug. It was sweet and very heavy, with an average-ish ABV. I blended it with the dry champagne yeast traditional and its getting to be really quite enjoyable. Sometimes it pays to make mistakes. ;)

Joe
 

SMinNY

NewBee
Registered Member
Sep 16, 2013
7
0
0
Hello again all! Thank you so much for all your help in the past. I have great news, I bottled my pumpkin spice mead over the weekend. I racked several times since my last post, back sweetened with a lot of honey a few times, and now the mead is aging in wine bottles. Below are some pictures of the finished product, plus about a third of a bottle that was left over. I figured I would "sample" the remaining mead...
I don't know what the actual ABV is, since I am not sure if I took my readings correctly throughout. I do know that two cups had me very (very) tipsy.




By the way, that's just a plain gallon of mead (no flavors) that's fermenting in the back. That's my last batch that I haven't bottled yet, and since I just re-racked it on Saturday I will probably bottle in two weeks.
 

kudapucat

NewBee
Registered Member
Dec 2, 2010
2,383
10
0
Bundoora, Melbourne, Australia
Well done and looking good!
it's a bit cloudy in the glass, I trust that's because it was the left over, and the bottles are actually as clear as they appear in the photo?
What were your measurements (accurate or not)
What was your recipe?
And please, some tasting notes would be awesome. What was it like? (Other than intoxicating)
 

SMinNY

NewBee
Registered Member
Sep 16, 2013
7
0
0
Well done and looking good!
it's a bit cloudy in the glass, I trust that's because it was the left over, and the bottles are actually as clear as they appear in the photo?
What were your measurements (accurate or not)
What was your recipe?
And please, some tasting notes would be awesome. What was it like? (Other than intoxicating)
Yes, that third of a bottle was what was left at the bottom of the carboy, and since I didn't have enough to fill a whole one, I figured I would sample it. It was very sweet, which was what I was looking for. There was a pretty strong and pleasant pumpkin flavor, a hint of clove and I could taste the cinnamon had a very faint flavor as well.
My first reading was about 1.115 back in August. I took another reading on this one a few weeks ago and it was around 1.000, and it was just below the 1.000 line when I bottled it.
The bottled mead is just as clear a the picture, if not even more so.
This was my recipe:
3.5# raw clover honey
1 gallon filtered water
15oz can of Libby's pumpkin pie filling
2 whole cloves
25 rasins
Lalvin 1118 yeast
a pinch of cinnamon
a pinch of allspice
a pinch of nutmeg
yeast nutrient
1/4 orange, peel included

I made two 1 gallon batches, both with the exact same ingredients, just the initial steps were slightly different.
In the first batch I boiled the water to a light roll and then added the 3.5# of honey. I continued to boil for another 20 minutes at a very light roll skimming the foam off the top. I then let the honey and water mix cool to just under 80^ using a chiller. I stared the yeast in a small cup with 2 oz of 100^ water and let that sit for about 1 hour.
After the water and honey cooled off I mixed in the pumpkin, spices, orange, raisins and everything else. I stirred that vigorously for about 10 minutes until the pumpkin puree was almost completely dissolved. I then added the yeast and stirred for a few more minutes, capped the carboy and shook vigorously for a few minutes and then let the must sit.
The second batch I made with the same ingredients, but I added everything together with the honey and cooked it all together for 20 minutes before cooling.
Both batches sat for a little over two weeks and then I racked them into new carboys. I let those sit another two weeks, racked again, but I sampled them at this point. They both tasted like rocket fuel. I checked the pH on them, and they were a little acidic, so I added some potassium carbonate to level them off. I then let them sit for about a month and reracked them. This time I added another 5-6oz of honey to each to back sweeten. I let them sit until last weekend when I added another 6oz of honey and a campden tablet to kill off any remaining yeast. They sat for another week, and then I bottled them on Saturday. I don't think they would have been drinkable if I hadn't added the extra honey.
 
Etowah Meadery - Drink Unique
African Bronze Honey - 50% off for GotMead members