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Looking For Advice

Mazer828

NewBee
Registered Member
Sep 9, 2015
791
4
0
Inland Empire
@ambaryerno I like your math for your volume calculations. I also like the idea of a 1.122 OG. It's modest, won't shock your yeast and you're giving yourself the room for future honey additions. Very well thought out.

I suppose if you wanted to you could set up a very simple calculator on an excel spreadsheet, but I think you have a handle on the math and it's really not all that complicated, as you showed. Well done.
 

Ambaryerno

NewBee
Registered Member
Jan 9, 2016
41
0
0
St. Louis, MO
dewyatt.net
Thanks, although I think I might still want to create a calculator on the spreadsheet, because otherwise as I'm step-feeding I'll have to calculate the volume of the honey I'm adding AND update the total must volume, and recalculate the gravity, and then constantly play with those two numbers until it yields the gravity I want.

Whereas if all I have to do is plug in a weight for the honey, the spreadsheet can do the rest and save me a lot of time and potential errors. I can also set up the spreadsheet to automatically calculate my final ABV based on the total amount of honey I've added.

That, and I HATE math. :p
 

Ambaryerno

NewBee
Registered Member
Jan 9, 2016
41
0
0
St. Louis, MO
dewyatt.net
Ok, I think I've got a feeding plan:

First, I've played around with some more calculations. My ultimate goal is a 20% ABV sweet mead, so a FG of about 1.020. Recalculating, it looks like I'll need 5lbs honey/gal. IF I'm calculating everything right that would give total gravity of 1.177, which with a target FG of 1.020 will yield ~21% ABV. So I'd break it down as follows:

I'd mix the must at 2.9lbs honey in .58gal water. This gives me an OG of 1.124 My first break is at 1.080, at which point I add another 1.62lbs of honey. This will bring my gravity back up to 1.124. I let the fermentation resume, and when it's back to 1.080 I add the remaining .48lbs of honey and let things run per the process.

Now, the question is what do I do with that extra 2lbs of heather honey (remember the supplier I'm looking at ships the honey in buckets of 7lbs)? Well, simple solution: Take that 2lbs and make a dry at about 10-11% ABV alongside the big one, which will (hopefully) be ready for drinking sooner so I've got something to enjoy while waiting for the 20% to mature.

Does that all sound about right?
 

Shelley

Worker Bee
Registered Member
Sep 13, 2013
332
8
18
Harford, NY
MeadMagic.com
I do intend to use the boil method. Maybe it's not the BEST way, but it IS the historical way, and I'd like to make use of as much of the traditional practices (in reason. I can't at the moment afford or have room for an ACTUAL oak barrel to age in) as I can.
Historical recipes also use raisins in lieu of yeast nutrients, and add the honey up front, not at sugar breaks. Digby used an egg for a hydrometer, and hair-sacks to filter, not Irish Moss.

If you're going to boil, then consider using cheap honey. Heather honey is just too expensive, and too full of beautiful aromas, to boil. I know medieval recipes called for boiling the must and skimming off the foam, but that method does lose a lot of honey characteristics. As a beekeeper it makes me wince any more to see someone boiling their must.

Don't forget, too, that beekeeping pre-1850s was a very different process. They had to take whole comb from the hives, not the nice extraction methods we have today. Boiling the honey then may have been necessary to produce a good mead, if only to kill any native yeast and bacteria in the honey they had.
 

Mazer828

NewBee
Registered Member
Sep 9, 2015
791
4
0
Inland Empire
Is there another yeast you would recommend for that target? What about WLP099?
That would be one of my top choices. I have taken EC-1118 to 19% once, and I have later used the white labs super high gravity ale yeast to take a mead to 20+, with wonderful flavor profile. Matter of fact I just sent that in as one of my submissions to the Mazer cup this year. Happy to share details on the method if you're interested. Reading the instructions for that yeast strain it advertises that 25% can be reached with very careful fermentation management. So your 21% is definitely within reach.
 

Mazer828

NewBee
Registered Member
Sep 9, 2015
791
4
0
Inland Empire
Here's a link to the white labs page for that ale yeast.

https://www.whitelabs.com/yeast/wlp099-super-high-gravity-ale-yeast

There are some pretty good comments at the bottom too. In general I can tell you it takes daily attention during the first four or five days of ferment, aerating and oxygenating actively at least once per day. It really does respond well to step feeding and staggered nutrient additions.

In my example I started with a wyeast dry mead yeast because I really like the flavor profile I get from that yeast, then at about 10% ABV I pitched a "started" SHG ale yeast to carry the ABV up to the top. I added honey in 5 pound increments up to 20, then 2 pounds after that. I added nutrient and oxygenated every day for the first three days, then added nutrient with every feeding. I used Fermax throughout as my nutrient, which I believe is very similar to Fermaid-K. My rate of nutrient addition was 1/2 tsp per gallon for every addition up to my last 5 pound honey feeding. From then on I only added honey, regularly stirred and degassed, and checked gravity.

Like I said, I might have veered off course in my method, there are probably a couple of tweaks I would make when I make it again, but that's how I did it. And it turned out well enough that it topped out at over 20%, took oak very well, cleared within about 2 months without any agents, and gets rave reviews whenever I feel generous enough to share.
 

Ambaryerno

NewBee
Registered Member
Jan 9, 2016
41
0
0
St. Louis, MO
dewyatt.net
Ok, here we go:

1) Prepare the must, mixing 2.9lbs honey in .58gal water
2) Pour it into the carboy.
3) Hydrate and start yeast per instructions.
4) Pitch yeast and aerate (aerate 2-3x daily, say once first thing AM, once in the evening)
5) Once fermentation begins add 1/2 Fermax or Fermaid-K every day for the first thee days
6) At the first sugar break (1.080), add 1.62lb honey and 1/2 tsp nutrient
7) When it returns to 1.080 add the remaining honey and 1/2 tsp nutrient
8) Continue aerating and degassing daily, monitoring ABV
9) Once target ABV reached rack to secondary fermenter.
10) Add spices, honey to desired sweetness as necessary, and oak.
11) Bulk age on oak, tasting periodically.
12) Once level of oak acceptable rack off. Remove spice bag when desired flavor reached.
13) Continue bulk aging.
14) Bottle once bulk aging complete.

Alternately, with that yeast I can try to push it even higher with an extra pound of honey.

Start off 2.5lbs in 1/2 gallon for 1.125. Add 1.25lbs honey the first two times it ferments down to 1.080, and 1lb on the third. Add more nutrients on those first two feedings, but not on the third. Easier to measure, too, since I'm not dealing with funky fractions, and it gives me some extra honey to use if necessary. Downside is with that 7lb bucket it won't give me enough extra heather honey to do that dry 10% while this beast is aging.
 
Last edited:

Mazer828

NewBee
Registered Member
Sep 9, 2015
791
4
0
Inland Empire
Are you going to feed it until it quits and then add honey to the desired sweetness? Sounds like you are, just confirming. That's what I did.

Also, what's your aeration method? You'll need to make sure you get oxygen into the must, so simple agitation will only degas, as there will be no oxygen in the head space. Easiest way would be pure oxygen using a tank and a diffusion stone, but you may not have access to that. Another way to do it might be to pop the top, splash rack it into a sanitized bucket, whip it to a froth with a sanitized wire whisk, and rack it back into the carboy. I know it sounds like a pain but that SHG yeast really needs extra oxygenation in the early days. 😉 🍷
 

Ambaryerno

NewBee
Registered Member
Jan 9, 2016
41
0
0
St. Louis, MO
dewyatt.net
I was going to feed either two or three times, depending on whether I end up using 5 or 6lbs of honey, each time when the gravity gets to 1.080.

As for oxygenating, I was probably going to follow what was in the newbie guide and shake the hell out of it, but it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to get an actual aeration kit. Seems I can pick an inexpensive one up for less than 40 bucks.

This one seems to be getting pretty good reviews.
 

Ambaryerno

NewBee
Registered Member
Jan 9, 2016
41
0
0
St. Louis, MO
dewyatt.net
Hey all, long time no post.

So, I finally decided to take a shot at my high ABV sweet mead again. I started it Jun 19, and at first everything went well. I started with a gravity of 1.140, (a little over target, but my measurements may have been slightly off for the water and honey) aerated 2x daily, and the gravity was dropping about 10 points per day. I reached my first feed break (calculated 1.093 for that starting gravity) and added another pound of honey, bringing the gravity back to 1.130. Based on some other information and feedback I received elsewhere, after the first feed break I stopped aerating, but continued to check the gravity daily. The first day or two went well, but then the yeast started slowing quite significantly. I wasn't seeing a lot of gas activity in the airlock, and the gravity was only dropping 2-4 points per day. Still, I reached the next feed break on the 30th, and added the next pound of honey, bringing the gravity up to 1.124. Then things REALLY started to slow down.

Last Saturday I decided to try getting it going again by drawing off some of the must to make a starter with an additional vial of White Labs' SHG yeast and nutrient. I let that sit for about 12 hours to get going, then pitched it back into my must and gave it a good five minutes with the air stone. Bingo, that got the gas going. Since then, I've continued checking the gravity, but rather than using the stone I've been given the carboy a good vigorous shaking once per day to keep the yeast suspended. There's a lot of gas activity...but over the last three days there's been no change to the gravity.

Clearly the yeast are doing SOMETHING because there's a lot of activity in the airlock. Is that second batch of yeast just in an aerobic/growth phase and I should begin seeing fermentation resume soon? Or is there something else going on?
 

Squatchy

Lifetime GotMead Patron
Lifetime GotMead Patron
Nov 3, 2014
5,204
26
48
Denver
Why the hell do you keep adding more honey? Did you determine your pitch rate for the highest gravity total? And did you feed the proper amount of nutrients for that gravity? Why are you doing this? You're messing with your yeast. Just start at the gravity you want to have at the end. Unless it's super high. Then start lower. Let it eat a few days and then add the remaining honey. You can't just add another batch of yeast to a must if it already has a decent ABV to it. That requires a different approach.
 

Ambaryerno

NewBee
Registered Member
Jan 9, 2016
41
0
0
St. Louis, MO
dewyatt.net
I suppose you didn't read the rest of the thread, which explains EXACTLY what I'm trying to do, AND why I'm doing it the way I'm doing it. I put the process together based on advice IN THIS THREAD, and which was cross-checked by previous comments. I only took the step of pitching additional yeast when things started going sideways LONG before I had an appreciable ABV.

And somehow my SG went UP the last couple days despite not adding any more honey. :confused: