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New guy with meadmaking process question

CrazyRuskii

NewBee
Registered Member
Jun 6, 2012
11
0
0
PA, DE, NJ Border
Hello all! I'm new to the forum, but I've been researching meadmaking on this site and others for the past few weeks, ordered myself all the basic equipment, and am ready to take the plunge into making my first batch of mead ;D I've gotten together what I believe to be an appropriate order of operations that will give me the final product which I'm looking for. What I want to know from you experienced folk is, are there any steps I'm missing, or am I over doing anything?

Thanks for the help!

Step 1: Add 2lbs honey, fruit, etc. to 1 gallon water in bucket, and then shake.
Step 2: Take hydrometer reading OG.
Step 3: Add yeast to warm water per directions on package.
Step 4: Add yeast to must, shake, airlock, and let sit.
Step 5: Wait around 2 weeks until airlock bubbles once every 30 seconds.
Step 6: Rack mead into glass carboy.
Step 7: Keep taking hydrometer reading every week until fermentation is complete.

Step 8: Rack mead into secondary carboy.
Step 9: Add Potassium metabisulfite. Shake.
Step 10: Wait a few hours.
Step 11: Add Potassium sorbate. Shake.
Step 12: Wait two days.

Step 13: Rack.
Step 14: Backsweeten with ~1/5th cup of honey, then shake.
Step 15: Wait one day.
Step 16: Add bentonite.
Step 17: Wait about one week until it is clear.
Step 13: Take hydrometer reading FG.
Step 15: Bottle!
 

TAKeyser

NewBee
Registered Member
Mar 4, 2012
1,228
3
0
47
Detroit, MI
Hello all! I'm new to the forum, but I've been researching meadmaking on this site and others for the past few weeks, ordered myself all the basic equipment, and am ready to take the plunge into making my first batch of mead ;D I've gotten together what I believe to be an appropriate order of operations that will give me the final product which I'm looking for. What I want to know from you experienced folk is, are there any steps I'm missing, or am I over doing anything?

Thanks for the help!

Step 1: Add 2lbs honey, fruit, etc. to 1 gallon water in bucket, and then shake.
Step 2: Take hydrometer reading OG.
Step 3: Add yeast to warm water per directions on package.
Step 4: Add yeast to must, shake, airlock, and let sit.
Step 5: Wait around 2 weeks until airlock bubbles once every 30 seconds.
Step 6: Rack mead into glass carboy.
Step 7: Keep taking hydrometer reading every week until fermentation is complete.

Step 8: Rack mead into secondary carboy.
Step 9: Add Potassium metabisulfite. Shake.
Step 10: Wait a few hours.
Step 11: Add Potassium sorbate. Shake.
Step 12: Wait two days.

Step 13: Rack.
Step 14: Backsweeten with ~1/5th cup of honey, then shake.
Step 15: Wait one day.
Step 16: Add bentonite.
Step 17: Wait about one week until it is clear.
Step 13: Take hydrometer reading FG.
Step 15: Bottle!

I'm going to say yes and no. Looks as though you have the steps, but your timeline seems pretty off. Looking at this you'll be bottling in about a month which doesn't happen. Also never rely on airlock as a guide for anything other than when fermentation has started, there's just too many variables that come into play with an airlock that is why we suggest Hydrometer readings. You'll also want to aerate and feed nutrients until you reach the 1/3 Sugar Break. Also with only 2 lbs of honey most every yeast will take it completely dry and 1/5 cup of honey may not be enough to get the sweetness level you want.

If you haven't read it already take a look at the New Bee guide over to the left it'll give you a lot of information.
 

CrazyRuskii

NewBee
Registered Member
Jun 6, 2012
11
0
0
PA, DE, NJ Border
Alright, I've been reading over that NewBee Guide and it clarified some things I was still a little foggy about, but I still have a few questions.

never rely on airlock as a guide for anything other than when fermentation has started, there's just too many variables that come into play with an airlock that is why we suggest Hydrometer readings.
Fermentation is done when the numbers on the hydrometer stop dropping, yes?

You'll also want to aerate and feed nutrients until you reach the 1/3 Sugar Break.
Aerate and feed nutrients how often? Do raisins count as a nutrient, or should I buy something labeled yeast nutrient?

with only 2 lbs of honey most every yeast will take it completely dry and 1/5 cup of honey may not be enough to get the sweetness level you want.
Yeah, I was thinking about bumping that up to three pounds of honey, and sweetening to taste when I do backsweeten it.
 

TAKeyser

NewBee
Registered Member
Mar 4, 2012
1,228
3
0
47
Detroit, MI
Alright, I've been reading over that NewBee Guide and it clarified some things I was still a little foggy about, but I still have a few questions.
The NewBee guide is a good resource and will put you on the right track. Some procedures have changed since it was originally written so be aware that you may notice that not everything is exactly the same as you read through the posts on the forum. Rumor has it an update is being worked on to better reflect current practices.


Fermentation is done when the numbers on the hydrometer stop dropping, yes?
Yes, each yeast has a max tolerance (but what is usually printed is based on wine, but it is a reasonable starting point) so knowing your starting gravity you can figure about where you will end up. You'll notice that it usually slows a lot as it nears that point and when you get consistent readings for a few days straight fermentation is generally finished.


Aerate and feed nutrients how often? Do raisins count as a nutrient, or should I buy something labeled yeast nutrient?
Raisins will provide some nutrient but your better off getting a commercial yeast Nutrient. I suggest Go-Ferm (for rehydrating your yeast), Fermaid K and D.A.P. Most of us on the forum use these so it makes it easy to replicate results using the same products and get advice on issues since we know them. You rehydrate with Go-ferm which will give the yeast the nutrients it needs to start, than after you'll hit it with part of your Fermaid K and D.A.P. and at the 1/3 Sugar Break you'll add the rest of the Nutrients. Some people break this up even further and add nutrients every time they aerate. I aerate at least once a day until I hit that 1/3 Sugar Break, but some will try to hit it 2 or 3 times if their schedule allows it.


Yeah, I was thinking about bumping that up to three pounds of honey, and sweetening to taste when I do backsweeten it.
3 lbs is a pretty standard number and you will see it in a lot of recipes. Most yeasts will take that amount to dry at which time you can back-sweeten to taste. Some recipes will call for other amounts and there is usually a good reason for it. I usually suggest following a recipe to the letter for the first try, unless you've tasted it from someone who has already made it (sorry Skunkboy, taking it down a half pound a gallon when I do your recipe to make a semi-sweet instead of your excellent Sweet OB Hibiscus. It was so tasty.).
 

akueck

Certified Mead Mentor
Certified Mead Mentor
Jun 26, 2006
4,958
10
0
Ithaca, NY
I'll put an asterisk on the "it's done when the SG stops dropping". There are plenty of reasons why the SG stops dropping for a couple days, but your mead might not be "done". If your SG stops dropping and there is residual sugar left, you need to ask yourself if that is something you expect. For example, if your yeast usually gets you to 15% abv and it's sitting at 12% with residual sugar...it's probably not done. Meads like that can and do start up again even a few years later. So don't be fooled by a couple days worth of stable SG readings.
 

CrazyRuskii

NewBee
Registered Member
Jun 6, 2012
11
0
0
PA, DE, NJ Border
I'll put an asterisk on the "it's done when the SG stops dropping". There are plenty of reasons why the SG stops dropping for a couple days, but your mead might not be "done". If your SG stops dropping and there is residual sugar left, you need to ask yourself if that is something you expect. For example, if your yeast usually gets you to 15% abv and it's sitting at 12% with residual sugar...it's probably not done. Meads like that can and do start up again even a few years later. So don't be fooled by a couple days worth of stable SG readings.
Let’s go with your example. Let's say it did stop at 12%, and I added the metabisulfite and sorbate; this would not stop any future fermentation by the yeast still there, it would just keep them from multiplying, right?

So my question then would be: being new to this, how do I tell if it is done? Seeing as I have no experience with the characteristics of any type of yeast of course.
 

wayneb

Lifetime Patron
Lifetime GotMead Patron
Here's a more involved explanation of how it works:

Potassium sorbate inhibits the yeast from producing a hormone that promotes cell budding. Thus, when exposed to sorbate (actually sorbic acid when it is in solution), yeast cells are inhibited from reproducing. Sulphites (sulphur dioxide) actually will kill yeast cells (it is a generic microbial toxin) at a high enough concentration. Although most wild strains of yeast are effectively dispatched with sulphite concentrations in the neighborhood of 30-50 ppm (the exact number depends on lots of variables - consider this to be an effective range, though), many wine yeast strains are much more sulphite tolerant than that - some are hardy enough to survive concentrations of 300 ppm+.

At concentrations that high, many people are able to detect the sulphite additions as an off-flavor, so you don't generally want to try to hammer your yeast into submission with sulphites alone, if they are still actively fermenting. That's why we recommend allowing fermentation to stop - then you add a sorbate/sulphite cocktail (optionally with some backsweetening sugar) to prevent any fermentation from starting up in the future. A 50 to 100 ppm sulphite addition at the end of fermentation will generally take out most yeast cells that are near the end of their natural lifespan anyway (think of it as euthanasia for your yeast), and those that survive are at least inhibited from reproducing by the sorbate until they succumb naturally.

There is an added benefit to using sulphite with sorbate - since the sulphite is a general purpose antimicrobial, it also prevents infection by undesirable spoilage organisms. Those include malolactic bacteria. While in some cases (especially with grape wines) malolactic fermentation is desirable, in most cases with finished meads you don't want to go there, especially since MLF bacteria will eat sorbic acid (from the sorbate) when it is available, as well as malic acid. However the byproduct of sorbic acid metabolism is not lactic acid as in MLF, but instead it is a substance called geraniol. Geraniol, quite literally, stinks. It is produced in small quantities in geranium blossoms but it is better known as a mosquito repellant when called by another name - citronella. Geraniol does not readily break down, so once your wine/mead/whatever starts smelling like a citronella candle, it will do so forever. :puke:

As far as knowing when fermentation is truly complete - I usually wait at least a week after I think that I'm seeing no change in specific gravity before I believe that the fermentation is enough completed to allow effective use of the sorbate/sulphite.
 

wayneb

Lifetime Patron
Lifetime GotMead Patron
That is generally true, although there are times when fermentation may appear to be done for weeks, but upon racking the mead to a different container or changing the temperature of the must, it may start up again.

However if your mead has been at a fixed specific gravity for a week or longer, then usually the recommended doses of sulphite and sorbate will ensure that it stays stable.

Nothing happens with absolute certainty when it comes to making mead, though, so after the sulphite/sorbate additions, if there is residual sweetness in the mead, I'd still recommend waiting a bit before bottling. It is generally better for a mead to bulk age under an airlock anyway for some months before bottling. You'll get a more constent product, bottle to bottle, that way.
 

Matrix4b

NewBee
Registered Member
Dec 17, 2008
335
2
0
Denver Colorado
Damn, It can never be easy :p
Are you kidding, It IS easy. ;D

Honestly, It doesn't matter much on taste if the ferment is just completed or has been completed for a month. The flavor is the same.

Just a word of caution, watch the lees level, Many meads pick up off flavors if left of the lees for long periods of time. I remember that Lavin 71B has that problem. But that is a yeast choice situation.

I recomend reading the various posts on oaking here too. After doing a side by side test, light toasted oak vs no oak, I have found that Oaking is a must, no pun intended. Oaking smooths the mead so much. But be careful, find the posts here and elsewhere on oaking.

Happy Mead Making :cool:

Matrix
 

CrazyRuskii

NewBee
Registered Member
Jun 6, 2012
11
0
0
PA, DE, NJ Border
Alright guys, I did a lot more reading. How does this look?


Step 1: Add 3lbs honey, fruit, etc. to 1 gallon water in bucket, and then shake. A lot.
Step 2: Take hydrometer reading OG.
Step 3: Add yeast to warm water per directions on package with Go-Ferm.
Step 4: Add yeast to must, add Fermaid K and D.A.P., shake, airlock, and let sit.

Step 5: Aerate every day until 1/3 sugar break is reached.

Step 6: Once the 1/3 sugar break hits, add more Fermaid K and D.A.P.

Step 7: Keep taking hydrometer reading every week until fermentation looks complete.

Step 8: Rack into first glass carboy and add more fruit.
Step 9: Wait one month.

Step 10: Rack off fruit into second glass carboy.
Step 11: Add Potassium metabisulfite. Shake.
Step 12: Wait a few hours.
Step 13: Add Potassium sorbate. Shake.
Step 14: Add ~15 oak cubes.
Step 15: Wait around one month (tasting every week).

(The following is only necessary if sweetening is needed.)

Step 16: Rack off oak into first carboy.
Step 17: Backsweeten, then shake.
Step 18: Wait one day.

(The following is only necessary if clearing is needed.)

Step 19: Add bentonite if necessary.
Step 20: Wait about one week until it is clear.

Step 21: Take hydrometer reading FG.
Step 22: Bottle!
 

tweak'e

NewBee
Registered Member
Jan 31, 2011
396
1
0
NewZealand
Step 7: Keep taking hydrometer reading every week until fermentation looks complete.
i would not bother. just wait till yeast has dropped then check. try not to open it up to often.

Step 8: Rack into first glass carboy and add more fruit.
Step 9: Wait one month.

Step 10: Rack off fruit into second glass carboy.
Step 11: Add Potassium metabisulfite. Shake.
Step 12: Wait a few hours.
Step 13: Add Potassium sorbate. Shake.
swap that around. stablize first then add fruit. otherwise fruit will ferment and you loose a fair bit of the taste.
 

CrazyRuskii

NewBee
Registered Member
Jun 6, 2012
11
0
0
PA, DE, NJ Border
swap that around. stablize first then add fruit. otherwise fruit will ferment and you loose a fair bit of the taste.
Gotcha. How does this look then?

Step 8: Rack into first glass carboy.
Step 9: Add Potassium metabisulfite. Shake.
Step 10: Wait a few hours.
Step 11: Add Potassium sorbate. Shake.
Step 12: Wait a week.

Step 13: Add more fruit.
Step 14: Wait one month.
 

tweak'e

NewBee
Registered Member
Jan 31, 2011
396
1
0
NewZealand
that looks better.

you don't have to wait hours before adding sorbate. as long as the meta is mixed in well then sorbate can be added 5-10min later. you want to add the sorbate after the meta has done its thing but before the meta dies away (roughly put so don't flame me).

i put the meta in carboy first (makes sure its dissolved first!), rack mead on top of it. the time it takes for me to go and get sorbate measured and dissolved is usually long enough.

the week wait is a very good idea before adding fruit or backsweetening.
 

TAKeyser

NewBee
Registered Member
Mar 4, 2012
1,228
3
0
47
Detroit, MI
Step 4: Add yeast to must, add Fermaid K and D.A.P., shake, airlock, and let sit.
Wait until the Lag Period is over before you add the Fermaid and D.A.P. This lets the yeast get used to the environment and start up. So wait until you see some sign that fermentation has started (foam at the top of the mead, airlock activity, etc. This is the only time you use the airlock as a sign of anything) and than add the nutrients.
 

jkane

NewBee
Registered Member
Mar 3, 2010
232
5
0
SE Wisconsin
www.kane1.com
When tasting weekly during the 1 month on oak, be prepared to rack off of the oak. Make sure it is toasted oak too, not raw oak. Once it is over oaked, the only way to fix it is to make more and blend. Not that making more is a bad thing. ;D
 

Noe Palacios

Aristaeus' Apprentice
GotMead Patron
Привет русский сумасшедший

Привет русский сумасшедший:

It seems to me that your time line is pretty more shorter than mine. Try to be patient, apart from the 1/3 sugar break - in my case it usually occurs at the 5th day - nothing is written on stones. It's worth the waiting.

Saludos,
 

tweak'e

NewBee
Registered Member
Jan 31, 2011
396
1
0
NewZealand
Wait until the Lag Period is over before you add the Fermaid and D.A.P. This lets the yeast get used to the environment and start up. So wait until you see some sign that fermentation has started (foam at the top of the mead, airlock activity, etc. This is the only time you use the airlock as a sign of anything) and than add the nutrients.
yes and no on this one.

it depends a bit on the setup, whats used in re hydration and whats in the must.
the main thing is to not add DAP until after the lag time. on the other hand adding nutrients at the start can be very good as it allows healthy yeast build up.

with some of my yeasts it comes with nutrient pre mixed so you do not have a choice but to have it at the start.