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Starting a "mock" commercial meadery.

Maddawg

NewBee
Registered Member
Feb 6, 2018
6
0
0
Hey guys! I have been lurking around these forums for a while but just finally decided to join. I have a question that I have found partial answers to here but not a full answer so I decided to ask.

A short background on me. I had a love for homebrew while in the Navy but it was focused on beer. Once I got out along came the wife, then the kid...then there is no space to brew and life gets in the way. I now work for an electric utility in Atlanta and work hand in hand with the tons of breweries we have popping up here and it has reignited my passion, except I would rather focus on mead. I feel there is so much more room for versatility with mead.

I have been in a ton of commercial breweries, and quite a few wineries, but no meaderies. I am wanting to come back into the hobby with the goal of going commercial, I feel like the market is prime for it and I'm in a good place financially to make the jump. My plan is to build a homebrew station in my garage in the next month or so to start perfecting a few recipes. I plan on running 4 5 gallon fermenters. My question is what all would I need to fully replicate a medium sized commercial outfit on that scale. I want to be able to build a process in my garage that I can perfect and then move to a building with say 4 250 gallon fermenters and pick right up. So anything such as filters or hot boxes or anything like that I would need in the larger scale I would want to use now in the garage.

I know this was a lot but it's been brewing for a couple of weeks while I have been searching for the answers. Thanks for any help!

-CJ

Sent from my SM-N950U using Tapatalk
 

Caleb

NewBee
Registered Member
Feb 12, 2015
6
0
1
A filter, temperate control (maybe a repurposed fridge or two), food grade CO2 and oxygen. Good PH meter. You could also do smaller practice batches unless you have lots of friends to get rid of it all. I still have like 20 cases of practice batches and I used 3 gallon fermenters. When you have a meadery you deal with so much mead you get sick of it. Sometimes I just use 1 litre erlenmeyer flasks now or 1 gallon jars fitted with air locks. Microscopes are handy but not really a requirement. You can also get samples of your meads lab tested if you are serious.. Practice making meads that meet your governments food safety requirements (tolerances for different additions). S02 test kit is also handy for this. I have the vinometric.
 

bernardsmith

Got Mead? Patron
GotMead Patron
Sep 1, 2013
1,611
19
38
Saratoga Springs , NY
Hi Maddawg -I wish you well.
I am sure you have thought about this but I wonder how easy it is to scale up from pouring and stirring a few pounds of honey into a 3 or 5 gallon fermenter to pouring and stirring 750 - 1000 lbs. I know nothing about the ins and outs of making mead commercially but I would imagine that a home brewing model does not scale up in any simple way. And not simply the volumes involved may require very different logistics but the volumes themselves must play a different role in the chemical processes - For example, the pressure exerted by the weight of a column of mead in a 250 gallon fermenter on the lower portions of the tank must be very different than the pressure exerted in our home fermenters. What kinds of stresses does that induce in the yeast? Does that then require modifications to the recipe when scaled up from 5 gallons to 250?
 

Caleb

NewBee
Registered Member
Feb 12, 2015
6
0
1
I generally do batches in 1000 litre tanks and I use 2000 litre tanks for blending.. 2000 litres was the batch size recommended to me for starting with by other meadmakers and wine professionals. It is probably the most you want to bottle in a day with a semiautomatic corker. Scaling up is pretty easy honestly and you get a lot more product for the time you spend making mead. I find it easier to work with temperature controlled tanks with sample valves than carboys. You can mix the honey in a mixing tank or a large bin like a food safe grape bin. Just add warm water and pump some honey in from a barrel or dump in 5 gallon pails. I started using large stove with a 300 litre tank on it just to warm up some water to dissolve the honey in. Pretty much the same way I made smaller batches. I have never experienced problems scaling up.. I don’t think it is that complicated. A 500 gram package of Lalvin yeast does 2000 litres of wine so half a package will do 1000 litres (around 250 gallons). 2000 litres of wine is very insignificant in the commercial wine world so I don’t see how pressure is going to be a problem for the yeast..
 

Squatchy

Lifetime GotMead Patron
Lifetime GotMead Patron
Nov 3, 2014
5,205
29
48
Denver
I think if you really want to "practice" You need to buy some small scall equipment that works like a large scall meadery. How much money do you have to spend on your "mock-up" meadery? Are you just wanting to refine a product line? That's not the same as using commercial grade equipment. Some of the gear that somewhat matches on a small scale is pretty pricey. And yet would be too small to use in a larger scale operation.

You will want to buy some jacketed conicals and a glycol chiller. To start. Or, more beer has come temp controlled conicals. I have one. But they are costly and yet too small once you go big to be much help. So I'm not really sure what you are really in need of. Sounds to me you might still need to learn the science of making modern mead with modern protocols. And then once you can do that start refining a product line. None of which require the equipment I mentioned. Although if you do know the science protocols. It will help to be much more consistent with your finished flavor profiles.

You don't need a hot box if all your using is 5-gallon buckets of honey. Fill your tub with hot water and set your buckets in there. Maybe repeat a couple of times if your honey has crystallized.
You can use 10-20 gallon trash cans. ( I do this, along with my temp controlled conical) and generally, those are not so big that you have too many problems with temps. They will rise a little. But that's easily controlled for not a lot of money. And, you can pick warm-blooded yeast in the summer and cold-blooded yeast in the winter if you can't control your ambient temps and don't have temp control. You can easily build a small fermenting room out of hard foam panels and cool with an air conditioner.

If I were going to start small and then eventually go bigger. I would first by an analyzer. I use a Vinmetrica 300 pro. Or Hanna makes some for double the cost. I would learn good SO2 management. Most home brewers do a terrible job of this. And it is of utmost importance if you are going to want to make something that is stable and will protect your investment in the bottle from oxidation and microorganisms that can wreck your brand name in an instant if you mess that up. I would but a plate filter . Buonvino Super Jet. Learn how to filter and polish your product. SO it presents well and will taste much cleaner and extend your shelf life. Get a good understanding of several yeast strains. I have used over 30. And typically use 10-15 of them on a regular basis. I know what strain adds this or that to my profile and match it to honey and to my other adjuncts. You need to know mead well enough that you sit down on a piece of paper and build your mead by design with good knowledge instead of guessing and taking pot shots in the dark like most home boys do. Learn about oak. Know what species does what . And what the different toast levels will add. ANd know this well enough you can write down in your "Build sheet" before you even start to buy your ingredients. Learn about different kinds of honey.

Making good mead does not come by accident. And you can't do that right off the bat. Even if you have read everything under the son. You could know everything possible about tennis. And never have touched a tennis racket. But still not be able to play. Make mead. Make lots of mead. Practice. The more you make and the more you taste. Of yours and of others. The better you will become. Get certified as a mead judge. And start going to comps and judge mead. It's damn hard work. But it makes you better. Everything you make for the first 200 gallons should have a/b comparison test attached to them. Maybe even a/b/c/d comparisons once you get a little bit of experience under your belt.

I make more mead in a year than I will ever drink in a lifetime. Make lots and give it away. Learn how to become a better taster. Buy taste and color wheels. They even have texture wheels. Taste every single thing you put in your meads. You should know what SO2 taste like, you should know what DAP taste like, fermaid-o, Go-ferm. K2co3, all of the single acid additions. Tataric, malic, citric. You should know as many spices as you can think of and know what they taste like.

All of this is only the start. Maybe know you have a better idea of what a good mead maker has in his toolbox compared to a blindfolded home brewer tossing darts at a donkey somewhere at the wall. Start entering your meads in competitions. Listen to what the judges have to say. Right now, I'm tied for second place in the AMMA "mead maker of the year award". You could be too if you work hard enough.

Go listen to the podcast on Gotmeadlive and start on 9/5/17. I walk you through every step in making modern mead with modern science. And not only tell you "what" but I explain the "why" behind every move as well. I promise if you spend the time to listen to the 4 or 5 podcast. I forget how many. You will be miles and mile further than where you would be after several years of wading through all the shit on the internet on your own. The internet is a horrible place to learn how to make mead in general. Take advantage of this community. Look to find answers the old fashioned way. Study like you are in school. I did it this way. Before you ask a bunch of self-proclaimed experts. See what you can learn on your own. Before you start your batches. Ask here first if you have all your bases covered. Post what you plan to do in as much detail as you can. We can save you lots of heartache and crappy made mead.

Ok. That's enough for one sitting. Welcome to our community. Hope you stick around. ;)
 

Stasis

Honey Master
Registered Member
Jan 10, 2014
1,123
9
38
Malta
If only the biggest hurdle to opening a meadery were the equipment and scaling up. I used to dream about going commercial but then you remember that you have to really step up your game, be extra careful, do a lot of homework, a lot of work and a lot of expertise. Once you go commercial it's also a business and not just a hobby. And there is no guarantee that I'd be effing around like I do now and get rich for little effort.
Not saying this is what went through your head. Jut saying the difference between my day dream and reality
 

Videojunkie

NewBee
Registered Member
Sep 11, 2016
28
0
0
Papillion, NE, USA
I think that one of the biggest challenges is developing a set of recipes that you can duplicate year after year, batch to batch. That way it can become a "product". When people buy a "Chardonnay" they have an expectation of what a "Chardonnay" tastes like, and they expect that the Chardonnay from the same winery tastes the same (or similar) from year to year. The same thing applies to making mead with an eye for going professional. You can't make 30 different types of mead and see what sticks, (you may want to eventually, to figure out the market and where to focus to grow your business). Make a batch, say a Cyser, Melomel, or a Traditional. Then make it again - compare and contrast the two batches, repeat until you can brew successive batches of the same recipe that are indistinguishable from each other. Figure out how to control for the natural variables (humidity, temperature, etc.) that change during the year so that the batch you make in the fall tastes the same as the one you made in the spring. That way when you have a customer that bought "that awesome bottle that is my favorite" in the spring, and they return to buy another, you can sell them one off the shelf with the expectation that it is going to make them have a similar experience that is repeatable.

While you're doing that, you can play around and make 50 other types of meads like Squatchy suggests, so that you have ideas of what you want to make next. Build your network of friends and mead drinkers so that when you "go pro" you have a ready fan base to buy your product (although some might get bummed when the free booze train leaves).