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Another attempt: ~11% traditional

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  • Another attempt: ~11% traditional

    Good morning gents,

    So this weekend I started another mead. Fermenter can't be standing empty, so I got it running. I made a 25 liter batch, biggest batch of anything to date. My aim was originally a 10% ABV dry traditional I could stabilise and backsweeten to around 1.01 for a semi-sweet offering, but the honey I got (Macadamia & Sunflower) was a bit stronger than anticipated so I slightly overshot my gravity. I ended up at 1.081, for an estimated ABV of 10.8% ABV in the end. Not bad at all, so I'm happy with how it turned out.

    Recipe:
    6.3kg of honey, as discussed above.
    Lalvin 71B wine yeast
    RO water (but not blank RO, has a very good water profile).
    Fermaid O, feeding according to TOSNA 2.0.

    I used the mead calculator and it said I need just over 5 grams of yeast. One packet is 5 grams, so I figured I'll take the risk, since I only had one packet of yeast. Anyway, I got this mead under way. Everything seems to have gone absolutely perfect. Storytime:

    Yesterday morning I took the little buckets of honey and placed them in a big pot on the stove, and poured boiling water in around them to get the honey more liquid, so it can be poured. We currently have a terrible cold front in South Africa, and my RO water temps in the fermenter sat at 14C. Way too cold. So I sanitized a big container, tapped off a lot of the water (8l), and started heating the fermenter up a bit. At 16C I felt comfortable to add the now-warm honey, and added 6.3kg of the honey.

    Once the honey was added, I closed up the fermenter and shook the living daylights out of it. I took a hydrometer reading and it stuck at 1.1 dead. Perfect. I closed up the fermenter again and shook it again. Another reading - 1.1 again. Good. That means the honey was properly dissolved and I don't have some honey lying at the bottom, undissolved. The fermenter was not at the level it should have been and where I calculated at, so I topped it up with warm water bit by bit. I stirred and checked temps. The fermenter temperature was at 26C, so I added some more cold water to the 25l mark and hit the 24C mark. Perfect.

    The honey seems to have been slightly sweeter or more dehydrated than the GotMead calculator's norm, and I slightly overshot my gravity. I aimed for 1.075 with my caluclated volume and weight, and measured 1.08 perfectly. Temperature correction at 24C gives me 1.081, which is slightly over, but I'm still happy with it. If I ferment it to completely dry, I'll come in at just-just under 11% ABV, which is fine.

    During the time of mixing the honey and water and all that, I rehydrated my yeast. Got a clean glass with 60ml of warm water at 40C. The packet says 35C-40C but it felt just too hot for me, so I let it sit until I got around 36C. Added the yeast. Let it sit for a bit and stirred it in. The yeast rehydrated beautifully (best I've managed to date, maybe it helps to follow instructions) and the slurry came down in temp slooooowly. Because I don't have Go-Ferm and I was worried about the yeast's lifetime in the water, I dissolved the first dose of Fermaid O in some warm water and added it to the yeast at 15 minutes. I also introduced a small amount of must at 20 minutes to give the yeast something to chew on in the meantime. This sent the yeast into overdrive and in 2 minutes the slurry in the glass was visibly moving around. First time I've seen yeast THIS active.

    By the time I've added the must, the yeast slurry was at 25C. Must was at 24C, so I pitched at around 28 minutes. The fermenter's lid was still a bit wet with honey water and to avoid ants I decided to wash it first. Washed it, sanitized it and when I got back to the fermenter, there was already visible fermentation in the mead. I've never ever seen a fermentation start this fast. From now on, I'll ALWAYS rehydrate. Always. The yeast looks just so incredibly happy, it's not even funny. I placed the lid on the fermenter, slipped in the airlock and it took just half an hour before the first bubbles started pushing through.

    I stood the fermenter in our bedroom last night (because the rest of the house is just too cold right now), and by bedtime the mead was at the perfect aimed for 20C. Bubbles are slow, but strong and constant, as I expected from fermenting in the lower end of the yeast's temperature range. Very happy with the ferment so far. Second nutrient addition is due for this afternoon. Can't wait!

  • #2
    Cool Keep them updates coming.
    The Problem With The World Is That Everyone Is A Few Drinks Behind.!

    Comment


    • #3
      OK so fermenter is now staying in the bedroom. I'm DAMN glad my fermenter seals airtight, because ants discovered the fact that it's pretty much a 30l bucket containing 6.3kg of honey. They can't get it, but they're caked around the tap and everywhere on the fermenter I guess a drop of the must fell and dried. I washed the fermenter well before I pitched, but I guess they're after every single drop they can get. Anyway.

      I added the second nutrient addition yesterday. Fermenter is staying in the bedroom, simply because the rest of what I have is too cold. There's no point in placing the fermenter in my fermentation fridge when the fridge is sitting at 16C for the best part of the day, and I don't yet have a heating pad. Will have to invest sometime soon. Pet shop here I come!

      Anyway, on the ferment. The smell from the fermenter is amazing. I'm loving this. It's a lot cleaner smelling than the last ferment I did, and I suspect it's because I'm using 71B instead of the Abbaye yeast I used last time. I'll compare the two now, and then I'll know if it's worth using a wine yeast when apparently the Abbaye yeasts make a mead that's "ready faster". Let's see.

      I'll be taking a hydrometer reading this afternoon. I HOPE I haven't reached the 1/3rd sugar break yet, but something tells me "you're there already". Time will tell.

      EDIT: That being said - does anyone know where in SA we can find Go-Ferm? It seems to be non-existent in SA...

      Comment


      • #4
        ^ An alternative from Distillique.co.za maybe ??
        The Problem With The World Is That Everyone Is A Few Drinks Behind.!

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by JIGSAW View Post
          ^ An alternative from Distillique.co.za maybe ??
          The yeast nutrient isn't the problem. We get DAP and Fermaid K and Fermaid O (which I use) in SA quite readily, and for good prices. However, what I want is Go-Ferm. It's a rehydration supplement that boosts the yeast's initial health, cell wall thickness and drastically reduces the damage yeast takes when it's introduced in high-gravity solutions. So it doesn't only help with stuff that's completely devoid of nutrients (like mead), but will also seriously help the yeast colony in something like a strong stout (over 8% ABV). After seeing how happy the yeast can be after a good rehydration protocol, I really want to see what it'll do when GoFerm is used.

          Anyway, added more Fermaid O yesterday. Followed another guy's advice - mixed the Fermaid O with the gravity sample taken into sanitized everything. Gravity reading - 1.071. Slower than I expected, but that's mead for you. It can take a month for a batch to finish, so I'm giving it it's time. Airlock is increasing bubbles, they're quicker this morning than they were last night, so I'm guessing the yeast has actively started fermenting and has gone through the initial phases of what it does. Will be adding the last feeding this afternoon until 1/3rd sugar break, when I'll feed last time. Temperature is strong at 20C. Doesn't deviate. Cool room and warm fermenter is working wonders together.

          Comment


          • #6
            How long do you plan on conditioning this mead?
            Primary: Bohemian Lager
            Secondary: Bohemian lager/ Ale fusion - Added US-05 to secondary
            Next up: Bohemian Lager
            Then: Bohemian Lager
            And Then: Bohemian Lager
            Conditioning: Chucked Fruit Ale

            "What he doth, he doth by rule of Thumb, and not by Art."
            "What's the use of having a mind when you can't change it?"

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Brennen View Post
              How long do you plan on conditioning this mead?
              Last batch was made nowhere near as controlled as this one, and it was excellent after a year. It wasn't a wine yeast though. This one I'm planning on aging for as long as it takes. I'm thinking 6 months, depending on how it finishes, but I'm guessing after a year it'll start to really shine.

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              • #8
                Alright, so I reached almost-almost 1/3rd sugar break on Friday evening. Because I didn't want to get up in the middle of the night to feed the yeasties, I decided to feed the final addition at 1.056 instead of the required 1.054. Fed, degassed well and stirred up the yeast cake properly. Stuck it in the fermentation chamber. Smell is amazing. Not a single odd, off or weird flavour I don't want. This mead, so far, is looking really, really great. Still stuck at 20C and I don't think I'm going to move it. It's currently eating around 6~7 points a day, which is perfect, meaning it'll take around 2 weeks for this to finish up in primary. I'll give it 3 weeks easy, then slightly raise the temp and then cold crash, rack and let it degas naturally for a while. I'll update once I have more info.

                Oh yes, and the garage where the fridge is standing smells like honey and blossoms now. It's pretty nice for a winter smell.

                Comment


                • #9
                  A tiny little taste test (a good thing in wines, apparently) yesterday revealed that we're going on well. Not a single off-flavour (very common in wines, specially with traditional wine yeasts like 71B) and very, very good taste. Still super-sweet, as could be expected, but man this is going well so far! You can actually taste the macadamia honey in there...

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                  • #10
                    Fermentation is done. Cold crashed it over the weekend and I'm holding it at 2C for a week before I'll rack it off and fine. Taste test reveals a pretty fruity mead, very clean and without any off flavours. I'm pretty happy with it.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Alright since I'm talking to myself here (LOL), I went with it. Last night I sanitized my secondary container (an HDPE container I bought just for this purpose), added potassium metabisulfite to the container and racked the mead onto the sulfites. I calculated it to 2.4g of metabisulfite per the 23l (6 gallons) I racked off, aiming for 60ppm free SO2. It's a ballpark, and I guessed the pH of the mead to 3.7, so I hope I'm there. I checked on a calculator this morning that I might be under the market, and I should be aiming for a bit higher levels, so I'll see how it turns out. I will HAVE to get pH strips or something to check pH with, I can't keep guessing like this and hope for the best. It's not accurate. Anyway, back to the mead...


                      It's pretty clear after 3 days cold crashing. I saved the yeast into a 750ml sterilized glass jar, and I am in the process of washing it (with RO water and all that). I want to re-use this batch, since I have a big and VERY clean colony there. But that's not the mead. To the mead now, I promise...


                      As mentioned, it is already pretty clear after cold crashing and without fining. I was actually surprised by how clear it was already. I McGyver-ed a racking tube by heating a piece of silicone hose in the kettle and forcing it over the end of my bottling wand's main tube. It fits perfectly into the fermenter's tap, so it worked a breeze. Sanitized the whole shebang and hosed it down:





                      And how clear it already is, note this is through an old silicone hose:





                      So it's racked off and back into the fridge. I obviously took a test and while I'm not a fan of brut wines (or mead, to be honest), it really does help to "judge" it. Fresh, clean, fruity on the nose. Same translates to the taste. You can detect a hint of honey on the back of your throat, but there's absolutely no sweetness. The yeast is amazing, it imparted a fruity flavour that I can only describe as "like a fresh white wine". It's fantastic, I'm absolutely loving this.


                      Tonight I'll be adding the sorbates and then I'll let it sit for a day or so more. I then plan on backsweetening it in the current container, by adding around 1kg of honey to the mead. This should push gravity to around 1.012, and since I have no idea how sweet that is but it seems to be in the middle of the charts I mentioned earlier, I'm going to start there. I can then cap it, shake the crap out of it to dissolve the honey and then start taste testing to see if I should add more. As soon as I'm happy about how it turned out I can cool it down again to around 2C, tap off 150ml mead, heat it up, dissolve my teaspoon of gelatin in there and fine it down to crystal clear before racking off and bottling. It's a beer method that's VERY effective, but takes a few days to complete, which I am totally happy with.


                      I'll update with more later...

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The ramblings of a brewer... we dont want to interrupt!

                        Looking good sir. Do you even need to gelatine fine this one?

                        Excuse my ignorance with mead.... is this just racking it to a secondary to get it off the yeast, or are you going to be bottling soon?
                        Cheers,
                        Lang
                        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                        "Dudddde...Hold my beer!".... ; "I wonder what will happen if I ...."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Mead looks great.

                          PS: to my knowledge that's a pvc hose and not a silicone hose

                          PPS: I have not watched it myself yet, but have you seen the latest Beersmith podcast ... mead was discussed ....

                          The Problem With The World Is That Everyone Is A Few Drinks Behind.!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Langchop View Post
                            The ramblings of a brewer... we dont want to interrupt!

                            Looking good sir. Do you even need to gelatine fine this one?

                            Excuse my ignorance with mead.... is this just racking it to a secondary to get it off the yeast, or are you going to be bottling soon?
                            LOL, these will be ramblings of a mead maker, there's no brewing here... :P On the questions...

                            I don't NEED to fine, no. Mead can clarify to crystal on it's own, but it takes some time. I was actually surprised to see a mead I just "left" for over a year turn into this:



                            However, I don't want to wait for a year or more. I also have no idea how long it'll take to really clarify without fining, and when it comes to bottling I would really like the mead to be very very clear. In a beer it's fine if you have sediment in the bottle, but I want to be able to bottle a crystal clear mead. I'm worried about fining though since it can strip flavours and colour from the mead as well, and this being a traditional, the flavours and colours are pretty sensitive to begin with.

                            On the racking, I rack for a few reasons:

                            1. You have to rack off if you want to stabilise. I added potassium metabisulfite (or k-meta for short) which is used to provide free SO2 in the mead. This doesn't "kill" the yeast in the mead, but it does kill off SOME infectious thingamabobs that might get in there. It's a strong anti-oxidant that also prevents oxidation and preserves the flavour and colour of the mead over time. You can't stabilise the mead in the primary, as the biomass is simply too great. You'll have to add buckets full of it to the mead, and since it makes the mead inhospitable for living organisms, the yeast will start producing off-flavours which you definitely not want.
                            2. I used 71B-1122 yeast. This is a great yeast for wines and for meads, and I chose it because it imparts a fruity flavour to the drink you're making. I wanted some more flavour in the mead, and with the previous batch (in the pictures above) I used a Belgian Abbaye Ale yeast which imparted some other flavours that wasn't bad (at all), but I wanted to aim for something else. Now, generally, you can leave your mead on the yeast cake (or lees, as it's called in wine/mead) for a few months without worry. Some yeasts even lend to great aging on the lees, called "sur lie aging". However, 71B is not one of those yeasts. The general consensus is that 4 to 6 weeks is the preferred time for you to start racking off, as it produces off flavours if left under the mead for too long. That's the main reason I racked this early.
                            3. Racking also gives me the opportunity to degas the mead more effectively. I want a still mead, not sparkling, and if I keep stirring or shaking it in primary I'm going to keep stirring up the lees, never getting a clear mead.
                            4. Finally, it makes it easier to add the preservatives. I now can shake the bottle (which it essentially is) without worrying that it's going to spill out the fermenter (because it's not really designed for pressure), I can easily add preservatives (potassium sorbate is coming up tonight) and it's also easier to backsweeten (because I can shake the container). It really just makes it easier to work with. No need for an airlock anymore, no need for the fermenter, etc. I can stabilise, backsweeten and everything in there, then simply rack into the sanitised fermenter and bottle from there.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by JIGSAW View Post
                              Mead looks great.

                              PS: to my knowledge that's a pvc hose and not a silicone hose

                              PPS: I have not watched it myself yet, but have you seen the latest Beersmith podcast ... mead was discussed ....

                              I'll give the video a look, thanks man!

                              I see the hose is advertised as "silicone hose" but it's really made of PVC. Eh. Doesn't bother me much, it doesn't affect anything. It was properly sanitised and all that

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