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Berry mead, and a question about starting SG

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Bodenski

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I've been making 1 gallon batches of most things, and am getting tired of the work/bottle ratio. So I just started a 3 gallon batch of a berry melomel. Here's the recipe.

Berry Melomel
12 lbs honey (Trader Joes wildflower/clover honey)
water to make three gallons
9 lbs frozen triple berry blend (blackberry/raspberry/blueberry)
1 lb frozen strawberries
(pectinase, yeast nutrient, DAP in correct amounts. I'm doing slightly staggered nutrient additions. Split over 3 times instead of 4)
3 Campden tablets, waited 24 hours before pitching yeast.
yeast: Lalvin 71B-1122

I just pitched the yeast. The color looks amazing already. And it tastes super sweet! But here's the problem. I just checked the SG, and it measured out at 1.130. This was after a big stir so I don't think there was any honey layered out at the bottom. The recipe I was looking at (which was a 5 gallon one, but I triple checked the amounts to make sure I scaled it right for 3 gallons) said the approximate initial SG was supposed to be about 1.151. That puts me about .020 off, which seems like a pretty high variation.

The only things I can think is that either the moisture content in the Trader Joes honey was higher than normal (so less sugar per volume) or the guy that went through the effort of publishing his recipe was all wrong. (Which I have a hard time believing as well.) Can anyone think of any other reason why I might be off so much from what is expected?

And for the second question, what has been most folk's experience with the 71B yeast on a super sweet mead? Is hitting 14% about right, or do you see it go higher than that often? I think I'll be fermenting at about 70 degrees.

Last question. What would be a god name for this mead? "Berry Melomel" sounds too boring. I want a good name that will inspire me to make a great label for it :)
 

BernardSmith

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Hi James. I would expect that the berries have sugars that they will release. Four lbs of honey per gallon will likely offer you a starting gravity of about 1.140 (.035 * 4) and the fruit is likely to release about 50 points per gallon of juice so 10 lbs of berries may have something like .040 for a total of about 1.180 (or thereabouts*).. That is about 23% ABV... and THAT is a mite high, I think...
* Even if the fruit possesses 20 points that would still give you 1.160 (or 10 points more than the recipe suggests) - which is equivalent to a potential ABV of 21%...
 

Bodenski

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It was a new Hydrometer. It reads 1.000 in water. I stirred it up again and rechecked It's still reading 1.130. I can't think of anything I did wrong. I didn't check the SG after the honey but before the fruit. Now i wish I had!

I'm expecting the mead to finish pretty sweet and not need back-sweetening. If the yeast poops out at 14%, it would finish at about 1.020. It will be interesting to track the readings over time. I just know I'm a little confused as to why it started lower than expected. I don't know what I did!
 

Bodenski

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I'm starting to wonder if the frozen fruit diluted it more than i thought initially. I probably shouldn't have taken the water and honey to 3 gallons and then added the fruit. Next time I might take those to a little less than 3 gallons knowing I'd get some liquid from the frozen fruit. I think that explains what I'm seeing.

I don't mind having more than 3 gallons to start so I'll have some to add back when I rack it. I think the original recipe was a little two generous maybe! In any case I'll let folks know how this one goes. I still have very high hopes for it. Even if it will be a year before it's probably ready . . .
 

AkTom

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Is it ready yet? ;-) sounds good. I'm planning something similar soon.
 

Bodenski

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Is it ready yet? ;-) sounds good. I'm planning something similar soon.
Nope, not ready yet. Tonight's SG was 1.116, so down a bit from the original 1.130. And I think I figured out my issue with the initial SG. I took the fruit bag out today and squeezed it good. The total liquid volume is almost right at 4 gallons. So my 10 pounds of fruit added nearly a gallon of liquid. (It was right at three before adding the fruit.)

I think if I were to do this again I would add enough water to get to maybe 2.5 gallons before adding the fruit. That way I'd have some left over to use to top off when racking, but not quite the full gallon I think I'll have right now. That would push the flavor up a notch as well, although I have no complaints about taste yet.

If I had less water, it would finish sweeter as well. I'm not sure if I'll have to back-sweeten yet. depends on how far the yeast go.
 

Mortalpawn

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I ran into this issue as well - started with 15 lbs of Raspberries added to a 5 gal batch and then added 6 more in the secondary. Now my 5 gal batch is almost 7 gallons and unfortunately the FG came in too low for me. The basic problem is that fruit basically dilutes your mead so if you want a lot of fruit you need to have a high OG and also not much water to start. After running some numbers it looks like most fruits add about 75% juice (on average) of the volume of fruit.

Next time I am going to factor in all of the fruit when setting my OG and also account for the extra volume when planning out the batch.
 

Bodenski

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Next time I am going to factor in all of the fruit when setting my OG and also account for the extra volume when planning out the batch.
And of course the challenge is I won't really know how it comes out at this SG for the better part of a year. So I guess I'll keep my notes and see how this finalizes so next year's batch might be better.
 

Bodenski

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So this is what it looks like coming out of the primary. Nearly everything flowed, so I imagine I'll have a lot to rack off of in a month.



The glass was the leftovers, and it was almost a fruit smoothie consistency, albeit a very alcoholic one! ABV is 15.5%, which is more than I was expecting with this yeast strain. I'm not yet sure if I'll need to back sweeten. I imagine I'll know more in 6 months. (SG is right now 1.012. I was initially expecting it to finish at 1.020 or a little higher. I guess the wine will tell me where it wants to finish at, not the other way around!)
 

AkTom

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It's looking good.
 

Mortalpawn

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Next time use the TONSA-2 nutrient schedule here and degas it twice a day down to at least the half-way point of gravity (you can even degas down to 1/3 sugar if needed). You can actually ferment it out in about two weeks and it should clear and be somewhat drinkable after 60 days (I do use Super-Kleer on mine after fermentation is done). By 90 days it is usually very good and ready to enjoy: http://www.meadmakr.com/tosna-2-0/

For the purposes of the calculator, 71B Narbonne yeast is low nutrient requirements and works great with fruit meads.
 

Whitehrs

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Thanks for the Thread. I'm watching because I'm thinking about a Berry Blend Mead.. And doing the same thing, with the high SG. I also, and thinking of trying a Mead, with a low starting SG 1.050 -1.060.. Should be fast, to make and drink.. I could carbonate it and run it like Beer, with a strain for beer or Mead. I might try a gallon that way. Anyway, Thanks again. Keep the posts coming.
 

Bodenski

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Next time use the TONSA-2 nutrient schedule here and degas it twice a day down to at least the half-way point of gravity (you can even degas down to 1/3 sugar if needed).
I did do a lot of active degassing when it was in the primary. It amazed me how much settled out once it got into secondary. (I squeezed the fruit bag like crazy daily. It gave me a lot of fruit bits!)

One thing that is interesting is that the 3 gallon carboy has a pretty small layer (inch maybe) of the fruit settling out. The magnum bottle (which was the tail end of what came out of the primary) seems to be about 2/3rds volume fall-out to only 1/3 rd juice! (It's not a clear bottle. I can see it when I shine a flashlight through it, but I can't get a good picture.) I was hoping I'd have more than that to top off things, but I might not. I do have some aquarium marbles to add to fill up volume, so I might end up using a bunch of those the next time I rack. And since I used 71B yeast, I think I need to rack sooner rather than later.

Current goal is to rack next weekend, degas again and then let it sit for 2-3 months. I have a few other projects that I'll be adding clearing agents to at the same time, so I might add a little to this at the same time. I'll post more pictures after that.
 

Mortalpawn

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I actually have a 1 gal carboy I use for my mead "dregs". I put the leftovers from my batches in there and let them sit and occasionally drag a bit off the top. Since I primarily make melomels it is usually a mixed berry mead but it can be quite tasty. So don't toss your excess - put it in a sanitized container (even a wine bottle or two) and let it sit and it too will eventually clear.
 

Bodenski

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I actually have a 1 gal carboy I use for my mead "dregs". I put the leftovers from my batches in there and let them sit and occasionally drag a bit off the top. Since I primarily make melomels it is usually a mixed berry mead but it can be quite tasty. So don't toss your excess - put it in a sanitized container (even a wine bottle or two) and let it sit and it too will eventually clear.
I transferred it day before yesterday (my snow day) to get it off of the lees, which seemed to not be compacting anymore. So now i have almost a full 3 gallon carboy of good stuff, and a half gallon of "dregs" that I'm keeping under vacuum to help settle out. I plan to pull the good stuff off of the top of the dregs (already have almost 2 inches of clear melomel on top) and then I'll transfer the rest back into a magnum bottle in the fridge to enjoy when I want my alcoholic smoothies!

I really like how this is coming along so far. I'll post pictures later today.
 

Bodenski

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I haven’t updated this post in a while, so I thought I might add some notes.

First - this is by far my favorite recipe I’ve made by far. I bottled some of it over the summer and tried some then. I’ve also given away several bottles that were very well received. I had another 1 gallon carboy of it that was bottled this evening. Even better. I love this stuff!

2. When I made this I don’t think I had enough water to start. I ended up with 2 1-gallon carboys and a couple of magnum bottles worth after one of the first rackings. I need to start off with more stuff so that I can end up having a 3-gallon carboy worth to age. (I didn’t quite do that on my latest batch, but I think I plan on adding water to bring down the ABX, which will probably be at 15-16%. Or Apple juice, since it is a cyser after all.)

3. Did I mention I love this stuff? I can’t wait until it’s aged over a year to try some. If any lasts that long!

4. Final ABV was 15.5%. That was higher than I wanted, but it did have enough residual sugar to balance that out. This was using 71B yeast, which I thought would quit at 14%. Every time I use it the ABV goes higher than I expect. I need to start fermenting dry and then backsweetening instead of expecting the yeast to konk out at its published tolerance and leaving me a sweeter mead. In this case it’s alright, but I’ve got other batches I’ll need to backsweeten more than expected.

5. I had one pretty full glass leftover from bottling, and I’m tempted to open another bottle now! (I’m a little tipsier than normal typing this. I also had a glass of my 2017 South African Cabernet from juice bucket this evening. Damn i’m a light weight these days . . .)

6. I hope my Cabernet gets better with time. NOt related at all to this recipe except I had a little of both this evening.

7. 15.5% is stronger than I think I like my wines/meads. Don’t get me wrong - this one is awesome! But I’m apparently a light weight now (see #6 or #5, I’m now too lazy to go back and re-read these points)

8. A number to follow 7.

9. I can’t believe I’m still typing. Time for night-night y’all.

10. Still thinking about stealing another little sip . . .
 
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Bodenski

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And I forgot to add: this is being called “Bumble Bee Berry Blast.”
 

Jericurl

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Lol...welcome to the wonderful world of meadmaking! Won't be long and you'll have 60 some odd gallons of mead going. After we made our first batch of mead, I never looked back.
 

Bodenski

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Well here I am at nearly a year out. (Just a week shy I think.) I love this batch. It is still my favorite. (My Chilean Pinot Grigio from 2017 is creeping up, so I can't say it's my favorite "by far" anymore. ;) I think the sweetness is a bit much now this far out. But it really helps to bring the fruit flavors forward. I really need to start another batch of this stuff. I don't have the 60 gallons going, but I do have 4 gallons in secondary and one in primary right now. One of these days I'll bite the cullet and pick up 5 gallons of honey. Since it never goes bad I'm sure I'll find uses for it . . .
 

Jericurl

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I don't have the 60 gallons going, but I do have 4 gallons in secondary and one in primary right now. One of these days I'll bite the cullet and pick up 5 gallons of honey. Since it never goes bad I'm sure I'll find uses for it . . .
Well?! Get on it, son!
 

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