First time mead questions

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nerdjuice32

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I'm about to undertake my first batch of mead. The only experience I have under my belt thus far is one 6 gallon batch of wine, so I had a few quick questions.



  • My goal for my first batch of mead is maybe a bit ambitious. I’m wanting to make a 6 gallon batch of regular mead, then rack that into 6 separate 1 gallon growlers, each having a different mix of fruit or spices or whatnot - essentially making 6 different types of mead/melomel/metheglin with one batch. I’ve heard “secondary infusion”, as I’ve heard it called, gets much more of the fruit/spice flavor into the actual mead compared to fermenting with it, which is what attracted me to the idea. Is this a terrible idea?
  • Can I use well water if a water softener is installed in the line? Does this take too many of the minerals out? I used store bought for my wine but would prefer well.
  • Mead often comes out sweet with no back sweetening. Why isn’t all the sugar in the honey fermented to alcohol? Is it simply a matter of the yeast alcohol tolerance? ABV, or whatever that acronym is?
  • I’ve recently got my first experience making wine (a personal variation of the Dragons Blood recipe). Is there anything I need to know that’s different about making mead? I’ve been looking at video and tutorials and I see a few different chemical additions here and there, but nothing hugely different.

Thank you in advance for any help you can offer!
 

meadmaker1

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Read through the link at bottom of page. Mead makers corner. Once there look for other mead articles before choosing yeast.
I use lalvin d47 for melomels but looking forward to a traditional using an ale yeast.
 

BernardSmith

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Hi nerdjuice32 - and welcome. I think that you may trying to bite off more than you can reasonably chew if this is your first attempt at mead and if you are asking the questions you are asking. In other words, for your very first attempt at a mead you may want to consider making a single gallon with no fruits added, no spices, no herbs.
One pound of honey dissolved in water to make 1 gallon will have a starting gravity of 1.035. That will ferment brut dry and give you a mead with an ABV (alcohol by volume) of about 4.5%. Two pounds of honey dissolved in water to make 1 gallon will have a starting gravity of 1.070 and that will ferment brut dry to give you a mead at about 9%. Nothing "sweet" about those meads. Meads finish sweet when mead makers back sweeten their dry meads by adding more sweeteners (sugar or honey or?? ) after stabilizing the mead OR by starting with more sugar (honey) than the yeast can ferment. The problem is that often if you BEGIN with a concentration of honey to water that you know the yeast cannot ferment dry you should also know that the yeast can suffer from what is called osmotic shock - and that means they may not in fact be able to transport the honey water must through their cell walls and the yeast will simply stop fermenting before they have hardly begun.
The thing about honey is that unlike say, wine grapes, honey has no useful nutrients for yeast, so if you want the yeast to ferment your must (the solution before you pitch the yeast) you need to provide nutrients that include, nitrogen, oxygen, vitamins, among other things.
If I were you I would buy a pound and a half (or 2 lbs) of orange blossom honey (that's a delightful honey) and dissolve the honey in water - well water as long as it is not too hard is fine but spring water is best) to make a gallon of must. I would then pitch 71B or 47D yeast and add nutrient (Fermaid O is near perfect) and I would stir this a couple of times a day until the gravity drops to about 1.010 and then transfer the mead to a secondary that you can seal with bung and airlock. This should clear in a few weeks and you can bottle and drink this in a couple of months - The higher the starting gravity the longer the aging time needs to be. Mead ain't beer and so you don't need to apply any heat to the honey (despite what old recipes might suggest). You brew beer. You brew tea and you brew coffee but you don't brew mead or wine. To make the honey flow more easily you might warm a pot of water and place the unopened honey jars in the pot (off the heat).
Once you can make consistently make a gallon of traditional mead (honey, water, yeast and nutrient) then you can think about making larger volumes of mead, higher ABV meads, and meads with fruit (melomels) spices and herbs (metheglins), bochets (cooked honey) and braggots (meads with grains).
 

nerdjuice32

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I learned a lot from Meadmakers Corner. Thank you for pointing it out!

I am known for biting off more than I can chew. :p I do know that it's more ambitious than I should start with. I'm attempting to do a fairly safe and easy batch with a reasonable SG and ABV and following the instructions of a trusted recipe for the base mead. I know I stand to lose more starting with 6 gallons compared to a single one, but I'm okay with that risk. The secondary infusions are more what I'm worried about ruining which is why I like the idea of only a gallon each there.

Something completely new to mead fermenting compared to wine is the adding of nutrients more than just at the beginning of fermentation. I'll be following instructions for that, but I assume that is due to honey not containing nutrients for the yeast, as you mentioned. That makes sense now. I'm a little worried about the volcano eruptions that can occur if not done properly. :/

I have heard a lot of good things about orange blossom honey. I'll probably try that eventually, but I was able to find a local beekeeper who I can purchase the amount I need from. Only clover and wildflower varietals, but I'm fine with that. I've heard clover is a especially good for everything excluding regular mead (melomels, metheglins, etc) as it really lets the additional flavors come through.

The other thing I'm worried about is fusel production when the yeast is stressed. I'll try and read up more on it. Meadmakers Corner was helpful in that aspect.

I appreciate the help, guys!
 

meadmaker1

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Look at trusted reciepies. Compair feeding sceduals. As far as flavors, some carry better than others. Some are good just to back sweeten with.
Depends on your taste . Some folks will turn their nose up at flavoring with say juice from canned peaches. But others will only give grapes time of day.
D47 will make a decent mead and will handle fruits as well.
If flavoring be sure its done and stablize first.
As far as honey. Im in oregon and my bees have about a three mile range. So no orange blossom. Apple , cherry, maple, wild flower, (aka weeds) and wild black berry ( local experts say 70% black berry) nice light very sweet.
 

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