Today, we started up a second – smaller – batch of mead.
I documented our first attempt, throughout the process, which you can revisit at the following links (they will open new tabs, so you won’t lose your place. 🙂 )
Part 1 getting started
Part 2 early stage maintenance
Part 3 early stage maintenance, completion
Part 4 transferring for second fermentation
Part 5 bottling and initial results
The Failure. 😦
In doing some research, I found one site that mentioned honey not having enough nutrients for the yeast, and the need to add a yeast nutrient. I do find that a bit odd, since mead has been made with just honey, water and wild yeasts for thousands of years, but hey, I’ll take what advice I can get! It also mentioned using an yeast energizer, and an acid blend. ???
This morning, I stopped by the brewing supply store in town to ask about it. I was fortunate in my timing, as the person who was working today makes mead! Only fruit mead, though, which is called a melomel. When I mentioned our mead stopped fermenting, and that I’d read honey didn’t provide enough nutrients on its own, we got to talking about how the fruit would help with that.
I also told her about how our virtually alcohol free mead we’d made left my daughters feeling ill after drinking it (though I never felt any negative effects). She was surprised by that. This shouldn’t happen. I’ve done a lot of searches on the subject, but they all talk about whether or not mead can go bad, after it’s been bottled. Nothing about whether mead can go bad at the start. Even the trouble shooting sites I’ve found talk about what to do if the fermentation stops (which is something we missed, partly because of where the carboy was tucked away, with the airlock difficult to see), but nothing about the resulting mead actually going bad.
The yeast nutrient was something she got for me, but when I brought up the yeast energizer, she said that if I’ve got the nutrient, the energizer isn’t needed. When talking about using fruit, she said that it’s best to use frozen fruit. The freezing kills off any bacteria that might be on them, and changes the skins, making the sugars better available to the yeasts. I told her we’ve got some of our own cherries and chokecherries in the freezer, so she described how she puts the frozen berries on the bottom of her primary fermentation bucket to thaw, mushing it up with her hands the next day, then making the must with it already there. She also recommended using pectic enzymes, which would be sprinkled over the fruit as it’s thawing, and even gave me a little spoon full to try! Very little is needed. As for the acid blend, she said that’s really just a matter of taste, so it’s not needed.
We won’t be trying it with fruit this time, though. We still want to get a basic mead down, first, and then we will experiment with fruits and spices.
By the time I left, I had the yeast enzyme, some more sanitizer powder, a smaller bung for the air lock (the one we already have is for a 5 gallon carboy), plus a new siphon. While in the store, waiting my turn, I saw an auto-siphon in a partially cleaned carboy, and had to ask if they had any in stock. The gravity only siphon we have was such a pain to switch from bottle to bottle! Thankfully, it wasn’t expensive, so I could get that right away, too.
At least the supplies are cheap. The honey itself is the most expensive thing.
So here are the things we changed up for this batch.
The first, most obvious change is using a 1 gallon carboy instead of a 5 gallon one. For this amount, about 2-3 pounds of honey is needed. When we made 5 gallons, we used a 5 kilo bucket of honey, which works out to about 11 pounds. The suggested amount was for up to 13 pounds. I’m sure we were a bit under 5 gallons total the first time, but not by much, so at about 3 pounds of honey in a gallon of must, the honey to water ratio is higher this time.
The water is another change. Instead of our well water (which normally would be fine, except we really need to test our water, because it’s tasting off), I bought some reverse osmosis water. I wasn’t specifically after reverse osmosis water, but I went to a place that had a jug sanitizer as part of their water set up, as our water jug hasn’t been used for a few months. They just happened to have reverse osmosis rather than the purified water that was my other option, if I’d gone elsewhere.
The yeast is another change; we are using white wine yeast instead of bread yeast. Plus, of course, there is the yeast nutrient.
One of the things that came up as a potential problem that we did not have over the summer, was to keep the must at 15C – 20C. This time of year, the house tends to be cold, and temperatures are inconsistent throughout the house. When I mentioned that at the store, she said that once the fermentation process starts, the yeast will produce some of its own heat. She suggested putting on a sweater! 😀
So our new mead baby is now sitting in the open, where we can more easily monitor the airlock, and is wrapped in a towel to keep it warm!
There’s an elastic around the towel to keep it from falling loose, but it will still be easy to monitor.
And this time, if we notice the fermentation seems to be stopping too early, we know that we should take steps to get it going again.
Now, typically, after a certain length of time, the must gets racked into a secondary fermenter. I think we’ll be skipping this step. For starters, we don’t have a second 1 gallon carboy. Well. We do. In fact, we have a couple of them. I found them high on a shelf in the basement, with no caps. So they are full of who knows how many years of dust. We would not be able to clean them well enough to use.
We’ve got some time to monitor our new mead baby, though, and can change our minds about a second fermentation later, if need be.
I really hope it turns out well this time!!
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