Dealing with crystallization

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So I had about 2 gallons worth of honey that had crystallized in the 5 gallon bucket that I had bought it in. I had left it too long without using it and I think I accidentally didn’t seal the bucket itself enough to keep the moisture from getting in. So, knowing that it is still good honey and not knowing what else to do with it, I decided to make a batch (two actually) with honey that had been boiled first, much like beer is always brewed. It is a fairly common, though much debated, practice whose pros and cons are most scientifically investigated in this double blind taste test. Summarizing a very useful and informative post, essentially boiling will take away aroma but give you body and flavor.

So here’s to giving it a try. A normal plain mead recipe, one batch made with D47, one with EC1118 (because that’s all I have left in my yeast storehouse), with all that delicious honey brought to a rolling boil before being added to the bucket, cooled, and yeast pitched.

  • 1gallon honey (approx. 10 lbs, did not very precisely measure this)
  • water up to 5 gallons
  • 1 tsp irish moss
  • 5tsp yeast nutrient
  • 1 batch with 1 packet D47 yeast, 1 batch with 1 packet EC1118 yeast

If the method works out without completely failing, then I may be adding strawberries in the secondary for these two batches to be my strawberry mead of this season. If boiling does lower the aroma but increase the body and flavor, that would work really perfectly with the strawberries bringing in their aroma in the secondary but enjoying the flavor and body of the boiled honey.

Stats:

  • Started: 29 May 2012
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Leak

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So one of my brewing buckets has a leak in it, at the faucet at the bottom. Which means that this afternoon I went down to check on my two buckets blueberry-to-be mead and one of them was in a gently-drying puddle on the floor. An unfortunate accident but you have to move on. Lesson to learn: make sure that the valves at the bottom of my brewing buckets have been sealed as tightly as possible, and keep an eye on any possibility for leaking. I could probably do a better job of monitoring the mead (daily at least?) if a leak does start I can salvage as much of it as possible. I think this leak happened pretty fast, I’d been keeping a pretty good eye on these already.

If possible I can start using the brew buckets without a spigot on the bottom, too, unless necessary. The added convenience may not be worth it if those valves start losing confidence after a year or so. In short anything that might cause me to lose an entire batch of mead needs to be avoided if at all possible, and here it is possible I think. Brew buckets are cheap.

Simple Strawberry Recipes

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So those two simple meads I just posted about are going to eventually turn into strawberry meads using strawberries freshly plucked from Beechwood Farms in Traveler’s Rest SC. Read that other post about some complications during the startup, but I don’t think there will be any terrible consequences in the long run. It all goes to alcohol eventually, right?!

Sweet Strawberry recipe:

  • 1 gallon+1 qt+1/2 qt wildflower honey (from Bee Well), approx. 15 lbs
  • water up to 4.5 gallons (to leave space for the strawberries in secondary
  • 1 packet Wyeast Sweet Mead yeast (4184), second packet added 5 days later

And stats:

  • Started: 15 May 2011
  • More yeast: 20 May 2011

Dry Strawberry recipe:

  • 1 gallon+1 qt+1/2 qt wildflower honey (from Bee Well), approx. 15 lbs
  • water up to 4.5 gallons (to leave space for the strawberries in secondary
  • 1 packet Wyeast Dry Mead yeast (4632), second packet added 5 days later, EC-1118 added one week later

And stats:

  • Started: 15 May 2011
  • More yeast: 20 May 2011 (another packet 4632)
  • More yeast: 22 May 2011 (EC-1118)

Two “Simple” meads

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Okay, so I bought 5 gallons of honey for summer projects. I’m working on doing two batches at a time and also upping the sugar content to make the meads sweeter, so the investment in about $200 of honey is worth it. Plus, I have at least one lead on a couple getting wedded to whom I might be able to sell my mead, so there’s potential for profit here. I also bought something like 3 gallons worth of strawberries to make two batches of strawberry mead. They are now sliced and frozen, waiting for secondary.

Now! As an effort to streamline my process I had this brilliant idea to make a very simple mead. The operative word there is “simple”; however, it is rarely that way. I wanted to put in 15 lbs of honey, water up to 4.5 gallons (leaving space for the strawberries in the secondary), one packet of wyeast sweet mead (4184) yeast, stir it all up and let it go. Pretty simple recipe for new brewers. However, I didn’t get fermentation. So I stirred it up on the 3rd day. Nothing. 5th day, added another packet of yeast, and now we’re cooking! I think my first batch of yeast was dead..it’s been getting warmer and sometimes the trip from Thomas Creek back home involves a stop at the grocery store or elsewhere and the yeast may get too warm in those packets.

The twin batch, using the same amount of honey and water but instead wyeast dry mead yeast (4632), wasn’t bubbling. Then I stirred it, still no bubbling. Added another packet of dry mead yeast (as with the other), still no bubbling. Don’t know what’s up, maybe it’s a stuck fermentation. Sweet mead is going fine, so I add a packet of EC-1118, a champagne yeast good for re-starting stuck fermentations. Any guesses at the result? Still no bubbles. Curious! At this point, I start to fault equipment, which I should have done earlier. I’m working on switching from 3-piece airlocks:

To s-shaped airlocks:

And I think one of the s airlocks I got was faulty. The 3-piecer I put on it last night is bubbling once every 15 seconds or so, which is not as fast as I’d like, but it’s definitely fermenting. Stats and recipes in the next post.

Racking

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Tonight I racked Lemon Ginger#2 and Cranberry, both are perfect! I’m working on this two-batch-at-a-time thing. Since I’ve made the processes more efficient, I can stand to do two batches at the same time. I think I can get more consistency and to better comparisons by doing it. Stats:

LG#2:

  • Started: 16 Feb 2011
  • Re-started: 26 Feb 2011 (with 1 more packet Red Star champagne yeast and yeast nutrient)
  • Racked: 21 Mar 2011 (no issues)
  • Racked: 25 Apr 2011 (perfect!)

Cranberry (I don’t know the exact date of the first rack, whoops):

  • Started: 10 March 2011
  • Racked: 30 Mar 2011 (?)
  • Racked: 25 Apr 2011 (perfect!)

And in REALLY bad news land, I broke my first carboy when I dropped it on the ground. Luckily I was about to rinse it out so it was empty, but may be a reason to start fully converting to plastic Better Bottle bottles, which I had already been considering. We’ll see how the Better Bottles do before I commit.

Lemon Ginger Issues

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So the bubbling didn’t start after 48 hours so I gave it a raucous stirring 2 days after. Still no fermentation, I let it go for a few more days (1 week in fact) without any bubbling. There was evidence of a little CO2 coming off, but not enough once every minute or two–i.e., my attention span. I added 5 tsp of the yeast nutrient (as I expected I would) on the 24th and let it go for a few more days: still no activity. Or so I thought.

Yesterday (Saturday the 26th) I take matters into my own hands and decide to re-start with more yeast, which I prepare according to the package. I go to lift up the lid and realize that I didn’t actually re-secure the lid on the bucket, so it was really just resting on top. Hopefully it remained hermetic, that seal is still pretty secure I imagine, but more importantly I realize that fermentation probably had started back when I added the nutrient, but who knows. I added the yeast anyway, gave it a rigorous stir, and now it is bubbling happily.

Stats, for the record:

  • Started: 16 Feb 2011
  • Re-started: 26 Feb 2011 (with 1 more packet Red Star champagne yeast and yeast nutrient)

Little things

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Part 1

So the agave mead went all a-splody on me…in other words, I opened a bottle of the agave mead that I bottled a month or so ago (zounds! just did a search and I never recorded on here: September 21st) and it started foaming over a LOT and got all over my pretty hardwood floors.  Good thing I have an “accidents” tag on here.  What happened was that I failed to add both the Potassium Sorbate (the yeast-neutralizer) and the clarifier (a gelatin-based thing that makes it look all clear) because in my naivete I assumed (yes, ass-u-me-d) that since it looked clear and the airlock wasn’t popping that it was fine to bottle regardless.  I won’t make that mistake again!

The solution was to take a bunch of it (read: 9 bottles) to a party that I went to and promo my mead as much as possible.  It went fast and delicious…it was old enough (pushing 7 months) and a delicious recipe anyway so it worked.  It was served chilled in place of the white wine and was amazing–just bubbly enough, not too sweet, unique flavor.  I want to try it again but not fail at the preservation step because I am very curious what it would have tasted like a year from now.

Part 2

With that in mind, I added potassium sorbate to the POM#2 yesterday to neuter the yeast and today I stirred it a bit and added the clarifier.  I do not want it to end up like the Agave Mead: thoroughly enjoyed, but before its time.  Unfortunately I think I overdosed on the cinnamon (i.e., I snuck a little for myself and tasted it) but it is still really tasty.  I think the Tulip Poplar flavor will come through regardless so the idea of keeping it simple still applies…it’s just not technically a POM anymore.  I think I’ll still call it that for simplicity. 

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