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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POM

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Made up another batch of plain old mead, just a simple recipe that I’m hoping turns into a regularly reproducible mead like my 5 o’Clock mead and Chai mead. Also, proving how easy it is to make mead! Recipe:

  • 1gallon+1qt honey (approx. 12 lbs)
  • water up to 5 gallons
  • 1 tsp irish moss
  • 1 packet Wyeast 4632 yeast (“dry mead”)

Stats:

  • Started: 7 April 2012

Mole mead

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So on the suggestion of and with the help of a friend, I started today a batch of mole mead. I think it will taste…as good as it sounds, although when we put all the cocoa stuff in the bucket with the honey, the color of the cocoa really took over. We’ll see how it develops over time. Stuck with the sweet mead yeast this time to counteract the bitterness of the cocoa and spiciness of the chilies.

Recipe:

  • 7 dried Arbol chili peppers
  • 12 oz baking cocoa
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 12 lbs wildflower honey
  • 1 tsp Irish moss
  • Wyeast 4184 sweet mead

Stats:

  • Started: 6 April 2012

Contest: name this mead

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So I’ve just started two batches of what I consider my most reliable recipe for mead, what is a very close adaptation of my very first mead batch. I’ve had correspondence with Will, the proprietor of the Storm the Castle site, and I can’t stress enough his influence on the very beginnings of my mead exploration.

OH! The contest. I need a name for it. A recipe along these lines may very well be the first kind of mead that I try to mass-market, for whatever that means for a guy who carefully organizes containers of spoiled honey water in his basement. Send me a name for this mead, especially if you’ve tasted it, either the original, the “2nd Gen” or “3rd Gen”. Because here is 4th and 5th gen (or gen 4a and 4b) and I think it needs a name. Comment below, or on facebook, or tweet me, or whatever. Even if you haven’t tasted it, read the ingredients and tell me what you think.

Here is the recipe, one with D47 and one with Wyeast 4632, otherwise identical. The honey has crystallized a bit because I left it in the cool of my basement for too long, but it seemed to dissolve in the water just fine. I’m also trying to make my meads less dry–sweeter and more fizzy if possible. So I’m lowering the honey content a bit now and might try to prime it with some more honey before bottling. We’ll see, if nothing else I just wanted to tinker a bit.

  • 1 gallon wildflower honey
  • 1/2 tsp irish moss
  • 5 tsp fermax yeast nutrient
  • 6 oranges, quartered and boiled to sterilize
  • 5 half sticks of cinnamon (boiled to sterlize)
  • 1/2 cup of raisins (chopped and boiled to sterilize)
  • water up to 5 gallons
  • pitched yeast: one was D47, one was Wyeast 4632 “Dry Mead” yeast (note: the wyeast was about 2 months past the “expiration date”, dunno if it’ll matter, we’ll see over the next few days)

Stats:

  • Started: 18 Jan 2012

Fall mead

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You can give many names to the different kinds of mead that exist: metheglin for meads with spices, melomel for meads with fruit, even braggot for mead/beer combos. That said, I don’t think there is a name for meads made with vegetables, and yet here I am. Fall comes to Greenville and while everyone else is out making  jack-o-lanterns (a neat but wasteful pastime), I iconically consider fermentation the highest virtue to be bestowed upon anything that contains sugars.

Here are is the recipe for the Sweet Potato mead (dubbed “Sweet Sweet Potato”), the must has a wonderful smell to it:

  • 6lbs sweet potatoes, diced, baked until soft, mashed, and cooled
  • 4.5 qts honey (approx. 12 lbs)
  • water up to 5.5 gallons (a little more because the sweet potato takes up so much space)
  • 2 tbsp whole allspice, 2 tbsp whole cloves
  • 1.25tsp irish moss

And the Pumpkin mead (yet unnamed):

  • 3 medium-sized, flat, cream-colored pumpkins (on the recommendation of the farmer’s market cashier for sweet pumpkins “like for pies”). Baked with cinnamon, skinned, mashed, pitched.
  • 4.5 qts honey (approx. 12 lbs)
  • water up to 5.5 gallons
  • 2.5tsp DTP (yeast energizer)
  • 5tsp Fermax yeast nutrient
  • 1.25tsp irish moss
  • 1 packet D47 yeast

Beer/mead?

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So I guess technically this is a batch of beer, and for that definition I rely on the fact that I am using barley, hops, and water–the ingredients included in the famous reinheitsgebot of 1516–and am using a beer yeast (Belgian Trappist Ale, in fact). Who said I couldn’t add a gallon of honey to a batch of beer? Yeah, that’s me. Broke into my 3rd 5-gallon bucket of honey with a beer-mead fusion. Suggestions for names are welcome.

I used the idea/recipe from this wine making blog post which hasn’t been followed up on (I will definitely be emailing the blogger when I get some results). It’s worth checking out the Washington Wine Maker, he (I’m pretty sure it’s a he) does a good job of providing technical descriptions but at the heart of his articles are pretty practical applications.

Anyway, here’s the step-by-step of what I’ve done:

  • Boiled 1.5 gal water, removed from heat and steeped 1lb light crystal malts for 30 minutes (if you want to know more about malts, check this section of the great online resource “How to Brew”…there are some great gems like “If grain with enzyme diastatic potential is steeped, that is mashing.”
  • Added 1/2gal honey, return to a boil. Dumped the other 1/2gal into my brew bucket.
  • After it returns to a boil, reduced temperature to a simmer, added .25oz Golding hops for flavor (another great entry in “How to Brew” about hops)
  • Let it simmer for 25 minutes, added .25oz Golding hops for aroma, simmer for another 5 minutes
  • Poured into bucket (with rest of honey already in it), added 6tsp of Fermax yeast nutrient, filled with cold tap water up to 5.75 gallons (aimed for 6 gallons according to recipe, but wanted to leave some space at the top)
  • Added Wyeast 3787 after it cooled to 100F, sealed the bucket.

It reeks of beer (a good thing!) but has this sweet honey smell to it as well. I am really curious about what this batch will do, I may have tried to do too much at once. I have this thought that the Trappist yeast was probably a bad call, but it’s already in motion. I’m worried I messed up the hops because I don’t know what I’m doing with them, or maybe that the crystal malt flavor will overpower the honey. Time will tell.

Oh! I did some research. Seems a honey/malt/hop combination should be called a “braggot”. Will do more research later, but it’s late. Here‘s a recipe that seems a close approximation of what I’ve done..I only wish I had read it before I tried my batch? Anyway for the most part it supports the decisions I made.

In which I am a ridiculous person

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So I made my now yearly expedition to Sky Top Apple Orchard Saturday to buy fresh, local apple cider to ferment. Last year I made one batch of apple cider mead (“cyser”) (see recipe) and it is just now aging into a very fine brew. It is starting to grow scarce, however. So this year I got 8 gallons (8 gallons! I felt like an Arabian adventurer making off with hordes of treasure from a secret cave. I paid for the cider (“what’s 8 times 6.50?” the cashier asks, grabbing a calculator) and they pointed me in the direction of their freezer and let me have at it) of cider and tonight started prepping them for fermentation.

Frustratingly, Sky Top doesn’t pasteurize their cider, so that means I have to do it. Hooray extra steps. But tonight I boiled 8 gallons of cider (house filled with the smell of caramelized cider from when it boiled over the pot), divided the pasteurized cider evenly into two separate brew buckets, added about 3qts of honey (approximately 8lbs), some spices, and now I’m letting it sit overnight to cool. No other way around it, that cider’s not getting cold before I need to go to sleep.

The changes I made to last year’s recipe are pretty drastic. I want it sweeter–still scratching my head how Wyeast 4814 made such a dry cider–and so I added more honey! Really, Erick, 2lbs of honey? That’s all? I guess I was expecting more sweetness out of the cider and the brown sugar. This year, 8lbs of honey. I simplified the recipe as well, eliminating the brown sugar and raisins and cutting back on the spices. Always cutting back on the spices. Let’s see if I can actually figure out how much cinnamon to add to get the flavor I want instead of just guessing each time. Yeast? Probably EC-1118, I’ll see if I change my mind to D47 in the morning. Anyway, here’s the recipe, times 2:

  • 4gallons of cider (pasteurized)
  • 3qts of honey (approx 8lbs)
  • 3 long cinnamon sticks
  • 3 crushed nutmeg nuts
  • 5tsps Fermax
  • 1/2tsp irish moss
  • 1 packet EC-1118 yeast, prepped according to directions

Oh, and minor problem (for those still reading), the batches are smaller than I want. I’ve been meaning to start making legit 6-gallon batches so there’s no vast real estate at the top of my carboy to oxidize the mead while it’s aging. I’m considering maybe buying 2-3 small 1 gallon carboys (read: gallon jugs?) and doing a couple small batches with different flavors while combining the rest into one large 6 gallon batch. Could be fun!

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