Strawberry, plus experiments

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So, a couple of thoughts on the strawberry mead for this season. It’s a late night of tasting mead and an early flight tomorrow so I’m not going to try to put together a complete post with stats and all that, but I do want to log some stuff before I forget.

  • Racked the two boiled honey batches onto 1.5 gallons of strawberries (took 3 gallons of strawberries, chopped, frozen, boiled, cooled, split in half, racked the two separate batches onto them)
  • EC-1118 tastes better than D47 and is still fermenting (1 bubble every 10 seconds or so). I conclude EC-1118 > D47.
  • Both batches are much lighter–I like the taste of the boiled honey mead, but there is less honey in each batch than usual. I account this change to the fact that I didn’t really measure the honey in the first place and there’s probably less than I usually add.
  • I kinda like the lighter flavor. I might have to be more careful in the future about how much honey I add. The lighter mead should work better with the strawberries too.

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

Racking

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I racked all three batches of mead I currently have going last Thursday. Both strawberry meads have aged nicely and have a very similar taste regardless of the yeast issues I had earlier. I racked them off the strawberries, just like the previous batch of strawberry mead and now I just have to wait for it to clarify. The blueberry mead (now unfortunately only one batch) I racked onto the actual blueberries and it has taken on a deep purple delicious-looking color, I am very excited about it. Stats:

Stats, Sweet Strawberry:

  • Started: 15 May 2011
  • More yeast: 20 May 2011
  • Rack onto Strawberries: 13 Jun 2011
  • Rack off of Strawberries: 7 Jul 2011

Stats, Dry Strawberry:

  • Started: 15 May 2011
  • More yeast: 20 May 2011 (another packet 4632)
  • More yeast: 22 May 2011 (EC-1118)
  • Rack onto Strawberries: 13 Jun 2011
  • Rack off of Strawberries: 7 Jul 2011

Stats, Blueberry:

  • Started: 14 June 2011
  • First rack: 7 Jul 2011 (onto 7lbs of blueberries, approximately 1gallon+1/2qt of blueberries)

Racking Simple Strawberry

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Racked the two batches of Simple Strawberry mead this afternoon, split the strawberry harvest equally between the two after boiling the strawberries to sanitize them–didn’t want a repeat of Peach Mead..yikes! The batch with “dry mead” yeast, and also the EC-1118 is SUPER sweet, more so than necessary, though still tasty. I think the yeast didn’t get excited enough about life and hasn’t done enough fermenting into alcohol. The “sweet mead” batch is similarly afflicted with an over-sweetness, but in a way that is similar to the first orange-cinnamon batch. I expect these will be sweet, fizzy, and very strawberrery, so perfect for those with a sweet tooth!

Stats, Sweet Strawberry:

  • Started: 15 May 2011
  • More yeast: 20 May 2011
  • Rack onto Strawberries: 13 Jun 2011

Stats, Dry Strawberry:

  • Started: 15 May 2011
  • More yeast: 20 May 2011 (another packet 4632)
  • More yeast: 22 May 2011 (EC-1118)
  • Rack onto Strawberries: 13 Jun 2011

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.

Strawberry Mead: bottled and waiting

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I got some new equipment for bottling (long time coming, really): a bottle filler, which is really a tiny spring-loaded spigot at the bottom of a tube, a clamp for the tube to stop the flow if necessary, and a clip that holds the racking cane to the side of the bucket/carboy.  It really helps out a lot to have these things–I tried to cheap out earlier on and not buy them, but the whole kit was maybe 10 bucks, so I was just trying to cut corners and it didn’t work out.  Anyway, all said bottling the strawberry mead was very easy.

The strawberry mead is a bit drier than I wanted, but I didn’t back-sweeten with any more honey, so I suppose that’s my own fault.  I kind of like them a bit dryer anyway, and the taste is delicious.  I am okay with leaving it for longer, though, and let it really ripen.  It has a beautiful golden-pink color.  Final stats:

  • Started: 6 January 2010
  • First rack: 25 January 2010 (onto strawberries, in carboy)
  • Second rack: 14 February 2010 (off of strawberries, in carboy)
  • Third rack: 5 April 2010 (starting to clarify, in fresh carboy)
  • Bottled: 8 May 2010 (after potassium sorbate to impede any living yeast and a clarifier)

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