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Advice on mead please

 
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Barbara
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2015 7:46 pm    Post subject: Advice on mead please Reply with quote

Ok.

Complete novice in this matter but in a moment of madness, I've had a go. I was burning the midnight oil last night doing a job that I consider the bane of beekeeping (honey extraction!) and a lot of the comb had pollen in it. I usually put the washings in a plastic drinks bottle in the fridge and then use them to make my porridge etc in the coming weeks but these washings were particularly murky, so I thought I would experiment. I had a demijohn in the attic and I found a recipe on line that suggested I add a chopped apple and a few raisins and yeast..... this is where it gets a bit improvised.....

I have no idea how much honey was in the washings, (I would guess a few pounds.... it certainly tastes sweet), I used sultanas instead of raisins and.... wait for it......

well out of date dried bread yeast because it was all I had and obviously I don't clean my cupboards out nearly often enough!

Anyway, what I'm wondering is, firstly, have I scuppered it by using (out of date) bread yeast. There seems to be quite a lot of pollen and bee bread in the washings.... will the yeast in this be enough to ferment a second batch on it's own, if I feel inclined to have another go.... I still have another 3 sachets of bread yeast though if anyone thinks it won't have ruined this batch? I appreciate I'm not making a quality product here.... just some hooch that will probably make me ill, but will it be drinkable and do I need to invest in some brewers yeast for the next batch?

Also, I've subsequently read that the concentration of honey in the washings is right for mead if a freshly laid hens egg floats in it with an old six pence size circle of shell exposed above the surface.... does anyone use this test? I have hens and I'm just about old enough to remember an old sixpence, so the idea of this test really appeals to me!

I would be grateful of any feedback.

Thanks

Barbara
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trekmate
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2015 8:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've never made mead, but I know that bread yeast is less effective when old when making bread. If it doesn't start to ferment, I'd try adding another sachet (others may be along soon to give better advice!).

I also know bread yeast makes a decent wine or beer from 5 years working in a "dry" country. Cool
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B kind
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2015 9:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have only made the one batch, last autumn, so I am only answering with encouragement!

I also had "washings" from crystallized honey in comb with plenty of bee bread/pollen and other natural comb ingredients! I read to include lemon and also read that crab apples were good for the tannin, so I included those with fresh dried bread yeast. It turned out very well, I was so surprised as I had no idea how much actual honey was in it.

I think wild yeasts would take the place of your bread yeast if it wasn't strong enough, but there should be bubbling fairly soon after it is all together in the demijohn. As long as there is bubbling, and lots of it for the first week or more, then I would say you're off to a good start. I think there is a lot of room for flexibility when it comes to making a drinkable mead, connoisseurs may be more particular! I have to honestly admit that the mead I made was fantastic. I have never had mead before so have no idea what it is supposed to taste like!

I like the idea of
Quote:
the concentration of honey in the washings is right for mead if a freshly laid hens egg floats in it with an old six pence size circle of shell exposed above the surface
I might try that next time.

Best of luck and keep us posted,
Kim
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andy pearce
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2015 5:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have tried a few different ways....Elderflowers, bread yeast and wine yeast. The Elder was the slowest and needed a wine yeast boost, the bread was OK and obviously the wine yeast the best. The results will not be available until next year (I made it last year) but when I have syphoned it off ...six demi-jons...to lose the sediment it has been variable and strong.

A trick I learned to find out how much honey I had was like this.

All my cappings, spillages, collapsed comb remnants etc went in a honey bucket. To this I added 1litre of warm water and stirred vigorously until all the honey had dissolved. I tipped that litre of water into a big plastic jug that I had previously zeroed on my scales and weighed it. The litre of water weighs 1 Kg more or less so anything more is honey and the quantity of honey can be then made up to the recipe.

Just to mix measurements...I think I used 3lbs to a gallon and a number of raisins

A
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Tavascarow
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2015 8:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you haven't heated it & killed the wild yeast that is present almost everywhere then you should get a ferment but the quality will be variable.
I would buy some proper dried wine yeast & a hydrometer & try again.
Mead is an acquired taste though. I made a batch once & didn't like the result. Thought I'd done something wrong. Then a friend gave me a bottle of 'proper mead' & I realised I don't like mead. Wink
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Barbara
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2015 8:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Many thanks for the tips and encouragement. I'm more excited about it as a result of your comments.... now that I know it's not totally doomed!

I have opened it up this morning and put the rest of the sachet of bread yeast into it (I was erring on the side of caution yesterday in case it was going to horribly taint it or something) and a half a jar of honey I found in the back of the cupboard that obviously hadn't been ripe enough and had started to ferment (sticky mess on the shelf to clean up) and a handful of raisins that I found whilst I was digging around in the cupboard, to go with the sultanas. The surface where the apple pieces are floating is generating bubbles but it's not enough to get the air lock working yet. I'm pretty sure I have the bung in tight, but will check later to see if there is any movement. Just wondering if the neighbours have any proper yeast if this addition doesn't help.
How soon should it be popping the air lock? Does it need to ferment quickly at first? I did wonder about throwing in some elder flowers but at midnight it was a bit dark to go out and collect some!

Kim I'm particularly delighted to read that you had such great success with your first amateurish attempt (if you don't mind me calling it that). That really has encouraged me.

Andy I did think about the idea of weighing it and calculating against the same volume of water but decided that I was winging it with everything else, so what the heck.

There's one thing for sure, I won't be able to reproduce it if it does turn out to be good, as I really have no idea of proportions!
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zaunreiter
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2015 10:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah, mead making...one of my favourites. Smile

The way you started it, is probably the way most of us started into it. Later you'll learn that wild yeasts and bread yeasts don't really produce tasty mead. Some friends of mine swear by wild fermenting, but I found only one out of ten wild meads to be drinkable. Barely drinkable that is. Yes, there is some alcohol, but you smell and taste all the stuff that doesn't belong into good mead.

You get far better results with sherry or portwine yeasts, used for wine making. Use the liquid ones, not the dried yeasts. You get higher alcohol contents by those yeasts, making the mead lasting longer, which does matter since the mead should ripe for some years.

Also pollen and bee bread adds proteins to the mead, which will end in a foulish taste sooner or later. Because the "meat" does rott inside the mead. In bee bread there are lactic acid bacterias that prevent the good yeasts from fermenting, which is good for the bee bread and bad for mead. You can bind the proteins by stirring in some Bentonite (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bentonite) - the proteins sink to the ground of the kettle and you carefully remove the mead from above later.

Mead must ripe, and I found the two or three year old meads the best! (Very fresh mead, only one month old, and not fully fermented has a nice taste, too.) While ripenening, it is beneficial to the mead, to move the mead from one kettle to a fresh one, for some times.

You can vary the tastes of mead by using different sorts of honeys and by using different yeasts.

Good mead beats any other wine, for sure. So if you didn't liked the taste, try another one. The most commercial meads are sulphured, you can taste the sulphur. (As is with a lot of other wines, too.)

A favourite in winter is hot mead with good honey stirred into it. Drink this outside while it is snowing and you're in the beeyard. Magic!
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Barbara
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2015 1:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Also pollen and bee bread adds proteins to the mead, which will end in a foulish taste sooner or later. Because the "meat" does rott inside the mead.


Thanks for that Bernhard..... not feeling quite so enthusiastic about it now, but will continue with the experiment rather than waste it. I doubt I have a connoisseur's palette, so I'm hoping my taste buds will not register the top notes of rotting flesh Wink eek!

Anyway, my kind neighbour (brother) has donated a sachet of (in date)brewers yeast (Czech pilsner to be precise!) to the experiment, so I've added a quarter of a teaspoon of that to the mix as well.... it's turning into a right hotch potch! Think I'm going to call it a day at that and just let it live or die on it's own merits now, such as they are!
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CeeBee
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2015 3:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've got some mead on the go. It's going to sound a bit 'professional' (still might be rubbish!), but I already had wine & beer-making stuff from doing a bit of it years ago.

I've had a number of combs of ivy-honey the bees had stored last autumn, and which I removed as surplus in the spring. Couldn't think what else to do with them, since solid, and half-chewed by bees. It tasted OK to me (not being a honey connoisseur).

I washed-out the honey after scraping the cappings - one comb at a time in a large saucepan - keeping water temperature around 50C so the wax didn't melt (I find infrared thermometer good for this kind of thing). Perhaps wouldn't have mattered if I'd just melted the whole lot, but avoided needing to separate out wax and other debris. I ended up with a bit more than 3 gallons at a specific gravity of 1115 (I had a hydrometer in my old kit) - around the mark for a medium/strong mead - potentially around 15% alcohol. This would correspond to about 3lbs of 'sugar equivalent' in each gallon. I added the juice of about 10 lemons and limes, and added 'yeast nutrient' according to its instructions. Stuck it in 3 demijohns with airlocks, and the surplus in a plastic bottle. Used a sachet of "Gervin Universal wine yeast" from Wilko, and it seems to have done a good job - fermented it down to SG 1000 in just two weeks, and I've now 'racked' it off the dregs for the first time, and it's (hopefully) starting to clear.


Last edited by CeeBee on Fri Jul 24, 2015 8:34 pm; edited 1 time in total
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stevecook172001
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2015 7:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Barbara.

Bread yeast is absolutely fine for making any alcohol up to about 13% max and 10% easily. If the sugar content of your liquid implies a potential alcohol level of more than around 10%, then the yeast will all die off before all of the sugar is fully fermented. Which is fine, of course, if you want your alcoholic beverage to have some sweetness. If the potential alcohol level is below 10%, then all of the sugar will be turned to alcohol and you will end up with a very dry drink. If, on the other hand, you want an alcoholic drink that is higher than 10% ABV and your liquid has the potential to produce that for you (due to its sugar content) then you will, indeed, need to invest in some wine yeast

As for the question of whether very old yeast will still be viable, the answer to that question is that some or all of it may not be and/or some or all of may be. The important part of that last sentence is "some". As long as some of the yeast is viable, then this will eventually reproduce in the demijohn and become the sole population of active yeast in there. In which case it will still do its job. The only issue is that if the sub-population of viable yeast was a very small percentage of the total yeast that you pitched, then it may take longer than usual for the fermentation to get properly going. In other words, if you imagine a population of organisms that doubles every say, day, then the initial number you start off with will determine how long it takes for them to fully finally exhaust their environmental resources.

Expect the fermentation to take anywhere from a week to three weeks and the clearing and settling of yeast to the bottom of the demijohn to take anywhere form a week to two weeks. Even then, it may not fully settle out. at which point you can choose to bottle a slightly hazy mixture and leave it to finally settle out in the bottle. Or, you can choose to purchase a sachet of finings and force the settlement. Personally, i always leave a good few weeks to settle and then bottle and leave to settle some more. The really important thing is to not bottle while it is still bubbling otherwise you make a bottle bomb!

Finally, good to hear you used sultanas in the mix as honey water is very nutrient poor vis-a-vis the nutrient needs of yeast. If you hadn't put those sultanas in, it would have ended up smelling and tasting nasty due to stressed yeast.

You've committed now. Just leave it and come back to it in two or three weeks, Make sure, though, that you cover the demijohn with a tea towel or similar as strong light inhibits yeast reproduction and also has deleterious effects on the taste of the drink.
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B kind
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2015 9:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
How soon should it be popping the air lock? Does it need to ferment quickly at first?


I can't remember exactly, The air lock did move within a day and then increased to became a source of family entertainment for two weeks, counting how many bubbles per minute! I was diligent about racking off properly, especially given the mixed ingredients. I used bottles with swing top caps and I only have a couple of bottles left, I read that you should cork your bottles if you want to keep it to mature?

Now that you have added brewers yeast I hope it moves for you.
Kim
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Barbara
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 16, 2015 8:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Many thanks Steve. That was very useful info, especially regarding light as my warm room is loft space with a skylight and it's a clear demijohn rather than a brown one. I've now made a sleeve of remnant carpet to protect it from the light. You can see it staring to work on the surface where the chopped apple and dried fruit are floating but I'd have to sit quite a while to see any significant movement on the air lock at the moment. There is some however.
As regards sweetness or alcohol content, I'd probably be happier with less alcohol and more sweetness, but will just be very pleased if it is reasonably palatable and doesn't make me ill.

Thanks Kim for clarifying that. I was a little disappointed that it wasn't blowing the air lock after a few hours, so I'm a little more realistic in my expectation now and less inclined to tinker any further.

Seriously considering setting another one away actually, now that I'm a little more clued up about what I should be doing!

Ceebee, your post set me thinking. I've been extracting some frames of honey that have some crystallized stuff still in them which probably is ivy. I really didn't want to destroy the comb or give it back to the bees with the crystallised honey still in there, so I'm going to have a go at dissolving it out by soaking the frames in warm water.

I really appreciate everyone's input. Didn't think I'd get so many responses!

I have subsequently found a hydrometer in some wine making gear I inherited, but I'm going to use the egg floatation trick as well with the next batch, it to see how they compare.
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stevecook172001
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 16, 2015 10:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is one other thing I should have mentioned Barbara. You should invest in some camden tablets (potassium or sodium metabisulfite). These are brilliant for inhibiting any wild yeasts and/or other unwanted bacteria/fungi prior to fermentation. For every gallon of fermentable wash, you should add one crushed camden tablet (dissolved in a small amount of water) one day prior to pitching your brewing yeast. Camden tablets do not fully sterilise your wash, but they seriously knock back any other biological agents in the wash. However, the active ingredient in the Camden tablet evaporates out of the liquid in 24 hours. Thus, when you pitch the yeast, it has a head start on everything else in there and so overwhelms everything else before it gets a chance to reproduce.

A container of a 100 camden tablets costs about 3 quid. So, lasts for ages.
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Barbara
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 16, 2015 12:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Steve I was very much hoping to avoid using sulphites, as I suspect these may be what makes me ill the day after drinking wine. No clever remarks about hangovers please. This is serious migraine type headache, fever, diarrhoea, vomiting and occasionally passing out and sometimes only one glass the night before will cause it.
I was given some homemade wine that didn't cause it, so I'm hoping my own mead will allow me to enjoy a glass without those really bad side effects, but I want to avoid adding sulphites if at all possible. I understand that there is a risk of bottles exploding if the yeast is not completely killed off. Is there any drawback to leaving the mead in a demijohn after racking with an air lock on until I am ready to drink it. Or will it degenerate like that? Presumably, once there are no nutrients left for the yeast to feed on it cannot multiply.
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stevecook172001
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 16, 2015 1:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, you don't need camden tablets to avoid exploding bottles. Just leaving the mead to fully ferment out prior to bottling will be sufficient for that. Though, in that regard, I would definitely recommend using wine yeast so that you can be reasonably certain all sugar has been consumed. Furthermore, you can obviate even the need for that if you use pressure bottles. The cheapest means of obtaining those is to go to Aldi and buy the cheapest, nastiest bottles of lemonade you can find. They are about 30p and are 1 litre plastic PET bottles. Tip the lemonade out and give them a good rinse. They are perfect for putting wine in that may continue fermenting as they are more than up to standing the pressures that may build up.

As for leaving the mead in the demijohn till consumption, this is fine as long as it is racked off after initial fermentation into a second demijohn. The reason being that an excess of yeast sediment on the bottom can, over time cause off-flavours to develop in the mead/wine etc. Though, following initial fermentation, it can be safely left for a month or so before racking off. It must be said, however, that every time you move the wine from one container to another, there is the risk of introducing oxygen to the liquid (which, post, fermentation, should be avoided) and also infection. For me, this has never been an issue cos I always tend to immediately bottle and shortly thereafter drink it before needing to worry about off flavours developing....Smile

Regarding the use of camden tablets pre-fermenting, they are absolutely not necessary. They just provide an insurance against the brew going bad during fermentation. I can say that I have made several batches of cider in the past by just allowing the natural yeasts that live on apples to produce the alcohol. when they have workled, they produce a cider that is, in my opinion, superior to using bought in yeast and/or using camden tablets. When they have not worked, however, they have been nasty, nasty, nasty..Laughing

If you don't want to use camden tablets, then I say go for it!
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Barbara
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2015 9:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Many thanks again for that Steve. I had considered lemonade bottles but wasn't sure if they would be OK, so it's good to have that confirmed.

Pleased to report it's happily glugging away at the moment with about 4 bubbles a minute through the air lock.

Having done some more honey extraction yesterday, I now have another couple of gallons of washings (at least) which my freshly laid hens egg tells me are of a suitable concentration!! And I've dug out some more demijohns from a corner of the attic, so this is becoming rather a bigger experiment than I had anticipated!..... I blame you lot for encouraging me! Wink

This second lot doesn't have much pollen in it so hopefully I'll avoid the "rotting flesh" flavour in these subsequent batches. May go out and collect some elder flowers before they are all gone and try some in one.

If it tastes really poor I could always just cook with it. I have some cockerels that need to be dealt with, so they might make a variation of coq au vin!
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ingo50
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2015 6:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Barbara. I believe wines produced biodynamically to Demeter standards do not contain sulphites or other nasties. I know the are produced in the UK, but can't remember by whom. Probably worth Googling and trying it. Let us know how many bottles you make.
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CeeBee
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2015 9:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

CeeBee wrote:
I've got some mead on the go...


Just an update on my mead. Now just over a month since starting it, and I've just 'racked' it (i.e. syphoned off dregs) for the 2nd time. Still in 3 one-gallon demijohns and a plastic bottle for the leftover bit. Not much sediment this time. Still can't see through to the other side of the demijohn, but getting clearer.

I missed out first in my first message: I used Campden tablets (sodium metabisulphite) after washing out the honey and before introducing the year (thought it best, as these were old mouldy combs, and I hadn't heated beyond about 50C). Old (i.e. about 30 years) Campden tablets smelt of nothing - new ones gave of strong sulphur dioxide. And I made up a 'starter' the day before to get the yeast (Gervin Universal from Wilco) going rather than just adding the dried yeast directly.

I have in mind trying to turn this into 'sparkling mead' - adding a bit of sugar (or indeed honey) and yeast into the bottles - I'd use crown-cap beer bottles as I've got lots of them. Just think I might prefer it sparkling, and it means the unit-quantity is a less than a wine bottle.

Glad my old plastic hydrometer (90p from Boots, it says on the box, about 30 years ago) is getting some use. And I wasted my time getting out my (even older) glass beer hydrometer - it only goes up to 1100, so my starting mead was off-scale.
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BridgetB
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 19, 2015 8:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was very encouraged to see these posts as I also started some mead off using washings and a hydrometer. One of the recipes I found added a 1/2 cup of strong tea per demijohn for the tannin. I have racked off the mead now and it is beautiful golden colour and clear and tasted delicious. I don't think I can wait the recommended year before drinking it. Hot mead with honey at Christmas sounds just the thing!
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