Saturday, July 18, 2009

Onward and Upward (Tommy's Twelve-and-a-Half)

This mead will be an attempt at using higher quality ingredients (i.e. a quality yeast, yeast nutrient and yeast energizer); more specialized mead-making materials (i.e. a hydrometer and an air-lock); and more advanced techniques (like a more vigorous stirring with an electric drill to prevent the honey settling out on the bottom, to increase oxygenation, and to facilitate hydrometer readings; back-sweetening, stabilization, etc...). It will be a plain mead, and it will utilize yeast energizers and nutrients in place of the oranges and raisins I've been using. Hopefully, this will create a more consistent mead and reduce the volume wasted by the oranges and raisins. The Lavlin EC-1118 yeast is for 18+% alcohol, so I may end up having to feed it for a while, when fermentation starts to slow down, in order to keep it from being bone dry. I also intend to use a clarifying agent after about 1 month to finish off the batch.

2 packets of Lavlin EC-1118
Fermaid K
15 lbs of honey
4 gallons of water (approximately)
Clarification agent (not sure which yet).

Rehydrating the Yeast
1. Raise 6 oz of water to 110 degrees F.
2. Add 4 tsp of Go-Ferm and stir.
3. When temp has decresed to 104 degrees F, add 10 grams (2 pkt.) of yeast and stir.
4. After 15 minutes, add to must (must temp = 75-80 degrees F).
5. Areate.

Making the Must
1. Put 15 lbs of honey in carboy
2. Top off to 5 gallons with distilled water
3. Power stir until there is no stratification of honey
4. Rehydrate Yeast (see above)
5. Pitch yeast solution
6. Add 1 tsp of Fermaid K
7. Power stir / aerate
8. Add bung and airlock

07- 19-2009 @ 4PM
Made must, pitched yeast.
Must temp = 80 degrees F.
Yeast solution = 90 degrees F.
SG = 1.12 + .003 correction = 1.123
Noticed it was fermenting at about 10PM. Maybe 1 perk per 5 seconds.

07-20-2009 @ 5:30AM
Fermenting vigorously this morning. 1 perk per second or two.

07-21-2009 @ 8:30PM
Added two more teaspoons of Fermaid K. This definitely exceeds the recommended amount, and I won't be adding any more. Hopefully, it doesn't have a negative effect on the flavor. I also areated it. HUGE MESS. It fizzed like a shaken-up soda bottle all over my bathroom counter. I'll try tapping on the side of the carboy some tomorrow before aerating it to diffuse the CO2.

07-22-2009 @ 6PM
Perking about once every two seconds this morning. Nice and healthy.

07-23-2009 @ 10:30PM
Stirred. Aerated. Took measurements.
Must temp: 80 degrees F
Specific Gravity = 1.084 + .003 (correction) = 1.087
So, it's up to about 3.7% alcohol by weight and 5.1% alcohol by volume.
It is currently 448 Calories per 12 oz.

07-29-2009 @ 6:00PM
Stirred. Took Measurements.
Must temp: 82 degrees F
Specific Gravity = 1.044 + .003 (correction) = 1.047
Alcohol by weight = 7.73
Alcohol by volume = 10.19
Calories per 12 oz. = 431

07-31-2009 @ 10:15PM
Gave it a good swirl today. It's down to about 1 perk every 4-5 seconds. Heading to the supply store tomorrow for some sulfites, clarifying agent, and maybe some DAP.

07-31-2009 @ 9:15PM
1 Perk about every 6 seconds
Stirred. Took Measuremensts.
Must Temp: 78 degrees F
Specific Gravity: 1.032
ABW = 9.1
ABV = 11.8
Cals/12oz = 425.7

08/03/2009 @ 11:30PM
Must temp: 80
SG = 1.028
ABW = 9.5
ABV = 12.36
Cals/12 oz = 424

Linda tasted it and, by her reaction, I'd say this batch is plenty strong enough. Put it in the small fridge downstairs to try to cold crash it before stabilizing and racking. Plus it's starting to get a bit of a tart taste. I'm worried that this is because the yeast is starting to peter out due to lack of nitrogen. (I'm going to have to buy some DAP for my next batch.

08/05/2009 @ 6:00 AM
Checked the temp on the brew this morning. It's finally down to 34 degrees! I didn't think it would take that long. I will try to stabilize and rack it tonight.

08/05/2009 @ 6:30 PM
It sat most of the day at 32 degrees F. Just racked it. Swirled in 1-1/4 tsp of Potassium Sorbate to prevent further fermentation, and 1/4 tsp of Potassium Metabisulfite to prevent any other yeast from taking root. I'm letting it come back up to room temperature, and then I'll clarify it.

08/05/2009 @ 6:00 PM

The must had warmed up to about 70 degrees this morning. It is still perking, maybe once every minute. I *think* that is just the must degassing. I added packet one of my clarifier and stirred it in.

08/06/2009 @ 6:30 PM
Well, I figured out tonight that I put the liquid clarifying agent (a two-step liquid) into the must in the wrong order! Don't know if it will still work. It seems to have clarified some, but it's got a LONG way to go. I don't think it will make it. If it doesn't, I don't think I want to add any more chemicals to this brew. Also, I just took measurements.

Temp = 76
SG = 1.028 (which is the same as the day I cold crashed it). So, it hasn't fermented appreciably in 3 days. However, the temp is 4 degrees less today than it was then.
abw = 9.6
abv = 12.44
cals = 423.7

, the taste isn't as good as I hoped. This stuff needs to settle out a bit. I'm tempted to just bottle it and put it away for a long time. Hopefully it clarifies enough to do that.

Bottled some of it. 7 bottles. It isn't as clarified as I had hoped, but I need to free up my carboys for another batch. While I'm not overly impressed with it. It is serviceable, and will probably taste better, and hopefully clarify, in time.

Brought a bottle in to work. Everyone seemed to like it well enough.

Several days ago I separated a gallon of mead and dropped in a about a quarter of a habanero. It definitely tasted like habanero after a couple of days, but it didn't have any heat to speak of. yesterday, I dropped in about another 3/4 of a habanero. Today, it tastes pretty good a and has a reasonable amount of heat. Not too much for the average joe. Bottled it today.

Bottled the remainder today (6 more bottles). Dropped a cinnamon stick in each bottle.

I've given away several bottles of this mead, and everyone seems to like it quite well. It is definitely the best batch yet, but there are still several things I did wrong.
1. I didn't use the clarifying agent correctly, and I bottled it too soon. Now there is some sediment in the bottom of the bottles. Not a huge problem, but it is rather unattractive.
2. I didn't have any DAP so I used too much Fermaid K instead. I'm not sure if this had any negative effect, but it's not something I intend to do in the next batch.
3. Cold crashing it was a bad idea. It was difficult to do, and it didn't fully stop the fermentation. Then I added Potassium Sorbate. That still didn't *completely* stop the fermentation. That's another mistake I don't intend to make again.
4. Putting cinnamon sticks in the bottles... bad idea. I thought it would look interesting, and it does. But there are two problems with it: 1) The cinnamon sticks swell up and won't come back out of the bottles; 2) Little particles come off of the cinnamon sticks. Let's not do that again.

I'm ready to make the next batch, and I'm sure I now have a recipe I like. Now, to implement it correctly.