Mead Beginner looking for Advce and Guidance
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
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    Pleasant Valley NY
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    79

    Smile Mead Beginner looking for Advce and Guidance

    I am looking to get into making some mead this year but I would like to do it correctly. By correctly I mean making sure I purchase the right equipment I just don't want to get an amazon kit that's the best seller. I am not opposed to a kit I actually would prefer one but I would rather purchase something that is high quality. I also have heard that a wine making kit may also be suitable. I am looking to make 1 and 3 gallon batches . I am assuming that I should start off making one gallon batches, but was thinking I could possible ferment in a 3 gallon kit and move to a one gallon carboy after fermentation(not sure if this correct or if excess head space would make the mead go off tasting. the meads I would like to make would be in the 12 to 14% alcohol content so I also need guidance on yeast as well. If someone also knows of a good recipe book with step by step guidance I am sure it would be helpful also. any and all information and recommendations would be helpful my goal for the year depending on my girls would be to make a minimum of 3 one gallon batches of different flavors and if honey is really good possibly an additional one or two 3 gallon batches. if possible please be as specific as possible in your response as far as equipment or equip kits yeast s and nutrients . thanks in advance for all your help

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Triadelphia, West Virginia
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    580

    Default Re: Mead Beginner looking for Advce and Guidance

    Not an expert here, have made around 22 gallons. I use the complete mead maker's handbook by Ken schramm. The book details what specific gravity and yeasts to use to get to certain alcohol percentages and degrees of sweetness/dryness. Also has some recipes. Gets technical/detailed but you can easily flip through and get started right away.

    I use a food grade 6 gallon bucket as my primary fermenter most of the time, especially if adding fruit. 3 and 5 gallon glass carboys after the primary. Hydrometer, stopper for carboy and airlock are necessary pieces of equipment. An auto siphon and wine thief are useful to the point of necessity IMHO. A cheap corker but that is down the road. Yeast nutrient, Energizer, and sanitizer.

    Look up posts by tenbears on the subject. He was very knowledgeable and seemed to be the resident expert on the subject.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Walton County, GA
    Posts
    144

    Default Re: Mead Beginner looking for Advce and Guidance

    I used to do a fair amount of homebrewing (including making mead and wine) but it has been a while. If you don't have any beer-making or wine-making experience I would suggest that you visit your local homebrew supply store and ask for their advice. If there is a homebrewing club in your area you could attend a meeting and see if anybody there has experience making mead. You may even be able to find someone who would be willing to help you with your first batch.

    Sanitation is key when fermenting beer, wine or mead. I am a big fan of fermenting in glass. Small scratches in plastic provide great places for bacteria to hide (and ruin your mead). Glass is much easier to sanitize than plastic. And with glass you can see what is going on inside.

    I prefer liquid yeast over dried. Depending on your batch size you may want to make a starter. (But that may be a little much to ask if you have no brewing experience.) Your homebrew supply store should be able to advise you on which strain of yeast to use for your mead depending on the characteristics you are looking for.

    Also be mindful of the fermentation temperature range for the yeast you select.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Location
    Pleasant Valley NY
    Posts
    79

    Default Re: Mead Beginner looking for Advce and Guidance

    unfortunately no clubs nor stores around me but will keep looking

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
    Posts
    7,797

    Default Re: Mead Beginner looking for Advce and Guidance

    austinhomebrewsupply is a good supplier with lots of toys Midwest brewing supply is another. They are the lowest cost that I can think of. Buy a book The compleat meadmaker and do some reading and find out what you really need. Plastic carboys are just as good as glass and do not break like a glass one when you try to slide them on the basement floor. I like glass but only when the price is right used.

    What I use is an 8 gallon brew bucket with a sealing lid and a hole for an airlock. I then transfer into a carboy with an auto syphon. You will need another airlock and stopper for the carboy. You will definitely need a hydrometer to determine how sweet your recipe is and what is the right yeast to turn that sweetness into the mead you want.

    Caution. Rocket fuel or panty remover should not be your objective in making mead. You want something that tastes good in a reasonable amount of time. My second batch of mead I used too much honey and to high an alcohol yeast and ended up with a mead that was not drinkable for two years! Then it got wonderful. Look thru old posts and you will find some recipes. I have some that turned out well and I am still drinking and making. Ten Bears gave good advice. The moderator of the forum gives good advice.

    Another caution. I have about fifty gallons bulk aging in my wifes laundry room. That works because I do all the laundry. Half my freezer is full of fruit that I am going to use for some project or another. Thankfully my bees make more honey than I can sell so I have lots of fermentables on hand at all times.

    One forum on mead making gotmead.com has a good mead table among other things that will tell you what yeast and specific gravities go together to produce the product you want. If you have a cool/mid sixties place to brew Lavlin D47 is a great low alcohol yeast. Lavlin 71B-1122 is more popular for that range but can give some off flavors if you don't rack the mead off the yeast early. Get the book!

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
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    Pleasant Valley NY
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    79

    Default Re: Mead Beginner looking for Advce and Guidance

    thanks for all the advice

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Lyons, CO
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    3,097

    Default Re: Mead Beginner looking for Advce and Guidance

    Take a look at the Intro thread. +1 on Vance's recommendation to stick with "table strength" in the 11-14 range at least at first. If you're a "buy once cry once" believer consider starting in 5 gallon batches... since mead benefits from aging, and if you're like the rest of us and can't resist opening an occasional bottle just to check how it's coming, the batch will be gone before it's even hitting its stride.
    Bees, brews and fun
    in Lyons, CO

  9. #8
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    Jan 2019
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    Pleasant Valley NY
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    Default Re: Mead Beginner looking for Advce and Guidance

    very good point about the 5 gallons and the tasting ...lol but seriously can I do a 3 gallon batch in a 5 gallon fermentor and rack to a 3 gallon carboy. I guess the point I am trying to make is can I use a five gallon fermentor for 1 3 and 5 gallon batches and then rack to the proper size carboy or does the head space in the fermentor affect the taste

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
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    Lyons, CO
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    Default Re: Mead Beginner looking for Advce and Guidance

    Good question and sure, you absolutely can. Be aware though that voluminous headspace is safe only during primary fermentation when the yeast will scrub oxygen from the air as well as blow it out along with degassing CO2. Once it settles down is when you need vessels volumetrically appropriate to the batch size, so you could for sure use a 5 gallon primary for 3-gallon batches destined for a 3-gallon glass carboy. Consider starting with 3.25 gallons or so of must since you'll lose some volume in the racking, leaving you with a nice full 3-gallon jug.
    Bees, brews and fun
    in Lyons, CO

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
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    Pleasant Valley NY
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    Default Re: Mead Beginner looking for Advce and Guidance

    That was what I was thinking and it would also allow for fruit be added without lowering the volume of the liquid must and hopefully easier syphoning

  12. #11
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    Oct 2004
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    Lyons, CO
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    Default Re: Mead Beginner looking for Advce and Guidance

    Well fruit will add volume, and to the racking losses, so account for that in your planning.
    Bees, brews and fun
    in Lyons, CO

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
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    Pleasant Valley NY
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    Default Re: Mead Beginner looking for Advce and Guidance

    Thanks everyone I appreciate your time and help

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    Lambton Shores, Ontario, Canada
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    Default Re: Mead Beginner looking for Advce and Guidance

    I've been brewing mead since 1998, so I've got a bit of a grip on the process ;-)

    I made a fairly extensive post a while ago to a similar request, I'd recommend giving it a read. In terms of your specific questions:

    Equipment:
    Your choices here are many, but will be largely dictated by your planned brew size. Wine starter kits are a good option, but since most wine kits are 5 gallons, you'll be committing to 5 gallon batch sizes. By the sounds of it, that is not your preferred option.

    For 1 gallon brewing, I'd recommend the following:
    • A food-safe container to use as your primary fermenter. This should be at least ~30% larger than you planned volume if you're using fruit. Glass or stainless steel are best, but plastic works.*
    • A 1 gallon (or 3 gallon) glass or stainless jug (or carboy). This will be your secondary fermenter.*
    • If you're planing on adding fruit to the secondary, you'll want a secondary that is ~30% larger than your planned volume*
    • Airlocks for the above fermenters. Depending on the fermenter, you may need to buy a bung to fit the airlocks to the fermenter. For jugs with a screw-top lid, simply drill the lit to fit the airlock stem.
    • A siphon; a proper brewing siphon (with a rigid cane) is best, but a simple food-grade plastic hose is sufficient
    • A hydrometer or refractometer for taking gravity readings
    • Some brewing-grade sanitizor. I prefer starsan, but there are many other options out there.
    • A stainless or plastic spoon that will fit into the opening of your fermenters


    The stuff with *'s is size-dependent, so if brewing 3 gallon batches you'll need to find appropriate sized equipment. Everything else is size-independent, and once purchased, can be used for any scale of mead-making.

    Headspace
    During primary fermentation, headspace is not much of an issue. The yeast will consume some of the O2 in the headspace, and the release of CO2 from the fermentation will pretty quickly purge the remainder from the fermenter (1 gallon of mead will produce 5 to 7 cubic feet of CO2). However, as soon as your primary fermentation is completed you'll need to transfer the mead to an air-impermanent (glass or stainless) fermenter that you can seal with an airlock and which contains a minimal amount of headspace. If you are brewing quick turn-around meads, like those made with the TONSA method, you can avoid the transfer to secondary and simply bottle 4-6 weeks after you pitch the yeast. If you're planning on letting your mead sit longer than that, than you'll need to transfer to eliminate the risk of oxidation.

    Fruit/Fermentables Additions
    There are two approaches to adding fruit (and other things containing fermentable sugars) to meads. The first is to add the fermentables at the same time as when you add the honey/yeast; the second is to add the fruit during secondary fermentation. This is a "controversial" topic among mead makers - if you ever want some cheap entertainment, go to a mead forum and ask which approach is best and watch the fights begin.

    The argument for adding the fermentables early is that you ensure that their sugars ferment, and it simplifies downstream processing (e.g. no need for multiple secondary fermenters, no need to account for volume losses in the secondary fermenter. The argument for adding the fermentables late is that it is supposed to retain more of the finer flavours and aromas as they don't get "blown off" by a vigorous fermentation, giving a fresher flavour...but at the risk of having a stuck fermentation (e.g. the yeast don't re-energise and ferment the added sugars), and with the increased complexity of dealing with added volume (in the form of your fruit/fermentable) and volume losses (the fruit/fermentable will likely absorb some mead).

    I've done it both ways, and IMO, it doesn't matter - the mead is fantastic either way, and I've not noticed a consistent difference in the mead's flavour. FWIW, Steve Fletty (one of the most awarded hobbyist-scale mead makers in the world) adds all of his fruits to the primary, before adding the yeast. I do whatever works - if the fruit is on-hand when I'm setting up the mead, I'll add it during primary fermentation. But sometimes I add fruit to an already-fermented mead on a whim, and simply add that fruit when it becomes available.

    There is an exception to this - spices should always be added shortly before bottling your mead. Spices can very quickly overpower a mead, so I'd recommend adding the spices once the mead is ready to bottle, and then sampling daily until the desired spice level is reached (a tea ball is great for this, if you can find one that'll fit through the neck of your fermenter). Alternatively, make a spice tincture and add that drop-wise until you get the desired flavour.

    Specific Recommendations
    This is hard, as the "best" yeast, nutrient, etc, depends on what kind of mead you're making and what is available to you. Yeasts are usually matched to the style of mead, but my workhorse yeast is lavalin D47. Its great for straight meads, but works well with fruits and spiced meads. Some ale yeasts, particularly the English ones, work well with cysers (cider-mead hybrid) - Nottingham is a great yeast for this.

    For nutrients, any organic nutrient will do. Not "organic" in the hippy/hipster/new-aged/anti-science sense, but rather in the chemical sense. I.E. a nutrient made largely of dead yeast, with some added minerals to boost zinc and available nitrogen. Fermaid-o, Fermaid-k, servomyces, wyeast and W1000 are all good choices. Avoid 100% DAP (diammonium nitrate) which is often sold as a cheap nutrient. Its fine if a portion of the nutrient is DAP, but 100% DAP lacks the other nutrients yeast need and often leaves an ammonia aroma behind. As a "rule", good nutrients will be beige-to-brown in colour.

    I have a rather extensive library of mead making books, and I'd recommend none of them. Unlike beer and wine homebrewing, mead making seems to lack quality publications with good instructions. In all honesty, you'll find better mead making recipes and instructions on homebrewing forums and blogs, and even on youtube, than you'll find in any book I am aware of.

    My best advice
    Forget recipes, best yeasts and all that other jazz. Your early focus needs to be on using proper cleaning and sanitation methods (note: those are not the same thing), and managing your ferments (managing their temperature, transferring at an appropriate time, preventing stuck fermentations, etc). Those factors, more than recipe formulation or specific ingredients, are what will make or break your meads. Infection (from poor cleaning/sanitation), oxidation or autolysis (from overly-late transfers - tastes like wet cardboard and mead, respectively), and stuck fermentations will ruin a mead. Get past those hurdles, and your mead will be - at worst - good. The difference between good and great is mostly experience.

    Hope that helps.

    Bryan

  15. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Location
    Pleasant Valley NY
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    79

    Default Re: Mead Beginner looking for Advce and Guidance

    Thanks for taking the time to answer my post. The information that you have provided I will truly use in my planning and execution, so know the time you took to write it was not wasted. I have gotten some really great answers on many topics from the members of bee source community. Thanks again for helping a newbie truly much appreciated.

  16. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    erie, pa
    Posts
    204

    Default Re: Mead Beginner looking for Advce and Guidance

    My mentor Owns Sacred Teepee Meads His mantra is clean, slow and anaerobic. Clean and sanitize equipment well and remember to do the same when racking. Basically choose your yeast well a good yeast that pairs well with ABV and temperature. Select on that will function in lower temperature ranges, keep the fermentation atmosphere cool and be sure to nourish your yeast. A cool ferment with improperly nourished yeast can be a recipe for a stalled ferment. But the slow ferment highlights the individual flavor profile of the honey and one will surely find it worthy of following. Although proper Oxygen is essential in the development of a healthy yeast. After the yeast has developed Oxygen is our enemy. Mead is extremely sensitive to Oxidation. If you run into problems PM me and I can give you My mazer friends email. He is always happy to offer help.

  17. #16
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Location
    Pleasant Valley NY
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    Default Re: Mead Beginner looking for Advce and Guidance

    thanks again to another great beesource member

  18. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    Wharton, Texas, USA
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    229

    Default

    All good advice here. Just my .02. Mead takes a while to ready and if you try to get to fancy to soon you add to much complexity for what you don’t have experience for it will most likely turn out off flavor. I would suggest a straight mead and if done correctly you’ll love it have a nice taste and have perfect clarity. I use d47 as well. Water and honey and yeast and yeast nutrient pretty simple. I also recommend buying some good water instead of tap.

    One thing I highly recommend is the all in one wine pump. I would not still be messing with home brewing if it not for that. It’s a couple hundred bucks but man is it nice.

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