Sunday, February 10, 2008

Latest Batch (Mead)

So I seem to recall mentioning "Brouwland", the home brew shop/supplier in Belgium.

One (well 2 really) of the bits I got was some "Wyeast" Liquid mead yeast - well, a packet of their "Sweet Mead" liquid yeast and one of the "Dry Mead" yeast.

I've finally got my finger out of my arse and made a batch to use them.

The recipe I used is the one I got from my mother - she hand wrote it from "The Gales Book of Honey", called Modern Mead.

Now whether you're aware of it or not, you can make wine, mead or whatever by either following a recipe directly or using it as a guide. By that, I mean just follow the recipe and see how it turns out, or by having more control over it and working to a particular specific gravity level.

I haven't been ready to work to specific gravities yet, but I do try to remember to monitor them so I can work out roughly how much percentage alcohol by volume I'd expect to get.

So, the recipe itself actually suggests using 3 lb of honey for a dry mead and 4 lb for a sweet one. Now as it's the yeast I'm trying to compare, I've used 4 lb per gallon, which has given me a specific gravity of 1.134 which is quite high. Lots of home wine makers like to go for about 1.090 - and yes I can hear you say "so what the fucks the difference"?

Well, depending on the yeast, 1.134 can metabolise out to about 18.21 % ABV, whereas 1.090 should give you about 14.81 % ABV.

Now as my aim is to compare yeasts but using the same recipe, I've checked a table that I have access to and know that the batch that has been made with the "Sweet Mead" yeast, should finish at about 11 % ABV, because that's what the yeast is capable of (according to the chart), whereas the one made with the "Dry Mead" yeast, should go to about 18 % ABV for the same reason.

Apart from the difference in strength (alcohol wise) it's possible that the dry mead will have the "medicinal/mouthwash" type taste when it's finished fermenting, that seems to be a characteristic of higher levels of alcohol. So usually needs ageing for longer.

I'll have to wait and see.

Another factor, is that wines seem to like quite acid conditions during fermentation. That, as you may know, is measured in pH (the pH scale is from 0 to 14, 7 is neutral, the lower numbers down to 0 measure the acid, while the higher ones to 14 measure alkali). Some digging around suggests a good set of numbers for fermentation of wine are between 3.0 and 3.5.

I measured the pH of just the recipe, and it was 3.88 despite having citric acid (or lemon juice) as one of the ingredients. So as I was making 2 gallons, so that I could split it down into 1 gallon fermenters I had to add 2 teaspoons of tartaric acid (tartaric being the suggested one for reducing the pH down). I've ended up with 2 x 1 gallon jars that measured 3.22.

The liquid yeast packets are known as "smack packs". Because before use, you need to "smack" them. This bursts an inner bag of nutrient, which is then shaken into the yeast culture. The pack is then left for about 3 hours between 21 and 24 degrees centigrade. The yeast starts to increase/brew swelling the pack. That's when it's ready to be pitched into the must/brew. I'd also cooled the must to 24.6 degrees C when the yeast was pitched.

Now I'd normally just have used the cheap honey from the local supermarket (Tesco), but I'd been into the local branch of Lidl, and they had 500gramme jars of Greek Honey for £1.50 and as I'd already tasted it, now that it's a nicer tasting honey than the cheap one from Tesco. So I used the Greek one from Lidl.

Right now, I waiting for the jars to start bubbling/fermenting, so they look the same. Fortunately, as well as trying to remember to take notes on my brews, I also remembered to get some tie on lables so I know which one has which yeast in it - it'd be obvious enough when it's finished fermenting, but I suspect it might be handy to know just in case anything goes wrong during the ferment.


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